The Empty Throne by Cayla KluverThe Empty Throne by Cayla Kluver

The Empty Throne

byCayla Kluver

Hardcover | January 27, 2015

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How do you find the strength to save your kingdom when you've lost everything?  

Anya has failed in her mission to bring Prince Zabriel back to the Faerie realm of Chrior so that he can ascend his rightful throne. Instead, Zabriel, her prince, cousin and dear friend, is standing trial for crimes committed under the false name William Wolfram Pyrite. Worst of all, the last possible heir to the Faerie throne is Illumina—the cousin Anya suspects of the foulest betrayal possible. 

In a desperate last attempt to put things right, Anya must partner with the unlikeliest of allies and venture into ever more dangerous situations if there is to be any hope of peace for her people.
Title:The Empty ThroneFormat:HardcoverDimensions:464 pages, 8.4 × 5.9 × 1.6 inPublished:January 27, 2015Publisher:HQN BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0373211031

ISBN - 13:9780373211036

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THE LOVELY PALE COLOR OF CHEESEI paced the floor of my room, tired and on edge, playing the memory of my mutilation over and over again in my head. Despite the fact I had spent the night in a fine inn in southern Tairmor, I hadn't slept at all. The charcoal drawing I had discovered in my cousin Illumina's notebook of the vicious attack that had cost me my wings had thrown me into turmoil. And the nightmarish image my mind had conjured of her as the woman who had stroked my hair where I lay bleeding on the ground had sent panic shooting through my veins. But in the light of day, my actual memory failed to provide any clarity about the woman, and my heart refused to consider any such possibility. Yet, in the deepest recesses of my brain, doubt ate away at me. "Anya? Anya, are you awake?"It wasn't the words, but the insistent knocking upon the door that pulled me from my circular thoughts. I frowned, not wanting to see anyone. My vision was blurred, my head ached, and nausea roiled my stomach. I wasn't even close to ready to face the world."Anya, I have to talk to you. It's important."This time I recognized the voice. It was Officer Tom Matlock, the young man with whom I had spent the previous evening. After escorting me to the room he had gallantly rented for me, he had promised to return midmorning to check on me, and it was he who now stood in the second-floor hallway wearing out his knuckles upon my door."Coming!"I tugged at my tunic to straighten it and ran a hand through my hair, my face flushing at the thought of the kiss he and I had exchanged but a few hours ago. The caress of his hands, the pressure of his lips against mine, and the strength and safety I had felt in his embrace had almost led me to invite him to stay the night. I shook myself like a dog expelling water from its coat—this was a moment I should not be reliving, especially since Davic, my promised, waited to receive word from me in the Faerie Realm.I crossed the floor to grant Tom entrance, but before I could even say hello, he pushed past me across the threshold. I stared aghast at him, for his actions were at odds with the gentlemanly manner I had come to expect. With a backward sweep of his leg, he kicked the door shut. The motion was enough to send my overworked sense of danger through the roof."What's wrong?" I demanded, shifting away from him. When my calves bumped into the bed, I sank down upon it, though he didn't seem to notice—his own agitation had spurred him to pace the floor almost literally in my footsteps."You asked me last night if you'd earned a wanted poster. Why did you want to know? And don't tell me it's because of the escape you and Shea made from Tairmor, the one I aided.Nothing further came from that. No, something happened while you were in Sheness. You have to tell me what it was.""Are you saying I'm on a wanted poster?" I managed, my voice strained as I struggled to process both the information he was revealing and the demand he was making."No, not a poster, and no reward offer, either. But the Lieutenant Governor has sent word to the Constabulary stations throughout the city to apprehend you on sight." Halting in front of me, he reached into a pocket of his red double-breasted uniform coat and produced a notice that contained my name, a physical description, and a sketch bearing a fair resemblance to my face. "This is being distributed, along with instructions to bring you to Luka at the Governor's mansion."I felt the blood drain from my face, and foreboding seemed to drip from my heart like condensation from the walls of a cave. This was not good news. I could only assume Luka Ivanova, the Governor's son and Commissioner of Law Enforcement in the Warckum Territory, had been told of the part I had played with my cousins in the raid on Evernook Island, the raid that had landed Zabriel, the Prince of the Fae, under his alternate identity of the pirate William Wolfram Pyrite, in human custody.I examined my hands, twining them together in my lap, and decided to sidestep Tom with an inquiry of my own."Have you heard anything about the arrest of pirates on the coast?"Tom nudged me under the chin with his knuckles, raising my gaze to his. "I need to know what happened in Sheness, Anya.""And I'd like an answer to my question."He sighed and ran a hand through his normally tidy brown hair, leaving it boyishly mussed. "The only news concerns a massive fire on Evernook Island, but I've heard nothing to suggest pirates were involved. And I haven't heard anything related to Pyrite, the most notorious of the lot."I nodded, feeling some measure of relief. While I had no idea what had become of Zabriel after his arrest, knowing only that he'd been wounded, the humans would surely laud his capture before sentencing him to a public execution for his crimes."Your turn," Tom prompted, tapping one foot.I adopted what I hoped was a reassuring smile and took a steadying breath. "I told you last night, I found my cousin Illumina and sent her home to the Faerie Realm.""And that's it? You didn't break her out ofjail? Or engage in any other illegal activities?" He hesitated, his gray eyes narrowing. "And you don't have any connection to these pirates you're asking about?"I clenched my jaw but gave no reply, unwilling to tell him the truth and unable to speak false. Fae nature was complex, allowing us to confuse, evade, and conceal but not to outright lie. While it was possible I was responding out of reflex and habit, my nature no longer truly Fae, this was a boundary I didn't want to test, unwilling to fully align myself with human characteristics.Exasperated, Tom threw his hands in the air and momentarily turned from me. Feeling that the tide was shifting, and not in my favor, I came to my feet, ready to face him down."You need to trust me, Anya," he said, but despite his words, he fingered the handcuffs he carried on his weapons belt."I could say the same. And that brings us to the question at hand, Officer Matlock. Do you intend to arrest me?"The dull ache in my temples that had almost faded away came back with a vengeance while I awaited his answer, for it felt as if the course of our relationship was about to be decided. No matter what, I couldn't be arrested, not with so much at stake."Will you voluntarily accompany me, or do I need to use these?"He patted the restraints, and I closed my eyes—though his answer was not unexpected, disappointment flowed through me. I gathered my resolve and perused him, calculating his size and strength in relation to mine. He was taller than me, fit, and well muscled, but he was also quite smitten, which might provide the advantage I needed."It seems I have no choice in the matter," I replied, giving him a withering stare. "So go ahead and act like the Constabulary you truly are."He grimaced, and I extended my arms. He took hold of one of my wrists, treating me more gently than protocol would have dictated, and I slammed my knee into his groin."Damn," he gasped, doubling over as he dropped to the floor.Though remorse welled within me, I was too far committed to retreat; nor was I about to make the same mistake he had and assume our friendship negated any threat. I raised my clasped hands, and he briefly met my eyes, leaving no doubt he knew what was coming."Sorry," I muttered before smacking my fists down on the back of his head. He collapsed, moaning, and I stripped him of his weapons belt, then flung it to the other side of the room. Unwilling to waste any time, I gathered my possessions and stowed them in my pack, my gaze continually drifting toward Tom where he writhed on the floor."Anya," he groaned, struggling to push into an upright position. "I didn't come alone, so you can't go out through the lobby. I'd suggest the window."I stared at him, brows furrowed; then my eyes widened in horror. "You weren't going to arrest me, were you?""I told you last night—I'm partial to redheads. I could never arrest you.""Then why let me believe otherwise? Whythis?" I gestured at him, for he was hunched over, one hand gingerly prodding his head."I couldn't just let you go this time, not with reinforcements right behind me. So I gave you the chance to spin the tale of how you got away. I didn't expect it to hurt so much, though. And I haven't even considered the wounding my pride is about to take."My emotions continued to swing, bringing me close to tears, and I bit my lower lip, using the pain from the pressure of my teeth to remain focused. Shaking slightly, I went to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek."Thank you. And I'm so sorry about—""Just get moving. The Constabularies downstairs are only going to wait so long before joining us."I nodded and threw on my cloak, then approached the window, glad to see the rain of the day before had stopped.A quick glance told me climbing was not a viable option. It was a straight drop to the ground, with no shutters or lamp brackets for handholds. I pulled out the rope Illumina had stashed in her pack—the pack I now carried, for she and I had inadvertently switched our travel satchels when she'd left a few days ago for Chrior to inform the Queen of Zabriel's arrest—and tied one end of it around the bedpost, securing the other about my waist. With a final glance at Tom, I opened the window and hopped up to balance on the ledge, then eased myself down. My feet had no sooner hit the cobblestones then the rope landed beside me, a money pouch attached."You're terrible at tying knots," Tom called, and I looked up to see his face framed in the window. "You're lucky you didn't get hurt. And I expect you to pay that money back someday."With a quick wave, I picked up the rope and money, then hastened out among those who frequented the establishments in this part of the capital. Though I had left the inn behind, I wasn't necessarily out of danger, and I panned the streets, watching for the red uniforms worn by the members of Tair-mor's peacekeeping force. Whether due to Luka Ivanova's desire to apprehend me or not, the Constabularies did seem to be out in large numbers, and I snugged the hood of my cloak close around my face to hide my most distinguishable features—my rich auburn hair and green eyes.Needing a place to think, I ducked into an alley across the street from a human shelter, knowing Luka's men generally left the homeless in peace. I crouched down among the damp heaps of trash, trying to ignore the cloying odors, and forced myself to concentrate on the only question that mattered. Why hadn't William Wolfram Pyrite's arrest been made known?I tugged at a few strands of my hair, sorting through the possibilities I could discern. Was Zabriel dead? No, for news of the demise of such a nefarious pirate would have been announced and celebrated, the only downside the lack of a public execution.Had he escaped? Highly unlikely, but if he had, Gwyneth Dementya, daughter of the owner of the largest shipping company in Sheness and paradoxically an associate of the pirates, would have gotten word to me at the Fae-mily Home. I had already checked once with Fi, the woman who ran the shelter for wounded and displaced Fae, since returning to Tair-mor, and no note had been delivered, though I would make sure to check again.Was my cousin being held for interrogation? I chewed on the inside of my cheek, the small bit of discomfort helping to focus and relieve my anxiety. This third possibility made the most sense. If Pyrite's arrest were proclaimed, there would be an immediate and massive outcry for his blood. The best way to stave off the lust for vengeance was to keep the news under wraps until he could be made to confess his deeds and reveal information about the other members of his crew.I banged my head back against the alley wall, angry at the conclusions I was reaching. Angry, if I was honest with myself, at Zabriel and his overabundance of confidence, stubbornness, and pride. He had fled the Faerie Realm two years ago at the age of fifteen, and he had never revealed his whereabouts to his mother. Nor had he attempted to make contact with the human side of his family. Half-Fae and half-human—the son of Queen Ubiqua and William Ivanova, the Governor's deceased elder son—he had not wanted to be claimed by either faction, much less by both. And yet he had chosen a lifestyle that was destined to put the two worlds on a collision course.Nervous energy on the rise, I came to my feet, the thought of Zabriel confined somewhere—hungry, cold, injured, and undergoing torture—almost more than I could bear. While I felt certain his life would be spared if Governor Ivanova were told his real identity, it was Queen Ubiqua who had decided to keep news of her son's birth from his grandfather. It was not my place to reveal such a long-kept and volatile secret, but if worse came to worst and my cousin was slated for execution, I'd divulge everything, whatever the cost.But it shouldn't have to come to that. Queen Ubiqua was no doubt on her way to Tairmor by now, and Zabriel could tell the Constabularies who he was anytime he wanted. The best thing for me to do was wait—and stay out of the Lieutenant Governor's reach for the time being. Putting two royal heirs into human custody did not seem wise.I stepped around the piles of trash to peer into the street, and immediately drew back, frantically tucking any escaped strands of hair inside my hood. If anything, the number of red uniformed men in the vicinity of the human shelter had increased while I'd sat ruminating. My heart pounded, for my straits had degenerated in another way—a pair of Constabularies was stopping the ragged citizens of Tairmor's underbelly at the shelter's entrance. One of the men appeared to be asking questions, while the other made entries into a logbook of the sort used by the guards at the gates into the city.Why would the Constabularies be doing such a thing?Would they really go to all this trouble just to find me? Feeling as if a noose were tightening around my neck, I hurried down the street in the opposite direction, wishing I had the ability to vanish into thin air.Believing the search for me would be concentrated within the poorer neighborhoods, I headed toward the River Kappa and the deep ravine it cut from northeast to southwest on its journey through Tairmor, effectively dividing the city in half. I walked until my feet ached and my stomach begged for the breakfast it had so far been denied, pleased to see my assumption had been correct: the number of Constabularies dwindled with the increasing wealth of the residential areas.I crossed the street, intending to purchase a bit of bread from a bakery, and passed a lamppost to which a brightly colored notice had been plastered. I glanced at it, then came to a full stop, daring to trust to luck.Aleksandra Donetsky's Hair Care Salon, I read, examining the illustrations of well-to-do women with highly coifed hair. Offering Perfumes, Curling Fluids, Soaps, and for the first time, Dyes—safe and odorless, in shades of Brown, Black, Golden and Chestnut, Medical Certificates availableI skimmed to the bottom of the poster where an address was printed—an address on the same street upon which I stood. I smiled, feeling almost giddy, and hurried on my way, my stomach no longer of concern. Aleksandra Donetsky might hold the key to restoring my freedom of movement within the city.