It's tough being the foretold savior of your race. Rory MacGregor, kept a virtual prisoner in his own father's dun and hunted by the Sithe queen, needs a break now and thenand what better fun than tearing the Veil no one else can tear and escaping to the Otherworld?
In that dangerous Otherworld, Hannah Falconer is as trapped by circumstance as the strange wild Sithe boy whose horse nearly kills her. When Rory tricks her into crossing the Veil and entering his world, she's sure it can't be any worse than her usual home life.
Meanwhile, Seth MacGregor is fighting to keep his clan safe from the malevolent queen Kate. When an attack comes after years of stalemate, he is shocked to discover who is leading it...and who else is conspiring against him.
Wolfsbane, the third novel in Gillian Philip's Rebel Angels series is enthralling and suspenseful, with a range of characters appealing to every age.
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 three
By Gillian Philip
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2012 Gillian Philip
All rights reserved.
So all I had to do was tame the kelpie.
Any self-respecting Sithe could master a water horse, or so my father never tired of telling me. If he could do it, anyone could do it. And he was a good bit younger than me when he bonded with his blue roan. And as my late but sainted Uncle Conal (who I don't even remember) once said, there's nothing like it. (I may not remember him, but I'm limitlessly familiar with everything he ever said.)
Anyway, truly, I didn't see what the problem was. Neither did my father.
Perhaps that was the problem.
Seth was in one of those high moods of his, happy and hyper-confident. Who ever said kelpies were easy? Not even him, not before today.
Still, maybe it was the weather, but his mood was infectious. The two of us rode out from the dun across a moor gilded with dew and spangled with spider-webs and misty sunlight. The hills in the distance looked too ephemeral to be real, but I knew that as the sun rose higher the day would be diamond-hot. My father hadn't wiped the grin off his face since he dragged me out of bed before dawn. And dawn came bloody early at this time of year.
'Language,' he said absently.
I gave him a half-hearted scowl, and blocked my mind. He laughed.
'I hope you're not expecting too much,' I told him.
Yes, he was. He always did.
The little loch was in its summer mood, innocuous and enticing, looking smaller than it truly was because of the thick growth of reeds and grasses blurring its edges. Seth rode his horse in up to its fetlocks, let the reins fall loose on its neck. He'd left the blue roan behind; no point provoking the kelpie with one of its own kind, he said. The bay gelding he'd brought in its place looked none too happy about being expendable. It tossed its head, pawing the water nervously.
Seth patted its neck, murmuring to it absently as he watched the rippling surface. 'Go on, then, Rory. Get on with it.'
My own horse didn't want to go as close to the water and I didn't blame it. I slid from its back and hooked its reins over a broken stump, then waded into the shallows. The water wasn't even that cold. A moorhen appeared out of the reeds, cocked its red face-shield at me, then vanished without urgency into a clump of bulrushes.
'I don't think it's around,' I said.
'Not yet, it isn't.' There was an edge of impatience in his voice. 'Call it.'
I dropped my block, focused, let my mind sink under the silver glittering skin of the loch. The song in my head was familiar enough; I'd learned straight from my father's brain the way to sing in silence to a water horse, and I'd practised last night in the stillness of the dun till I almost hypnotised myself.
Seth leaned forward on his horse, and I realised he was holding his breath.
The surface trembled, stirred. The marsh birds stopped singing. I knew what to expect, but when the creature's head breached the water I still stumbled back.
It was all muscle, gloss and savagery. Its jaws were open, ears laid back, its grey mane matted with weed. Loch-water cascaded from its arched neck and its forelock as it twisted its head to stare at me with eyes as black and impenetrable as a shark's.
We looked at each other for an infinite moment, and then it lurched up and forward, squealing and plunging into the shallows, its hooves sending spray exploding upwards. When it was hock-deep, it halted, glaring.
At least my father couldn't interfere. He was too busy swearing at the bay gelding, which was backing and snorting with fear. By the time he'd calmed it, the kelpie was so close to me I could feel its hot jetting breath on my cheek. It pulled back its lips, grazed its teeth along my hair.
I thought my heart was going to stop.
'Keep calling it,' Seth barked. 'Don't let it in your head yet.'
That was easy enough; almost automatic, so long as he would quit distracting me. In fact I doubted I was ever going to get the song out of my brain. Of course, just keeping the kelpie at a mental distance wouldn't stop it killing me. If it felt that way inclined.
I raised a trembling hand to the crest of its neck. Its mane was silk in my fingers; hard to imagine it could lock tight and hold me. Inside my head the song had become a dull constant chant, embedded enough to let me concentrate on the creature, the feel of it. Oh gods, the warmth and power beneath that cloud-white skin. For the first time this wasn't something I was doing for my father; for the first time I really, truly ached for this horse.
I closed my fist round its mane, close to its withers. I shifted my weight to spring.
It jerked aside, violently. Then it screamed and slammed its head into my chest. The breath was knocked out of me and lights exploded behind my eyelids, but I staggered and kept my footing, and rebalanced myself in time to see it lunge, teeth bared.
I threw myself flat onto the sodden ground, felt its hooves hit the water on either side of my head, drenching me as it bolted. I didn't see it plunge back into the loch, but I heard the gigantic splash, and the panicked clatter of waterfowl.
I leaned on my elbows, mired in my father's silence as much as in the muddy water. I did not want to raise my head. Ever.
After an endless wordless time, he blew out a breath.
'Well,' he said. 'I suppose it had just eaten. Luckily.'
There were things my brother had told me about the hideous, perilous otherworld beyond the Veil. Honestly, I sometimes wondered how it would be to live there. I sometimes dreamed of a place where they called social services if your parents sent you to school with the wrong kind of gloves.
I pushed myself up out of the bog and brushed off pond-muck as well as I could. 'Sorry,' I muttered.
'Don't worry,' he said shortly, pulling his horse's head round. 'Obviously untameable.'
'I thought there was no such thing,' I snapped.
'Obviously there is.'
What he meant was, if his son couldn't tame it, nobody could. And I'd have liked to tame it, to prove him wrong, but I knew I was never going to. And this time, as I hauled myself onto my horse's back, I made sure my block was just perfect; not because I was afraid of Seth knowing I feared failure, but because I didn't want him to know how much his disappointment was going to matter to me.
It's not that I was unduly afraid of kelpies; I was used to the blue roan, after all. I could ride the blue roan alone, without my father there. Frankly, that pissed him off. I shouldn't have been able to do it, but then there were a lot of things I shouldn't have been able to do. It didn't stop me doing them.
Except that the one thing I really wanted to do, the one thing that would have sent me soaring in my father's estimation, was the one thing I couldn't do. I glared resentfully at the loch and wiped mud off my face.
'Listen,' he said at last, as our horses ambled back towards the dun. 'Forget about it. It doesn't matter. It's not as if it's compulsory.'
'If it wasn't,' I pointed out coldly, 'you wouldn't have said that three times.'
'Jesus, Rory. I won't try and make you feel better, then.'
'I don't need you to make me feel better.' Liar. If I could never be the fighter he was, at least I could have been his equal on a kelpie. Or not, it seemed.
'We're not in a frigging competition. You're my son, not my sparring partner.'
My face burned. 'You weren't meant to hear that. Butt out.'
'So raise a better block.'
I did. 'Just let me come alone next time. It's you that puts me off.'
I didn't look at him for a bit, because he hadn't replied. I didn't want to know how much that last barb had hurt him. Not that he'd think it showed.
'Forget that,' he bit out at last. 'You know fine why you don't get to wander about on your own.'
'I'm fourteen years old. When are you planning to let me grow up?'
'When you start acting it? Hey!'
I'd put my heels to the grey's flanks and I was already way ahead of him by the time he could think about coming after me. As it happened, he didn't. I was heading for the dun and he knew it; and he probably wanted time away from me, just as much as I needed to get away from him. All he did was yell a warning after me.
'You can't tame your own, doesn't mean you're going near mine.'
Let's see how far he'd go to stop me.
She wasn't accustomed to anger. Fierce quick flares of it, yes, that were easily assuaged with a flogging or a summary execution or, if she was fond of the offender, a simple grovelling apology; but not this savage gnawing fury that swelled in her belly each day like an unwanted child, immovable and unforgettable. Laszlo, she knew, would have liked to plant a real infant there, in some forlorn hope that it would cement his position, but there was a vanishingly small chance of that, so his insecurity was only a minor irritation, and his constant attentions were still a perfectly pleasant distraction.
Kate trailed a fingertip down his spine, making him stir and moan softly. Sprawled in the tangle of sheets, he woke, turning his head clumsily to face her, and smiled.
'Things to do, people to see,' she sang lightly.
'Not yet.' He reached for her, drawing her back down. For a few seconds she considered giving in, but at last tugged her arm from his grip and swung her legs down off the bed. His eyes followed her hungrily.
'What does bloody Cuthag want anyway?' he grumbled. 'I don't like the man.'
'Liking him isn't necessary. I've never known a fighter so reliable. Now get up.'
Something rebellious flashed in his eyes, but he conquered it, sensibly. Kate gave him a special forgiving smile as he hauled himself out of bed and seized his clothes. Rebellion she didn't mind, so long as it was brief and ultimately regretted. It was the other kind that froze her heart to an icy ball in her chest, that kept her awake and silently raging in the smallest hours of the night.
She was queen by consent. She was chosen, by acclamation of the huge majority of her people. She was loved; and all she ever required was love: love and loyalty. Her best interests matched her people's, however some of them might doubt it. Doubt didn't matter. It was their trust she asked.
Love and loyalty and trust, then. And some couldn't give her even those.
'MacGregor skulks like a stoat in that dun of his. He defies me, he kills my fighters, he spreads lies in all the villages. For all the respect he shows me, he might as well climb on his battlements and present me with his naked arse.'
'I thought he had.'
She slapped him, but not so hard as to seed a lasting resentment. 'He thinks he can go on like this indefinitely, keeping his son from me, denying me my hold on the Sgath. I will not tolerate it much longer.'
Laszlo touched his cheek where the red mark of her hand was already fading. 'Go to all-out war and you'll lose more fighters than you can afford. His dun lands are like a bloody ring of steel. His clann have minds like iron walls, you told me so yourself.'
'Most of them.' The soft grey silk, she decided, taking up the dress: lovely as morning, but with a decided suggestion of lethal spiderweb. 'And he draws in more allies every day with that filthy tongue of his. I'd like to cut it out with hot shears.'
He shrugged. 'Say the word and I'll lead an attack anyway. We'll lose a lot of fighters, but he'll be dead within a month, I promise.'
'I don't want him dead, I want him destroyed. Surely even a full-mortal can understand the difference.'
'Then keep playing the long game,' murmured Laszlo, kissing her neck. 'I thought that was what you liked best. You with all the time in the world.'
Would anyone, ever, now or in her limitless future, understand how it was for her? Did anyone ever stop to appreciate the irony? That she, with all the time in the world, should race against time and watch her prize limp ever just ahead of her and out of reach? The one thing she wanted, more than anything, was the thing that tottered feebly towards its own death, and it terrified her that she might never catch it. Sgath. Sgath, you tattered rotting skin of a Veil. Do not die before I can kill you. She might not catch it in time, she who was out of time. Out with time. Kate wondered if he'd laughed, that creature in the deep, deep dark, as she stood there trembling and made her bargain with a thing that was solid shadow.
Soul-Eater. I've taken as many souls as you, since you took my Name from me. And it's never enough. Did you know that? Of course you did. You knew about the hunger that never dies.
The hunger that never dies.
Like me ...
It was worth it. It was worth it. Life without the Name that aged and killed it. She could not kill, that was part of the deal; but there would always be those who would do that for her. The strength of her mind was a physical energy, not some feeble linking empathy. And when she dragged the soul and the power from a living man, she felt it always, just for an instant: the spark and fire that burned to nothing, the brief thrill and ecstasy of it. It was enough. Better those fleeting tastes and touches of mortality than to actually end her days, and turn to dust and ashes.
But without the Sgath, without the destruction that she must wreak on it to get what she wanted, it had been pointless. How many times had she wished that benighted prophet alive, so she could kill her again? Destroy the Veil, and the NicNiven would have all she desired; let it die or survive, and nothing would be hers.
So much given to you, Soul-Eater, and all for nothing? No.
Laszlo must not see the shudder that quaked through her. Kate turned from him, and snatched up a silver-and-sapphire necklace. She clutched it hard, the elaborate carving biting into her flesh, till her fingers were still once more.
'Time runs short even for me, where the Veil is concerned. There's the long game, and there's the stalemate.' Her equilibrium restored, she locked the silver around her throat. 'Cuthag says he has something that might break the impasse. I'm willing to listen.'
Laszlo was already strapping on his sword; she did not deign to wait for him as she swept out of the room, but she heard him follow on her heels quickly enough. He wouldn't want to be absent, of course, when she spoke with the man waiting for her in her audience room beyond the Great Hall.
Cuthag bent his head in a slight bow as she entered. He could be as oily as his slicked-back black hair, but she liked his deviousness and she liked his unswerving loyalty even better. She did not give him a glance as she walked past him, her footsteps echoing; only when she seated herself in the chair on the high dais did she grace him with a direct stare. The room was deserted except for Cuthag, and that was as it should be in these circumstances. If his idea was something her people would not tolerate, it was best that none of them knew about it.
Laszlo halted at her side; she didn't have to glance at him to know he was glowering. 'Cuthag, my dear one. You often know how to please me. Let's see if you can keep it up.'
There. That was a satisfying one in the eye for Laszlo. Cuthag knew it too; he gave her a grin that exposed all his teeth.
'The proposal's not entirely mine, Kate. I was approached by a ... mutual acquaintance. Someone we both once knew.'
'A blast from the past, as they say. How charming.' She smiled. 'And who is this old friend?'
'I used the word acquaintance advisedly, Kate.' Cuthag actually laughed, and she raised an eyebrow. 'I hope you'll hear me out.'
She drew herself up in her chair, frowning. 'You've brought him, I take it? Or her?'
'Him. Yes, he's here.' Cuthag looked nervous for the first time as he turned on his heel and looked to the door in the shadows. Silver flame-light flickered on a tall man in a leather coat, bearded and ragged-haired, who took three paces into the room before dropping on one knee.
The silence stretched. One second. Three. Five.
'You?' Kate's verdict, when she gave it, was contemptuous. 'Not again. Cuthag, you disappoint me.'
The bearded man didn't rise, but his gaze on hers was so confident it was almost cocky. 'Poor old Cuthag. Give him a chance. And me.'
'I've given you more chances than I care to count, Alasdair.'
Laszlo's intake of breath was audible. 'Is this —'
'Indeed it is.' Kate stared idly at the ceiling. 'Which knee was it last time, Alasdair? I hope you're alternating, or you'll wear one of them out.'
Excerpted from Wolfsbane by Gillian Philip. Copyright © 2012 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fantastic!!! New characters have been introduced, my question from the last book was answered.