Authors: Lilith Saintcrow
Tags: #Dark, #Fae, #Supernaturals, #UF
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For L.I, again, as promised.
Hark, hark, the dogs all bark,
The beggars are coming to town,
Some in rags, and some in jags,
And one in a velvet gown.
he waited, perched next to a stone gargoyle’s leering, watching the rubies of brakelights, the diamonds of headlights. Smelling exhaust and cold iron, a breath of damp from the river. A hint of crackling ozone—lightning about to strike. The faint good aroma of a soft spring rain approaching.
He did not keep her waiting long.
“Oh, my darling. What fine merriment we have had.” Goodfellow melded out of the darkness, his boyface alight with glee. “You are the best of children, delighting your sire’s heart so ful—”
The song hit him squarely, fueled by Robin’s calm, controlled breathing, and knocked the Fatherless to the ground. She was on her feet in an instant, the stolen crowbar burning in her palms as she lifted, brought it down with a convulsive crunch. Iron smoked on sidhe flesh, and by the time she ran out of breath and the song died, thick blue blood spattered the rooftop, smoking and sizzling.
“You,” she hissed between her teeth. “You killed her. You pixie-led her car. You killed Sean.
Amazingly, Puck Goodfellow began to laugh. “Aye!” he shouted, spitting broken teeth. They gleamed, sharp ivory, chiming against the roof. “Robin, Robin Ragged, I will kill all those close to thy
I will have thy voice!
” He slashed upward with his venomtip dagger, but Robin was ready and skipped aside.
. She didn’t say it. She’d finished her inhale, and the song burst out again, given free rein.
Smoke, blood, iron, the crowbar stamping time as the razor-edged music descended on the Fatherless. Some whispered that he was the oldest of the sidhe, some said he remembered what had caused the Sundering. Others sometimes hinted he was the cause of the division in the Children of Danu, the Little Folk, the Blessed.
When the song faded, Robin dropped the crowbar. It clattered on the roof.
The thing lying before her was no longer sidhe. Full-Twisted and misshapen it writhed; its piping little cries struck the ear foully.
She bent, swiftly, and her quick fingers had the pipes and the dagger, Puck Goodfellow’s treasures. The Twisted thing with its hornlike turtle-shell swiped at her with a clawed, malformed hand, and its voice was now a growl, warning.
Her breath came high and hard, her ribs flickering. The dagger went into her pocket, its sheath of supple leaf-stamped leather blackened and too finely grained to be animal hide. The pipes—she almost shuddered with revulsion as she poked a finger in each one, and near the bottom, where they were thicker, she touched glass thrice.
Three glass ampoules, like the ones she had bargained MacDonnell’s kin into making. Decoys within decoys, but these held a sludge that moved grudgingly against its chantment-sealed container. A true cure. Like her, he had decided the only safe place to hide such a thing was in his own pocket.
The Twisted, back-broken thing that had been Puck Goodfellow struggled to rise. Morning would probably find it here, too malformed to speak or walk. It might starve to death, it might cripple out the rest of its existence like Parsifleur Pidge, though
she had Twisted it far past that poor woodwight’s ill-luck. Robin looked down at it, tucking the pipes in her other pocket.
They were powerful, and there was no better time to learn their use.
“For Daisy,” she said quietly, “and for Sean.”
The thing writhed again, trying to rise, the thick shell of bone on its corkscrewed back scraping the roof. Robin turned away. Full night was falling, and she had only one thought now.
I must find a place to hide.
ll through that long day, the thing on the rooftop smoked, rocking back and forth belly-up on its bony shell. Its flaccid limbs flopped uselessly; cloudy spring sunshine striped it with steaming weals. It made tiny, unmusical sounds, lost in the noise of traffic below. Horns blared, engines gunned, the murmur of crowds enfolded it. The sun was cruel, for all it was weak, and the thing’s eyes were runnels of black tar pouring down its wasted cheeks. Once proud and capering, it was now a Twisted wreck, its wounds still seeping. She had been thorough, the avenging child.
As thorough as he would be, soon. But first, he had to survive the assault of the mortal sun; iron-poisoned and Twist-wounded as he was, it burned as if he were one of Unwinter’s dark-creeping legions. The heavy-misting rain was no balm, full of poisonous city fumes and the stinking effluvia of the metal the foolish salt-sweet mortals used to scar every piece of free soil they found.
Had it been summer, their sun might have finished the work the daughter had begun.
Below, the Savoigh Limited throbbed. Once its stone facade
and plaster walls, ornate fixtures and heavy-framed mirrors had been new, then outdated, then seedy, and now refurbished. The winds of urban gentrification blew erratic but inexorable, and the Savoigh, with its uniformed doormen and its high-rent offices, its tiny cold-water studios for the bohemians and its ancient, growling boiler in the basement, had become that most terrible of structures: a fashionable heap.
Rocking steadily, the rhythm of the thing’s shell quickened as it threatened to topple. Its piping sounds became more intense, tiny, malformed cries of effort. They soaked through the rooftop’s rough surface, burrowing down.
Afterward, if the residents of the Savoigh Limited remembered that chill spring day at all, they remembered an endless string of bad luck. Printers jamming, coffeemakers sputtering, milk and creamer clotted and sour even before their sell-by dates. A scented candle shattered on the fifth floor, spilling hot wax across important paperwork and almost catching the drapes on fire. Plaster sagged. Stray cats wandered in, yowling, and didn’t leave until the aroma of their urine soaked the entire building. The boiler sputtered and creaked, moaning, its displeasure felt through wooden floors. Fingers jammed in doors and drawers, toasters overheating, electrical outlets sparking when the cords were jiggled, four fender-benders out front, and the doormen decrying the paucity of tips. Toes catching on carpets, stairs missed and neckbreaking tumbles barely averted, papers scattered and microwaves either not heating anything or scorch-burning it to the container, two mini fridges inexplicably ceasing to work, and more.
All through this, the rocking continued, the creature gaining inches across the roof. Lunchtime came and went, and it became obvious what the thing was aiming for—a pool of
shadow in the lee of an HVAC hood, ink-shadow lengthening as the sun tipped past its zenith.
The ill-luck below crested, and one or two of the artists in the studios—their windows facing blank brick walls, their floors humped and buckled as the building settled into gracious decay—saw tiny darts of light in their peripheral vision, gone as soon as they turned their heads. One thought he was having hallucinations and began to furiously paint the two canvases that would make him world-famous before he slid into a hole of madness and alcohol. The other, her recording equipment suddenly functioning, began to play cascades of melody on her electric piano, and for the rest of her life never played from sheet music again. Her compositions were said to cause visions, and she retreated from the world years later to a drafty farmhouse in Maine.
Rocking again. Tipping on the horn-thick edge of the bony shell, sliding into blessed coolness for a moment as the shade swallowed it, back the other way, teetering on the opposite edge, a sharp whistling cry as it pitched back into the shadow, hesitated on the brink . . .
. . . and toppled over, landing with a flat chiming sound, out of the killing daylight.
Stillness. Below, paint splashed, music floated down an empty hall, printers suddenly rebooted, the two mini fridges just as inexplicably started working again. A hush descended on the Savoigh Limited, and as the sun-scarred creature huddled under its shell in its dark almost-hole, a rumble of thunder sounded in the distance.
The spring storms were on their way.