Seanan McGuire The Winter Long

ISBN 13: 9780756408084

The Winter Long

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9780756408084: The Winter Long

New York Times-bestselling October Daye series · Hugo Award-winning author Seanan McGuire · "Top of my urban-paranormal series list!" —Felicia Day

Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.
 
She was wrong.
 
It's time to learn the truth.

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About the Author:

Seanan McGuire is a California-based author with a strong penchant for travel and can regularly be found just about anyplace capable of supporting human life (as well as a few places that probably aren’t). Early exposure to a vast number of books left her with a lifelong affection for the written word, and led, perhaps inevitably, to her writing books of her own, starting somewhere around the age of eleven. The October Daye novels are her first urban fantasy series, and the InCryptid novels are her second series, both published by DAW and bother of which have put her in the New York Times bestseller list. Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer; Rosemary and Rue, the first novel in the October Daye series, was named one of the Top 20 Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Past Decade; and her novel Feed, written under the name Mira Grant, was named as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2010. She also won a Hugo for her podcast, and is the first person to be nominated for five Hugo Awards in a single year. You can visit her at www.seananmcguire.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

*Coming soon from DAW Books

DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES —MARCA REGISTRADA HECHO EN U.S.A.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:

OCTOBER DAYE PRONUNCIATION GUIDE

All pronunciations are given strictly phonetically. This only covers races explicitly named in the first eight books, omitting Undersea races not appearing or mentioned in book eight.

Afanc: ah-fank. Plural is Afanc.

Annwn: ah-noon. No plural exists.

Bannick: ban-nick. Plural is Bannicks.

Barghest: bar-guy-st. Plural is Barghests.

Blodynbryd: blow-din-brid. Plural is Blodynbryds.

Cait Sidhe: kay-th shee. Plural is Cait Sidhe.

Candela: can-dee-la. Plural is Candela.

Cetace: sea-tay-see. Plural is Cetacea.

Coblynau: cob-lee-now. Plural is Coblynau.

Cu Sidhe: coo shee. Plural is Cu Sidhe.

Daoine Sidhe: doon-ya shee. Plural is Daoine Sidhe, diminutive is Daoine.

Djinn: jin. Plural is Djinn.

Dóchas Sidhe: doe-sh-as shee. Plural is Dóchas Sidhe.

Ellyllon: el-lee-lawn. Plural is Ellyllons.

Gean-Cannah: gee-ann can-na. Plural is Gean-Cannah.

Glastig: glass-tig. Plural is Glastigs.

Gwragen: guh-war-a-gen. Plural is Gwragen.

Hamadryad: ha-ma-dry-add. Plural is Hamadryads.

Hippocampus: hip-po-cam-pus. Plural is Hippocampi.

Kelpie: kel-pee. Plural is Kelpies.

Kitsune: kit-soo-nay. Plural is Kitsune.

Lamia: lay-me-a. Plural is Lamia.

The Luidaeg: the lou-sha-k. No plural exists.

Manticore: man-tee-core. Plural is Manticores.

Merrow: meh-row. Plural is Merrow.

Naiad: nigh-add. Plural is Naiads.

Nixie: nix-ee. Plural is Nixen.

Peri: pear-ee. Plural is Peri.

Piskie: piss-key. Plural is Piskies.

Puca: puh-ca. Plural is Pucas.

Roane: row-n. Plural is Roane.

Satyr: say-tur. Plural is Satyrs.

Selkie: sell-key. Plural is Selkies.

Shyi Shuai: shh-yee shh-why. Plural is Shyi Shuai.

Silene: sigh-lean. Plural is Silene.

Tuatha de Dannan: tootha day danan. Plural is Tuatha de Dannan, diminutive is Tuatha.

Tylwyth Teg: till-with teeg. Plural is Tylwyth Teg, diminutive is Tylwyth.

Urisk: you-risk. Plural is Urisk.

ONE

December 20th, 2012

For you there’s rosemary and rue; these keep

Seeming and savor all the winter long.

Grace and remembrance be to you both.

—William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale.

THE WOODS WERE DARK, filled with strange shadows. They twisted and swirled independent of any light source, making the space beneath the towering sequoias look treacherous and wild. Not much in the way of illumination could trickle all the way down through the tightly-laced branches to ground level; the few streaks of moonlight that had managed to reach us were washed out and thin, managing to seem almost darker than having no light at all. Everything was permeated by the smell of redwood sap and the sea.

We had arrived as a group, May, Jazz, and Quentin packed into the backseat like sardines, me behind the wheel, and Tybalt sitting rigidly next to me. He didn’t really like cars under the best of circumstances. He liked them even less when there were multiple other passengers, since that meant he couldn’t respond to an accident by yanking everyone safely onto the Shadow Roads. Call it a quirk brought on by being several hundred years older than the internal combustion engine.

I had parked the car in the mostly deserted Muir Woods lot, where May, Jazz, and Quentin had promptly gone on ahead, choosing retreat over dealing with my mood. This left Tybalt with the unenviable duty of trying to coax me into a party I had no interest in attending. I don’t like parties. Someone always tries to assassinate someone I actually like, and there are never enough of those little stuffed mushroom caps.

Right: this had gone on long enough. I stopped at the edge of the first trail leading up the slope, digging my heels into the dirt and refusing to be budged. “Nope,” I said. “I said I’d come; I came. These are the woods. I have entered Muir Woods. Now I’m going home. You have fun, I’ll see you when you get back.”

“Once again you underestimate my ability to move you, while simultaneously overestimating your ability not to be moved.” Tybalt caught my wrist, tugging me forward.

I dug my heels in deeper. “You’re the one who’s overestimating things here,” I said. “I don’t want to do this. I told you I didn’t want to do this. I told everyone I didn’t want to do this. Can we just go do something else? See a movie? Go out for a nice dinner? We could go back to the house and watch some BBC Shakespeare. I won’t even smack you for criticizing their pronunciation . . .”

Tybalt released my wrist and stepped back, looking at me with exasperated fondness. “October,” he said. “Do you consider me so easily bribed as all that?”

“I was hoping?”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Everyone else will be here,” I said, trying another angle. “We’ll have the house to ourselves.”

“Ah. That does put a different spin on things, and were the matter mine to decide, it might even sway my response in your favor.” My Cait Sidhe boyfriend shook his head, the moonlight glinting off his tabby-patterned brown hair. This late at night and this far from any human residences, neither of us was bothering with a human disguise. Not that he was in any way unattractive when he was pretending to be mortal—far from it—but I preferred his real face, complete with the malachite-banded green eyes that were currently narrowed in amusement over my predicament. “Alas, the matter is out of my hands. I will deliver you to the Queen, or we will both face her wrath.”

I crossed my arms and scowled at him. “Arden isn’t all that wrath-y. She used to be a bookstore clerk.”

“She is, as you say, ‘wrath-y’ enough. She is a queen. That is sufficient to lend teeth to whatever wrath she chooses to express.” Tybalt leaned forward and took hold of my wrist again, effortlessly unfolding my arms as he resumed trying to tug me into Muir Woods. “Come. The sooner we arrive, the sooner we can depart. Besides, you dressed for the occasion. Shouldn’t you take the time to at least pretend to enjoy it?”

I scowled, but I couldn’t pretend he wasn’t right about the last part. We were dressed for the occasion, thanks to my having raided my old bedroom in my mother’s tower, and his possession of a seemingly endless supply of leather trousers. He was wearing a pair in tawny brown, accented across the legs with strips of darker brown that managed to imply a tabby’s stripes without turning into a costume from the latest revival of Cats. His cream-colored poet’s shirt was unlaced enough to be tempting, but still modest enough not to cross the line into romance novel territory, and his brown leather vest and boots matched the stripes on his trousers. He looked basically amazing. No one could have looked at him without seeing the King of Cats he truly was.

I don’t clean up quite as well. My dress was one-shouldered and long enough that I had to lift it whenever I was stepping over anything—I wasn’t looking forward to climbing up the side of the hill between us and the Queen’s knowe. The whole thing was made of spider-silk, which would have put it well outside of my price range if it hadn’t been commissioned for me when I was still living with my mother. It gleamed in the moonlight like liquid silver. Stronger colors have a tendency to wash me out, thanks to my complexion: I’m naturally pale, made paler by my primarily nocturnal lifestyle. My hair is the kind of straight that refuses to take a curl, and a shade of no-color brown that’s moved a thousand boxes of Clairol. Veins of pale gold run through it, courtesy of my increasingly strong fae blood.

Still, I had to admit the dress was a good cut for me, and it fit like it had been stitched yesterday. May had done my makeup, choosing subtle metallic shades to make it look like my fog-colored eyes were actually worth gazing into, and my hair was pinned into an artfully messy updo, woven with strands of black opal that matched my necklace and earrings. No one could say I hadn’t at least attempted to get ready for a formal ball.

That didn’t mean I had the slightest intention of actually going.

Tybalt apparently realized he wasn’t going to make me move, because he stopped pulling on my wrist and stepped closer, placing a finger beneath my chin and tilting my head back until our eyes met. “Do you truly intend to waste all the work of preparing for this event? You look astonishing, October. Perhaps I am a proud man, but I did so look forward to seeing others seeing you and realizing that they had overlooked your beauty while allowing their eyes to be clouded by the woman who once ruled in this demesne. Smugness excites me. I was even more excited about the prospect of taking you home after the ball, and showing you exactly how much I appreciate that you have chosen me over all of them.”

“Flattery will get you a lot of places, kitty-cat, including into my pants, but it’s not going to get me to go to that ball.”

Tybalt nodded, smiling broadly enough to show the point of one sharpened incisor. “Oh, I know. But did you know that there is one place that flattery will always get me?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Where’s that?”

“Past your guard.” He dropped my wrist. Before I could object, his arms were locked around my waist, and we were falling into the shadows, where everything was cold and black and there wasn’t any oxygen.

We fell for what could have been forever. Intellectually, I knew it was only a few seconds. That didn’t help as much as it might have. My body had enough time to notice that I’d stopped breathing and send up an objection, and then we were back on solid ground, and the air around us no longer felt like it was made of pure ice. It was no surprise when I opened my eyes and found myself looking at the door to Arden’s knowe. It was standing open to the night air, and the trees around it were lit with pixies and fireflies. Of the two, the fireflies were more unusual—they’re not native to California.

“Dirty pool!” I pushed away from Tybalt, who let me go without a fight. I glared at him. At least he had the decency not to laugh at me, although I could tell it was a struggle. “That was dirty pool and it wasn’t fair, and you should be ashamed of yourself!”

“I am abashed by my own behavior,” he replied, deadpan. “I will spend a lifetime fighting to redeem myself in your eyes.”

“Damn right you will.” I glared at him as I adjusted the strap on my gown and reached up to check my hair for frozen patches. We’d been in and out of the shadows too quickly for any ice to form. Bully for me. I lowered my hand and sighed, finally giving up on the glare as I asked, “So what you’re saying is that we really have to do this.”

“That is precisely what I’m saying.” He offered me his arm. “If milady would do me the great honor of allowing me to escort her into the Yule Ball?”

“I hate you,” I said, slipping my hand into the bend of his elbow.

“I know.”

This vital exchange complete, we walked together past the guards at the door—who were smirking, having clearly eavesdropped on us the whole time—and into Arden’s knowe.

The door led to an enormous entry hall. The walls and floor were polished redwood, seamlessly flowing from one into the next, while the ceiling consisted almost entirely of stained glass panels representing a stylized, star-filled sky. Some of the panels were open, allowing us to see the actual sky beyond, a twilit wonder of purple mists and multiple moons. We had crossed out of the mortal world and into the Summerlands when we passed over the threshold. The seamlessness of the transition said something about how many people had come and gone through those doors since Arden had reopened her knowe. Like most things, passage between the human and fae worlds is easiest in places where it’s been done before, and the more often, the better.

No artwork or tapestries hung on the walls, which had been carved into a series of bas-relief panels retelling the history of the Kingdom of the Mists. Arden’s resident crafters had been hard at work since my last visit: panels had been added showing the death of Arden’s father, King Gilad Windermere, and the overthrow of the false Queen who had followed him on the throne.

The carvings of me were pretty flattering, even if they did get my nose wrong.

There were holiday decorations strung across the hall, anchored to the point where wood met glass, rather than being allowed to obscure any of the carvings. Wreaths of holly, ivy, and mistletoe competed with ropes of woven redwood branches, and everything smelled of sap and green things. My eyes were only for the hall itself. “It’s beautiful,” I murmured.

“Yes, it is,” Tybalt agreed, following my gaze to the nearest panel. “The artisans of the Divided Courts are capable of some monumental things, when they rouse themselves to try.”

“That was almost complimentary.”

“I’ll take more care in the future,” he said gravely, and began walking again, pulling me with him down the hall to the main receiving room.

If the entry hall was large, this room was vast, easily the size of the false Queen’s ballroom, which had previously been my gold standard for “why do you need this much space.” It continued the redwood-and-glass theme, now accessorized with people. Lots and lots and lots of people. At first glance, it seemed like the entire Kingdom had shown up to celebrate Queen Arden Windermere’s inaugural Yule Ball. Second glance confirmed that if it wasn’t the whole Kingdom, it was certainly close.

I started to step over the threshold, on the theory that it was best to get this sort of thing over with quickly. Tybalt’s sudden refusal to move pulled me to an unexpected halt. I turned to blink at him. I was still blinking when the herald to the right of the door announced, in a remarkably carrying tone, “Welcome to Sir October Daye, Knight of Lost Words, in service to Shadowed Hills, and to His Majesty, Tybalt, King of Dreaming Cats.”

Another herald blew a quick fanfare on what sounded like a brass horn. I turned back to the room, gaping at the crowd, which was now largely concerned with staring at us.

“Oh, sweet Titania, I am going to murder someone, and I’m not all that picky about who it’s going to be,” I said in a low tone.

Tybalt laughed, and we walked together into the chaos of the Yule Ball.

There are four major holidays in the fae calendar, the fixed points in the year around which everything else revolves. Beltane and Samhain represent the transfer of power between the Unseelie and Seelie Courts. Back in the days when every fiefdom had two regents, they would have traded places on those nights. Yule and...

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