Authors: Elizabeth May
For my dear friend Tess Sharpe, who taught me to embrace my dark
stories and tell them to the world.
First published in the United States of America in 2016 by Chronicle Books LLC.
Originally published in Great Britain in 2015 by Gollancz.
Gollancz is a division of The Orion Publishing Group.
Copyright Â© 2015 by Elizabeth May.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written
permission from the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: May, Elizabeth, 1987 - author.
Title: The vanishing throne / Elizabeth May.
Description: San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 2016.
Series: [Falconer] ; book 2
“First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Gollancz. Gollancz is a division of The Orion Publishing Group.”
Summary: Aileana Kameron is the Falconer, born to hunt and slay the faeries who prey on mankindâbut now, in 1847, the great battle is past, Edinburgh lies in ruins, and Aileana is a prisoner of the Fae prince Lonnrach, whose sister murdered her mother, and somehow she must find a way to escape, before he can steal her memories.
Identifiers: LCCN 2015031176 ISBN 9781452128825 (Hardcover) ISBN 9781452131054 (epub)
Subjects: LCSH: FairiesâJuvenile fiction.
Prisoners of warâJuvenile fiction.
Edinburgh (Scotland)âHistoryâ19th centuryâJuvenile fiction.
Prisoners of warâFiction.
Edinburgh (Scotland)âHistoryâ19th centuryâFiction.
GSAFD: Fantasy fiction.
Classification: LCC PZ7.M45134 Van 2016
DDC 823.9/2âdc23 LC record available at
Design by Sara Schneider.
Typeset in Requiem.
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it felt like the air around me burned with ash and cinder. How his blade broke the skin at my throat, a stream of blood warm down my neck. How the war around me seemed to go quiet and slow as if time had stopped.
It was just Lonnrach and me, my life determined by the tip of his sword. One small
My eyelids are heavy, weighted down and burning. Images flash in my mind of the battle, of those precious moments I had to solve the puzzle of a Falconer device to trap the fae underground again before it was too late. The shield of light around me began to weaken, disintegrating from the force of fae attacks.
A laugh startles me from my memories. Other voices join in between images.
Where am I?
Lilting accents like Kiaran's
echo around me, dulcet murmurings in words I don't recognize or understand.
Open your eyes
, I command myself.
Open your eyes
. Panic forces me awake, a minuscule flash of light visible before I'm shoved down again with a hand at my throat, a searing pain at my temple.
“I didn't say you could move.” The words come out in a hiss, spoken through rows of sharp teeth at my neck.
I go numb. I'm immobile, even as someone scratches the length of my arm, nails sharp enough to draw blood. A laugh, deep and purring. A whisper in my ear, breath hot at my throat.
You lose. Now you're mine
Then I'm dreaming againâmemories of my life before, of my almost-deaths. A series of near-fatal experiences, each one strung from the other. The first time, when Kiaran saved my life from the water-horse. The many ever since; hundreds of nameless faeries I slaughtered, who each left their mark on me in different ways. The first one who scarred me. The first one I killed with Kiaran, when his expression showed something akin to pride.
We're going to kill them all
, he'd told me, a ghost of a smile on his face.
The memory fades like smoke. Suddenly I'm back on the battlefield; my armor is so heavy that every movement is agony. Kiaran's unmoving body is at my side, bone shining through the burn along his cheek. Dead?
No, not dead. He can't be dead. I scream at him, striking him with my fists.
Wake up. Wake up! Wake
My eyes snap open, closing just as quickly against the light. I draw in a breath, wincing at the pounding pain that lances through my skull. I press the heel of my palm to my temple.
I draw my hand back and blink against my blurring vision until it clears. My fingers are coated with blood, sticky remnants of my injury.
I didn't say you could move
My armor is gone. I find dried blood spattered across my chest, leading down to three distinct claw-marks stark against my upper arm. The skin is barely broken, as if it were a threat. A warning.
You lose. Now you're mine
Dread unfurls within me, but I shake my head against it.
Focus. Find your bearings
. The thought comes out in Kiaran's voice, one of his no-nonsense lessons. Just the thought of him almost holds me backâa quick succession of
where is he is he dead is everyone I love dead
âbut his practical advice stops me again.
Assess your surroundings
I tamp down my emotions, suppressing the hot rising panic in favor of cold rationality. I'm wearing a shift like Sorcha's, formfitting and exquisite. I brush my hand across the silken fabricâexcept it's not like any silk I know. It's smoother, shinier, and warm. As if raven's feathers and
flowers were somehow woven together to form the garment. The sleeves are loose around my wrists; the fabric slips back when I lift my arms. Slippers adorn my feet, delicate things made of dark orchids and metal beads stitched together.
After a quick evaluation of my injuries, I look up to see where I am.
. Alarm breaks through the detached, analytical calm I'd achieved.
This can't be real
. Can it?
I'm on a slab of black rock that gleams like obsidian, broken off and floating above a valley of dark crags, a crevasse extending beyond my sight. It's as if the land has split right down the middle into separate halves, with scattered platforms like mine gliding down the empty space like leaves carried by a stream.
The other hovering slabs are topped with buildingsâone of them a castle set upon the largest piece; the rock broken off at the bottom is as sharp as blades. The castle itself is magnificent, more beautiful than any structure I've ever beheld. It looks as though it is made of pure, gleaming metalâonly with a sheen that betrays its otherworldly origins. Even from this distance it has the multicolored luster of opal. Shardlike towers flank the sides of the castle, surrounding a dome of red and blue and yellow metal resembling trapped clusters of stars.
Other buildings float on their own platforms below the soaring castle, suspended in the vast space between the towering cliffs. Some have domed ceilings constructed of metal, and others of glistening rock, as if cut from the purest sapphires.
In contrast, the cliffs on either side of me are monochrome, with not a single hint of color to break up the uniformity. Even the trees seem made of glass, with thin spiky branches that appear sharp enough to kill. Flowers glow beneath the trees along the cliff face, with delicate buds of iridescent frost.
When I breathe in, the icy scent of winter makes my chest ache. It smells like the beach after a snowfall. Like salt and frost on the wind, with a hint of something like myrrh.
I'm dreaming. This has to be a dream
. I press my palm to the cold rock at my feet, tracing my fingers across the glossy surface. Along the outer edges of the platform, small shards bite into my skin and leave red, aching welts.
Not a dream.
Not a dream
. A panicked rush of breath bursts from my lungs. I jerk my hand back and push to my feet, stopping just before the platform ends.
I make the mistake of looking over the edge.
My stomach clenches. Below me is nothing but darkness, an escarpment that descends to nothingness. No light penetrates the blackness below and there's nothing to grab on to if I need to escape. No other platforms nearby, or rocks to jump onto, and the floating buildings are too far into the distance.
This is a prison, with the only escape a lethal drop.
Where the bloody hell is this place?
“Good. You're awake.”
I whirl to find Lonnrach on his own platform, smaller than my own. In my distraction, I hadn't even noticed the
taste of his powers, the lingering touch of flower petals against my tongue and the sweet taste of nature and honey.
Gone is his gleaming fae armor. Instead he's dressed like a human, in smoke-gray trousers and a white lawn shirt. His salt-white hair is pulled back and gathered at the nape of his neck.
His eyes are on my head injury. “I'd hoped that didn't cause any permanent damage.”
I almost ask, but just the sight of him still alive fills me with rage. My gaze strays to the mark on his cheek, the one left by my sword. I had the chance to kill him and I didn't take it. I won't make that mistake again.
“Where are we?” I ask. My voice is rough, my throat raw.
Calm. Stay calm
, in what was once the Unseelie Kingdom.” As Lonnrach's gaze lingers on the crags to either side of us, his expression hardens. “What's left of it.”
Were we in a ballroom, and I didn't know Lonnrach as something other than human, I would have described him as achingly beautiful. Magnetic. But that's all part of his physical allure, his ability to entice human victims with such easeâa skill that all
possess. I was tempted by that power back on the battlefield, but now he's just the bastard who injured me, made me bleed, captured me, andâ
“If you've done anything to my homeÂ .Â .Â .” My voice dips low, dangerous. “I'll kill you.”
I'll kill you regardless. I'll just take my time
Lonnrach tilts his head slightly. There's an amused, slow lift to his lips, as if we're at an assembly and he's participating
in light flirtation. His smile is unnerving. An arrogant hint of
I know something you don't
and whatever the
is almost breaks my hard-won control.