Read Bones of Faerie Online

Authors: Janni Lee Simner

Tags: #Runaways, #Social Issues, #Magic, #Action & Adventure, #Body; Mind & Spirit, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fairies, #Fantasy & Magic, #Fiction, #Coming of age, #General, #Magick Studies

Bones of Faerie (6 page)

BOOK: Bones of Faerie
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The first man pressed his hands to Matthew's bare chest. Matthew's eyes went wide. He opened his mouth as if to scream, but only a strangled whine came out. The stranger pressed harder, lips moving to words I couldn't hear, silver light flowing from his hands.

I forced myself not to cry out. Matthew arched his back, and I knew he was in pain. I reached for my knife before realizing I didn't have it. Instead I entered the room, quiet like Father had taught me, scanning the floor and dresser for something to use as a weapon.

The red-haired man looked up, and his eyes locked on mine. I froze in place as he crossed the room. “Don't,” he whispered. “If you interfere with Caleb's healing you could kill them both.”

Healing? That didn't look like healing. But I waited as the man gave me an apologetic smile. “I'm Samuel,” he said, still whispering. “And I understand you're Liza.”

I nodded, my eyes not leaving Matthew. He fell limp in the bed, eyes shut, chest moving uneasily up and down. Pale-haired Caleb collapsed into a chair, watching me
through half-lidded eyes—with suspicion or curiosity, I couldn't tell.

“Come,” Samuel said. “It's safe now.” I went to Matthew's side, even as Samuel laid a hand on Caleb's shoulder.

Caleb looked up. “This is all I can do for now,” he said. “For now, it is enough.”

Matthew opened his eyes as my hand brushed his arm, then closed them again, as if that took too much work. His skin was warm. I looked to Caleb.

“His chances slowly improve,” Caleb said wearily. “A few hours ago I didn't know whether he'd live through the night.”

I watched the uneasy rise and fall of Matthew's chest. He, at least, could have stayed hidden, yet instead he'd followed me into the dark.

I forced myself to meet Caleb's eyes. They were silver like Karin's, bright with magic. “You saved Matthew's life.”

Caleb met my steady gaze. “I cannot promise that yet. But I am doing what I can.”

“With magic.” My words held more of a challenge than I'd intended. I hadn't known there was magic that
could heal, any more than I'd known there was magic that could force trees to release their hold.

Caleb nodded, but his expression grew more guarded. “Magic was the best tool at hand. Would you have chosen another?”

Matthew looked so small lying there, laboring with each breath. So human, no hint of wolf about him. “We are in your debt,” I said, bowing my head.

Caleb nodded, but the guarded expression remained. Samuel said, “You've been here most of the night, Caleb. You need food and rest. Allie's cooking breakfast—”

“I'll be along soon,” Caleb said. “I want to watch the boy awhile longer.”

“I'll watch,” I told him.

“I'm to bring you down for breakfast, too,” Samuel said. “Allie—that's my daughter—was very clear about that.”

Before I could ask why a child would have any say in the matter, Caleb said, “Trust your healer, Liza. Allison may be young, but her instincts are good.”

“Healer?” I asked, feeling stupid.

Caleb nodded soberly. “Matthew wasn't the only one in need of healing when Karin brought you here. I hadn't the strength for you both. We're lucky Allison was up
to the task. Now go. I'll head down when you return, and you may sit with Matthew as long as you wish then.”

A scowl crossed Matthew's face between breaths. I wanted to tell him everything would be all right, but I didn't know that. “I'll be back,” I promised him instead, and followed Samuel down the stairs. The girl—Allie— knelt by the living room fireplace, ladling porridge into plastic bowls. My stomach rumbled at the smell.

“Liza!” She dropped the ladle, splattering porridge. Samuel laughed and handed her a towel. I remained in the doorway, uncertain. Father would have slapped me for so carelessly wasting food. Mom would have been calmer, but she wouldn't have laughed.

Allie mopped up the porridge and placed the bowls on a table near the fire. “Come on,” she said. “You have to eat after a healing. That's what Caleb taught me, and it's true for healer and patient both. I'm starving. Come on!”

A bit of porridge had splattered her hair. She didn't seem to notice. Her eyes were brown, and she had a scattering of freckles over her nose. She looked perfectly ordinary, no hint of magic about her. If there were any clear strands in her hair, they were as few and as hidden as
Cam's had been. How could this child have wielded the magic that healed me? I should have thanked Allie, but I felt a surge of anger instead. Why should this town have magic that healed, while in my town magic only killed? I forced my anger down as I sat with Allie and Samuel at the table. I didn't want to seem ungrateful.

Samuel poured tea into chipped old ceramic mugs. Like at home, the mugs were covered with words from Before that no longer had meaning:
University of Missouri. St. Louis Cardinals. Disneyland.

The porridge had a burned edge. I didn't care. I ate hungrily, tasting bits of meat mixed in. Samuel ate more slowly. “It's—very good,” he managed.

“Liar,” Allie said, but Samuel didn't slap her for that, either. “It's better than good, it's”—she swallowed a mouthful and sputtered—“oh,” she said.

“I like it.” I quickly finished my bowl, and Allie filled it again. I remembered Matthew's cornmeal boiling over onto the fire.

“You really are better, aren't you?” When I nodded, Allie turned to her father. “See? I told you I could do it.”

Samuel ruffled her hair. “And you were right, and we all should have trusted you sooner.”

“Exactly.” Allison gave him a smug grin, then turned to me. “How's your back? That was the worst part, you know.” She shivered, and the smile left her face. “I've never seen a tree attack anyone—I can only imagine. But that's all healed, right?”

I nodded again, not telling her that not all of my injuries had come from the tree. I suspected such things didn't happen in her town, either.

“So where are you from?” Samuel asked me.

I tensed. Could Kate—or, worse, Father—have warned the other towns to keep an eye out for Matthew and me, to return us home or to destroy us? But no, outsiders didn't visit our town. We turned strangers away, with words if possible, by force if need be. No one knew what danger or magic a stranger might bring.

“Wait a moment.” Samuel left the room and came back with a folded sheet of smooth, thin paper from Before. The yellowing edges crumbled as he unfolded it.
St. Louis and Vicinity,
the paper said.

“A map,” Samuel explained. “The blue lines are rivers. The blacks and reds are—were—roads.”

The names of towns were scattered across the lines, close together in the east, farther apart in the west and
south. The city of St. Louis was written larger than the others, and a thick line crossed it out. Thinner lines crossed out most of the other towns, too.

“We're here.” Samuel pointed to a town west and south of St. Louis, circled in green. “Washville. And you?”

“Franklin Falls.” I scanned the map. I hadn't known there were once so many towns.

Samuel found Franklin Falls before I did. It was circled in red but not crossed out. “Not far,” he said. “Fifteen miles, maybe less. But red means we don't trade with you.” He looked at me as if expecting some answer to that.

Allie gazed longingly at the map. “Dad says I'm too young to go Outside. But he thought I was too young to heal you, too, and he was wrong about that.”

“One thing at a time,” Samuel said. “Be patient with me, Allie.”

“I
hate
being patient.” She took the empty bowls from the table as her father carefully folded up the map again. When she returned, she said, “Come on, Liza. Time for you to get back to bed.”

“I'm okay,” I said, but a loud yawn escaped my lips. Samuel and Allie both laughed. I looked down, heat rushing to my cheeks.

I let Allie lead me up the stairs. When she tried to drag me toward the room where I'd woken, though, I pulled firmly away and entered Matthew's room instead. “You need sleep!” Allie protested, following me.

Caleb stood when he saw us, gesturing me to the chair. “He's holding steady for now.” Matthew's eyes were shut, the rise and fall of his chest uneven, but at least he was still breathing. I let out a breath I hadn't known I'd held.

“Caleb!” Allie said. “She should be resting. You know she should.”

Caleb crossed the room and put his hands on Allie's shoulders. “That's a lesson you'd best learn, then. Not all your charges will do what's best for them, and you need to find ways to work with that.”

“But how?” She looked up at Caleb. Dark shadows lay under his eyes. “You look awful! Will
you
at least rest?”

“Yes, Allison. I will rest. But first I must talk to Liza.” He turned to me. “You will call me if you see any change in him, for good or ill, yes?”

I nodded. I didn't intend to leave Matthew's side again, not until I knew he was all right.

“Good,” Caleb said. “Then there is only one matter
left to discuss. Karin tells me a shadow followed you last night. A new shadow, one she's not met on patrol before. What do you know of it?”

I thought of that small inky shadow flowing toward me amid the mulberry trees and then again at the hedge. “Nothing.” I didn't know where the shadow had come from or why it had followed us. Though I had seen it before, I realized with a start—in my restless dreams after Mom had left.

Caleb's eyes narrowed, but he said only, “You need not fear. The Wall kept the shadow at bay. Karin will make certain it continues to do so. But we must know what this shadow is so we can banish it or lay it to rest.” Caleb's voice held a strange edge, nothing like Karin's understanding smile.

“I don't know.” I shied back, fearing anger, but Caleb only frowned.

“Think on it,” he said. “We dare not let this go for long.”

I settled uneasily into the chair as Allie pulled Caleb from the room. Why would a shadow follow me? Had my magic somehow called it out from among the trees? I listened to Matthew's ragged breathing. Magic had saved his life.

I didn't mean to fall asleep and only knew I had when I woke to Allie draping a blanket over me. “There's a pillow on the floor,” she said. “You could at least lie down.”

I remained in the chair, though. Tallow padded in from the hall and jumped into my lap. I held the cat tightly, thinking this time I would stay awake. But Allie needn't have worried. Soon I slept once more.

When I next woke it was night, and Matthew was muttering in his sleep. “Can't,” he said. “Can't let him …” He drew shallow breaths between words. “We
can't!”
Matthew jerked upright, gasping in pain. I stood and moved to him, but he flung his arms out in the darkness, shoving me back. I reached forward again, but as I did Caleb was by my side, setting hands on Matthew's shoulders and easing him back to the bed.

I hadn't heard Caleb enter the room. And I'd been listening. I always listened—Father had taught me how. No one walked that quietly.

“Rest,” Caleb whispered to Matthew. He reminded me of Karin, speaking to the trees. “Seek rest, seek comfort, seek sleep.”

“I'll kill him,” Matthew growled. “Tear him limb— from limb.” His voice was hoarse, as if his throat were lined with wool.

“Be at peace,” Caleb said.

Matthew's words grew softer. “I promised. Promised Cam that he—would be—the last—”

I heard footsteps down the hall. Samuel entered the room and flipped a switch in the wall. Harsh yellow light flooded the room. I gasped aloud as Allie followed him in, rubbing her eyes.

Caleb pulled the covers down. Beneath them Matthew wore only a loose pair of trousers. Caleb's hands moved over Matthew's chest and throat, both of which were covered with bruises. Bruises and a fine layer of gray hair—wolf hair. It covered the back of Matthew's hands, too, and poked out around his ears. I hadn't noticed in the dark.

If Caleb saw, he gave no sign. “I don't like the fluid I feel in the boy's lungs. But we need to fix his ribs soon, too. Allison”—Allie moved to his side—“be my watcher. Maybe I can do both.”

Caleb closed his eyes, hands moving over Matthew's skin. Silver light flowed beneath Caleb's fingers, and I
fought the instinct to pull Matthew away, to rescue him from this magic instead of letting it heal him. I clenched my hands and stepped back toward the dresser instead. A bare glass ball glowed in the dresser lamp, bright as a miniature sun. I reached toward that light.

The ball was hot. I jerked my hand away. Samuel moved to my side. “Got the generator running on methane two years ago,” he said with a smile. “Magic can't do everything, you know.”

I drew my fingers to my mouth. It felt like magic, no matter what Samuel said. Tallow leaped to the dresser, sniffed the light suspiciously, and batted at a spot in front of it.

Matthew whined softly and scratched the air. His arms began to shift, skin giving way to fur, nails turning to claws—but then they were only hands once more.

If Caleb was frightened, he gave no sign of that, either. Allie touched his elbow. “Enough,” she said.

Caleb drew back with a tired sigh. “Thank you, Allison.”

Samuel said to me, “Allie's been Caleb's watcher for almost a year. Ever since Caleb started teaching her.”

Matthew's breathing was quieter now, more even. He
sat up slowly and opened his eyes. “All right.” His voice sounded weary beyond all words. “I'll stay hidden. I'll stay safe. To protect the others. But only because Tara asks it.”

He turned away and buried his head against the pillow. I heard him sobbing softly.

Caleb turned to me, his question clear enough. But I couldn't answer this one, either. I didn't know whom Matthew wanted to tear apart. Didn't know if he really would have had Tara—had my mother—not asked him to hold back.

A cold feeling settled into my stomach. Mom couldn't possibly have told Matthew to hold back, not unless she'd already known he was a wolf.

As I listened to Matthew's quiet sobs, I wondered what else my mother knew—and what else she hadn't told me.

Chapter 7
BOOK: Bones of Faerie
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