Faefever, p.1
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       Faefever, p.1

         Part #3 of Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
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Page 1



  Before Dawn

  “I keep expecting to wake up and find it was all a bad dream.

  Alina will be alive,

  I won’t be afraid of the dark,

  Monsters won’t be walking the streets of Dublin,

  And I won’t have this terrible fear that tomorrow dawn just won’t come. ”

  —Mac’s journal


  I ’d die for him.

  No, wait a minute . . . that’s not where this is supposed to begin.

  I know that. But left to my own devices, I’d prefer to skim over the events of the next few weeks, and whisk you through those days with glossed-over details that cast me in a more flattering light.

  Nobody looks good in their darkest hour. But it’s those hours that make us what we are. We stand strong, or we cower. We emerge victorious, tempered by our trials, or fractured by a permanent, damning fault line.

  I never used to think about things like darkest hours and trials and fault lines.

  I used to fill my days with sunning and shopping, bartending at The Brickyard (always more of a party than a job, and that was how I liked my life), and devising ways to con Mom and Dad into helping me buy a new car. At twenty-two, I was still living at home, safe in my sheltered world, lulled by the sleepy, slow-paddling fans of the Deep South into believing myself the center of it.

  Then my sister, Alina, was brutally murdered while studying abroad in Dublin, and my world changed overnight. It was bad enough that I had to identify her mutilated body, and watch my once happy family shatter, but my world didn’t stop falling apart there. It didn’t stop until I’d learned that pretty much everything I’d been raised to believe about myself wasn’t true.

  I discovered that my folks weren’t my real parents; my sister and I were adopted; and despite my lazy, occasionally overblown drawl, we weren’t southern at all, but descended from an ancient Celtic bloodline of sidhe-seers, people who can see the Fae—a terrifying race of otherworldly beings that have lived secretly among us for thousands of years, cloaked in illusions and lies.

  Those were the easy lessons.

  The hard lessons were yet to come, waiting for me in the craic-filled streets of the Temple Bar District of Dublin, where I would watch people die, and learn to kill; where I would meet Jericho Barrons, V’lane, and the Lord Master; where I would step up to the plate as a major player in a deadly game with fate-of-the-world stakes.

  For those of you just joining me, my name is MacKayla Lane, Mac for short. My real last name might be O’Connor, but I don’t know that for sure. I’m a sidhe-seer, one of the most powerful that’s ever lived. Not only can I see the Fae, I can hurt them and, armed with one of their most sacred Hallows—the Spear of Luin, or Destiny—I can even kill the immortal beings.

  Don’t settle into your chair and relax. It’s not just my world that’s in trouble; it’s your world, too. It’s happening, right now, while you’re sitting there, munching a snack, getting ready to immerse yourself in a fictional escape. Guess what? It’s not fiction, and there’s no escape. The walls between the human world and Faery are coming down—and I hate to break it to you, but these fairies are so not Tinkerbells.

  If the walls crash completely . . . well, you’d just better hope they don’t. If I were you, I’d turn on all my lights right now. Get out a few flashlights. Check your supply of batteries.

  I came to Dublin for two things: to find out who killed my sister, and to get revenge. See how easily I can say that now? I want revenge. Revenge with a capital R. Revenge with crushed bones and a lot of blood. I want her murderer dead, preferably by my own hand. A few months here and I’ve shed years of polished southern civilities.

  Shortly after I stepped off the plane from Ashford, Georgia, and planted my well-pedicured foot on Ireland’s shore, I probably would have died if I hadn’t stumbled into a bookstore owned by Jericho Barrons. Who or what he is, I have no idea. But he has knowledge that I need, and I have something he wants, and that makes us reluctant allies.

  When I had no place to turn, Barrons took me in, taught me who and what I am, opened my eyes, and helped me survive. He didn’t do it nicely, but I no longer care how I survive, as long as I do.

  Because it was safer than my cheap room at the inn, I moved in to his bookstore. It’s protected against most of my enemies with wards and assorted spells, and stands bastion at the edge of what I call a Dark Zone: a neighborhood that has been taken over by Shades, amorphous Unseelie that thrive in darkness and suck the life from humans.

  We’ve battled monsters together. He’s saved my life twice. We’ve shared a taste of dangerous lust. He’s after the Sinsar Dubh—a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, scribed by the Unseelie King himself, that holds the key to power over both the worlds of Fae and Man. I want it because it was Alina’s dying request that I find it, and I suspect it holds the key to saving our world. Page 2


  He says he wants it because he collects books. Right.

  V’lane is another story. He’s a Seelie prince, and a death-by-sex Fae, which you’ll be learning more about soon enough. The Fae consist of two adversarial courts with their own Royal Houses and unique castes: the Light or Seelie Court, and the Dark or Unseelie Court. Don’t let the light and dark stuff fool you. Both are deadly. However, the Seelie considered the Unseelie so deadly that they imprisoned them roughly seven hundred thousand years ago. When one Fae fears another, be afraid.

  Each court has their Hallows, or sacred objects of immense power. The Seelie Hallows are the spear (which I have), the sword, the stone, and the cauldron. The Unseelie Hallows are the amulet (which I had and the Lord Master took), the box, the Sifting Silvers, and the highly sought-after Book. They all have different purposes. Some I know; others I’m not so clear on.

  Like Barrons, V’lane is after the Sinsar Dubh. He’s hunting it for the Seelie Queen Aoibheal, who needs it to reinforce the walls between the realms of Fae and Man, and keep them from coming down. Like Barrons, he has saved my life. (He’s also given me some of the most intense orgasms of it. )

  The Lord Master is my sister’s murderer; the one who seduced, used, and destroyed her. Not quite Fae, not quite human, he’s been opening portals between realms, bringing Unseelie—the worst of the Fae—through to our world, turning them loose, and teaching them to infiltrate our society. He wants the walls down so he can free all the Unseelie from their icy prison. He’s also after the Sinsar Dubh, although I’m not certain why. I think he may be seeking it to destroy it, so no one can ever rebuild the walls again.

  That’s where I come in.

  These three powerful, dangerous men need me.

  Not only can I see the Fae, I can sense Fae relics and Hallows. I can feel the Sinsar Dubh out there, a dark, pulsing heart of pure evil.

  I can hunt it.

  I can find it.

  My dad would say that makes me this season’s MVP.

  Everybody wants me. So I stay alive in a world where death darkens my doorstep daily.

  I’ve seen things that would make your skin crawl. I’ve done things that make my skin crawl.

  But that’s not important now. What’s important is starting at the right place—let’s see . . . where was that?

  I peel the pages of my memory backward, one at a time, squinting so I don’t have to see them too clearly. I turn back, past that whiteout where all memories vanish for a time, past that hellish Halloween, and the things Barrons did. Past the woman I killed. Past a part of V’lane piercing the meat of my tongue. Past what I did to Jayne.


  I zoom down into a dark, damp, shiny street.

/>   It’s me. Pretty in pink and gold.

  I’m in Dublin. It’s nighttime. I’m walking the cobbled pavement of Temple Bar. I’m alive, vibrantly so. There’s nothing like a recent brush with death to make you feel larger than life.

  There’s a sparkle in my eyes and a spring in my step. I’m wearing a killer pink dress with my favorite heels, and I’m accessorized to the hilt, in gold and rose amethyst. I’ve taken extra care with my hair and makeup. I’m on my way to meet Christian MacKeltar, a sexy, mysterious young Scotsman who knew my sister. I feel good for a change.

  Well, at least for a short time I do.

  Fast-forward a few moments.

  Now I’m clutching my head and stumbling from the sidewalk, into the gutter. Falling to all fours. I’ve just gotten closer to the Sinsar Dubh than I’ve ever been before, and it’s having its usual effect on me. Pain. Debilitating.

  I no longer look so pretty. In fact, I look positively wretched.

  On my hands and knees in a puddle that smells of beer and urine, I’m iced to the bone. My hair is in a tangle, my amethyst hair clip bobs against my nose, and I’m crying. I push the hair from my face with a filthy hand and watch the tableau playing out in front of me with wide, horrified eyes.

  I remember that moment. Who I was. What I wasn’t. I capture it in freeze-frame. There are so many things I would say to her.

  Head up, Mac. Brace yourself. A storm is coming. Don’t you hear the thunderclap of sharp hooves on the wind? Can’t you feel the soul-numbing frost? Don’t you smell spice and blood on the breeze?

  Run, I would tell her. Hide.

  But I wouldn’t listen to me.

  On my knees, watching that . . . thing . . . do what it’s doing, I’m in the stranglehold of a killing undertow.

  Reluctantly, I merge with the memory, slip into her skin . . .


  The pain, God, the pain! It’s going to splinter my skull!

  Page 3


  I clutch my head with wet, stinking hands, determined to hold it together until the inevitable occurs—I pass out.

  Nothing compares to the agony the Sinsar Dubh causes me. Each time I get close to it, the same thing happens. I’m immobilized by pain that escalates until I lose consciousness.

  Barrons says it’s because the Dark Book and I are point and counterpoint. That it’s so evil, and I’m so good, that it repels me violently. His theory is to “dilute” me somehow, make me a little evil so I can get close to it. I don’t see how making me evil so I can get close enough to pick up an evil book is a good thing. I think I’d probably do evil things with it.

  “No,” I whimper, sloshing on my knees in the puddle. “Please . . . no!” Not here, not now! In the past, each time I’d gotten close to the Book, Barrons had been with me, and I’d had the comfort of knowing he wouldn’t let anything too awful happen to my unconscious body. He might tote me around like a divining rod, but I could live with that. Tonight, however, I was alone. The thought of being vulnerable to anyone and anything in Dublin’s streets for even a few moments terrified me. What if I passed out for an hour? What if I fell facedown into the vile puddle I was in, and drowned in mere inches of . . . ugh.

  I had to get out of the puddle. I would not die so pathetically.

  A wintry wind howled down the street, whipping between buildings, chilling me to the bone. Old newspapers cart-wheeled like dirty, sodden tumbleweeds over broken bottles and discarded wrappers and glasses. I flailed in the sewage, scraped at the pavement with my fingernails, left the tips of them broken in gaps between the cobbled stones.

  Inch by inch, I clawed my way to drier ground.

  It was there—straight ahead of me: the Dark Book. I could feel it, fifty yards from where I scrabbled for purchase. Maybe less. And it wasn’t just a book. Oh, no. It was nothing that simple. It pulsated darkly, charring the edges of my mind.

  Why wasn’t I passing out?

  Why wouldn’t this pain end?

  I felt like I was dying. Saliva flooded my mouth, frothing into foam at my lips. I wanted desperately to throw up but I couldn’t. Even my stomach was locked down by pain.

  Moaning, I tried to raise my head. I had to see it. I’d been close to it before, but I’d never seen it. I’d always passed out first. If I wasn’t going to lose consciousness, I had questions I wanted answered. I didn’t even know what it looked like. Who had it? What were they doing with it? Why did I keep having near brushes with it?

  Shuddering, I pushed back onto my knees, shoved a hank of sour-smelling hair from my face, and looked.

  The street that only moments ago had bustled with tourists, making their merry way from one open pub door to the next, was now scourged clean by the dark, arctic wind. Doors had been slammed, music silenced.

  Leaving only me.

  And them.

  The vision before me was not at all what I’d expected.

  A gunman had a huddle of people backed against the wall of a building, a family of tourists, cameras swinging around their necks. The barrel of a semiautomatic weapon gleamed in the moonlight. The father was yelling, the mother was screaming, trying to gather three small children into her arms.

  “No!” I shouted. At least I think I did. I’m not sure I actually made a sound. My lungs were compressed with pain.

  The gunman let loose a spray of bullets, silencing their cries. He killed the youngest last—a delicate blond girl of four or five, with wide, pleading eyes that would haunt me till the day I died. A girl I couldn’t save because I couldn’t fecking move. Paralyzed by pain-deadened limbs, I could only kneel there, screaming inside my head.

  Why was this happening? Where was the Sinsar Dubh? Why couldn’t I see it?

  The man turned, and I inhaled sharply.

  A book was tucked beneath his arm.

  A perfectly innocuous hardcover, about three hundred and fifty pages thick, no dust jacket, pale gray with red binding. The kind of well-read hardcover you might find in any used bookstore, in any city.

  I gaped. Was I supposed to believe that was the million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, scribed by the Unseelie King? Was this supposed to be funny? How anticlimactic. How absurd.

  The gunman glanced at his weapon with a bemused expression. Then his head swiveled back toward the fallen bodies, the blood and bits of flesh and bone spattered across the brick wall.

  The book dropped from beneath his arm. It seemed to fall in slow motion, changing, transforming, as it tumbled, end over end, to the damp, shiny brick. By the time it hit the cobbled pavement with a heavy whump, it was no longer a simple hardcover but a massive black tome, nearly a foot thick, engraved with runes, bound by bands of steel and intricate locks. Exactly the kind of book I’d expected: ancient and evil-looking.

  Page 4


  I sucked in another breath.

  Now the thick dark volume was changing again, becoming something new. It swirled and spun, drawing substance from wind and darkness.

  In its place rose a . . . thing . . . of such . . . terrible essence and pitch. A darkly animate . . . again, I can only say thing . . . that existed beyond shape or name: a malformed creature sprung from some no-man’s-land of shattered sanity and broken gibberings.

  And it lived.

  I have no words to describe it, because nothing exists in our world to compare it to. I’m glad nothing exists in our world to compare it to, because if something did exist in our world to compare it to, I’m not sure our world would exist.

  I can only call it the Beast, and leave it there.

  My soul shivered, as if perceiving on some visceral level that my body was not nearly enough protection for it. Not from this.

  The gunman looked at it, and it looked at the gunman, and he turned his weapon on himself. I jerked at the sound of more shots. The shooter crumpled to the pavement and his weapon clattered away.
  Another icy wind gusted down the street, and there was movement in my periphery.

  A woman appeared from around the corner as if answering a summons, gazed blankly at the scene for several moments, then walked as if drugged straight to the fallen book (crouching beast with impossible limbs and bloodied muzzle!) that abruptly sported neither ancient locks or bestial form but was once again masquerading as an innocent hardcover.

  “Don’t touch it!” I cried, goose bumps needling my flesh at the thought.

  She stooped, picked it up, tucked it beneath her arm, and turned away.

  I’d like to say she walked off without a backward glance, but she didn’t. She glanced over her shoulder, straight at me, and her expression choked off what little breath inflated my lungs.

  Pure evil stared out of her eyes, a cunning, bottomless malevolence that knew me, that understood things about me I didn’t, and never wanted to know. Evil that celebrated its existence every chance it got through chaos, demolition, and psychotic rage.

  She smiled, an awful smile, baring hundreds of small, pointy teeth.

  And I had one of those sudden epiphanies.

  I remembered the last time I’d gotten close to the Sinsar Dubh and passed out, and reading the next day about the man who’d killed his entire family, then driven himself into an embankment, mere blocks from where I’d lost consciousness. Everyone interviewed had said the same thing—the man couldn’t have done it, it wasn’t him, he’d been behaving like someone possessed for the past few days. I recalled the rash of gruesome news articles lately that echoed the same sentiment, whatever the brutal crime—it wasn’t him/her; he/she would never do it. I stared at the woman who was no longer who or what she’d been when she’d turned the corner and entered this street. A woman possessed. And I understood.

  It wasn’t those people committing the terrible crimes.

  The Beast was inside her now, in control. And it would retain control of her until it was done using her, when it would dispose of her and move on to its next victim.

  We’d been so wrong, Barrons and I!

  We’d believed the Sinsar Dubh was in the possession of someone with a cogent plan who was transporting it from place to place with a purpose, someone who was either using it to accomplish certain goals or guarding it, trying to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.

  But it wasn’t in the possession of anyone with a plan, cogent or otherwise, and it wasn’t being moved.

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