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Shadow's Legacy, Page 2

Julie Kagawa

  Chapter 2

  I heard the bells a few minutes later.

  As I strode down the trail with Grimalkin, the trees opened up, and I came to the edge of a small clearing surrounded by pine and ancient cedar. Over the breeze, the bells chimed softly, their melody coming from the lone building in the center of the clearing near a gently swaying willow.

  The small white church with a pointed blue steeple sat in the pool of sun like a contented cat. Despite looking picturesque, as if it had come out of an artist’s painting, the church itself seemed quite normal, considering what was happening in it today. Although, if you had the Sight—the ability to see the hidden world of the fey—you had only to look around to know something very abnormal was taking place. A half dozen sharp-eyed, pointy-eared figures in silvery-green armor were stationed around the edges of the glen. Seelie knights. Which meant the Summer Court had arrived.

  As I glanced away from the knights, my stomach prickled. In the church’s adjacent parking lot, a magnificent carriage pulled by a team of clockwork horses stood gleaming in the sun alongside several typical parked vehicles. Of course, the carriage was invisible to the mortal eye. But its presence meant the rulers of the Iron Realm were here, as well.

  “I don’t see anyone from Winter,” I murmured to the feline beside me. “Do you know if Mab is supposed to be here, Grim?”

  There was no answer. I glanced down and saw that I was alone on the forest trail. Grimalkin was nowhere to be seen.

  Typical cat.

  Nerves twisted my gut as I walked across the clearing toward the entrance, my apprehension growing with every step. There was no crowd milling in front of the church, which meant everyone had to be inside. So many whom I had betrayed were through those doors. They had forgiven me and moved on, but that couldn’t excuse what I had done. I didn’t belong with them in the light; my place was in the shadows and emptiness of the Between. An outsider always looking in. It was what I deserved.

  But I had made a promise, and today wasn’t about me. Swallowing my reluctance, I walked up the steps of the church and ducked through the open front doors.

  Inside, a small crowd of humans and fey were scattered in pews throughout the building. I saw a couple of Kenzie’s old classmates huddled together on a bench, unaware of the half phouka sitting at the other end. Near the middle of the space, a wiry man with short black hair sat alone, smiling slightly as he gazed around at the crowd. Ethan’s martial arts instructor, Guro, was a master of Kali, a Filipino weapons art that used twin swords to fight. He was one of the only humans who, while he did not possess the Sight, was not unaware of the fey and the hidden world around him. Guro had helped us greatly in the past, and he was perhaps the only human besides Ethan and Kenzie who knew the depths of my betrayal. While I was happy that he was here, I wasn’t quite ready to speak to him. Maybe I would never be ready.

  It wasn’t a large crowd, more like an intimate family gathering, which I knew was intentional. Despite being the Iron Queen’s brother and a faery royal in his own right, Ethan wanted as few fey here as possible. In fact, I knew that the only reason a ceremony was happening at all was that Kenzie wanted one. Ethan would’ve been content to have a judge marry them at a courthouse.

  I couldn’t blame him, really. The fey had brought so much chaos into his life, he had earned a wedding free of faery magic and pandemonium.

  Speaking of which, I didn’t see a certain red-haired faery anywhere in the room, which was mildly worrisome.


  I jumped. Even after all these years, though I was a king and had my own court and subjects now, his voice could still make me feel like I was five again, having been caught trying to sneak out of the castle late at night. It wasn’t even loud, just my name, spoken in that low, familiar tone that was both a statement and a question.

  My father—commonly referred to as Ash, son of Mab—stood just inside the door, watching me with intense silver eyes. Or rather, he was leaning against the back wall with his hands in the pockets of his black suit, looking supremely nonchalant. A small smile curled one corner of his lips as he studied me.

  “Cutting it a little close there, son.” Ash pushed himself off the wall and took a step forward, closing the distance between us in one naturally long stride. His hand gripped my shoulder in a brief, friendly squeeze. “Another few minutes and Kenzie might’ve had us send out the hunting parties.”

  “I know.” I offered a smile in return but couldn’t quite meet his eyes. “My fault. Time in the Between is even stranger than time in the Nevernever. I came as quickly as I could.”

  My father regarded me in that calm, appraising way of his. “Everything all right in Touchstone?” he asked.

  “Yes,” I replied. “The Forgotten are keeping with the treaties and staying out of the Nevernever. They’re quite content to remain in the Between.”

  My father nodded, and then his eyes flickered to something at my back. I turned and saw that a figure had risen from one of the wooden pews and was walking toward us, her gaze on me. I had seen her in many stunning faery gowns, exuding a presence that could silence an entire room, but today she was dressed in a simple but elegant blue dress, with her long hair pulled back, the usual circlet on her forehead noticeably missing. Still, there was no mistaking that aura of power around her; even though she had glamoured herself to look human, her presence was impossible to ignore.

  My mother, Meghan Chase, Queen of the Iron Fey and sovereign of the Iron Kingdom, smiled at me as she approached, then put both arms around me in a tight hug.

  “Keirran.” Still smiling, she reached up and brushed a strand of hair from my face, her gaze affectionate. Abruptly, I was no longer a king, no longer the banished ruler of the Forgotten—I was a kid again, basking in the warmth of my parents. “What have you been up to lately?”

  “Oh, the usual.” I shrugged. “Improving the city. Making sure the Forgotten stay in the Between. Trying to convince them that a few hours of sunlight every day isn’t going to kill anyone.”

  My mother chuckled, but it had a sad undertone, as if she knew exactly what I was going through. She probably did. “If you need anything, anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask, Keirran,” she told me. “Unexpectedly becoming a ruler of Faery and having to figure everything out on your own isn’t easy. Trust me, I know.”

  “Yeah.” I smiled back at her. “I know. But it’s my kingdom, and the Forgotten are my responsibility. I’ll be okay.”

  My father shook his head. “Not if Kenzie catches you out here,” he murmured. “The groom is through there,” he said, motioning to a simple wooden door along the right side of the wall toward the front of the church. “He wants to talk to you before the ceremony begins.”

  “Before the ceremony? Why?”

  “I have no idea. But you have only a few minutes before everything starts. I’d say you’d better get going.”

  I gave the door a wary look, hoping my best friend wasn’t going to spring something on me, like wanting to back out. “Well, I guess I should see what he wants. Wish me luck.”

  They nodded. I gave them a quick bow, then hurried away to where my father had indicated.

  I saw more familiar faces in the scattered crowds in the pews. Ethan’s parents—my human grandmother and her husband—sat close together in the front row. A tall, rather severe-looking man shared the bench with them, a woman and a dark-haired girl sitting on his other side. Kenzie’s father, stepmother, and stepsister. All were dressed for the occasion—Kenzie’s father wore an expensive suit and tie—but they looked strangely human and ordinary compared to the guests on the other side.

  Lord Oberon, King of the Summer Court, sovereign of the Seelie fey, and my other grandfather, glanced at me as I passed his pew, the two Summer knights sitting near him giving me a stern look. The Seelie King looked as unearthly and imposing as always, pale long hair and silve
ry-green armor casting a nimbus of light around him. His antlered crown, resting on his brow, rose into the air and cast spiky shadows on the floor and over the backs of the pews.

  The humans on the other side of the aisle did not see the faery lord, not as he was. The mist that separated the human and fey worlds also kept our real nature hidden from mortal sight. Normally, Oberon and his entourage would be invisible to human eyes, but like my parents, they had glamoured themselves to look mortal today. If I let my eyes become unfocused, I could see the overlapping of glamour with reality, like an old photograph with two images. Oberon in his true form, the King of Summer, and Oberon as an extremely tall, distinguished gentleman with a top hat and a cane. Even the glamour couldn’t suppress the Summer King’s power completely, though. From the looks he and his knights were receiving from the other side, he still stood out.

  Thankfully, Oberon’s wife, Queen Titania, had opted not to attend, which everyone was grateful for. The Queen of Summer hated my family and me in particular. But she hated everyone, and the feeling was almost universally mutual. I was slightly disappointed that my other faery grandmother had also chosen not to attend, but that might’ve caused more problems than it was worth. The Queen of Winter was not known for having the kindest personality, especially toward humans. It was probably for the best that Mab was not here today.

  I reached the door, but as I started to open it, it abruptly flew inward. I blinked and found myself staring at a faery with bright red hair and green eyes.

  “Princeling!” Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, broke into an enormous grin as he saw me. “You’re here. Great!” Grabbing my sleeve, he tugged me through the frame and into a small room with chairs stacked in the corners and a door on the opposite wall.

  As the door closed behind me, I gave the infamous prankster a wary frown. “What’s going on, Puck?”

  “Oh, nothing much.” Puck rubbed the back of his head in a way that only increased my suspicion. “Are Meghan and ice-boy still out there?”

  “Of course they are. Why?”


  “Puck!” The shout came from the other side of the door on the far wall. It swung open, and Ethan lunged through, then quickly slammed it behind him.

  I stiffened. It was the first time I’d seen Ethan looking so smartly dressed, in a fitted black tuxedo and clean-shaven with his usually longish hair cut short. But his expression was not peaceful, or happy, or even nervous, as I’d expected on this day. Leaning his back against the door, he glared at Puck, his glamour aura shifting from angry to fearful to anxious and back again. As he noticed me, a flash of relief crossed his face, but then he went back to glaring daggers at Puck.

  “Dammit, Puck! They keep multiplying. You’d better fix this before the ceremony starts.”

  “What’s going on?” I asked again, looking at Ethan this time. My best friend sighed and scrubbed a hand through his much-shortened hair.

  “Puck is here. Take a wild guess what happened.” Ethan gestured at Puck in exasperation. “I thought it would be okay. I thought, however stupidly, that inviting Robin Goodfellow to the most important event of my life would be a good thing.”

  “I was trying to do something nice,” Puck broke in. “Liven up the ceremony, make it special for you and Kenzie. Things out of hand.”

  I met Ethan’s gaze, and he shook his head. Moving away from the door, he gestured for me to peek in. “Just don’t open it all the way,” he warned.

  I walked up to the door, cracked it open, and peered through.

  At first, I didn’t know what I was seeing. The room beyond should have looked normal enough, with a desk along the wall and filing cabinets beside it. But everything was covered in strange white lumps, like an enormous bag of cotton balls had exploded.

  Then one of them moved, and I realized they weren’t cotton balls at all. They were birds, small, white birds with short beaks and tiny black eyes. And there were hundreds of them, perched everywhere, covering the desk, the shelves, and the tops of the cabinets.

  “Are those...doves?” I said, and Ethan made a disgusted noise behind me.

  “I don’t need this,” he growled, sounding like his younger teenage self. “I told him we didn’t need a flock of doves flying around the church. There are no open windows in that room. If these birds get out, it’ll be chaos. My wedding day will turn into the birdpocalypse.”

  “There were only supposed to be a couple,” Puck interjected. “A pair of lovebirds, to celebrate our two lovebirds finally tying the knot. But then I thought, well, if two are good, more would be even better! And then...things kinda went downhill from there. Oh, and you want to know the funniest part?” He gave a smile that was half grin, half grimace. “They longer they stay in that room, the more the numbers So...yeah. We’re going to have to get them out soonish. Or there’s going to be a very feathery explosion in short order.”

  I frowned at the Summer trickster. “Can’t you make them disappear?”

  “Well, here’s the thing with Summer magic.” Puck gave a helpless shrug. “It’s all about light and life and growth. Once I create something, I can’t uncreate it. It doesn’t work that way. And doves are...well, turns out they’re not that bright. Not like ravens. And they’re very flighty. I tried corralling them, but it’s like herding wet cats.”

  “Herding wet cats?” repeated a slow, indignant voice. “Please. As if any self-respecting cat would allow such a thing.”

  I looked up and saw a puffy gray cat sitting on one of the stacks of chairs where nothing had been a moment before. “I heard rumors there might be birds in the church,” he said, staring at the door with a look that was entirely too interested. “How intriguing. I shall stay right here and watch, in case a few of them happen to escape.”

  “And now Grimalkin is here.” Ethan covered his face with his hands. “I do not need this,” he groaned again. “What am I going to do? I promised Kenzie there would be no faery madness today. I can’t leave a couple hundred white doves in this church for the next unsuspecting human to find when they open the door.”

  “What about Oberon? He could probably make them leave.”

  “Uh, let’s not bring the faery rulers into this if we don’t have to,” Puck said with a frown and a sharp look at Grimalkin. “Oberon doesn’t need to know about this, and neither do Meghan and ice-boy. All three of them might’ve warned me that if certain unexpected things happened, they were not going to be happy with me.”

  “I agree with Puck,” Ethan said, though he looked annoyed about admitting it. “I want this day to be perfect for Kenzie,” he explained. “No craziness, no faery mayhem, nothing that could ruin this moment for her. I’m sure we’ll laugh about it on our honeymoon, but right now, I want to get through the day without major disasters or royal confrontations.”

  I sighed. “All right,” I said and nodded at Ethan, who was giving me a hopeful look. “We’ll see if we can’t take care of this quietly.”

  “Thanks,” he muttered, which just showed how stressed he was feeling. The words thank you were shunned in Faery as, for the fey, that phrase could put you into another’s debt. Ethan knew this. Not long ago, he had hated everything about Faery and the Nevernever. Not only was he the Iron Queen’s brother, he had been blessed—or cursed—with the Sight since birth, so from the time he was small, the fey had tormented him. To protect himself, Ethan had learned everything he could about Faery and how to combat it, including the words and phrases that could get you in trouble, with deal, promise, and of course thank you being the worst offenders. For him to thank me meant that he was either feeling overwhelmed, or he trusted that I wouldn’t use it against him.

  My insides twisted a little. During the bleakest period of my life, I had betrayed everyone’s trust, but Ethan’s most of all. To this day, I didn’t know how, or why, he had chosen to forgive so easily,
but I had made a promise to myself never to abuse that trust again. If he ever needed my help, I would be there to give it.

  Starting today.

  Crossing my arms, I pondered the closed door. The cooing on the other side had gotten significantly louder, and there was a sudden loud flapping, as if dozens of birds had taken off at once. Puck winced.

  “Yep, they’re still multiplying. We need to get them out of here before this wedding turns into the set of The Birds II.”

  “If you ask me,” Grimalkin commented, “you could always open the door. Really, there would just be a few minutes of confusion and utter pandemonium, but let us not forget the most important thing: it would make some of us very happy.”

  “Yeah, furball, that’s not going to happen.” Puck scowled at the feline, then glanced to me again. “I take it you have a plan in that noggin of yours, princeling?”

  I thought about it for a moment more, then nodded.

  “Yes. This is what we’re going to do...”

  Chapter 3

  How do I get myself into these situations? I wondered a few minutes later. Even in Faery, if I told this story to someone, they would have a hard time believing it.

  Puck and I stood just inside the door we had slipped through, keeping our backs to the wood and our movements small. Surrounding us, a few hundred white birds stared with beady black eyes and fluttered their wings, ready to launch themselves into the air.

  “Are you sure this is gonna work, princeling?” Puck muttered beside me.

  “Not really,” I mused back. “But if you have a better idea...”

  “Nope” was the cheerful reply. “I just hope we can do this before everyone out there starts to wonder where the heck we are. Or Grimalkin gets bored and starts the birdpocalypse himself.”

  “Well, we’d better get started, then.”