Authors: A. A. Aguirre
Spread-eagled, she lay atop a reflective sheet of metal. All around, an elaborate arrangement of mirrors and lenses had concentrated the sun’s rays on her. With a small sigh, Mikani knelt next to the body and ran his hands over her, not quite touching.
There is no anger, here. Strange.
Mikani smelled the girl’s fear, feeling her agony in phantom shivers and pain. Terror, shards of emotional memories screamed against the very stone. But of the killer . . . the mirrors and lenses were clear. Empty, as if they’d known no human touch.
And yet, there is purpose . . .
He saw her struggle, as aftershocks of terror rather than visual images: the taste of blood from a bitten tongue, the pain of constraints against wrists and ankles, harsh stone against the girl’s back, and the sickening scent of the charnel house her body became.
That would be so much simpler—to see, rather than feel.
Shivering, he turned away. Already, his head pounded in protest, and from a detached place in his mind, he knew that when he came down, he’d pay dearly.
A. A. Aguirre
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the authors
Copyright © 2013 by A. A. Aguirre.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-62238-4
Ace mass-market edition / May 2013
Cover illustration by Cliff Nielsen.
Cover photograph © iStockphoto/Thinkstock.
Cover design by Judith Lagerman.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
For our beloved children, who put up with us while we wrote this
First, Andres and I would like to thank each other. When I asked him who he wanted to mention in the acknowledgments, he said, “
, woman. I love you.” Obviously, I feel the same. I’m glad I could help make his dreams come true, as he’s been doing that for me for years. Other married couples have said they didn’t think their marriage could survive a similar collaboration. Ours did, and, if anything, it’s stronger. We created this together; it’s forever, and
came out beautiful in the end.
Along the way, a number of people contributed to polishing this diamond. See, we wrote the first draft ten years ago, and since then, this book has changed faces more than Mystique; it’s been rewritten more than eight times, and when we were on deadline, we penned two-thirds new material to make it live up to Anne Sowards’s high standards. So that’s where we’ll begin.
Anne loved the world and the characters, but the plot was problematic, and she made us perform. We feared revisions might defeat us, but ultimately we got the job done, and we’re so proud of this book. So thanks to her for being a demanding taskmaster.
is infinitely better for her input.
I suppose now it’s time for the usual suspects. Thanks to our friends and family for understanding why we had no time while we were working on this. Thanks to the Loop That Shall Not Be Named for being there when my sanity was imperiled. I bow to Cliff Nielsen for a gorgeous, perfect cover and give gratitude to the whole Penguin team. Thanks to Enrique for always listening to Andres and being awesome. Kudos to the Schwagers, who are the best copy editors ever. Many, many thanks to Tricia Sullivan, an amazing writer, who read our book and helped us whip the timeline into shape so Anne didn’t kill us. Much love to Laura Bradford for being a wonderful agent, and who doesn’t know it but will soon be asked to sell our epic sea monster story. (Not really.)
Heartfelt thanks, finally, to all readers who take a chance on this book. And us.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
—W. B. YEATS
ONG AGO, TEN PRINCES LIVED ACROSS THE WATERS AND
through the mists in a land called Hy Breasil. They governed the wild, fey folk who dwelled in that place, where every rock, tree, blade of grass, ripple of water, and whisper of the wind contained powerful magic. The Ferishers were terrible and immortal, but they were few. Yet even in those small numbers, they divided amongst themselves into two Courts.
• • •
embraced all those bright and beautiful while Winter plotted against them in briars and darkness. Into their eternal struggle came the barbarians: the bearded folk from another world—a sweeping, enormous one—outside the safe confines of Hy Breasil. In that land, ships went missing from time to time, their cargoes and crews simply vanished, no wreckage found. And so the conquerors came to Ferisher lands with their relentless drive, cold iron, and incomprehensible ways. With them, they brought mortal bloodlines.
• • •
FTER THE LONG
and bitter Iron War, both sides hovered at the brink of annihilation. The bearded ones bred quickly; they had numbers while the Ferishers had magic. Auberon, the most powerful of the princes, chose the loveliest of the human flotsam to keep the peace. His siblings followed suit. Those treaty-born marriages created a lasting peace and a new people. Thus the first ten great Houses were founded, though some failed to withstand the test of time.
• • •
HAT COURSE CREATED
a schism in the Ferishers. Some felt it was better to fade and leave the physical world than to defile pure bloodlines. The two Courts fell into disarray, and eventually, eons later, only a handful could claim more than a flicker of fey blood. Hy Breasil changed forever, and the centuries marched on.
• • •
NLY THE WIND
knows what happens next . . .