Two weeks after the door to Faery closed once more, Asalin is still in turmoil. Emyr and Wyatt are hunting Derek and Clarke themselves after having abolished the corrupt Guard, and are trying to convince the other kingdoms to follow their lead. But when they uncover the hidden truth about the witches' real place in fae society, it becomes clear the problems run much deeper than anyone knew. And this may be more than the two of them can fix.
As Wyatt struggles to learn control of his magic and balance his own needs with the needs of a kingdom, he must finally decide on the future he wants—before he loses the future he and Emyr are building…
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Excerpted from THE FAE KEEPER by H.E. Edgmon, © 2022 by H.E. Edgmon, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.
Two weeks after my boyfriend dies in my arms, we go to the woods in the middle of the night to close a portal to another world.
Emyr—my boyfriend, now less dead and more of a king— brushes his knuckles against the back of my hand as we weave through honey locusts, moonlight making puppets of our shadows. He doesn’t say anything, but there’s no need to.
Briar and Jin, walking side by side a few feet ahead, fill the silence for us, their yellow and purple energies batting back and forth at each other as they do.
“So, we’ll do this one, and then—”
“Right, these three, yeah. Are we sure about—”
“I don’t know. Maybe we should go back to—”
“I was just thinking that, yeah, and I was also thinking—”
Their conversation is both about me and not, and I only manage to half follow it. They’re still knocking out the logistics of what we’re about to do, making last-minute decisions on the sigils they’re going to use to close the door to Faery.
“What if it doesn’t work?” Briar asks, and she’s still talking to Jin, but her eyes meet mine when I look her way. I can only face her dark, tender stare without an answer.
Because I don’t have one.
This isn’t the first time we’ve tried closing the door. Briar, Emyr, and I have been out here a few times on our own. But Briar and I can barely come up with an ounce of magic between us, and Emyr is a fae Healer. None of us is exactly perfect for the job.
“It will work,” Tessa snaps, pushing past Emyr and me to force her way to the front of the group. “So, that’s a pointless question.”
My charming sister. We brought her into this endeavor the same time we told Jin, once we realized we were never going to fix the problem on our own. Tonight’s the first night we’ll try all together.
And it has to be tonight.
In the morning, Briar leaves Asalin, the fae kingdom hidden in upstate New York, for her home in Texas. She and her mother, Nadua, are going to start tracking down their family’s changeling contacts, gathering more information on the secret network of their people around the world. Changelings keep their true nature hidden, pretending to be human to avoid fae eyes, not wanting to face the same mistreatment the witches do.
But Emyr is king now, and he wants something better. With Briar and Nadua on his side, maybe we can make allies out of these creatures we didn’t even know existed.
Which would be fucking great, because allies are something we’re desperately in need of. Briar might be leaving Asalin tomorrow, but so are the rest of us. Emyr, Tessa, Jin, and I are heading to North Carolina, to follow up on a lead on the whereabouts of Derek and Clarke Pierce.
The sibling duo who killed Emyr. Who then escaped from Asalin and went on the run.
Under normal circumstances, hunting down his own assassins would not be the king’s job. But since one of Emyr’s first royal decrees was to finally shut down the Guard—the corrupt fae police force, previously led by Derek—in a move that wildly pissed off most of his kingdom, and the people he trusts not to murder him (again) are basically limited to the five of us in the woods right now…
Well, we don’t have a lot of options.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be fine.” I am trying to get better at sounding all confident and positive about things, even when the hamster in my head is screaming and its wheel is on fire. I’ve learned recently that being intentionally shitty about everything is not a personality, actually, or at least not one that’s fun to be around.
When Emyr’s knuckles graze mine again, I lace our fingers together. He squeezes, his gold energy wrapping like a cuff around my wrist, his claws digging into the fragile skin on the back of my hand. I don’t pull away, even when it starts to hurt a little.
We’re greeted in front of the door by Boom. The hellhound sits twenty feet away from the opening, red eyes sharp and keen as he keeps watch, black hackles raised along his back. He hates this place.
Which really makes me feel good, you know, about what the hell is over there.
I reach over with my free hand to scratch the top of Boom’s head, nails scraping the base of his ears. “You can go home, bud. You don’t have to be here for this.”
He huffs, tilting his neck back to nip gently at my fingers, and then returns to his superimportant task of glaring at the door.
Though I’d really rather not, I turn to look in the same direction.
If you don’t know what you’re looking at, the door to Faery isn’t much of a door. It isn’t much of anything at all except a feeling—a wrongness. Two elm trees, ancient but long dead and blackened, have grown twisted together in the middle of the woods, their branches tangling into ugly knots to form an unnatural archway.
Before, when I looked at the door, I would see nothing. Not beyond it, to Asalin’s forest on the other side of the trees. Not through it, to the world of Faery inside. Just…nothing. It was as if my eyes couldn’t, or wouldn’t, focus on it. It was the same for all witches, while Emyr, like the rest of the fae, could see through it to whatever desolate wasteland was on the other side. But there was nothing for me here except the heavy feeling of something forbidden.
Now it’s the same, but it isn’t. I still don’t see Faery, not really, I don’t think. But I see…flashes. Sometimes, there is that strange, elusive, almost staticky nothing that sets my teeth on edge. And sometimes, for the briefest moments, there is something else. Something just as difficult for my brain to process, something so abhorrent that my eyes simply refuse to register it’s there until it’s gone again.
I want this fucking door dead bolted. Immediately.
“Alright. Let’s get to it, then.” Tessa claps her hands together and turns to look at Jin, raising her eyebrows. “You bring the thing?”
“Oh, right, yeah.” Jin digs a hand into their oversize mesh cargo pants, pulling out a small metal box, passing it over into Tessa’s waiting hand.
Tessa turns back around, and her soft lilac energy jumps to life, slicking from her fingertips and up her arms. She lifts the box to the base of one of the branches, and, with a deep breath, shoves it into the bark. The black elm allows her to do it, the tree opening itself up to her magic to accommodate the strange little device, making space for it to nest perfectly in the wood as if it’d grown there.
As soon as she does, the doorway begins to flicker. Once, quickly, and then a few more times in rapid succession, and then, a soft blue light fills the archway and doesn’t dim again.
This is why we needed these two.
Jin’s pet project for a while has been taking human technology and finding ways to integrate it with witch magic. They’ve invented cell phones that allow them to send spells through cyberspace, and laptops that let them share magically binding documents in the cloud. And this? This is a security system, ripped off from human designs, programmed with witch magic, that we’re about to install with sigils for a passcode.
Yes, we are, in fact, going to close the five-hundred-year-old door to the magical fairy-tale planet with a dressed-up ADT alarm. Because of course we are.
We need Tessa to make sure Jin’s spellwork is able to weave itself into the forest properly. As an Influencer, Tessa can shape the world around her.
It’s also nice to have a fae on hand who isn’t about to lose her shit at the sight of the tech magic.
Jin and Emyr worked on these projects together. He helped them with their design, their shared visions.
And then Clarke and Derek used Jin’s cell phone to send the magic that killed him. Now, even watching this display unfold in front of us, I can feel the way Emyr tenses at my side, the way his hand tightens around mine even more.
I wince when his claws prick blood, and he jerks away. I snatch his hand back with an absolutely not scoff. He doesn’t squeeze this time.
“Okay, it’s all yours.” Tessa waves her arm out, ushering Jin and Briar forward. “Make it quick.”
I know I should be helping them with the sigils. I’m supposed to be learning this shit, too. It’s important, and I’m already seventeen years behind, and if there were a witchcraft final exam, I would fail it. Big fail it.
But I don’t let go of Emyr’s hand to join them. I just stroke my thumb against his, watching the way his energy tightens like armor around his chest and hoping my touch makes him feel anchored to his body, because I love him, and I need to do this right now. And I let our friends close the door, and I don’t worry about not doing my part, because I know they love me anyway, and they need to do that right now.
Minutes later, the blue light in the archway flickers again and then disappears.
“Okay…um. Okay, it’s done.” Briar’s words are soft, and she takes a few steps back, tilting her head to consider the elm trees.
“Are we sure?” Tessa demands.
“Positive.” Briar nods. She looks over her shoulder at me, offering a lopsided half grin, flashing one little dimple when she does. “It’s over. We did it.”
Next to me, Emyr exhales. Boom rolls onto his back in the dirt.
“It’s just a shame we couldn’t even take a peek inside.” Jin’s voice is a taut whisper, each word seemingly pried from their throat. Their eyes flit across the twisted tree branches covering the now-closed doorway, and I notice the way their hand gives the smallest of twitches at their side. “Not even a look.”
“If my father’s account of Faery is to be believed, we don’t ever want to go through this door.” Emyr sounds exhausted at the mention of Leonidas, his father, who lied about what was behind this door for decades. My black energy winds up and curls around his throat, stroking through the curls at the nape of his neck. “Besides, we have more important matters to deal with right now.”
“Whaaaat? C’mon.” I huff sarcastically, reaching down to pat at his backside. “Personally, I don’t think we have enough going on. What if we got another dog?”
I pretend not to see the scowl Emyr slides me. But Boom’s ears perk up with interest.
“I don’t give a shit what’s over there,” Tessa snaps, balancing her hands on her hips, still eyeing the doorway with contempt. “I’m more concerned about what might’ve already come through.”
Right. That part.
We definitely don’t have time to deal with that part.
Here’s hoping it doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass.
(he/they) is a questionable influence, a dog person, and an author of books both irreverent and radicalizing. Born and raised in the rural south, he currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with his eccentric little family. His stories imagine Indigenous worlds and center queer kids saving each other. H.E. has never once gotten enough sleep and probably isn’t going to anytime soon. THE WITCH KING was his debut.
Author website: heedgmon.com