Ironside

Free Ironside by Holly Black

Book: Ironside by Holly Black Read Free Book Online
Authors: Holly Black
the greater claim to it.
    Roiben gritted his teeth and nodded and smiled. Only later, in his chambers, sitting on a stool in front of his mouse-tail rug, did he allow himself to be filled with loathing. For all those of the Unseelie Court, who cut and slit and gutted everything they touched. For himself, sitting on a throne in a court of monsters.
    He was still staring at the gifts when a terrible, thunderous crash made the walls shake. Dirt rained down on him, stinging his eyes. A second shock reverberated through the hill. He raced out of the room, toward the noise, and passed Bluet in the hallway. Dust covered her, and the long twisted spikes of her hair nearly obscured a fresh cut on her shoulder. Her lips were the color of a bruise.
    “My Lord!” she said. “There has been an attack!”
    For a moment, he just stared at her, feeling foolish, not quite able to understand. For all his hatred of Silarial, he couldn’t quite accept that he was at war with those he had loved, those whom he still considered his people. He couldn’t accept that they’d struck first.
    “Attend to yourself,” he told her dazedly, moving on toward the sound of screams. A handful of faeries darted past him, silent and covered in dirt. One, a goblin, stared at him with wet eyes before rushing on.
    The great hall was on fire. The top was cracked open like an egg, and a portion of one side was missing. Gusts of greasy black smoke rose up to the starry sky, devouring the falling snow. At the center of the brugh was a truck—a semi—its iron body burning. The chassis was twisted, the cab crushed under heaps of dirt and rock, as red and gold flames licked upward. A sea of burning oil and diesel fuel spread to scorch everything it touched.
    He stared, stunned. There, under the debris, were dozens upon dozens of bodies: his herald, Thistledown; Widdersap, who had once whistled through a blade of grass to make a serving girl dance; Snagill, who’d carefully limned the ceiling of the feasting room in silver. The hob who’d woven the mouse-tail rug screamed, rolling around in fire.
    Ellebere pushed Roiben to the side, just as a granite tombstone fell from above, cracking on the floor of the hall. “You must leave, my Lord,” he shouted.
    “Where is Ruddles?” Roiben demanded. “Dulcamara?”
    “They don’t matter.” Ellebere’s grip on Roiben tightened. “You are our King.”
    Through the smoke, figures appeared, chopping at the fallen and the injured.
    “Get the fey in the hallways to safety.” Roiben wrenched his arm free. “Take them to the Kinnelon ruins.”
    Ellebere hesitated.
    Two bolts flew through the rancid smoke to embed themselves in what remained of the earthen wall. Thin shafts of glass that Seelie knights used for arrows—so fine that you could barely feel them as they pierced your heart.
    “As you said, I am your King. Do it now!” Roiben pushed his way through the choking brume, leaving Ellebere behind.
    The same faun who had brought Roiben the hooves of his fellows was trying to dig another faery out from beneath a mound of earth. And nearby lay Cirillan, who loved tears so much that he saved them in tiny vials that cluttered up his room. His aqua skin was smeared with dusty blood and silver burrs that had been shot from Bright Court slings.
    As Roiben watched, the faun gasped, his body arched, and he fell.
    Roiben drew his curved sword. All his life he had been in service to battle, but he had never seen the like of what was happening all around him. The Bright Court had never fought so inelegantly .
    He dodged just before the tines of a golden trident caught him in the chest. The Seelie knight swung again, her teeth bared.
    He slammed his sword into her thigh and she faltered. Grabbing her trident at the base, he sliced her throat, quick and clean. Blood sprayed his face as she fell to her knees, reaching for her own neck in surprise.
    He didn’t know her.
    Two humans rushed at him from either side. One held up a

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