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Fae's Captive (Fae's Captive #1)
Author:Lily Archer

“I know you can’t will it. But she will come, and then with an heir, we will finally be past the dark days. The necromancer’s curse can’t last forever. I won’t give up on finding my mate, and neither should you.” He squeezes my shoulder just like he’d done so many times when we were soldiers, before I was king.

He’s right of course, and that fact grates at me. The winter realm is mine to rule, but my throne was hard-won over centuries of bloodshed. The winter fae are a harsh people, wily and dark. But with the establishment of my reign, we finally have a tenuous peace amongst the high fae, lesser fae, and the summer realm. It is up to me to preserve it.

Gareth lets out a long-suffering sigh, then kicks the dead fae’s chair. “He tell you anything?”

“More of the same. But he did add that the mountain king doesn’t just want me dead, apparently. He’s after the realms. All of them.”

“Him and what army?” Gareth pulls my blades free and wipes them on the assassin’s tunic.

A streak of foreboding careens through me. “That’s what we need to find out.”



Something tickles my nose. I swat at it, but it doesn’t go away. My eyes open slowly, achingly. What’s wrong with me?

A flash of memory darts across my mind—a nightmare of myself standing next to Cecile in a dark parking lot. I sit up and knock my head on something hard and unyielding.

“Ow!” Putting a hand to my head, I fall back onto a bed of scratchy hay, some of it once again tickling my nose.

“Shh.” A harsh whisper nearby.

“Who’s there?” I press one palm to my aching forehead and turn to look into the gloom.

“Shh!” This one is even more urgent.

I can’t make out much, just some sort of room with hay on the floor and—wait, are those bars? My breath leaves in a whoosh, and I scoot sideways until the air above me is clear. I’d been lying on the bottom level of a crude sort of bunkbed carved into a stone wall. My jeans and t-shirt are gone, replaced with a crude shift dress, the material rough against my skin. I press my hand to my neck, a hint of relief blooming in my mind when I feel the necklace.

My eyes aren’t accustomed to the dark as I move toward the bars, but I keep staring hard, trying to find the source of the shushing voice. All I see is hay and gray walls.

“Hello?” I whisper.

“Do you want a bloodletting?” The hay to my left shifts, and a pair of eyes peer at me.

“Where are—”

A clanging noise shatters the stillness. I jump as heavy footsteps approach, the sound paired with what sounds like sharp nails raking against stone.

I scurry back beneath the stone bunkbed and press myself against the wall. My head throbs from where I knocked it earlier, and my pounding heartbeat doesn’t help.

“Great. Just great.” The eyes disappear, the hay settling.

A hissing voice, one that slithers up my spine, echoes off the walls. It’s heavily accented and speaks a foreign language. A rhythmic rustling noise grows louder with each second.

The instinct to hide, to somehow melt into the stone behind me, rushes through me. But there is nowhere to go. The one spot where the hay is thickest is already taken.

The voice is closer now, and I stare into the darkness outside the bars.

I press my palm to my mouth to stop any noise from escaping. But my body shakes, everything inside me freezing up and rattling.

Movement catches my eye, and a monstrous, clawed hand appears just outside the bars.

A scream wants to pull free from my lungs, but I swallow it down. Too afraid to look away, I don’t blink as the rest of the creature comes into view. My mind can’t seem to grasp the horror of what my eyes are seeing. A huge snake body propels the torso of a man, the rhythmic hissing sound coming from the scales as they slide along the floor.

It says something I can’t understand. Pointing at me, it presses its face to the bars, its slitted eyes taking me in. It’s almost a man’s face, but it’s grimmer, and when his forked tongue darts out, I make a keening sound that I can’t hold back.

“No. Please leave me alone.” I shake my head.

It grins, showing curved fangs. “Noisy little changeling. And speaking the slave language, too. Naughty little thing.” It says it in English, the words thick and misshapen from its lips.

I shake my head, and put a hand firmly over my mouth.

“Pretty thing. So pretty.” It blinks slowly. “One more sound, and I’ll have to discipline you.” The tongue shoots out. “I’d enjoy it, but you wouldn’t.”

I can’t close my eyes, can’t breathe, can’t think.

The sound of a door hinge squeaking pulls the monster’s attention away, and a voice down the corridor says something in the unintelligible language. The thing in front of me hisses its reply and gives me one more look before sliding back the way it came.

I lie there shivering for a long time, my mind racing, stumbling, careening. I was in Cecile’s car doing my homework. And then I had to have fallen asleep. Because everything that happened after that doesn’t make sense.

Asleep. I’m asleep. There’s no way I saw a woman who looked exactly like me, no way I’m in some sort of prison, and no way that a half-snake, half-man creature just came and threatened me. My breathing quickens and spots float in my vision. Hyperventilating. Can you hyperventilate in a dream? Wake up. I pinch my arm hard. Pain that matches the ache in my head blooms along my skin. I pinch again. But I don’t wake up. This can’t be. None of this makes sense. But the more my body aches and the chill air seeps into my bones, the more panicked I become. This is real.

“Whisper, dumbass. You can only whisper in here. If Zaul hears you again, it won’t be pretty.” The hay shifts, and a woman appears, her face dirty and her hair in bedraggled waves.

I nod, afraid to use my voice. My breathing is still too fast. I curl into the fetal position and press my forehead to my knees but keep the stranger in my peripheral vision.

She eases closer, and I notice she’s wearing the same potato sack I am, though she’s much thinner, her cheeks gaunt. “What did you do to land in here?”

“I didn’t do anything.” My voice is barely a sound. “I don’t know how I got here.”

She smirks, and I can’t tell if she’s twenty or fifty. “I refused to let my master’s vampire hound feed from me.” She rolls up her baggy sleeve and shows me her arm. Even through the filth, I can see dozens—maybe hundreds—of scars, puncture wounds that come in pairs. “I’d rather die than serve as a meal for that dog one more time.”

I push aside the horror that threatens to swallow me whole. “Where are we?”

“Byrn Varyndr’s dungeon, obviously.” She lays on her side and props her head on her hand. “Where they put bad girls.”


“Why what? Why are you here?” She wrinkles her nose. “How would I know?”

I press one hand to my face. “This doesn’t make sense.”

“You speak the old tongue really well.” She sucks on her teeth. “I’m surprised I even remember it, it’s been so long since I’ve heard or spoken it. I was exchanged when I was five, so I remember a little from that. And the older changelings still speak and teach it to each other. There are other tongues, too, but everyone seems to stick to this one.”

“You mean English?”

“Yeah.” She shrugs. “Here, we’re only supposed to speak their language. English is forbidden. Mainly because most of them don’t know it. Only the lesser fae who work alongside us learn it. Some of the older high fae know it, too. But that’s rare. They usually don’t bother with us.”


She lowers her brows. “You must have knocked your head a good one. They—the fae. Our supposedly benevolent masters.” She laughs low. “They say the summer realm is the kindest of all. But the fae here are just like all the others.”

“Fae? What’s a fae?” I glance at the bars. Was that snake monster a fae?

She says something in that strange language, though it’s beautiful as it lilts from her tongue.

I shake my head. “What did you say?”

Her eyes narrow. “I said you need to see a healer since you can’t even remember how to speak fae.”