I can’t reveal my actual favourite scene from The Elder Throne because it holds all manner of major spoilers. Likewise, so does my second favourite scene. So, what you’re getting from me today is my third favourite scene – still worthy, just not at the top.
This following scene happens in the latter half of the book, just before Mabon Festival. Mabon is hailed as a peace festival between the Seelie and UnSeelie, which is why a group of UnSeelie faeries cross the border every year in order to celebrate with the Seelie. This is the first time Anna will catch a glimpse of them and her would-be step-mother, Janus Atropa.
This scene is also the one I can picture most vividly in my head. Hopefully I have done a suitable job of translating it into words but, if not – that’s what edits are for, right, S.E.Berrow?
Here’s an extract…
Chapter 17: The UnSeelie Arrive
A huge crowd had gathered by the main road.
“What’s going on?” she asked, standing on her tiptoes. She craned her neck to see what everyone was looking at, until Spindle grabbed her around the waist and hoisted her into the air in a weird, acrobatic hug. She almost protested at being treated like a toddler, but then she saw what the crowd was watching.
A stream of people poured from the UnSeen Road, a shock of black, white and red against the natural greenery of the hill. A woman beside them gasped, grabbing her small son and leaving swiftly. A few others with young children had a similar idea and, as the crowd parted in front of her, Spindle’s grip slipped and she slid to the ground. Those who hadn’t left pressed forward, and she found herself thrust to the front, just as the first visitor reached the plaza.
It was a child, about her height and dressed in a shift made entirely from autumn leaves. Her skin was pale, with hair as pure white and wild like Spindle’s. She looked back at her cousin, whose eyes widened, and Anna was suddenly aware of a dark shape at the corner of her eye. She yelped, turning to find the curious child inches away. The top half of her face was painted black, tapering down to a sharp point over her lips. From the blackness glowed two fiery orange eyes like dying embers. The child laughed, exposing sharp, needle-like teeth, and was swept away by the churning stream of UnSeelie.
By this time, Bracken had forced his way through the crowd and was standing next to her, hand on his sword, but she was too distracted to care about him.
The UnSeelie were unlike anything she’d seen, mesmerising and primal. Her heart hammered against her ribcage as more swept by, paying her no heed nor even a glance.
A giant, barrel-chested creature with impossibly wide antlers strode confidently down the path, made from twigs and branches instead of skin and bone. Next to him was a thickset, green-skinned troll with bright orange hair and curling goat horns, who wore a tattered brown jerkin and a string of baby teeth around his neck.
Tall women, cloaked and veiled in the purest white, drifted beside bare-chested men whose black-charred skin cracked, exposing flames that licked their flesh as they walked. And dotted through the crowd were shadowy figures in black, wearing metal masks that hid their faces completely. One looked her way and Bracken put his hand on her shoulder.
“All UnSeelie warriors,” he muttered. “That’s unusual.”
“What, even the children are warriors?” Anna asked, and he frowned at her.
“The one with the painted face, earlier.”
“That wasn’t a child.”
“Oh.” She decided she didn’t want to ask anymore.
Spindle gripped her hand, openly pointing at the crowd.
“You see the masks? Those ones are the Three Families. Atropas, Blackwoods and Vales. They’re really important, like UnSeelie royalty – ”
“Like the Mafia,” Anna said, and Spindle looked blank. Priya shot her a thumbs-up.
The procession suddenly halted, and silence fell across the crowd. Anna felt a sharp, odd sense of relief as Commander Valerian stood in front of the UnSeelie, with two dozen Seelie Warriors at his back. A tall woman, just a little shorter than him, emerged from the strange throng. She wore all black, with a silver cloak and a black mask shaped like a vulture with horns. If Commander Valerian was disturbed by her appearance, he didn’t show it.
“Commander Atropa,” he greeted, in a low, polite voice. “Hail and well met.”
“Hail and well met, Commander Valerian,” the woman replied. She reached up with a gloved hand to remove her mask.