Authors: Maggie Stiefvater
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Legends; Myths; Fables, #Other, #Love & Romance, #Fantasy & Magic
Persephone stood on the bare mountaintop, her ruffled ivory dress whipping around her legs, her masses of white-blond curls streaming behind her. She was gauzy, immaterial, something blown between these boulders and caught upon one of them. The wind was fierce up here with no trees to block it. The world below was gloriously autumnal.
Adam Parrish stood beside her with his hands shoved into the pockets of his grease-stained cargo pants. He looked tired, but his eyes were clear, better than when she’d seen him last. Because Persephone was only interested in important things, she hadn’t considered her own age in a long time, but it struck her as she looked at him that he was quite
That raw expression, that youthful hunch of his shoulders, the frantic sprawl of the energy inside him.
What a good day it is for this
, she thought. It was cool and overcast, with no interference from the sun’s force or the lunar schedule or nearby road construction.
“This is the corpse road,” she said, aligning her body with the invisible path. As she did, she could feel something inside her begin to hum agreeably, a sensation very much like the satisfaction that came from aligning book spines on a shelf. “The ley line,” Adam clarified.
She nodded serenely. “Find it for yourself.”
He stepped onto the line immediately, his face turning to
gaze along its length as naturally as a flower looking into the sun. It had taken Persephone rather longer to master this skill, but then, unlike her youthful pupil,
had not made any bargains with supernatural forests. She was not much for bargains. Group projects, in general, were not her thing.
His eyes fluttered, his dusty lashes resting on his cheeks. Because she was Persephone, and because it was a good day for this, she could see what he was seeing. It was not anything related to the ley line. It was a confusion of shattered figurines on the floor of a lovely mansion. An official letter printed on county stationery. A friend convulsing at his feet.
“Outside of you,” Persephone reminded him mildly. She herself saw so many events and possibilities along the corpse road that no single one stood out. She was a far better psychic when she had her two friends Calla and Maura with her: Calla to sort through her impressions and Maura to put them in context.
Adam seemed to have potential in this department, though he was too new to replace Maura— no, that was a ridiculous way to put it, Persephone told herself, you don’t
friends. She struggled to think of the proper word. Not
Yes, of course, that was what you did with your friends. Did Maura need rescuing?
If Maura had been there on the mountain, Persephone might have been able to say. But if Maura had been there on the mountain, Persephone wouldn’t
She sighed deeply.
She sighed a lot.
“I see things.” Adam’s eyebrows formed either concentration or uncertainty. “More than one thing. It’s like — like the animals at the Barns. I see things . . . sleeping.”
“Dreaming,” Persephone agreed.
As soon as he’d called her attention to the sleepers, they came to the forefront of her consciousness.
“Three,” she added.
“Three in particular,” she murmured. “To be woken. Oh, no. No. Two. One should not be woken.”
Persephone had never been very handy with the concept of right and wrong. But in this case, the third sleeper was definitely
For a few minutes, she and the boy—
, she reminded herself; it was so difficult to find birth-given names important — both stood there, feeling the ley line course beneath their feet. Persephone gently and unsuccessfully attempted to find the bright strand of Maura’s existence in the tangled threads of energy.
Beside her, Adam was once again retreating inside himself, most interested, as always, in the thing that remained unknowable to him: his own mind.
“Outside,” Persephone reminded him.
Adam didn’t open his eyes. His words were so soft that the wind nearly destroyed them. “I don’t mean to be rude, ma’am, but I don’t know why this is worth learning.”
Persephone wasn’t sure how he thought such a reasonable question could be impolite. “When you were a baby, what made learning to talk worth it?”
“Who am I learning to communicate with?”
She was pleased that he immediately grasped the concept. She replied, “Everything.”
Blue didn’t answer. She sorted through papers by the window, head tilted in consideration. From this angle, she looked exactly like her mother, compact and athletic and hard to tip over. She was weirdly lovely, even though she had unevenly clipped her dark hair all over her head and wore a shirt she’d attacked with a rototiller. Or perhaps
of these things. When had she gotten so pretty and so grown-up? Without getting any taller? This was probably what happened to girls when they lived on only yogurt.
Blue asked, “Have you seen these? They’re really good.” Calla wasn’t sure what Blue was looking at, but she believed her. Blue wasn’t the sort of girl to hand out false compliments, even to her mother. Although she was kind, she wasn’t
. Good thing, too, because nice people made Calla irritable
“Your mother is a woman of many talents,” she growled. The mess was taking years from her life. Calla liked things you could rely on: filing systems, months with thirty-one days, purple lipstick. Maura liked chaos. “Such as aggravating me.”
Calla picked up Maura’s pillow. Sensations assaulted her. She
all at once where the pillow had been procured, how Maura balled it up under her neck, the number of tears applied to the pillowcase, and the contents of five years of dreams. The psychic hotline rang in the room next door. Calla’s concentration fluttered away.
“Damn it,” she said.
She was psychometric — just her touch could often reveal both an object’s origin and the owner’s feelings. But this pillow had been handled so often that it contained too many memories to sort through. If Maura had been there, Calla would have been able to easily isolate the useful ones.
But if Maura had been there, she wouldn’t have needed to.
“Blue, get over here.”
Blue theatrically clapped a hand on Calla’s shoulder. Immediately, her natural amplifying talent sharpened Calla’s ability. She saw Maura’s hopefulness keeping her awake. Felt the impression of Mr. Gray’s shadowed jaw on the pillowcase. Saw the contents of Maura’s final dream: a mirrored lake and a distantly familiar man.
Artemus. Maura’s long-gone ex-lover.
“Anything?” Blue asked.
Blue snatched away her hand then, aware that Calla was able to pick up as many feelings from girls as from pillows. But Calla didn’t need psychic powers to guess that Blue’s sensible, pleasant expression was at odds with the fire that burned furiously inside. School was imminent, love was the in the air, and Blue’s mother had vanished on some mysterious personal quest more than a month before, leaving behind her newly acquired assassin beau. Blue was a hurricane lurking just offshore.
Calla’s stomach twisted.
I told you not to go.
“Touch that.” Blue pointed to a large black scrying bowl. It sat askew on the rug, untouched since Maura had used it.
Calla didn’t think much of scrying, or mirror-magic, or anything that had to do with plumbing the mysterious ether of space and time in order to actually muck about on the other side of it. Technically, scrying was not dangerous; it was just meditating into a mirrored surface. But practically, it often involved freeing the soul from the body. And the soul was a fragile traveler.
The last time Calla, Persephone, and Maura had messed with mirror-magic, they had accidentally made Maura’s halfsister Neeve disappear.
At least Calla had never liked Neeve.
But Blue was right. The scrying bowl probably held the most answers.
Calla said, “Fine. But don’t touch me. I don’t want you to make this any stronger than it already is.”
Blue held her hands up as if proving she had no weapon.
Reluctantly, Calla touched the bowl’s rim and darkness immediately billowed through her vision. She was sleeping, dreaming. Falling through endless black water. A mirrored version of her soared upward toward the stars. Metal bit into her cheek. Hair stuck to the corner of her mouth.
Where was Maura in all this?
An unfamiliar voice chanted in her head, strident and wry and sing-song:
Kings and queens Blue lily, lily blue Crowns and birds Swords and things Blue lily, lily blue”
Suddenly, she focused.
She was Calla again.
she saw what Maura had seen: three sleepers — light,
dark, and in between. The knowledge that Artemus was underground. The certainty that no one was coming out of those caverns unless fetched. The realization that Blue and her friends were part of something huger, something vast and stretching and slowly waking —
“BLUE!” roared Calla, because she realized why her efforts had suddenly become so successful.
Sure enough, Blue was touching her shoulder, amplifying everything. “Hi.”
you not to touch me.”
Blue didn’t look sorry. “What did you see?”
Calla was still mired in that
awareness. She couldn’t shake the idea that she was getting ready for a fight that, somehow, she’d already fought.
She couldn’t remember if she’d won the last time.
Maura Sargent had the nagging feeling that time had stopped working. Not that it had stopped functioning, exactly. Just that it had ceased to run forward in the manner she’d come to think of as “the usual way.” Minutes stacking upon minutes to make hours and then days and weeks.
She was beginning to suspect that she might just be using the same minute over and over.
This might have troubled some people. Some people might not have noticed at all. But Maura was not
. She had begun to dream the future when she was fourteen. She had spoken to her first spirit when she was sixteen. She had used remote viewing to see the other side of the world when she was nineteen. Time and space were bathtubs that Maura splashed in.
So she knew there were impossible things in the world, but she didn’t believe that a cavern where time stood still was one of them. Had she been here for an hour? Two? A day? Four days? Twenty years? Her flashlight batteries hadn’t died.
But if time’s not moving forward here, they never will, will they?
She striped her flashlight from floor to ceiling as she crept through the tunnel. She didn’t want to smash her head, but she didn’t want to fall into a bottomless crevice, either. She’d already stepped into several deep puddles, and her scuffed boots were soaked and cold.
The worst part was the boredom. A poor childhood in West Virginia had left Maura with a strong sense of self-reliance, a high tolerance for discomfort, and a black sense of humor.
It was impossible to tell a joke when you were alone.
The only indication Maura had that time might be moving
was that sometimes she forgot who she was looking for down here.
Artemus is the goal
, she reminded herself. Seventeen years before, she’d let Calla convince her that he’d merely run off. Maybe she had wanted to be convinced. Deep down, she’d known he was part of something bigger. She’d known that
was part of something bigger.
So far, the only thing she had found in this tunnel was doubt. This was not the sort of place sun-loving Artemus would have ever chosen. She had half an idea that this was the kind of place someone like Artemus would die in. She was beginning to feel bad about the note she’d left behind. In its entirety, it read:
At the time, she’d felt quite smug; the note was meant to enrage and inspire, depending on who read it. Of course, she had written it thinking she would be back by the next day.
She kept walking. It was inky black ahead and inky black behind. The sweep of her flashlight illuminated details: stubbled stalactites on the uneven ceiling. Water sheened on the walls.
She wasn’t afraid yet. It took a lot to terrify someone who played in time and space like a bathtub.
Using a mud-slick stalagmite as a handhold, Maura hauled herself through a narrow opening. The scene on the opposite side was confusing. The ceiling was spiked; the floor was spiked; it was endless; it was impossible.
Then a tiny drip of water unspooled ripples through the image, momentarily ruining the illusion. It was an underground lake. The dark surface mirrored the golden stalactites on the ceiling, making it seem as if an equal number of stalagmites jabbed up from the lake floor.
The real bottom of the lake was hidden. The water could be two inches, two feet, depthless.
Ah. So here it was, finally. She had dreamed of this. She was still not quite afraid, but her heart skipped uneasily.
I could just go home. I know the way.
But if Mr. Gray had been willing to risk his life for what he wanted, surely she could be as brave. She wondered if he was alive. She was surprised by how much she desperately hoped that he was.
She revised the note in her head.
P.S. Pie is still not a meal.
P.P.S. Don’t forget to take the car in for the oil change. P.P.P.S. Look for me at the bottom of a mirrored lake.
A voice whispered in her ear. Someone from the future, or the past. Someone dead or alive or sleeping. It wasn’t really a whisper, Maura realized. It was just hoarse. The voice of someone who had been calling for a long time without an answer.