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Emma L Adams

Exiled Queen: The Thief's Talisman Book 3 (Paperback)

Exiled Queen: The Thief's Talisman Book 3 (Paperback)

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Book 3 of 3: The Thief's Talisman

Can Raine outwit the masters of deceit?

Kicked out of Faerie and on the run from the ruling Sidhe, Raine Warren is less than happy to be tasked with saving both mortal and faerie realms from an all-too-personal threat. With her surviving allies in terrible danger, it's up to Raine to devise a scheme to stop the outcast Sidhe before they obliterate the Courts and everyone inside them.

Together with Cedar, former thief and fellow exile, she must find a way to beat the Sidhe at their own games -- without her desire for retribution turning her into a queen as ruthless as the ones who covet her power.

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Ivy Lane rested one hand on her faerie talisman’s hilt as her gaze flickered from me to Cedar. “I was told to speak to someone called Raine Whitefall—that is, Lady Whitefall.”

I cleared my throat. “That’s me.”

I could hardly believe Ivy Lane herself—the only pure human with faerie magic I’d ever heard of—was in my living room. After the whirlwind of death and betrayal I’d experienced in the last few hours before my escape from Faerie into the mortal realm, I’d hoped to find my human father here and ensure he was safe. Instead, he’d disappeared without a trace, adding yet another dilemma to my growing heap of problems, which started with me being heir to the Whitefall family and ended with me being a wanted criminal. Ivy’s sudden appearance was the last straw—and my last hope.

“And you are?” She addressed Cedar next to me, not taking her hand off her sword.

“My name is Cedar Hornbeam,” he said. “Ivy Lane? I’ve heard that name.”

“You might say I have a certain reputation,” Ivy said. “For killing rogue Sidhe.”

Cedar stiffened. “Rogues? You mean exiles?” Technically, that’s what we were. Cedar had chosen to come with me rather than stay with the surviving members of the Hornbeam family, thus painting himself as a traitor in the eyes of the Summer Court if they worked out we’d run off together.

“Exiles, rogues, murderers,” Ivy said. “A half-blood showed up on my doorstep telling me to find you. He said it was important.”

“Who?” Surely not Robin. But when I could count my allies on one hand and most were in this room, there weren’t a lot of possibilities. “If it’s someone who can go to the Grey Vale and tell my deranged mother not to destroy the Courts, it’d save us a lot of trouble.”

“Lady Whitefall—your mother. Ah.” Understanding flashed across her face. “I can walk into the Grey Vale, but I can’t find a Sidhe who doesn’t want to be found. And I’ve never been good at persuading them to do anything.”

I blinked at her. She was being serious. She might be a formidable force with a reputation amongst half-bloods for being a ruthless killer, but I’d half thought it was an exaggerated rumour that she could actually walk into the faeries’ realm on her own power. Ivy Lane was a living legend, here in my dingy living room, talisman and all.

“You’re half-Sidhe, then,” she said, not perturbed by my silence. “Both of you?”

I nodded. “Yeah. You might say we have major family issues.”

Her mouth twitched, almost a smile. “It seems to be a running theme with every half-faerie I’ve met lately. No offence.”

“None taken,” I said. “It’s pretty much true.”

“So you can explain,” Ivy said. “I’ve heard second-hand accounts of what she did, but I’d like to hear it directly from you.”

“Why? Are you planning to help us?” I asked.

“Yes. As much as is in my power, anyway. I have the Sight and can use magic, but there are some things you’ll only be able to handle yourself. Especially as she’s your mother. I might have their magic, but I’m still human.”

“You’re entirely human?” Cedar repeated, sounding as surprised as I was.

“One hundred percent.”

“Then how did you come to be involved with the Courts?” he asked.

“Long story,” said Ivy. “Let’s just say the Sidhe and I started out on the wrong foot and went downhill from there.”

A human with the Sight… but that wasn’t all she had. Her faerie talisman was engraved with unfamiliar symbols, and its bluish tinge told me her magic was of the Unseelie variety.

I took in a breath and gave her a run-down of the last few months, starting with my unexpected invitation into Faerie to collect my inheritance, and finishing with the discovery that my mother wasn’t dead but building an army in the Grey Vale to invade the Courts.  

Ivy’s gaze remained on Cedar and me as she considered my words, and her hand on her sword’s hilt. Maybe she thought we’d attack her. I looked too much like the faerie mother who’d faked her death and ruined my life. Slender but athletic frame, icy-white hair, eyes bluer than any human’s could ever be, a crescent-shaped birthmark on my face. My family’s mark—which she’d put there, to mark me as hers.

Ivy pursed her lips. “So she planned this years ago, and faked her death rather than being exiled. The Sidhe really don’t do things by halves, do they? Have you spoken to the Court at all?”

“Well, the Unseelie Court helped me fight her, then ran off when she escaped. The Seelie Court, though—they sort of want me dead for murder.”

Ivy opened her mouth then closed it again, shaking her head. “Which murder?”

“Lady Hornbeam. She tried to steal my magic and kill me in the process.”

Ivy swore. “Your chances of getting cooperation from the Courts are slim to none anyway, but a murder accusation—”

“Yeah, I know I’ll be killed or exiled for it,” I said. “They won’t hear my story. I’m half-blood, which means they’ll automatically come out on the side of the Sidhe. Even a monster like Lady Hornbeam.”

Ivy sighed. “That puts a wrench in our plans. I’m not blaming you, and heaven knows it’s tough to wrangle any kind of commitment out of the Sidhe. They barely tolerate me most of the time. I can’t stop them hunting you, but I can misdirect them if you’d like me to.”

“Can you help me find my father?” I asked. “He’s mortal. I think the faeries took him, like they did before I was born. Well, she did.”

“I can do that,” Ivy said. “I’ll ask the leader of the local witch coven for a tracking spell. If I were you, I’d lie low until I can find out what’s going on in Faerie.”

“But you can go there?” asked Cedar. “How?”

“I stole the magic of an exiled Sidhe—it’s a long story. Technically, I can’t walk into the Courts themselves without an invitation, and for some reason, they go out of their way to avoid giving me one unless it’s for a tedious meeting. But if I find anything in the Vale that might point to her whereabouts, I’ll let you know.”

“Thank you,” I said. “There’s one more thing. My mother used a different type of magic when she had us prisoner. She used this word—she called it an Invocation. A powerful word that made everyone kneel. Have you heard of those?”

“Unfortunately,” Ivy said. “Invocations are the language of the gods. The Sidhe’s gods.” Her hand went to her sword’s hilt, and the symbols etched there. “The Sidhe use them when they want to make a blatant display of power. Say, when they exile someone, or wipe their memory. But they’re too powerful for anyone without a Sidhe’s magic to handle.”

Oh. That’s how she did it. No wonder I’d always suspected there was a realm of faerie magic off limits to me. A forbidden language only the Sidhe knew.

Without warning, a sudden air current hit us from in front, sending me stumbling back a step. Cedar, too. Ivy, however, turned to the side, a smile curving her lips as though she’d expected it.

A man had appeared in the corridor. Tall, broad-shouldered and clearly human, he wore a smart suit and a long black coat. He walked into the flat, coat shifting in the breeze stirred up by his arrival.

He just teleported? I’d say he’s a mage…

Oh shit.

The head of the Mage Lords frowned at the pair of us, then turned to Ivy. “I was told there was only one half-blood.”

“Yeah, so was I. This is Lady Whitefall…”

“Best call me Raine,” I said. “Seeing as the other person with my name isn’t friendly. This is Cedar.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Cedar said with the sort of flourish he usually reserved for members of the Courts. Right. The Mage Lords are sort of the equivalent of the Sidhe here in this realm. I’d never met him before, but this guy was the reason most of the dodgy magical schemes my former best friend Denzel had come up with had backfired and ended up with someone getting arrested or threatened. I really hoped he didn’t make the connection. I looked a long way from the thief I’d once been, even here in the mortal realm.

The Mage Lord gave us a nod of acknowledgement. “You’ve come to an agreement?” he asked Ivy.

“Sort of,” said Ivy. “You know how slippery the Sidhe are. Basically, we’re looking for a missing human. Her father. Also, you’ll need to station a guard by the Ley Line again. This time there’s a Sidhe who can hypnotise people who might come over looking for mortals to ensnare.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Hypnosis?”

“Apparently. Can’t have a dull moment, huh.” Ivy grinned slyly at him. “I’ll check back with you tomorrow, Raine. Is there anything I can take for a tracking spell? It works better with hair, or blood.”

My throat went dry. There was no blood in the flat, but a wave of dread rushed over me all the same. I ran to Dad’s room, finding the furniture overturned and everything that wasn’t nailed down scattered on the floor. Shakily, I grabbed a comb with several of Dad’s hairs still tangled in it, left the bedroom, and handed it over to Ivy.

“I’ll come back tomorrow,” said Ivy, nodding to the Mage Lord.

As one, the pair of them disappeared. Curtains of dust fluttered down in their wake. 

“Wow. Apparently we’re royalty in this realm, too,” I said.

Cedar turned to me. “She only said she’d try to help. No guarantees. She’s human.”

“She also has faerie magic,” I said. “What’s their problem with you?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Cedar said. “They hate the Sidhe. Ivy Lane does, anyway.”

“And I look exactly like my power-crazy mother.” Not for the first time, I wished I’d taken after Dad instead, but faerie blood usually won out over human. Cedar’s dark shoulder-length hair and elegantly carved features were fairly typical, but his light hazel eyes made him look different enough to his faerie mother that I didn’t see her staring back at me when our eyes met. Thank the Sidhe for that.

Heat crept into my cheeks when I realised he saw me looking. “No,” he said. “You don’t look like her.”

I blinked. “I’ve no idea if that was a compliment or not, considering she has everyone dancing to her tune. Aspen worships her.”

“Aspen worships power.” His jaw tightened. The resemblance between him and his half-brother was a more superficial one, not enough to be obvious unless they were standing right next to one another.  

I cleared my throat. “Right. It’s too late to call the mercenaries, but I’ll do it tomorrow. And talk to the neighbours. Someone must have seen what happened.” My throat closed up. There was no chance my mother could have done it in person, because I’d been with her at the time and he hadn’t been in her castle. Maybe Dad had run away, but surely the mercenaries guarding him would have noticed.

Cedar nodded. “What do you suggest we do now?”

“Clean up and get some rest.” I scrubbed a hand through my hair. Like Cedar, I was covered in blood and debris from the fight. “Do you want to sleep in my room? Dad’s room’s in a state, but I can sleep on the sofa.”

“No, I will,” Cedar said. Was I imagining things, or did he sound disappointed? My dad was missing. I couldn’t forget it, not with the evidence all around me.

Nor could I forget that I’d got both of us exiled in the first place.

I’d always been terrified the faeries would come back and hurt my dad. But in the end, all my efforts to put up barriers between myself and Faerie had crumpled the instant I’d answered their call and followed them into their realm.

When I found him, this time I’d have to let him go. At least until I dealt with my mother. However painful it might be. The Sidhe would never take away anyone I loved again.

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