Death stalks Seth MacGregor's clan in their otherworld exile. Kate NicNiven is close to ultimate victory, and she is determined that nothing will keep her from it. Not even the thing that took her soul: the horror that lurks in the sea caves. But Kate still needs Seth's son Rory, and his power over the Veil. And she'll go to any lengths to get him. Seth's own soul is rotting from the wound inflicted by Kate, and survival for his loved ones seems all he can hope for. But might a mortal threat to his brother's daughter force him to return to his own world to challenge Kate? And will Rory go with him? Because Rory suspects there's a darkness trapped in the Veil, a darkness that wants to get out. But only one Sithe knows how near it is to getting its way: Seth's bound lover, the witch Finn. Nobody gets forever. But some are willing to try...
From critically acclaimed author Gillian Philip, Icefall is the final installment in the Rebel Angels series.
About the Author
GILLIAN PHILIP was born in Glasgow, lived for twelve years in Barbados, and now lives in the north of Scotland with her husband, twin children, three dogs, two sociopathic cats, a slayer hamster, three chickens, and a lot of nervous fish.
Read an Excerpt
Rebel Angels Book Four
By Gillian Philip
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2013 Gillian Philip
All rights reserved.
The sound was so soft, I'd never have heard it if a breeze had stirred. The faintest whisper, like leaf against leaf, or steel against leather.
I hesitated, glancing behind me, hitching my backpack higher on my shoulder. I was probably imagining it. I had things to do, books to read, prospectuses to study. This was my final school year and I was impatient to know where my life was going. I didn't have time for getting spooked by shadows.
All the same.
Turning, I scanned the street. Broad autumn daylight. Cool and overcast, it was true, but weak shafts of sun filtered through onto cracked concrete and corrugated iron. This was the dingy end of town, the deserted end. No reason that alley between the warehouses should look so dark. No reason, except my imagination.
Except I was fairly sure that was a footstep.
Nothing moved. Shadow leaked out of the alleyway, pooled between a parked car and a lorry: so very dark, when there wasn't much sun. I couldn't even hear a gull. Late afternoon and even the shabby corner pubs were quiet. Weird. Like being sealed in a capsule of stillness and fear.
I shrugged. Sniffed. Walked on. Stopped again.
The silence wasn't empty. There was something inside it, something that could think and hate, something that could move. Something that would move, when it chose to.
I stood quite still. I could feel the cold fear in my spine, now, trying to make me run. I mustn't run.
Too late to call Rory. And anyway, did I want to? If this was anything more sinister than some suicidally ill-judged piss-take from cousin Lauren and her pals, I might only draw him into a trap. He was the one they mustn't have. I was dispensable. In the long run.
Not that I thought much of that idea. In the short run.
I showed my teeth. There was still the chance this was only Lauren, and I didn't want to make a fool of myself. Didn't want to overreact or anything.
I didn't think it was Lauren.
'Come on, then.'
My words echoed off blank walls.
'I said come on. If you're hard enough.'
That was fine. That was fine, my voice had come out steady. It wouldn't do that again, not now that a figure had stepped out of the alleyway. A woman, I guessed from the silhouette moving forward: tall, and kind of elegant. Yes, a woman: pale hair twisted into a braid, mouth curved in an apologetic smile. Sword held lightly, almost casually, and now she flipped its hilt so that the blade was held high, and drew it to her face in salute.
Lovely, I thought. Honestly, very graceful. With luck she'd do the whole thing as beautifully as that. Fast and painless.
Of course, I'd rather she didn't do it at all. Letting my backpack slip from my shoulder, I swung it in a threatening arc.
'Hannah Falconer McConnell.' It wasn't a question.
'Come along, now,' said the pale-haired woman. 'Don't make a fuss.'
'I will, though.'
'Please don't make this any harder.'
'Uh-huh. Right.' I lashed the backpack at her.
Pathetic. The bag was heavy, the movement clumsy. Stepping neatly back, the woman swung her sword, severing the strap. Lunging, I snatched it as it fell and raised it like a shield. Even more pathetic, but I'd like to have heard a better suggestion.
'You're being very silly,' the woman told me.
I didn't dignify that with a reply. Anyway, I only had time to thrust the bag forward to catch the swinging blade. It thunked through canvas and into textbooks and notepads and glossy university brochures.
Homework has always had its uses.
Sucking her teeth in exasperation, the woman tugged her sword loose as she grabbed the backpack with her free hand and wrenched it from my grip.
'Now, shush. Let's get it done. Quickly, I promise.'
I stumbled back as my bag was flung to the ground. I don't know what was stronger, the disbelief or the terror. This had happened so fast. I'd been walking home, pissed off at the thought of having to study at the local redbrick next year because you can't leave here, not on your own, you're not going out of our sight. And now I was never going to take a degree anywhere, because I was going to die.
This was not how I'd planned my life or my evening. I'd have liked to run, but there didn't seem any point.
'Shush,' soothed the woman again, and drew back her blade on a line with my neck.
At the furthest point of her lazy backswing, she hesitated, and frowned, and glanced down.
My breathing was high-pitched, and my whole body was shaking, but I looked too. A sharp point of steel had appeared between the woman's ribs, just to the left of her sternum, and as she growled in astonishment, a sinewy arm went round her neck and jolted her backwards. The blade tip poked further out of her chest; I watched it, mesmerised.
Her shock had turned to rage, too late. As she tried to turn, the silver light in her eyes faded. She dropped to her knees, her sword scraped and then clanged on the pavement. With a last irritated look at me, she pitched forward onto her face and died.
The man who stood over the corpse tugged at his sword. It wouldn't come loose, and he had to put his foot on the woman's back and jerk it hard out of her ribs. It came out with a horrible sucking thwick that made me want to be sick. Nothing altruistic. I was thinking it would have made the same noise coming out of me.
My saviour raised an eyebrow.
~ That'll teach her to keep an open mind.
Someone was breathing hard and very fast. It wasn't the newcomer, the man with the neat goatee, the unruly black hair and the brutal facial scars. Presumably it wasn't the dead tart. Must be me, then.
Taking a deep breath, I smiled.
'Sionnach,' I said. 'Have you got nothing better to do than be my bodyguard?'
He shrugged, glanced down at the corpse. ~ No.
He frowned again.
~ You okay?
No, I'm about to fall over and I think I want to cry. 'I'm fine. Fine.' I let out a shuddering breath.
'You shouldn't walk home alone,' he said aloud. 'Where's Rory?'
'In the library. He's still got loads of catching up to do.'
'Well, we need him. Call him.'
Seeing as I'd been dying to, I did what I was told. Of course, Sionnach didn't give me time to catch my breath or rearrange my hair. When the love of my life appeared, running to my rescue, I was grunting and sweating from the effort of helping drag a corpse into a handy doorway. Sionnach let go of the woman's limp arm and straightened, eyeing Rory accusingly as he skidded to a halt.
'Sionnach.' He was out of breath.
Sionnach shook his head. 'Hannah was alone. Not again, hear?'
'No. Right. I know. God, Hannah, I'm sorry.'
I pushed a damp rat-tail of hair behind my ear and smiled, trying to look cool, so glad to see him the fear of death was already slipping off me like snakeskin. I liked that tight knot of love in my gut. It let me know I was still a human being, and being hunted down in an alleyway wasn't all there was to it.
Rory's face split in a grin. It was pretty funny that he still got bossed around by Sionnach, now that he was an inch taller than him. Tall, feral, and full of mischief: an overgrown Lost Boy. His bright hair had darkened in the last couple of years, his face had grown thinner and harder, and his grey eyes had the shadowy glint of his father's. But he still had the elfish beauty I'd fallen for on the most chaotic day of my life. Best of all, he still loved me. I hoped he always would. My Rory Bhan. My one-time lover. My cousin.
Sionnach coughed. 'When you're quite ready.'
Rory looked abruptly away, and I forced a pout to stop myself laughing too. I liked to hear Sionnach being sarcastic. There hadn't been much of the old Sionnach in the last three years. Not since he lost the other half of himself, not since Alasdair Kilrevin put a sword blade through his twin.
He went still, raising his head. 'Someone's coming. Do it now.'
Shocked, Rory said, 'What?'
~ Do it.
Obediently Rory reached for thin air and the fragile thing that was hidden in it. Sionnach's nerves were contagious. My own heart, which I reckoned had stopped five minutes ago when it got stuck in my throat, crashed back into my chest and into overdrive. Delayed shock, maybe, but it made my head spin. The fear was becoming panic, because I knew Sionnach was right—he always was—but Rory was struggling with the Veil.
Beyond the defences of a Sithe fortress, that was unheard of.
'Rory. What's wrong?'
Rory's fingertips scrabbled, like he was trying to grab glass. He swore. I could feel his panic growing.
'I thought it was thinning,' I hissed.
'It is. It was!'
'Come on. Veil or no Veil, somebody's going to notice a corpse.'
'Yeah, no kidding.'
Sionnach said nothing, only stared into the shadows.
This was stupid. It was meant to be withering, but the Veil had picked a fine time to get its strength back. Rory was getting no grip on it at all. For an instant he looked completely bewildered, but he clenched his fists, and his face darkened.
He had that cold look of his father's now. Flattening his fingers he thrust them forward like a blade, snatching hold of something I couldn't see.
Sionnach took a step towards the alleyway. ~ Whoever it is, they're close.
With a growl, Rory hauled on his handful of Veil, and it began to give: like tearing oilcloth. He put his other hand to the rip, dragged it remorselessly wider. The sinews stood out on his wrist with the effort.
He grunted as the gash widened at last. Let go, and stood up. He froze.
Then he stumbled back, and would have fallen on his backside if he hadn't crashed into me.
'Rory ...' I began.
A tremor ran through his skin, and he'd gone very cold. I looked up and past him, towards the tear in the Veil. Something oozed from the gash, all chill and black fear. Instinctively I shuffled backwards away from it, dragging Rory.
For a moment he let himself be tugged away, then his muscles hardened and he wriggled out of my grip. On all fours he crawled back towards the hole, then clambered to his feet and seized the Veil's torn edges in both hands. Even Sionnach was staring at Rory now, the intruder forgotten.
'What's that?' he said. There was fear in his hoarse voice.
Rory couldn't spare him an answer. The gap in the Veil couldn't be more than a metre long, but I could just make out its distorted shadow where the weak sunlight caught it. It sagged inwards, bulging, like it was going to rip further.
I'd never felt anything like it, not in all the many times it had given way to Rory. It always obeyed him, but now I had a feeling the Veil had rebelled for the first time. You'd almost think that at its heart, caught in the membrane, there was a trapped darkness that wanted out.
I'd never been afraid of the Veil between the worlds, never. Even the first time Rory tore it for me, four summers ago that felt like decades, I'd been only gobsmacked, and mistrustful, and rationally angry. I'd never felt this lump of fear in my belly. Whatever the darkness was, it didn't fascinate me. I only wanted it gone, but I was terribly afraid it wouldn't go. The gap yawed, sagged further, stretched like a living thing.
We'd taken it by surprise. The Veil, I mean. The thought struck me, unexpected and bizarre. We'd woken something that hadn't expected to wake; it had been disturbed unawares, but it wasn't ready to explode from its restraining membrane.
And just as well, was my instinctive thought.
Rory dragged the edges together and stood rigid, clutching the gap shut. I couldn't so much see that it was closed as sense it, because the strange coldness was gone like a sigh.
It seemed an age before Rory loosened his fingers and stepped back.
I took a breath to say And what are we going to do with the dead tart now, but I never got the chance. Rory reached out, almost thoughtlessly, and tore the Veil again.
It ripped like gossamer. He used a light forefinger and he didn't even have to take a breath.
I gaped at him, but Sionnach wasn't struck dumb. He grabbed the dead woman's arm and hauled her to the new rip in the Veil, bundling and shoving her through. Getting a hold of myself, I helped him, pushing the woman's dangling foot through the gap as Sionnach threw her sword after her. With no fuss at all, Rory clasped the Veil's edges and sealed it, and she was gone.
* * *
The three of us were panting for breath, staring at the space she'd filled, when the air was shattered by a tinny blast of unidentifiable R&B.
Sionnach turned. The music died abruptly; a phone clattered to the paving stones. As we gaped, a manicured hand shot round the corner to grab for it.
Nonchalantly Sionnach took a pace closer and trod hard on the hand. There was a yelp of angry pain as he bent to pick up the phone, turning it in his hand, thumbing the touchscreen with interest.
'Come out,' he said. 'Lauren.' He tilted an eyebrow at me.
'Aw, hell,' muttered Rory. I swore more creatively.
She stumbled to her feet, clutching her bruised hand, glaring at all three of us. Not a muscle of Sionnach's face moved now, and I thought: Uh-oh. When his hand went to the hilt of the short sword hidden inside his leather jacket, Rory put a hand on the man's arm. Sionnach scowled.
I forced a smile. 'Hi, Lauren.'
Rory's breath sighed out of him. 'Sionnach, watch where you're putting your feet. Y'okay, Lauren?'
'Fine,' she spat.
'What did you just see, Lauren?' asked Sionnach.
'Nothing. Like I'd be interested. I wasn't even looking.'
'You broke my best nail.' She folded her arms aggressively. 'Although that's nothing compared to you dragging that wom—'
This time Rory had to shove in front of Sionnach, seize his jacket, and pull it back across the emerging blade. He gave Lauren a tight smile. 'The drunk one?'
'Drunk one,' I said.
'She didn't look drunk to—'
Sidestepping Rory, Sionnach offered Lauren her phone back, his lips tightening in an almost-smile. The girl just stood there, glowering nervously.
Sionnach's unconvincing smirk stayed in place as he thrust the phone forward again. I knew he was still wondering if he ought to kill Lauren, so this time I shouldered him sideways. Now Rory and I together were blocking him quite efficiently, but I knew the man could snake past us fast enough if he felt like it.
'In the middle of the afternoon and all,' said Rory. 'Dead. Drunk.'
Lauren eyed us, mistrust fairly oozing out of her. 'Where did she go?'
'I dunno.' Rory shrugged and pointed hopefully at the grubby stained-glass window of the nearest pub. 'In there? Gosh, I hope she doesn't come back!'
Oh, very convincing. Not. I gave Lauren my sweetest smile. 'I'm sure she won't be back.'
I knew fine Lauren wasn't even half-convinced, but Sionnach hadn't taken his eyes off her.
Working on the girl's brain, just like Rory. Between the pair of them, Lauren didn't stand a chance. At last she rolled her eyes and blew out a sigh.
'Stupid drunk.' She nibbled crossly at her ragged nail. 'She made me break my best—'
'Well,' said Rory. 'All over. Want to come back with us? Have a go on my Xbox?'
~ Rory. Sionnach had stiffened, and he was giving him the kind of glower that used to be reserved for when Rory was a young brat and had a habit of running away.
~ Sionnach, said Rory, glaring back. ~ It's not a problem.
~ Yes. It is.
I'd have backed Sionnach up, but I was unnerved. ~ Sionnach, she saw something. We can't just let her—
But Lauren heard none of that. She was still watching Rory with narrowed eyes. 'Have you got Grand Theft Auto?'
'No, but he's got the latest Call of Duty.' I back-kicked Sionnach's ankle. 'Yeah, come on back with us.'
'Well, that's a first.' Lauren almost grinned at me. 'Thanks.'
Sionnach's anger was coming off him in radioactive waves, but it was an offer Lauren couldn't refuse and I wasn't about to withdraw it. She was my cousin, even if not the one I was in love and lust with, and it was undeniably odd that I'd never invited her back to my new place. After all, I hadn't bitten her face for at least three years, and she hadn't gouged my eyeballs. Maybe we were both older and wiser; maybe it was just that we didn't have to share a bathroom any more, or indeed a house.
Excerpted from Icefall by Gillian Philip. Copyright © 2013 Gillian Philip. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Sithe and the Full-Mortals,
Bloodstone & Icefall,
Rebel Angels Notes,
About the Author,
Tor Books by Gillian Philip,
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