The iron warrior, p.1
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       The Iron Warrior, p.1
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         Part #7 of The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
The Iron Warrior


  The Iron Prince—my nephew—betrayed us all.

  He killed me.

  Then, I woke up.

  Waking after a month on the brink of death, Ethan Chase is stunned to learn that the Veil that conceals the fey from human sight was temporarily torn away. Although humankind’s glimpse of the world of Faery lasted just a brief moment, the human world was cast into chaos, and the emotion and glamour produced by fear and wonder has renewed the tremendous power of the Forgotten Queen. Now she is at the forefront of an uprising against the courts of Faery—a reckoning that will have cataclysmic effects on the Nevernever.

  Leading the Lady’s Forgotten Army is Keirran himself: Ethan’s nephew, and the traitor son of the Iron Queen, Meghan Chase.To stop Keirran, Ethan must disobey his sister once again as he and his girlfriend, Kenzie, search for answers long forgotten. In the face of unprecedented evil and unfathomable power, Ethan’s enemies must become his allies, and the fey and human worlds will be changed forevermore.

  Praise for internationally bestselling author Julie Kagawa

  and The Iron Fey series

  “Fans will revel in the reappearance of familiar characters and new readers will be drawn deep into a new and dangerous world. The final pages will leave readers breathlessly awaiting the next volume.”

  —School Library Journal on The Iron Traitor

  “Kagawa never loses the pace or character development of her imaginative tale, and readers will be both absorbed and satisfied with the twists, turns, and gender politics of this latest episode.”

  —Booklist on The Iron Traitor

  “Strong world building and character development—of both fey and humans—continues to abound...Kagawa cleverly balances Ethan’s complex emotional life, the humorous antics of misbehaving gremlins, Kenzie’s jocular but authentic bravery, and the frightening powers held by historic fey.”

  —Booklist on The Lost Prince

  “Kagawa’s fans will enjoy this expansion of her world.”

  —Kirkus Reviews on The Lost Prince

  “This is a true quest story...one that anyone looking for great action and inventive worldbuilding should be sure to check out.”

  —RT Book Reviews on The Iron Knight

  “Kagawa pulls her readers into a unique world of make-believe with her fantastic storytelling, and ultimately leaves them wanting more by the end of each book.”

  —Times Record News on The Iron Knight

  “Fans of Melissa Marr—and of Kagawa—will enjoy the ride, with Meghan’s increased agency and growing power showing the series’ maturity.”

  —Kirkus Reviews on The Iron Queen

  “This third installment in the series is just as compelling and complex as its predecessors, and wholly satisfying.”

  —Realms of Fantasy on The Iron Queen

  “A book that will keep its readers glued to the pages until the very end.”

  —New York Journal of Books on The Iron Daughter

  “Fraught with danger and adventure. The action never stops.”

  —School Library Journal on The Iron King

  Books by Julie Kagawa

  available from Harlequin TEEN

  The Talon Saga

  Talon

  Rogue

  Blood of Eden series

  (in reading order)

  The Immortal Rules

  The Eternity Cure

  The Forever Song

  The Iron Fey series

  (in reading order)

  The Iron King*

  “Winter’s Passage” (ebook novella)**

  The Iron Daughter*

  The Iron Queen

  “Summer’s Crossing” (ebook novella)**

  The Iron Knight

  “Iron’s Prophecy” (ebook novella)**

  The Lost Prince

  The Iron Traitor

  The Iron Warrior

  *Also available in The Iron Fey Volume One anthology

  **Also available in print in The Iron Legends anthology

  along with the exclusive Guide to the Iron Fey

  To Laurie and Tashya, who began this crazy journey with me.

  Contents

  PART I

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  PART II

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  PART III

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  EPILOGUE

  ACNOWLEDGMENTS

  EXCERPT FROM TALON BY JULIE KAGAWA

  CHAPTER ONE

  FLOATING

  My name is Ethan Chase.

  And I can’t be certain, but I think I might have died.

  CHAPTER TWO

  WAKING UP

  The dream always ends the same.

  I’m in my room again. Or, maybe it’s my sister’s room or a stranger’s. I can’t tell. There are photos on the wall I don’t recognize, pictures of a family that isn’t mine. But the desk is mine, I think. The bed and the chair and the computer are mine. There’s a figure sleeping on the bed, long chestnut hair spilling over the pillow. I’m trying to move about silently, so that I don’t wake her, though I can’t remember why she’s here, in my room. If this is my room.

  Whoever’s room this is, it’s dark. I can hear rain pattering on the tin roof overhead, and the distant squeals of the pigs in the shed outside. Dad wanted me to feed them today; it’s going to suck tromping out there in the rain and mud. I told him I would feed them when the rain lets up. Truthfully, I don’t want to go outside in the dark. I know it is out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting for me. I’ve seen it in the mirror, reflected in the glass: a tall, thin silhouette at my bedroom window, peering in. Sometimes, from the corner of my eye, I think I see long black fingers reaching out from under the bed. But when I turn and look, there’s nothing there.

  My phone buzzes on the desk. I let it ring, feeling my stomach knot and twist as the phone vibrates on the surface.

  “Why don’t you answer?” the brown-haired girl asks, now sitting up on my bed. Her green eyes seem to glow in the darkness.

  “Because she’ll be angry with me,” I reply. “I left her. I promised to come back, but I left her alone. She won’t let me get away with that.”

  The phone falls silent. Voices echo from downstairs—my parents, telling me it’s time for dinner. I look at the chestnut-haired girl again, only it’s not her any longer, but Meghan, sitting on her bed, her long hair pale and silvery in the shadows of the room. She’s smiling down at me, and I’m four years old, hugging my stuffed rabbit to my chest.

  “Go get dinner, squirt,” Meghan says gently. She’s still smiling, though I can see the tears on her face, creeping down her cheeks. “Tell Mom and Luke I don’t feel well right now. But come back when you’re done, and I’ll read to you, okay?”

  “’Kay,” I answer, and pad to the door while clutching Floppy tightly in one arm. I wonder why she’s
crying, and if there’s anything I can do to make her happy again; I hate it when my sister is sad.

  “She’s lost someone,” Floppy whispers to me, as he does sometimes when we’re alone. “Someone has gone away, that’s why she’s sad.”

  Outside my room, the hallway is dark, and the rest of the house is cloaked in shadow. A single light flickers from our tiny kitchen, and I make my way down the stairs toward it, trying to ignore the dark things that move and writhe around me, just out of sight. A boy, shaggy-haired and ragged, waits for me at the foot of the stairs. “Can you help me?” Todd Wyndham asks, eyes pleading. The shadows curl around him, clinging to his thin frame, drawing him back into the darkness. I shiver and hurry past, squeezing Floppy to my face, trying not to see. “Ethan, wait,” Todd whispers as the shadows suck him in. “Don’t go. Please, come back. I think I’ve lost something.”

  Darkness swallows him, and he’s vanished from sight.

  “There you are,” Mom announces when I finally step into the kitchen. “Where’s your sister? Dinner is ready. Isn’t she coming down?”

  I blink, no longer four years old, and bitterness settles on me like a second skin. “She doesn’t live here anymore, Mom,” I say, sullen and angry. “Not for a long time, remember?”

  “Oh, that’s right.” Mom takes a stack of plates from the cupboard and hands it to me. “Well, if you do see her again, will you tell her I’m keeping a plate warm for her?”

  There’s a knock on the front door before I can reply. It echoes through the house, a hollow thud that makes the shadows writhing at the edge of the light draw back in terror.

  “Oh, good. Right on time.” Mom opens the oven door and pulls out a pie, steaming and oozing red. “Ethan, would you get that, please? Don’t leave your guest standing out in the rain.”

  I set the plates on the table, walk through the living room and open the front door.

  Keirran stares at me over the threshold.

  He’s dripping wet, his silver hair plastered to his neck and forehead, his clothes also drenched from the rain. Water puddles at his feet, only the puddle is much too dark to be water.

  Below his shirt, something pulses, dark and menacing, like a twisted heartbeat. I can feel it, suddenly, right under his sternum, a twin to the weight around my own neck, the cold circle of steel hanging from a chain.

  The storm rages behind him; lightning streaks across the sky, illuminating the red streaks on his face, the icy gleam of his eyes. For a split second, gazing over his shoulder, I see someone else out there in the darkness. Tall and pale, with hair like writhing mist. But the light quickly fades, and the figure is gone.

  I look back at Keirran, a chill creeping through me as I see his hands. They’re soaked in blood, wet and gleaming, all the way past his elbow. One hand holds a curved blade, glimmering between us.

  I meet those icy blue eyes. He smiles sadly.

  “I’m sorry, Ethan,” he whispers, always the same.

  And rams that blade through my stomach.

  * * *

  I gave a soundless gasp and opened my eyes.

  Darkness surrounded me. I lay perfectly still, gazing up at what appeared to be a normal ceiling, wondering where I was. There were cracks running through the plaster, forming odd shapes and faces, but they didn’t swirl together and laugh at me as they had several times in the past. In fact, this was the first time...in I didn’t know how long...that my mind was clear. Before, I would tear myself out of one dark, surreal dreamscape, only to fall right into another, where everything was twisted and frightening and screwed up, but you didn’t know it because you were in a dream. There were a few lucid moments where, if I thought hard enough, I recalled faces hovering over me, eyes bright with worry. One face in particular showed up in my dreams a lot, her cheeks wet with tears. She spoke to me sometimes, telling me to hold on, whispering how sorry she was. I desperately wanted to talk to her, to let her know I was all right. But I could never hold on to reality for very long, and quickly slipped back into the twisted nightmares of my mind.

  I couldn’t remember how I’d gotten here, but I finally had a conscious hold on my brain. I was awake, and alert, and determined to stay that way this time.

  Cautiously, I probed my shaky thoughts, gathering fractured shards of memory as I tried to piece together what had happened. First things, first.

  Where am I?

  Slowly, I turned my head, scanning my surroundings. I lay in a large bed, the covers pulled up to my chest and my arms at my side. The room looked like a normal bedroom, or maybe an office, though I didn’t recognize it and had never been here before. A desk sat in one corner, computer screen glowing blue, and a dresser stood beside it. To my right, a partially open window let in the cool night air, and silvery light cast a hazy glow through the room. A full moon shone through the glass, huge and round and closer than I’d ever seen before.

  Blinking, I turned my head toward the other wall, and my breath caught in my throat.

  A chair sat in the corner closest to my bed. Slumped in that chair, with her arms crossed and her head resting against the back, was a girl with pale hair and slender pointed ears.

  My sister. Meghan Chase, the Iron Queen.

  I watched her for a second, my newly woken mind trying to make sense of it all. Meghan stirred, shifting to another position, a queen trying to get comfortable. A blanket had been draped over her, and a book lay on the ground beneath the armrest. My throat felt suddenly tight. Had she been watching me, keeping vigil at my bedside? How long had I been here, anyway? And what the hell had happened, during the time I was out?

  I tried sitting up to call to her. But the movement sent the room into a sickening tailspin, and my voice came out as a choked rasp. Grimacing, I sank back, feeling frail and horribly weak, like I’d been sick for a long time. Still, Meghan must’ve been barely asleep, for her eyes shot open, piercing blue in the gloom, and immediately fell to me.

  “Ethan.” Her voice was a breathless whisper, and in an instant, she was at my side. One slender hand gripped mine as she knelt beside me, the other reached out and brushed my face, soft fingers sliding over my cheek. Her eyes were suspiciously bright as they met my gaze. “You’re awake,” she said, her voice faint with relief. “How do you feel?”

  I swallowed. My throat was like sandpaper; talking felt like tiny razor blades being dragged through my windpipe, but I managed a hoarse “Okay, I guess.” And then my throat exploded in a coughing fit that brought tears to my eyes.

  “Hang on,” Meghan said, and left my side. A minute later she was back with a cup, handing it to me with a stern “Drink it slowly.”

  I took a tiny, cautious sip, wondering if it was spiked with faery glamour. It turned out to be water—normal, non-magical water, as far as I could tell. Suddenly parched, I had to force myself to swallow slowly, knowing it would probably come right back up if I gulped too fast. Meghan waited patiently until I was done, then dragged the chair to the side of the bed.

  “Better?”

  I nodded. “Yeah,” I breathed, testing out my voice. It still sounded raspy, but at least I could talk without coughing. “Where am I?”

  “The Iron Realm,” Meghan replied softly. “You’re in Mag Tuiredh.”

  The Iron Realm’s capital. Meghan’s court, right in the center of the Nevernever. I’d ended up in Faeryland yet again.

  I shifted against the pillow, and the room tilted a bit, making me clench my teeth. Meghan’s expression grew concerned, but I set my jaw, hoping she wouldn’t leave to fetch the doctor or healer or whatever faery creature took care of such things. I was awake and alert, and I still had no idea what was going on. I needed answers.

  “How long have I been out?” I asked, gazing at my sister. She didn’t respond immediately, watching me with concerned blue eyes, and something on her face made my stomach tw
ist. “Meghan?” I prodded. “How long have I been here, in the Nevernever?”

  “A little over a month,” Meghan finally answered. “As far as we could tell, you’ve been in a coma, until today. No one was certain you would wake up. We found you...at the faery ring in Ireland and brought you here.”

  “A month?” I choked out. A month in the Nevernever meant an indefinite amount of time had passed in the real world. A year could’ve flown by while I lay here, oblivious. “Why here?” I asked faintly. “Why didn’t you bring me back to the human world?”

  Again, Meghan didn’t answer, gazing down solemnly, her eyes bleak.

  “What about Mom and Dad?” I demanded. Right before I left, I’d promised I wouldn’t disappear into Faery for God knew how long. Another promise broken, another lie I’d told the people I loved. Mom was likely freaking out. “Do they know where I’ve been?” I asked. “Has anyone told them? Do they know I’m okay?”

  “Ethan,” Meghan whispered, and her voice trembled. And, looking into my sister’s face, my insides went cold with fear. Her expression was haggard, and she stared at me as if I were a ghost. Flickers of raw anguish glimmered behind that composed mask she wore, the guise of the Iron Queen. My memory was fuzzy, but I knew, in the back of my mind, that something terrible had happened.

  Closing her eyes, Meghan took a deep breath before facing me again.

  “When we found you,” she went on, her voice growing a little stronger, “you were close to death. Your blood was everywhere, and you had already stopped breathing. We did everything we could to save your life, but...” She swallowed, and I could see she was barely keeping herself from bursting into tears. “But, in the end, we lost you.”

  My heart seemed to stop. I stared at her, incredulous, my mind refusing to accept the concept. “What...what do you mean?”

  “Ethan...you died. For a few minutes, you were dead.”

  Reeling, I slumped back against the pillow. Bits of that night came back to me, untangling from the mess of dreams and nightmares. Some of it had been real. “But I’m still here,” I reasoned out, glancing at Meghan. “I’m still alive. How?”