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A Crown Disowned is the third volume of the cycle of Oak, Yew, Ash, and Rowan that began with To the King a Daughter and was continued in Knight or Knave.
The earth is shaking and splitting as the forces from the North draw nearer. The Ice Dragon Riders are speaking to the land, and more fire mountains awaken in the Bog. Rohan seeks to join forces with Tusser, leader of the Bog-folk, as Queen Ysa raises an army to clear the Bog.
War draws closer until even the Queen cannot deny it any longer. Raids from the North increase and for the first time, the Riders of the Ice Dragons appear. It is time for the Queen to give up her game of pitting one faction against another. Four great armies assemble and they all march under the same banner. Though they do not—cannot—represent the Four Trees, this is nevertheless seen as a good omen.
Many good men from all four armies fall in battle, yet the Great Foulness is still at large. Is the combined might of the four powers enough to free the land from evil?
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For well over a half century, Andre Norton has been one of the most popular science fiction and fantasy authors in the world. Since her first SF novels were published in the 1940s, her adventure SF has enthralled readers young and old. With series such as Time Traders, Solar Queen, Forerunner, Beast Master, Crosstime, and Janus, as well as many stand-alone novels, her tales of action and adventure throughout the galaxy have drawn countless readers to science fiction.
Her fantasy, including the best-selling Witch World series, her "Magic" series, and many other unrelated novels, has been popular with readers for decades. Lauded as a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, she is the recipient of a Life Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. Not only have her books been enormously popular; she also has inspired several generations of SF and fantasy writers, especially many talented women writers who have followed in her footsteps. In the past two decades she has worked with other writers on a number of novels. Most notable among these are collaborations with Mercedes Lackey, the Halfblood Chronicles, as well as collaborations with A.C. Crispin (in the Witch World series) and Sherwood Smith (in the Time Traders and Solar Queen series). An Ohio native, Ms. Norton lived for a number of years in Winter Park, Florida, and now makes her home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she continues to write, and presides over High Hallack, a writers' resource and retreat.
Sasha Miller has published: Three Ships and Three Kings, Priam's Daughter, The Last Heracles (under her former married name of Georgia Sallaska), The Quest (under the pen name G.S. Madden), Falcon Magic; Ladylord, and a tetralogy with Andre Norton: To The King a Daughter, Knight or Knave, A Crown Denied, and Dragon Blade, scheduled for late 2003, in addition to numerous short stories. Her nonfiction book, Mother Miller's How To Write Good Book, is currently available from FoxAcre Press. She is a member of the Authors' Guild and SFWA, and is a Clarion '84 survivor. Married to Ben W. Miller, she resides with him in Colorado Springs.
Rohan tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword, though he did not unsheathe the weapon. Much depended on this meeting between himself, as leader of the Sea-Rovers, and Tusser, leader of the Bog-people.
Instead of returning to Rendelsham as Granddam Zazar had instructed him, or even to the Oakenkeep, he had gone south to New Vold, wanting the companionship of blood kindred. There he had learned that the Bog-people had resumed their raids on farms and small holdings.
"Hunger drives them," Snolli said, "but that doesn't put bread on our table. These raids must cease."
"I agree, but not for the reasons you think."
"Then give me the benefit of your wisdom, young Rohan."
Rohan did his best to ignore the heavy irony of his grandfather's tone. "We should make a treaty with, them," he said.
"And I suppose that means we feed them as well," Snolli replied more than a little sourly.
"Yes. It is certain," he told Snolli, "that we will need the help of the Bog-men when the Great Foulness from the North comes, and a little grain now and then is a small price to pay. Hard times are upon us all."
Snolli shook his head. "I have almost come to believe that what we fled is no longer interested in us. If Kasai wasn't always stroking that drum of his--"
The Spirit Drummer looked up from where he sat near the fireplace. "Be glad I do it, Chieftain," he said. "You'd have been in more than one pretty pickle before now, if it wasn't for me."
"But what have your foretellings come to?" the aging leader of the Sea-Rovers demanded. "Nothing!"
"Not yet," Kasai muttered, as if to himself. "Not yet. But soon, yes, very soon..."
"Rubbish," Snolli declared stubbornly. "Nothing but rubbish."
And so, despite his grandfather's dismissive words but with the warning of the Spirit Drummer still in his ears, Rohan had decided to seek out the Bog-men on his own and make alliance. Surely Snolli wouldn't do it of his own accord, Rohan thought, and much as he admired and respected Gaurin, leader of the Nordors, husband of his stepmother Ashen, he doubted that Gaurin would have thought of such a move, either.
Bog-men were of no consequence to the Nordors, nor to the people of Rendel, whence the Nordors had come for refuge, as had the Sea-Rovers. Yet, Rohan knew in his heart that all those who were able would be needed when the fighting came.
With that in mind, he had sought Granddam Zazar's help in setting up this meeting with Tusser. Though word had come that Tusser's father, Joal, had gone to the deep pools alive, Rohan knew that it was just a story told to frighten those who heard it Even Zazar had been taken in until she realized the ruse to give Tusser's claim to be headman legitimacy. Joal had not died; he had merely been hidden away until Tusser was accepted by all in his village. Rohan's grandfather Snolli lived also, though both men had long ago retired from such pleasant pastimes as making war on each other.
Rohan hoped to make of that a common bond, through which he and Tusser might come to an agreement. Also, though this was something he was reluctant to admit even to himself, it was in the direction of the Bog that he had last heard tell of this sweetheart, Anamara, traveling. Still under the effects of a spell the wicked Sorceress had put on her in Rendelsham, she could well be excepted to return to the place where, convinced she was a bird in human form, she imagined she belonged. Or--he hardly dared hope--where she might think to find him again, as he had found her on the verge of perishing in the cold and dangerous Bog.
At first, Zazar had been inclined to be cross with him for going against her instructions. But then, as Rohan explained how matters were with both the Bog-people and the sea-Rovers whose crops the Bog-men raided more and more of-ten, she relented.
"I can't guarantee that Tusser will meet with you," the Wysen-wyf said "I can't guarantee, should he meet with you, that he'll go along with such a scheme. I can't even guarantee that you'll come out of a meeting with him with your skin in one piece."
"Yet I'll risk it," Rohan had said.
"And also, I will keep an eye out for that silly Lady Lack-wit of yours, in case she decided to come back here instead of staying where she was warm and safe."
Rohan's ears had burned, but he made no retort. And so, now he waited in a place of Zazar's choosing, at a time Tusser selected, and the Wysen-wyf stood across the little clearing hard by what had once been a far outpost of Galinth, the ruined city, watching for Tusser's arrival. Behind her, inside a shelter hastily thrown together from stones and brush, a wisp of smoke arose in the cold, dank air.
"I think he's coming," Zazar said.
A boat emerged from a concealing fringe of vegetation that had scarcely a trace of leaf on it, for chill that continued to grip Rendel discouraged any plant growth. Nevertheless, the twigs formed such an effective barrier that Rohan had not seen the little Bog-craft until it was almost in plain view.
True to his agreement, Tusser--if that were truly him-- was alone. Rohan had no doubt, however, that he was heavily armed with additional weapons stowed in the bottom of the boat, and that he had companions stationed within close hailing distance. He glanced across the clearing at Granddam Zazar She nodded and took a step forward.
"Hail, Headman," she said, though there was scarcely a trace of deference in her manner. "I have prepared a talk-fire so that you and my grandson can confer properly. " She indicated the conical twig-walled hut prepared behind her, and ducked through the curtain covering the doorway ahead of the two men.
Neither seemed willing to let the other precede him. Rohan held out both of his hands, showing Tusser that he held no weapon. When Tusser did the same, Rohan ducked through the opening. When both were inside and seated by the small fire, Zazar dropped the makeshift curtain over the door again and snugged it against a random wind with a few well-placed stones.
"It's a poor meeting place at best, but the only one even partially accepted to both parties," she expalined. "Here. I have some broth to warm you."
"Waste of time," Tusser said gruffly. Though comparatively young to be headman of a Bog-village, nonetheless he appeared to be capable as well as strong. He accepted a mug of the steaming broth with an air of indifference, but Rohan noted that he cradled it in his hands as if grateful for the warmth.
"Thank you," Rohan said, accepting his own mug. He sipped appreciatively. "Let's hope we can find, if not a warm friendship, then at least a way to lessen animosity between us."
"Too much silly talk," Tusser said with a scowl. "I have time only for good talk, not silly. Why you want meet with me? You just Outlander. Maybe I send to deep pools instead."
Rohan set his mug aside and put his hand on the hilt of his sword again. "I'd dispute you over that ambition," he said mildly.
Tusser continued to scowl at him. Then he looked away, indifferent again. "No matter," he said. "Maybe another time."
In the shadows, Zazar made a muffled sound that Rohan recognized as a stifled laugh. She scooted forward until she had a place at the talk-fire as well. "It's plain to me that I'm going to have to serve as go-between here." She turned to Rohan. "Oh, I'm sure you have come here in a resonable manner, but despite the fact that I've explained the situation to this lout several times, he thinks he has to impress you and show you how strong he is before he's willing to make treaty." She turned her head and fixed Tusser with a gaze that Rohan was all too familiar with. He had been on the receiving end himself when he had been acting particularly thickheaded. For all of Tusser's many years on Rohan, the look seemed to be affecting him in very much the same way. "Very well, then, say it and have done. Get your stupid pride out of your system all at once, or you can believe that I'll kick out every last spark of the talk-fire and the Bog-people can starve or freeze or die when the invaders come. And you can be sure that your gabble of the deep pools won't mean a thing to them. Now. What's it to be?"
Tusser shifted a little, trying to avoid Zazar's implacable stare. "I ready to treat. If terms good enough."
Rohan spoke up. "There, are terrible times coming. Our land--" He spread his arms, indicating not only where they sat, but the entirely of the Bog and beyond it. "--all of our land, both yours and mine, is in danger. I have heard rumors, tales, of people from the north who long to take it from us. And so my message here is a simple one. We must make pact with each other and stop our warring, or these invaders will find us easy picking indeed. If, however, we stand together--"
For the first time, Tusser appeared interested. "You think we like one village makes war on another?" "Something like that."
"And then, when big birds come, or Outlanders come, even villages that not like each other all fight together?"
Rohan took a deep breath of relief. "That's right. We must all fight together, when the--the other Outlanders come."
"Tusser agree. But until then, we fight. Now I go."
"No," Rohan said hastily. "We must stop our fighting--I thought I had made that clear." He turned imploringly to Zazar.
"You did," she said, "and so did I. But trying to get something through Tusser's thick skull when he doesn't want to understand, is well nigh a hopeless chore."
"Look," he said to Tusser. "What's to be gained if we continue to make war on each other and when the other Outlanders come upon us, we are so weak we can't fight them, even all together?"
Tusser frowned again, trying to work out what Rohan had said. "Yes," he said at last, "but what we do between times?"
"There is much the Sea-Rovers can learn from you, and much that we can teach in return," Rohan said. "Later we will go to the rest of Rendel. I'm sure that--"
Whatever predication he had been on the point of making was lost as a small, furry creature nudged its way under the door curtain. With a high-pitched squeal, ...
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