Marie Brennan returns to the Onyx Court, a fairy city hidden below Queen Victoria's London. Now the Onyx Court faces its greatest challenge.
Seven years ago, Eliza's childhood sweetheart vanished from the streets of Whitechapel. No one believed her when she told them that he was stolen away by the faeries.
But she hasn't given up the search. It will lead her across London and into the hidden palace that gives refuge to faeries in the mortal world. That refuge is now crumbling, broken by the iron of the underground railway, and the resulting chaos spills over to the streets above.
Three centuries of the Onyx Court are about to come to an end. Without the palace's protection, the fae have little choice but to flee. Those who stay have one goal: to find safety in a city that does not welcome them. But what price will the mortals of London pay for that safety?
With Fate Conspire is a Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011 Science Fiction&Fantasy title.
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About the Author
MARIE BRENNAN habitually pillages her background in anthropology, archaeology, and folklore for fictional purposes. She is the author of the Onyx Court series and the doppelganger duology of Warrior and Witch, as well as more than thirty short stories.
MARIE BRENNAN is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material. She is the author of several acclaimed fantasy novels including A Natural History of Dragons; The Onyx Court Series: Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, A Star Shall Fall, and With Fate Conspire; Warrior; and Witch. Her short stories have appeared in more than a dozen print and online publications.
Read an Excerpt
With Fate Conspire
By Marie Brennan
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2011 Bryn Neuenschwander
All rights reserved.
I behold London; a Human awful wonder of God!
— William Blake, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion
Oh City! Oh latest Throne! where I was rais'd
To be a mystery of loveliness
Unto all eyes, the time is well nigh come
When I must render up this glorious home
To keen Discovery: soon yon brilliant towers
Shall darken with the waving of her wand;
Darken, and shrink and shiver into huts,
Black specks amid a waste of dreary sand,
Low-built, mud-walled, Barbarian settlement,
How chang'd from this fair City!
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Timbuctoo"
A great town is like a forest — that is not the whole of it that you see above ground.
— Mr. Lowe, MP, address at the opening of the Metropolitan Railway, reported in the Times, January 10, 1863
Given enough time, anything can become familiar enough to be ignored. Even pain.
The searing nails driven through her flesh ache as they always have, but those aches are known, enumerated, incorporated into her world. If her body is stretched upon a rack, muscles and sinews torn and ragged from the strain, at least no one has stretched it further of late. This is familiar. She can disregard it.
But the unfamiliar, the unpredictable, disrupts that disregard. This new pain is irregular and intense, not the steady torment of before. It is a knife driven into her shoulder, a sudden agony stabbing through her again. And again. And again.
Creeping ever closer to her heart.
Each new thrust awakens all the other pains, every bleeding nerve she had learned to accept. Nothing can be ignored, then. All she can do is endure. And this she does because she has no choice; she has bound herself to this agony, with chains that cannot be broken by any force short of death.
Or, perhaps, salvation.
Like a patient cast down by disease, she waits, and in her lucid moments she prays for a cure. No physician exists who can treat this sickness, but perhaps — if she endures long enough — someone will teach himself that science, and save her from this terrible death by degrees.
So she hopes, and has hoped for longer than she can recall. But each thrust brings the knife that much closer to her heart.
One way or another, she will not have to endure much more.
The monster city seethed with life. Its streets, like arteries both great and small, pulsed with the flow of traffic: hackneys and private carriages, omnibuses bursting with riders inside and out, horse trams rattling past on their iron rails. People on foot, on horseback, on the improbable wheels of bicycles. On the river, ships: forests of masts and steam funnels, skiffs hauling cargo to and fro, ferries spilling passengers onto piers that thrust out from the stinking foreshore. Trains thundered in from the suburbs and back out again, the population rising and falling, as if the city breathed.
The air that filled its lungs was humanity, of countless different kinds. The high and the low, glittering with diamonds or the tears of despair, speaking dozens of languages in hundreds of accents, living cheek by jowl, above and below and beside one another, but occupying entirely different worlds. The city encompassed them all: living and dying, they formed part of the great organism, which daily threatened to strangle on its simultaneous growth and rot.
This was London, in all its filth and glory. Nostalgic for the past, while yearning to cast off the chains of bygone ages and step forward into the bright utopia of the future. Proud of its achievements, yet despising its own flaws. A monster in both size and nature, that would consume the unwary and spit them out again, in forms unrecognizable and undreamt.
London, the monster city.
The City of London: February 26, 1884
"Hot buns! A farthing apiece, warm you on a cold morning! Will you buy a bun, sir?"
The cry rose into the air and was lost among others, like one bird in a flock. A burst of steam from the open cut alongside Farringdon Road heralded the arrival of a subterranean train; a minute later, the station above disgorged a mass of men, joining those carried into the City by the power of their own feet. They shuffled along Snow Hill and up onto Holborn Viaduct, yawning and sleepy, their numbers sufficient to stop carriages and omnibuses when they flooded across the street crossings.
A costerwoman's voice had to be strong, to make itself heard above the voices and footsteps and the church bells ringing seven o'clock. Filling her lungs, Eliza bellowed again, "Hot buns! Hot from the oven! Only a farthing apiece!"
One fellow paused, dug in his pocket, handed over a penny. The four buns Eliza gave in exchange had been hot when she collected her load an hour ago; only the close-packed mass of their fellows had preserved any heat since then. But these were the clerks, the ink-stained men who slaved away in the City's halls of business for long hours and little pay; they wouldn't quibble over the truth of her advertising. By the time their wealthier betters came in to work, three hours or so from now, she would have sold her stock and filled her barrow with something else.
If all went well. Good days were the ones where she traced the streets again and again, with new wares every round: laces for boots and stays, lucifers, even larks one time. Bad days saw her peddling cold, stale buns at sundown, with no comfort save the surety that at least she would have something to eat that night. And sometimes a doss-house keeper could be persuaded to take a few as payment, in exchange for a spot on his bench.
Today was beginning well; even a bun of only moderate warmth was a pleasant touch on a cold morning like this one. But chill weather made men sullen in the afternoon and evening, turning up their collars and shoving their hands into pockets, thinking only of the train or omnibus or long walk that would take them home. Eliza knew better than to assume her luck would hold.
By the time she reached Cheapside, following the crowds of men on their way to the countinghouses, the press in the streets was thinning; those still out were hurrying, for fear their pay would be docked for lateness. Eliza counted her coins, stuck an experimental finger among the remaining buns, and decided they were cold enough that she could spare one for herself. And Tom Granger was always willing to let her sit a while with him.
She retraced her steps to the corner of Ivy Lane, where Tom was halfheartedly waving copies of The Times at passersby. "You'll never sell them with that lazy hand," Eliza said, stopping her barrow alongside.
His grin was as crooked as his front teeeth. "Wait 'til tomorrow. Bill says we'll 'ave exciting news then."
"Oh?" Eliza offered him a bun, which he accepted. "Scandal, is it?"
"Better. There's been another bombing."
She had just taken a large bite; it caught in her throat, and for a moment she feared she would choke. Then it slid down, and she hoped that if Tom saw her distress, he'd chalk it up to that. "Where?"
Tom had already crammed half the bun in his own mouth. His answer was completely unintelligible; she had to wait while he chewed enough to swallow. "Victoria Station," he said, once he could speak more clearly. "Right early this morning. Blew the booking office and all 'alfway to the moon. Nobody 'urt, though — pity. We sells more papers when there's dead people."
"Who did it?"
He shrugged, then turned away to sell a paper to a man in a carpenter's flannel coat. That done, he said, "Harry thinks it was a gas pipe what blew, but I reckon it's the Fenians again." He spat onto the cobblestones. "Fucking micks. They sells papers, I'll give 'em that, but 'em and their bleeding bombs, eh?"
"Them and their bleeding bombs," Eliza echoed, staring at the remnants of her bun as if it needed her attention. She had lost all appetite, but forced herself to finish anyway. I missed it. While I slept tied to a bench, he was here, and I missed my chance.
Tom rattled on about the Irish, allowing as how they were devilish strong buggers and good at hard labor, but one paddy had come up the other day, bold as you please, and tried to get papers to sell. "Me and Bill ran 'im off right quick," Tom said.
Eliza didn't share his satisfaction in the slightest. While Tom spoke, her gaze raked the street, as if frantic effort now could make up for her failure. Too late, and you know it. What would you have done anyway, if you'd been here last night? Followed him again? Much good that did last time. But you missed your chance to do better. It took her by surprise when Tom left off his tirade and said, "Three months, it's been, and I still don't get you."
She hoped her stare was not as obviously startled as it felt. "What do you mean?"
Tom gestured at her, seeming to indicate both the ragged clothing and the young woman who wore it. "You. Who you are, and what you're doing 'ere."
She was suddenly far colder than could be explained by the morning air. "Trying to sell buns. But I think I'm about done in for these; I should go for fried fish soon, or something else."
"Which you'll bring right back 'ere. Maybe you'll go stand around the 'ospital, or the prison, but you'll stick near Newgate as long as you can, so long as you've got a few pennies to buy supper and a place to sleep. Them fine gents like to talk about lazy folks as don't care enough to earn a better wage — but you're the only one I've ever met where it's true." Tom scratched his neck, studying her in a way that made her want to run. "You don't drop your aitches, you ain't from a proper coster family — I know they runs you off sometimes, when you steps on their territory — in short, you's a mystery, and ever since you started coming 'ere I've been trying to work you out. What's around Newgate for you, Elizabeth Marsh, that you'll spend three months waiting for it to show up?"
Her fingers felt like ice. Eliza fumbled with the ends of her shawl, then stopped, because it only drew attention to how her hands were shaking. What was there to fear? No crime in hanging about, not so long as she was engaged in honest work. Tom knew nothing. So far as he was aware, she was simply Elizabeth Marsh, and Elizabeth Marsh was nobody.
But she hadn't thought up a lie for him, because she hadn't expected him to ask. Before her mind could settle down enough to find a good one, his expression softened to sympathy. "Got someone in Newgate, 'ave you?"
He jerked his chin westward as he said it. Newgate in the specific sense, the prison that stood nearby. Which was close enough to a truth — if not the real truth — that Eliza seized upon it with relief. "My father."
"Thought it might be an 'usband," Tom said. "You wouldn't be the first mot walking around without a ring. Waiting for 'im to get out, or 'oping 'e won't?"
Eliza thought about the last time she'd seen her father. Four months ago, and the words between them weren't pretty — they never were — but she'd clean forgotten about that after she walked out of the prison and saw that familiar, hated face.
She shrugged uncomfortably, hoping Tom would let the issue drop. The more questions she answered, the more likely it was that he'd catch a whiff of something odd. Better to leave it at a nameless father with an unnamed crime. Tom didn't press, but he did pick up one of his newspapers and begin searching through a back page. "'Ere, take a look at this."
The piece above his ragged fingernail was brief, just two short paragraphs under the header MR. CALHOUN'S NEW FACTORY. "Factory work ain't bad," Tom said. "Better than service, anyway — no missus always on you, and some factories pay more — and it would get you out of 'ere. Waiting around won't do you no good, Lizzie, and you keeps this up, sooner or later your luck'll go bad. Workhouse bad."
"Ah, you're just trying to get rid of me," Eliza said. It came out higher than usual, because of the tightness in her throat. Tom was just useful; his corner was the best one to watch from. She never intended more than that — never friendship — and his kindness made her feel all the more guilty about her lies.
But he was right, as far as it went. She'd been in service before, to an Italian family that sold secondhand clothes in Spitalfields. Being a maid-of-all-work, regardless of the family, was little better than being a slave. Lots of girls said factory work was preferable, if you could get it. But abandoning Newgate ...
She couldn't. Her disobedient eyes drifted back to the advertisement anyway. And then she saw what lay below, that Tom's hand had covered before.
LONDON FAIRY SOCIETY — A new association has formed in Islington, for the understanding of Britain's fast-vanishing fairy inhabitants. Meetings the second Friday of every month at 9 White Lion St., 7 P.M.
Eliza only barely kept from snatching the paper out of Tom's hands, to stare at the words and see if they vanished. "May I?" she asked.
She meant only to read it again, but Tom handed her the paper and flapped his hands in its wake. "Keep it."
The cold had gone; Eliza felt warm from head to toe. She could not look away from the words. Coincidence — or providence? It might be nothing: folk with money babbling on about little "flower fairies," rather than faeries, the kind Eliza knew all too well. This new society might not know anything that could help her.
But her alternative was waiting around here, with the fading hope that it would do her any good. Just because there'd been another bombing didn't mean any of the people involved had been here; it could have been pure chance last October, spotting him in Newgate. She'd spent nearly every day here since then, and not caught so much as another glimpse. They were tricksy creatures, faeries were, and not easily caught. But perhaps this London Fairy Society could help her.
"Thank you," Eliza told Tom, folding the newspaper and stuffing it into the sagging pocket of her shawl.
He shrugged, looking away in embarrassment. "Ah, it's nothing. You feeds me buns enough; I owes you a newspaper's worth, at least."
She wasn't thanking him for the paper, but saying so would only make him more awkward. "I'd best be moving," Eliza said. "These buns won't sell themselves. But I'll think about the factory, Tom; I will." She meant it, too. It would be glorious to go back to something like normal life. No more of this hand-to-mouth existence, gambling everything on the hope of a second stroke of luck. After these three months, she'd even go back into service with the DiGiuseppes, just to know each night that she'd have a roof over her head.
If a normal life was even possible anymore, after everything she'd been through. But that was a question for the future. First, she had to catch herself a faerie.
Tom wished her well, and she gripped the handles of her barrow again, wheeling it down Newgate toward a fellow in Holborn who would sell her fried fish, if she could dispose of the rest of her current load. Her eyes did their habitual dance over the crowds as she cried her wares, but saw nothing unusual.
Second Friday. That'll be the fourteenth, then. A bit more than a fortnight away. She'd keep on here until then, on the off chance that her luck would turn even better. But Islington, she hoped, held the answers.
The Goblin Market, Onyx Hall: March 2, 1884
With a clicking of toenails upon cracked black stone, the dog trotted into the room of cages. A half dozen lined the narrow chamber, three on a side, mostly full with sleeping humans. In the nearest, a young girl lay alone on a floor of filthy straw, curled in upon herself. The dog drew nearer, sniffing. His nose brushed her hair, close by the cage's wooden bars, and she jerked awake with a cry of fear.
The dog sat down on his haunches and studied her, tongue lolling just a little. It was as close to an appealing look as a scruffy thing like him could come; his black fur was untidy and matted, and a chunk had been torn from his left ear. But when he made no threatening move — merely sat and watched — the girl moved hesitantly from the corner where she'd retreated. Holding one hand out, she inched closer, until her hand was near enough to the bars for the dog to extend his nose and sniff politely. He even licked her dirty fingers, a brief, warm caress.
Excerpted from With Fate Conspire by Marie Brennan. Copyright © 2011 Bryn Neuenschwander. 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.
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Table of Contents
By Marie Brennan,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For over three centuries, the Onyx Court of the Fae has existed beneath London. Most humans living above ground are unaware of those residing underneath the city. However, several decades ago, the Industrial Revolution began a new iron age as pipes, bridges and rails run over and under the city; iron is lethal to the Fae whose species has become endangered with short term extinction a likely outcome as their magical realm rapidly diminishes. Only the resolute Queen Lune keeps at bay imminent extinction, but she is dying. Meanwhile Eliza O'Malley continues her seven years old fruitless search for her vanished best friend Owen who she insists was kidnapped by the fairy; people believe she is insane. Like Lune, Eliza refuses to quit as she seeks the dog man, Goblin Market head gangster Nadrett's slave Dead Rick who betrayed her Owen. Ironically Dead Rick is perhaps the only one who empathizes with Eliza as he wants the return of his stolen memory that Nadrett, as he has done with humans and fae, took from him. The fourth Onyx Court Victorian fantasy (see Midnight Never Come, in Ashes Lie and A Star Shall Fall) is a terrific tale anchored by one of the best sub-genre backgrounds in recent memory though that also slows down the start of the thriller. Described with dark Dickensian depth in the human and Fae realms, fans will envision the grim squalor of Goblin Court and mortal London as well as the hopelessness of the Onyx Court as urban development fostered by iron encroaches. The key cast is solid as readers anticipate a confrontation between the three determined antagonists as the new Iron Age is destroying Onyx Court and the Fae. Harriet Klausner
It is 1884, and the Onyx Court beneath London is under grave threat from the Underground railway's central line, now nearing completion. Life is grim for the remaining fae, especially the denizen's of the Goblin Market. Dead Rick, whose memories have been torn from him by his goblin master, finds renewed hope from a secret ally. Meanwhile, London-born Irishwoman Eliza O'Malley continues her quest for her childhood sweetheart Owen, stolen by the fairies seven years ago. And the imminent ruin of the Onyx Court hangs over their heads, unless someone can find a way out.A worthy end to this absorbing series.