Now in hardcover, the sixteenth novel of the Hugo-nominated, New York Times-bestselling October Daye urban fantasy series.
October Daye is finally something she never expected to be: married. All the trials and turmoils and terrors of a hero’s life have done very little to prepare her for the expectation that she will actually share her life with someone else, the good parts and the bad ones alike, not just allow them to dabble around the edges in the things she wants to share. But with an official break from hero duties from the Queen in the Mists, and her family wholly on board with this new version of “normal,” she’s doing her best to adjust.
It isn’t always easy, but she’s a hero, right? She’s done harder.
Until an old friend and ally turns out to have been an enemy in disguise for this entire time, and October’s brief respite turns into a battle for her life, her community, and everything she has ever believed to be true.
The debts of the Broken Ride are coming due, and whether she incurred them or not, she’s going to be the one who has to pay.
Release date: August 30, 2022
Print pages: 368
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Be the Serpent
June 11th, 2015
Bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue.
Look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under it.
-William Shakespeare, Macbeth.
It had been a normal night, melting into a normal morning. Then the sun had glinted off the pond and the world had twisted around me, going from clear, comforting sameness to chaotic murkiness as the water that was my natural environment suddenly and convulsively rejected me. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't breathe, and so I thrashed, trying to find a way to survive when nothing was the way that it was supposed to be, nothing was the way I understood it, everything was wrong and I was going to die, and I understood that I was going to die, and that was wrong too, everything was wrong-
I woke with a gasp, sitting halfway up in bed before the arm draped across my waist tightened and dragged me back down, forcing me into the pillows. Normally, I'm not into words like "forcing" being applied to me, especially not where my bed is concerned, but Tybalt had been sleeping beside me for long enough at this point-and wasn't that sentence something of a miracle in and of itself?-to have learned the difference between "Toby is getting up to use the bathroom" or "Toby is getting up because she hears the boys breaking something downstairs in the kitchen" and "Toby is pulling away because she just had a horrible dream and isn't sure where she is yet, I need to anchor her or she'll stab someone who doesn't deserve it."
Taking a deep, shaking breath, I sank deeper into the mattress, trying to get my heart to stop racing like it thought it could pound its way right out of my chest. Tybalt made a small, protesting sound and nestled closer, neck bent until his forehead was pressed against my shoulder. At least he was bipedal this morning. Now that he truly thought of the house as his home, he had a tendency to completely relax while he was sleeping, and sometimes that meant changing forms in the middle of the night. Going to bed with a human-sized man and waking up with an extra cat can be a little disconcerting.
Only a little, though. I knew he was Cait Sidhe when I married him-one of the fairy cats, as comfortable on four legs as he was on two. Honestly, on the days where I woke up without a bipedal husband hogging the covers, I just counted my blessings in a different direction.
Husband. Even after almost two full months of being married in the eyes of Faerie and the world, it was still strange to think that word and mean it. We'd only been legally married in the human world for about three weeks, having taken that long to get around to the courthouse wedding I'd been threatening from the beginning, but with that out of the way, the last of the big aftershocks of our marriage seemed to be receding into the rearview mirror.
Wedding? Survived, despite the small matter of a coup against the High King and a bunch of doppelgangers trying to kill us all before the ceremony could be performed. Performed by the sea witch herself, even, making me the second member of my immediate family to have her preside over our marriage vows-with the first being Simon Lorden, the man who was legally my father in the eyes of Faerie, despite biologically being a distant cousin at best, thanks to us both being descendants of Oberon. If someone bothered to untangle our family tree, they'd probably find proof that I'm actually his aunt or something, which only gets more ridiculous the more I think about it. But that's Faerie for you. Making sense is something that happens to other people.
Reception? Survived. Enjoyed, even, thanks to the efforts of our friends and loved ones, and Kerry's truly awe-inspiring cake. Honestly, I wasn't sure which I'd enjoyed more, getting the time to actually sit down and eat a proper meal without getting stabbed, poisoned, or called away to deal with some sort of monster infestation, or watching my colony of semi-adopted teenagers eating themselves into a cataclysmic sugar high. Luckily, I didn't have to choose. I got to have them both. An impossible luxury in a life all too frequently defined by bloodshed and chaos.
Honeymoon? Survived. Tybalt and I had taken the Tuatha Express to the Kingdom of Angels in Southern California, where we'd spent a very pleasant week splitting our time between Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, the two nearby theme parks, and-for one tense and somewhat irritating evening-the Court of Angels, where Queen Regent Amalia and Crown Prince Theunis had served us dinner, both looking deeply uncomfortable the entire time, which I suppose made sense for a Crown Prince and his Regent playing host to a known king-breaker whose only other visit to their Court had been to announce the death of their previous king and force a thirteen-year-old boy onto the throne. The kid was younger than my own squire, and hadn't been able to bring himself to look me in the eye once after the formal offers of hospitality had been made and accepted.
But a night in the Court had been the true, if unspoken, price of having a honeymoon in a Kingdom other than the one I lived in. I've gone and picked up a bit of a reputation for sticking my nose where it doesn't belong, thanks to both an absolute lack of patience for pureblood bullshit and my tendency to boot lousy or illegitimate monarchs off their thrones. I'm currently at three, "and counting," as my squire likes to say, usually when he's trying to annoy me. If we wanted to do Disney, we had to allow the local monarchs to host us, and I had to make nice the whole time, no matter how much it grated.
Fortunately, Tybalt had courtly manners enough for both of us, and it had been worth it for the picture of him the Park cameras had captured on their racecar ride. I was considering making it into a nice tapestry for the front hall. Only not, because I can't sew, and any weaver who took that commission from me would find an angry King of Cats breathing down their neck about five minutes later. I know my limits.
We were down to the last item on that particular list: marriage. We were surviving it so far, and now that the wisps of my dream were clearing away and the frantic hammering of my heart was beginning to ease, I felt like I was going to survive this day, too. And that was a good thing. Pureblood fae live forever if nothing kills them, but I'm still part human on my father's side, and a natural death could still be on the table for me. And I wasn't ready for that.
Of course, I also heal like there's some sort of prize to be won for doing it faster than anyone else, so if I did have a heart attack, I'd probably just come back to life with a ringing headache-the one thing my ridiculous recovery speed doesn't reliably protect me from-and the vague feeling that something had gone horribly wrong.
Carefully, I eased myself out from under Tybalt's arm and slid to my feet, stretching my arms over my head, both to unkink my spine and to remind me that I was a biped now, allowed to do biped things. Tybalt oozed into the warm spot left by my departure, burying his face in my pillow. Usually, like any sleeping cat, he either woke up at the slightest motion or slept with such total dedication that nothing short of an earthquake would disturb his slumber. I smiled, leaning over to stroke his brown-and-black striped hair before I padded toward the bathroom.
My unpleasant mental wakeup call was explained when I snagged my phone from atop the dresser, where I'd plugged in: the date glared from above the time, seeming to threaten and accuse in equal measure. June 11th. Six years to the day since I'd woken up face-down in a shallow pond at the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park, choking on water my body had abruptly forgotten how to breathe and gasping for air I no longer knew how to need.
That was the day I got my identity back. I didn't get the life I'd been living up until that point back. Magic can only do so much, and what was lost while I was in the pond was lost forever.
Not that I'd trade the life I had now for the life I had then even if someone were to somehow make me the offer-and with Faerie being what it is, somebody eventually might, even if they couldn't actually do it. The fae are big on making promises they can't keep. But all things considered, this was my least favorite day of the year. You'd think the day I'd gone into the pond would carry that distinction, but when it happened, I hadn't known just how much things were about to change, or how hard everything was going to become.
When the spell broke, though . . . when the spell broke, that was when I'd known that I was screwed.
But I should really start closer to the beginning if I can. My name is October Daye, Knight of Lost Words, official Hero of the Realm of the Kingdom in the Mists, the fae demesne roughly paralleling the mortal lands known as the San Francisco Bay Area. My father, Jonathan Daye, was a human; my mother, Amandine the Liar, is the Firstborn daughter of Oberon-yes, that Oberon-and Janet Carter-yes, that Janet.
We don't do family reunions, but I bet they'd be fun, in the "entrails all over the lawn" sort of sense.
Humans and fae aren't the same species, but they're close enough that, like lions and tigers or dogs and wolves, they can sometimes reproduce. "When" that happens, you get changeling kids like me, caught between two worlds, forever dancing along the borders of both of them. I don't know whether it helps or hurts that the human world doesn't know Faerie exists, while Faerie tends to view the human side of things as a useful junk shop to steal ideas and artifacts and sometimes children from, all while looking down on it from the vaunted height of being immortal and magical and self-absorbed.
Anyway, I was born while my mother was married to Simon Torquill, meaning that even though he's definitely not the man who fathered me, Faerie considers him my legal parent. And since he divorced my mother, and I sided with him in the separation, Faerie now considers him my only legal parent. He remarried almost immediately-like, same day, not even an hour later, which I guess would be the new dictionary definition of "rebound" if not for the fact that he married a couple he'd been close to and cared about for well over a century. Faerie makes timespans weird sometimes. Just go with it. These days he lives in the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist with his Merrow wife, Daoine Sidhe husband, and my older sister, August, the only other D—chas Sidhe in the world.
I never said this was going to be easy to follow.
Simon and I get along pretty well now that he's not, you know, married to my mother and spending all his time doing the bidding of his evil asshole of a former boss, Eira Rosynhwyr. But before we made peace, he was basically the monster under my bed, and that whole pond thing I mentioned-the thing that's left me with the occasional horrific nightmare and what looks likely to be a lifetime case of hydrophobia-was his fault. Eira wanted him to kill me. He, knowing he was sort of my father if not quite exactly, couldn't bring himself to do it. But he also couldn't disobey her directly. So when he couldn't get out of confronting me in front of his handler-slash-lover, Oleander de Merelands, he went for an old pureblood method of removal. After all, when you're going to live forever, turning your enemies into something they don't want to be is a great way to get rid of them for a few decades, and when the spell wears off, well. It's not like they really lost anything, is it? No harm done.
So he turned me into a fish. A koi, to be specific. And rather than letting me suffocate on the hostile air, he'd pushed me into the water and saved me in the only way he could. And maybe he really hadn't had a choice, but he'd been laughing when he did it, and that still haunts me.
I spent fourteen years in that pond. Fourteen years for my two-year-old, mostly human daughter to grow up thinking I'd run out on her as soon as the challenges of motherhood became more than I could handle; fourteen years for my carefully constructed mortal life to fall apart. When the spell had finally broken and dropped me back into myself, I had been completely lost, thinking I would never be able to rebuild . . . thinking I'd failed everyone I'd ever cared about.
Now here I was, six years later, with a man in my bed who I'd have sworn hated me when I went into the water, a blood-sister under the sea and a heart-sister in the bedroom down the hall, and two boys who might as well be my sons just one room down from her. Raj didn't technically live with us, since he was going to be the next King of Cats just as soon as his Regent decided he was ready to challenge Tybalt for the crown, but he was here more nights than not. He knew his responsibilities were going to take up a lot more of his time soon, and more, he knew that Quentin wasn't going to be with us forever. We all knew that.
I had mostly been able to not think about it until my wedding, which took place in the knowe of Quentin's parents, the current High King and Queen of the Westlands, aka the faerie bosses of North America. And yeah, the math on that makes him the current Crown Prince, meaning that one day not too far in the future-like within the next nine years-he'll have to go back to Toronto and take up his adult duties. Which will suck for all of us, but maybe for Raj most of all. I'm Quentin's knight and surrogate mother figure. Dean is Quentin's boyfriend. Raj, though . . . Raj is his brother.
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