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Sean Russell

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- The Mystery of the New

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- The One Kingdom

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- The One Kingdom

The One Kingdom (Book Excerpt)
         by Sean Russell
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Chapter One

In the moving landscape only the men were still. They sat at the long table atop Summer's Hill as motionless as stones in a running stream.

Around them the wind was in flight, more joyous than a swallow, as heedless as a child. It swept down onto the new green oats and raked through the hay, making waves and patterns like sand on a riverbed. Gusts bent and swayed the trees, pulling away the spring leaves and spinning them up into the wind-washed sky. But in the center of this the men remained still.

Dease was relieved that he and Samul had prevailed, and the others had agreed to meet here, where the countryside was visible for almost half a league. He didn't want to take the least chance that they would be overheard-it was enough that they had to listen to themselves.

"I would say there is not one among the Wills who can even unhorse him, let alone manage what we need," Samul said -- Samul, who almost never spoke out in the family assemblies, preferring to seed his ideas in the minds of others so that he might watch quietly. Samul the cunning, Dease thought of him.

Beld shifted on his bench. "Toren is so sympathetic to the Wills that I think they should not even want to cause him a bruise, let alone do him harm."

Dease noticed that the others looked a little uncomfortable whenever Beldor spoke. No matter what their feelings in this, no one else hated Toren the way that Beld did. Several were Toren's admirers, in many ways.

"I fear we can't trust to others to do it for us," Samul said softly. "I think the earlier plan the best. We let our cousin win the tournament, as he is likely to do anyway, and then do the deed at night so that it looks like revenge. That would be best. It will see our dear cousin removed from the succession and place the blame clearly on the Wills."

"It will hardly be clear," Dease said, unwilling to hide his distaste for what they planned, "not that it will matter. Everyone is ready to believe the Wills capable of the worst treachery."

"Then that is what we'll do, Cousins," Beld said, sitting back a little on his bench. "I worry only that some might lose their nerve." He looked around the table. "That hard decisions do not come easy to everyone."

"You can name me, Beld," Dease said. "We all know of whom you speak. You're hardly subtle."

"But subtlety is not what's needed," Beld answered, sitting forward quickly, his temper flaring. Dease could see his cousin's muscles tensing beneath his tunic. "Deeds are what's required, Cousin, and I'm not sure you can stomach that, being such an admirer of Toren's and all."

Dease met his cousin's gaze easily, not looking away or even looking particularly intimidated, and very few were not intimidated by Beld. He was a great bear of a man, but even more so, he looked like someone barely in control of a vast and raging anger-which was, in fact, the truth.

"I do admire him," Dease said simply. "In many ways he is the best of us, and not just on the tournament field."

Beld banged his fists on the table. "But Toren will give us over to the Wills! He thinks that they can be won over by charm and words, that they will be convinced to give up their feud of nine generations. He will gift them the Isle of Battle, which is no different than giving them the wealth to raise an army.


Copyright© 2002, HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. This excerpt has been provided by HarperCollins and printed with their permission.

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