The Born Queen

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 2009-01-27
  • Publisher: Del Rey
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"New York Times"-bestselling author Keyes delivers the fourth and final volume of his award-winning Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone. The Briar King is dead, and with her empire engulfed in war, Anne Dare struggles to exert her control, facing opposition--both material and magical--on all sides.

Author Biography

Greg Keyes was born in Meridian, Mississippi, to a large, diverse storytelling family. He is the author of The Briar King, The Charnel Prince, and The Blood Knight (Books One, Two, and Three of The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone), The Waterborn, The Blackgod, the Age of Unreason tetralogy, and the Star Wars New Jedi Order novels Edge of Victory I: Conquest, Edge of Victory II: Rebirth, and The Final Prophecy. He lives in Savannah, Georgia.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One

The Queen of Demons

Anne sighed with pleasure as ghosts brushed her bare flesh. She kept her eyes closed as they murmured softly about her, savoring their faintly chilly caresses. She inhaled the ripe perfumes of decay and for the first time in a very long time felt a deep contentment.

Anne, one of the phantoms simpered. Anne, there is no time.

A bit irritated, she opened her eyes to see three women standing before her.

No, she realized. They weren’t standing at all. Feeling a weird tingle that she knew ought to be more, she turned her gaze around her to see what else there was.

She was elsewhere, of course, couched on deep, spongy moss grown on a hammock in a blackwater fen that went beyond sight in every direction. The branches of the trees above her were tatted together like the finest Safnian lace, allowing only the wispiest of diffuse light through to glisten on the dew-jeweled webs of spiders larger than her hand.

The women swayed faintly, the boughs above them creaking a bit from their weight.

One wore a black gown and a black mask, and her locks were flowing silver. The next wore forest green and a golden mask, and her red braids swayed almost to her feet. The third wore a mask of bone and a dress the color of dried blood. Her hair was brown.

Their undisguised lips and flesh were bluish-black above the coils of rope that had cinched about their necks and wrung out their lives.

The Faiths, those obtuse creatures, were dead. Should she be sad? Part of her thought so.


She started. Was one of them still alive? But then she felt the ghosts again, tickling against her. Now she knew who the ghosts were.

Should she be frightened? Part of her thought so.

“You’re dead,” she observed.

“Yes,” the faint voice replied. “We fought to linger here, but too much of us is gone. We had something to tell you.”

“Something useful? That would be the first time.”

“Pity us, Anne. We did what we could. Find our sister.”

“That’s right, there are four of you,” Anne remembered. Was she asleep? She seemed to be having trouble recalling things.

“Yes, four. Find—ah, no. He’s coming. Anne—”

But then a cold wind started in the depths of the quag, and the canopy was alive with strange dark birds, and Anne was suddenly alone with corpses.

But only for a moment. Then she felt him, as she had another time when in this place. All of her blood seemed to gather on one side of her body, and all of the branches of the forest yearned toward his invisible presence.

“Well, there you are, little queen,” the voice said. “It’s been too long.”

“Stay back,” she said. “You remember last time.”

“Last time, I was weaker and you had help,” the voice replied. “This is not last time.”

“What do you want?”

“Your company, sweet queen. Your hand in marriage.”

“Who are you?”

“Your king.”

“I have no king,” Anne bristled. “I am queen, regent in my own right.”

“Look deeper in your heart,” the voice purred.

“Who are you?”

“You want my name? What do names matter when one is as we are?”

“There is no ‘we,’ ” Anne protested. But her belly tingled, as it had when Roderick had kissed her there.

The presence moved closer, and though she could not see him, she felt as if the shadow wore a wicked smile.

“Why did you kill the Faiths?”

A deep chuckle rustled through the branches, and the water stirred into circles all about.

Then a ruddy light fell on the broken surface of the fen, and An

Excerpted from The Born Queen by Greg Keyes
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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