Settings
Lord of Shadows

Lord of Shadows

Page 36

She moved to take a step forward, but the path gave way under her feet. For what seemed like much more than seconds she tumbled toward the black water. Then Julian had caught her. His arms around her, they fell together through the arch.

* * *

The shadows had lengthened in the attic. Arthur sat motionless, gazing out the window with its torn paper at the moonlight over the sea. He could guess where Julian and the others were now: He knew the moon’s road, as he knew the other roads of Faerie. He had been driven down them by hooting packs of pixies and goblins, riding ahead of their masters, the unearthly beautiful princes and princesses of the gentry. Once in a winter forest he had fallen, and his body had shattered the ice of a pond. He recalled watching his blood spray across the pond’s silvered surface.

“How pretty,” a faerie lady had mused, as Arthur’s blood melted into the ice.

He thought of his mind that way sometimes: a shattered surface reflecting back a broken and imperfect picture. He knew his madness was not like human madness. It came and went, sometimes leaving him barely touched so he hoped it was gone forever. Then it would return, crushing him beneath a parade of people no one else could see, a chorus of voices no one else could hear.

The medicine helped, but the medicine was gone. Julian had always brought the medicine, from the time he was a small boy. Arthur wasn’t sure how old he was now. Old enough. Sometimes Arthur wondered if he loved the boy. If he loved any of his brother’s children. There had been times he had awoken from dreams in which terrible things had happened to them with his face wet with tears.

But that might have been guilt. He had lacked either the ability to raise them, or the bravery to let the Clave replace him with a better guardian. Though who would have kept them together? No one, perhaps, and family should be together.

The door at the foot of the stairs creaked. Arthur turned eagerly. Perhaps Julian had thought better of his mad plan and returned. The moon’s road was dangerous. The sea itself was full of treachery. He had grown up near the sea, in Cornwall, and he recalled its monsters. And bitter as blood is the spray; and the crests are as fangs that devour.

Or perhaps there had never been monsters.

She appeared at the top of the steps and looked at him coolly. Her hair was pulled back so tightly her skin seemed stretched. She tilted her head, taking in the cramped, dirty room, the papered-over windows. There was something in her face, something that stirred a flicker of memory.

Something that made cold terror wash through him. He gripped the arms of his chair, his mind chattering with bits of old poetry. Her skin was white as leprosy, the nightmare Life-in-Death was she—

“Arthur Blackthorn, I presume?” she said with a demure smile. “I’m Zara Dearborn. I believe you knew my father.”

* * *

Emma landed hard on thick grass, tangled up in Julian. For a moment he was propped over her, elbows on the ground, his pale face luminous in the moonlight. The air around them was cold, but his body was warm against hers. She felt the expansion of his chest as he inhaled a sharp breath, the current of air against her cheek as he turned his face quickly away from hers.

A moment later he was on his feet, reaching down to pull her up after him. But she scrambled upright on her own, spinning around to see that they were standing in a clearing surrounded by trees.

The moonlight was bright enough for Emma to see that the grass was intensely green, the trees hung with fruit that was vividly colored: purple plums, red apples, star- and rose-shaped fruits that Emma didn’t recognize. Mark and Cristina were there too, under the trees.

Mark had pushed the sleeves of his shirt up and was holding his hands out as if he were touching the air of Faerie, feeling it on his skin. He tipped his head back, his mouth slightly open; Emma, looking at him, blushed. It felt like a private moment, as if she were watching someone reconnect with a lover.

“Emma,” Cristina breathed. “Look.” She pointed upward, at the sky.

The stars were different. They arched and whirled in patterns that Emma didn’t recognize, and they had colors—icy blue, frost green, shimmering gold, brilliant silver.

Copyright 2016 - 2021