Iced, p.1Part #6 of Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
Dublin, you had me at “Hello”
Imagine a world that doesn’t know its own rules. No cell phones. No Internet. No stock market. No money. No legal system. A third of the world’s population wiped out in a single night and the count rising by millions every day. The human race is an endangered species.
A long time ago the Fae destroyed their world and decided to take ours. History says they moved in on us between 10,000 and 6,000 B. C. , but historians get a lot wrong. Jericho Barrons says they’ve been here since the dawn of time. He should know, because I’m pretty sure he has, too.
For a long time there was a wall between our worlds. With the exception of a few cracks, it was a solid barricade, especially the prison that held the Unseelie.
That barricade is gone now and the prison walls are dust.
All of the Fae are free: the deadly Dark Court and the imperious Light Court, who are every bit as deadly, just prettier. A Fae is a Fae. Never trust one. We’re being hunted by voracious monsters that are nearly impossible to kill. Their favorite food? People.
As if that’s not bad enough, there are fragments of Faery reality drifting around that swallow up anything in their path. They’re tricky to spot; you can drive right into one, if you’re not careful. The night the walls fell, Faery itself was fractured. Some say even the inimical Hall of All Days was changed, and opened new portals onto our world. The drifting is the part that really gets me. You can go to sleep in your own bed and wake up in a completely different reality. If you’re lucky, the climate won’t kill you instantly and the inhabitants won’t eat you. If you’re really really lucky, you’ll find your way home. Eventually. If you’re superlucky, time will pass at a normal rate while you’re gone. Nobody’s that lucky. Folks vanish all the time. They just disappear and are never seen again.
Then there are the amorphous Shades that lurk in the dark and consume every living thing in their path, right down to the nutrients in the soil. When they’re done, all that’s left is dirt that an earthworm couldn’t live in—not that they leave those either. It’s a minefield outside that door. Walk lightly. Your parents’ rules don’t apply. Do be afraid of the dark. And if you’re thinking there might be a monster under your bed or in your closet, there probably is. Get up and check.
Welcome to Planet Earth.
This is our world now—one that doesn’t know its own rules. And when you’ve got a world that doesn’t know its own rules, everything dark and nasty that was once held in check comes slithering out of the cracks to try to take a shot at whatever it wants. It’s a free-for-all. We’re back to being cavemen. Might is right. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. The bigger and badder you are, the better your odds of surviving. Get a gun or learn to run. Fast. Preferably both.
Welcome to Dublin, AWC—After the Wall Crash—where we’re all fighting for possession of what’s left of the planet.
The Fae have no king, no queen, no one in charge. Two psychotic, immortal Unseelie princes battle for dominion over both races. Humans have no government. Even if we did, I doubt we’d listen to them. It’s complete chaos.
I’m Dani “Mega” O’Malley.
The year was just officially declared 1 AWC, and the streets of Dublin are my home. It’s a war zone out there. No two days are alike.
And there’s no place else I’d rather be.
“Ding-dong! The witch is dead”: subtitled Rowena who?
“I say we take Mac’s suggestion and pump the room full of concrete,” Val says.
I wince. Just hearing her name makes my stomach hurt. Me and Mac used to be two peas in the Mega pod, close as sisters. She’d kill me in a heartbeat now.
Well, she’d try.
“Exactly how do you expect us to get concrete trucks down into the catacombs beneath the abbey?” Kat demands. “To say nothing of how much it would take to seal that chamber. It’s three times the size of Inspector Jayne’s training green, with a ceiling as high as any cathedral!”
I shift position, tucking my knees up, careful to be real quiet. My legs are cramped from sitting with them crossed beneath me. I’m in the cafeteria at the abbey, high up on a beam in the ceiling rafters where nobody can see me, munching a Snickers bar and eavesdropping. It’s one of my favorite perches for scoping out the details. I’m a good climber, fast and agile. Since I’m still just a kid in most people’s opinions, folks rarely let me in on the scoop. No worries there. I became a pro at letting myself in years ago. Page 2
“What are you suggesting we do, then, Kat?” Margery says. “Leave the most powerful Unseelie prince ever created frozen in a little ice cube beneath our home? That’s crazy!” The cafeteria is full of sidhe-seers. Most of them murmur agreement but they’re like that. Whoever’s talking loudest at the moment is the person they agree with. Sheep. Half the time I’m spying, it’s all I can do not to jump down there, waggle my ass and say Baaaa, see if any of them catch my drift.
I’ve been at the abbey most of the night, waiting for people to wake up and wander in for breakfast, impatient for those who’ve been up all night like me to tell everyone else the news and start discussing it. I don’t need as much sleep as other people, but when I do finally crash, I’m as good as dead. It’s dangerous to lose consciousness as hard as I do, so I’m always careful about where I sleep—behind a lot of locked doors, with booby traps in place. I know how to take care of myself. I’ve been on my own since I was eight.
“It’s hardly an ice cube,” Kat says. “The Unseelie king himself imprisoned Cruce. You saw the bars shoot up from the floor around him. ”
I’ve got no family. When my mom was killed, Ro made me move into the abbey with the other sidhe-seers—those of us who can see the Fae, and could even before the walls fell. Some of us have unique gifts, too. We used to think of ourselves in terms of us and them, humans and Fae, until we learned that the Unseelie King tampered with us way back, mixing his blood with the bloodlines of six ancient Irish houses. Some say we’re tainted, that we have the enemy within. I say anything that makes you stronger, duh, makes you stronger.
“The alarm’s not set,” Margery counters. “And none of us can figure out how to arm the grid that keeps people from getting in. Worse, we can’t even get the door closed. Mac tried for hours. ”
I don’t puke the bite of chocolate and peanuts I’m trying to swallow but it’s close. I got to get over my reaction to her name. Every time I hear it, I see the look on her face when she learned the truth about me.
Feck that! I knew what would happen if she found out I killed her sister. Got no business being mopey about it. If you know what’s coming and don’t do anything to stop it, you got no right to act all surprised and pissy when the crap hits the fan. Rule #1 in the Universe: the crap always hits the fan. It’s the nature of crap. It’s a fan magnet.
“She said it won’t respond to her,” Margery says. “She thinks the king did something to it. Barrons and his men tried to muscle it closed, but no luck. It’s stuck open. ”
“Just anyone can wander in,” says Colleen. “We found the Meehan twins standing down there this morning, hands around the bars, staring up at him like he was some kind of angel!”
“And what were you doing down there this morning?” Kat says to Colleen. Colleen looks away.
Tainted blood or not, I’ve got no complaints about being a sidhe-seer. I got the best gifts of all. None of the other sidhe-seers know how to deal with me. I’m superfast, superstrong, have superhearing, supersmell, and wicked sharp eyesight. I don’t know if I taste better or not. Since I can’t taste with anyone else’s tongue, I guess I’
“That’s because he looks like an angel,” Tara says.
“Tara Lynn, don’t you go there for even a second,” Kat says sharply. “Cruce would have destroyed us all if he’d thought he had something to gain by it, and that was before he read the Book and absorbed its power. Now, he is the Sinsar Dubh—the darkest, most twisted magic of the Fae race. Have you forgotten what it did to Barb? Don’t you remember how many people the Book massacred when it didn’t have a body? Now it has one. And it’s beneath our abbey. And you think it looks like an angel? That it’s pretty? Have you lost your mind?”
I wasn’t beneath the catacombs last night so I didn’t get to see what happened with my own eyes. I’d been keeping a distance from that person whose name I’m not saying. I heard what happened, though. It’s all anyone’s talking about.
Dude, V’lane is Cruce!
He isn’t even Seelie. He’s the worst of all the Unseelie princes.
I can hardly believe it. I had the wickedest crush on him! I thought he was the one who was going to save us all, fighting the good fight, on the human side of the war. Turns out he was war—literally, as in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’s War, riding alongside his three Unseelie prince brothers: Death, Pestilence, and Famine. Sure enough our myths were right. When they rode our world again everything went straight to hell. Nobody even knew he was alive. Cruce was supposed to have been killed three-quarters of a million years ago. Instead he was masquerading as V’lane all that time, disguising himself with glamour, infiltrating the Seelie court, manipulating events, orchestrating the prime opportunity to take what he wanted—dominion over both races.
Fae have patience like beaches have sand. ’Course, I guess patient is easy to be when you live, like, for-fecking-ever.
I also heard he was one of the four who raped M—that person whose name I’m not thinking—that day at the church when the Lord Master turned the princes loose on her.
And I’d told him I was going to give him my virginity one day! He’d brought me chocolates, been all flirty-flirty!
V’lane is Cruce. Dude. Sometimes that’s all you can say.
Tara holds Kat’s glare defiantly. “That doesn’t mean I want to set him free. I’m just saying he’s beautiful. Nobody can argue with that. He has wings like an angel. ”
He is beautiful. And we have big, big problems. I went down to the catacombs last night, the instant everyone finally cleared out. I made my way through the underground maze until I found the chamber that once held the Sinsar Dubh. And still holds it—just in another skin.
V’lane doesn’t look like V’lane anymore. He’s sealed in the center of a block of ice, surrounded by a cage of glowing bars. His head is back, his eyes are iridescent fire, he’s roaring, and his enormous black-velvet wings are spread wide. Brilliant tattoos snake beneath skin that shimmers like gold dust. And he’s naked. If I hadn’t seen other penises in movies, I’d be worried about losing my virginity.
“Black wings, Tara,” Kat says. “As in black magic, as in ‘deadly. ’ He was dangerous before. He’s a thousand times worse now. The King never should have let him read the whole Book. He should have stopped him. ”
“Mac said the King didn’t want to leave the Sinsar Dubh split up,” says Colleen. “He was worried we wouldn’t be able to keep it locked down in two places. ”
I dig around in a pocket of the backpack I always got over a shoulder—you never know what you might need when, and I’m always on the go—and pull out another Snickers bar. There’s that fecking name again. Eating soothes the bruise I’m getting from repeated sucker-punches to my belly.
“We couldn’t keep it locked down when it was in only one place,” Kat says.
“Because Rowena let it out,” Val says.
I learned that part of the story earlier this morning, listening to sidhe-seers talking in the showers. When the Sinsar Dubh took possession of Rowena last night, that person I’m not naming killed her. But not before Ro bragged about how she set the Sinsar Dubh free. And still, some folks are talking about having a service for the old bat! I say the Grand Mistress of the sidhe-sheep is dead. Hoo-fecking-rah! Break out the cake and party hats!
“It weakened Rowena,” Kat says.
Rowena was born weak. Power-hungry witch.
“Maybe Cruce will weaken us,” Kat says.
I plaster a sigh around a bite of candy bar and swallow it. The new temporary leader of the abbey and interim Grand Mistress of sidhe-seers around the world just made a big mistake. I learned a thing or two from that unnamed person when we used to hang together. Sidhe-sheep need a firm hand. Not firm like Ro’s, which was bullying, belittling, and tyrannical, but firm in a way that doesn’t make the herd stampede. Fear and doubt are major stampeders. Kat should have said something like what a good thing it was they were all so much stronger than Rowena. Even a kid can see what’s going on in the room down there. The sidhe-seers are afraid. Rowena is dead. Dublin is a riot-ravaged mess filled with monsters. One of the good guys turned out to be the bad guy. Their lives changed too quickly in too many ways for them to deal with. They’re easy targets to be swayed by the most persuasive, strongest leader, and that means Kat needs to become one, fast.
Before somebody a lot less capable and kind does.
Somebody like Margery, who’s even now watching the crowd through narrowed eyes, like she’s got a thermometer up its butt, taking its temperature. She’s a year older than Kat, and was part of Ro’s inner circle when the old witch was alive. She’s not going to put up with a changing of the guard that doesn’t include her. She’ll make trouble every chance she gets. I hope Kat knows how treacherous she can be. Anyone that was ever close to Ro for longer than like—one second—has something seriously scary about her. I know. I was closest to her of all. Sidhe-sheep politics. Dude, I hate them. They tangle you up like sticky spiderwebs. I love living on my own!
Still, I miss the abbey every now and then. Especially when I think about them baking cookies and stuff. Hearing voices in the background when you doze is nice. Knowing even if you are misunderstood, you aren’t totally alone in the world isn’t the worst thing.
Kat’s right: the Sinsar Dubh we used to have locked up and magicked down beneath our abbey is nothing compared to what we’ve got under our floorboards now.
The problem is it doesn’t look like the Sinsar Dubh anymore.
All of the darkest magic and power of the Fae race is no longer trapped between the covers of a book. It’s in the body of a Fae prince in all his naked, winged glory. And if you’ve never seen a Fae prince before, that’s one jaw-dropping, eye-popping, mind-scrambling amount of glory.
It’s only a matter of time before somebody sets him free.
Kat hasn’t even made her way around to the killer-critical fact yet: lots of people know he’s down there now, crammed to the gills with every last bit of the deadly magic of the Fae race.
I know people. I’ve seen all the shapes and sizes they come in. Somebody’s going to be stupid enough to believe they can control him. Somebody’s going to find a way through that ice.
Jericho Barrons is only one of a lot of different folks that hunted the Sinsar Dubh for thousands of years. None of them ever knew where it was. If they had, they’d have descended on our abbey back in the dark ages when a rough-piled, round stone tower was all that concealed the entrance to our underground city. And they would have pulled it, stone from stone, into rubble, until they got what they came for.
Now a whole bunch of humans and Fae know e
Soon the whole world is going to know it’s here.
I snort, imagining hordes descending on us, rioting, raging, brandishing weapons. Stupid sidhe-sheep too busy squabbling about the best way to fight back, to get around to fighting back. I sigh.
Kat glances up.
I stop breathing, hug my knees tight to my chest and stay perfectly still.
After a moment Kat shakes her head and goes back to the conversation.
I sigh again but softer.
She just made her second mistake.
Confronted by something she couldn’t explain, she pretended it wasn’t there. Dude, ostrich much?
Oh, yeah. Just a matter of time.
I wait a few minutes for things to get heated again, take advantage of the commotion and freeze-frame out.
I love moving the way I do.
I can’t imagine life any other way.
Whenever something is bugging me, all I need to do is zoom around the city, spy on all the slo-mo Joes trudging through, and I instantly feel a million times better.
I’ve got the coolest gig in the world.
I’m a superhero.
Until recently, I was the only one I knew of.
According to my mom, I didn’t make the normal toddler transition from crawling to walking. I went from lolling on my back, counting pudgy toes and cooing happily while she changed my diapers (I’ve never seen any reason to cry when someone is cleaning poop off you), to what she initially thought was teleporting. One second I was on the living room floor, the next I’d vanished. She was afraid the Fae had taken me—they used to do that to sidhe-seers if they discovered them—until she heard me rummaging around in the pantry trying to get a jar of baby food open. It was creamed corn. I remember. I still love creamed corn. Not much fuel-power there though. I burn through the punch of sugar-energy in no time.
I never got to go to school.
You don’t want to know how she kept me from leaving the house. There aren’t many options with a kid who can move faster than you can blink. And none of them are PC.
I’m not the only superhero in Dublin anymore, which annoys the feckity-feck out of me, but I’m slowly coming around to seeing it might be a good thing.
Iced by Karen Marie Moning / Fantasy have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on38 votes