Back at Sinch's. He's asleep again, and I'm sitting on the floor writing. Just looking back at the journal, that was the first night I spent with him, when I was pretty happy. I wasn't sure if I'd freak out or if things would change, but they didn't. So it's been a week and we just did stuff again tonight, and I'm still not freaking out.


It's not as big a deal to him, I think. It sounds like he kinda does stuff with other people a lot, too, like some of the thieves he hangs out with (he doesn't call them thieves, but I know). That's good, 'cause it means I don't have to worry about it if I'm too busy to hang out with him. But he's usually free if I do want to, which was three times this past week, even though I only got over here today.


I asked him if he could think of any reason I wouldn't have to marry the vixen. He said if we could prove she was barren, or wasn't really noble, that I wouldn't have to, but I don't think I can really do either of those. Not quickly, anyway. Then I thought that if I don't become a lord, I won't have to marry her. But I can't think of a way to not be a lord. I tried saying I don't want to do it, and that didn't work. I'm not sure how, but I guess it doesn't matter what I want. Father made me go talk to Master Ovile about what happens when heirs say they don't want to be lords (it's called “abdicate”). I had to sit there for an hour and listen to three stories of bloody fights about who got to be lord (“wars of succession”) and how hundreds of people died.


It's not really fair to make me do something I don't want to just so hundreds of people won't die. I mean, what if I fell into the river and drowned? Would all those people still die? Would it be my fault? But there are some things I can control. They can make me be a lord, but they can't make me marry a vixen who cares more about what scent she's wearing than about what the people around her are talking about.




I left this journal at Sinch's, so it's been a month since I wrote in it. Maybe more. But I'm pretty happy now. Sinch is asleep in his bed and I'm sitting on the floor, but I'll crawl up there in a minute. The bed's kind of small, so I can't sit in it and write.

I guess I'm not really writing this journal for Mother anymore, or I wouldn't be mentioning that. This was the first night I was allowed out of the palace since the last journal entry, and Sinch and I grabbed food at the tavern, and then we came back here, and he has a room all to himself, so we made use of that. It felt okay to do it now, not like it did a month ago. I'm pretty happy. I know there's a lot of stuff I'm not thinking about, but I'm pretty happy.


I'm also happy because Haley is gone for the next three months. Her family goes south for the winter. Vellenland or something, I don't know. Not Vinton. I would have hated that, because I don't know if I would have gone with her just to be able to go home. It's been bad enough being confined to the palace, where she doesn't live and only comes to dinner twice a week. In Vinton she'd be around all the time. At least she finally stopped trying to talk to me.

For the first week, after Father took away my papers so I couldn't leave the castle, I thought I'd never get away from her. She'd show up to dinner and then people kept trying to leave us alone afterwards so we could “talk.” Once we were alone, I grabbed my history books and started reading and ignored everything she said, which wasn't much, because I think she was waiting for me to say something. But I couldn't even read history properly because I was just sitting there thinking, Canis, don't let her say anything, please.

After that, when her parents tried to leave her alone with me, she said she'd rather go home. Father wasn't happy about that, but all he said to me was “you make your bed, you'll have to lie in it.” I told him I never wanted to go to bed with Haley, and he said I didn't always get to make that choice.


But I'm practicing Diplomacy and History. There's got to be a way out of marrying this stupid vixen, and I'm going to find it.




Haley's parents wanted me to come to their house for dinner because they said I was kind of quiet in the castle. I said I could find my own way there and then I just skipped out and went to hang out with Sinch. We walked down to the river and threw stones at the boats until they chased us away. Then we sat in a park under a tree and I complained about Haley and my father. Sinch just listened, but when I was done, he said he thought it sucked that they were making me marry someone. Then he said I didn't have to let that ruin my life, that I could still do a lot of things I wanted, and like for instance I decided I didn't want to go to the dinner tonight. I knew all that, and I thought he didn't really get what I was saying, but now I kind of think he did. Anyway, it made me feel better. He brought me a meat pie for dinner and I didn't ask where he got it. He got some kind of pie stuffed full of vegetables for himself.

We went back to his house after that and his mother gave us cookies. He has a really nice garden with an apple tree that's just flowering, and he said the apples are sweet. We sat out there and talked for a while. Even over the flowers, I could kinda smell what he was thinking, but I don't think I'm ready to do anything like that with him yet. But when he got tired and leaned against me, that was okay. It's all dark now and he's kind of dozing, so I'm writing this. I'll get up in a minute and go back home, but not right away. Father's going to yell at me again, and it's so quiet here.




It took me a week to get Master Xoren to talk to me about Dewanne. Master Ovile is useless, unless I want to know what happened there a hundred years ago. But Master Xoren told me he'd heard that it was just a rumor that I was going to be Lord Dewanne, because I was the only red fox coming of age at the right time. But he thought personally that it would make a lot more sense for Lord Dewanne to find someone in Dewanne with noble blood, and that maybe he was going to do that instead.

He said my father should know, but I said I didn't want to ask him. Even Diplomacy doesn't work with father, at least not for me. So he told me I should ask the Steward, and he even walked me to her office and introduced me.

She's a porcupine, her name's Jinna, and I'd met her a year ago when I came here, but I hadn't talked to her in a while. You can always tell when she's coming because she has beads in all her spines and they rattle when she walks. She remembered me and said that it was true that I wasn't the official successor yet. She's really nice about it and we talked for an hour, though I had to walk along with her while she ran around doing things. In the end, she promised to tell me if she heard anything about Dewanne, and she didn't even ask why I didn't want to wait and hear from my father.

I felt okay until dinner, and then that vixen was there again, and her parents too. Father was upset that I hadn't cleaned up more, never mind that I just got to dinner and didn't know it was special and didn't have time to. I said as little as I could and the vixen, her name is Haley or something, didn't talk either. I think she might have something wrong with her. I asked Father that afterwards, and I used Diplomacy, but like I said, it doesn't work on him and he got mad and sent me to bed. I can't wait to come of age.



I forgot to finish the last entry. Sinch came up on the roof when I was in the middle of writing it, and I stopped to say hi to him. Then I ended up telling him all about the vixen and that I was going to be married to her, which wasn't even fair because I'm not going to be lord of Vinton, Volyan is. So I don't know why I have to get married to someone Father says I have to.

Sinch said he didn't think it was that bad, but I think he was just trying to make me feel better. I said I didn't want some vixen, I just wanted someone I felt good with and cared about, and he didn't say anything to that. So we just lay back and looked up at the moon and the stars, and fell asleep there.

Of course, things were worse the next morning. Father yelled at me and told me that I was going to be a noble whether I liked it or not, and that I'd better get used to it, and I said it was hard to get used to it when I was treated like a peasant, and he said I had no idea what it was like to be a peasant. So I asked him what I was going to do anyway and why it was so important for me to marry this stupid vixen (and she is stupid, too, I wasn't just saying that). And he told me that I was going to be Lord of Dewanne.

Dewanne is the only other fox-ruled province. There used to be a lot more. But I guess Lord Dewanne doesn't have any cubs of his own, and he wants it to stay a fox-ruled province, or something. But Dewanne is all the way on the other side of the country!

Nothing I said mattered, of course. This was all arranged decades ago, before I was born. Nobody cared then what I might want. Who wants to be a lord if you have to go all the way out to the mountains and be weeks away from anyone you care about? Everyone at the palace says I'm lucky to have grown up in the southern mountains, that they're the best mountains after the Vellenland range. Nobody ever says, “You should have grown up in Dewanne.” There's nothing there but mice and mines and it's weeks away from the capital. I thought it was bad being sent to Divalia, but I'd rather live here for the rest of my life than spend a week in Dewanne.




I'm on the roof again. I think I might have to run away.

This last week I had my birthday. One more year 'til I'm of age and Father can't order me around any more. He ordered some pastries and he and his wolf gave me a really nice short bow. And Volyan brought some mead up, which actually tasted good, and for a little while we were actually having a good time. I didn't mind going to sleep in the same room as Volyan that night.

But it was all just a trick. The next day at dinner, Father told me there was someone he wanted me to meet. It wasn't a big deal, I thought. He's made me sit at dinner a few times in the past year when important people came by. So I came to dinner expecting to be bored, to make polite noises and talk about Vinton and how much better Divalia is.

And the important person he wanted me to meet was a young vixen. They sat me next to her and introduced us. Even then, I didn't think anything of it. I wasn't thinking about my diplomacy class. Until Father started talking about her family, and how they were a noble line of foxes from out west, and she'd been brought here specifically to meet me. And she kept staring down at her plate, not saying anything. I figured it out then.

So I shut up at that point. Father noticed, and tried to get me to talk a couple times. I got done with dinner as fast as I could and then said I had to go. I didn't even say what a pleasure it was to meet her, or anything, even though I didn't think of that until later. I just walked out.

Teeth and Tail, I can't believe he would just bring in someone I'm supposed to marry without warning me! I got out of the palace just before they closed the gates and walked down to the pub where I'd met the coyote. Of course, he wasn't there, and I was careful not to spend too much time with anyone. I just got more mead.

I don't remember getting back to the palace, but I had to have, somehow, because I woke up on the floor between my bed and Volyan's when he dumped a cup of water on my head. My clothes smelled terrible and there was a taste like moldy fruit in my mouth. I was pretty miserable, and I still have a headache, but at least I didn't wake up next to someone who smelled worse. Volyan said I was supposed to go to lunch with this vixen, and I had to get cleaned up. So I said I was going to get cleaned up, and I left the palace and went to find Sinch.

I found his house, but he wasn't there, and his mother didn't know where he was. So I looked for him for a while, until one of the Guard offered to help me, but really what he wanted to do was drag me back to the palace, where Vinnix marched me to the water bath like I was a cub, and washed me and dressed me. And then Father made me apologize to the vixen and her family, and we had to eat dinner with them again, and then I said I had a headache, which I did, and I was very polite and apologized and


Diplomacy, part 2


Master Cobalt has finally given up making me practice the long sword. I used my diplomacy class on him. I promised him that I would get good enough to defend myself against common soldiers, which I already was, because they all stink, and that I would work double-hard on the short bow. He still wants me to learn the short sword for close-quarters fighting, and I think for now I'm going to have to keep doing that, but I'd rather get really good with the bow and just be good enough with the sword that I don't stab myself. So today I had a quick test with five soldiers from the guard, and only one of them nicked me, so Master Cobalt said I could give it up. This diplomacy stuff is kind of cool.

So I'm working harder on the bow. I really want to get good with it, and if there's one thing that's better about Divalia than Vinton, it's the bows and target ranges. Master Cobalt's taught me more about aiming and releasing than Corris did in years, and I've gotten a lot better just in eight months.

Has it really been eight months? Well, maybe there's one other good thing about Divalia. I never had a lot of friends in Vinton, not around my age, but now that the coyote is gone, Sinch and I have been taking more time to go around the city. He knows all the best places to get bread and cakes, although I have to remind him that I have money. We came out of one shop the other day after I bought two fowl pies, and he had three cinnamon rolls in his pocket. I didn't want to get caught with stolen food, so we had to eat them.

Sinch doesn't talk much about his father, but he promised I'll get to meet his mother sometime. She bakes for a living and his sisters help her in the kitchen. So does he, when he's not out stealing. He never said that's what he does, but it doesn't take a genius to figure it out. I kind of want to know how he does it, but then I think about what Mother used to say about thieves. Sinch is nice, even for a thief, and he doesn't just steal anything. He only does jobs to help his family survive. I don't need to help my family survive, so I'll just stick to diplomacy and short bow, I guess.




This diplomacy stuff is interesting. I've been practicing with Kinnic for three weeks now and I've gotten to the point where I can get the better of him most of the time. Master Xoren says that once you know your opponent, it's easier to negotiate; what we have to learn next is how to get the better of someone you've just met. So he's switching us around with different partners and coaching us to look at the small signs people give off.

I can't hear what he tells the other people about me, but I can tell from the way they act. They keep trying to slow the negotiation down, so I think he's telling them that I'm impatient. Lilt, a bear cub, is really obvious when he's trying to take advantage of me. After he talked to Master Xoren, he kept asking me to explain things and saying how stupid he was. And then he'd try to slip something in, like I wouldn't notice it. For instance, we're talking about a border dispute. He was defending some soldiers of his who'd come into my territory and raided there. And we kept going around and around and he kept trying to define the borders, saying, like, “Can you say that again, I'm not sure I understood.” When I know he understood. And then he'd repeat back what I said only he'd try to change the numbers a little bit. But his weakness is, he's not that smart. So I'd nod and say that was right, and repeat back something different, and then Lilt really would get confused, and you can just see the difference because when he's playing at being confused, he smiles, and when he's really confused, he frowns and picks at his teeth. Loser. I'm so glad bears aren't in favor any more.

Oh, and Sinch found me again, in the gardens. I was daydreaming about Vinton and he came up behind me, from downwind so I couldn't smell him. I said I'd been busy with school but he didn't seem to care, acting all pleased with himself. So I asked him what he'd been up to and he said I didn't have to worry about the coyote any more.

Like that. You don't have to worry about him. I almost ran away, except I thought maybe he'd hunt me down if I did. So I asked why not, and he said he'd followed the coyote once or twice and kept an eye on him, and that yesterday the coyote sailed downriver with a barge.

That was a lot better than what I was thinking. So when he asked if I wanted to nick something from the kitchen, I couldn't really say no. The more I think about it, the more it was kind of a weird thing to do, going out of his way like that, but it was really nice, too.



It's been two weeks since I saw Sinch. He came by once after our trip outside and kept asking about the coyote, so I've been avoiding him since then. I know it's stupid, but I was already laughed at by Volyan when I asked if we could catch our own fish down at the river, and this is a lot worse. I don't want Sinch to laugh at me too.

I don't know why I care. He's just a mouse, and a sneak. He still won't tell me what he was doing in the palace grounds. And it's not like it's a big deal, anyway. I can just go back to walking around the garden. Or maybe I'd better not, in case he comes over the wall again. I'll take my lessons to the roof and study them.

Speaking of which, Master Xoren was leading us in a demonstration of a negotiation with a neighboring lord, choosing me to play one of the lords and Kinnic, the son of Lord Vanadi. Kinnic's okay, for a grey fox. Kind of pretentious, and he keeps calling me “brother in Canis,” but at least he talks to me. So when I said something about Volyan having to worry about negotiations, and Master Xoren said I should still have to learn this stuff, Kinnic asked how many red foxes were in the peerage. Master Xoren asked the class if anyone knew. I only knew of Father, but Kinnic knew there was Lord Dewanne as well. Master Xoren told us that Quirn used to be a fox-ruled peerage, but it was given to a bear family under King Barris. And of course, in the past, when a fox was on the throne, more of the non-land peerages were held by foxes. Now that King Pontion is on the throne, some of the non-land peerages are going to other stags.

I asked around, but Lord Dewanne has been getting more infirm, and left earlier this year to take some rest at home. It figures. Kinnic says he's the only grey fox of his age in the nobility, and after that class he asked if I wanted to practice our negotiations further. Honestly, it didn't sound all that appealing, but I went along.

It was dull, dull, dull. I enjoyed practicing diplomacy, but Kinnic has no interest in history, so when we were done with that, he wanted to talk about the Book of Canis. The first half hour was okay. He knows some really interesting stuff. The next three hours were not so interesting. After that, I was actually glad to get to dinner with Father.





I feel like such an idiot. It was the first time I went out walking in the city with Sinch, and we were having a pretty good time. I was telling him about the lessons with Master Ovile, about how there were mice who had defeated the army of King Bucher back in the recent war. And he was asking about the war, because he hadn't heard about it, so I told him the mice were from Delford, the country we invaded, and they were just driving out the invaders, which was us. So then he wanted to know, if he were fighting for Tephos, would he have to fight against other mice? And I said probably, but pointed out that if we were at war with Ferrenis again, I would have to fight other foxes.

For some reason, it was hard for him to think about fighting his own species. I think because mice aren't really trained for full-on combat. They're good at sneaking around, but for wars, you want stags if you want any herbivores at all. But I didn't want to say that, because it seemed kind of rude, and Master Xoren would have scolded me for it. So while I was searching for the right way to say it, I caught a whiff of a scent, and I panicked and dove behind a building.

It was the coyote, the one from that night. I saw him walking by. At least, I'm pretty sure it was him. I just got a whiff of the scent, but it made me feel all jumpy. And of course, Sinch asked what was the matter, and here I'd just been going on about how he should be brave and fight. So I made up a story about the coyote being after me because of my heritage and how I had to hide from him because he was a soldier and he'd already tried to kill me once.

Of course, Sinch was all impressed and afraid, and he offered to look out for the coyote while we walked around. Which made me feel like a jerk, and so even though he was going to show me where he lives, and apparently his mom is a really good cook, I ended up just walking back to the palace.

I'm an idiot.