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Authors: Sharon Shinn

The Truth-Teller's Tale

BOOK: The Truth-Teller's Tale
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
The kirrenberry and the chatterleaf
Our father ordered two full-grown trees to plant in the green area behind the inn. One was a kirrenberry, the tree of silence. Sit beneath it in spring or summer and its limbs, with their flat dark leaves, would stretch noiselessly above you; in autumn or winter, you would hear no rustle from its slim branches as they shook in a frenzied breeze. It was traditional for Safe-Keepers to plant a kirrenberry tree on their property so that anyone desperate with a secret to tell would know where to go to speak in safety.
A few yards away from the kirrenberry, he planted a chatterleaf, the tree that Truth-Tellers had taken as their emblem. This was a species that was never silent at all. Its lime-bright leaves made silky whispery sounds during any light spring breeze; even in the dead of winter, its bare twigs and branches rattled against one another like sticks in a drummer's hands. . . . A whistle from a chatterleaf would yield a deep and satisfying sound, like a foghorn in Merendon harbor or the bellow of a small, angry animal.
But during no storm and no season did the kirrenberry tree make a sound.
FIREBIRD WHERE FANTASY TAKES FLIGHT
™
Books by Sharon Shinn
THE SAMARIA NOVELS
ARCHANGEL
JOVAH'S ANGEL
THE ALLELUIA FILES
ANGELICA
ANGEL-SEEKER
 
THE SHAPE-CHANGER'S WIFE
WRAPT IN CRYSTAL
HEART OF GOLD
SUMMERS AT CASTLE AUBURN
JENNA STARBORN
 
THE SAFE-KEEPER'S SECRET
THE TRUTH-TELLER'S TALE
THE DREAM-MAKER'S MAGIC
 
MYSTIC AND RIDER
THE THIRTEENTH HOUSE
FIREBIRD
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario,
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
Published by Firebird, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007
 
 
Copyright © Sharon Shinn, 2005
 
All rights reserved
 
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE VIKING EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Shinn, Sharon.
The Truth-Teller's tale / Sharon Shinn.
p. cm.
Summary: Twins Eleda, who can tell only the truth, and Adele, who cannot
reveal others' secrets, are sorely tested by a newly arrived pair of
handsome dance instructors who seem to harbor a secret.
[1. Twins—Fiction. 2. Mistaken identity—Fiction. 3. Honesty—Fiction.
4. Secrets—Fiction. 5. Courtship—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.S5572Tru 2005 [Fic]—dc22 2005005453
 
eISBN : 978-1-440-68431-9
 
 
 
 
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any
responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

http://us.penguingroup.com

FOR SHEILA
who always tells the truth
 
AND ALICE
who knows how to keep a secret
WHEN WILL A DREAM BE THWARTED,
 
 
NO MATTER WHAT DUES WERE PAID?
 
 
WHEN IS THE TRUTH DISTORTED
 
 
AND A CONFIDENCE BETRAYED?
Part One
CHAPTER ONE
What would you say if I told you there was a time a Safe-Keeper told a secret, a Truth-Teller told a lie, and a Dream-Maker did everything in her power to make sure a wish went astray? Believe what I tell you, for I am a Truth-Teller, and every word I say is true.
 
 
No sisters could ever have been less alike than my twin and I. To the casual observer, we looked exactly the same, for we both had wheat blonde hair and exceptionally pale skin, and the bones of our faces had an identical structure. But Adele was right-handed; she parted her hair on the right; her right eye was blue and her left eye was green. I was left-handed; I parted my hair on the left; my left eye was blue and my right eye was green. We each saw in the other the very same face, the very same figure, we saw in the mirror every morning.
You could not blame people for getting us mixed up—until they knew our personalities, and then it should have been easy to tell us apart. For Adele was devious and secretive. She would listen to whispered conversations between strangers and learn all manner of interesting revelations, but never repeat a word. From the time we were quite little, she could lie with utter sincerity, so that you never knew if she was making up a story or concealing a dreadful fact. I, on the other hand, tattled on everyone. If a boy pushed a girl into a puddle, I told his mother about it that very afternoon. If your bow was crooked, your shoes didn't match, or your hair was a mess, I would be sure to let you know. At school, when the teacher asked a question, I could hardly wait to be called on before I would blurt out the answer. Words wouldn't stay inside me, whereas Adele could go days without bothering to make conversation at all. If such a thing were possible, I would have said that I was as transparent as a window—that light and color and information passed through me as if I was not even there—whereas Adele was as opaque and mysterious as a dark curtain motionless before that window on a starless winter night.
She was, in many respects, the most irritating person I knew. If you were ready to leave the house and you called her, sometimes she would not answer. If you wanted her opinion about a dress you were wearing or a boy you liked, she would merely look at you and give you that enigmatic smile. She never told you if she had fallen down and hurt herself or if a girl in school had been mean to her or if she had found out what your parents had bought you as a Wintermoon gift. She could be difficult, obstructive, confusing, and maddening, all without saying a word.
I would not trade her for all the gold in Wodenderry.
The year we turned twelve, we had a brief visit from the Dream-Maker, who often stayed with us when she came to Merendon. Our parents ran a prosperous inn one block over from High Street, and it was rare that we had more than a room or two open on any night. The Dream-Maker was our guest fairly often, for she traveled constantly between the royal city of Wodenderry and the smaller towns throughout the kingdom. She had to, of course; that was her role in life. She always had to be among people who could tell her their tales or ask for her favor or merely brush by her on the street, not knowing who she was, so that by her very existence she could, now and then, turn someone's deepest desire into reality. There was only one of her in the entire kingdom, and so she always had to be on the move, to touch and change as many people's lives as she could.
I had always been fascinated by Melinda, who had become Dream-Maker a few years before I was born. She was a highborn lady with delicate skin and patrician features; she dressed in the most elegant silks and laces, and her fine white hair was always elaborately styled. It was clear that even after nearly twenty years of dream-making, she had not grown entirely accustomed to her frequent interactions with the rougher folk to be found in the small villages and seaside towns. A certain haughtiness lingered about her still. My mother always said that most Dream-Makers had been sad, lonely women whose lives had been weighted down by their own personal catastrophes, but I could never see any such desolation in Melinda's face. My own theory was that she liked the life of a Dream-Maker very well. Perhaps she had had a dreary life up until the day that power inexplicably passed into her hands, but once she was imbued with the gift of bringing happiness to others, she began to live a life that was rich and pleasant as well.
Whenever she came to my parents' inn, she was greeted with great enthusiasm, for the Dream-Maker meant good business. While she stayed in one of our guest chambers, the taproom would always be full with men hoping to catch a glimpse of the woman who could grant their wishes. The tradesmen promptly made deliveries to our doors; travelers eagerly asked to book a room for an extra night.
And, of course, there was always the possibility that she would bring richer bounty.
Every time she arrived, she and my mother would have the same exchange while my father carried her bags up to the best room. “So, Hannah,” Melinda would ask, “any wishes you've been saving up? Any dreams you'd like to see come true?”
And my mother—who looked just like us, except twenty years older and with two blue eyes—would always say, “I'd like my girls to grow up happy and good, and for Bob and me to grow old together.”
Melinda would always smile. “Those are the best wishes of all.”
This particular summer, Melinda arrived at the inn with great news: Queen Lirabel had had her second baby, this one a girl. The prince had been born fourteen years ago, and the people of the kingdom were beginning to wonder if their much-loved queen would ever have another child. The course of the pregnancy had been followed with great interest throughout the whole kingdom. A traveler could not come from any road that might have intersected Wodenderry without being quizzed on the queen's health and probable due date. Melinda's news was welcome indeed.
BOOK: The Truth-Teller's Tale
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