This is a work of fiction.
All of the characters, organizations, and events
portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are
Copyright © 2012 by Rhiannon Held
All rights reserved.
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fift h Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
ISBN 978- 0-7653-3037- 6 (trade paperback)
ISBN 978-1-4299-9109-4 (e-book)
First Edition: June 2012
Printed in the United States of America
The lone werewolf smelled like silver and pain. Or maybe
it wasn’t pain, maybe it was fear. In human form, Andrew
Dare’s nose had missed that undertone altogether, and even
in wolf it was elusive. Her trail wove beneath one of the
power line towers straddling this strip of grassy, undeveloped land, and the metal bar clipped the top of Andrew’s
ears as he padded under. He twitched his ears, checking
again for any nearby humans, but he remained alone for the
Pain and fear or not, she was a Were carrying silver, and
that could mean only one thing: she was a European. Only
European Were used silver on each other and would therefore have reason to carry it, and damned if Andrew was
going to let any of them cause trouble in his alpha’s territory.
The lone’s trail had followed the power lines for several
miles but now it diverged into a suburban development probably close enough to be considered part of Nashua, New
Hampshire. Andrew stopped where the tangled unmown
grass met a path into a cul-de-sac and considered, panting.
The summer sun was low now, the heat was easing, and the
scents he got from the development were fogged with car
exhaust as everyone returned home for the evening.
Risky, to follow any farther in wolf form. The human
scents Andrew found on the wind were few and far between,
suggesting an upper-middle-class neighborhood with big
lots. People in those neighborhoods didn’t ignore strays, they
called animal control. And animal control knew the difference between a dog and a wolf, and a wolf and a creature that
massed much larger than any natural wolf.
Andrew sniffed again and allowed himself a growl when
he smelled no humans close enough to hear it. Damn that
European. It was one of the oldest tricks in the book to stick
to heavily populated areas so cars would drive away one’s scent
and pursuers would have to sacrifice their wolf form’s superior nose, but knowing it didn’t make it any easier to counter.
He’d have to push himself running back to his clothes and his
car to not lose any more time. He was already—Andrew put
his nose to the trail again—half a day behind as it was. But
standing here debating would waste as much time. He started
It was good to run. Andrew had spent too much time
stuck in traffic driving up here from Virginia. His muscles
protested the pace at first, an aching commentary on how
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much time he’d been spending in human lately. Why bother
shifting when he had no real pack to hunt with?
His nose caught a rusty tang and he jumped a few wires
remaining from an old fence as he turned his thoughts instead to what the European Were might hope to accomplish
here. Was she scouting the territory for the rest of her pack to
follow, or did she plan to challenge and replace one of the
sub-alphas in the larger Roanoke pack herself? He’d chased
another silver-smelling lone last year, but that man had disappeared over the Mississippi into the Western packs’ territories long ago. Much as Andrew had hated to let the lone go,
he trusted the Western packs to deal with him.
Andrew doubted this lone was after him personally, either. If so, she was long overdue. He’d escaped back to North
America a decade ago. Still, the fact that she had brought
silver suggested she was looking to punish someone. Andrew
didn’t intend to allow that. Once he caught her, he’d drag her
back to explain herself to his alpha. If she didn’t have a good
enough reason for her failure to ask permission to cross Roanoke territory he’d have the pleasure of shoving her on a
plane and out of Roanoke for good.
When he reached the bush where he’d hidden his clothes,
Andrew crouched low and drew in a deep breath. Shifting at
this moon phase was an effort, though at least the moon was
waxing rather than waning. Andrew concentrated, eyes closed,
pushing, pushing, until he felt the blessed tipping point. Everything fell into the new configuration: sight and scent and
arrangement of muscles. He stretched his arms to settle his
mind into it, and then pulled on his clothes.
It took a frustratingly long time to find the right cul-desac by car from the other side, but when Andrew finally returned to the spot he’d left off, traces of the Were’s trail still
remained. He jogged a little to make up time as he followed
the scent on foot in human form. At least the Were hadn’t been
running. Her scent was thick, suggesting she’d wandered.
Andrew grew more cautious as the trail turned into a
yard. He couldn’t say for sure with his human nose that no
one was home, but the windows were dark and no car was in
the driveway, so he strode up for a quick look. The sun’s angle
made the window reflective against a faint background of
blinds. A complete handprint stood stark against it. The
placement—Andrew matched his hand to it—suggested someone trying to look through. He peered, but the blinds had no
crack big enough to see anything beyond.
But the air held no hint of Were other than the lone anywhere in this neighborhood. A werewolf in human form eating garlic would have been able to tell that.
The trail wound away from the window through front yards
until it reached some trash cans beside a garage. The lone’s
scent was on them as if she had poked through after knocking them over. Looking for something?
Two women approached, pushing strollers, so he righted
the cans to look like a good Samaritan. This house was blocks
away from the first one where she’d been looking in. That
made no sense, even if the Were had a grudge against some
particular humans. What was this woman after?
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Silver had been running for a long time. It began with the
monster. The monster poured fire into her blood and smiled
as she screamed and her wild self fled. He’d thought her so
far gone in burning, he’d not watched her closely, and she’d
escaped. She sensed him distantly behind her now. Following her trail. She couldn’t let him catch her, or it would begin
all over again.
The monster chased distantly, but Death followed close
behind. He stalked her with endless patience, waiting to claim
her when the monster’s snakes of fire finished their task. She
glimpsed him behind her when she could no longer run and
had to walk. Her ears strained to hear the forest’s voices beneath the padding of his feet. They had something of an
unspoken accord, she and Death—she did not run too fast
and he did not catch her just yet. Instead, he padded in her
footsteps, tongue lolling out in canine laughter as she tried to
ignore him and strained for the scent of her wild self. If only
she could find her wild self, then perhaps she would be whole
again. But the fire made her head pound so much it was hard
At night, sometimes Silver would invite Death to sit with
her. He hulked there opposite her, smug and black. He was
blacker than night or a raven’s wing or anything Silver could
remember when words and memories wiggled and twisted
from her grasp. But then, he was Death. That was description
Sometimes at night the wind tossed the branches of the
stately columns of trees around Silver, and the small monsters at the light’s edge shrieked and warbled, making the
forest’s voices whisper in concern. Then Death would howl to
the Lady’s round, shimmering disc and make the fire burn in
Silver’s veins. Your death is in you, his howls told her. In your
blood. You cannot fight what is in you.
Silver screamed and begged the Lady to make it stop when
the fire burned bright. She curled around her useless arm as
the fire pulsed. Each time Death called to the fire, the snakes
engraved on her skin grew longer and twined their hissing,
traitorous way from the cup of her elbow ever closer to her
heart. Silver begged the Lady to protect her from Death,
begged the Lady to help Silver find her wild self.
Sometimes the forest crooned a comforting counterpoint
to her screams, and sometimes it drew back in shocked silence. Death panted and laughed. The Lady did nothing, as
she had done nothing when the monster poured the fire into
This day, as Silver trudged through the forest, calling her
wild self and searching the trees for a gray flicker of muzzle
or flank, she wondered if the Lady still loved her. The Lady
had given Silver her wild self from love—perhaps She had
taken that wild self back when love waned. Maybe Silver
had lost that love by taking the Lady’s gift for granted.
But the Lady had not waned. She was full and luminous
above Silver, as always. And surely it was a sign of the Lady’s
favor that the monster had not caught her yet?
Coming upon a stream, Silver found a still place with few
ripples and looked into her eyes, searching for her wild self
inside as well as out. Her wild self could as easily have hidden
deeper rather than running outward from the fire, but Silver
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saw no sign of her. Dimness made it hard to see, since though
the Lady’s light fell all around her, it did not touch Silver except indirectly.
Even in dim light, Silver’s hair showed nearly all white
now, brown chased away. She blinked in surprise. The fire had
burned the color from it, of course, but only the new growth.
New growth was old now, and she wondered at Death’s patience. She pressed her hand flat against the stream’s cold
surface, printing it before Death shattered everything into
ripples as he lapped at the water.
At her midday meal, Silver did not invite Death to sit with
her. Alone, she forced down the foul-tasting carrion she had
found. She drew off her shirt to trace the snakes’ path on her
dead arm, tickling their diamond-scaled backs with her
fingertip. They writhed in pleasure and hissed to her. Silver
frowned, trying to understand Snake. If she could speak
their language, perhaps she could persuade them to leave her.
Surely this could be solved by cleverness. Perhaps it was
even a test for her to prove herself worthy of the Lady’s gift.
Silver considered this. Death must be outwitted somehow.
She frowned at him. Invitation or no invitation, he sat on his
haunches nearby, nose tipped to test the air. When he felt her
gaze on him, Death turned to face Silver.
“Let go,” he said in her brother’s voice. Her brother was
dead, so Death had his voice. He had all the voices of Silver’s
pack. “Please. We miss you, Silver. Come back to us.” Silver
knew that it was not her brother speaking, and Death knew
she knew, but he liked to taunt her.
Silver sat up and threw a rock at Death, missing him by a
wide margin. She needed to keep moving, and not let him
distract her, or the monster would catch up. Thorns curled
up to bind her feet and hands, trying to hold her there until
the monster arrived. She tore free before they could take
proper hold, though they rustled triumphantly at the blood
they had captured from her. Time to run faster again. Always