The boy with the hidden name

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TheBoy

wiTh The

Hidden

name

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TheBoy

wiTh The

Hidden

name

s k y l a r d o r s e t

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Copyright © 2014 by Skylar Dorset

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XX 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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For Megan and Caitlin, who bring

joy and laughter into my life.

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ChapTer 1

Y ou don’t understand, miss,” says a little man in an

old- fashioned bowler hat who is crawling out from

underneath the bench I’m sitting on. “We just really need

the book.”

To say that I am annoyed is to put it mildly. All I want to

do is sit and eat my ice cream cone, and instead I’m getting

stalked by supernatural creatures who keepliterallycrawling out of the woodwork. I mean that: the other day, a carving

on a balustrade at Trinity Church started talking to me. We

were there on a field trip, and it was difficult to hide.

This is what happens when you find out you are half faerie

princess and half ogre and then try to pretend it never hap-

pened and go back to leading a normal life.

“She doesn’t have the book,” Kelsey tells the little man,

who is now sprawled on his back on Boston Common, legs

still hidden under the bench. “How many times do we have

to keep telling you? Shedoesn’t have the book.”

The man scowls. “Shestolethe book.”

“No, I didn’t,” I snap. “I didn’t steal the book. Will Blaxton

and Benedict Le Fay stole the book. I just happened tobe

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there.” And then I wince at my slip. I have to stop giving up

the names of people I care about. There’s power in a name.

The man points at me. “Will Blaxton is always trying to

steal books. This is nothing new. He only succeeded because

he hasyounow.”

I bristle. “He doesn’t ‘have’ me. And it was Ben. Ben made

the difference.”

“Well, where’s Ben then?” asks the man politely.

The question of the hour, day, week. And if I knew the

answer to it, I’d…well, I don’t know what I’d do, because I’m

angry at Ben for abandoning me on Boston Common after

promising never to leave me, all so he could go in search of

the missing mother who might or might not be someone we

can trust. I know a lot about missing mothers who might be

incredibly untrustworthy, since mine is the same way. Not

that Ben listened to me about that.

“I have no idea where he is,” I snap. “He’s a magical faerie

who can jump effortlessly between worlds and into enchant-

ments. How am I supposed to have any idea where he went?

And I don’t know where Will is, although you ought to try

Salem. That’s where I was always able to find him. And I

don’t know where the book is. I’m just trying to eat my ice

cream and complain about unreliable faerie quasi- boyfriends

like anormalteenager.”

The man frowns at me, his eyes narrow in displeasure.

“You’re not a normal teenager. You’re the fay of the autumnal

equinox. You’retrouble.”

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Don’t I know it, I think.

The man burrows his way into the ground beneath our feet.

Kelsey, because she’s a good best friend who doesn’t let her-

self be fazed when supernatural creatures appear and disap-

pear all around us, licks her ice cream cone and says, “They’re

persistent, aren’t they?”

x

“Here’s what I think,” Kelsey says the next day at school.

“That Emerson makes no sense?”

“That we should celebrate your birthday.” Kelsey looks like

she is bouncing with excitement over this.

I stare at her. “Celebrate my birthday? Now? But it’s not

really my birthday anymore.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but have you ever celebrated

your birthday before?”

“No,” I admit.

“So then I think we should celebrate it.”

“My birthday triggered the dissolution of the enchant-

ment that had kept me hidden from evil faeries,” I point out.

“Doesn’t really seem like something to celebrate.”

“I think we should do something totally normal,” Kelsey

says as if she didn’t hear me at all.

“Like what?” I sigh, resigned, because I don’t even know

what normal people do. I fail at being normal, and it’s

so frustrating.

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“I don’t know. How about a movie?”

A movie. I am astonished by how normal a movie seems.

And so simple. Like being normal can really bethatsimple.

“A movie could be fun,” I say, because it sounds almost seduc-

tively indulgent to do this really normal, simple thing.

“Great.” Kelsey beams at me, pleased with herself. “What

do you want to see?”

I have no idea what’s out. “Flip a coin?” I suggest.

“Great idea, if we had a coin,” Kelsey says with a grin.

“Oh, I’ve got a coin.” I dig my hand into my pocket, pull-

ing out a dime. “Picked it up this morning on the way to— ”

I cut myself off, looking at the coin in my hand and thinking

of how I picked it up this morning, for no reason, so that

it could come in handy at this point. All of the normality

comes tumbling down around my ears. How can I pretend

to be normal when I do things like this?

Kelsey takes the dime out of my hand, leans forward, and

puts it on the empty desk off to the side. And then she says,

“No coin toss. We’ll do eenie- meenie- minie- moe when we

get to the theater.”

x

I am walking through Boston Common at dusk on my way

to meet Kelsey at the theater when another little man in a

bowler hat falls into step beside me. Why are there suddenly

so many little men in bowler hats in Boston?

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“About the book,” the man says.

“For the last time,” I grit out, frustrated, “Idonothavethe book.”

“But you do have a black button, do you not?”

I do. And I hate that I do. I grabbed it the other day on

my way through the Common, where it had fallen under

a bench.

I don’t say anything, but he looks at me meaningfully

because clearly he knows that I have a button.

“Exactly,” he says, as if it proves I am so special that I must

have the book. And then he holds up his sleeve cuff, which is

quite obviously missing a little black button.

Again with my stupid pack- rat tendencies. I walk on, abso-

lutely refusing to give the little man the satisfaction of getting his button back.

Kelsey is waiting for me at the movie theater, and she

notices immediately that I’m irritated.

“What’s wrong?” she asks me.

“The usual,” I tell her and try to shake it off. “Let’s not talk about it. Let’s just be normal and go to a movie.”

We do eenie- meenie- minie- moe as planned and end up

with a random romantic comedy. Kelsey orders popcorn and

soda. I don’t feel like popcorn, so I stand a short distance

away, playing with a napkin that was left on the counter.

When Kelsey’s ready, I go to crumple it into my pocket and

then pause, realizing what I’m doing, and deliberately leave it

on the counter exactly where I found it.

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Which means, of course, that when we get settled in our

seats, Kelsey promptly spills soda on herself.

“Damn it. I wish I had a napkin,” she complains.

I say nothing.

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ChapTer 2

w hen the past few days of your life involve escap-

ing from a faerie prison, stealing a magical book of

power from the Boston Public Library, and being abandoned

by the slippery faerie you’ve been inconveniently in love

with for most of your life, getting ready for school actually

starts to seem adventurous. Doing what would be normal for

other people becomes a change of pace for you that is weirdly

exciting. I’m being stalked by supernatural creatures. I can’t

even take the subway anymore, I feel like I’m so closely and

viciously watched. Pretending that I’m just a normal teenager

who goes to school is a fun bit of play- acting for me.

I choose an outfit with care and do my makeup to accentu-

ate my light blue eyes and brush my long white- blond hair

until it gleams almost silver in the sunlight slanting through

our lavender windowpanes. And then I look at the result.

Yes, I think. I look absolutely put together and on top of things and not at all like I’m falling apart and heartbroken

and refusing to acknowledge my destiny of leading some

faeriecoupd’état.

I take a deep breath and walk out of my bedroom— stepping

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over the enchanted sweatshirt Ben gave me that I’ve left

crumpled on my bedroom floor— and down the stairs. The

grandfather clock on the landing chimes 2:15. Which is

not at all the actual human time, but the grandfather clock

doesn’t keep that sort of time.

My aunts, True and Virtue, are knitting, working on the

same enormous pair of socks they have been steadily working


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on my whole life. They barely look up at me as I pass through

the room into the kitchen, looking for something that could

serve as breakfast.

“Are you off to school?” Aunt True calls.

“Have a nice day!” Aunt Virtue adds.

I open the refrigerator door and stare at the contents, trying

not to think about how my aunts are actually ogres who have

raised me since birth because my homicidal faerie mother

abandoned me on my father’s doorstep. Oh, and then, for

good measure, drove my father insane. We’re ignoring all of

that now. Because back before I knew any of that, my life was

so simple and straightforward, and that’s what I want back.

Unfortunately, as soon as I straighten and close the refrig-

erator, giving up on the idea of food, the sun goes out.

That is what it feels like at least. The room plunges into a

darkness as severe as night. My aunts look up, confused. I tip

my head and walk over to the window and look out. Where

the sun had just been shining on us, there are now dense,

black clouds roiling overhead.

I stare at them, because those clouds are not of this world.

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I look at my aunts, hesitate, and then say, “What— ”

My aunts have gone back to knitting, even more furiously

than before.

“You’re going to be late for school,” Aunt True says, and

that is the end of that attempt at conversation.

My aunts hate it when I ask questions. It tends to destroy

the world.

x

Kelsey is waiting for me when I open the front door. Going

to school together is part of our routine. What is not part of

our routine is the redheaded faerie standing next to her.

“Safford,” I say in surprise, because I haven’t seen him since

Ben disappeared last week and Will disbanded our little band

of revolutionaries, saying there was no point anymore.

“That’s not good,” Safford says, not taking his eyes off the

clouds overhead. All of the regular humans going about their

days on Beacon Street seem to think this is just a sudden

weather phenomenon, but Safford is from the Otherworld

and knows better.

“Where did you come from?” I ask.

Kelsey looks at me and blushes a little bit. “He just showed

up.” Kelsey and Safford have some sort of thing going on. If

you can call it a “thing” when one half is a faerie. I know from personal experience that trying to have a relationship with a

faerie is tricky at the best of times.

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“I think you’re going to need help,” Safford says into the

dark sky. “Lots and lots of help.”

Annoyed, I look up and down Beacon Street for a break in

the traffic so we can cross. “I’m not doing the prophecy any-

more. I can’t do the prophecy. We don’t have the other three

fays and we don’t have Ben and you heard what Will said.”

Finally we cross the street together.

Safford says, “I think Will’s wrong. I think this is out of

your control.”

“Safford,” I say in exasperation as we walk down Boston

Common toward Park Street, “I hate to break it to you, but

this was neverinmy control.”

“Of course it was.Is,” Safford replies. “You’re the fay of the autumnal equinox. It’syourprophecy.”

“It doesn’t feel like my prophecy,” I say. “It feels like all that happens is that I get violently pushed around by everyone

and everything when I just want to live my li— ”

The bell from the Park Street church tower suddenly flies

out of its confines, wood splintering all around it, and lands

with a heavy, dull impact only a few feet away, with one last

clang of protest that rings deep vibrations through my bones.

After a moment of stunned silence, panicked commuters

start behaving as if bells are suddenly going to fall from the

sky all over the place.

“Exhibit A,” Safford says. “They’re getting rid of the church

bells before they attack.”

“Who?” I say, even though I already know.

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“The Seelies. They can’t get into Boston. It’s protected. By

an enchantment created by a faerie who’s left,” Safford points

out frankly.

Ben. I glare at Safford, who is Ben’s cousin and therefore

probably on his side, but still. “Thanks for that reminder.”

“I’m just saying I think we need to do something.”

Commuters spill around us, desperate to get away from the

bell sinking incrementally into the Common’s concrete path-

way. On our left, Park Street Church sits silent, its ruined bell tower splintering still. Off in front of us, the church bell at

the Cathedral Church of St. Paul smashes its way through the

rooftop, provoking more panic as it arcs over the Common

and lands in the middle of a group of fleeing commuters.

None of them seem hurt, but that’s just a bit of luck. These

bells could easily have killed people. And there are churches

positioned like that all over Boston, clustered close together,

all within throwing distance of each other. Church bells are

going to be flying into crowds on every block of this city.

And I can’t deny it anymore. Apparently trying to be

normal means turning Boston into some kind of dangerous

war zone. “We need to find Will,” I say.

x

The T station is chaos. The subways are clogged in all direc-

tions, and compounding the problem, it seems like everyone

on Boston Common has decided to take shelter in the station.

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We give up before we even reach the turnstiles, turning back

and struggling against the crowd, up onto the Common.

“What now?” asks Kelsey. “The ferry?”

“We don’t have a choice,” I agree.

“Why can’t he have a cell phone?” Kelsey complains.

“Supernatural creatures could really be a lot easier to get

along with.”

I start to respond but then hear someone calling my name,

not really with intent but firmly enough that it slices through

the chaos all around us. We all stop walking and look around,

and it’s Will, an absent- minded professor type with graying

brown hair parting the crowd around us.

When he gets closer, I realize that he looks furious. “What

are you doing out in this?” he snaps.

“We were going to look foryou,” I snap back. I gesture to the nearest church bell on the Common. “Look— ”

“Yes, yes,” he cuts me off, “and the sun has gone out. Both

not- good things, but we can’t stand out here talking about

them, since who knows what’s coming next. We’re going to

get inside, and you’re going to get your sweatshirt.”

I hate being ordered around like this. “No, I’m not. What

does my sweatshirt have to do with any of this?”

“You and I are going to get this prophecy back on track,”

Will announces grimly.

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ChapTer 3

M y aunts are annoyed to see Will. When we get there,

they have every light in the house blazing in an

attempt to fend off the unnatural darkness of the day.

“Oh, no,” Aunt Virtue complains. “What now?”

“We need to get the prophecy back on track,” Will says.

This is an abrupt turnaround from the despairing and

depressed Will who said that Ben had destroyed the proph-

ecy when he left.

“I thought you said we couldn’t after Ben left,” I point out.

Honestly, I just thought Ben was fulfilling a different proph-

ecy, one my mother had taunted me with.BenedictLeFaywillbetrayyou. And then he will die.But Will keeps insist-ing it’s not actually part of the prophecy. I don’t know what

to believe anymore. Prophecies are so tricky, so hard to pin

down, that as far as I’m concerned, we might as well not

have them.

“I’m still not entirely sure we can,” Will admits. “But

take a look outside, would you? Thesunhas gone out. And the church bells are falling out of the towers, as far away as

Lexington and Concord. We have to dosomething.”

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“I don’t get it,” I say. “The Seelies love light. Why would

they put out the sun?”

“The Seelies lovetheirlight,” notes Will grimly. “Can’t have the Thisworld sun competing with their Otherworld light.

Got to get rid of the Thisworld sun first.”

“The Seelies can’t get into Boston though,” Aunt True says,

wringing her hands. “Aren’t you protecting Boston? Don’t

you have it locked from them?”

“The Seelies have been picking at the lock for a while now,”

Will says. “They’re going to get in, sooner or later. Especially without a Le Fay enchantment to add to the protections. Our

only chance is to get out now, while we can, and find the

other three fays.”

He says it like it’s so easy. “How are we supposed to do that?

I wouldn’t know where to evenstartlooking,” I point out.

Will goes to answer, but Aunt Virtue cuts him off. “You

mean to tell us that, after all this time, that foolish boy

Benedict suddenly leaves and all of Boston is going to fall?”

“Boston was always living on borrowed time,” Will says

harshly. “We built it to be ready for battle, because we knew

that sooner or later, the battle would come. You’ve just for-

gotten that. Well, the battle is here.” Will gestures toward

me. “She triggered it. It’s coming. There’s nothing we can

do to stop it now. We have to take a stand, and we have

to fight.”

There’s a beat. Kelsey says, “Let’s get out of Boston then.”

“No, you don’t understand because you’rehuman,” Will

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informs her scathingly. “Boston is thesafestplace we can be.

Good luck with the rest of it.”

“Kelsey’s human,” I say. “Won’t she be fine? The Seelies,

they want me, they want us, they want— ”

“They want everything. You’ve met them. You’ve spent time

with them. The Seelies have always been in the Otherworld

because we kept them there. If you start to blur the lines

between the worlds, they’ll be everywhere. Fresh blood for

them to feed off. They need fresh blood, you know. It used to

be you could throw them a few changelings here and there.

Younger blood, faerie or human, it didn’t matter. But they

need the youth, the vibrancy. They feed off of it. And the

most alive creatures in either world are humans— they live

everything sointensely. So no. The humans won’t be safe. Not if we don’t hold the line in Boston.”

“And we can’t hold the line in Boston without Ben,”

I conclude.

“Or the other three fays,” says Will. “Look, I can’t read the

prophecy anymore. It’s a mess; it’s too in flux. You can’t pre-

dict the events that you’re alreadyliving. All I can do is guess.

We needed the other three fays. Benedict was supposed to

help us find them. This is why you can never trust a faerie.”

“We don’t have Ben anymore,” I say practically. “So what

can we do without him? What does the book say?”

“Nothing useful,” grumbles Will.

“Well, the Witch and Ward Society have been stalking me

to get it back, so it must saysomething.”

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“Yes. It says that the key to all of this is Benedict’s mother.

So now we know.”

“Then give the book back,” Kelsey tells him. “It’s getting

kind of annoying having little men popping up everywhere.”

“I’m not giving the book back,” says Will. “It was mine to

begin with. Lord Dexter left it to me. I was only letting them

borrowit.”

“I don’t want to get into whatever happened centuries ago

with this book,” I cut in. “I want to know how we get the sun

to come back out. And how we can find the other three fays

without Ben.”

“We can’t,” Aunt Virtue says. “We should just forget about

the prophecy and— ”

“We can’t forget about the prophecy. There is no status quo

anymore, Virtue. Don’t you see? We can’t just wait for the

next opportunity to come around to save the Otherworld.

We need to do itnow,” says Will.

There’s a moment of silence. I don’t say anything because

part of me feels guilty that I was willing to ever drop the

ball on the prophecy. It was like I’d forgotten how terrible

the Seelies are, forgotten my responsibility to a world I just

learned existed but is depending on me to save it. I have no

idea how to do it, and I doubt that I’ll be successful, but I

surely have totry.

“If Ben’s mother is the key to finding the fays,” Kelsey says


Page 3

slowly, “then shouldn’t we be looking for Ben’s mother?”

“Ben’s mother, who up until a few days ago, everyone

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thought wasdead?” Will retorts scathingly. “I’ve no idea how we would even begin to find her. Only Benedict would know,

and he’sgone.”

“Thank you for repeating that as much as possible,” I say,

because it’s not like I don’t already remember every single

minutethat Ben is gone. “What about the guy who was guarding the book? He wasn’t in that society, was he? He didn’t try

to stop us from taking the book, not really. So maybe he’d

help? Maybe…he would have picked up some information

about the book while he was guarding it, or something?” I

feel like I’m flailing. “I mean, I don’t know, but Ben seemed

to think he was important, so…” I trail off, feeling like an

idiot, but Will is looking at me as if I’ve just said the most

interesting thing in the world.

“The Erlking,” he says. “Of course.”

“The what now?” says Kelsey.

“The Erlking. King of the goblins.”

“The goblins,” I echo.

I suddenly have a vague memory from long ago in my past,

a past I’m no longer even sure I lived. Goblins have come up

before in my life, have been referenced by my aunts even, but

there’s one time in particular…“Wait, that’s what Brody was.”

“Who?” asks Will.

I look at Kelsey. “Brody. We went to Salem Willows with

him. Remember? Did we still live that?” The summer I met

Kelsey, when we had a summer job together and went on a

double- date on some boys from school. Hot boys, both of

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them. Except one of them, Brody, the one interested in me,

turned out to be…I can’t seem to remember it clearly now. I

seem to think he’d turned into a monster while I was kissing

him, and then I pushed him into the water, and then…But

the official story was…

“Of course I remember,” Kelsey says. “He died in a shark

attack, Selkie. It was awful.”

That was the official story. He died in a shark attack. But he

didn’t. “No, he didn’t, Kelsey.” I turn back to Will. “Ben mentioned something about him being a goblin. Something.” I

am trying so hard to remember. How did I not remember all

this before, when Ben was around? “It’s all fuzzy now.”

“Wait,” says Kelsey, and her face is also screwed up in con-

centration. “You might be right. I think…I mean, he wasn’t a

goblin. Wasn’t he a…monster? Was he a monster? But it was

a shark attack.” Kelsey gives up. “I’m confused.”

“Yes,” Will says. “Too many overlapping enchantments.

But it wouldn’t surprise me if you’d had a brush with a goblin

before. They’ve been keeping a close eye on you. You’re just as

valuable to them as you are to the rest of us. They’re really all around, most of the time masquerading as attractive humans.

It’s an ego thing.”

“Brody tried tokillme.” At least, I think he did. I wish I could remember the encounter better.

“You probably misinterpreted. You said he looked like

a monster?”

I nod. I’m fairly sure he did. He was hideous and terrifying.

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“Then he was in some distress, as goblins usually have no

problem maintaining their disguises. He was probably asking

you for help.” Will shrugs, as if this is no big deal.

“And then Ikilledhim?” I gasp in horror.

“You probably didn’t. Goblins are very difficult to kill, and it wasn’t like you had any special powers. I’m sure he’s fine.” Will continues to look very unconcerned about all of this. “You

can ask the Erlking when we see him. I’m sure he’ll know.”

x

We decide to all go to see the Erlking together, because Boston

isn’t safe anymore. I don’t want my aunts to stay behind,

and they don’t want me to leave without them, and so we

are agreed.

It is Will who says, “What do you wish to do with

Etherington?”

And up until that moment, selfishly, like a terrible daugh-

ter, I had not really thought about my father. It’s not because

I don’t love my dad— because I do— but because I’m not

used to him being involved in stuff. And I’m used to think-

ing of him as beingsafewhere he is.

But that was before I learned that Boston is about to turn

into a battleground.

I look at my aunts, who look back at me.

Aunt Virtue says, “We will have to go get him.”

Aunt True pulls out a white handkerchief, heavily

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embroidered because she’s probably been adding embel-

lishments to it for centuries now, and blows her nose, her

eyes weepy.

“How will we get him out?” I ask. I’ve never really thought

about it, but surely we’re not just allowed to walk in and

retrieve our institutionalized family member?

Aunt True looks at me blankly with red- rimmed eyes.

Aunt Virtue draws herself up proudly and intones grandly,

“We are the Stewarts of Beacon Hill. Who would dare to

stop us?”

I decide that maybe they know better than I do about this,

and anyway, it’s nice to have something that someone else is

in charge of.

“Selkie,” Will says to me, “get your sweatshirt.”

I hesitate. I took the sweatshirt off in a fit of anger right

after Ben left me on the Common, because if he was going

to walk away and abandon me, then I wasn’t going to cling

to his gift, even if itwassupposedly keeping me safe. I don’t know that it will work anymore, that Ben cares enough to be

maintaining the enchantment over it, overme, because hedoesn’tcare. He left.

Will walks over and stands next to me stalled at the bottom

of the stairs, looking up toward my bedroom.

“It wasn’t about you, Benedict leaving,” he tells me in a low

voice. “I’ve never seen him so fond of anyone before, and I’ve

known him a very long time, longer than either of us would

care to remember.”

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I look at Will. “I don’t care. I don’t care why he left. I don’t care what he was thinking. I’m not worrying about him anymore.”

Will looks dubious.

I frown. “Idon’t. I’ll get the sweatshirt if you want me to, but I don’t care.” I shrug to show how much I don’t care then

say, “The only thing I’m worrying about is that my mother

said Ben was going to die. That he was going to betray me

and he was going to die.”

Will shook his head. “She was saying it to get to you, Selkie.”

“He did betray me,” I point out. “I don’tcare, but I don’t want him todie.” I remember how my mother named Ben

when we were trapped in Tir na nOg. Saying his name over

and over with dangerous intent. Causing him pain.

“He’s got a hidden name, Selkie. He’s going to be fine. And if

it really is a prophecy, then all we can do is find a way out of it.”

“Fulfill part of the prophecy without fulfilling all of it?” I

say hollowly.

“Get the sweatshirt,” says Will. “It’s the first step. We need

to keep you as safe as you can possibly be.”

“And you think the sweatshirt is still enchanted to protect

me?” I am not nearly as sure about that.

“Ben liked you more than I’ve ever seen him like anybody,”

Will repeats.

Which shouldn’t mean anything to me, considering he also

leftme. But I can’t help it; it does. So I jog up the stairs.

My sweatshirt is just where I left it, crumpled on the floor.

I take a deep breath and pull it over my head, and then I

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take another deep breath and look around me at my room. I

step onto the landing and peek out of the Palladian window,

choosing one of the lavender panes, letting it tint Boston

Common below into wavy purple. This is my home, and

now it’s a battleground, and somehow I’m the one who is

leading everyone into battle.

Or something.

“Selkie?” Kelsey says behind me hesitantly.

I don’t turn to face her.

“I guess this means we won’t have to take the quiz on

Emerson,” I say, because that was what had been on our

schedule for today, before all this.

“Yeah, that’s at least one good thing to come out of all of

this. We’ve been saved from having to pretend we understood

any of ‘Nature.’”

“You should go home,” I say. “You should go home to your

mom and— ”

“You heard Will. It’s not safe. What good would it do?”

Kelsey comes up to the window and looks out of it with me.

“I called my mom,” she says eventually. “She didn’t pick up.

I left her a message and I told her I loved her. I…didn’t know

what else to do. How can I say to her, ‘Mom, I’m scared the

world’s ending, but don’t worry, Selkie and I are trying to

stop it’?”

“I don’t know how I got us into this,” I say, because I don’t

understand how it all spiraled so quickly to this moment here.

“You were you,” Kelsey replies. “And I always knew you

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were going to be a little bit crazy to be friends with, from the very beginning.”

“You didn’t think it would be this crazy.”

“Maybe I had a suspicion,” says Kelsey.

“Remember when all you had to worry about was

cheerleading?”

“No,” Kelsey answers frankly. “I don’t. That seems like a

lifetime ago. Look, the world might end, right? I want to be

able to brag to my grandkids that I stopped it. So let’s go.”

I lean forward and hug her fiercely and say, “It’s so good to

have you here.”

And Kelsey says, “Right back at you.”

And then we head down the stairs together. Only I get dis-

tracted on the landing, looking at the clock.

Because it’s stopped.

“Selkie?” Will says from the foyer. “Ready?”

“The clock stopped,” I call down to him.

“What does that mean?” he asks.

I look down at him in surprise. “I thought you would know.”

“Why would I know what that means? It isn’t my clock.

But I’m going to assume, based on recent events, that it is

probably another portent of ill to come and we should get

moving and not spend time winding it.”

I am already on my way down the stairs. “Fine,” I say to

him. “I didn’t need aspeech.”

My aunts are already outside, standing on the front stoop

with Safford. They both look typically anxious, wringing

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their hands, and I don’t blame them. I think of how they had

to go through my entire existence worrying that all of this

was going to happen someday and they were going to lose

me, and it makes total sense to me now, all of the stuff that I

dismissed as craziness on their behalf.

Aunt Virtue closes the door and carefully locks it.

Aunt True lays a hand against it, reverently and adoringly,

sniffling.

“True,” Will says to her, his voice very gentle. “Everything

we’ve been through together, all of us, here, it does not end

like this. Do you hear me?”

Aunt True looks up at him, eyes wide and welling with

tears. “How can you be so sure?”

“Because I am not going to stand by and just give them

Boston,” says Will. “I lived on this hill when it was an actual

hill, before its height was stolen to create new land. I was hanged to death out on that Common for being a witch. I

will not surrender it to the Seelies. Not until one of them

names me, and not a second before.”

“That isn’t going to be necessary,” I say, trying to sound

soothing. “We’re going to take down the Seelie Court.”

My aunts stand side by side, almost identical with their

dark features and dark hair and matching long- sleeved black

blouses and knee- length black skirts and black boots, all neat

and gleaming. And they look at me, their eyes sad, like they’re

worried I’m so delusional that they don’t even know what to

do with me anymore.

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Aunt True takes Will’s arm. “Will,” she begs. “Could you

cast a protective charm? Please?”

He looks down at her. “I can’t promise it would do any

good, True, not now.”

“Please?”

He sighs and glances back at the house. I don’t see anything

happen, but something must, because, after a second, my

aunt relaxes slightly and breathes, “Thank you.”

Will nods once, brusquely, and then we set off down the

Common together.

“So,” says Will as we walk, “the plan is that we retrieve


Page 4

Etherington and then we go to the goblins.”

He seems to be much calmer now that we have a plan,

a direction. I think he was feeling rudderless without the

prophecy, and it was making him panicked. I think of how

panic- inducing it must be for someone like Will, who lives in

a world where he’s used to thinking he knows what’s going to

happen and suddenly he’s lost that. It must be, in a way, like

suddenly losing a sense, suddenly going blind or deaf.

“How are we getting to the goblins?” Kelsey asks.

“We’re going to take the subway, of course,” Will says

matter- of- factly.

“The subway is a mess,” Kelsey says.

“It’s true,” I agree. “The lines were all backed up. We were

going to take it to go find you.”

“It’ll work for us,” Will assures us confidently.

Park Street is crowded during rush hour on the best of

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days, but it’s worse today, balanced on the edge of a full-

fledged riot. You can taste panic in the air.

“Everyone’s trying to get out of the city before it falls,” Will remarks, walking through the gates on the heels of a commuter. “As if that’s going to do any good.”

“Wait,” I say, confused. “Aren’t these…humans?” I hope no

one is eavesdropping.

“Well, yes. But an odd, sudden storm just rolled in and

church bells are falling out of towers,” Will points out. “It

doesn’t matter what you are— you’re getting away from here.”

“The Red Line trains will be running, right?” Aunt True

asks. “The human ones?”

“They should be. The human trains will run longer than

our trains will,” Will responds. “The goblins will fall back, but the trains will run as well as they can for as long as they can.”

We go down to the Red Line platforms, reaching the plat-

form in the middle, which is so packed you can barely move.

Will walks without apology, pushing through the crowd, and

I try to keep him in my sight and make sure everyone else is

still with us too.

We come out, finally, on the far side, near the fire exit

stairway.

A train sounds its horn, rolling up to the station toward us

on my left. At the same time, another train comes roaring in

from the tunnel on my right, going in the opposite direction.

The bells chime then. An awful jingle- jangling sound

that makes me feel queasy. My hands clench into fists

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automatically, and I back away from the fire exit stairway,

where the sound seems to be coming from.

The trains to our left and our right have their doors open.

“Selkie,” Will says slowly. He stands still, his eyes on the

fire exit stairway, watching, waiting, tense. “The goblins live

in the subway tunnels. Get into a tunnel, ask for the Erlking,

and use my name.”

“Wait, what?” I say, looking at him, confused. “Why are

you telling me this?”

“Get on the train,” he tells me.

I glance behind me. My aunts have already gotten on the

train, although Aunt Virtue is standing with her hand on the

door to keep it open. I look back at Will.

“Selkie,” Kelsey says to me, and I look at her.

She is staring up at the fire exit stairway. Where a faerie has

appeared, glowing palely in the dim T station.

The faerie is a Seelie. For a moment, looking up, I think

it might be my mother. It isn’t, but it could be; that’s how

strongly the Seelies resemble each other. Although I didn’t

think that when I was in Tir na nOg. Did they all look alike

then? Or is it just that they all look alike now?

In my moment of confusion, all hell breaks loose. It feels

like an earthquake shakes the station, the cement trembling

under our feet, fine vibrations that increase to tremors. The

regular commuters all look around in confusion that quickly

tips over into fear then rises to a crescendo of panic.

And then the floor literally begins rolling underneath us.

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“Go!” Will shouts, and I dart toward the waiting T, except

that the pavement cracks right in front of me, rising in an

impossibly high jagged cliff.

I try to scramble up over it, and I’m almost to the top when

I hear someone say my name. It must be the Seelie, saying it

with intent, because I cry out with the pain of it, and some-

one yanks hard on the hood of my sweatshirt, pulling me

back through the crowd of people, and I scream in panic and

wheel around to claw at whoever’s holding me.

I collide with the being that grabbed me. Who turns out

to be Will. He tumbles backward and into the open T door

opposite my aunts. He manages to get hold of me and pull

me in after him, and then the doors slide closed. The lights

of the T flicker off and then back on.

And then Kelsey says, “Where the hell are we?”

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ChapTer 4

T he train looks like the living room of some kind of

fancy hunting lodge, with comfy chairs positioned in

cozy little reading nooks around an enormous central fire-

place. I am with Will and Kelsey and Safford. My aunts, who

were the first people on the other T, the T we were all sup-

posed to get on, were stuck there when the platform cracked

between us.

“My aunts,” I say and reach for the closed doors, although I

don’t know what I’m going to do. How do you open subway

car doors once they’ve closed?

And then the subway swings into motion, taking us away

from the station. Away from the Seelie and the weird earth-

quake, but away from my aunts too.

I whirl back to Will. “No. Will. Take me back. I have to go

back. I have to get them.”

Will is massaging his face where I collided with him. “We

can’t go back.”

“Wehavetogoback, Will!” I scream at him. “We can’t just leave them! There was a Seelie!”

“They’re on their own subway train. They’ll be on their way

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now. And anyway,you’rewhat they want, and you’re here.

That makes your aunts safer than they would be with you.”

“Will— ” I start and then truly register the surroundings

of the train around us. “Wait a second. Where are we? What

happened? We’re not even inBostonanymore.”

“We are. We’re just on an Otherworld train.”

“The Otherworld trains go to the Seelie Court! They’re evil!”

Will shakes his head. “Only the Green Line is evil. The Red

Line should take us to the Erlking.”

“It can’t,” I tell him. “It can’t take us anywhere without my

aunts and my father. We have to go back. This train has to

stop, right now.”

And then it does.

It screeches to a violent halt. The chairs skid forward, crash-

ing against the wall. We all lose our balance, tumbling to

the floor. The awful squealing of the wheels against the track

ends, and the silence that descends is deafening.

After a moment, I say hesitantly, “Did I do that with the

power of my mind?”

“No,” Will bites out as he gets back to his feet. “You didn’t.

I told you the Seelies were after you, didn’t I? We have to get

off this train.” Will is studying the doors.

“In the middle of a tunnel?” Kelsey asks.

“And go back for my aunts?” I say.

“No,” Will snaps. “We can’t go back for your aunts. Don’t

you get it? We’re beinghunted. The Seelies stopped this train.

So we have to get out into the tunnels.”

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“And what are we going to do once we’re there?” I demand

hotly. “We have to go somewhere, we might as well go— ”

“We’ll go to the goblins.” Will cuts me off brusquely and

tries ineffectively to pry the doors open. “This is allsomuch easier to do when you’ve got a traveler with you,” he comments, and then, “Don’t tell Benedict I said that.”

“Aren’t you a wizard?” I ask. “Just magic it open.”

“Sorry, I was busy learning important spells like disguising

silver boughs to smuggle into prison for you and casting a

protective enchantment over an entire city. I didn’t bother to

memorize the spell foropeningsubwaytraindoors.”

“You don’t know the spell toopenthings?” I say in disbelief.

And then the doors slide open.

I look at Will, who looks back at me, and then we both

turn our heads.

Safford is replacing the emergency door release handle.

“What?” he says at our looks. “Didn’t you want to open

the door?”

“Magic trains have emergency door release handles,”

says Kelsey.

“Safety first,” says Will, and then, “Thanks, Safford.” He

leaps out the open doorway into the dark tunnel behind then

turns back to the rest of us. “Come on.”

There is a moment when I stand at the edge, hesitating.

I look at Kelsey and Safford, who are depending on me to

keep them safe. I think of my aunts and my father. I don’t

know how I’m supposed to be keeping all of these people

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safe. And I haven’t even started to think about Ben, who is

somewhere dangerous, undoubtedly getting himself into yet

another situation where he will need my rescue.

I don’t know what to do, but I believe Will that we are sit-

ting ducks on this train. Better to keep moving.

I jump down after him.

Kelsey and Safford follow.

Will starts walking, and we trail behind him, for lack of

anything better to do, I guess.

“Tell me how being in the subway tunnel is going to help

us get to the goblins.”

“Well, the goblins live in the subway tunnels. We were

going to get there the civilized way on the train, but this will work just as well.”

“The goblins,” Kelsey repeats in a processing tone of voice,

as if she is taking careful notes for when she writes up her

memoir of this experience, “live in the subway tunnels.”

“Yes,” Will answers crisply, as if Kelsey should have figured

out much earlier in her life that goblins lived in the Boston

subway. “Did you never wonder why your subway system is

so excruciatingly incapable of functioning correctly?”

“I wondered that all the time,” retorts Kelsey. “I never

thought it was because of goblins.”

“They sabotage the tracks,” Will explains.

“Do they hate us?” I ask.

“No, they’re just mischievous and frequently bored,”

Will replies.

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“Can’t they get hobbies?” grumbles Kelsey, and I don’t

blame her, because the malfunctioning subwayisannoying.

“Brody didn’t live in the subway tunnels,” I say.

“How do you know where Brody lives?” counters Will, and

he has a point.

“So the goblins will help us get to Ben,” I begin.

“And we can use them to check up on your aunts and your

father. The goblins have the run of Boston,” Will says.

“The goblins,” says Kelsey, in that same thoughtful tone of

voice, “have therunofBoston.”

Will rolls his eyes as if Kelsey has just revealed she doesn’t

know the alphabet.

The tunnel is very quiet. I expect there to be the rumble

of subway trains from other places, but there is nothing but

silence all around us. I listen harder, for the chiming of bells, for Seelies to rush up on us. I imagine, as I listen harder, that what I can hear is scuffling.

“Are there rats in the tunnels?” I ask suddenly.

“Of course there are,” Will answers. “What kind of ridicu-

lous question is that?”

I draw to a stop. “Ben told me there weren’t any rats in

the tunnels.”

“Then he lied,” Will answers, sounding unconcerned. “He’s

a faerie, Selkie, it’s what hedoes. Anyway, what do you have against rats?”

I start moving again, but going very slowly, disgruntled over

the revelation of Ben’s lie. “That’s right, you love rats,” I recall.

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“You loverats?” says Kelsey.

“I love all creatures,” Will announces primly.

“All of a sudden you’re Doctor Dolittle?” remarks Kelsey.

“This is the most inane conversation,” Will complains. And

then, suddenly, “Shh.” He stops walking, holding his hand

up. He stands there for a second, listening.

“Do you hear anything?” Kelsey breathes behind me.

“No,” I whisper back.

But it is clear that Will hears something. He turns in a

circle, looking all around us, through the dimly lit gloom of

the tunnel.

And then I hear it too: bells. The chiming jingle bells of the


Page 5

Seelie Court.

“Run!” Will commands, and I don’t need to be told twice, but I can’t tell where they’re coming from.

“Which way?” I ask, vaguely panicked, turning around,

trying to figure it out. It sounds like they’re coming from all

directions, like they are all around me, the chimes bouncing

off the walls and echoing through my brain.

“Away from the train,” Kelsey says, and it makes sense.

They would be heading toward the train, right?

We tear down the tunnel, but I think this is fruitless. Seelies

can move fast, faster than we can run. A small trickle of dirt

hits me square on the nose. I brush it away, but then another

trickle of dirt hits me, and then a pebble.

“Oh my God,” Kelsey says, at the same moment I’m real-

izing it. “They’re going to make the tunnel cave in.”

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“Run!” Will urges us again, and we keep running, although I don’t know what the point of it is, and then, suddenly, in

the space we just vacated, comes a great crashing sound, and

the tunnel vibrates with the reverberation and dust kicks up

all around us. Will has drawn to a halt, and I draw up beside

him, coughing, and look back where we’d come from.

The entire ceiling of the tunnel appears to have caved in.

We are facing a huge wall of debris.

“We barely made that.” I wheeze.

A voice off to our left says, “You’re much safer on this

side. Which was the point. We would never have actually

buriedyou.”

A man steps forward as he speaks. He is dressed all in

black: black pants, black button- down shirt, black shoes. He

looks a little bit like a funeral director, to be quite honest.

An unexpectedly cute one, with gleaming dark hair and a

quick smile that he sends in our direction. I guess he thinks

that his comment about not burying us was reassuring. He

sticks his hands in his pockets and rocks from his heels to his

toes and back again.

“We need to see the Erlking,” Will tells him.

The man’s amusement seems to grow. “Yes, he thought

you might be paying us a visit.” He takes a few more steps

forward, standing nose to nose with Will now. He smiles.

It is not a very friendly smile, even if it must be admit-

ted that it’s an attractive one. “He looks forward to hearing

your explanation.”

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He makes it sound like, actually, this is not a good thing

at all.

Will smiles back. Also not a very friendly smile. “I look

forward to providing it.”

The man, smile cemented on his face, turns on his heel and

walks away, looking over his shoulder at us. “This way,” he

says sweetly and winks for good measure.

“You heard him,” Will says to us and starts following him.

“Who is he?” I ask, keeping my eyes on him, because he

could easily fade into the darkness of the tunnel, dressed all

in black as he is.

“What do you mean, who is he?” Will looks at me in sur-

prise. “He’s a goblin.”

“He’sa goblin?”

“What did you think he was?”

“I thought goblins were…” I trail off.

“I told you: most of the time they look just like us. All these

preconceived notions. Really, humans understand very little

about the Otherworld. We’re natural tricksters; we’re sending

false information out into your world all the time.”

“Let me get this straight,” interjects Kelsey. “Goblins are

really…hot guys?”

Will rolls his eyes. “So simplistic.” He pauses. “Some of

them are female.”

The tunnel has opened up abruptly, and we are stand-

ing on an overlook that looks out over a vast and glimmer-

ing city. It isn’t a modern city— there are no skyscrapers

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or anything like that— but it’s clearly a sizeable settlement,

with sleek and gleaming structures. Even the roads below

us seem to catch the light. The ceiling drips with what look

like stars but can’t possibly be, because we are still under-

ground. The light is dim and artificial, coming from count-

less numbers of torches scattered everywhere we can see,

hovering over our heads and planted into the wall. And

it is loud, loud with the sound of lives being lived. There

are people calling to each other and laughing, as well as an

insistent tapping noise.

I hear Kelsey gasp, and she and Safford and I stand there,

staring out over this.

“What…” I begin, but I don’t even know what question I

want to ask.

“Come along,” Will calls impatiently, and I tear my gaze

away. There is a set of stairs leading down into the city proper, and Will is already halfway down them.

I run to catch up with him, because now I am overflow-

ing with questions and I want him to answer them. The

first thing I say isn’t a question at all. “We’re in a subway

tunnel, Will.”

“No, you’re not. You’re in Goblinopolis.” He turns away

from me and resumes walking down the staircase.

“Goblinopolis?” I repeat in disbelief.

“Their name, not mine,” Will assures me.

“It’s a city,” Kelsey exclaims, and I hear her running to

catch up to us. “It’s an entirecity.”

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“Yes, I know.”

“Are we still under Boston? How can we still be under

Boston? How can there be a city under Boston?”

Will sighs and turns and looks at both of us. “Don’t you

think, by this point, that it’s time for the two of you to stop

being so surprised by everything that happens? Now keep

up. We don’t want to lose our escort.” He starts walking back

down the stairs.

“There’s a goblin city in the subway tunnels under Boston,”

remarks Kelsey, “and he thinks that’s totally normal.” She

looks at Safford. “Doyouthink this is normal?”

“No,” he admits. “Faeries don’t normally associate

with goblins.”

“Why not?” she asks.

“I don’t know. Tradition, I suppose. They live underground,

and we live aboveground. Why should we associate? And

there’s the fact that travelers and goblins don’t get along, so I think that we just fell into the habit of…not getting along.”

Safford frowns briefly. “Actually, now that I think about it,

most Otherworld creatures have just fallen into the habit

of not getting along, after the Seelies came to power. It was

easier not to trust anybody at all than to trust someone and

be named for your trouble.”

It sounds awful, and Safford looks sad. Kelsey takes his

hand and squeezes it a bit. Safford looks at her gratefully. I

look away so as not to ruin their moment.

Will, predictably, ruins the moment. “Really,” he calls up

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to us, “if you get lost in Goblinopolis, I’m not stopping to

look for you.”

I know it is a hollow threat, but we pick up the pace

anyway, half skipping down the staircase. At the bottom of

it, our guide is waiting. His smile is still plastered in place, but he looks tense and annoyed nonetheless.

“This way, if you please,” he says and leads us through

the streets.

I cannot quite figure out what the roads are paved with,

and I spend a lot of time trying to, scuffing my shoes over it.

Could it be…tin? That is the best I can come up with. There

are no cars, but goblins are walking all around us, going

about their business. They spare a few curious glances for us,

but mostly they are busy with what they are doing, darting in

and out of shops and hailing friends. The buildings look as if

they are made of silver. Some are highly polished and reflect

everything, while others have grown tarnished. It is impos-

sible to drink everything in.

“Please close your mouths,” Will says to us. “You look

like tourists.”

The streets branch off of each other in a dizzying array. We

could be in Boston, except we areunderground. I am quickly lost, but I’m really unable to pay much attention, since this

whole thing is so absurd. The goblins look just like regular

people, only all of them are extremelypretty, to a ridiculous extent. It’s like walking through a city populated with celebrities. They’re all well- dressed and well- coiffed, and I wonder 39

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if it’s some sort of rule, this attractiveness. Maybe they kill the ugly babies; that would seem like an appropriately goblin- y

thing to do. It’s true that Brody was pretty hot, at first, but

then he turned into a monster, and I don’t quite understand

why none of them look like the monster Brody turned into.

We come to a square with a park in the middle. It looks just

like a regular square, only prettier, like everything else down

here. The grass is an expanse of smooth and inviting velvet,

and members of the populace are sprawled on it, a few of

them with rats that appear to be pets.

“But…how are they growing grass?” asks Kelsey.

Will sighs heavily. “It’senchanted.”

We walk through the park and come at length to a river that

appears to be trickling through the city. On the other side of

the river, nestled in its own velvet lawns and surrounded by

a golden fence, is a gleaming copper palace. It is not tall, not a fairy- tale castle with spires or anything like that. It sits low to the ground, hugging the gardens around it, and it is perfectly symmetrical, with rows of Palladian windows winking

at us in the torchlight. And every once in a while, one of the

windowpanes is lavender.

“Lavender panes,” I say, because it is the only thing I can

think to react to.

“Who do you think figured out how to make the glass fade

to purple?” Will asks me, and the answer, I assume, isgoblins.

There is a wide footbridge over the river, delicate and pretty,

with the same golden fence as surrounds the palace lacing

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over it. We follow our escort across the bridge and up to the

huge golden gates. There is a guard at attention, dressed in a

black uniform with a bit of gold braid along the shoulders of

the jacket. He looks at us warily as we approach and says to

our escort, “What do we have here, Folletto?”

“Picked them up on patrol,” our escort replies.

The guard looks at him. “And you brought themhere?”

“Well, you know who they are, don’t you?”

The guard whistles piercingly, and a little boy in the same

black uniform comes running up from a little seat by the

bridge that I hadn’t noticed before.

“Go and tell His Majesty that Will Blaxton and the fay are

here to see him,” the guard tells him. “With…others.” The

little boy slips nimbly between the rungs of the fence and

races up to the palace.

The guard looks at us with renewed interest. “Really?” he says, as if he had been expecting something totally different.

I look at Will.

Will looks bored. He yawns.

We stand there in silence. Safford fidgets a little bit. I twist the ties of my hood around my finger. And then the little boy

comes running out. He slips through the fence again and

looks at the group of us.

“Which of you is Mr. Blaxton?” he asks.

“Me,” answers Will.

The little boy bows to him and, when he straightens,

says, “His Majesty apologizes for keeping you waiting, sir.”

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Then the little boy snaps his fingers, and the golden gate

swings open.

“Excellent,” Will says. “I shall tell him not to mention it.”

He winks at the guard as we file through the gate.

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ChapTer 5

w e are in the court of the Erlking. Whatever that

means.

The palace is gorgeous, but I would have expected nothing

less. The gardens were beautiful, and the doors opened for us

onto a lovely room full of marble and gilding, with a painted

ceiling high above us and many sets of French doors opening

onto a terrace along which fountains have been positioned,

the water catching torchlight everywhere. There is a harp in

the corner that seems to be playing itself, not so much a tune

as a few notes plinking once in a while. Safford has gone to one of the doorways and is regarding the terrace, but I stand in the middle of the room with Kelsey, uncertain whether we should

really be moving. You never know when you might cross a

boundary in the Otherworld. It’s exhausting, like trying to

determine tipping customs in Europe, only worse, of course.


Page 6

Will looks very at home. He is standing by one of the fire-

places, looking at the enormous portrait hanging over it,

which is of an extremely attractive man in a black velvet suit

and black riding boots, a cape jauntily flung back over his

shoulder. He has one hand resting on the intricately jeweled

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hilt of a sword at his hip, and the other hand rests on a marble table beside him. On his head rests a large bejeweled crown,

flattening black hair into cowlicks that peek out from the

back of his head. The expression on his face in the portrait is

self- satisfied, a smirk dancing around his lips, amusement in

eyes a brilliant shade of blue.

The thing about this portrait is that once you look at it,

nothing in the room seems nearly as interesting.

After a couple of minutes, footsteps sound over marble, far

away from us but approaching swiftly. Safford turns from the

window, looking wary, and Will takes a step away from the

fireplace, looking with interest in the direction of the footsteps.

And then the man from the portrait sweeps into the room.

He is dressed in the same black velvet as in the portrait, the

same black riding boots, with the same black cloak billowing

out behind him as he moves. It’s what he wore that day out-

side the Boston Public Library, when we retrieved the book

that told us about Ben’s mother. I wonder if he ever wears

anything else. I mean, it’s working for him, but still.

There is no crown on his head, but the sword swings at

his side. His hair is that shade of black that seems to almost

gleam blue, much darker than Ben’s hair, so dark that it

seems impossible and makes me think of silly poetic things

like raven’s wings and ebony. It is carefully disheveled all over his head in a devil- may- care sort of way.

He walks immediately over to Will, arms outstretched,

exclaiming, “William Blaxton.”

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Will smiles at him. “Your Majesty,” he says and then

hugs him.

“We have much to discuss,” says the man and gives Will

what can only be described as a hard look, belying the jovial-

ity of his tone.

Will pauses. “Yes,” he agrees.

“First though.” He turns to me and smiles. “You are the

fay,” he proclaims.

“Hi,” I say warily, a little thrown by his manner, which is

halfway between welcoming and imperious.

“Lovely to meet you formally,” he says, “as there wasn’t time

for such niceties when you stole the book from me.”

“It wasn’t your book,” Will says.

“It wasn’tnotmy book,” the man retorts. “But now, now, this is conversation that should not be had in such an uncivilized manner. There are other guests.” He looks at Safford

and Kelsey expectantly.

“Kelsey, Safford,” Will introduces, “this is the Erlking.”

He bows very gracefully, pulling the cape dramatically

about him as he does so. “Normally I would say, ‘Very much

in your service,’” he says. “‘Any friend of Will’s’ and all that.

But recent occurrences being what they have been, I offer

you a conditional welcome.”

“Conditional?” Kelsey echoes faintly. Her cheeks are a bit

pink, and I don’t blame her, because the Erlking head- on is a

little much to take.

“Will has explanations to make. If they’re not acceptable,

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I will, of course, have your heads.” He says it so lightly that

Kelsey actually laughs, assuming it’s a joke, and the Erlking

looks at her quizzically, as if she is an interesting curiosity, which makes her laughter dwindle to a stop.

The Erlking looks back at Will. “Shall we dine then?”

“Of course,” Will responds.

The Erlking smiles, looking genuinely delighted. I cannot

figure out how old he is— he is clearly a king and carries

himself with the authority of one, but there is something

boyish about him as well. “Excellent. I love a feast.” He

whistles, and the same little boy who delivered the message

from the guard comes racing into the room. “There you are,”

the Erlking says to him. “Please tell the dining room we

are having guests for dinner.” The Erlking pauses and looks

over at us. He looks suddenly uncomfortable. “I’m so sorry,

forgive me, but…faerie or human food?” He looks to Will.

“You are in mixed company.” He turns back to us. “Which

would you prefer, ladies?”

“Human food,” I answer. “Definitely.”

He inclines his head graciously. “So be it.” He turns back

to the little boy. “You heard Her Ladyship. A human feast, if

you please.”

The little boy nods, “Yes, Your Majesty,” and races out of

the room.

The Erlking turns his attention back to us. The harp in

the corner of the room plinks a few notes, and he frowns

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doing?” He walks over to it and shakes it a bit. The harp

jangles in response. The Erlking sighs and turns back to us.

“It’s depressed. It’s been depressed ever since I had to send

the piano in to be fixed. It can’t even get itself to play proper music anymore, which is at least an improvement over the

terrible dirges it was playing before. I keep trying to tell it

that the piano will be back soon, but you know how musical

instruments are. They never believe a word you say.”

The little boy comes racing back into the room.

“Ah,” the Erlking says to him, “is dinner served?”

The little boy nods, “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“May I have the honor then?” the Erlking asks Kelsey and

me politely, holding out an arm for each of us.

I had thought it possible that the portrait had exagger-

ated the blue of the Erlking’s eyes, but if anything, they

are more intense. He is undeniably compelling, and I hear

myself saying, “Of course,” and settle my hand in the crook

of his elbow.

Kelsey does the same on the other side, and the Erlking

leads us out of the room and into the next, which is a large

dining room with a beautifully set table. There are two chan-

deliers hovering overhead, each crowded with hundreds of

tapered candles, and the china and crystal and silverware

all flash in the candlelight. The table is covered with food,

and my stomach audibly growls. I hadn’t realized until that

moment how hungry I was.

“How did they have time to do all this?” Kelsey asks.

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“Time?” echoes the Erlking blankly, as if he doesn’t under-

stand the question. He pulls her chair out for her and seats

her and then moves around to the other side of the table and

pulls another chair out. “For you,” he says to me, when I

stand there stupidly watching him.

“Oh,” I say and scurry over to him. I’ve never had a guy

pull out a chair for me before, and I’m not quite sure that I

pull the whole thing off as elegantly as you’re supposed to,

but whatever. “Thank you.”

He sits to my left, at the head of the table, and Will takes

the seat to my right, with Safford opposite him.

A violin comes floating into the room and begins crooning

a soft sonata from near the roaring fire in the fireplace.

“The violin,” the Erlking remarks, “is not depressed. I think

it quarreled with the piano and is hoping it never comes

back.” And then he holds out his hands expansively. “Please.

Help yourselves.”

I hesitate and look to Will for guidance, and he pulls over

a bowl of mashed potatoes and puts a heaping amount on his

plate. I follow his lead, and for a little while, there is silence as we help ourselves to food.

The Erlking is not eating. He is settled back in his seat, cra-

dling a goblet of wine in his hand and watching…me.

I look at him, self- conscious under his gaze. I am sure I am

blushing. “What?”

His eyes stay on me, and his lips curve into a smile. “You

were the reason for Will’s last visit. A fay of the seasons, he

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told me. And would we consent to have her sheltered in the

city above us. And look. Here you are.” He sits up abruptly

and sets his goblet of wine down. “And now we discuss it.”

He fixes Will with a hard look. “I mean to exist in peace, and

you know those are my intentions, but I cannot find myself

with any other option than to acknowledge that my people

are presently at war.”

“Not with us,” Will denies.

“Oh no? Who was it who took the book out of the room?

That was the term of the treaty, Will Blaxton: that the book

of power would be locked into the room by the Witch and

Ward Society.”

“There was always going to come a time when we would

need that book, Kainen, and you know it.”

“Do you really dare to use my name here?” the Erlking

demands.

“Yes. Because you let us leave with the book. Which is

something your people don’t know, do they? And all this is

to save face. You know that there are greater issues afoot, or

you wouldn’t have let Benedict get away from you. You could

have stopped him with a fingertip.”

The Erlking watches him for a moment, his eyes glittering

sapphires in the candlelight. “I have heard rumors.”

“The rumors are true. We can deny it no longer. The battle

we have long suspected is nearly here. Might be here already.”

“I thought that was what this meant.” The Erlking holds

up a pocket watch, face out. The time reads 11:09. I have no

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idea whether that’s the right time or not. I suppose it’s the

right time somewhere in the Thisworld or the Otherworld.

“Why?” Will asks. “What happened to the time?”

“Well, it kept time perfectly, for centuries or hours, depend-

ing on the time you’re keeping, and then suddenly, today,

it stopped.”

I look up, food forgotten, thinking of the grandfather clock

on the landing at home. “It stopped?”

The Erlking nods. “And then when it began ticking again,

it was eleven o’clock. You know what happens when clocks

strike twelve.”

“What happens?” I ask.

The Erlking gives me a disapproving look. “Don’t you read

your histories? The enchantments all end.”

I think of the enchantment around Boston. “Which means

the Seelies will get in.”

“Exactly,” says the Erlking, replacing the pocket watch and

resuming eating as if this isn’t terrifying.

“But…” I think of the grandfather clock. “We’ll never know

how long it will take to strike twelve. It doesn’t move linearly.”

“It will now,” responds the Erlking, still calmly eating. “It will move through the eleven o’clock hour until it strikes twelve.

Of course, we cannot know how quickly that will happen, you

are correct, but we know that whatever time is being kept, we

are fifty- one ticks away from the twelve o’clock hour. So we are in the middle of a fight for our lives, andyouhave given the book to the faeries.” The Erlking looks hard at Will.

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I realize at that moment that I have no idea where the book

went. There was so much other stuff going on, I managed to

lose track of it. I lost track of the book of power. I’m terrible at this.

Will says, “Do you really think that I would do that? We

needed it, for the next step of our mutual defense, so we took

it. But they don’t have it.”

“Who has it then? Because I’ve already spoken to the Witch

and Ward, and they’ve a warrant out for its discovery. And in

the meantime, they’ve abandoned the city.”

This seems to catch Will’s attention. “Have they? Already?”

The Erlking snorts. “Frederick and Henry were never ones

for bravery, were they? You were the one who set the whole

thing up, and they just accepted the privilege of lording over

it. But they were never going to fight for it.”

“That is hollow flattery,” says Will after a moment.

“Which you have always been susceptible to,” says the

Erlking and sips from his goblet.

“Will you fight for it?” Will asks without acknowledging

the Erlking’s point.

The Erlking is silent for a moment. “I let you have the

book, didn’t I? I think I’ve made my choice.” He puts his

goblet down. “What is it that must be done?”

“We need your army.”

“So I assume.”

“The Stewarts must be protected. They are currently exposed

in Boston.”

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The Erlking nods. “We can bring them to Goblinopolis.”

“And they’ll be safe here?” I ask anxiously. It doesn’t seem like such a bad place. Maybe it’s part of the spell the Erlking is weaving, but it seems much safer than Boston, cozy and protected


Page 7

instead of sharp and cold and exposed. And the Erlking did

not stop Ben when he could have, has not yet stopped us. I can

feel myself starting to trust him, even though it seems strange

that I should trust a goblin more than I should trust faeries.

The Erlking looks at me. “They’ll be safe as long as there

are goblins left to fight. If Goblinopolis should fall, then of

course I can guarantee no safety, as I shall be gone myself.”

He says it so calmly, so simply. I swallow the nervous pit in

my stomach and nod and realize that I have entirely lost my

appetite. It actually seems a betrayal of my family that I’d had any appetite at all to begin with.

“There’s something else,” Will says.

The Erlking arches an eyebrow at him. “You ask for my

army and my protection and you still seek more?”

“Benedict’s been tricked. Trapped.”

“Benedict Le Fay has beentricked?” repeats the Erlking.

“Pray tell, how does one trick a Le Fay?”

“Very cunningly,” Will responds. “We need him for the

prophecy, if we have any chance of winning this war, so we

need to find him.”

“You need a traveler? Really? That’s what you need to win?

In that case, I shall withdraw all of my armies as soon as you

retrieve him.”

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“You know that’s not how prophecies work, Kainen— ”

“Why are you here?” The Erlking’s voice is cold, and I

shiver with it. “I have no interest in helping you find a trav-

eler. I say good riddance to him.”

“You want the prophecy to be fulfilled as much as the

rest of us do. And we need Benedict to do it. And you can

find him, can’t you? The goblins have always been able to

hunt travelers.”

“Goblins hunt many things,” the Erlking replies. “That

doesn’t mean we can find things that don’t wish to be found.

If your traveler is any good, he will never be found. And if he

isn’tany good, then the Seelies will have already gotten him, no?” The Erlking says this very casually.

I frown at him, because I am furious at Ben but I still don’t

like to hear people casually discussing his death.

The Erlking notices, turning his gaze onto me. “You

disagree?”

“He’s looking for his mother,” I say as if in his defense.

“His mother?” the Erlking echoes. “His mother was named

centuries ago. Or yesterday, depending on the time.” The

Erlking pats at his chest, where he replaced the pocket watch.

“Not according to the book. The book says she’s the only

who knows where the other fays are, and we need to find her

to get to them. This doesn’t have to do with Ben; this has to

do with everything else. I don’t care if we ever find Ben.”

The Erlking looks at me for a moment before arching one

of his dark brows wryly up. He looks as if he doesn’t believe

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me for a second, which is really irritating. Then he says,

“Well, if the book told Benedict that his mother is still alive, it must be a trap. It’s a book of power; the words in it could

be traps just as much as they could be truths. Lord Dexter

was on our side unless he wasn’t. You know how the saying

goes: never trust a faerie or a wizard or an ogre or a gnome.

Never trust anything except a goblin.”

“That’s not how the saying goes,” sighs Will.

“If Benedict’s mother were still alive, where is she? Why

would she have kept herself hidden for so long?”

“Because she had a price on her head,” Will says. “Because

she had to hide to survive.”

I look at him. “Hang on, I thoughtyouthought this was a trap too.”

“It can be true and still be a trap,” Will replies. “But you’re

right— we don’t have any other option. If she’s the one who

hid the other fays, we need her. And if anyone could have

stayed hidden all this time, it would have been her. She was

the best enchantress in the Otherworld.”

“Her son isn’t so bad at it, from what I hear, and he couldn’t

get his hiding enchantment to hold up,” the Erlking points

out, tipping his head my way.

“Selkie’s enchantment was supposed to break,” Will says.

“Otherwise the prophecy would never have been fulfilled.”

“Then why not just wait until the rest of the enchant-

ments break?”

“Because we don’t have time, as you just pointed out.

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Because the clock is ticking, and we didn’t coordinate our

battle strategy with Benedict Le Fay’s hidden, named- or-

maybe- not- named mother, and because you know there

are other prophecies in motion that you do not want to

be fulfilled.”

There is a long tense moment. I feel like I can hear the

Erlking’s pocket watch tick forward another minute, but that

might just be my nervous imagination.

The Erlking finally says, “Where would she have been all

this time?”

It’s such an impossible question for me to contemplate. I

know almost nothing about the Otherworld, so I don’t even

know where to look. At least if you lose someone on planet

earth, you have a general idea of where the continents are, of

where that person mightbe. Yeah, he might be on the other side of the planet, but you could get in a plane and you could

start searching systematically, street by street, if you really

had to. I have to find a faerie who may or may not exist and I

don’t even know thegeography. I might as well roam the earth asking every random person I encounter, “Do you think you

might be a faerie?” in order to find the other three fays.

The Erlking goes on, “Who would ever want to have been

caught harboring such a fugitive from the Seelies? The Seelies

will destroy you for no reason, never mindthis. She would never have been able to shelter herself for so very long— ”

He cuts himself off, and I realize in that moment that he’s

had an idea, an idea he doesn’t want to share with us.

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“What?” I demand.

He swallows and looks at Will and then back to me and

admits reluctantly, “Unless she went to the Unseelie Court.”

“And who’s that?” Kelsey asks.

“The Seelie Court’s worse half,” Will explains, and I

remember Ben mentioning them before. “The only small

pocket of the Otherworld that’s not under Seelie control is

under Unseelie control, and they are even worse than the

Seelies, which is why the Seelies never conquered them.

They let them be because they couldn’t be bothered. If you

were hiding from Seelies, you’d hide there. But only if it

was your last resort. Because the Unseelies would betray you

back to the Seelies in a heartbeat. You can’t trust faeries as

a general rule, but the Unseelies have never even heard the

word ‘trust.’”

“That’s where Ben thought she was,” I note.

“If she’s anywhere,” agrees the Erlking.

“Well, whether or not she’s there, that’s undoubtedly where

Ben went to find her. We have to go to the Unseelie Court.”

The Erlking starts to laugh. He flings back his head in hilar-

ity, his laughter booming about us, echoing off the marble

walls of the dining room.

“Why is that funny?” I demand.

“The Unseelie Court is closed to visitors,” he says with a

smile. “How do you propose to get in?”

“How did Ben get in?” I counter. “How did his mother

get in?”

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“They’re travelers. They can get in anywhere. Like locked

rooms with books of power that no one is supposed to have

access to.” The Erlking gives Will a dark look, as if to remind

him that that is not forgiven, then he looks back at me. “Youcannot just walk into the Unseelie Court.”

“That’s where I was hoping you might come in,” Will inserts.

The Erlking’s amusement fades. “Will,” he says and sighs.

“You’re the only one who can get us in,” Will tells him.

“I don’t disagree withthat.” He sighs again and looks briefly to the ceiling. “All these years…True, there are constant battles with the encroaching humans, but mostly they have been

ages of peace and prosperity.”

“I can see that,” Will says. “I think of how you were when

you came to me, this ragtag little band of miners, and I see

what you’ve done with the place, and the truth is you’ve done

marvelously, Kainen, no one can deny that. But it won’t

work. You can’t keep them out of this one. The Seelies will

destroy everything this time if we don’t stop them. And your

armies won’t be enough. We need the other fays. And we

need a Le Fay.”

The Erlking regards him heavily for a moment and then

looks back to me. “I have heard rumors,” he begins, searching

my face. “The most fantastical rumors. Church bells in Tir na

nOg, I have been told. A silver bough, for the first time in

memory. Is it true? Did you escape from Tir na nOg?”

“Yes,” I answer firmly.

“And now you propose to march into the Unseelie Court?”

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“If that’s what we have to do to find the other fays,” I answer

again, stubbornly this time.

The Erlking’s eyes narrow slightly, studying my features

closely. “Aren’t you justextraordinary,” he murmurs.

“I’m just trying to fulfill my prophecy and save the world,”

I say. “All in a day’s work.”

The Erlking looks back to Will. “I thought there would be

so much more time before this moment,” he says sadly.

“We all did,” responds Will.

“Well.” The Erlking sighs and says solemnly, “You and I

rose together. If we are to fall, may we fall together too.” He

lifts his wine goblet toward Will.

Will leans over me and clinks his goblet against it firmly.

The sound is sharp and crystalline and chilling.

“What time is it?” I hear myself ask.

And the Erlking looks at his pocket watch and says, “11:11.”

“Make a wish,” says Kelsey softly.

I don’t. Instead I slip a butter knife off the table and into

my pocket. Seems more useful than most of the other things

I take.

x

The Erlking has horses, and they look almost exactly like

normal horses, except for the very important fact that they

don’t have any eyes. Where their eyes should be is just…

smooth skin.

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Kelsey and I stand there looking at them.

“Don’t say anything about how they don’t have eyes,” Will

warns us. “You’ll offend the Erlking.”

Kelsey and I look at him and then back to the horses. They

paw blindly at the ground with their hooves.

“They’re cave horses,” Safford explains helpfully. “I’ve heard

about these.”

“Why don’t they have eyes?” asks Kelsey.

“Because they don’t,” Safford answers.

“Ah, here he comes,” remarks Will, and I turn to look over

my shoulder.

We are standing outside the Erlking’s stables, and the

Erlking himself is walking toward us over the expanse of

enchanted grass that separates the stables from the palace.

His cape is billowing out behind him, and he is walking

swiftly, pulling on a pair of black leather gloves, his sword

swinging by his side. The little boy servant is skipping beside

him to keep up with his pace, holding a small bundle.

The Erlking does not look happy. He had sent us out

to the stables while he called his advisers together—He’s aking, Will told us,hecan’t just up and leave— and I dis-cern the chat with his advisers might not have gone as well

as hoped.

“All set?” he asks, taking the reins of the horse that the

nearest servant leads to him. He speaks in clipped, brusque

tones, very different from the smooth, urbane charm he used

before. He looks at us briefly before taking the bundle out

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of the little boy’s hands. It is some sort of rucksack that he is fastening onto his saddle.

“Ready,” Will confirms and swings onto his cave horse.

Kelsey and I exchange a glance.

“We don’t ride horses,” I state.

The Erlking, settling atop his own horse, stares at me. “You

don’t ride horses?”

“They don’t ride horses much aboveground anymore,” Will

tells him apologetically.

“It is so uncivilized,” the Erlking complains. “Nobody has

any sense of propriety anymore.”

“Kelsey can ride with me,” Safford offers, his voice bright

with hope.

“Fine.” The Erlking waves one gloved hand dismissively.

“The fay can ride with me.” He turns to the servant next to

his horse. “Help her up.”

The servant, without warning, fastens his hands around my


Page 8

waist and lifts me as if I weigh nothing. I make a noise of sur-

prise and, after a bit of inelegant scrambling, manage to get

myself onto the horse behind the Erlking, which requires me

basically to sit on his cape. I wonder if he’s going to be upset about that and decide not to mention it.

“Let’s go,” he says. “The sooner we get going, the sooner we

get this over with. The clock is ticking.”

“What time is it now?” I ask.

“11:12.”

“We’ve only lost another minute?” I say, surprised.

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“The Seelies must be having trouble with the Boston

enchantments. We did do a few things right all those years

ago, eh, Will?”

“It was only a few minutes ago, Kainen, wasn’t it?”

replies Will.

The Erlking urges the horse forward, and I immediately

wrap my arms around his waist to keep from falling back-

ward. We move forward at a slow, ambling walk. I’m torn

between wishing we were moving a little faster and being ter-

rified of falling off.

Everyone is silent. The Erlking’s mood doesn’t seem to wel-

come small talk. For a little while, we wend through the streets of Goblinopolis, keeping next to the river, and the people all

seem to recognize their king and gape at us as we pass before

remembering to bow low and deep. The Erlking doesn’t

acknowledge any of this, and we just keep plodding forward.

The outer limit of the city is marked by a flat wooden

bridge over a bend in the river, very unlike the light and

elaborate bridge leading to the palace, and there is a gate-

house at the end of it. A goblin dressed a little like one of

the Three Musketeers sweeps his hat off his head and bows

graciously to us as we pass, and then, almost immediately, the

world becomes dimmer and dimmer and dimmer, until we

are moving through a darkness so black that it matches the

Erlking’s cloak, the lights of Goblinopolis well behind us. In

fact, the only way I know he is there is because I have my arms

around him. I cannot see him at all. Nor can I see anyone else

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in our party, although I can hear the hooves of their horses

and the rhythm of their breaths. The darkness closes in all

around, making me feel claustrophobic, and I realize now

why cave horses don’t need eyes: what would they look at?

“Can’t we create some sort of light or something?” I ask

finally, when I can bear it no longer. It seems to me that we

have been walking through pitch blackness for hours, and I

am beginning to hear sounds at the edge of my conscious-

ness. The dark keeps pressing in on us from all sides.

“You’re better off not seeing,” the Erlking replies, which is

not very comforting.

Itiscomforting to hear someone else’s voice in this intense world of night, and to keep him talking and because I genuinely mean it, I say, “Thank you for this. For helping.”

“I haven’t much of a choice,” he responds, sounding grim.

Maybe it’s not the best time to try to talk to the Erlking,

I decide.

“Close your eyes,” he says to me after a long moment of

silence, and he sounds a bit softer. “It won’t bother you as

much if you close your eyes.”

I do as he suggests, and he’s right— the darkness is much

more bearable when I’m not trying to see through it.

x

I fall asleep. Probably not surprising, since it’s been a while

since I’ve slept and the world around me is so dark and the

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rocking of the horse and the warm velvet of the Erlking’s

cloak are comforting. I wake up when the rocking stops. The

Erlking has drawn our horse to a halt, and he is sitting up

straighter in the saddle. There is an alertness to him, almost

a quivering, and I get the sense that he is listening to some-

thing I can’t hear.

“We stop here,” he decides at last.

“Stop?” I echo, alarmed. “We don’t have time to stop.”

“We have plenty of time,” the Erlking replies. “It was barely

a quarter after the hour.”

“But…stophere?” I can’t help but say. I don’t want to stop here. I want to get out of this eternal darkness.

“It’s nighttime,” he tells me.

“It’s been nighttime for hours.”

“No, it hasn’t. You overworld creatures are really appalling

at telling time underground. Go on, hop off the horse.”

“I can’t see the ground,” I tell him. “I’m not hopping off

this horse until I can see the ground and I can verify that

there are no rats on it.”

“You’re quite troublesome,” the Erlking sighs.

“She’s half ogre,” Will explains, and then there is light. It’s

probably not very bright, but it’s so dazzling after the dark-

ness that I squint and the Erlking throws up one hand to

shield his eyes from it. It is an orb of light, hovering over

our heads.

“Some warning would have been nice, Will,” the Erlking

grumbles.

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“Sorry,” Will says, not sounding it.

“Did you do that?” I ask.

Will nods, looking almost offended at the question. “I am

a wizard, you know.”

“Yes, and you even know some useful spells,” I agree and

then survey our surroundings. It’s a small round dirt room,

I supposed you could call it, almost like a clearing in the

middle of tunnels. The ceiling is close over our heads, and the

“room” has a number of narrow dark openings.

“Did we come through one of those tunnels?” Kelsey asks,

looking at the openings as Safford helps her off their horse.

I follow her gaze, noticing how tiny the tunnels are. The

walls and ceiling must have been right on top of us as we’d

traveled. Just thinking of it makes me claustrophobic.

The Erlking looks unconcerned. “That’s why I said it was

better that you not be able to see. Are you going to hop off

the horse anytime soon?”

“Oh,” I remember. “Yes.” I slide gracelessly off the horse,

feeling stiff and sore.

The Erlking dismounts gracefully, of course. “If Will starts

us a fire,” he remarks, fiddling with his saddle bag, “we

can eat.”

Will, scratching his head with one hand, waves at the

ground with the other, and there is a fire, dancing merrily.

Another good spell. Will’s wizardry is coming in useful. Why

don’tIhave any magic?

“Excellent,” says the Erlking and pulls something out of

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his saddle bag. He thrusts it into my hands without a word

and then leads the horse a short distance away. Safford’s and

Will’s horses seem to sense where he is and follow.

I look down at the bundle in my hands and realize it’s

food. Bread and cheese and what looks like dried meat. And

some oranges. The Erlking has thought to feed all of us. I

am relieved.

Will takes the food out of my hands and pins some bread

onto a fork he’s conjured, stretching it out toward the fire to

toast it.

“Why can’t you just conjure food?” asks Kelsey.

“Because that would be like conjuring oxygen,” Will replies

as if that’s some kind of answer. “Can’t be done.”

Kelsey shrugs at me and sits close to the fire. I follow suit.

“Are you sore, Kelsey?” Safford asks her anxiously.

“I’m fine,” she smiles at him.

The Erlking is apparently done with the horses. He comes

over to the fire. “You should heat the meat. It’ll take the spell away,” he tells Will.

“Oh, I was wondering about that,” Will says and conjures

another fork that he hands across to me.

I put a piece of meat on it. It is thick and leathery. “What

spell?” I ask.

“It’s been glamoured to be dried,” Will explains. “It isn’t

really, it’s perfectly fresh, should be delicious.”

The meat is delicious, pressed with a slice of cheese between

pieces of toast.

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The Erlking passes around the oranges, and everyone strug-

gles with them, but I pull the butter knife I’d taken out of my

pocket and slice into it cleanly, pulling out the wedges and

sharing them with Kelsey.

“Where did you get that?” Will asks.

“I borrowed it,” I say.

The Erlking lifts his eyebrows at me but says nothing.

When we are done eating, the Erlking announces, “We

should all get some rest.”

“Rest?” I say. “But…”

The Erlking holds out his pocket watch. “11:12,” he says.

“Holding steady. We can rest.”

“But what if they suddenly pick up the pace?” I ask anxiously.

“My pocket watch will chime at the quarter- hour; it will

wake us up. We should get some rest.”

“Big day tomorrow,” remarks Will hollowly.

“Do you know if my family got to Goblinopolis safely?” I

ask the Erlking.

He looks at me blankly. “How would I know that?”

“They have musical instruments with emotions, but they

don’t havecellphones,” Kelsey mumbles.

Will waves his hand and conjures us blankets. “Would you

rather have cell phones or newly conjured blankets?” he asks.

I think of all the people I want to talk with right now. “Cell

phones,” I say. “Why can’t I conjure up a cell phone? Why

can’t I conjure upanything?”

Will looks surprised. “You’re not a wizard.”

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“Right, but I’m a faerie and I’m an ogre and I can’t

doanything.”

“You’re good at naming.” Will sounds bewildered.

“Which is horrible, by the way.” Using someone’s name to

hurt them— kill them. My one and only super power.

“The Seelies used good naming power to conquer the entire

Otherworld. I wouldn’t dismiss it so easily, if I were you,”

says the Erlking.

“Okay,yes, but still. I want to enchant meat so it looks dried but it’s really fresh. I want to be able to light up an

entire cave. I want to be able to dosomething.”

“First of all, you might never be able to do those things. It’s

like saying to me that you want to be a concert pianist and a

ballerina and an acclaimed painter. You can’t be everything.

Second of all, they all take practice. Nobody gets to be a pia-

nist or a ballerina or a painter overnight. You’re a faerie, and you’re naturally good at naming, which is actually a very,veryspecial thing to be. The rest of it will take time. Remember, it took you time to learn how towalk. You’re not going to learn how to be a faerie in the space of a couple of hours.”

I know what he’s saying makes sense, but I’m resentful. I

have a prophecy to fulfill and I’m tired of feeling terrified for my life all the time. I wish I felt like I could do something to make myself feel better.

And then the Erlking says, “You’re you. You’re exactly what

we’ve been waiting for. Half faerie and half ogre and you.

What could be better than that?”

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“And you’ve already done things that nobody has ever done

before in the history of the Otherworld,” adds Will. “How

can you be complaining that you don’t have special powers

when you escaped from Tir na nOg?”

“That…” I can feel Safford and Kelsey both looking at me,

and I wish that I hadn’t started this topic of conversation.

“That was Ben. And luck.”

“It was you,” Kelsey says. “Maybe it was a bit of all of

us, but that’s how the world works, even the Otherworld.

Stronger together than apart.”

“A bit trite,” says Will, “but if it makes you feel better, sure.”

“Everyone’s a critic,” huffs Kelsey.

The Erlking says, “It is time for everyone to go tosleep.”

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ChapTer 6

e veryone else seems to fall asleep immediately, but I am

not tired, since I took that long nap during the journey.

I lie awake, watching the magical fire crackle and trying to

keep my breaths deep and even. Because I am awake, I know

when the Erlking leaves, creeping stealthily away from the

circle of the fire. I sit bolt upright, straining to see past the firelight, to figure out where he went, but he is dressed in

black, and he fades into the shadows all around us.

I sit by the firelight while everyone else sleeps, waiting for

him to return.

When he does, I don’t even hear his approach until he

speaks. “You’re awake,” he says, his voice low, and then he

settles onto the ground beside me.

“Where did you go?” I ask, keeping my voice low as well.

“Reconnaissance. Ear to the ground kind of thing. The

Unseelie Court doesn’t stay in one place, you know, but


Page 9

they seem to know we’re coming. They’re staying quite still

right now.”

The firelight flickers over his face, and I study his profile.

It’s a handsome profile, but it’s creased with worry.

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“How will you get us into the Unseelie Court?” I ask him.

He doesn’t look at me when he answers a moment later.

“A long time ago, the goblins were dying out. We were

held prisoner by the Seelie Court, trapped in mines where

humans had invaded, losing our battles for our homes. Will

had started Parsymeon— now called Boston— and I wanted

to come here, with as many goblins as I could. A new world,

an undiscovered world, a world where we could build our

defenses and become entrenched andthrive. But none of

us could come to Parsymeon without the permission of the

Seelie Court. We were enchanted into place, always mining

to bring them jewels, to craft their coronets and forge their

bells. No one can do it as well as a goblin, you know. Everyone

else lacks thedelicacy.”

He pauses for a long time. I hold my breath, waiting for the

rest of the story.

“In those days,” he continues, “I was young, and I was

daring. I would save my people, I thought. It is how youth is.

You are foolish and headstrong and think you can do every-

thing.” He sighs heavily.

“You’re a king,” I point out to him, feeling he is in need of

comforting. “You were just doing what you had to do to save

your people.”

“Oh,” he replies. “I wasn’t a king then. I was just a boy.

I was a boy with a plan, to use my one great talent to save

my people.”

“And what was your talent?” I ask, transfixed now.

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He looks at me for the first time, and he sends me a smile

that is simply breathtaking in its suggestiveness. “Seduction,”

he answers silkily.

I swallow thickly. “Oh,” I croak.

He looks back into the fire, breaking the spell. “All goblins

are natural seducers, of course, but I was the best seducer

in generations. Or I had that reputation in those days. The

Seelie Court doesn’t pay attention to the reputations of gob-

lins. Why would they? So I got myself chosen to be the goblin

that delivered the latest shipment of treasure, and then it was

easy. They are surprisingly susceptible to seduction, Seelies.”

He falls silent.

“And then?” I prompt.

“And then I stole the talisman. Broke the enchantment.”

“What’s a talisman?”

“The physical embodiment of an enchantment. All truly

strong enchantments have one.”

I look down at my sweatshirt.

“Once you have stolen the talisman of an enchantment

from the person or people to whom it is entrusted, the

enchantment ceases to work properly. It begins to crumble.

And that’s what happened. I stole the talisman, and we gob-

lins emerged from the mines where we’d been imprisoned,

and we came here, to Parsymeon, which has been a dream

of a place. We’ve been very happy here.” He looks almost

wistful now.

“And is that how you became king?” I ask him.

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“Yes. The goblins hadn’t had an Erlking for generations.

While the Seelies had ruled us, we’d fallen into disarray. Upon

being made free and independent again, we reinstituted the

Erlking, and I was voted into the position.”

“That was after you came to Parsymeon?”

“Yes.”

“So that’s why Will calls you by your name?”

The Erlking shrugs. “It isn’t quite my name, although it

is close enough.” He leans back on his elbows, looking into

the fire. “He knew me before I had a title. There aren’t many

beings around anymore who remember me from that time.”

“Do you like it? Being king?”

He looks at me. “I thought you wanted to know how I was

going to get you into the Unseelie Court,” he remarks wryly.

“Oh!” I remember. “I do.”

“The Seelie I seduced, she was flung from the Seelie Court.

Do you know what happens to faeries who are exiled from

the Seelie Court?”

“They don’t get named?”

“Not right away. Seelies like to play with their prey first.

Haven’t you noticed?”

I had noticed that actually. I shudder and look into the fire.

“So if you’re an exiled Seelie trying to avoid the inevitable

naming to come, you go to the Unseelie Court.”

I stare at him. “You’re going to get us into the Unseelie

Court by using an ex- girlfriend?”

He looks grimly at the fire. “Not pleasant, I know. Will’s

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lucky I like him. And that, well, I don’t really have a choice

if I’m going to save my home. The clock is ticking.” He

takes out his pocket watch, glances at it, and then shows it

to me. 11:13.

“But doesn’t she hate you?”

“Hate me?” he echoes blankly, looking at me in bewilder-

ment. “Why would she hate me?”

“Because you stole the talisman from her and got her exiled

from the Seelie Court,” I remind him.

He shrugs. “Oh,that. You fail to comprehend: I am very,verygood at seduction.”

We fall silent for a moment. I lean my chin against my

knees and stare into the fire. And then I venture, “I…met

one of your people. Once.”

“Oh,” the Erlking says. “Yes. Brody. Sorry about that. He

was just supposed to provide us with a progress report. I was

worried that we were running out of time, that we weren’t

readyfor this. But I suppose we would never have been ready, no matter how long it took.”

“I…” I take a deep breath and plunge forward. “Did I

kill him?”

The Erlking looks at me, startled. “Kill him? What? No.”

My relief is tempered by the Erlking starting to laugh. He

tries to keep himself quiet, laughing into his cape, but he is

clearly highly amused.

“What’s so funny?”

“You. Thinking you could have killed a goblin just likethat.

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No. We can be named like any other supernatural creature,

but we are much harder to kill by conventional methods.”

“I knew his name.”

“Brody isn’t his name. We wouldn’t give you the correct

name. The way Benedict didn’t give you his.”

I think of Ben, who has always been Ben, because he held

back the power of his name from me. “Yeah, well, never trust

a faerie, right?” I say, wishing I could hold back the bitterness.

“Never trust a Le Fay,” the Erlking corrects me. “You know

that he might be at the Unseelie Court. You know that he

also mightnotbe at the Unseelie Court.”

“I don’t care either way,” I say with a bravado that I’m not

sure I feel.

The Erlking rolls onto his side to face me. “It is a very dan-

gerous thing, you know, to have lost your heart to Benedict

Le Fay. He is an expert inenchantments. You can never know that anything about him is real.”

“The way you are an expert in seduction?” I can’t resist saying.

“Touché,” the Erlking laughs, and then, “You are quite

remarkably fearless.”

I’m really not. I’m afraid all the time. I say instead, “I’m

not in love with Ben. I’m not falling for his enchantment

this time. I know way too much about him. And we’ve been

through too much. I’m kind of sick of saving his life.”

The Erlking smiles. “Oh, the delicious things I would do

with an indebted Le Fay. Call in your favors carefully, fay of

the autumnal equinox.”

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“I’m not calling them in at all. I don’t want anything to do

with him. I’m going to fulfill this prophecy, with or without

him. This isn’tabouthim.” But even as I say it, I hear my mother’s voice in my head.BenedictLeFaywillbetrayyou.

And then he will die. Thisisn’tabout him. But it’s not entirelynotabout him either.

“When Will came to me, when he asked if I would consent

to your being hidden at Parsymeon, if I would help him to

protect you…I made my choice then. Not the most popular

choice I’ve made as Erlking— prophecies are tricky things,

and you can never be sure if you are bringing about your

downfall or your victory— but it was the choice I made.

Sometimes you have to gamble with the birds. Will saved us,

offered us shelter, at a time when we needed it. How could

I deny him the ability to do the same for you? And then it

came complete with a traveler invasion. Travelers are hugely

troublesome beings. Always getting into trouble; you can’t

keep them out. They were constantly stealing jewels from our

mines, and there was no way to stop them. Until we evolved,

of course.”

The Erlking rolls onto his back. “Anyway, sometimes I

think I should have objected to Benedict’s presence. But his

enchantment was useful, necessary. None of the rest of us are

as skilled at hiding things. We needed him. We might need

him still. All the same…” The Erlking glances over at me.

“I’d be careful of him, were I you.”

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ChapTer 7

w e are woken by the Erlking’s pocket watch chiming

at us.

The Erlking looks at it and confirms. “11:15.”

“We should get going,” says Will.

The Erlking doesn’t reply but just walks over to the horses.

“Here,” says Will, handing us some pieces of dried fruit.

“If you heat it up, does it become fresh fruit?” Kelsey

asks him.

“Don’t be absurd,” Will replies, as if her question made no

sense at all.

Kelsey sighs.

“Let’s go,” says the Erlking, swinging himself gracefully

into his saddle.

“How long until we get to the Unseelie Court?” I ask,

clambering gracelessly onto the horse behind him.

He winces as I tug accidentally on his cloak, tightening

it around his throat, and reaches up to adjust it and give

himself some air. He doesn’t say anything, just urges the

horse onward.

I cannot tell if I feel like I understand him more or less

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after the conversation last night. I find the Erlking a strange

mixture that I can’t quite read. Will appears to trust him

implicitly, but I’m not to that point yet.

The day is just like the previous day, darkness all around

and unceasing forward movement, and finally I ask again,

“How long until we get to the Unseelie Court?”

“We’re there,” he answers me curtly.

I blink at his back, which I can only locate in the darkness

because I know it is right in front of me. “What? When did

we get here?”

“A while ago.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“What was there to say?”

“‘We’re entering the Unseelie Court.’ That’s what there was

to say.”

“I didn’t think it was important.”

“It looks the same as everything else.”

“That’s why I didn’t think it was important. Shh.”

I am offended. “Don’t ‘shh’ me— ”

“Shh,” he says again more firmly and draws his horse to a halt. “Will,” he calls. “What is that?”

“Nothing good,” I hear Will’s voice answer from the dark-

ness behind us.

“What does that mean, ‘nothing good’?” I ask. “What can

you hear?” I am straining very hard to hear something, any-

thing, but all it sounds like is silence to me. Maybe, very far

away, the sound of water dripping.

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“I think it’s a dragon,” comes Will’s voice, hushed, as if the

dragon might hear us talking about it.

We are all very silent. But no matter how quiet we are, I

cannot hear anything.

I am about to say that when, very suddenly, a stream of fire

licks its way toward us, accompanied by a loud roar, flames

curling through the darkness. The horse rears under us, and

I grab at fistfuls of the Erlking’s cloak to keep from falling

off. The flames subside, the darkness darker now, and heat

still lingering in the air. The creature is no longer roaring, but the echo of it is ringing in my ears. The Erlking is trying to

soothe the horse, which is now prancing sideways.

“I thought you were going to be able to use your wiles with

your ex- girlfriend,” I remark sarcastically.

“I said I could use my wiles to get us in. I never said she

wouldn’t kill us once we were here,” he retorts and then twists

to call over his shoulder, “Everyone okay?”


Page 10

“We’re fine,” Kelsey responds, sounding a bit shaken.

Will, by way of answer, sends a light orb shooting out in

front of us, illuminating the landscape.

We’re in the middle of a cavern, stalactites dripping from

a ceiling high above our heads, through which Will’s orb is

bobbing and weaving. Directly in front of us, the ground

disappears into a yawning ravine, several hundred feet across.

There is a bridge suspended across it, floating magically, and

there, on the other side, is a squat, heavy, black castle.

“That’s the Unseelie Court,” says Will.

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“I don’t suppose we can just cross over the bridge,” I

note grimly.

“Not with a dragon underneath it,” remarks Kelsey.

On cue, the dragon, from out of sight in its pit, belches fire

that rolls over the bridge in hot billows.

“Get off,” the Erlking says to me, and I manage to clamber

off the horse. He swings off gracefully and strides purposefully over to the bridge, stopping just at its edge, looking down.

“Well?” Will asks him.

He shakes his head a bit. “You can’t even see the bottom,

it’s so deep.” He steps back, frowning at the bridge.

“Well, we have to get across somehow,” I say. This was my

only idea, the thing I said we had to do to fulfill the prophecy.

We can’t have spent all that time getting here just for it to turn out to be a waste. “Can we enchant the dragon somehow?”

“I can cast a protective spell that will block the fire from

reaching the bridge,” Will says. “The dragon isn’t really

the issue.”

The dragon roars, flames momentarily engulfing the bridge

in white heat.

“I can’t wait to hear what’s really the issue,” comments

Kelsey, staring at the embers left behind by the flames, “if it’s not that.”

“The bridge is enchanted,” explains the Erlking impa-

tiently. He is pacing up and down the cliff, looking irritated.

The Erlking, I realize, doesn’t like beingstill. When Kelsey and I just look at him, he continues, “It isn’t reallythere.”

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We look back at the bridge.

“It’s not?” I say.

“It’s there as long as the Unseelie Court wants it to be there.”

“Oh,” I realize. “So we could get halfway across and…”

“Yes,” he concludes grimly. He turns decisively from the

bridge and looks at me. “We have to go to the Unseelie

Court, you claim. We have to find Benedict’s mother to

find the other fays to keep the prophecy on track and defeat

the Seelies.”

“Yes,” I respond.

“This isn’t because you hope Benedict is there and you’ve

gotten yourself all starry- eyed over the best enchanter in

the Otherworld, is it? Because I’m not doing all of this just

because you’re under some sort of spell.”

I draw myself up, offended. “He left me,” I say. “It was his

choice. I wouldn’t be here if I was justchasinghim. The precious book of power said that his mother hid the other fays,

and we need the other fays for the prophecy, and you said

this is where his mother is.”

“We also need Benedict for the prophecy,” Will says. “I

think. If I’m reading it right.”

“But that’ssecondary,” I insist.

The Erlking continues to look at me for a long moment.

Then he nods. “Then I’ll go first,” he says and turns to face

the bridge.

“Wait,” Will protests. “What?”

“I am the least valuable,” the Erlking proclaims steadily,

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regarding the bridge. “The most expendable. There is no

prophecy about me the way there is about the rest of you.

And I am the most likely to be trapped by the bridge, since

I’m the one who upset a member of the Unseelie Court. The

rest of you are innocent. Well, as innocent as you can be in

the Otherworld. Which in your case, frankly, isn’t very. But

anyway. I’ll go first. Alone.”

There is a long moment of silence. I feel like one of us

should protest— he’s only involved in this because we asked

him to be— but I’m worried that instead he’d suggest sending

across Kelsey or Safford, who are also more expendable than

me, and I don’t want that to happen.

I look at Will, who sighs and rubs at his temples.

The Erlking turns away from the bridge and walks over to

Will. “You can cast the enchantment to block the dragon,

right? I don’t need to be worrying about that too.” He is

unstrapping the sword from around his waist.

“Yes,” Will tells him. “Of course. What is that?”

Because the Erlking is now holding the sword, sheathed

in its scabbard, out to Will. “Here’s something nobody else

knows, Will. This sword is the Seelie talisman. I can’t have it

vanish with me, if I do vanish. Take it, and keep it safe, and

bring it back to Goblinopolis for me. Do you promise?”

Will nods and accepts the sword. “My word of honor,” he

promises, and he tries to say it very brusquely but I can tell

he is touched by the trust in the gesture.

“Excellent.” The Erlking turns back to the bridge and walks

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confidently over to it, standing on the very edge. “Ready?” he

asks Will.

“The spell is already cast,” Will answers him.

The Erlking steps onto the bridge without a moment of

hesitation. I think we are all holding our breath there on the

edge of the cliff— I know I am— but the Erlking strides con-

fidently along the bridge. His cloak drifts in his wake, and

the dim light from Will’s orb picks up the blue sheen to his

dark hair. The dragon breathes fire but it passes up and over

the bridge in a fiery arc that would be beautiful if it wasn’t so obviously very deadly. The Erlking’s rhythm does not hitch.

He gleams and billows his way across the bridge and then

steps onto solid land on the other side, where he turns and

executes a bow in our direction, gathering his cloak dramati-

cally around him.

“Is it safe then?” I ask, even though I know the answer.

“Safe enough for him,” Will responds.

“Should we all go over at once?”

“No,” says Will. “If it disappears and kills all of us at once,

then that is far worse than it disappearing and killing just one of us, at which point the rest of us can try to come up with

an alternate plan.”

“Then who should go next?” I ask. And suddenly I hear

myself saying, all in a rush, to Will, “I think you should

go last.”

Will regards me with surprise. “Really? Why?”

“Because you can get everyone back to Boston easily. And

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you’ll know what to do to protect my aunts and father, as

much as you can. If you go, I’ll have no idea what to do to

save them.”

Will looks at me for a moment. “But you’re the fay— ”

“What will it matter, if I’m left all alone? I won’t know what

todo.”

“Selkie,” Will says gently. “You’ll beyou. You’ve gotten us to this point, haven’t you?”

“And I left my entire family back there and who knows

what’s happening to them. Please don’t fight me on this. You

can save them. I can’t. I’m going next.”

And then, before there can be any more discussion about it,

I run over and onto the bridge.

“Selkie!” Will and Kelsey shout from behind me, but I am

already on the bridge and there’s nothing they can do now.

I keep running, focused on the Erlking on the other side

of it, watching me expressionlessly. The bridge feels very

solid under my feet; I find it difficult to believe it’s not real, except for the fact that I can’t see how it’s moored to land in

any way.

Then, just like that, it’s not real. The bridge disappears

underneath my feet, and I am falling through space. I can’t

even scream; I can’t gather breath to do it. I tumble, head

over feet, surrounded by blackness. I can’t even see the dim

light of Will’s orb, and panic rises up and overtakes me just as someone’s arms fold around me, catching me solidly against

him. I am still falling but I am no longer alone.

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I twist my hands into his shirt, and I know who it is before

he even speaks.

“Close your eyes,” Ben’s voice says to me.

I don’t have time to react before we land with a thump on

solid ground, and it is bright all around us. We are clearly no

longer in the dragon’s cavern. We don’t seem to be anywhere

near there. We’re in a green, grassy meadow, and the sun is

bright in the sky above us. Ben is there, dressed in only one

layer, a long- sleeved, bright blue T- shirt that makes his eyes seem like they could almost be blue. Except for how they are

also green. And gray.

“Are you okay?” he asks me urgently.

“Ben,” I pant, because the panic hasn’t quite subsided and

I can’t quite catch my breath and where did hecomefrom?

“Are you okay?” he snaps at me, his hands roaming over me

not at all the way I would have fantasized about back when I

was still in love with him (which I obviously no longer am),

but as if he is making sure I have not broken any bones.

I realize that I am sprawled on the grass with the sky directly

over my head.

“Are you okay?” he demands again, and his face swims

back into my vision, his unclassifiable eyes and that beautiful

mouth he has and all that artfully tousled hair.

I amfuriouswith him. I lift my hand and give the side of his head a solid whack.

“Selkie,” he exclaims, as if he issurprisedthat this is my reaction to him.Surprised!

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I sit up as he rubs at the side of his head and looks hurt.

“You lookfine,” I complain to him, because he ran off and left me and he looks as if he went onvacation.

“What?” He looks bewildered.

“You’refine. You idiotic…” I struggle for a word to call him. “You idioticfaerie.”

“You’re angry with me for beingfine? I just saved your life.”

“My life was only in danger becauseyouleftme,” I retort.

And that’s not quite true, but whatever. Logic isn’t the most

important part of an argument, right?

Ben looks amazed. “Were you were coming torescueme?”

“No.” I fold my arms, belligerent. “I’m coming to find your

mother, because it turns out we didn’t have any choice. We

had no other ideas how to find the other fays.”

“You need to find my mother?” Ben echoes.

“How did you know where I was?” I ask him, because it’s

suspicious to me that he turned up at the perfect moment.

He looks at me for a moment. Then he smiles at me, the

kind of smile that would have made me giddy in earlier times,

before he abandoned me in the middle of Boston Common.

“Selkie Stewart,” he says, and he says it nicely, and itfeelsnice, and that’s not fair. “I missed you.”

Ihatehim, I think. “Funny thatyoumissedme, since you’re also the one wholeft,” I point out scathingly. “BenedictLeFay.”

He winces, his smile faltering. “Are you really still angry

about that?”

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I blink at him, astonished. “Did you really think there

would be any chance at all that I wouldn’t be?”

He looks uncomfortable. “It was…a while ago. Wasn’t it?

I’m unclear on the time being kept, so I— ”

“It wasn’t a while ago, Ben,” I snap at him, “and it wouldn’t

matter if it was. It wouldn’t matter if it waswholeentirelifetimesago. I would still be angry with you forleavingmewhen Iaskedyoutostay.”

Ben looks uncertain. “Selkie— ” he begins.

I cut him off, because I don’t want to hear it. “Where are

we?” I ask instead. “Where have you taken me? Where is

everyone else?”

“Everyone else?” he echoes. “Like who?”

“Will and Kelsey and Safford. Did you think I came

here alone?”

“You were alone last time you came to rescue me,”

he reasons.

“I’m notrescuingyou,” I remind him. “And I’m not alone.

I have friends now. Friends who stick with me and help me.

We need to go back and get them. They’ll be worried, because

it isn’t like me to go away andabandonthem.”

Ben is silent for a moment, and when he speaks, it is brusque,

not light and comfortable the way it had been before, almost


Page 11

as if we are strangers meeting for the first time. I wonder if

he’s decided that I’m a lost cause. I would be perfectly okay

with that, I tell myself; in fact it would be the best thing, and I ignore the part where I feel as bereft now, suddenly, as I did 87

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when Ben first disappeared on Boston Common. Like even

though he is right in front of him, he is still somewhere I can’t find him, and he always will be.

“Where are they?” he asks me.

“Well, they were right beside the dragon pit. They were

going to cross the bridge next.”

“The dragon pit,” he repeats. “Wait, were you coming to

the Unseelie Court?”

“How do you not know where I was? You were just there.”

“You were in distress. So I went toyou. I didn’t know where we were. What were you doing at the Unseelie Court?”

“Coming after your mother. I’ve just told you that.”

“How did you know my mother was at the Unseelie Court?”

“We didn’t really know. We just guessed.” I look around the

bright meadow. “And clearly we’re not at the Unseelie Court

now. Wait…” I am being seized with recognition as I take

everything in. I look back at Ben. “Is this your home? Where

I met your father?”

“No.” He looks around himself. “We are at the Unseelie

Court. This part’s just been enchanted to look this way.”

“By you?” I guess.

He doesn’t have a chance to answer, because someone calls

his name, behind him, off in the distance. “Benedict!” the

voice shouts, a woman’s voice. Ben looks over his shoulder,

and even as he does so, abruptly, the woman is right there

in front of us. She is tall and willowy and lithe and pale, her

spun- gold hair floating gently in the warm breeze wafting

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over the meadow. She is dressed in a flowing dress the hues

of a sunset, made of some material that seems to keep subtly

shifting colors. She smiles at me, the smile of a Seelie, a smile that makes me feel cold.

I stiffen and debate shifting away from her on the grass of

the meadow.

“How didyouget here?” she asks me, smile still on her

face, and then looks at Ben. “Aren’t you going to introduce

me? She must be a friend of yours, for you to have granted

her passage.”

“She’s the fay of the autumnal equinox,” he answers her,

his eyes steady on mine. “And this…” His chin tips ever so

slightly in the direction of the woman standing next to him.

“Is my mother.”

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ChapTer 8

i thought Ben’s mother would look like Ben. Instead, she

looks, well, likemymother. I gape at her a little stupidly for a moment but I don’t really know what else to do. I’d

kept saying we needed to find Ben’s mother so she could

tell us where she hid the other fays, but Ben’s mother is

acting as if she has nothing to do with any of this craziness

surrounding us.

“The fay of the autumnal equinox!” she exclaims in a voice

like a purr. “Oh, why, Benedict, she’s lovely. What a beautiful

job you did with her, my dear. He’s been so coy about you,”

she addresses me. “I thought for sure you must take after the

ogre side of your family, but look at you— you’relovely.”

I don’t know what to make of this speech. I smile tightly

and glance at Ben, who is giving nothing away, his eyes, gray-

green now, shuttered as he regards me.

Ben’s mother turns to him. “Where did she come from?”

“Linking enchantment,” Ben answers lightly. “She was in

distress, so she was brought to wherever I was.”

“Clever enchantment,” praises his mother, and I suppose

it would be, except that it doesn’t seem to me to be at all

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what happened. I’ve been in almost constant distress, for one

thing. For another thing, Ben came tome.

Ben shrugs.

“Well,” Ben’s mother says to me, “you are a very lucky little

fay that Benedict is so clever. And now you are here, we must

have a feast.”

I don’t want to have a feast. “That’s not necessary,” I say

with a smile. “I don’t want you to go to any trouble. I just

need to know— ”

“No trouble at all,” she assures me with that icy smile still

lingering on her face. Then she vanishes.

So much for asking her about the fays and getting out of

here quickly. I turn to Ben. “Look— ” I begin.

“Don’t— ” he starts, but I talk over him.

“We need to go get everyone else and— ”

His mother appears at his shoulder again, her eyes nar-

rowed at me. “Everyone else?” she echoes. “Who’s everyone

else?” She looks to Ben for an answer.

“Friends,” Ben replies with an easy smile. “Friends Selkie

was traveling with.”

“Oh?” She looks back to me. “Where are they?”

I don’t know what I thought meeting Ben’s mother would

be like, but she’s too much like my mother for my comfort. I

wanted to justaskher about the fays, but now I don’t know if I should.NevertrustaLeFay, says the Erlking in my mind.

“Not sure,” I lie. Or maybe I’m not lying at all. Who knows

if they are still by the dragon pit, since they probably think

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I’m dead? But I do not want Ben’s mother to know where

they are.

She studies me closely and then says slowly, “Well, then. I

will have the guards keep an eye out for your friends, won’t

I?” She vanishes again, less abruptly this time somehow, more

like drifting away.

I look at Ben, but he moves forward before I can say any-

thing, his lips directly on my ear as he breathes, “Are they by

the dragon pit?”

I nod. And before I know it, we are there, Ben’s hand curled

into mine. We are on the side near the castle, and the Erlking

is beside us, blinking at us in astonishment.

“Selkie!” exclaims Kelsey from across the pit, bouncing up

and down in her excitement.

I wave at her.

Surprise evident in his voice, Will says, “Benedict.”

Ben, having registered the Erlking next to us, takes three

enormous steps away from him, dropping my hand to do

so. He doesn’t acknowledge Will’s greeting from across the

dragon pit. He looks at me accusingly. “You never said any-

thing about an Erlking.”

“NotanErlking,theErlking,” the Erlking corrects impatiently.

“Stop it,” I interrupt their squabbling. I look at Ben. “Go

across to the other side and bring the rest back over here.”

Ben hesitates, looking across to the other side. I can feel it

in him, the uncertainty in the way he is standing.

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It startles me. This should be the part where he excels,

where he wants to show off. “Ben?” I ask.

Then he vanishes. I look across to the other side, where he

reappears. Then he is back on my side with Kelsey, and then

gone again.

“Selkie!” Kelsey flings herself on top of me, hugging me tightly. “We thought you weredead.” Her voice breaks, and I know that she really did think I was gone forever.

“I’m okay,” I assure her.

“What happened?” She straightens away from me, wiping

some lingering tears away from my eyes.

“I don’t really know,” I confess. “Ben caught me, and then— ”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Will interjects, and I realize

Ben is done bringing everyone over to our side. “Is your

mother here?”

“Yes,” answers Ben slowly.

“Have you asked her about the other three fays?”

“Not exactly,” replies Ben, still speaking slowly.

“What? Why not?” demands Will impatiently. “I’m glad

that you’ve been having your sweet little family reunion here,

but the clock is ticking.”

“11:22,” the Erlking confirms.

Ben opens his mouth then seems to think better of it. He

waves in the air, conjuring up a piece of paper and a pencil,

and he starts writing something on it, even as he says, “But

they’re preparing a feast. You don’t want to miss the feast.”

“Benedict,” Will begins impatiently, accepting the piece of

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paper Ben hands him. “You have to— ” Will cuts himself off,

reading whatever Ben has written on the paper. “You have

two friends who are most excited for the feast,” he finishes.

“Five friends, actually.”

“Four friends and an Erlking,” corrects Ben.

Will has handed me the piece of paper. I read Ben’s hast-

ily scrawled letters. I feel the Erlking read over my shoulder.

Can’t speak freely— walls have ears.I pass the piece of paper on to Kelsey.

“NotanErlking,” says the Erlking again. “TheErlking.”

Ben shrugs as Kelsey passes the piece of paper to Safford.

An awkward silence falls. None of us wants to say any-

thing. Safford gives the paper back to Ben, who vanishes it

into thin air. We stand around awkwardly.

The Erlking clears his throat eventually and holds out his

hand to Will. “May I have my sword back?” he asks politely.

“Oh. Yes.” Will hastily hands it over. “Well, what about

this feast?” he asks Ben. “Shouldn’t we go join it?”

“We have to wait for them to come to us,” Ben replies.

“What do you mean?” Will asks. “Isn’t that the castle right

over there?”

“Yes. And you could walk until the day you are named, walk

and walk and walk, and you would never reach that castle.”

Will regards the castle, which looks as if it could be reached

in ten minutes. “Well, that’s inconvenient.” He looks at Ben,

and it hangs in the air, the question he’s not asking.Can’t youbreak it?

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Ben shakes his head a bit then says, “They’ll come for

us soon.”

We wait. It feels a bit idiotic. I want to point out that Ben

seemed to have no trouble getting me to the meadow part of

the Unseelie Court, but who knows what the issue is preventing

him from getting us to the castle. Enchantments follow their

own complicated set of rules. And I feel like there is a great

deal about this whole experience that Ben has not yet shared.

Eventually, a few things hop out of the castle doors toward

us, bounding over the drawbridge. They look like…

“Are those enormous dogs?” Kelsey asks incredulously.

The dogs are barking enthusiastically now as they approach.

“Corgis,” Ben confirms.

“Corgis?” I repeat. I don’t know why, of all the things I’ve seen in the Otherworld, I should be so completely thrown by

giant corgis.

“Royal faeries always ride corgis,” Ben tells me in hisobviouslytone of voice.

“Giantcorgis?” I ask.

He looks a little irritated at that question. “Well, how

would they fit on regular- sized corgis?”

“Fair point,” Kelsey allows.

“I’ve never seen Seelies riding corgis,” I point out.

“Seelies try not togoanywhere,” Ben replies.

The three corgis have reached us by now. They loom over

us, tails wagging and tongues lolling out, their corgi grins

firmly in place. And faeries leap easily to the ground beside

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the corgis. Ben’s mother I recognize. I don’t know the other

two faeries. One is female and one is male, and they have

the unmistakable Seelie look to them. The female one walks

immediately up to the Erlking.

“Hello,” she says.

“Hello,” he says in reply.

Then she kisses him. Very hard.

“Youhitme at our reunion,” Ben points out from behind

me, as if that had not been the proper way to behave and it

would have been better for me to just kiss him likethat.

Which is annoying, because Benedict Le Fay, who left me

standing on Boston Common after I’d asked him not to leave

me because I loved him— not to leave becausehelovedme—

doesn’t deserve to be greeted with a kiss. And certainly not

one involving tongue.

“Yes,” I agree with his statement without looking back at

him. “The Erlking must be better at seduction than you are.”

Will, Kelsey, and Safford all swing their heads away from

the show the Erlking is currently engaged in to look at me

and then Ben. I would like to see Ben’s reaction— I hope he is

appropriately chastened by the comment— but I decide the

comment’s impact will be greater if I do not allow myself the


Page 12

moment of triumph.

I sweep over to Ben’s mother. I cannot tell if she heard my

exchange with Ben, and I cannot tell if it would mean any-

thing to her anyway. “Is this how we’re getting to the feast?”

I inquire politely. “On the corgis?”

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“Of course,” she says, and then she sends that cold Seelie

anti- smile around to encompass all of us. “Welcome to the

Unseelie Court.”

x

Riding on corgis is difficult, harder than it looks. It was a lot easier to ride the cave horses, even if at the time I didn’t think it was especially easy. The corgis do a lot of…gamboling.

That’s the only word I can think of. The ride to the castle isn’t long, but they do a lot of bounding about on the way there,

and I have my hands twisted into the corgi’s fur to keep from

falling off. I could hold onto Ben, who I am sitting behind,

but I feel like that might eliminate the impact of my last statement to him, which I’m honestly pretty proud of.

Our corgi leaps over the drawbridge leading to the castle, and

then we are inside a courtyard, castle walls rising all around us.

I slide off the corgi quickly and Ben does the same. Behind us,

Kelsey and Safford are sliding off their corgi, and Will is sliding off of his. The three faeries who had ridden out to meet us

had traveled back up to the courtyard, and the female one who

wasn’t Ben’s mother had taken the Erlking along with her. The

four of them are now waiting for us in the courtyard.

“What did you think of traveling by corgi?” Ben’s mother

asks us, smile wide on her face.

“Er,” Will replies, looking dubiously at his corgi. “It

was unique.”

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“It’s the only way to travel. But maybe you have to be born

to it. Come.” She turns grandly, with a commanding sort of

sniff, and marches through two enormous double doors into

a hallway.

Ben follows her. Will and Kelsey and Safford and I all look

at each other.

“Ask her,” I hiss at Will.

“Shh,” Will says sharply, shakes his head, and then follows

after Ben.

I sigh in frustration. I mean, it wasn’t likeIasked her, but I still decide it’s easier to be miffed at Will for not picking up the slack.

It is very dim inside the castle. There is some feeble light

along the hallway we’re walking down, but I can’t really figure

out where it’s coming from, because there aren’t any torches

or lamps or orbs or anything like that. But I know there’s

light because Safford’s red hair gleams like a beacon in front

of me, picking up every piece of light there is to gather.

Safford’s hair, frankly, makes me think of the sun. I decide

I’m tired of being underground. I am never taking real, unen-

chanted sunlight for granted again.

“Here we are,” Ben’s mother announces, coming to an

abrupt stop. She turns and smiles at us. I wish she would

stop smiling; her smile is unsettling. “We are having a feast,

did Benedict tell you?”

“He mentioned it,” Will replies politely.

“Excellent. Surely you wish to freshen up before the feast.

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You’re looking a bit…” She casts her eyes over us. “Travel-

weary,” she finishes delicately.

Ben’s mother turns to her left and throws open a door I

hadn’t noticed before. Then she turns to Will. “Mr. Blaxton,”

she says to him and indicates the doorway.

Will does not move, and I realize that, while she hasn’t

named him with intent, she nonetheless knows his name. Her

smile grows more chilling. I didn’t realize that was possible.

“Thank you,” Will says eventually, after a moment of silence.

He sounds smooth and unruffled, but I think it’s all an act.

Will, after all, has been living among faeries a long time and

can lie with the best of them. He walks briskly through the

doorway and then closes the door behind him. Well. I hope

he closes it. I hope it doesn’t swing shut of its own accord.

Ben’s mother moves down the hallway, flinging open more

doors. “Safford,” she says. “And Kelsey.”

They both hesitate on the thresholds of their rooms. Kelsey

looks back at me. I flicker a little smile at her, as if I know

that this is all going to be okay, when coming to the Unseelie

Court now seems to me to be the worst idea that I have ever

had. And then Kelsey walks into her room and shuts the

door, as does Safford.

Ben’s mother moves to the next door in the hallway. “And

now, for the fay of the autumnal equinox,” she starts, hand

on the iron ring that acts as a doorknob.

“She’ll stay with me,” Ben inserts and takes a step closer to

me in the twilight of the hallway.

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I look at him in surprise and annoyance, as his mother

says, sounding amused, “I suspected you would insist upon

as much.”

She starts walking again, and Ben places a hand on the

small of my back to nudge me forward.

I resist. “I’d rather have my own room,” I announce loudly,

because really, that seems a little arrogant of Ben, who I am

stillangrywithand who isn’t acknowledging that I have every right to be angry.

His mother stops walking and turns back to us. She lifts

her eyebrows at me. “Would you?” she muses speculatively.

She walks slowly back to us and leans down, so that we are

level. I look straight into her colorless eyes, and I suppress my shudder. “Would youreally?”

Whatarewedoing?I wonder suddenly. We need to get our information and leave. I blurt out, “We’re looking for the

other fays.”

“It is the fate of so many to be looking so far and so long

for so much,” responds Ben’s mother.

“Okay,” I say, even though I could not care less about what-

ever that was. “But the book of power said that you know

where they are because you hid them.”

“Did I hide them?” says Ben’s mother. “It was so very long

ago. So difficult to remember…”

I think of the Seelies, of their secret power of forgetting,

and I wonder if Ben’s mom is suffering from it. “It was writ-

ten in the book,” I say eagerly, hoping it will jog her memory.

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Ben’s mother lifts her eyebrows at me. “You have a book?”

“I don’t, but— ”

Ben’s mother reaches out and lays a finger against my lips.

Her finger is ice- cold and I stop talking out of sheer shock.

“You have not learned the lesson yet, little fay.”

“Don’t,” Ben starts, but his mother flicks a glance up at him

and says, “Shh, shh, shh.”

“What lesson?” I manage around her finger. I try to jerk

my head back but her finger follows, contact with my lips

not lessening.

“You shouldn’t ask questions before dinner. It’s rude.” She

leans closer to me, and I am suddenly abruptly grateful for

the warm barrier of Ben behind me, because it reminds me

that I’m not alone. “Must I teach you this lesson? Shall we

begin right now?” Her finger moves off my lips, trails over my

cheekbone, tucks a piece of my hair behind my ear.

“Stop,” I manage finally, harshly, and jerk out of her grasp.

She smiles an anti- smile at me. “Good. I thought you’d be

a quick learner.” She turns and walks away, calling over her

shoulder, “You should wear the coat I got for you, Benedict.

It’s a special occasion.”

“We’ll see,” Ben answers noncommittally and then grabs my

hand. He pulls me into a room with him before I can react,

still thrown by the phantom recall of his mother’s finger on me.

“She’sawful,” I say, shaking.

“Yes, turns out she’s not the most charming of faeries. Are

you alright?”

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“I’m fine,” I answer vaguely, preoccupied by studying the

room we’re in.

It’s perfectly round, with a bed and a desk and a chair and

a round window in the wall. The ceiling is high above us,

crossed over with wood beams, and there are a few wrought-

iron chandeliers hanging from it. The floor appears to be dirt,

which suits the rough furnishings of the room, and the view

out the window looks like the sunny meadow where we had

been earlier that day, when I had first met Ben’s mother.

I shake my hand out of Ben’s and walk over to the window.

It doesn’t have any glass over it— Unseelies must share the

glass aversion trait with Seelies— so I stick my head through

it and look at the meadow.

“It’s an enchantment,” Ben says behind me.

“I figured,” I say and pull my head back through the window.

Ben is on the bed, on his back, staring up at the ceiling.

It’s a little bit strange, because I have, technically, slept with Ben, curled close into him, but there has never been a bed

involved before, so I stand awkwardly by his window. Plus,

there’s the fact that I’m angry with him. It’s only been a few

days since I last saw him, I think, if I’m keeping time cor-

rectly, but it feels as if it’s been years, or it’s been a few minutes. I’m so confused by the battering I feel like my emotions

are taking from seeing him again. It was easier to hate him so

much when he wasn’t right in front of me, so familiar, and

I wasn’t calling up the memory of several different lifetimes’

worth of longing for him. But it was also easier to forgive him

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when he wasn’t right in front of me being so unapologetic

about the whole thing.

I open my mouth to tell him to leave.

“She’s very nostalgic,” Ben says finally, breaking the silence.

“Who is?”

“My mother. This is the room I grew up in.”

So I guess I can’t tell him to leave then. I blink in surprise

and look around the room with new eyes. “This is?”

“Well, I mean, not really, that room doesn’t exist anymore.

She’s enchanted it this way. She’s very nostalgic, like I say.”

I look at him. “She enchanted it this way for you?”

He shakes his head briefly. “She didn’t do it for me.”

“How do you know?”

“I know.” He turns his head to finally look at me. His eyes

are very green in this room, green like the meadow outside.

“Go on,” he says.

“Go on with what?” I ask, confused.

“With questions. You must have a million questions. You

always have a million questions. You never stop asking ques-

tions. So go on.”

I bristle. “I’m sorry if my questions irritate you.”

“I never said they irritate me.”

“What is going on here, Ben?”

Ben considers then shakes his head. “You need to start with

a simpler question than that.”

“Have you asked your mother where the other fays are?”

“Yes. I get in response the sort of thing you just saw. She

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won’t answer any questions. Which isn’t exactly unusual for

a faerie.”

I’m frustrated. “So she doesn’t want to help us? Why did

she hide the fays if she wasn’t going to help us?”

Ben is silent for a moment. “I don’t think she’s…right. She

spent time in Tir na nOg. It does things to you. Faeries are terrible at plans to begin with, and then she…I don’t think she…”

“So did she really forget? We can ask Will what he did with

the book. Maybe it will jog her memory?”

“I don’t know if she wants it anymore,” Ben admits. “I

think she did, once, want the overthrow of the Seelie Court.

But shelikesit here. She’s told me more than once. Actually she tells me constantly: how much I’m going to like it here.”

AndsoBengotwhathewanted, I think. Reunited with his mother. Happy ending to the story. And forget about the rest

of us trying to fulfill our prophecy; he’s just going to let it go, wait it out here in the Unseelie Court.

“Do you think if you stay here with her, you won’t suc-

cumb to the prophecy and die?” I demand.

Ben looks at me in confusion.

“Benedict Le Fay will betray you,” I remind him, “and then

he will die.”

Ben shakes his head. “That’s not the prophecy. That’s a false

prophecy. That was your mother, getting into our heads. No

one else has ever said anything like that about the prophecy, not even a pig’s whisper. I wish you’d stop worrying about that.”

I am frustrated that I’m the only one who seems to be

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taking the threat seriously. I march over to the door and try

to open it. It’s locked.

“Where are you going?” Ben asks.


Page 13

“Unlock this door,” I command.

“Why?”

“Because I’m going to my room, obviously. I can’t stay here

with you.”

“I need to keep you safe. I can’t do it if you’re not with me.”

“Oh, all of a sudden, you’re worried again about keeping

me safe?”

“When did I stop worrying about that?”

I am amazed he is asking me this question. I have never

before realized howannoyingit is that he’s a faerie. “When you left me!”

“I have left you plenty of times before. We have never spent

every moment together, you and I. Why, now, does my leav-

ing you mean that I’m not keeping you safe?”

“Because I asked you not to leave, Ben,” I snap at him.

He sits up on the bed, which I am glad about, because at

least now it seems like he’s taking this seriously. “You asked me not to leave. I disagreed with that. We never had a conversation about keeping you safe and whether I ought to worry

about it anymore. You made that decision all on your own.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You almost died in the dragon pit. Did you not wonder why,

all of a sudden, you could fall to your death if you didn’t want to? My mother put herhandon you and you couldn’t stop it.”

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I already know the answer to that. “Because you took the

enchantment off me.”

“Because you fought it off. I didn’t take it off you— you

wouldn’t let me keep it on you. You’re lucky you fell in the

dragon pit where I could get to you.”

“If you hadn’t left,” I point out hotly, “I wouldn’t have been

anywherenearthe dragon pit. Not without you, at least.”

Ben sighs and falls back on the bed, looking up at the ceiling.

“How did you know I was in danger in the dragon pit?”

“You’re carrying my talisman,” he says dully, not looking at

me. “You’ve broken the spell, but the talisman links us. You

were in distress, and I felt it.”

“I’m inconstantdistress.”

“Not like that.”

I think of the blind panic I’d been in as I fell in the dragon

pit and consider that I have not been that panicked before,

not even in Park Street, because then I had options, escape

routes I was planning. In the dragon pit, I had given up hope,

and maybe that had been distress enough to reach out for

Ben, even though I hadn’t known I was doing it.

I let silence fall for a moment. My hand is still on the door-

knob, still ready to leave, but I’ve realized there’s so much I

don’t know and so much Ben does know. I need to ask him, I

need to make myself ask him, here, now, because if I walk out

of this room, I don’t know if I’ll ever have enough courage to

face him this way again.

“Is everyone else in danger?” I ask.

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“These are dangerous times. Everyone’s in danger,” he says

to the ceiling.

“I mean Kelsey and Safford and Will.”

“They’re fine. They won’t be harmed. They have nothing to

do with the prophecy.”

“The Unseelies tried to kill me at the dragon pit.”

“How did you fall into the pit?”

“The bridge disappeared.”

“Ah. The spell functions by itself. There isn’t an Unseelie

paying attention to it and deciding who should cross and

who should not. It senses threats and it breaks of its own

accord. It’s an automatic reaction.”

“Oh, great,” I say, throwing up my hands. “Automatic reac-

tion. That’s fine then. Don’t trouble yourself too much over

the fact that I was almost eaten by a dragon.”

Ben sits up again. “Of course I’m troubled over it, Selkie,”

he snaps at me. “But I’ve been trying to keep you safe, and

you keep trying your hardest to thwart me at every turn, so

I don’t know what you want me to say here. Am I troubled

that you were almost eaten by a dragon? Yes! Of course I am!

But you shouldn’t have been anywhere near the dragon! You

should have been home! In Boston! Where it’s safe!”

“It isn’t safe in Boston!” I shout back. “How can you

possibly think that? The Seelies are trying to get through

the enchantment.”

“The Seelies have been trying to get through that enchant-

ment for centuries!”

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“But they’re succeeding now! Thesunwent out! And the

clocks stopped and then they started back up again and now

it’s almost twelve o’clock!”

Ben stares at me. “Is that true?”

“Yes!”

“Then we’re running out of time!”

“Exactly! And it’s all nice for you— you found your mom

and she made you your childhood room and wants you to

stay here with her forever— but in the meantime, the world

out there is falling apart and you’re nothelping.”

“I didn’t know,” Ben says. “I thought there’d be time.”

“You would’ve known if you hadn’tleft,” I point out.

Ben, for once, doesn’t have any kind of smart retort to that.

Which I guess is as close to an apology as I’m ever going to get.

“You’d also know if faeries had thought to enchant cell

phones into being at any point,” I mumble and sit at Ben’s

desk, because I’m feeling exhausted suddenly, like if I don’t

sit, I might collapse.

“We’ll get the information from my mother at the feast,”

Ben says.

I don’t know what to say to that. Like, great, Ben thinks it’s

going to just bethateasy. I thought it would just bethateasytoo, and then I met his mother and she wasn’t like that at all.

There’s a coat draped over the back of the chair I’m sitting

in. A black coat, with feathered epaulets and spangled over

with threads of silver and gold. I run my hand over it. I can

think of nothing less Ben- like.

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“Where did you get this?” I ask.

“My mother. That’s the coat she was talking about.”

“Well.” I stare at the coat and try to come up with some-

thing nice to say about it. I settle on, “It was nice of her to

give you a gift.”

“It’s hideous,” he says flatly.

“Well, it is— ”

“It’sundignified,” he interrupts me.

“Ben,” I point out, “you just rode a giant corgi. Hasn’t the

indignity boat sailed?”

He flops back onto the bed with a huff. “Corgis are royal

forms of transportation,” he protests.

“Were the corgis we would see on Boston Common some-

times faerie dogs?”

“Don’t be absurd. Those are pygmy corgis.”

“They’re miniature corgis, like miniature Great Danes.”

“No, they’re ridden by pygmies,” he responds matter- of-

factly, as if this makes perfect sense.

It’s the kind of conversation I feel like we could have had

before, on the Common, watching dogs and their owners go

back and forth, sipping lemonade that Ben has made. We

wouldn’t have talked about faeries— I didn’t know there were

faeries to talk about back then— but we would have talked

about something silly and innocuous like this. I would be

worrying about the prom, and whether I wanted to go, and

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should have been worrying about my world being destroyed,

about my aunts and my father in a Boston that’s going to

pieces, about a prophecy I am baffled by at every turn.

And I am crying. Hard. I can’t get myself to stop. I put my

face in my hands and try to stifle my sobs so Ben won’t know,

because the whole thing is humiliating.

As if he’s somehow going to not notice this inelegant,

embarrassing, sniveling display.

“You’re crying,” he says from his bed.

I cry harder and bury my face harder in my hands, trying

to catch my breath.

“Younevercry,” he says. He sounds amazed that this

is happening.

It’s true. I don’t cry very much. It’s probably why I feel like

I’m so bad at it, like now that I’ve started crying I’ll never

stop, that I will cry for the rest of my life, here in this underground castle that makes me feel claustrophobic, enchanted

window notwithstanding.

Ben’s touch on the crown of my head is feather- light, and

I jerk away, but he tugs me closer, and I shouldn’t but I stop

fighting and cry messily into his neck. The only thing worse

than crying is cryingalone, with no one there to comfort you. I need him and I can’t even be hard on myself for that.

Ben pulls me off the chair and we land in a heap on the dirt

floor. He lets me cuddle into his lap and sob, and he holds me

closer, silent and patient.

“I’m so tired,” I manage in hiccupping, bursting gasps.

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“I’mexhausted. I am exhausted from being part of some

stupid prophecy that everyone wants me to fulfill— but

nobody knows how I should fulfill it— and everyone expects

me to know how. But every time I try to do something—

anything— it turns out wrong. I brought everyone here—

because I thought your mother would help— but it doesn’t

seem like she’s going to help— and meanwhile I don’t know

where my family is— and faeries keep getting named in the

Otherworld— and it’s all falling apart.”

“Shh, shh, shh,” Ben murmurs and strokes at my hair. It’s

not telling me anything useful, but it doesn’t matter. It liter-

ally feels like the best thing he could do for me right now.

I do not cry forever. I reach the end of it eventually and

find myself sniffling instead of sobbing, my head against

his shoulder and my nose nudging at his collarbone. “This

doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven you,” I tell him and sniffle again.

“Selkie Stewart,” he breathes, fluttering across my skin. He

chases my name with a barely there brush of his lips. And

then he says, “Your face iswet.”

And I actually laugh against him.

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ChapTer 9

T here is a bathroom attached to Ben’s room, through a

door in the wall that is hidden until he calls it into being.

There is a shower in the bathroom, and I have never seen

anything more beautiful in my life. We can’t do anything

until after the feast anyway, so I let myself take a shower. I

stand directly under the flow of the water, letting it course

through my hair and over my face, and my fingertips wrinkle

into prunes and I don’t care. The water is hot and comfort-

ing; with my eyes closed, I could be home. I know that I am

not, but I feel that the feast ahead of me is not going to be

fun, and taking a shower feels like such a wonderfully normal

thing to do. I don’t think of my aunts and my father and all

the people that I am helpless to protect right now. I focus on

the water, beating down on me, flowing over me, and just

don’t let myselfthink.

I have no idea how long I stand in the shower before some-

one knocks on the door. It’s probably Ben, and I know that,

but I still get tense under the spray of the water, opening my

eyes and looking at the gleaming, metallic tiles on the wall in

front of me. They don’t look like normal human tiles, which

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is why closing my eyes is necessary to keep up the illusion of

being home.

“Who is it?” I call cautiously, although what am I going to

do if it isn’t Ben?

“Me,” Ben calls back. “Can I come in?”

I’ve locked the door, but that, of course, means nothing

at all to Ben. The shower curtain is dark and metallic, like

the tiles around me, and there is no way Ben is going to see

anything, and I trust him not to try to look anyway. It’s not

like Ben has displayed much of a tendency to try to take

advantage of me. “Yes,” I assent.

I hear the door open immediately, as if it was never locked

at all.

“It’s wet in here,” Ben says. I canhearhis nose wrinkling with disapproval.

“I’m showering,” I point out. “Water is involved.”

“It’s time for the feast.”

I sigh. “I figured.”

“My mother brought you some clothing.”

“Is it a dress with little bells?”

“No, the Unseelies don’t like bells.”

“Is it a sparkly black coat?”

“No. It’s just a dress. I’ll leave it here for you. And now I

have to close this door. It’s entirely too unpleasant in here.”

He does so immediately, ducking away from the humidity.

I take a deep breath and turn the shower off and step out

into the bathroom, drying off. I towel- dry my hair as best as

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I can and then pull it back into a ponytail. The dress Ben’s

mother has brought for me is a bright springtime yellow; it

reminds me of chicks and corn and sun. All the dresses I’ve

seen here have been sunny colors— I wonder if that’s a conse-

quence of being stuck underground. And I wonder why Ben’s

coat is so full of night by contrast.

I look at myself in the mirror. My white- blond hair doesn’t

darken much when wet, but at least it stays back, no wisps

escaping around my face. The yellow dress isn’t really my

preferred color— I like to wear shades of blue to match my

eyes— but it fits me beautifully. Probably an enchantment.

I step out into Ben’s room. He is wearing his usual layers to

try to protect him from ever being wet ever— Ben is actually

allergic to water, which sounds weird but makes total sense

when you’re a faerie. This time, the layers are a deep laven-

der polo shirt and, peeking out underneath, a tangerine-

colored T- shirt.

“Ready?” he asks.

“You’re not wearing your coat?” I say to him, dropping my

clothes in a heap on the chair.

“I hate that coat,” he replies.

“It might make your mother happy if you wear it.”

“That’s a quaint notion,” Ben remarks, and his eyes linger

on the coat. “I don’t like the coat. It makes me feel…I’m not

wearing the coat.” He turns determinedly toward the door

and tugs it open.

“Should I wear my sweatshirt?” I ask, and I sound almost shy.

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Ben pauses and looks back at me. “I don’t know,” he answers

evenly. “Should you? That’s your decision.”

I hesitate then I pull it over my head, and I try not to ana-

lyze my motives for doing so.

The hallway is very dark after the brightness of Ben’s room.

“If they can enchant sunlight,” I ask Ben, “why don’t they

enchant this whole place?”

“Theycan’t enchant sunlight,” he responds as we walk

swiftly down the hallway. “My mother can. This way.” He

pulls me through an open archway that appears to our right,

and all of a sudden we are in a vast banquet hall. The ceiling

soars over our head, with dark chandeliers dripping from it.

The table is made of stone, as are the chairs, and everything

seems rough and uncomfortable and barely serviceable. The

table is crowded with faeries in bright clothing, tearing into

food with loud enthusiasm. There is a large cluster that is

laughing raucously to one side, and the Erlking appears to be

in the middle of that, telling a story that apparently requires

many hand gestures, not all of them respectable.

It is easy to locate Will and Safford and Kelsey; they are

the silent, still ones who are watching the proceedings with a

slight frown. And next to them, at the very head of the table,

sits Ben’s mother.

She rises as we approach. “Ah, there you are,” she says in

welcome. “Don’t you look lovely,” she purrs at me and then

frowns a bit at Ben. “You didn’t wear your coat.”

“Maybe next time,” Ben responds lightly and sits down.

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I sit opposite him, and food appears on our plates. Fruit. I

was looking forward to something more substantial, but fruit

will definitely do.

Kelsey, beside me, has already stripped her bunch of grapes

clean. She is dressed in pale pink, the color of a barely there

sunrise. Her long blond hair, like mine, is pulled back into a

wet ponytail.

“There was nothing else I could do, so I figured I’d take a

shower,” she says to me.

“I had the exact same thought,” I agree. “So have we…?”

I make a gesture that I hope can be interpreted asasked

Ben’s mother the important question and gotten the answer

and gotten out of hereand pop a grape in my mouth. It tastes like soda.

Kelsey shakes her head a little bit.

I look beyond Kelsey to the rest of the table. It is almost

exactly the way dinner used to be in the Seelie Court, loud

and disorganized, with wine freely flowing. The Erlking

seems to be a much greater attraction than any of the other

Unseelies; most of them are hanging on his every word. He

is still telling a story, although he keeps pausing now to take

sips from the spout of a small teapot he is holding.

I turn back to my plate. There is now cheese on it as well,

and I take an experimental nibble of it. Coffee.

“Perhaps,” says Ben’s mother, “you are interested in the his-

tory of the Unseelie Court.”

“Actually,” I say, because it’s time to get this show on the

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road— I have no idea what time the Erlking’s pocket watch

reads now. “We’re looking for the other fays that you hid.”

“We are all of us misfits here,” says Ben’s mother as if I

haven’t spoken at all, “cast out by the Seelies in their capri-

cious rule. We welcome all who come to our door.”

Will, who is sitting beside Ben across from me, looks at

Ben’s mother with his eyebrows raised.

“You disagree, Mr. Blaxton?” asks Ben’s mother scathingly.

“Not at all,” replies Will in a silky tone that means just the

opposite. He holds Ben’s mother’s gaze and sits back in his

chair, sipping his wine.

Ben’s mother continues, her voice brittle now and her

hands tight around her rough tin fork and knife. “It is hard

for us, cast out, here below. We are creatures who crave the

light. If the eternal darkness sometimes drives us to actions

that are, shall we say, questionable, who can condemn us,

living a life so contrary to our natures?”

I pick up one of the tin knives and slip it into my pocket.

The last knife I took came in handy.

“Who indeed?” Will responds and raises his glass in a little

toast. I know it is mocking, but it is mocking under the sur-

face. Outwardly he is nothing but calm respect.

“We really need to know about the fays,” I insist. “The ones

you hid. If you could try to remember— ”

“As if I would forget!” she scoffs at me. “I am famous for

my remembering.”

“Then maybe— ”

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“If it was time for the prophecy to be fulfilled, then the fays

would have assembled together. If you are still all alone, then

it is not time.”

“Itistime,” says Will. “The clocks are ticking.”

“That is not my concern. I do not establish the time,

Mr. Blaxton.”

“Don’t you want to help us?” I ask desperately. “Isn’t that

why you hid the fays? Because you want to help us fulfill

the prophecy?”

“Do you know about the prophecy, little fay?” she asks

me, sounding half- amused and half- dismissive of how stupid

I am.

“Yes,” I say stubbornly. “I know all about it.” I try to pretend that means I’m also going to know what I can do to fulfill it.

“You do not. Because if you knew about the prophecy, then

you would know that I didn’t necessarily hide the fays because

I wanted them to overthrow the Seelie Court. There is a war-

ring prophecy. Did you not tell her this, Mr. Blaxton?”

I look at Will, confused.

Will says, “There is always a warring prophecy. It doesn’t

matter.”

“Oh, but it does. The prophecy you want to fulfill is the

overthrow of the Seelieandthe Unseelie Courts. Does it seem likely that I wish that prophecy fulfilled, given the home I

have found here?”

I feel cold, because now that she mentions it, that doesn’t

seem likely. “What’s the warring prophecy?”

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“That one of the fays would go to the Isle of Avalon and

consolidate Seelie power forever.”

Which was why I had been wanted in the Seelie Court, I

remember. Why I wasn’t named immediately.

“So you want that prophecy to be fulfilled?” I say, because

that doesn’t make sense to me either.

“I don’t want any prophecies to come into play at all. I like

the status quo. I’ve done quite well for myself with the status

quo. Why should I introduce interfering fays who don’t

know what they’re doing into the equation? You know just

enough to destroy everything. So I hid the others. You slipped

through my fingers and fell to my son, who has all sorts of

interesting thoughts about power in the Otherworld. Really,

he and I have justbegunto explore the wonder of his politics.

As for the other three fays, if your prophecy was really meant

to be fulfilled, you’d have found them already. After all, don’t you, little fay, have a habit of collecting exactly what you

need?” She leans toward me, her eyes flashing. She has eyes

that at first glance are like Ben’s, a swirl of pale impressions of color, but as they slice into me, icy silver, I realize that they are not at all like Ben’s.

And that makes me angry.Iamsotiredofbeingbetrayedbyfaeries, I think.

“So you’re not going to help us?” I demand.

“Helpyou? How quaint that you thought I ever was. How

veryhumanof you, really.” She looks to Will and Ben. Will is frowning at her, but Ben is staring at the food in front of him, 120

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his face a mask. “That is your fault, you know. The two of you

hid her too well. She is unused to such delicate and intricate

creatures as we. We are not your usual coarse ogres or goblins.”

I take offense at the ogre dig, but Ben’s mother is no longer

looking at me. Her focus seems to have shifted to the Erlking

down the table. The rest of us glance at the Erlking as well.

As if sensing all of us, he looks up and winks in our direction.

“He’s insufferable,” proclaims Ben’s mother.

“Isn’t he just?” Will agrees, studying his wine. He is no

longer frowning. In fact, he looks very calm and at ease.

Ben’s mother rises suddenly, startling me, and I think that

she is going to do something to Will. I tense for it, but she

merely sweeps by us and then settles next to the Erlking, lis-

tening as raptly as the rest of the other Unseelies.

“Insufferable,” Will murmurs at his wine, “but so very

useful to have around.” He takes a sip. “A creature whose

talent is seduction.”

“Well, now he’s just showing off,” comments Kelsey.

I glance back over at the Erlking, who appears to be on the

verge of outright making out with one of the male Unseelies.

“How did he get involved?” Ben asks. He sounds impatient

and annoyed.

“He’s a friend of Will’s,” Kelsey answers.

“Will,” says Ben. “Are we never going to come to the end

of your conquests?”

Kelsey and I both look from the Erlking, murmuring now

in Ben’s mother’s ear, to Will.

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“He— I— It’s— ” Will stammers. “He’sverygood at—

Never mind.” Will clears his throat and puts his wineglass

on the table. “He got us into the Unseelie Court, didn’t he?

And he’s got everyone distracted. Enough that I’ve got their

listening charms blocked and they haven’t noticed. So let’s

stop talking about the Erlking and start focusing on the fact

that we need to get out of here.Allof us.” He looks at Ben meaningfully, the emphasis not subtle. Ben doesn’t protest

that he’s coming with us, and I can’t tell if I’m surprised or

not. I thought before that maybe this had all been a happy

reunion for him, but it doesn’t seem like it is now. “So how

are we doing it?” asks Will.

“I don’t know,” Ben says. “I don’t even understand how you

got in here.”

“Wewalked,” Will informs him flatly. He seems to be

losing his patience.

“Then I would suggest you try walkingout,” remarks Ben.

“That’s your plan? We just get up and start walking?”

drawls Will.

“I don’t have a plan,” Ben snaps at him. “I don’t have a plan

forthis. None of you were ever supposed to be here. You’re the ones who showed up. No one asked you to come. I was

perfectly fine.”

“We need you for the prophecy, Benedict,” Will clips out

at him. “And the Seelies are closing in. We don’t have time

to sit around waiting for you to be done with your foolish,

headstronglark.”

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“I don’t understand why the prophecy can’t be fulfilled

without me. What more can I do? I kept a fay safe for as long


Page 15

as I could. I believe my obligations are completed.”

“Oh,” I say hotly, “yourobligations?”

“You know what I mean— ”

“And you know that prophecies don’t work like that,” Will

interrupts him. “The prophecy is a mess right now, because

you’vemade a mess of it, but when it was readable, you figured into it. Four fays, and you. We don’t have the four fays;

let’s at least have you. Give us a bit of a fighting chance here?”

Ben looks uncertain. It is not a look I see often on Ben,

and honestly, it’s not one I like to see. Especially not now. He licks his lips and his eyes flicker to his mother, still hanging on the Erlking’s every word.

“Will,” he says slowly, “is your blocking enchantment firm?”

“Yes, the Unseelies are distracted.” Will looks toward

the Erlking, and I look in that direction instinctively. The

Erlking briefly meets Will’s eyes and then abruptly leans over

and kisses Ben’s mother passionately. “Your mother most of

all,” says Will. “Talk quickly.”

Ben takes a shaky breath. He looks terrified abruptly, and

answering terror squeezes coldly around me. “I don’t think

I can get out of here,” he says, staring at the empty plate in

front of him.

“What do you mean?” asks Will.

“I haven’t tried. Actually, I don’t want to try. I don’t want

her to get suspicious or think I’m trying to leave, but I feel

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like I can’t travel away from here. I feel like I’mdamp, all the time.”

I stare at him. “That’s why you were unsure about getting

everyone on the other side of the dragon pit,” I realize.

He meets my eyes and admits, “I wasn’t sure I could get over

there. I’m honestly amazed I could even save you. I can move

around the Unseelie Court fairly freely, but I don’t think I can leave here, not even the conventional way, not even if I walk.”

“But we have to get you out of here with us,” I say. “This

wasa trap. Your mother did this to lure you away from us.

She wants to thwart both prophecies. As long as you’re here,

we can’t bring down the Courts. We’re stuck.”

Ben doesn’t look at me. He looks up at the ceiling high

above us and fiddles with his fork. “I didn’t think it was a

trap,” he says. “I wouldn’t have come if I’d thought…”

“It doesn’t matter now,” Will inserts impatiently. “Benedict,

she has you pinned.”

Ben looks at him. He looks exhausted. “I don’t know what

you mean.”

“She’s pinned you into place. And it’s Le Fay magic, so it’s

your own energy turning against you. That’s why you’re feel-

ing damp; she’s using your energy to hold you in place.”

“Clever,” allows Ben, sounding bitter. He fiddles some

more with his fork.

“No.” Will leans toward him urgently. “You’re missing the

point.You’rekeeping yourself here— this is your energy being stolen.Breakit.”

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“It isn’t my energy, Will. Itwasmy energy. She’s comman-deered it.”

“Listen to me,” Will says to him, speaking very firmly and

clearly. “Listen to me, andbelievethis, because you never have, and you’ve always needed to: you are stronger than

her. You’ve always been stronger than her. Stop letting her

enchant you andbreakit.”

“I’m notlettingher do this, Will,” Ben snaps. He looks furious now, his eyes sliding into silver as he glares at Will, the

resemblance to his mother just that tiny bit stronger, and I

might shudder without meaning to.

“Yes, you are,” Will insists. “You don’t even realize it. Benedict, they have been planning this from the moment of your birth.

Do you know the only way your mother can beat you? It’s

the only way any faerie in the Otherworld can beat you: by

making youbelievethat they can. And she’s done it your whole life, her and your father and every Seelie in the land, spinning the tale and winding into the heart of you, the legend of your

mother, the greatest enchantress in the Otherworld, the great

traveler, who you have been chasing your entire life. She never

existed, Benedict. She’s a grand myth to trap you in.”

“That doesn’t make sense, Will. She hid one of my names

from them; she’s protected me my whole life. They could

have killed me long ago to stop this prophecy before it began.

Why would she protect me only to do this to me instead?”

“I don’t know. I can’t answer that. But I know I’m right

about one thing: if you fight her, you will win.”

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Ben is silent. He still looks terrified. He glances toward his

mother, but I keep my eyes on him. Will’s story is astonish-

ing, and I’m not sure if he believes what he’s saying or if he’s just trying to give Ben a pep talk.

Ben looks back at Will. “She knows my name, Will. All of

it. She’s the only being in creation who can name me. Do you

know how easy it has always been for me, knowing that no

matter what I did, no one could ever really get to me? They

could hurt me, yes. They could weaken and torture me and

bring me pain, but they couldn’t dissolve me. I’ve never had

to be brave, Will. And the truth is that I don’t know if I am.

She could name me, and I don’t want to cross her. I don’t

know if I can take that risk.” He takes a deep, shuddering

breath. “I’m terrified.”

I feel for him. I don’t want to feel badly for him now that

he’s getting a taste of how the rest of us live. But he looks so lost and scared and very young in the grips of it. I have always thought of Ben as older than me, by some indiscriminate

amount of time, but he seems now much younger. This is

experience I have, living with the looming, suffocating feel-

ing of fear.

And I realize now that Will is right. The Ben I know—

confident and secure in his own abilities— would have walked

out of the Unseelie Court long ago. He would have found a

way. We may not get out of here alive, but it isn’t even worth

the effort unless Benbelieves.

“All anybody ever tells me,” I remark nonchalantly, “is how

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you’re the best at everything.” Ben looks at me in surprise,

and I tick things off on my fingers. “The best traveler in the

Otherworld, the best enchanter in the Otherworld, the best

kisser in the Otherworld.” I look at him, meeting his eyes

firmly. “You’re Benedict Le Fay,” I remind him. “She’s been

here this whole time, Ben. She could have named you when-

ever she wanted. You said it yourself— she could have done

it so easily. And she hasn’t. You know why? She doesn’t think

she can beat you. She can’t even keep you here without using

your own energy to do it.”

Ben shakes his head a bit. “All she’d have to do is— ”

“Shedoesn’t think she can beat you,” I repeat firmly, keeping my gaze locked in his.

I see Will out of the corner of my eye, watching Ben’s

expression avidly. He looks as if he barely dares to move.

Ben breaks my gaze after a long moment of tense silence.

He shifts his eyes toward his mother and then looks over

my shoulder. I glance in that direction, at the archway we’d

entered through. There is a door in that archway now, heavy

and oak, whereas it had been wide open when we’d walked in.

I look back at Ben. He is frowning. His frown deepens. He

shifts in his seat.

“Will, I need you to drop the blocking enchantment. You’re

blockingme,” he says suddenly without taking his eyes from the door.

It is less than a second after he says this that a chair topples over at the Erlking’s end of the table. Ben’s mother’s chair,

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I realize, and I am busy looking in that direction when, less

than a second after that, there is a loud crash as the door

to the banquet hall flings itself open and collides with the

wall,. A gust of wind sends wineglasses tumbling over up and

down the table, splintering against the stone, wine spilling

over the table, red as blood. The wind whips at the hair in

my ponytail and at the flowing material of my gown. There

are exclamations of surprise and rising panic from Unseelies

as they avoid the streams of wine and try to duck away from

the howl of the gale.

I look at Ben, pushing my hair out of my eyes. He is sit-

ting calmly in his seat, regarding his mother, his eyes pale as

a windowpane.

When I look down at his mother, she is still in a heap on

the floor, staring at him in astonishment. And something

else, which looks to me like fear.

“I think,” Ben announces clearly over the groan of the

wind as it slaps against the walls of the banquet hall, “that

we are going.” He rises and starts walking, and the rest of us

scramble out of our seats to follow him. He pauses only once,

in the doorway, to throw over his shoulder, “Come along,

Erlking. That means you as well.”

The Erlking is already striding over to us. His black velvet

cloak looks very dramatic in the strong wind. “How very gra-

cious of you, Benedict,” he says cordially as he walks through

the doorway with the rest of us.

“I am nothing if not gracious,” Ben replies lightly, and then

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watches the door to the banquet hall slam shut behind all of

us. The wind immediately dies down. We stand in a calm and

deserted hallway, staring at the closed door.

“She’s strong,” Ben says after a moment. “I’m not going to

be able to hold her in there for long. And she’s probably going

to name me as soon as she gets out. So we should get going.”

“Excellent,” the Erlking agrees. “Do you have any

suggestions?”

“Yes,” Ben answers. “We’re going to take the corgis. This

way.” He takes off down the hallway.

“We’re going to ride giant dogs to save the world,” says

Kelsey. “My grandkids are never even going tobelieve

this story.”

And then we take off after Ben.

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ChapTer 10

w e are running for only a few seconds before Ben

abruptly skids to a stop and turns around, making a

motion with his arm as if he is flinging something. He turns

again just as quickly, picking up the run again.

“Hurry up!” he calls to us without even looking behind him,

and there comes the sound of a small explosion behind us.

“What was that?” Kelsey asks, panting as we run.

“Never mind,” Ben responds. He is gasping for breath too.

“Keep moving.”

Thunder rumbles, which is startling, since we’re not out-

side. I glance up, watching clouds gather over our heads,

curling along the ceiling above us. Ben looks up too.

“I’ve got you covered,” Will calls to him, and indeed, when

the rain opens up, while it soaks the rest of us, it doesn’t even touch Ben. He turns back and flings something again before

resuming his flat- out run, and there is another small explo-

sion. Then, abruptly, in front of me, he stumbles.

I’m running so close to him that I knock into him, and I’m

worrying that I’ve gotten him wet, but he regains his balance,

moving off at a dead run again. The Erlking is ahead of us, his

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cloak billowing as he wheels around a corner. I wonder how

he knows where to go, but Ben turns around the same corner,

so he must be going the right way.

Ben stumbles again, reaching out and grabbing at the wall

to keep his balance, and I realize then that he is not okay.

He is gasping for breath, but it’s not from running. It’s from

something else; there is a tearing edge to it.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, drawing next to him. I don’t dare

touch him, because I’m soaking wet.

He shakes his head. “Keep moving.”

Will has caught up to us and is looking at Ben in concern.

“What’s the matter?”

“I can’t sever the connection between us. She’s trying to

turn my enchantments back on me.”

“She’s purposely draining you,” says Will.

“BenedictLeFay.”

His name, shouted along the hallway, reverberates. Ben

winces a bit but says, “Well, you were right about that. She’s

not especially good at naming.”

Will is looking down the hallway. “We have to keep

moving. Keep going.”

Ben nods and straightens and moves forward but then

snaps backward. Will and I turn back to him. He takes

another step, pushing as if he is swimming through pudding


Page 16

or something.

“What’s going on?” I ask. Safford and Kelsey have turned

back. I sense them come up behind us.

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Ben takes another step, frowning. “I’m going to have to

just fight it out with her,” he decides. “She’s literally pulling me back.”

“What’s her name?” I ask. “I’ll name her.”

Ben gives me a look. “Do you think I know her name? Do

you thinkanyoneknows her name?”

“Then say my name,” I say quickly. “Say it.”

After a moment, Ben says, “Selkie Stewart,” and we are able

to take a few more steps before he hits another block.

“Say it again,” I tell him.

He looks annoyed. “We can’t keep— ”

“You need to find the talisman,” the Erlking interjects.

I look at him in surprise, because I hadn’t realized he’d

turned back too.

Ben regards him blankly. “The talisman? What talisman?”

“You have to break her enchantment. You need the talis-

man to do it.”

Ben looks displeased. “I’m a faerie. I don’t need the talis-

man to break an enchantment— ”

“Yes, you do. He’s right,” Will interrupts. “He’s absolutely

right, because you’re fighting your own magic. You can’t

break it completely without draining yourself. That’s really

very clever of her.”

Ben glares at him. “You could have realized this before you

told me to do run.”

Will has the good grace to look sheepish. “Sorry.”

With a roar of pure fury, Ben’s mother rounds the corner

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and draws to a stop. It is clear she did not expect us to be

standing there, but she recovers from her surprise and sends

us one of those anti- smiles powerful faeries seem to specialize in. “You’re trapped,” she announces confidently.

Ben straightens away from the wall and sweeps his hand

toward his mother, pushing the rain in her direction. It splashes over her and she shrieks. A tongue of fire races from where she’s standing, hissing as the rain hits it, licking out toward us until the moment when it fizzles out entirely, and judging from the

rage on his mother’s face, that was Ben’s doing too.

“This is ridiculous,” says the Erlking and pulls me to the

left, tumbling me into a dark room. Kelsey and Safford follow

us, and Will pulls Ben in and then closes the door.

“Lock it,” he tells Ben.

“Done,” Ben says.

“But she’s a traveler too,” I point out. “Won’t she just be

able to unlock it?”

“Not if I can hold it for a bit,” Ben responds grimly.

I want to ask what good it’s doing us to be trapped in a

room instead of out in the hallway where we can run, but

Ben’s breaths have evened out a bit and he seems to be in less

distress, so maybe he really did need a breather.

Will sends up an orb of light.

We are in a decent- sized room, but it is entirely empty

except for a single purple orchid sitting in a pot on the other

side of the room. It looks completely incongruous, there in

the middle of the floor.

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“What the hell is that?” the Erlking asks.

“It’s a flower,” Will answers.

“Why is it in here? I don’t like it.”

Will walks cautiously over to it and looks down at the pot.

“It says here its name is Larry.”

“The plant has a name?” Kelsey asks.

“Yes,” Will confirms.

“The plant’s name isLarry?” she asks.

“Yes,” says Will again and turns away from the orchid,

walking back toward us.

I turn my attention to Ben. He is staring at the door. There

are alarming thumps coming from the other side of it.

“Will it hold?” the Erlking asks him.

“Yes,” Ben responds confidently.

“I suppose that’s something, but it means we’re trapped in

here,” remarks the Erlking, echoing the thought I just had.

“Better than being trapped out there.” Ben turns away

from the door. “It gives us time to think. What would she

have used for the talisman?”

I am relieved that he seems to be trying to put together a

plan. He seems much more like the old Ben. I turn to watch

him pace into the room, and that is when I realize that the

orchid has tripled in size. I stare at it.

“Was the plant always that big?” Kelsey asks, also staring

at it.

Will stares at it too, standing very still. “No,” he answers

slowly.

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Even as we watch, the orchid grows another foot, leaping

into the air.

Kelsey takes a step back, and I don’t blame her. “Make it

stop,” she says.

Ben has also taken a step away from the orchid. “I can’t,” he

replies. “I need to keep my focus on the door. Will?”

“I’m trying,” says Will, even as the orchid grows another

two feet.

“It doesn’t seem to be working,” Kelsey points out.

“I can see that,” Will bites back.

The orchid hits the ceiling.

“Forget about the orchid.” Ben turns away from it. “We

need to get the talisman. If we can get the talisman, then I

can get away from here. Until then, we’re just trapped.”

“So what’s a talisman look like?” I ask.

“It could look like anything,” the Erlking replies. “It’s what-

ever the faerie casting the enchantment chose to imbue with

the power. Is there anything your mother is especially fond

of, that she keeps by her side, especially when you’re around?”

“Anything she keeps by her side.” Ben looks perplexed.

“Not that I can think of.”

But I am focusing on a different part of what the Erlking

said. “Anything your mother is especially fond of,” I repeat.

“Ben. Your coat.”

“My coat,” he echoes. “You think it’s my coat?”

“Is this the talisman of your enchantment?” I indicate

my sweatshirt.

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“Yeah,” he affirms.

“You gave it to me. You didn’t keep it for yourself.”

“Because the enchantment is yours to control.”

“Right. And that’s what she did to you. Will said this is

yourenchantment. She gave the talisman to you.”

“Oh, thatisclever,” breathes the Erlking.

“That meansIcan’t really break the enchantment by stealing the talisman. I already have the talisman,” Ben realizes.

“You have to give the talisman to somebody else,” Will

says. “Someone the enchantment wasn’t intended for. It will

break it.”

“Me,” I say and look at Ben. “I’ll take the coat.”

“Anybody can take it,” Will interjects. “It doesn’t have to

be you.”

Ben looks at me and then nods briskly and turns to Will.

“No, it has to be Selkie and me. If we go, my mother will

chase after us. We’re the ones she cares about. The rest of you

will be free to get to the corgis, and Selkie and I will break the enchantment and we’ll meet you.”

“Uh, guys?” ventures Kelsey from behind us.

“Where are the corgis?” Will asks. “How do we get to them?”

“I know how to get to them,” the Erlking interjects

confidently.

“Guys, seriously,” Kelsey says, but I’m distracted by the

Erlking’s statement.

As is Ben. Ben looks at him. “How do you know so much

about the layout of this place?”

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“I’m just very clever,” the Erlking responds mildly.

Ben frowns, and I get the impression he doesn’t really

approve of the Erlking being clever on top of everything else.

Something brushes against my shoulder, and I think it’s

Kelsey, trying to get my attention, and I turn toward her

just as she shrieks. I realize immediately why she shrieked,

because it wasn’t Kelsey brushing my shoulder— it was the

orchid, which has now grown so that it reaches the ceil-

ing and stretches across the room. I have a flashback to the

tulips that nearly strangled me during my first time in the

Otherworld. Larry the orchid is growing so quickly that

I find myself staring at a branch shooting toward me. It

doesn’t poke my eye out only because Ben grabs me out of

the way.

We are crowded together against the door as the orchid

encroaches upon us. It snakes out a tendril that curls around

Kelsey’s wrist.

“Get it off!” Kelsey exclaims in a panic, but the orchid tugs,

tumbling Kelsey forward, and she lands straight in one of its

enormous blossoms, sending up a puff of pollen.

Safford lunges for her, pulling her out, and then the Erlking

unsheathes his sword and begins hacking at the orchid. I

remember the knife that I stole from dinner and pull that

out as well, but it’s hardly effective against the onslaught of

the orchid.

The orchid named Larry.

The orchidnamedLarry.

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“Larry!” I shout, throwing all of my intent behind it,

hoping that naming works on supernatural plants as well as

supernatural creatures.

It does. Larry shrivels up until it’s back to the size it was

when we first entered the room.

I breathe a sigh of relief.

The Erlking sheathes his sword, breathing hard, and says,

“Well done. Will it stay that size now?”

“I have no idea,” I say. I love that the Erlking thinks I know

about any of the craziness going on around us. My only idea

was to take us all here in the first place, and look how well

thatturned out.

Kelsey is in a terrifyingly still heap on the floor with the

orchid detritus all around her.

Safford and I lean over her in mirrored desperation. She’s

breathing; she just seems to be thoroughly unconscious.

“What’s wrong with her?” I demand, looking up at Ben.

“It’s an enchantment,” Ben says grimly.

“Well, break it,” I order him.

“I can’t, I— ”

Kelsey sits up abruptly, coughing.

“Kelsey!” I exclaim and give her a hug. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” she manages around her coughs. “What happened?”

“We were so worried,” I tell her. “You fell into the orchid

blossom, and then you just…collapsed.”

“So I was almost killed by an orchid,” she concludes flatly.

And then, startling me, Safford pushes me aside and catches

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Kelsey in a fierce and desperate hug. Kelsey makes a little

exclamation of surprise, but she hugs him back.

I look to Ben, to thank him, but he shakes his head. “It

wasn’t me. It was Will.”

I turn to thank Will, but he’s frowning toward Larry the

orchid, and when I turn back there, I realize that it’s started

growing again, that the Erlking is once again hacking at the

branches, but they are growing more quickly than he can cut

them off.

“Larry,” I say again, and it works again, but only briefly before it starts growing again. I can’t just stand here and keep repeating its name constantly. We need to do something else.

Will clearly has the same idea. “You two need to go,” he says

without taking his eyes off the orchid. “Right now. We have to

get out of this room.” He looks at Ben. “We’ll see you later.”

I don’t even have time to say good- bye to them before Ben

grabs my hand and the room vanishes.

We are back in his bedroom, which seems very quiet and

empty, given that it does not have a killer orchid in it. We

are standing right by the chair on which I placed the coat

before we went to the banquet. We both look down at it for

a moment.

“Do I just…take it?” I ask uncertainly.

I hear Ben draw in breath to respond, and then his mother,

out of nowhere, knocks him over with a physical blow. I have

never seen a faerie actuallyhitanother faerie like that; they seem to fight mostly through their magic. I am momentarily

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so shocked as Ben staggers backward that I can’t even react.

I think that fighting this way must be unusual, because Ben

can’t seem to gather himself. He is so caught off- guard that he is just retreating, trying to duck away but not succeeding as

his mother keeps planting slaps and shoves and kicks on him.

I launch myself into action, just as Ben finds himself backed

against the bathroom door. There is a moment when he looks

at his mother, and his eyes are narrowed. He doesn’t look the

slightest bit afraid— he looks furious and also thoughtful, as

if he is already planning some kind of retaliation.

His mother seems to pause at his expression too. “You— ”

she begins, but we never get to hear what else she was going

to say, because I lunge and close my hands into the fabric of

her gown. The thing is, her gown looks soft and gauzy, but


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touching it is like closing my hands into a bramble of thorns.

I gasp in surprised pain, and I see Ben’s narrowed eyes shift

to me, worried for a split second of distraction, before I shake off the pain, pretend it’s not there, and tug backward.

His mother isn’t expecting it, and she stumbles away from

him, giving him enough room to duck away. She keeps trying

to pull her dress out of my grasp, but I am hanging on grimly.

My hands feel as if they are on fire, but I refuse to let go, and she tries to whip me around. I collide painfully with the wall,

and for a moment, the room spins around me.

Ben throws his mother aside. At least, it seems to me that’s

what he does, in the hazy spinning of the room. Her dress

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no longer connected to his mother. He thrusts his coat at me,

and I realize that he went to retrieve it. I drop the fabric and grab the coat automatically.

“Selkie Stewart,” he says hurriedly, under his breath. “I

renounce this coat and give it to you. I want you to have it.

Will you take it? Say yes.”

I don’t need the prompting. I am already saying yes and

nodding my head for extra effect.

Ben gasps, and I wonder for a second if I’ve done some-

thing wrong. I hear an answering gasp from his mother, and

then Ben takes the most enormous breath, closing his eyes

briefly. When he opens them, they are a light and clear blue,

pale like the trickle of a brook. He sends me a brilliant smile, and his hands find mine underneath the coat I am clinging

to, and then we are gone.

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w e are outside, sitting on hard, unforgiving ground.

The sky overhead is a brilliant blue, but the tempera-

ture is crystalline cold and I am shivering almost immediately.

Ben tugs the coat out of my hands and pulls it around me

then stops, staring down. He looks…horrified.

“What…?” I start to ask— and then look down myself. My

hands still hurt, but I hadn’tlookedat them. They’re covered in blood, streams of it running down my wrists, dripping

onto the dirt, and they are swollen and almost purple.

“Whathappened?” Ben asks, his voice low with concern.

“Your mother’s dress…” I start to explain.

Ben takes my hands carefully in his, holding them gently,

and I find myself holding my breath. The look on his face is

so intimate and loving. I am feeling light- headed and a little

bit dizzy, and Ben seems utterly capable of taking care of me

for a moment. I want to just let him, the temptation sweet

in my mouth.

I study his face as he looks at my hands, the bruise of

his dark eyelashes against his pale cheeks, the concentrated

bow of his mouth. He is absurdly beautiful, and I had

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forgotten. It’s not like I’ve had much time to sit and admire

Ben recently.

My hands stop throbbing, and he looks up at me from

underneath his eyelashes. “Better?” he asks. His thumbs are

rubbing soft circles over the pulse points in my wrist.

“Much,” I croak breathlessly, because it’s all I can get out.

His lips curve crookedly, and I figure he can probablyfeel

my pulse increasing under the brush of his thumb. “Good.”

He glances around us. “Oh, St. David’s Ruin. Cottingley. Not

quite where I was aiming, but Iwasunder a bit of duress.” He looks back at me. “And my favorite part of Cottingley, actually,” he beams at me.

I can’t tell if he means I’m his favorite part of Cottingley

because he kissed me here, or if he means nothing by this at

all. “Did you use some of my energy to make that jump?” I

ask instead. His thumbs are still tickling at my wrists. I wish

he’d stop. I wish he’d never stop.

“Yes. I had to. We’d never have gotten out of the Unseelie

Court alive if I hadn’t. Why?”

“I feel a little bit dizzy,” I confess.

His smile widens, and he ducks his head closer to me. “That

could be an energy drain,” he says, his eyes filling my vision.

“It could be other things too.”

I am struggling to maintain some logic and sensible think-

ing. “Can we get back to Boston?”

“Yes,” he responds. “I need a minute to breathe.” He drops

my hands, and I hover between relief and disappointment,

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but not for very long, because then he lifts his hands until

he is cupping my head in them, his fingers in my hair and

along the back of my neck, rubbing into the skin behind my

ear and shivering at my jawline. “Or a century,” he murmurs.

“Depending on the time you’re keeping.”

I stop thinking, and then he kisses me.

Which doesn’t help the thinking thing.

My thoughts are all scattered, but somewhere in there, I

have the vague idea that even though I’ve been denying it, I

really have been sick with worry over him. I thought it was

possible I’d never see him again, never mind kiss him, and I

told myself I would have been fine with that, but now that

he’s kissing me, I know that was all a lie, and I find myself

kissing him back.

Kissing Ben is almost like being blindfolded, turned three

times in a circle, and then being told to try to figure out where one particular person is sitting in a crowd of thirty thousand

scattered all around you. It’sthatdisorienting. Although far more pleasant. But that is the only excuse I have for the fact

that when Ben finally draws back, panting for breath, I am

somehow flat on my back and he is leaning over me.

Whendidthathappen?I wonder dizzily, looking up at him.

“Thank you,” he says and draws a finger down my nose,

which shouldn’t be sexy yet somehow manages to be.

I want to draw him back in for another kiss, but now I’m

confused, so I say, “For what?”

“For saving me. Again.” He brushes his thumb over my

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lower lip, which feels heavy and wet from Ben kissing all

rational thought out of me, and I freeze up as it crashes down

on me,savinghim, again.

I think of the tidal wave of ice that had poured into me

on Boston Common when he left me standing there, left

me without a second thought.Staybecauseyouloveme, I’d begged, and he had looked away, and he had left. And after

all that, I still rescued him. Again. Yes, I had wanted to get

to this mother and ask about the fays, but really, underneath

it all, if I’m totally honest, wasn’t I just trying to save his life?

What iswrongwith me?

I make a noise and squirm incoherently, pushing at him.

He gets the gist of what I’m trying to communicate, letting

me up, but he looks bewildered.

“What— ” he begins.

I hold up a hand to cut him off. I am dizzy again, and it

takes a second for the ruined building to stop swimming up

and down around me. I wonder exactly how much of my

energy Ben had to use to get us out of the Unseelie Court.

“Don’t do that again,” I tell him.

He continues to look puzzled. “Thank you?”

I give him a look that I hope is withering, swaying to my

feet. “Kiss me.”

He looks surprised. “Oh, I…oh. I thought…” He looks

even more confused now.

I am furious with him, sitting there on the ground, looking

quite at home and quite delicious and oh, yes, I amfurious

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with him. “You think I’m going to forget that you left me,

and I’m not going to.”

“Selkie,” he says warily. “I didn’t mean to— ”

“Oh, you meant to,” I spit out. “You leftverydeliberately.

You left even though I begged you not to go.”

“Selkie,” he says. “I had to— ”

“It was atrap, Ben. You walked right into atrap.”

He looks rueful. “I know. And if I had listened to you— ”

“Youshouldnothavelistenedtomebecauseitwasatrap!” I shout at him, and my words ring around the ice- encrusted

surfaces of St. David’s Ruin.

Ben gapes up at me. He is very plainly shocked. It is clear

he expected nothing like this from me.

“You thought you would leave me,” I accuse, “and then

you’d come back, and I’d still be here waiting for you, this

lovesick little girl who’s loved you her whole life.”

“Selkie.” He finally scrambles to his feet, looking anxious.

“That’s not what I thought. I thought, when I left you that

day, that I was giving up every chance I might ever have with

you. I never thought…I never thought I’d be able to fix it.”

I have put the coat on fully, and it feels like protective

armor as I cross my arms and take an insulating step away

from him. “And you went anyway.”

“I had to go. Don’t you see? Ihadto go.”

“I do see. If Will’s right— and I think he is— you were

manipulated your entire life to that moment, and you could

have saved us so much trouble if you’d just kept your promise

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to me. We’d still be in Boston right now. Nothing would have

gone awry. There’d be no pieces to pick up. We’d be with my

aunts and sure my father was with us and okay. We’d be plan-

ning our attack, and we’d behappy. But you couldn’t.”

“Selkie,” he says firmly. “I’m sorry. I am. I’m very sorry.

But we’ll fix it, okay? We’ll go back to Boston, and we’ll

find your aunts and your father, and we’ll plan our attack

and— you came after me. You came…You came tosaveme.

You’re the only being I’ve ever met who ever wanted tosave

me before, Selkie.”

He looks amazed at this, amazed atme. I want to weep, half from sorrow and half from sharp and painful anger, because

he’s looking at me like he loves me, like I am the most aston-

ishing creature in the Otherworld or beyond, like he really

does think it’s true that no one other than me would ever

lift a finger to save him. And I don’t want to think that that

might be true, because then I would forget about the fact

that he lied to me and betrayed me, and I would just cuddle

him and tell him thatofcourseI would always save him.

And it’s true, I think with a sinking feeling of inevitabil-

ity— I would, much as I should no longer feel that way. Even

with everything he’d done to me, there was a part of me that

could so vividly imagine the idea of raw pain in Ben’s star-

light eyes and no one being there to comfort him, no one

there to push his unruly curls off his forehead and hug him

close and make him feel better.

The unerring, shameful truth about me is that I have

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always wanted to be there for everything about Ben. I lived

a life without him, when he enchanted me into forgetting

him, and I remember how much I missed him without even

knowing who he was, how much I wandered through Boston

Common looking for him without knowing what I could

possibly be looking for. I never stopped looking for him,

everywhere I went, and that was before Iknewhim.

And yet, together with all of that, I can’t help but remem-

ber that heleft. We could have been perfect, he and I. We could have been our own little faerie tale. And heruinedit.

“You promised me that you would never leave me.” I am so

annoyed that my voice is choked up when I say it. “You prom-

ised me. And then you did. As if it was nothing. As if that

promise meantnothingto you. Those were just words you

told me, to keep me near you a bit longer, to manipulate me.”

“That’s not true,” he interrupts swiftly, but I interrupt him.

I refuse to stop now that I’ve started.

“And I trusted you, Ben. All anyone ever told me was that

I shouldn’t;youtold me yourself not to do it, and I did. And then you…then you…” I can’t even say it, because I’m scared

if I do, I’ll start crying.

Ben stands across from me, the vision of him swimming a

bit in front of my eyes. I don’t know if it’s because I’m crying or because I’m so dizzy. His eyes look…hurt. Which isn’t fair, because he hurtme. He hurt me worse than anyone ever has before, Seelies and Unseelies included. He is not allowed

to be hurt.

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“Selkie,” he says, and what he says next almost makes me

hate him. “I love you. I do. And I love that you trust me. I’ve

never had anyone— that’s not something I— we’re not very

good at it, not naturally. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to— ”

“Itrustedyou,” I correct him, and I hope I sound cold

and overbearing about it instead of small and wounded.

“Itrustedyou, more than I’ve ever trusted anyone else in my life. You were my constant. You were the one who was

always there. You made me feel safe and protected, and you

were…” I admit it then. “You weremine. But you weren’t.

You’re not. I trusted you, when everyone told me not to,

and then you left, and you made me feel insignificant

andstupid.”

“Selkie,” he says desperately. He takes a step toward me,

but he must see me tense, because he doesn’t come any closer.

“Selkie, I handled it poorly. I’msosorry. Please, I just— I handled it poorly, I can— ”

“Never trust a faerie,” I remind him. “You told me that I

was appallingly bad at remembering that. You told me that

right here, right where we’re standing. When I said that the

only faerie I trusted was you, you told me that’s why I was so

appallingly bad at it. Do you remember?”

“I— ”

I don’t give him a chance to respond. “I don’t know why I

didn’t listen to you then, but I’ve learned my lesson now. I’m

sorry, Benedict.” I use his full name very deliberately, and I

see the blink of reaction in him, a small flinch, even though I

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haven’t really intended to name him. I just wanted to put dis-

tance between us, have him not be, for a second, the famil-

iarBenof lazy summer days on the Common. “I think you

could promise the world now, the moon and the stars and

your undying love. And how could I ever believe you?”

He looks stunned, too stunned to manage to say anything.

I feel very tired now that this conversation seems con-

cluded. I wonder if I meant any of it. I feel like I did, but I

also feel like, if Ben would like to hold me right now, I would

be okay with that. If Ben would like a second chance, if he

would like to beg me for one, it probably wouldn’t take me

long to change my mind and give it to him.

It would’ve been nice if I could’ve fallen out of love with

him the minute he broke his promise to me.

I feel as if I am swaying on my feet. I actually stretch out

a hand to steady myself on something, but there is nothing

there to serve that purpose.

Ben’s eyes are no longer stunned; they are concerned. “Are

you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I lie. “I mean what I’m saying.”

“Yes,” he clips out, frowning. “I’ve grasped that.”

“I’m happy you’re safe, I am. I’m glad we were able to save

you. I don’t want you todie.”

“Good to know,” drawls Ben.

“Just don’t kiss me again.” I turn away from him, and I

want to be able to walk off grandly, head held high, showing

how very okay I am with all of this.

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Up is down and down is up. It’s like being kissed by Ben.

It’s like being…it’s like…falling over. Or it is falling over. I don’t know. Am I on the ground? Am I in Ben’s arms?

“Selkie,” he says and shakes me, hands on my shoulders.

“Selkie.”

“Don’t kiss me,” I manage blurrily.

“Would you stop it with that?” he snaps. “Tell me what’s

wrong with you. I can’t fix you until we figure it out. Selkie.”

He shakes me again.

“I feel sick,” I inform him and tip forward against his shoul-

der. I am shivering violently, but I am burning hot, and the

world rocks around me, making me queasy. I close my hands

into Ben’s shirts. “Stop moving,” I beg him. “Stop moving.”

“I’m not,” he says. His arms go up, holding me to him, and

I should tell him to stop that. “I’m not. Selkie, darling, you’re wearing my sweatshirt. Let me put the charm back on you.

We need to push this off— ”

He is probably making sense, and I am willing to listen

to what he has to say, but first he has to stop twirling me

around. “Stop moving,please,” I plead.

He is gone suddenly, I am crumpled to the ground in a

heap, and the ruin spins around me like a carousel. Then Ben

is pushing at my coat. Is heundressingme?

“Don’t,” I try to frown at him.

“I have to get this coat off you. I think it’s killing you,”

he responds. His voice sounds frantic with worry. I wish

I could understand what he’s worried about. Maybe if

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he stopped touching me, I could pay attention to him.

“Selkie,helpme, come on, darling,please.” He keeps tugging at my coat.

“It’s cold,” I tell him. “I’m not having sex with you here.”

He rolls me, still tugging at my coat. He is practically man-

handling me, and I am trying to resist but I am doing a ter-

rible job of it.

“Plus,” I continue, “I feel sick.”

He seems to have succeeded in getting my coat off me.

Now I am shuddering even more violently, and he gathers

me up in his arms, pulling me close, and I am grateful for the

warmth. The world looks like twilight; it is a swirl of violets.

I can barely make out Ben, and I blink, trying to clear my

vision, but the dimness is better. I can no longer really see the world whirring by me, and that’s better.

“Selkie.” Ben’s voice is low and urgent. “Selkie, listen to

me,pleaselisten to me.” He presses his forehead against mine.

“Love me, just for a little while, the way you used to,please.

Love me and let me in. I can’t fix this with you fighting me

this way. We’ll finish this fight later, I promise. Love me now.

Love me the way you used to.”

“Don’t kiss me,” I tell him. I seem to remember that this

is important. I close my eyes and lean into the press of his

forehead, to the solidity of his body. He is the only thing in

the universe not spinning. He is the only fixed point I can

find, and I am half- annoyed at that, for reasons I can only half form.Musthealwaysbemyfixedpoint?I think.Musthealways?

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“I’m not going to kiss you,” he assures me. “Just tell me you

love me. Tell me it once, Selkie, just this once. Just whisper it in my ear and I’ll pretend I never heard it. Justtellme.”

Whatharmcanitdo?I think.MaybeI’ll tell him, and thenhe’ll leave me alone, he’ll put me down, and the world will beright side up again. “I love you,” I say. And then I figure he might as well know the rest of it. “And I’ll always save you.

Don’t worry.”

For a split second, the world is finally still. I hear Ben take

a breath that is more like a shudder, and then he presses a kiss to my forehead. I want to remind him that he promised not

to kiss me, but then I think that maybe he meant kissing my

mouthand so maybe I’ll let him off on this technicality and be more specific next time.

“Likewise,” he says shakily into my ear, and I don’t really

remember what he’slikewise- ing.

I’d think harder about it, except that the world finally spins

itself out and I find myself in blackness.

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T he world is loud and it is soft. Sometimes there are people

shouting all around me, and sometimes there is nothing

but the whisper of a breath beside me. Sometimes I am so

hot that I feel that my skin is on fire and I push at everything near me in an effort to find some relief, and sometimes I am

so cold that I shiver until it hurts and it doesn’t matter how

many things are wrapped around me.

It is lonely and I am all alone, although it seems to me that

whenever I think that, Ben’s voice drifts through my head, a

low murmur.I’m here. I’m right here.

And he is.

I open my eyes, and I am in my room. My own bedroom,

at home, on Beacon Hill. It is dim in the room, twilight, or

else early morning, just before dawn.

I feel hollow and fragile, like if I move I might be ill, so I

stay in exactly the position I’m in, concentrating on breath-

ing and trying to remember how I got here. Because I wasn’t

here. Was I? I don’t think I was. My mind is a massive tangle;

getting a handle on the recent past is like trying to stagger my way through brambles.

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So instead I try to focus on as many present sensations as I

can— the slide of the sheet against me and the cradle of the

pillow underneath my head. I am on my side, tipped toward

my window, and my hands are…caught up in something I

know I should recognize…

I close my hand into fists, and someone sighs, the mattress

shifting a bit under me.

I look down. Ben is in a chair next to me, and he is clearly

sleeping, leaned over, his head on the bed next to me. It

looks as if it should be uncomfortable, but after he finishes

stirring, he seems to fall back into a deep sleep. I look at

my hands, closed into fistfuls of his hair, and then slowly,

carefully, I uncurl my fingers and disentangle them. Ben

sleeps on.

I stay very still, no longer just because I don’t want to get

sick but because I don’t want Ben to wake up. Although it

appears to me that I’ve been sleeping for many hours, if not

days. Honestly, I feel exhausted, and I don’t feel up to another argument with Ben. The truth is I can’t quite remember how

we left things. Everything from the moment he gave me the

coat is a vague blur. There were kisses, but there was also…

there was…I told him, didn’t I? That I couldn’t trust him

anymore? Did I make him understand that? I am too tired

to try to untangle the complicated interweaving of heartbro-

ken devotion.

I am concentrating so hard on trying to remember how

the conversation with Ben ended that I’m not sure how long

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The Boy wiTh The hidden name

I lay there staring at him before I realize that he’s awake.

He has turned his head, still resting on my mattress, and

is regarding me calmly, his eyes pale, barely a hint of color,

and inscrutable.

“You’re awake,” he says eventually, after we look at each

other for a long moment.

I feel too weak to even speak to him. I manage to nod.

“Really awake,” he says. He reaches out a hand and presses

it against the curve of my cheek. I close my eyes, even though

I don’t want to.

He takes his hand away and makes a curious shuddering

sound. I open my eyes, since that’s not what I expected, and

he’s buried his face in the bedspread.

I want to say something to him, although I don’t know

what, and he lifts his head before I can decide. I realize for the first time that he looks awful, pale and drawn, dark smudges

under his eyes. His hair is not the good kind of unkempt. I

wonder if he’s been sick too.

“I’m sorry,” he tells me. He leans back in the chair. “I didn’t

realize the coat was cursed.”

This feels like the precursor to a serious conversation,

which I do not have the energy for. I am dying for a glass of

water, and I wonder if Ben is the right faerie to ask to find

me some.

But there is no need, because then the door is flung open

and both of my aunts scurry through and fall upon me, a

mass of hugs and kisses and exclamations from them, until

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Skylar DorSet

finally somebody thinks to give me some water. When I

am able to take stock of things again, every person is in the

room— my aunts and Will and the Erlking and Kelsey and

Safford— except for Ben, who is nowhere to be seen.

Kelsey and my aunts are clustered by the bed, looking at

me in concern. They look as if they might never stop looking

at me in concern.

“How do you feel?” Kelsey asks me.

“Fine,” I lie, because I feel terrible, but I’m not delirious or semiconscious, so I suppose that I am fine in comparison to

that. “What happened?”

“We weren’t there…” Kelsey begins, looking to my aunts.

“We don’t know,” Aunt True says with a sniff of disapproval.

“Well, we know what Benedictsaid,” Aunt Virtue

contributes.

“He staggered through the door with you unconscious

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