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Court of Wanderers

Silver Under Nightfall #2



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About The Book

Remy Pendergast and his royal vampire companions return to face an enemy that is terrifyingly close to home in Rin Chupeco’s queer, bloody Gothic epic fantasy series for fans of Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree and the adult animated series Castlevania.

Remy Pendergast, vampire hunter, and his unexpected companions, royal vampires Lord Zidan Malekh and Lady Xiaodan Song, are on the road through the kingdom of Aluria again after a hard-won first battle against the formidable Night Empress, who threatens to undo a fragile peace between humans and vampires. Xiaodan, severely injured, has lost her powers to vanquish the enemy’s new superbreed of vampire, but if the trio can make it to Fata Morgana, the seat of Malehk’s court—dubbed “the Court of Wanderers”—there is hope of nursing her and bringing them back.

En-route to the Third Court, Remy crosses paths with his father, the arrogant, oftentimes cruel Lord of Valenbonne. He also begins to suffer strange dreams of the Night Empress, whom he has long suspected to be Ligaya Pendergast, his own mother. As his family history unfolds during these episodes, which are too realistic to be coincidence, he realizes that she is no ordinary vampire—and that he may end up having to choose between the respective legacies of his parents.

Posing as Malek and Xiaodan’s human familiar, Remy contends with Aluria’s intimidating vampire courts and a series of gruesome murders with their help—and more, as the three navigate their relationship. But those feelings and even their extraordinary collective strength will be put to the test as each of them unleashes new powers in combat at what may be prove to be the ultimate cost.


Chapter 1: Regret 1 REGRET
Remy complained, of course. Of the bad roads and of the storms that came upon them without warning, the winds stronger than they were accustomed to, even within rain-drenched Aluria. Of the way the carriage jerked them about at intervals, the way the vampire horses yanked their coach along at a dizzying pace, eschewing comfort for speed. Variations of Malekh, slow the fuck down, you’re jolting Xiaodan out of her bloody seat frequently left his mouth, his language growing more colorful and more desperate as the days went by.

Malekh said nothing, and the more he said shit-all, the more Remy whined to make up for the silence. The vampire lord never rose to his bait. On the rare occasions he remained inside the carriage with them, he merely folded his arms across his chest, leaned back with his eyes closed, and pretended Remy wasn’t there. For the better part of the journey, he stayed on the driver’s perch outside where his helhests, undeterred by the rain and the fog, raced on down the path.

It had been four days since they’d first set out from Elouve, and Remy still didn’t know where the hell they were; Peanut and Cookie could run from one end of Aluria to the other in a week if their masters wanted them to. On at least three occasions now, Malekh had halted the carriage inside some forest, uttered a terse stay here to him, and was off to Light-knows-where for a couple of hours. No badgering could convince him to tell Remy where he’d been, once he returned.

Malekh hadn’t stopped at any villages or towns to rest, choosing to keep vigil outside the carriage at night while Remy managed a few hours’ sleep within. And despite all his whining about seeing to her comfort, Xiaodan slept through it all anyway, never once waking to join in Remy’s grievances.

Her head was currently in his lap. The rest of her was stretched out on his right, short enough that the soles of her feet were settled comfortably against the side of the carriage door. Her eyelids fluttered every now and then, and he hoped that she was dreaming of something better than where they were. Her heartbeats sounded loud to his ears, irregular as always.

She’d fallen asleep almost as soon as they’d left Elouve, and nothing could rouse her. Malekh checked on her frequently, his nonchalance over her condition Remy’s only assurance.

There was only so much he could moan about when the scenery was beginning to blur together and his nitpicks about the roads’ conditions were the same day in and day out, so eventually Remy stopped griping and started talking about anything else that tickled his fancy. Like whether or not plants had feelings. Or if bugs waged little insect wars with one another like humans did. Or how many undead chickens it would take, theoretically speaking, to defeat a vampire. In his nearly a thousand years of existence, surely Malekh had the answers to these and other philosophical questions.

Remy was just goading Malekh, really. He thought about shutting up. Silence had a far better chance of improving matters between them.

He did not shut up.

Sometimes, when he ran out of hypotheticals with which to annoy the vampire lord, Remy talked about how his father, the Duke of Valenbonne, was overseeing Aluria’s defense in fresh new horrifying ways since assuming the position of lord high steward. How Queen Ophelia had permitted him to continue Dr. Yost’s experiments on the mutations despite her obvious reluctance. Edgar Pendergast had played his hand well. Sending his creatures against the First Court vampires and whatever other mutations that still haunted the lands was better than sending in her Reapers. The queen did not want to incur more losses from the latter when the former was designed to be expendable.

Malekh likely already knew this, given his and Xiaodan’s close friendship with Her Majesty, but Remy nattered on anyway. He was to serve as Valenbonne’s spy for when the eight courts eventually convened—classified information he was supposed to withhold, but Remy no longer gave a fuck. So he’d told Malekh about how his father had manipulated his way back into power and how he intended to create an army of creatures devoted to him alone, using Yost’s bloodrot to command their loyalty. How Lord Valenbonne’s manservant, Grimesworthy, had been his prototype, a colossus mutation masquerading as a human servant.

Malekh said nothing. He crossed his arms and closed his eyes and checked on Xiaodan and his undead horses and did everything else but respond to Remy, widening the distance between them that had begun when Remy killed Malekh’s brother Naji.

Remy was almost relieved when the ambush broke the tension. He spotted the approaching mob in between thunderclaps on the fifth night, when the rains were worse. A dozen at least, many wearing the red robes that declared them minions of the First Court. The rest wore plain, threadbare clothes stained in some mixture of mud and dried blood—victims from previous villages that had fallen to the horde, convinced to take up their former predators’ cause after turning. Lightning streaked the sky around them, keeping Remy from using his Breaker at will.

It didn’t matter. His daggers could cut through vampire flesh just as well as his scythes did, even if they weren’t as sharp as he’d liked—he’d had no time to whet them back in Elouve, and he’d bitched about that, too. He plunged one into the eye of an undead attempting to pull itself in through the window, and then another through its chest. The vampire gurgled once, then let go.

It didn’t matter to Malekh either, who tore through the other kindred with a ferocity that contradicted his usually precise, analytical style of fighting. He cut through the throng quickly; Remy could see nothing of his attacks in between the brief flashes of light, the explosions of blood erupting from their bodies in the aftermath the only indication that there had ever been a strike.

Remy had barely gotten his arse out of the carriage when he saw there were no vampires left. Malekh was thorough.

A faint creak told him that the vampire lord had returned to his position on the carriage, taking up the reins once more.

“Malekh,” Remy said.

The winds howled, but he knew Malekh could hear him.

“I can understand why you’re choosing to give me the shitty silent treatment, but I don’t believe this is a natural storm. It feels like the one at Chàngge Shui when Vasilik attacked.”

Still nothing.

Remy was losing his patience. “We should wait till it passes. There could be more out there worse than this lot, and Xiaodan isn’t in any shape to deal with further surprises.”

He heard the puzzled whinny of the helhests when their master made no move to urge them onward.

And then Malekh’s voice, quiet and gravelly and well missed, penetrated through the barrier between them. “Rocksplen is up ahead.”

HE’D TOLD the innkeeper that they would be needing two rooms for the night, only for Malekh to interrupt, saying that they required only one, the biggest the inn had if you please, and that he would be compensated handsomely for the trouble. The innkeeper’s eyebrows climbed as he took them all in; Malekh as noble and as regal as ever, cradling the sleeping Xiaodan in his arms, and Remy, who still had enough self-regard to turn beet red. As if they needed more attention, what with the helhests loitering in the nearby woods just out of sight and the new rumors swirling of fresh vampire attacks within King Hallifax’s kingdom.

Once Xiaodan was snug and warm inside the surprisingly large bed they’d been provided, Malekh had left without another word. Logic told Remy that the man intended to scour the area, find any other vampires from the group that had tried to waylay them, and see whether the storm was as unnatural as suspected.

It rankled that Malekh hadn’t bothered to tell him any of that.

But Remy sucked it up.

For a generous fee he was sure Malekh wouldn’t mind paying, he ordered a very expensive dinner—prime roast beef and fresh vegetables, even—sent up to their room so he wouldn’t have to leave Xiaodan, who continued to dream. Once he’d had his fill, he’d asked for a bucket of water and a clean cloth and retreated behind a small screen to wash off the stink he’d accumulated over the last few days.

He no longer wore Reaper black, only traveling clothes chosen from his own wardrobe. Officially, it was because he was on a covert mission for Her Majesty. Personally, it was because he didn’t realize how much he hated that damnable color until he’d had the opportunity to stop wearing it. And after days spent inside the cramped carriage, he should have relished in the idea of finally spending the night in a soft bed with goose feather pillows, but he was too keyed up to rest.

He stretched out beside Xiaodan and listened to her heartbeat for a while; an arrhythmic cadence contrasting with the steady hum of the downpour outside. He touched her cheek, relieved to see her expression relaxed in slumber, that her sleep was at least free of nightmares. The fringe on her forehead was starting to look uneven. The last thing he’d expected a vampire to need was a hair trim.

“He’s angry at me,” Remy told her. “Not that I blame him.” His gaze drifted back toward the small window, watching the darkness beyond it. Minutes passed before he realized he’d left his last thought unfinished.

“I don’t know if I can forgive myself, either,” he said.

HE MUST have fallen asleep shortly afterward, because Remy woke up to a body sprawled on top of him. His first instinct was to shove, anticipating an attack, but strong hands pinned his wrists down, and no amount of struggle could wrest him free.

“Remy.” It was a soft whisper, the voice familiar and loved.


The vampire straddled him, holding his wrists against the covers. She was wide awake now and staring at him with a ravenous look he knew all too well.

“Please,” Xiaodan whispered. Her hold on him slackened, no longer keeping him immobile, though she remained on top of him. She looked eager and needy and beautiful.

Remy’s hands found her waist. “Take all you need.”

He groaned when he felt her fangs bite down against his neck as she slaked her thirst. Her hands burrowed underneath his shirt, fingers fumbling with his braies, pushing them down.

She drew back momentarily. “Remy,” she breathed, “are you sure?”

It felt oddly touching that, even when she was not herself, even when she was fighting for self-control, she still thought to ask.

He reached up and cradled her face in his hands, watching those gorgeous brown eyes soften for him. “Never wanted anything more, my love,” he said, and gently guided her mouth down to his.

SHE FELL asleep soon after, still sprawled on top of him after finding her completion. Remy could only manage a tired laugh, his hand stroking at her hair. There was more color to her cheeks now, her pallor less sickly than before, and he hoped it was enough until they reached the Third Court.

He left her under the blankets while he staggered off to find something to clean her and himself with. That done, he disposed of the soiled linen and stopped by the wash basin to scrub at his face, feeling the stubble he’d accumulated over the last few days and wondering if he could pester the innkeeper for something to shave with.

He turned, and his heart nearly stopped at the sight of Malekh at Xiaodan’s side, pulling the rest of the covers over her. “The fuck did you come from?” he choked out.

Malekh nodded at the now-shut window. “Keep it locked next time.”

“You didn’t join us.”

The lord’s gaze drifted toward his fiancée’s sleeping face. “She needed someone gentler tonight.”

“And you don’t?”

The vampire’s golden gaze was back on him. “I have an urge for something rougher.”

“So I’m good enough to talk to now?” Remy asked, stung and still a little horny. “Now that you want to wet your cock you’re going to—”

Malekh’s teeth sank into his shoulder, and Remy shuddered. “It would have been irresponsible to vent all my pent-up frustrations on the road with Xiaodan incapacitated. I have been very patient, listening to all your aggravating talk about… insect wars. Chickens.” He actually sounded pained, and the heat inside Remy only escalated. “I amused myself with the many different ways I might otherwise keep your mouth occupied on the journey here.”

“So you wanted to rush all the way here because you were raunchy and Xiaodan couldn’t—”

Malekh kissed him again, and this time Remy finally shut up.

NOT ON the bed, Malekh had said. They might wake Xiaodan, despite the latter having slept through terrible roads, a thunderstorm, and an ambush.

They wound up breaking the dresser, the only other furniture of note in the room. It was staved in now, having been slammed into the wall behind it so hard that the wood had broken from the impact. Remy was certain there were still a few splinters lodged in his hip. Worth it, though; he was sore in all the right, satisfying ways, and some of the hardness had left Malekh’s expression, however slightly.

“Did I hurt you?” Malekh’s voice was rough, husky.

“No,” Remy said, slightly dazed. He’d been deposited back onto the bed, where he’d immediately planted himself face-first onto the pillow. His right arm throbbed; he’d bitten down hard on it, worried that he’d shout the place down.

Normally Malekh would take up watch beside the window as was his habit, always on guard. Instead, Remy heard him moving around the room; a minute later, he felt a piece of cloth against his backside, warm and soothing. The lord then found himself a spot beside Remy, hand combing slowly through his hair. It felt like he was waiting for Remy to speak. And for the first time since leaving Elouve, it almost felt like he was willing to listen.

“Some days I wonder if I really should have left Elouve,” Remy mumbled. “Don’t know why I’d think that. Only Elke and Riones ever liked me, and I’m not even sure Giselle ever did. I was just a rare specimen she could parade on her arm and flaunt to the rest of the ton. Someone she could taunt Astonbury with.”

He paused. Malekh still said nothing.

“You said the courts look down on familiars,” Remy continued.

“The more militant of them, yes. Doesn’t stop them from taking humans of their own.”

“You’ve barely spoken a word to me. You have every reason to despise me for what happened to—to…” Remy couldn’t even bring himself to say Naji’s name. “But you agreed to bring me along. I could have stayed in Elouve if you didn’t want me here—”

“That isn’t the case.” Remy felt the man’s hand tighten against his hair. “And you would not have been happy in Elouve, for all your hesitation about leaving.”

“Why?” The words hung thick in his throat. “I would have hated myself in your place. I shouldn’t have let her use me to—I’m a liability. I can’t—”

Malekh yanked his head up—unexpected enough for Remy to start in surprise, but not enough that it hurt. Not enough to protest when Malekh’s mouth came crashing down on his.

The kiss was forceful, starved. And when Malekh lifted his head back up and the words came, they were harsh and angry, as they had to be. “Don’t you think I know how difficult it is to wrench your mind free, having spent the greater part of a century as a thrall to the Night King, unable to disobey him even as he sent me to kill in his name? I don’t blame you for Naji, Pendergast. The blame is on me. I should have ordered him to stay with Lady Whittaker at the farmstead. I failed Naji, and I failed you.”

Remy stared at him. Not once during the journey had he thought Malekh’s silence as guilt. “There was no way for you to know that the Night Empress was my mother. I won’t sit here and watch you punish yourself for that. The only sin you’ve committed is ignoring me and letting me think you didn’t want me along.”

There was no mistaking Malekh’s reaction this time, eyes back to a bright gold as if they hadn’t broken the damned furniture already. “Xiaodan and I will always want you along.” He bent his head, and for a moment, despite his soreness and bruised back, Remy thought he was ready to go again, and his exhaustion fell away in anticipation.

Instead, he felt the lightest of touches on the side of his neck where Malekh had bitten him. The lord shifted to give him a more comfortable position on the bed. “Rest tonight,” the vampire said quietly. “It will take us a few more days to reach my court, but I intend to stop by Libéliard along the way.” The hand lingered; a thumb grazed at the spot where his neck met collarbone, and Remy shivered without meaning to. “Close the shutter behind me.”

He was out the window before Remy could yell at him to use the door like everyone else. Grumbling, he went and locked it, then slouched back down next to Xiaodan, who slept blissfully on. His hand wandered to the spot where the lord’s hand had been, then jerked back when he realized it.

“Bastard,” he muttered, not without affection and a good amount of relief.

About The Author


Rin Chupeco is a nonbinary Chinese Filipino writer born and raised in the Philippines. They are the author of Silver Under Nightfall and several speculative young adult series, including The Bone WitchThe Girl from the WellThe Never-Tilting World, and Wicked as You Wish. Formerly a graphic designer and technical writer, they now write fiction full-time and live with their partner and two children in Manila. They can be found on Instagram at @RinChupeco.

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S/Saga Press (April 2, 2024)
  • Length: 448 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982195748

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