Read The Iron Knight Online

Authors: Julie Kagawa

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Young Adult, #Adventure, #Azizex666

The Iron Knight

I’d expected to die that day. I was ready. Being ordered by my True Name to walk away, leaving Meghan to die alone in the Iron Kingdom, nearly shattered me a second time. If it wasn’t for my oath to be with her again, I might’ve done something suicidal, like challenge Oberon to a battle before the entire Summer Court. But now that I’ve made my promise, there is no turning back. Abandoning my vow will unravel me, bit by bit, until there is nothing left. Even if I wasn’t determined to find a way to survive in the Iron Realm, I’d have no choice but to continue.

I will be with her again, or I will die. There aren’t any other options.

Praise for Julie Kagawa and The Iron Fey

“Meghan is a likable heroine and her quest is fraught with danger
and adventure … Expect it to be popular with teens
who liked Melissa Marr’s
Wicked Lovely.


School Library Journal
on
The Iron King


The Iron King
surpasses the greater majority of dark fantasies,
leaving a lot for readers to look forward to … The romance is well done
and adds to the mood of fantasy.”

teenreads.com


The Iron King
has it all, a lot of action and a little romance.”—
MonsterLibrarian.com
“A full five stars to Julie Kagawa’s
The Iron Daughter.
If you love action, romance and watching how characters mature
through heart-wrenching trials, you will love this story.”

Mundie Moms
blog

“I picked it up and just could not put it down.”—
The Story Siren
on
The Iron Daughter
“This third installment in the series is just as compelling
and complex as its predecessors, and wholly satisfying.”

Realms of Fantasy
on
The Iron Queen

“The characters of the series are really what have driven this book
from fantasy to fantastical.”

nyjournalofbooks.com
on
The Iron Queen

Also available from
JULIE KAGAWA
and
MIRA ink

The Iron Fey series in reading sequence:

The Iron King
Winter’s Passage
(ebook)
The Iron Daughter
The Iron Queen
Summer’s Crossing
(ebook)
The Iron Knight

The
Iron Knight

Julie Kagawa

www.miraink.co.uk

Team Ash, this one is for you.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
 

Ah, the Acknowledgments page. Once more, we come to the end of a novel, and once more, I have many, many people to thank. My parents, for without them, I wouldn’t be the stubborn, idealistic daydreamer I am today. My agent, Laurie McLean, who is always there to field questions and calm authorly panic attacks, sometimes well after business hours. My wonderful editors, Natashya Wilson and Adam Wilson, and the talented, amazing staff at Harlequin TEEN. This year especially has been a wild and crazy ride, and I could not have been in better company.

To all the awesome bloggers of the YA world, and the fans of Team Ash, this book is especially for you. It is partially because of you that a certain Unseelie prince got his own story, that his journey ended as it did. Thank you.

And, of course, my deepest gratitude goes to my first editor, sounding board, proofreader, problem solver and amazing husband, Nick. You are my knight in shining armor.

PART ONE
 
CHAPTER ONE
THE HOUSE OF THE BONE WITCH
 

“Oy, ice-boy! You sure you know where you’re going?”

I ignored Robin Goodfellow as we wove through the gray murk of the wyldwood, pushing farther into the soggy swamp known as the Bone Marsh. Mud sucked at my footsteps, and water dripped from twisted green trees so covered in moss they appeared sheathed in slime. Mist coiled around the exposed roots or pooled in sunken areas, hiding what lay beneath, and every so often there was a splash in the still waters farther out, reminding us that we were not alone. As its name suggested, bones were scattered throughout the marsh, jutting out of the mud, half-hidden in tangles of weeds or shimmering beneath the surface of the water, bleached and white. This was a dangerous part of the wyldwood, more so than most—not because of the catoblepas and the jabberwocks and other monsters that called the dark swamp their home, but because of the resident who lived somewhere deep within the marsh. The one we were going to see.

Something flew past my head from behind, barely missing me, and spattered against a trunk a few feet away. Stopping
beneath the tree, I turned and glared at my companion, silently daring him to do that again.

“Oh, hey, it lives!” Robin Goodfellow threw up his muddy hands in mock celebration. “I was afraid it had become a zombie or something.” He crossed his arms and smirked at me, mud streaking his red hair and speckling his pointed face. “Did you hear me, ice-boy? I’ve been yelling at you for some time now.”

“Yes,” I said, repressing a sigh. “I heard you. I think the jabberwocks on the other side of the swamp heard you.”

“Oh, good! Maybe if we fight a couple you’ll start paying attention to me!” Puck matched my glare before gesturing around at the swamp. “This is crazy,” he exclaimed. “How do we even know he’s here? The Bone Marsh isn’t exactly on my list of favorite vacation getaways, prince. You sure your contact knew what he was talking about? If this turns out to be another false lead I might turn that phouka into a pair of gloves.”

“I thought you wanted an adventure,” I said, just to annoy him. Puck snorted.

“Oh sure, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for tromping to all five corners of the Nevernever, getting chased by angry Summer Queens, sneaking into an ogre’s basement, fighting giant spiders, playing hide-and-seek with a cranky dragon—good times.” He shook his head, and his eyes gleamed, reliving fond memories. “But this is like the sixth place we’ve come to look for that wretched cat, and if he isn’t here I’m almost afraid of where we’re going next.”

“You don’t have to be here,” I told him. “Leave if you want. I’m not stopping you.”

“Nice try, prince.” Puck crossed his arms and smiled. “But you’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

“Then let’s keep moving.” It was getting dark, and his constant
chattering was getting on my nerves. Joking aside, I did not want to attract the attention of a hungry jabberwock and have to fight it in the middle of the swamp.

“Oh, fine,” Puck sighed, tromping along behind me. “But if he’s not here, I refuse to go to the Spider Queen’s palace with you, ice-boy. That’s where I draw the line.”

M
Y NAME, MY FULL
, True Name, is Ashallayn’darkmyr Tallyn, and I am the last son of the Unseelie Court.

There were three of us at one time, all princes of Winter, myself and my brothers, Sage and Rowan. I never knew my sire, never cared to know him, nor did my siblings ever speak of him. I wasn’t even positive we shared the same sire, but it didn’t matter. In the Unseelie Court, Mab was the sole ruler, the one and only queen. Handsome fey and even wayward mortals she might take to her bed, but Mab shared her throne with no one.

We were never close, my brothers and I. As princes of Winter, we grew up in a world of violence and dark politics. Our queen encouraged this, favoring the son who earned her good graces while punishing the others. We used each other, played vicious games against one another, but we were all loyal to our court and our queen. Or so I’d thought.

There is a reason the Winter Court freezes out their emotions, why feelings are considered a weakness and a folly among the Unseelie fey. Emotion corrupts the senses, makes them weak, makes them disloyal to kith and court. Jealousy was a dark, dangerous passion that ate at my brother Rowan until he did the unthinkable and turned on his court, betraying us to our enemies. Sage, my eldest sibling, fell to Rowan’s treachery, and he was only the first. In a bid for power, Rowan sided with our greatest enemies, the Iron fey, helping their king nearly destroy the Nevernever. I killed
Rowan in the end, avenging Sage and the rest of my kin, but retribution cannot bring either of them back. It’s only me now. I am the last, the only remaining son of Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Court.

And I’m already dead to her.

Rowan was not the only one to succumb to emotion and passion. My fall began, as many stories do, with a girl. A girl named Meghan Chase, the half-human daughter of our ancient rival, the Summer King. Fate brought us together, and despite everything I did to shield my emotions, despite the laws of our people and the war with the Iron fey and the threat of eternal banishment from my home, I still found myself falling for her. Our paths were woven together, our fates intertwined, and before the last battle I swore I would follow her to the end of the world, to protect her from all threats, including my own kin, and to die for her if called to do so. I became her knight, and would have gladly served this girl, this mortal who had captured my heart, until the last breath left my body.

But Fate is a cruel mistress, and in the end, our paths were forced apart, as I’d feared they would be. Meghan became the Iron Queen, as was her destiny, and took the throne in the kingdom of the Iron fey. A place I could not follow, not as I am—a faery creature whose essence weakens and burns at the touch of iron. Meghan herself exiled me from the lands of the Iron fey, knowing that staying would kill me, knowing I would try anyway. But before I left, I swore an oath that I would find a way to return, that someday we would be together, and nothing would separate us again. Mab tried to convince me to return to the Winter Court—I was her only prince now, and it was my duty to come home—but I bluntly stated that I was no longer part of the Unseelie Court, that my service to her and Winter was at an end.

There is nothing more terrible than a spurned faery queen, particularly if you defy her a second time. I escaped the Winter Court with my life intact, but just barely, and I won’t be returning anytime soon. Regardless, I feel little regret at turning my back on my queen, my kith and my home. That part of my life is done. My loyalty—and my heart—belongs to another queen now.

I promised I’d find a way for us to be together. I intend to keep that promise. Even if it means trekking through a sprawling, deadly marsh in search of a rumor. Even if it means putting up with my fiercest and most annoying rival, Robin Goodfellow, who—despite all his attempts to hide it—is in love with my queen as well. I don’t know why I haven’t killed him yet. Maybe because Puck is Meghan’s closest friend, and she would mourn him terribly if he were gone (though I can’t understand why). Or, maybe, deep down, I’m tired of being alone.

In any case, it matters little. With every ruin we search, every dragon we slay, or every rumor we unearth, I’m one step closer to my goal. Even if it takes a hundred years, I will be with her in the end. Another piece of the puzzle lurks somewhere in this dreary swampland. The only difficulty lies in finding it.

T
HANKFULLY, DESPITE
P
UCK’S
constant griping and complaining, the jabberwocks decided
not
to see what the racket was about and come stalking through the marsh to find us. That was just as well, because it took nearly the whole night to find what we were looking for.

At the edge of a scummy pond stood a house, faded and gray like everything else. A picket fence made of bleached white bones surrounded it, naked skulls topping the posts, and a few scraggly chickens milled about in what passed as a
yard. The hut was old and wooden, creaking faintly though there was no wind. The most unusual thing, however, wasn’t the house itself, but what held it up. It stood on a pair of massive bird legs, gnarled and yellow, blunt talons digging into the mud. The legs were crouched low, as if sleeping, but every so often they shifted restlessly, causing the whole house to shudder and groan.

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