The Sundered Stone [Shadow Fae Trilogy Book 3]
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by Elaine Corvidae
Category: Fantasy/Romance Dirk A. Wolf Award Winner
Description: The battle lines have been drawn, and the seelie and unseelie fae will stop at nothing to destroy one another. Caught in the middle of a war that none of them wants, the faelings of Dere must fight for their survival. Street-wise Pook has no desire to take up the role of Prince of the Unseelie Fae. Yet he may have no choice if he is to live through the coming battle and win the heart of the girl he loves. With little magic of her own, Alexandreya hopes that her mechanical inventions can help turn the tide of the war. But as a danger from Alex's past draws ever closer, she finds herself in the center of the maelstrom, torn between seelie and unseelie, with Pook as the prize. For all is not as it seems, and the faelings will soon learn that everything they believed about the faery war is nothing more than a terrible lie.
eBook Publisher: Mundania Press LLC/Mundania Press LLC, 2007 2007
eBookwise Release Date: July 2007
26 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [426 KB]
Reading time: 280-392 min.
The setting of the sun woke Pook from troubled dreams.
No light touched him within the little hideaway he'd found to sleep out the long spring day, but he could nonetheless feel it deep in his blood when the last of the sun's rays vanished from the sky, abandoning the world to the dominion of night. Awakened by the shift in power, he opened his eyes and found himself staring at a rough wooden plank only a few inches from his face.
For a moment, he didn't know where he was--not the Sevens, he hadn't slept there in months, and it sure wasn't the Trap, either. He started to sit up, only to ram the top of his head into a low ceiling. Blinking the stars out of his eyes, he slumped back onto the dirt that had been his bed.
A staircase in the alley across from the bookstore--that's where I am. It had been well after dawn when he had been looking for somewhere to hole up for the day, which meant that he couldn't just sleep right in the alley like he usually did. All the doss houses closed up as soon as the sun rose, so that was out. He didn't dare sleep too far away from Alex, anyway, not when the seelie fae were wandering around the city and stirring up trouble every chance they got.
So tired and aching, at the very limit of his endurance, he'd spotted a little service stair in the alley, leading up to a tiny loading dock. Planks closed the stair up underneath, maybe to keep stuff from the dock from rolling under and getting lost ... but one of the wooden boards had been noticeably loose. It had been the work of a moment to pry it off, slip inside, prop the plank up behind him, and lie down.
Remembering where he was led to remembering other things--things he didn't particularly want to think about. Like the fact that he was a prince.
Some prince, he thought, staring at the warped boards that were all he could claim as a roof over his head. Maybe I just dreamed it all. Just dreamed that the Rat Soldiers was fed faery food. Just dreamed that they turned their backs on me.
Just dreamed that I'm barely human at all.
The reek of soot and dried blood clung to his hair and clothes, a grim reminder of the reality of the riot that had burned down part of the slums. Clothes are still damp, too. So I guess I really did go into that fountain and get out that damned sword.
He reached blindly behind him, half-hoping that the sword had gone away by itself sometime during the day, while he slept. For a moment his fingers met nothing, and his heart leapt ... but then he felt the cold kiss of metal an instant before it sliced his skin.
"Ow! Damn it!" he yelped, and stuck his bleeding fingers in his mouth. Then he froze, listening, but nobody seemed to have heard his voice coming from where it shouldn't be, so he relaxed again.
Well, the damned sword was there all right, just where he remembered leaving it. So the rest of it had to be true, too.
What am I going to do?
For a moment, he wondered if maybe the Rat Soldiers would take him back after all. Then he saw again the look in Darcy's eyes: fear, loathing, and hatred.
And Rose. Rose had known what he was, but after what she'd gone through, she didn't want to have anything to do with him.
Ain't my fault the seelie fae decided to give them all faery food, make them slaves. Hell, I helped get them free, didn't I? Can't they see that?
Don't matter. They ain't taking you back, b'hoy. You got to find your own way in the world, now.
Alone. Just like I was when I ran away from old Fergus in Gloachamuir.
But no, that wasn't true, was it? Even if his human friends had deserted him, the other faelings hadn't. Mina, Duncan, Fox, and Kuromori had stuck right with him, backed him up all the way. And Alex ... maybe she wasn't in love with him the way he was with her, but she had to care about him, didn't she? She didn't seem like the kind of girl who just went around kissing guys for no good reason, so maybe there was something there with her, too.
Then there was Dubh...
A surge of bitter jealousy went through Pook, catching him off guard with its intensity. Damn Dubh. Their parents, whom Pook had never seen since the day he was born, had decided to keep their precious Dubh and abandon Pook in the human world as a changeling. They loved him, not me. I was just a baby, for God's sake--what did I do that they couldn't love me, too?
I hate them. Him too.
And now Pook had ended up stuck with the sword that Dubh wanted, so Dubh was pissed at him, which just made Pook madder the more he thought about it. He'd tried to give the damn thing away when he'd learned the truth, but would Dubh take it? Hell no, because that would've meant he couldn't go on whining all the time.
At least he wouldn't have to worry about seeing Dubh hanging around the bookstore anytime soon. Mina had threatened the b'hoy but good last night, and if he were smart he'd get the hell out of Dere.
"But you know how dumb Dubh is. What if he comes by when Mina ain't there? Starts chatting up Alex again?"
Pook pulled aside the loose board and wiggled out. The alley was deserted now, after business hours, and the closest gaslight came from the street, so there was no one to see him. He reached back in and pulled out the sword, pausing a moment to weave a glamour around it to make it look like an ordinary stick. Then he pushed the board back into place and headed towards the main street and the bookstore. * * * *
The combined sound of someone pounding on a door and a cat meowing brought Alex awake. Startled, she sat up in bed and fumbled on her heavy spectacles. Vagabond, the one-eyed faeling cat who shared Alex's flat above Blackthorn Books, perched at the top of the stairs, mewing imperiously. The muffled thud of a fist on the front door below paused momentarily, only to be replaced by a loud jangle as the caller started pulling on the bell instead.
Oh, for Chernovog's sake! He's going to pull the accursed thing right off!
The window was directly beside the bed. Alex flung it open and stuck her head out, ready to give whomever it was a good tongue-lashing. The sun had already gone down, but gaslight revealed shining black hair, delicately-pointed ears, and skin the color of coffee lightly cut with cream.
Her heart seemed to flutter in her chest, so she sternly told it to stop immediately. Not that her internal admonishment worked any better tonight than it ever did. From the first moment she'd seen him, his beauty had made her feel like every nerve in her body was acutely attuned to his presence. For the most part, it had been something she resented but was powerless to control.
"You don't have to knock the door down," she called.
He looked up, and she saw the flash of bright teeth in his dark face as he smiled. "Hey!" he yelled up guilelessly. "Wasn't sure if you was awake or not."
"I don't think the dead could have slept through that racket," she said dryly. "Just give me a moment to dress, and I'll be down."
Pook waved cheerfully in acknowledgement. Suppressing a sigh, Alex closed the window. Vagabond, who seemed to have followed the conversation, ran off down the stairs, purring loudly.
Is there any female he can't charm? Alex wondered as she hurriedly pulled off her nightgown. A row of sensible dresses hung sternly in the wardrobe, and Alex wryly acknowledged that she already dressed like the aged spinster she someday expected to be. Between her spectacles and her pear-shaped figure--which, to be honest, had a bit more padding on it than was fashionable--society would never consider her so much as pretty.
Then there were her interests, none of which would possibly be looked upon as suitable for a proper lady, even here in Niune where women had far more expectation of education than in her homeland. The flamethrower she had built sprawled across the floor near the stair where she had left it, and the sturdy table in her sitting room was covered with half-finished inventions and experiments. Parts of a galvanic light lay next to a hand-cranked generator, which butted up beside the teapot she had hoped to incorporate into an automatic tea-making machine. The precious tin foil that might become part of a speaking machine sat on a shelf, out of reach of a playful cat who might tear it to shreds.
Even in a man some of her tinkerings would have seemed eccentric; in a woman, they were simply damning.
So why not dress as if she had neither hope nor desire of catching a boy's eye?
"I love you," Pook had said last night, in the moment before he'd stepped into that accursed fountain. Like an idiot, she had stood there and said nothing in return, wasting her time wondering if it could possibly be true while he walked into danger.
Chernovog ... could it be true?
She pulled on one of the dresses at random, wincing as the cloth inadvertently touched her throat. A quick look in the mirror revealed a reddened patch of skin--a light burn in the shape of a human hand. That's where Nigel grabbed me. A shiver went through her at the memory. He meant to kill me.
But he's dead now. Dead. Trying not to think of the sound the ax had made as it chopped his head off, she turned away from the mirror.
"Hey, baby," Pook said cheerfully when she unlocked the door for him. He had his sword propped against his shoulder. To her right eye, which wasn't anointed against glamour, it looked like a stick. As he walked in, he went to prop it against the counter--and in the process swept a pile of books into the floor. "Oops--I keep forgetting how long the damn thing is. You ought to see what I did to a lady's hat on the way over here."
Unsure if she should sigh or laugh, Alex went to help him pick up the books. As she knelt beside him, he took the opportunity to lean over and give her a kiss that scrambled her thoughts and turned her knees to water.
The bell above the door jingled as it opened. Alex started and felt her face heat as her uncle, Duncan RiDahn, maneuvered his wheelchair through the doorway. His long hair, brown liberally streaked with gray, hung loose around an ascetic face. Light flashed from the lenses of his spectacles, and from the gold earrings he wore. He carried a covered basket on his lap, from which rose the smells of fresh baked bread and other food. "Good evening. I trust we aren't intruding?"
Pook stiffened slightly. "Hey, Duncan," he said, but there was a wary edge to the greeting.
Duncan either didn't notice, or pretended not to. He pulled a rumpled newspaper from under the basket and tossed it onto the counter. HORRIBLE FIRE screamed the headline, followed by a line of smaller type that proclaimed: "Fire ignited by rioting gangs burns three blocks." And underneath that: "Mayor RiCorryn calls for police sweep of slums area."
Mina came in; seeing Alex's interest in the paper, she gave a bitter smile. "We're famous."
"Bigger headlines than when me and Rose painted makeup on General Gladstone's statue in Triumph Square," Pook agreed ruefully.
Mina's dark eyes were restless in her pale face, like a wild thing that had been caged. "We need to talk about what happened last night and decide what we're going to do next."
Pook was eyeing the basket like a starveling wolf. "Can we eat first?" he asked hopefully.
"Eat and talk at the same time. This is a council of war."