The Hills Have Spies

The Hills Have Spies

by Mercedes Lackey

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In this new series, set in the bestselling world of Valdemar, Heralds Mags and Amily must continue to protect the realm of Valdemar while raising their children and preparing them to follow in their footsteps.

Mags, Herald Spy of Valdemar, and his wife, Amily, the King’s Own Herald, are happily married with three kids. The oldest, Peregrine, has the Gift of Animal Mindspeech—he can talk to animals and persuade them to act as he wishes. Perry's dream is to follow in his father's footsteps as a Herald Spy, but he has yet to be Chosen by a Companion.

Mags is more than happy to teach Perry all he knows. He regularly trains his children, including Perry, with tests and exercises, preparing them for the complicated and dangerous lives they will likely lead. Perry has already held positions in the Royal Palace as a runner and in the kitchen, useful places where he can learn to listen and collect information.

But there is growing rural unrest in a community on the border of Valdemar. A report filled with tales of strange disappearances and missing peddlers is sent to Haven by a Herald from the Pelagirs. To let Perry experience life away from home and out in the world, Mags proposes that his son accompany him on an expedition to discover what is really going on.

During their travels, Perry’s Animal Mindspeech allows him to communicate with the local wildlife of the Pelagirs, whose connection to the land aids in their investigation. But the details he gleans from the creatures only deepen the mystery. As Perry, Mags, and their animal companions draw closer to the heart of the danger, they must discover the truth behind the disappearances at the border—before those disappearances turn deadly.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780756413187
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Series: Valdemar: Family Spies Series , #1
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 29,205
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

Mercedes Lackey is a full-time writer and has published numerous novels and works of short fiction, including the bestselling Heralds of Valdemar series. She is also a professional lyricist and a licensed wild bird rehabilitator.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


Perry’s captor slammed the door behind him, and the entire building quivered for several long moments with the force of the door crashing into place. Of course, Perry couldn’t actually see this; he had a bag over his head. He hadn’t expected the noise, and it made him jump and his heart pound frantically.

It wasn’t a very well-maintained or constructed building, given how much it shook, and Perry coughed a little as debris sifted down onto him from what was probably the disintegrating—or at least old—thatch roof above him. Fortunately, the bag over his head protected him from most of it. Calm down, he told his heart, sternly. He wasn’t going to be able to think with his heart pounding like a horse at the gallop . . .

He shut his eyes to clear his mind of distractions and concentrated on his surroundings.

He knew the roof was thatch despite the bag, because he heard and sensed mice and sparrows up there and got brief glimpses through their eyes, though he hadn’t yet put his mind to contacting them directly. And there were a couple pigeons as well, but they were on the rooftree, rather than in the thatch or on the rafters. While he slowly counted to a hundred, to make sure the man who had captured him was not coming back soon, he eased his way into one tiny mind after another, getting acquainted with them, getting them used to his presence in their heads.

He didn’t bother with the pigeons for now. Anything on the outside of the building wasn’t much use to him at the moment.

One by one, he coaxed the mice out of the thatch and had them line up on the central rafter, where the sparrows already were. He soon figured out that the mice were too nearsighted to do him much good, but the sparrows’ sharper vision gave him a clear view of the room where he was being held.

There he was, flour sack over his head, sitting on a simple wooden chair in the middle of an otherwise barren room with a rough plank floor. He’d been trussed up expertly, feet tied to the chair legs, hands tied behind the chair back. The chair was a pretty stout one: solid seat and back, thick legs. Heavy, or at least it looked like it. That was very smart of his captors; if they’d just left him tied up on the floor, he’d have been out of his bonds within a candlemark. The chair made things much more difficult. If he tried to tip it over backward, he’d probably break his wrists or hands, and if he tried to tip it over sideways, he’d surely break his wrist or forearm.

A very careful survey, as the sparrows peered around at his request, told him there was nothing in the otherwise bare room for him to use in any way.

Or so his captor probably thought.

The walls were also rough planks, but since there wasn’t any light coming through the cracks between the planks, they might be cob or plaster outside, or both. The windows were shuttered, and the shutters were barred in place on the inside, light leaking into the room from cracks between the boards of the shutters. Huh. This place looked stouter than he’d thought. Maybe the reason it had shaken when the door slammed was because of the strength of his kidnapper, not because the building was in bad repair.

There were two windows in the right-hand wall, two in the left, and a door at either end of the room. The one behind him was nailed shut with rough boards. The one in front of him was the one his captor had left by.

So, this is probably a one-room house with only one floor, unless that door leads to a staircase. It can’t be inside the Old Wall of Haven or the roof would be shingle or tile, not thatch. And he didn’t carry me far enough for this to be completely outside Haven.

Now Perry transferred his attention to the pigeons strutting up and down the roof outside. There was an advantage to using such stupid birds; they scarcely noticed he was in their heads, and it was easy to get them to do what he wanted. And what he wanted right now was a view of the entire building and the neighborhood it was in.

The first time he had entered the mind of a bird and made it fly, he’d thrown up afterward. It had been worse than when he’d taken that dare to spin around while Trey counted to five hundred. Now, though, he was used to it; his gut was finally convinced that it wasn’t his body jerking up and down and making those crazy gyrations. The pigeon he picked was perfectly happy to launch itself into the air and sail in a circle around the building while he looked things over.

It took him a while to identify the neighborhood; it was outside the old wall, but the building he was in was a very small one and quite old; it probably had been a storage building or a laborer’s cottage for a big farm back when this had been farmland. Cob walls much the worse for years but still weatherproof, shutters closed and barred from the inside, and a very thick thatch roof gray with age and green with moss; it was unusual only in that it was built on a slightly raised wooden platform so that you had to go up three rickety steps to the door. The street began practically at the bottom step, and it was closely surrounded by other one- and two-room buildings in a similar state of repair. They were all weatherproof and sound, but not one single thing had been done to them to take them beyond that point. It was as if a single landlord owned everything on this street and adhered to the absolute letter of a contract requiring his cottages to be “stout and livable.”

The street seemed oddly deserted . . .

And then the pigeon turned its head and looked beyond the immediate street, and Perry knew exactly where he was and why it looked deserted. Everyone here was at work in the bigger building, three floors tall, that squatted two streets over, like an enormous sow among her piglets. This was the neighborhood of the Bannerites.

The Bannerites were an odd but harmless sect comprised entirely of bachelors—unmarried men and widowers disinclined to wed again. The Bannerites gave men a trade, a place to live in one of the tiny houses surrounding their central building, and enough wages to keep them decently clothed and fed. In return, they made a heavy twilled sailcloth that was highly prized for its strength and durability; as well as sails, virtually any sort of clothing that needed to take rough wear could be made from it. Raw flax came in at one end of that building, and finished sailcloth exited out of the other. Everything that needed to be done to turn fiber into cloth was done within those four walls, from the retting of the flax, to the spinning of the fiber, to the weaving and finishing of the cloth, the finish depending on who ordered it. Three times a day all work stopped so that the men could pray to the “Banner Bearer,” though that was the only information anyone outside the group had about the being they worshiped. Every eight days, the Bannerites took half a day off for worship and instruction in the faith, and there were evening instruction and prayer sessions for those who wanted more. Work began at first light and ended at sunset, so the workdays were shorter in winter than in summer. If this was an untenanted Bannerite cottage—and it probably was—he could make all the noise he wanted to and no one would hear him until the sun went down. And by then— 

It wouldn’t matter. By then I won’t be here.

He let go of the pigeon’s mind and turned his attention back to the mice. This was going to be tricky. He was going to have to convince them that he was no threat and that the rope around his wrists was edible. It was a logical solution to getting free; mice could gnaw their way through rope in almost no time. Come on down, my little friends, he coaxed—but with feelings, not with words.

But no matter how hard he tried, he could not persuade them to come down out of the thatch. Evidently the Bannerites were pretty vigilant about chasing them off, and he couldn’t overcome their fear of human beings. Every time he got one to creep as far on the rafters as the wall with the door in it, the others panicked and scuttled back up into the thatch, and the one he had been coaxing panicked with them and retreated.


There weren’t any rats close by either, not even in the crawlspace under the building. A sharp, curious mind brushing briefly against his told him why. A cat.

And as he cast his mind farther afield, he sensed more and more cats, all of them sleek, semi-feral, but not starving. Clearly the Bannerites encouraged cats in the same way that farmers did, and for the same reasons. Which made sense—a little food and shelter bought you a great deal of pest control.

Well . . . all right. He brought his focus back into the building and hunted for one of the sparrows, eventually choosing a saucy little male. He wasn’t afraid of humans; probably the Bannerites put up with their occasional droppings because they hunted insects in the thatch and the buildings while the tenants were away. Perry had no trouble encouraging the little fellow to fly down and perch on his bound hands.

He couldn’t actually take over the bird’s body. All he could do was show it what he wanted it to do and encourage it to do so. That little beak wasn’t as sharp as mouse teeth, but it might be able to saw through the rope fibers, if he could get the bird to peck at the same place over and over.

He concentrated so hard on his task that sweat ran down his face inside the bag, his jaw muscles clenched until they ached, and then— 

Peck. Tentative at first. Then peck, a little harder.

Wordlessly he flooded it with encouragement, and the bird exploded with energy, pecking and pulling at the fibers of the knot, scissoring its way through the first strand, then the second. The little fellow didn’t need any guidance at all now, and he could not have been more enthusiastic.

Even better, as soon as his fellows noticed him working away at the rope, after some puzzlement, they decided this was something that needed doing, so with some dim idea that they were going to get a reward out of it, three more crowded onto his wrists and hands to peck away alongside the first one.

Now he had another problem entirely. They didn’t always hit the rope, and those sharp little biting stabs hurt. He had to bite his lip to keep from wincing and crying out and frightening them up into the rafters again.

He kept up the tension on the rope by pulling his wrists apart, or rather trying to, and after what was probably a candlemark or two, but felt like a lot longer, he sensed the rope giving.

And when it finally parted and his hands came free, sparrows fluttering off to the ceiling, he nearly shouted for joy.

His first action was to pull the bag off his head, and the dust-laden air smelled impossibly sweet. His second was to untie his legs; he ignored the twinges and cramps as he was finally able to move. His wrists were raw from the rope, speckled with blood from dozens of badly aimed pecks, but it didn’t matter. He was free! And he was going to get out of there!

But before he did, there was one more thing he needed to do.

He unraveled the rope that had been around his wrists into hundreds of fiber bits and left them in a pile on the floor by the chair. That was what the sparrows had been after: good strong bits of material for their nests. The sparrows descended on the pile as if it had been grain and carried strands up to the thatch to add to their nests.

They deserved their reward.

And he couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Up or down? He looked up at the exposed thatch of the roof and saw what he had been hoping for: a trap door set into the roof to make it easy to get up there to repair the thatch.


* * * * *

Mags glanced at the time-candle as the light from his window was interrupted by something perching on the sill. He raised one eyebrow, smiled slightly, and turned to greet his eldest son.

“I expected you to take at least a candlemark longer,” he said, offering Perry a hand inside and noting the abrasions and tiny marks on the lad’s wrist. “Mice?”

“Sparrows,” said Perry, with a grin that also betrayed a touch of pain. “The mice were too scared.” Mags fished some soft bandages and a pot of ointment out of his desk and passed them wordlessly over; the boy deftly soothed and bandaged his wrists himself and handed the pot back.

As he wrapped his wrists, Mags regarded his son thoughtfully. Peregrine would be thirteen in two weeks, and he looked like a larger, better-nourished version of his father at that age, at least, as far as Mags could determine. He hadn’t looked at himself in the mirror that often back then, but Perry looked like what he remembered: dark hair that never stayed tidy, dark eyes with more than a hint of mischief in them, narrow face, and wiry body. “I think we can call the exercise a complete success,” he said, allowing his pride in his son to show in his words. “What did you do to the men I had watching for your escape?”

“Left ’em trying to catch me. I made a pass up in the attic of the Bannerite workhouse; they didn’t dare follow me in, and I left in a shipment of sailcloth.” Perry grinned, very proud of himself. “If I hadn’t been able to do that, I figured to drop down among the boys hauling the flax around and leave at sunset.”

Mags grinned and reached out to hug his son. “Good lad. Your mama was going to hold dinner for you, but now she won’t have to. Go tell her yourself.”

With a whoop of joy, Perry dashed across Mags’ workroom and out the door into the large central room of the suite.

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The Hills Have Spies 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The synopsis had nothing in common with the story. Even the protagonist's name is wrong. Mags and his oldest son Perry head out to the border of Valdemar to find out why people are disappearing and run into trouble. No players, no hawkbrothers, and the "mysterious dog" is known to be a kyree before he even arrives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is Not the story I had anticipated from the synopsis of the book. Instead it was about Mags and the coming of age of his eldest son Peregrin ( Perry) as they journey together to try to solve the mystery of missing people. I would still like to read the story that this book was supposed to be about as it sounds intriguing too! But it doesn't really matter as Mercedes Lackey never fails to deliver a Great read. I'm glad that the adventures of Mags and Amily will continue with their children. Maybe with more of the Royals and other old friends too. If , by chance, this is your first visit to Valdemar, I would suggest starting with some of her earlier books. This world has a lot of history and details that would enrich your enjoyment of this book if you would do so. At least start with the Herald Spy books as the adventures of Mags and Amily begin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mags is all grown up, married to Amily and has three children. 13-year old Perry (the oldest) and Mags embark on a mission to find out why people are disappearing near the Peliger forest and discover more than they expected. I’ve loved the Mags stories and I’m looking forward to more stories about Mag’s family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about finding what is happening to people gonemissing and Perry, mags' son.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Mercedes Lackey never fails to deliver a great read with vivid characters and a well detailed world. Enjoyed the book enormously and looking forward to the sequels.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Quite good this one. Not sure why Lackey is so fixated on Mags, as some of the stories have been a little drawn out. Don't get me wrong, I love Mags and Amily, it just felt like maybe 2 books too many and a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion as to why the Sleepgivers wanted him so badly. I really liked this turn though. I'm hopeful that the next book will be just as good or better. That would be a delightful return to the Valdemar I love!
Anonymous 10 months ago
I love the way she writes . You always get drawn in an can feel all emotions from the story. Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like all of Mercedes Lackey books an easy entertaining, flowing read. Fits perfectly in the Valedemar world. Can’t wait for the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent tale. Lackey at her best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read every Valdemar book ever written and I can certify they are all terrific, and this one is equally excellent. Previous books allowed us to experience Mags growing up, and now we have the pleasure of sharing his adventure with his son, Perry. I cannot recommend Mercedes Lackey highly enough!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book and am looking forward to the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little slow getting started but as usual delivers a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book continues the 'Saga of Mags' sharing the adventures of his eldest son. The book described the coming of age of a young man who speaks to animals.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love that Mags and Amily’s story continues. This was a great read, from a wonderful author. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Royals and children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book. Never disappoints. But my book is confusing. Does anybody else have two names for Mags son? I have Perry and Justyn. Excellant book but I think I got a strange book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story is about mags and son perry (no Justyn mentioned) and does not have hawk brothers in it. Mags and petty (13 yrs old) travel to find cause of mysterious disappearances of other travelers outside of Valdemar and their adventures along the way. Good book. I love the herald series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the intrigue and blending of old and new characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the Valdemar books and Mags is a favorite. I really enjoyed this story about Mags and his oldest son PERRY! The kyree is a wonderful edition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such fun and clever stories. I will never get enough!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story telling. As always, provides enough information to let the reader paint the picture in their own mind. Continues the story of Mags and Amily well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really like Mags and all Heralds stories. Sadly some have felt like they were just words to fill a quota. But this was a good plot that moved along with enough action mixed with emotion. I am looking forward to more stories of this new generation.