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 (9 page)

BOOK: Bones of Faerie
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A woman kneeling by a lake. Sun lit the blackened stubs of trees around her. Dark cinders coated the earth. Only the lake glowed red, fire dancing beneath the water, light reflecting off the woman's face—

My mother's face. “Liza,” Mom whispered, but she looked at the water, not me. “I was a fool, Liza. Leaving for a memory, a dream, a hope that should have died long ago.”

Caleb's fingers dug into my shoulder, holding me, hurting me.

“Hope has no place after the War. I should have remembered that.” Fire lit Mom's features, tear-tracks drying on her cheeks.

Something was wrong, more wrong than my mother's tears, more wrong than the dead trees and burning water—

“Lizzy,” Mom said, and the ache in her voice twisted knots in my stomach. “Forgive me, Lizzy.”

“Mom.” I reached toward her, and glass parted at my touch. I felt hot wind against my fingers. Caleb's grip tightened as the sense of wrongness thickened, like soup left too long on the fire. I reached for Mom's face, but she was too far away.

Mom leaned nearer to the burning water, hair trailing so close I thought it would catch fire. “Kaylen?” she whispered, then shook her head as if at some foolish thought. “So much time. So much grief—”

I reached for Mom again, aching to take her out of that place and bring her home. But flames rose from the water, hiding her, consuming her. In those flames I saw—

A girl falling to the floor, crying out as her knees hit hard tile. A man towered over her, raising his belt. “Weak,” the man hissed. “You're weak, Liza.” Father's belt fell, breaking skin. I bit my lip to keep from crying out, drew my arms over my head against more blows—

They didn't come. I heard shattering glass and a voice softly calling my name. I looked up into silver eyes.

Not Caleb's eyes. Caleb stood nearby, hands clenched, gaze drawn inward. Karin knelt before me, a broken mirror by her side. “You're a fool,” she whispered to Caleb as she helped me sit up. My neck was stiff—I'd been huddled down, just like in my vision. I gasped for breath but
couldn't seem to get enough air. Splatters of cold rain fell on my face.

Karin took my hands in her own, her cool grip surprisingly strong. “Breathe slow,” she said. “Breathe deep. You can breathe. You just need to remember how. There you go. Now speak if you can. Give me some sign you've returned, and don't wander in visions still.”

I ran my tongue over my lips, tasted blood. I looked at Caleb. He looked back, his eyes bright mirrors that saw past skin and bone. Shame tightened my stomach. He'd seen. No one had ever seen when Father—no one. Not Kate, not Matthew, not even Mom.

“I did not know,” Caleb said stiffly, “that you were Tara's daughter.” How did he know my mother's name? I looked down but felt him watching me still. “We need to talk,” Caleb said.

“Let me,” Karin said. “You will talk to me, Liza, yes?”

I didn't trust myself to speak. If I spoke I would scream, or weep like a child. Yet I feared they wouldn't let me go at all if I didn't speak to someone, so I nodded.

“But she is—” Caleb began.

“Kaylen,” Karin interrupted, “you told me once that preserving the present is more important than redeeming the past. I hold to that now. Go.”

“I did what needed doing. And I hold to
that.”

“That's War talk,” Karin said, her voice cold.

“You get to the root of Liza's shadow, then, before it touches any more of our children.” I watched Caleb slowly retreat. My cheeks burned.

“We will not rush this,” Karin said to me. She settled cross-legged onto the grass beside me. “Magic has its own rhythms and cannot be forced. Caleb should have remembered that.”

My heart pounded, as if any moment I might need to run. Raindrops trickled down my neck. I shivered and looked up at Karin. With her braid pulled back from her smooth face she looked far too young to have fought in the War.

“If you wish to tell me what you saw, I will listen,” Karin said. “Visions hold less power when put into words. But I won't make you speak. And you need not tell anything you don't want to.”

Trees, fire, shadow—
I feared speaking would give my visions more power, not less. “I can leave,” I told Karin. “If the shadow is bound to me, I can draw it away.”

“You'll go nowhere,” Karin said. “Not at my urging. Whatever threatens you, if we can have it out, we can
deal with it. There's no magic so terrible it cannot be laid to rest.”

The light rain stopped. Wind blew against my damp skin. “Ask Caleb. He saw everything. He was
there.”

“I'm asking you. They're your visions. Only yours. Please trust me, Liza. Not for my sake, not for Caleb's, but for your own.”

Father said strangers couldn't be trusted, that trust was a child's tale swept away by the War.

“You called me,” Karin said. “When the trees attacked. You called, and I came. I don't know why, but put some trust in that, if in nothing else.”

The moon slipped deeper into cloud, turning Karin's face to shadow—all but her eyes, which remained bright as she watched me. I took a deep breath, like when I dove beneath the surface of the river. “I saw my mother,” I said.

Karin nodded, waiting. My voice grew low as the wind. “Mom told me she'd been a fool. She asked me to forgive her, for what I don't know. She told me—but she's dead. No one ventures out alone into the night and lives.”

“You did,” Karin said.

“I wasn't alone.” Without Matthew I would have drowned in the river or been devoured by the dogs. And Karin had saved us from the trees.

“Perhaps your mother found help, too.”

I shook my head. “She was alone.”

Forgive me, Lizzy.
She was gone beyond anyone's forgiveness. Yet I heard myself ask, “Can visions be trusted?”

“Trusted how?”

“Are they real? Are they true? Can magic be trusted?”

“Magic can never be trusted,” Karin said. “Just ask Jared, who burned his fingers more than once this evening as he learned to control his light. But as for whether you see truly—that I cannot say. Even Before visions were never simple. They're often tied up with other magic. What of the other children in your town? Do any of them have visions, and are those visions true?”

“The others have no magic,” I told her, just as I'd told Samuel.

I couldn't tell whether she believed me or not. She laced her fingers together, rested her chin on them, and asked, “Could you tell where your mother was in your visions? That might help.”

Did I dare to hope?
Hope has no place after the War,

Mom had said. Yet I so wanted to believe she lived. “She was in a place of—of ash and dead trees.” I should have found the memory of those blackened trunks comforting, but it only brought an acrid taste to the back of my throat. Crops wouldn't grow in so dead a place. People would die there, too. “What could kill so many trees?”

“Pray you never have to know,” Karin said. “Tell me what else you saw.”

I told her in bits and pieces, fragments that couldn't have made any sense. I told her what I'd seen, in this vision and in the others. A metal arch, bright as a mirror. A young woman and my mother, both stepping through the surface of that arch. Grasping trees whose shadows brought tall buildings down.

Tallow trotted to my side, a feather dangling from her mouth. I petted the cat as I continued to talk.

“Why Caleb?” I asked Karin. Caleb had been in my visions before. I dug my fingers into the damp dirt. Even the memory of how he'd invaded my thoughts made me want to crawl out of my skin.

“Time and space are fluid in visions,” Karin said, but for a moment she looked very troubled indeed.

I spoke on, telling how I'd reached through Caleb's mirror and felt the wind of a dead land against my skin.

The only thing I didn't share were my visions of Father. That shame belonged to—ought to have belonged to— no one but me.

At last I fell silent. A weed curled around the toe of Karin's boot, and she absently nudged it away.

“Are my visions true?” I asked again. I felt strange and calm, not how I expected to feel after speaking those visions aloud.

“I don't know.”

“Might they be true?”

“They might.”

And my mother might be alive. My hands clenched. “I have to find her.” I couldn't do anything else, not while there might still be a chance.

Karin slowly unlaced her fingers and set her hands in her lap. “If your visions speak true, it sounds as if your mother is beyond the Arch.”

How could anything exist beyond the surface of a mirror? I remembered how my hand had moved through Caleb's smaller mirror, though. “Beyond the Arch—you mean in the land of dead trees?”

Karin's gaze drew inward, as if she saw something I couldn't. “That would be Faerie,” she said.

A few cold raindrops slid beneath my sweater. Why
would even faerie folk live in such a place? It was living trees they'd called against us, after all. “I have to go there,” I said, even as I wondered what chance I could possibly stand against faerie folk. Yet the land had been empty in my visions. Perhaps the faerie folk didn't live there anymore, either.

“I'll train you first,” Karin said. “You'll need all the magic you have to survive beyond the Wall—and in Faerie.”

I shook my head as I remembered the dogs and the mulberry trees and a night Matthew and I almost hadn't survived.
So much time,
Mom had said, but I had a feeling there was hardly any time at all. Something was wrong—I knew that now as surely as I had known it in my vision. Something was wrong, and it already might be too late to set things right. “I need to go now.”

Karin frowned and reached for the Wall, as if touching wild things helped her think better. Ivy curled like a bracelet around her wrist, and a few stray shoots wove themselves into her sleeve. “I would go with you, but I must stay here to maintain the Wall. Caleb will go, if you ask.”

“No!” The thought of traveling with Caleb after all he'd seen, after all he'd forced me to see…“No.”

“Wait until Matthew is healed, then.”

I hesitated. Matthew and I had gotten this far together, and the thought of his company was more comforting than I expected. But I remembered his ragged breathing and his pale, bruised skin. I couldn't put him in danger again. I shook my head once more. “He'll be safe here.” Karin could train him if she wanted, once he was well.

“You don't want to take this journey alone, Liza.”

I said nothing. Drizzle started up again. The ivy drew back from Karin's skin and stretched toward the rain. Other vines and briars did the same, until the whole Wall reached for the sky.

Karin frowned. “It is possible,” she said slowly, “that the way through the Arch was left open after the War. In that case once you reach it you need only to step through. But otherwise, if the way isn't open—then, Liza, you'll have to rely on your own magic. Your visions have power enough to let you through the Arch, just as they let your hand through Caleb's mirror. But if you fail, you could wander in visions forever. I'd rather you let me teach you.”

I drew my arms around myself. “How far away is the Arch? Do you know how to get there?”

Wind blew a few clear strands from Karin's braid. She was silent so long I thought perhaps she'd decided not to tell me, but then she sighed, a sound like trees in the rain. “It has been many years since I made that journey, but Samuel can show you the way on his map. I'm not sure how long it will take you—a week, perhaps. You will at least wait until sunrise to go, yes?”

“I'll leave at dawn,” I agreed.

Karin nodded slowly. “Come, then. You need rest before you go.”

I let her lead me back to Samuel's house. As we walked I asked, “What about the shadow? Caleb said—”

“Do not trouble yourself with what Caleb said. You have other things to think about now. I will do what I can to see that the shadow follows you no further.”

Allie ran to us as Karin opened Samuel's door. The girl's wool nightgown trailed behind her. In places her loose red hair stood on end, as if she'd been running her hands through it. “What's going on?” she demanded. “Caleb said you might be leaving, but he wouldn't say why.”

My chest tightened, remembering all that Caleb had seen. Only Karin's steady hand on my shoulder kept me from running away.

“He wouldn't tell me
anything,”
Allie complained. “He just went up to Matthew and shut the door, wouldn't even let me in.”

My stomach clenched. I shoved past Allie and ran for the stairs, taking them two at a time. Caleb had said he couldn't be certain Matthew would heal fully, even now. I threw open the bedroom door and ran to Matthew's side.

Matthew slept, quiet as a child. The tension had left his face. He breathed softly and without pain. I reached for his hand, then drew awkwardly back. He was fine.

“He'll be well enough to travel come morning.” It was Caleb's voice, low and weak. I looked up and saw Caleb slumped in the chair. His face was gray, his eyes shadowed. He met my gaze, and we both flinched away.

Allie ran to Caleb's side and placed her hands over his. “You pushed too hard!” she said, as if scolding a child. “You always tell me not to push too hard!”

Caleb didn't seem to hear. His hands beneath hers were clenched into fists. He looked at me again, and I looked to the floor.

“You can't go after her alone, and I know better than to expect you'd let me go with you. But the boy will go.

I don't know what you are to each other, but he has followed you this far. He'll not abandon you now.”

I took a step back. “How do you know I'm going?” I hadn't told anyone but Karin yet.

“It was a guess, nothing more, given what I saw. Did I guess wrong?”

He had no right to see all he did. He had no right to guess at what I'd do before I'd even decided for myself.

I heard quiet conversation and footsteps on the stairs. Samuel and Karin stepped into the room as Caleb stood, shaking, and walked toward me. My chest pounded with the fear that he might enter my thoughts once more, but he only opened his fist and dropped something into my palm—a metal disk not much wider than my thumb, hanging from a chain. “Find your mother, Liza.” Caleb's voice trembled like water beneath wind. “And when you do, tell her I am sorry. Tell her she was right.”

BOOK: Bones of Faerie
9.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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