He fell only a few feet to land in a crouch on a cement platform that stretched out into the Thames, surrounded by a low iron railing that was broken in several places. Ty and Livvy were already there, jackets yanked off to free their arms, seraph blades in hand. Livvy tossed a shortsword toward Kit as he straightened up, realizing why she’d run—not to get away, but to clear them some space to fight.
And hopefully to contact the Institute. Ty had his phone out in his hand, was thumbing at the keypad even as he raised his seraph blade, its light bursting dully against the clouds.
Kit turned just as the three Riders sailed over the gate to join them, flashing bronze and gold as they landed. Their swords whipped free with blinding speed.
“Stop him!” snarled Karn, and his two brothers launched themselves at Ty.
Livvy and Kit moved as one to throw themselves in front of Tiberius. The cold, hard blur of fighting was on Kit, but the Riders were faster than demons, and stronger, too. Kit whipped his shortsword toward Eochaid, but the faerie was no longer there: He’d leaped all the way to the far side of the platform. He laughed at the expression on Kit’s face, even as Etarlam slashed out with a blow that knocked the phone out of Ty’s hand. It skittered across the concrete and splashed into the river.
A shadow fell over Kit. He responded instantaneously, driving upward with his shortsword. He heard a gasp, and Karn fell back, dark drops of blood spattering on the ground at his feet. Kit flung himself up and forward, lunging for Eochaid, but Livvy and Ty were ahead of him, blurs of light as their seraph blades cut the air around the Riders.
But only the air. Kit couldn’t help but notice that the angel blades didn’t seem to be cutting through the Riders’ armor, or even slicing their skin as he’d managed to do with his shortsword. There was puzzlement on Ty’s face, rage on Livvy’s as she stabbed at Eochaid’s heart with her seraph blade.
The weapon snapped off at the hilt, the force of the rebound sending her staggering back almost into the river. Ty whipped around as he looked after her—Eochaid raised his sword and brought it down in a sweeping arc toward Ty—and Kit lunged across the platform, knocking Tiberius flat.
Ty’s blade went flying, splashing down into the Thames, sending up a flurry of fiery droplets. Kit had landed half across Ty, banging his head hard on a jutting piece of wood; he felt Ty try to shove him off, and rolled over to see Eochaid standing over them both.
Livvy had engaged the other two Riders, was fighting them desperately, a whirl of flashing weaponry. But she was on the other side of the platform. Kit fought to get his breath back, raised his sword—
Eochaid stood arrested, his eyes glittering behind the holes of his mask. The irises, too, were bronze-colored. “I know you,” he said. “I know your face.”
Kit gaped at him. A second later, Eochaid was raising his sword, mouth twisting into a grin—and a shadow fell over them all. The Rider looked up, astonishment crossing his face as a burly arm reached down from above and seized hold of him. A second later he was flying up into the air, yelling. Kit heard a splash; the Rider had been tossed into the river.
Kit struggled to sit up, Ty beside him. Livvy had turned to face them, her mouth open; both the Riders were similarly agape, their swords dangling by their sides as a thunderous, whirling mass landed in the center of the platform.
It was a horse, and on the horse’s back was Gwyn, massive in his helmet and bark-like armor. It was his gauntleted arm that had flung Eochaid into the river—but now the Rider had swum back to the platform and was climbing onto it, his movements slowed by his heavy armor.
Clinging to the man’s waist was Diana, her dark hair a mass of curls pulling free of their restraints, her eyes wide.
Ty got to his feet. Kit scrambled up after him. There was some blood staining the collar of Ty’s hoodie; Kit realized he didn’t know if it was Ty’s or his own.
“Riders!” Gwyn said, in a thunderous voice. There was a wide cut across his arm where Eochaid must have gotten in a blow. “Stop.”
Diana slid from the horse’s back and stalked across the concrete platform to where Eochaid was clambering out of the water. She unhitched her sword from its scabbard, spun it, and pointed it directly at his chest. “Don’t move,” she said.
The Rider subsided, teeth bared in a silent snarl.
“This is none of your concern, Gwyn,” said Karn. “This is Unseelie business.”
“The Wild Hunt bends to no law,” said Gwyn. “Our will is the wind’s will. And my will now is to send you away from these children. They are under my protection.”
“They are Nephilim,” spat Etarlam. “The architects of the Cold Peace, vicious and cruel.”
“You are no better,” said Gwyn. “You are the King’s hunting dogs, and never have you shown any mercy.”
Karn and Etarlam stared at Gwyn. Eochaid, kneeling, dripped on the concrete. The moment stretched out like rubber, seemingly extending forever.
Eochaid shot suddenly to his feet with a gasp, seemingly heedless of Diana’s sword, tracking him unerringly as he moved. “Fal,” he said. “He is dead.”
“That is impossible,” said Karn. “Impossible. A Rider cannot die.”
But Etarlam let out a loud, keening cry, his sword falling to the ground as his hand flew to cover his heart. “He is gone,” he wailed. “I feel it. Our brother is gone.”
“A Rider has passed into the Shadow Lands,” said Gwyn. “Would you like me to sound the horn for him?”
Though Gwyn had sounded sincere enough to Kit, Eochaid snarled and made as if to lunge for the Hunter, but Diana’s sword kissed his throat as he moved, drawing blood. Thick, dark drops ran down her blade.
“Enough!” said Karn. “Gwyn, you will pay for this treachery. Etar, Eochaid, to my side. We go to our brothers and sister.”
Diana lowered her sword as Eochaid shouldered past her, joining the other two Riders. They leaped from the platform into the air, long soaring leaps that took them high above, where they caught the manes of their gleaming bronze horses and swung themselves up to ride.
As they hurtled past above the water, Eochaid’s voice echoed in Kit’s ringing ears.
I know you. I know your face.
Emma was shaking by the time they got back into the cottage. A combination of cold and reaction had set in. Her hair and clothes were plastered to her, and she suspected she looked like a drowned rat.
She propped Cortana against the wall and began wearily to shuck off her drenched jacket and shoes. She was aware of Julian locking the door behind them, aware of the sounds of him moving around the room. Warmth, too. He must have built up the fire earlier.
A moment later something soft was being pressed into her hands. Julian stood in front of her, his expression unreadable, offering a slightly worn bath towel. She took it and began to dry off her hair.
Jules was still wearing his damp clothes, though he was barefoot and he’d thrown on a dry sweater. Water gleamed at the edges of his hair, the tips of his eyelashes.
She thought of the clang of swords on swords, the beauty of the turmoil of the battle, the sea and sky. She wondered if that was how Mark had felt in the Wild Hunt. When there was nothing between you and the elements, it was easy to forget what weighed you down.
She thought of the blood on Cortana, the blood ribboning out from under Fal’s body, mixing with the rainwater. They’d rolled his corpse under an overhang of stones, not wanting to leave him there, exposed to the weather, even though he was long past caring.
“I killed one of the Riders,” she said now, in a near whisper.
“You had to.” Julian’s hand was strong on her shoulder, fingers digging in. “Emma, it was a fight to the death.”
“The Clave will understand.”
“The Fair Folk won’t. The Unseelie King won’t.”
The faintest ghost of a smile passed over Julian’s face. “I don’t think he likes us anyway.”
Emma took a tense breath. “Fal had you backed up against the edge of the cliff,” she said. “I thought he was going to kill you.”