This awesome book is the second of the Immortals quartet, and is by Tamora Pierce. Of course, listening to the audiobook version, I got to hear the author narrate, and there were different voices for each character (one of the advantages of listening to stuff by Full Cast Audio in my opinion). I have to say I liked Tkaa the basilisk’s. 🙂 This time, Daine and Numair have gone to scout around Dunlath, where a group of the Queen’s Riders (called a rider group) disappeared, as well as a group of other knights. Another thing to draw them to Dunlath is the fact that the leader of a pack of wolves, Brokefang, sent two of his wolves to ask Daine for help. Brokefang is one of the wolves who helped her track down the bandits who killed her family. The story doesn’t start by telling you this, it starts with Brokefang, sitting and thinking (not something a wolf normally does).
When we go to Daine and Numair, the two wolves are absent, and Daine is thinking. When the wolves reappear, the rest of the pack (minus a couple who have to watch the new pups) appear. They greet Daine enthusiastically, and she returns the greeting. Numair watches (it was raining), and finally suggests that they get out of the wet. After awhile, Brokefang explains that the reason that they need Daine’s help against the “two-leggers” (humans) is because they are digging holes for no reason, chopping up trees, and scaring away game. Daine says she’ll try to help. So they continue, on the way to the place where the rest of the wolves are, they find a place that has blasted ground. They find horse bones… and human bones, along with some things that identify the bones as those of the missing rider group.
When Daine and Numair finally go to the village near Dunlath’s little castle, they receive an invitation to join the nobles for dinner. Daine is forced to purchase and wear a pink dress (she hates wearing dresses and she hates the colour pink). They find the two heiresses, the older one, Yolane, is very pretty. The younger one, Maura, is rather plain looking, with lots of freckles. Numair also discovers and old “friend”, Tristan Staghorn, a battle mage. Daine is seated near Maura, farther away from the nobles than the other two mages or the “traders” who are there. Some mice come to Daine and she quietly feeds them while talking to Maura, after awhile, Daine realizes that Maura is quite lonely, and hands her one of the mice to feed (he preferred fruit, cheese apparently gets boring after awhile). They become friends.
That night, they flee. Numair made simulacra of himself (two, that would appear to be the real Numair, he had figured out how to make it seem as if his magical Gift was in each simulacra) and they were going to escape. Daine decided to stay with the Long Lake pack. Frostfur, Brokefang’s new mate (I forget what his old one was called), is rather stiff and a little nasty towards Daine. At a point, Daine is to stay and guard the pups with Kitten (a.k.a. Skysong) and Cloud’s help. They dash off and Daine has to follow them. They meet a Coldfang, a horrible type of immortal that tracks down thieves. The pack had stolen some axes and saws before so that was why it was after them. Before Daine could get killed though, a strange sound was heard and the Coldfang turned to stone (which killed it obviously).
The person who did it was a basilisk called Tkaa, and as he told Daine, he hadn’t done it for her, he had done it for Kitten. He joined their group from then on, being a useful (and somewhat strange) addition. For example, he knows all sorts of languages, but he eats rocks. Black opals (a powerful, expensive stone that Numair had to save up for years to purchase, even though his was a tiny one) are like dessert to him. Apparently, the ones of Fief Dunlath were the most tasty he’d had in years. Tristan and the other mages had errected a barrier around Dunlath, to stop anyone leaving or coming. When Numair came back, he struck it with magic (which the barrier absorbed), and that made a sound like being inside a bell when it’s hit. Not the nicest thing around.
Meanwhile, Daine, practicing a new lesson from the Badger (a god, the first male badger), found that joining with the mind’s of animals brought interesting side affects. Getting feathers, having bat ears, or shrinking. Of course, when she mentioned this to the badger, he told her that she had to join with her own human body the way she had with the animals. Maura had run away, and Daine and the wolves discovered her around the time they found out about the barrier. She gave them news that had Daine writing a report to Numair. Tristan and Yolane were planning a rebellion against the crown, upon later investigation (with the help of a squirrel named Flicker), she found out that Emperor Ozorne of Carthak had given them permission for this attack, as long as Yolane kept on sending black opals. And who was mining the opals? Ogres and humans. Most ogres are peaceful and want to be farmers.
Of course, at a point, reinforcements arrive for Numair, Alanna the Lioness and Raoul of Goldenlake. Because of their arrival, Alamid and Gissa are going to dump bloodrain (a poison that kills people from within in three days, and the traces of it in a river take seven years to start fading. Five miles on either side of the river, things would feel the effect of bloodrain and die) into the river under Tristan’s orders. This is to get rid of them. Daine has to go to the castle and destroy the barrier on the model of Dunlath so that Numair can get in.
Of course, there’s a Coldfang guarding it. And of course Daine has to fight it. It’s a very exciting book, and there’s a stormwing in it who’s actually semi-nice. He acts affectionate towards Maura though, his name is Lord Rikash Moonsword. He appears in the next book as well of course. Check it out, ’cause it’s awesome! 😀