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Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents

Copyright

Dedication

Map

Dramatis Personae

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

Chapter Fifty-Two

Author’s Note

Coming in Spring 2014

His Fair Assassin trilogy

About the Author

Copyright © 2013 by Robin LaFevers

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, except in the case of historical figures and events, which are used fictitiously.

To my own patron saints:

Nancy Warner,

for patching me back together time and again

so I could leap once more into the fray;

Erin Murphy,

who sometimes saw this story more clearly than I did;

Kate O’Sullivan,

for her unwavering support and enthusiasm;

and Mary Hershey,

for creating a safe place

where we could have all the hard and scary conversations.

Dark Triumph - _2.jpg

Dramatis Personae

LADY SYBELLA, handmaiden to Death

ISMAE RIENNE, handmaiden to Death

ANNITH, a novitiate of Mortain

ABBESS OF SAINT MORTAIN

ALAIN D’ALBRET, a Breton noble with extensive holdings in France

PIERRE D’ALBRET, his son

JULIAN D’ALBRET, his son

CHARLOTTE D’ALBRET, his ten-year-old daughter

LOUISE D’ALBRET, his seven-year-old daughter

BERTRAND DE LUR, captain of d’Albret’s guard

JAMETTE DE LUR, his daughter

TEPHANIE, lady in waiting to Lady Sybella

MADAME FRANCOISE DINAN, the duchess’s former governess

JEAN RIEUX, marshal of Brittany and the duchess’s former tutor

TILDE, a maid

ODETTE, her younger sister

BARON JULLIERS, a Breton noble

BARON VIENNE, a Breton noble

BARON IVES MATHURIN, a Breton noble

BENEBIC DE WAROCH, the Beast of Waroch and a knight of the realm

YANNIC, the jailor

GUION, a Breton farmer

BETTE, his wife

JACQUES, their son

ANTON, their son

The Charbonnerie:

ERWAN, their leader

GRAELON, a charbonnerie man

LAZARE, a charbonnerie man

WINNOG, a charbonnerie youth

MALINA, a charbonnerie woman

The Breton Court and Nobility

ANNE, Duchess of Brittany, Countess of Nantes, Montfort, and Richmont

ISABEAU, her sister

DUKE FRANCIS II (Anne’s father, deceased)

GAVRIEL DUVAL, a Breton noble

JEAN DE CHALON, Prince of Orange

MICHAULT THABOR, commander of the Rennes city guard

CAPTAIN DUNOIS, captain of the Breton army

PHILLIPE MONTAUBAN, chancellor of Brittany

BISHOP OF RENNES

CHARLES VIII, king of France

ANNE DE BEAUJEU, regent of France

MAXIMILIAN OF AUSTRIA, the Holy Roman emperor, one of Anne’s suitors

SIR DE BROSSE, man-at-arms

SIR LORRIL, man-at-arms

SIR LANNION, man-at-arms

SIR GAULTIER, man-at-arms

ABBESS OF ST. MER

SAMSON, a blacksmith’s son

CLAUDE, a woodcutter’s son

Chapter One

N

ANTES

, B

RITTANY

, 1489

I DID NOT ARRIVE AT the convent of Saint Mortain some green stripling. By the time I was sent there, my death count numbered three, and I had had two lovers besides. Even so, there were some things they were able to teach me: Sister Serafina, the art of poison; Sister Thomine, how to wield a blade; and Sister Arnette, where best to strike with it, laying out all the vulnerable points on a man’s body like an astronomer charting the stars.

If only they had taught me how to watch innocents die as well as they taught me how to kill, I would be far better prepared for this nightmare into which I’ve been thrust.

I pause at the foot of the winding steps to see if I am being watched. The scullery woman scrubbing the marble hall, the sleepy page dozing against the doorway—either one of them could be a spy. Even if neither has been assigned to watch me, someone is always willing to tattle in the hopes of earning a few crumbs of favor.

Caution prevails and I decide to use the south stairs, then double back through the lower hall to approach the north tower from that side. I am very careful to step precisely where the maid has just washed, and I hear her mutter a curse under her breath. Good. Now I can be certain she has seen me and will not forget if she is questioned.

In the lower hall, there are few servants about. Those who have not been driven out are busy with their duties or have gone to ground like wise, clever rats.

When at last I reach the north wing of the palace, it is empty. Quickening my pace, I hurry toward the north tower, but I am so busy looking behind me that I nearly stumble over a small figure sitting at the base of the stairs.

I bite back an oath of annoyance and glare down to see it is a child. A young girl. “What are you doing here?” I snap. My nerves are already tightly strung, and this new worry does them little good. “Where is your mother?”

The girl looks up at me with eyes like damp violets, and true fear clutches at my gut. Has no one thought to warn her how dangerous it is for a pretty child to wander these halls alone? I want to reach down and shake her—shake her mother—and shout at her that she is not safe, not on these steps, not in this castle. I force myself to take a deep breath instead.

“Mama is dead.” The child’s voice is high and quivery.

I glance to the stairs, where my first duty lies, but I cannot leave this child here. “What is your name?”

“Odette,” she says, uncertain whether to be frightened of me or not.

“Well, Odette, this is no place to play. Have you no one to look after you?”

“My sister. But when she is working, I am to hide like a little mouse.”

At least her sister is no fool. “But this is not a good place to hide, is it? Look how easily I found you!”

For the first time, the girl gives me a shy smile, and in that moment, she reminds me so much of my youngest sister, Louise, that I cannot breathe. Thinking quickly, I take her hand and lead her back to the main hallway.

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