Kingdom in Exile by Jenna Wolfhart

Prologue





Imogen





Darkness was everything, and everything was darkness until light finally speared the dusty floor outside of Imogen’s cell. Eyes burning, she lifted her chin from her chest and peered toward the silhouette of the male striding down the corridor. He was tall and slim, and a thin rapier whispered by his armored thigh. Imogen’s heart sank. It wasn’t her Thane, her son returned from his mission down south.

It was that damn bastard. Her former lover.

Now her mortal enemy.

“Aengus,” she hissed, pushing up onto her aching bare feet. Newfound energy coursed through her tired body, fuelled by anger and a thirst for vengeance. He was the one who had put her in this dungeon cell when once she had been the most powerful fae in all of Tir Na Nog. She had been the High Queen of the Air Court. The one who had commanded the mightiest kingdom of them all.

Aengus had stripped her of it all.

The ginger fae stopped just outside her iron-barred cell, flanked by two warriors donned in Air Court leather armor. The infamous sigil was stamped into the center of their chests: a golden gleaming crown. She turned her glare on them both. They shifted uncomfortably on their feet. Traitors, the lot of them. They should be liberating her from this pitiful prison, not standing guard for the usurper who had put her here.

“Imogen.” Aengus gave her a thin-lipped smile. Why had she ever thought him handsome? He was a rat. “I would say that you’re looking absolutely ravishing this glorious day, but that would be a lie.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Why are you here, Aengus? Has my son not yet returned to kick your traitorous arse off his throne?”

Her words were powered and her tone sharp, but inwardly, she felt as small as a hoarfrost worm. Thane had been missing for weeks. No one knew where he was, only that he’d narrowly escaped several attempts on his life. Of course, Imogen knew he was not dead. She could feel it in her bones, and the power of the throne had yet to transfer to Aengus. But that did not mean that her missing son was safe.

He was her only living child. Her three beautiful children before him had been brutally slaughtered by the shadow fae. Now, she worried they’d taken him away from her as well. And then there would be nothing left in this cruel world for her to fight for anymore.

“Ah. I’m afraid your cowardly spawn is still missing.” Aengus, her former Grand Alderman, her former lover, took a step closer to the bars, almost close enough for her to reach through and wrap her fingers around his throat. “Unfortunately, it seems two others have gone missing as well. Princess Reyna Darragh and the warrior Lorcan.”

Imogen smiled. The Darragh girl had pulled through, after all. Imogen had asked Reyna to sneak out of the city and find Thane. At least someone was on her side. Someone who Imogen never would have counted on trusting. Only weeks ago, she had hated the girl. She almost laughed at the bitter irony of it all.

“I suppose you are none too pleased, Aengus.”

“Grand Alderman,” he replied crisply in his odd, foreign accent. “You will use my title.”

“Hmm. Well, Grand Alderman. I don’t quite understand what you wish for me to do about it. I’m in a prison of your making, as you can very well see. There is little I can do in here.”

He arched a brow. “Is that truly so? Because some might believe that you were the one who asked the Princess to defy my command so that she might go in search of your son.”

Imogen had expected this. She had known that Aengus would come for her eventually. As the de facto ruler of the realm, his command was ultimate above all else. Defying him was viewed as defying the Dagda, their god. To do so could have terrible consequences. It was treason.

But more than that, Imogen also knew that Aengus had been lurking in wait, hoping that she would do something that would give him the excuse to act with his full power.

Commanding Reyna to stand down might have been Aengus’s way of trapping Imogen. He would know that she would do anything to save her son, even request the assistance of her former enemy. But it had been a trap that Imogen had gladly walked into. Because her son’s life was far more important than her own.

“I can see why some might think that,” Imogen said quietly, standing tall on her bruised and aching feet.

“And did you?” he asked. “Did you tell Reyna Darragh to defy my command?”

It was a yes or no question. Imogen never answered those. Most fae never would. In a world without lies, one had to be careful. But she saw no way to answer at all without giving the truth away. Imogen could not mince words where her son’s life was concerned nor did she even want to try. Aengus had stolen the throne, her court, and her glorious life. And he would not hesitate to kill Thane if he got the chance.