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 (8 page)

BOOK: Bones of Faerie
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Jared repeated the words, line by line, his voice growing older and more serious as he did. I should have been relieved—clearly he was quite safe—but instead I frowned. Did this town believe you had only to say, “I won't hurt anyone, honest,” and all magic would be tamed? If it were that simple Cam wouldn't have died.

“Your first lesson,” Karin told Jared, “will be in how to douse the light you've created. Come.”

“Now?” Jared sounded startled.

“Now. You'll not go to bed until you learn something of control.”

Karin took the glowing stone in one hand, Jared's hand in her other. Alan gave his son's shoulder a squeeze before Karin led him away, pride clear enough on Alan's face. Jan brushed an arm across her eyes and smiled, sadly but without fear.

Samuel laughed. “So much for my generator. Within a year we'll be lighting the whole town with Jared's stones, mark my words. It's just as well—our lightbulbs wouldn't have lasted forever.”

Only the girl beside Allie scowled. “It's not fair,” she said. “Jared's younger than me!”

Jan drew her into a hug. “Don't be in such a rush,

Kimi. Magic is quite a responsibility. You'll have time enough later.”

“It's true,” Allie said. “Magic's lots of work.” She glanced at me, as if I proved her point. “Come on,” she told the other girl. “Let's get some cornbread and see if Tallow will eat
that.”
She dragged Kimi back toward the kitchen, Tallow trotting at their heels.

The townsfolk began talking and drifting back to their tables. A few stopped to shake Alan's or Jan's hand first. “That's it?” I said. A few pretty words and everything was all right?

Samuel rubbed his chin and regarded me soberly. “It's different in your town, isn't it?”

That's not our fault,
I screamed silently, even as Samuel went on, “We know well enough the dangers of uncontrolled magic, Liza. There's not an adult in this town who didn't lose someone to the War.”

“But now the War is over and everything's perfectly safe?” I didn't even try to keep the anger from my words.

“Magic is never safe.” Samuel shut his eyes a moment, opened them again. “Yes, we've lost children to magic here. Is that what you wanted me to say? But there's not a person born since the War who doesn't have some magic. What can we do but learn to control it?”

“We are
not
all born with magic.” How could he think that? My hands shook, but my voice held steady. “Not in Franklin Falls.” Only Matthew and I were so cursed. And Cam. And Rebecca.

“Magic is your burden,” Samuel said. “Your burden and your gift.”

“Not mine.” He couldn't make me accept this. “Magic destroyed the world.”

“Indeed,” Samuel agreed. “And now it's the only tool we have to mend it.”

I thought of the wondering look in Jared's eyes. Of Allie saying lightly, “That was fun!”

“So I've been meaning to ask,” Samuel said slowly, “what your magic is.”

I thought of my visions: fire and ash, towers falling to dust. I thought of how Cam had laughed even as the brambles destroyed him and his parents. I felt I might throw up.

“No magic.” I stumbled to my feet. The Commons seemed suddenly too small, too close. I turned from Samuel's kind gaze, and I fled.

I ran through the town, not knowing where I was going, stopping only when the green Wall loomed up in front of me. I fell to my knees there. Green tendrils
stretched out to twine around my fingers. I jerked back, skin prickling. Magic like this had killed in my town. Yet Karin had built the Wall on purpose, for protection.

Thunder rumbled somewhere far away. “Rebecca,” I whispered. I tried to picture Father taking my sister in his arms, asking her to repeat a few words, speaking to her of magic with the same gentleness he'd used when teaching me to hunt and plant corn. The vision wouldn't hold. I remembered instead cracked bones and a moonlit hillside. “Rebecca.” I imagined my sister on the other side of the Wall, asking me without words for safe passage. I whispered her name again, reached toward her, drew back. Rebecca was gone. I knew that. There was no use in pretending.

I was crying, not sure when I'd started, staring up at the Wall and at clouds lit by moonlight from below. Yet I was listening, too, so when I heard footsteps, I brushed my tears away and looked up.

Two small figures approached the Wall, several yards away. They didn't seem to notice me.

“Come on,” a girl said in the sort of worried whisper that always carries. Kimi, who'd been angry about her brother's magic. “You're the one who always said you wanted to see Outside.”

“I do.” Allie's voice, fiercer and quieter. “But not now. Not until the healing's through.”

“The stranger is fine. Even I can see that. Come
on.”

Allie drew her arms around herself. “You don't understand. Maybe when your magic—”

“Magic!” Kimi shouted. “I am so tired of hearing about magic!” She whirled away from Allie and darted through the hedge. Vines and branches parted, letting her go.

“Kimi, no!” Allie ran after her and the Wall let her through as well. Maybe the Wall cared only whom it let in, not out, or maybe it already knew Allie and Kimi. Or maybe it was magic and didn't much care who died. I scrambled to my feet, pushing thoughts of Rebecca aside, knowing I needed to drag Kimi and Allie back before they got hurt.

As I stood I heard a scream beyond the Wall. I plunged forward, barely noticing as the vines parted to let me through.

Chapter 8

W
hat'd you have to touch it for?” Allie yelled. I ran toward her voice.

Kimi lay on the ground, shivering violently. Allie ran hands over Kimi's arms, legs, chest. A few yards away, a small dark shadow lay puddled beneath the moonlit clouds, the same shadow that had followed us from the mulberry trees. Without knowing why, I reached for it. The shadow rose and surged toward me. I jerked my hands back.

“Go away!” I shouted in panic. “Go
away.”
The shadow flowed swiftly back, disappearing among the trees. I thought I heard a low wail, then there was no sound save for Kimi's chattering voice.

“It was just a shadow!” Kimi whimpered, as if she didn't know the danger shadows could hold. I knelt by her side.

Allie looked up. Relief flooded her features, as if somehow I could make everything all right.

I rubbed Kimi's hands, trying to get warmth into her, and realized those hands weren't even cold. Yet she kept shivering.

“Not f-f-f-fair,” Kimi chattered. “Didn't kn-n-n-n-ow!”

“Know what?”

“The shadow,” Allie said. “I tried to warn Kimi it was magic, but she didn't listen. She couldn't feel it the way I could, because she doesn't have her own magic yet. So she
touched
it. Put her hand right through.” Allie scowled, but she looked more scared than when she'd seen me clutching my knife.

“Thought you were making it up,” Kimi said. “Ab-b-b-out the magic. But it was so c-c-c-cold.”

I helped Kimi to her feet, guilt washing over me. That shadow wanted me—had followed me. When I reached a hand out, it was drawn to me.

Kimi shivered harder. “Come on,” I said, urging her back toward the Wall. Allie moved to the girl's other side even as Kimi stumbled. Kimi fell to her knees
and hunched over, rocking back and forth, refusing to stand when Allie tugged her arm. I picked up the girl instead, staggering a little under her weight, and carried her to the Wall. Vines and branches parted for us once more.

Alan met us on the other side, panting as if he'd been running. He took his daughter from my arms. Samuel was there, too. Allie ran to him, sobbing. “Don't blame Kimi, she didn't know, it's not her fault—”

Samuel drew her close. “You're all right?” he said.

“Yes, I'm fine, but Kimi—”

“Get Caleb,” Samuel told her. “We'll discuss blame later.” As Allie ran for help, he shook his head. “I told her she wasn't allowed Outside.” He seemed more scared than angry. Alan rocked his daughter, telling her over and over again that everything was all right, even though he couldn't possibly know that. Allie returned several paces behind Caleb, who strode to Alan's side. Caleb took Kimi in his arms and lowered her to the ground while Alan looked on anxiously. The girl's eyes were squeezed shut, and she'd drawn her arms around herself as if for warmth. Caleb slowly moved his hands from her head to her toes, his own expression unreadable.

“I tried to heal her,” Allie said, kneeling beside him.

Panic edged her words. “I tried, but I couldn't find what was wrong!”

“That's because this isn't a matter of skin or blood or bone,” Caleb said soberly. “It's on the level of essence. Soul, you might say.”

Allie swallowed. “That sounds bad.”

“Not so bad as it could be. Just… tricky to find. Here, I'll show you.” He laid one hand over Kimi's head, the other over her heart. Allie placed her small hands on top of his large ones. They both closed their eyes. Silver light bloomed beneath Caleb's palms.

“Oh!” Allie said. “But that's easy! Why didn't I see?”

The light sank down and disappeared. Kimi stopped shivering and opened her eyes. Alan knelt beside her; she threw her arms around his neck, clinging hard, as if seeking warmth still.

“Stay with her tonight,” Caleb said. “Keep her warm. Send for me if anything happens. I don't care how late. You know that.”

“I know, and—thank you.” Alan glanced at me. “And thank you, too, for bringing her home.” He carried his daughter away, holding her as if she were a much younger child.

Caleb looked at Allie and me. He drew his hands
together and rested his forehead on them. “You'd best tell me exactly what happened.”

I looked down, ashamed, leaving Allie to tell the story.

“I didn't know what to do,” she said at last. “If Liza hadn't come …” The words trailed off.

“You did well,” Caleb assured her. He turned to Samuel. “Take her home. She's had a long couple of days.”

Allie started to protest, but at a glance from Samuel merely sighed. “Are you coming, too, Liza?”

“Liza will be along shortly.” The ice in Caleb's voice startled me.

Allie didn't seem to notice. “Well, hurry up. I'm still Liza's healer, you know. And she needs rest.”

Caleb watched Allie follow her father away. “Kimberly was lucky. Allison, too. If either of them had touched the shadow for longer, it could have done them real harm. I'll allow many things, Liza, but I will not allow you to endanger the children of this town.” His eyes reminded me of frost before dawn. I backed away a little. “There are many shadows left over from the War,” Caleb said. “Tell me the nature of your magic and how this shadow came to be bound to you.”

“I don't know.”

“You will tell me.
Now.”
Caleb grabbed my arm, drew a small mirror from his pocket, and held it before me. I tried to turn away, but moonlight shone through the clouds and reflected off the glass. The light
burned,
cold as a healer's touch. I screamed, and as I screamed I saw—

A huge metal arch stretching from river to sky and back again. A dark-haired young woman, her face streaked with tears, walking toward the arch's base, closer and closer until it towered above her like a giant curving mirror. She walked on, stepped through the mirror's bright surface, and disappeared.

I heard an indrawn breath and knew I wasn't alone. Somehow Caleb had followed me into this vision. I fled from him, and as I fled I saw—

Towering oaks and maples stretching branches down toward the earth. Shadows bridged the gaps between leaf and land, and the earth shuddered at their touch. Trenches gaped open, filled with metal and bone.

I flinched away, but Caleb grabbed my shoulder, forcing me to look—to see the dark fluid that stained the bones, to taste the metallic tang at the back of my throat.

I shut my eyes, and behind closed lids I saw—

Darkness. Cool, silent darkness, save for the tread of footsteps on a wooden floor. A shadowy figure carried a bundle in his arms. My father. The bundle began to cry, and from down the hall my mother whimpered in her sleep, but I only watched, doing nothing. Father descended the stairs, leaving darkness behind him. I turned from that darkness, and as I turned I saw—

BOOK: Bones of Faerie
6.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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