Home > Kingdom of Shadow and Light (Fever #11)

Kingdom of Shadow and Light (Fever #11)
Author: Karen Marie Moning

 


PROLOGUE

 

 

   Once upon a time in a sun-kissed kingdom across the sea, there lived a fair princess whose life was an enchanted summer’s dream. Her parents, the king and queen, were kind, generous, and wise, and there were no uprisings in the land.

   The sunny-natured princess loved every acre of her demesne, from silvery lake to forested glen, from the quaint, cobbled streets of her provincial town to the sophisticated city beyond, and she knew precisely how her future would unfold. She would fall in love with a prince, marry and raise children, and live happily ever after in their halcyon demesne.

   In that splendid, magnolia-drenched kingdom across the ceaseless blue, no one warred for the throne. No one thought about the throne. The royals sat it so well and justly, all hoped the king and queen would live forever.

   That’s not this story.

   The princess of this story will never have children.

   She fell in love with the beast.

   The human part of me—I’m not sure how much of that remains—feels a poignant regret for babies that will never be born. But a life with Jericho Barrons is worth the price.

       If I did have a daughter, I know what I would tell her, and it’s not what the blithe pastoral princess across the cerulean divide would have said. That princess would have raised her offspring to be cheerful, kind, enjoy life. She would have told them small lives hold great rewards and gazed through the castle window, smiling at her children as they sunned with friends by the pool.

   That princess would have taken her daughters shopping for prom dresses then wedding dresses as she aged gracefully, lavishing love upon her grandchildren and greats, and, after a long, happy life, she’d have been tucked gently beside the headstones of her beloved king and queen.

   That princess is dead.

   I’m Mac Lane-O’Connor, High Queen of the Fae, and the path to my throne was paved with grief, lies, betrayal, war, and murder, much of it committed by me.

   My kingdom isn’t sunny. Nor is it completely known to me. Dark, rain-drenched, cold, often iced, it encompasses multiple realms: the Mortal lands; both the Light and Shadow Courts of Faery, including the abandoned Unseelie prison; the White Mansion; the Hall of All Days; the corrupted Silvers, and who knows how far beyond.

   My castle is a temporally and spatially challenged bookstore I conceal from the world, as there are many that hunt me.

   My entire court—with the exception of the banished, fertile Spyrssidhe—wants me dead and will stop at nothing to strip me of power and remove me from the coveted throne.

   As this woman, I would tell the daughter I’ll never have: You are elemental, essential, connected to all things in the universe. You are a creature of alchemy, transmuting all you touch, for better or for worse. Choose wisely both what and how you touch.

   I would raise her to stand for her beliefs no matter the cost, because at the end of the day, shadows come lean, mean, and hungry to devour those of uncertain principle. A divided will cripples. You must know what you want, what you believe in, and be willing to live and die for it.

       I would tell her hope is priceless and fear brings death—not mercifully swift on an enemy’s sharp blade, but slowly and far more painfully, rotting you from within.

   I would charge her with the protection of the many who can’t defend themselves, because some are born with great strength, resilience, and ability to endure, while others are not.

   I would empower her to be the thunder. Be the storm. Be the lightning that crashes. Be the hurricane that whips the ocean into crashing waves, become the wild tsunami that reshapes the shoreline.

   Because if you aren’t the thunder and you aren’t the storm, someone else is, leaving you a fragile leaf caught on the biting, chilling, killing wind of another’s making.

   I would share with her the wisdom and grief of a brutal yet immutable truth. For some of us life is not an enchanted summer’s dream.

   It’s deadly.

   You must be deadlier.

 

 

PART I

 

 

        The fog comes on little cat feet, Carl Sandburg said.

    When I was young, I loved foggy mornings in Ashford, Georgia. Peering deep into the mist in our backyard, I’d imagine all kinds of fantastical creatures: unicorns, dragons, perhaps even the great Aslan bursting forth from those billowy, low-hanging clouds, as friends from beloved childhood tales slipped into my day via a mystical, smoky portal.

    The Fae have more than a hundred names for ice, which I used to think was overkill, but now that I live in Ireland, I’ve found I need nearly as many names for the nuances of fog that are as much a permanent fixture in my life as those infernal Dublin roundabouts I never manage to exit properly without looping around a half dozen times, muttering curses beneath my breath.

    Shika, a lacy, delicate mist that frosts the streets with whimsical beauty; Barog, a depressing, oppressive, grayish vapor that clings damply to your skin; Playa, dry, ground-level, ribbon-thin smoky tendrils that kick about your ankles in gusts before vanishing; Macab, a sullen, bruised, bone-chilling effluvium commonly found in cemeteries that doesn’t drift in on a brine-kissed breeze but oozes with palpable menace from the soil; Oblivia, a sense-distorting, sinister cloud of opaque white that settles abruptly and seemingly from nowhere, to send you tearing off in the worst possible direction, certain sanctuary is directly ahead.

         But, here, it’s not just the fog that creeps up on you on little cat’s feet and sits back on silent haunches, watching you with slitted predator eyes.

    Here, it’s betrayal that stalks stealthily, inaudibly nearer, watching with eyes that are a hundred-shades-of-Fae-ice, for the perfect moment to stab you in the back.

    From the Journals of MacKayla Lane-O’Connor

High Queen of the Fae

 

 

DARKDREAM

 

 

        You were my town

    now I’m in exile seeing you out

 

   Dublin, Ireland.

   After the war to end all wars, my city is perfection.

   Flanked by princes, the full complement of the Light Court marching behind me, I glide through the streets of Temple Bar.

   Looming beyond the rooftops of shops and pubs, a blood-rimmed moon hangs so round and low it nearly obliterates the night sky, reminding me of another planet where—a thousand lifetimes ago—I stood between Cruce and the Unseelie king and felt I might ascend to the edge of night, hop a pine-board fence and bridge planet to moon in a single leap.

   Earth continues to change, becoming more like Faery with each passing day, growing lusher, more opulent and fantastical, befitting a species of jaded palates and hungers extreme. We who rule this planet alter the very fabric of the universe. Mortal physics do not apply. We shape reality; it cedes to our will.

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