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Home > The Iron Warrior (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #3)

The Iron Warrior (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #3)
Author: Julie Kagawa

CHAPTER ONE

FLOATING

My name is Ethan Chase.

And I can’t be certain, but I think I might have died.

CHAPTER TWO

WAKING UP

The dream always ends the same.

I’m in my room again. Or, maybe it’s my sister’s room or a stranger’s. I can’t tell. There are photos on the wall I don’t recognize, pictures of a family that isn’t mine. But the desk is mine, I think. The bed and the chair and the computer are mine. There’s a figure sleeping on the bed, long chestnut hair spilling over the pillow. I’m trying to move about silently, so that I don’t wake her, though I can’t remember why she’s here, in my room. If this is my room.

Whoever’s room this is, it’s dark. I can hear rain pattering on the tin roof overhead, and the distant squeals of the pigs in the shed outside. Dad wanted me to feed them today; it’s going to suck tromping out there in the rain and mud. I told him I would feed them when the rain lets up. Truthfully, I don’t want to go outside in the dark. I know it is out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting for me. I’ve seen it in the mirror, reflected in the glass: a tall, thin silhouette at my bedroom window, peering in. Sometimes, from the corner of my eye, I think I see long black fingers reaching out from under the bed. But when I turn and look, there’s nothing there.

My phone buzzes on the desk. I let it ring, feeling my stomach knot and twist as the phone vibrates on the surface.

“Why don’t you answer?” the brown-haired girl asks, now sitting up on my bed. Her green eyes seem to glow in the darkness.

“Because she’ll be angry with me,” I reply. “I left her. I promised to come back, but I left her alone. She won’t let me get away with that.”

The phone falls silent. Voices echo from downstairs—my parents, telling me it’s time for dinner. I look at the chestnut-haired girl again, only it’s not her any longer, but Meghan, sitting on her bed, her long hair pale and silvery in the shadows of the room. She’s smiling down at me, and I’m four years old, hugging my stuffed rabbit to my chest.

“Go get dinner, squirt,” Meghan says gently. She’s still smiling, though I can see the tears on her face, creeping down her cheeks. “Tell Mom and Luke I don’t feel well right now. But come back when you’re done, and I’ll read to you, okay?”

“’Kay,” I answer, and pad to the door while clutching Floppy tightly in one arm. I wonder why she’s crying, and if there’s anything I can do to make her happy again; I hate it when my sister is sad.

“She’s lost someone,” Floppy whispers to me, as he does sometimes when we’re alone. “Someone has gone away, that’s why she’s sad.”

Outside my room, the hallway is dark, and the rest of the house is cloaked in shadow. A single light flickers from our tiny kitchen, and I make my way down the stairs toward it, trying to ignore the dark things that move and writhe around me, just out of sight. A boy, shaggy-haired and ragged, waits for me at the foot of the stairs. “Can you help me?” Todd Wyndham asks, eyes pleading. The shadows curl around him, clinging to his thin frame, drawing him back into the darkness. I shiver and hurry past, squeezing Floppy to my face, trying not to see. “Ethan, wait,” Todd whispers as the shadows suck him in. “Don’t go. Please, come back. I think I’ve lost something.”

Darkness swallows him, and he’s vanished from sight.

“There you are,” Mom announces when I finally step into the kitchen. “Where’s your sister? Dinner is ready. Isn’t she coming down?”

I blink, no longer four years old, and bitterness settles on me like a second skin. “She doesn’t live here anymore, Mom,” I say, sullen and angry. “Not for a long time, remember?”

“Oh, that’s right.” Mom takes a stack of plates from the cupboard and hands it to me. “Well, if you do see her again, will you tell her I’m keeping a plate warm for her?”

There’s a knock on the front door before I can reply. It echoes through the house, a hollow thud that makes the shadows writhing at the edge of the light draw back in terror.

“Oh, good. Right on time.” Mom opens the oven door and pulls out a pie, steaming and oozing red. “Ethan, would you get that, please? Don’t leave your guest standing out in the rain.”

I set the plates on the table, walk through the living room and open the front door.

Keirran stares at me over the threshold.

He’s dripping wet, his silver hair plastered to his neck and forehead, his clothes also drenched from the rain. Water puddles at his feet, only the puddle is much too dark to be water.

Below his shirt, something pulses, dark and menacing, like a twisted heartbeat. I can feel it, suddenly, right under his sternum, a twin to the weight around my own neck, the cold circle of steel hanging from a chain.

The storm rages behind him; lightning streaks across the sky, illuminating the red streaks on his face, the icy gleam of his eyes. For a split second, gazing over his shoulder, I see someone else out there in the darkness. Tall and pale, with hair like writhing mist. But the light quickly fades, and the figure is gone.

I look back at Keirran, a chill creeping through me as I see his hands. They’re soaked in blood, wet and gleaming, all the way past his elbow. One hand holds a curved blade, glimmering between us.

I meet those icy blue eyes. He smiles sadly.

“I’m sorry, Ethan,” he whispers, always the same.

And rams that blade through my stomach.

* * *

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