[NOTE FROM THE FAR-OFF YEAR OF 2018: THIS DOESN’T END UP IN THE FINISHED BOOK. I GUESS THAT MEANS IT’S ON THE CUTTING-ROOM FLOOR!]
“This is such a bad idea,” Grey said.
Looking at this castle, I could sort of see why. The Crow King went for “imposing,” evidently, on his architectural wish-list. All black stone, it rose in unsubtle phallic splendor, lambent windows spreading gold-red light into the night sky, and complete with runes bigger than I was carved into the stone.
The crow motif was kind of a thing. Real ones sat on ledges (of which there were a ludicrous number, both jutting and concave) alongside statues of crows. You could tell the difference because the fake ones had ruby eyes that glowed in the dark.
This wasn’t at all creepy.
“Okay, that’s neat,” I said, pointing at the fake crows. “Wanna bet they’re real rubies, too?”
Grey said nothing, looking around.
I was beginning to feel bad for dragging him along. “Hey. Look, it’s okay. You can go, if you want to.”
He glanced at me sidelong. “That would make me an ass. So, no.”
And he made me laugh again.
The crows reacted, or at least the live ones did, exploding off the walls and ledges in a chorus of strident caws, briefly hiding the stars with their wings. Looking down (hoping, truthfully, to avoid any smelly presents from above), I caught sight of what the Ever Dying see in this place: just a few low walls, ruined and crumbling, and some little signs that probably told the history of the place.
“Let’s get this over with. Have you ever spoken to a king before, Katie?”
I shrugged, unwilling to admit I’d been in the States so long that for me, royalty had lost some of its pizazz. “No.”
“I have.” He rummaged in his jacket and pulled out a tiny red bag, possibly velvet, which he weighed in the palm of his hand. “If I use this,” he said, and dropped his voice lower. “If I use this, chances are, I’ll never get it again. But then again, if I use it, I won’t have to carry it anymore, and that would be a relief.” He looked up at the castle, then at me, then at the castle again. “Yes. It’s worth it.”
“Okaaaay,” I said they way people say that word when they really mean, Huh?
“Hold still.” He reached into the bag and took out a handful of something that sparkled in the dark, gleaming between his fingers, sparking as they fell from his hand into the frozen grass.
No. It couldn’t be. “Is that fairy dust?”
“Don’t breathe. You’re Kin, so there’s no telling how it’ll affect you if it’s in your lungs,” Grey said.
“That’s freaking fairy dust?” I gaped at him, head forward, hands out as if demanding he explain himself.
“Hold your breath!” He threw it at me.
Fairy dust. I’d wanted to experience it my whole life, even though I knew I’d never have a chance, and here it was happening in the dark where I couldn’t see it or sniff it or even feel it between my fingers.
It hit me before I could protest, and full-body tingling magic took over anything else I was going to say. I yipped, danced, and wriggled, and I swear my feet left the ground. Magic swirled around me, bright pink and sparkly and so perfect that I whooped for joy, unable to even protest the apparent girlishness of it, and that was okay. This stuff existed long before modern-day Disney, long before “pink” was a girl’s color, and the concept of fairies were relegated to legend.
Every inch of my skin sang, even between my toes, as my outfit transformed. My boots stayed boots, but became knee-high masterpieces, layered with soft, thin leather and criss-crossed over the ankles with straps and buckles. A scattering of jewels cascaded down the fronts, narrowing to the toes, as if my feet had just carried me through a fall of stars.
My jeans changed smoothly to formfitting leather, black as midnight, but sparkling with the crest of my family stretched from thigh to ankle. My simple sweater turned to something much softer, buffered with soft fur on the shoulders, and my coat disappeared in favor of a green brocade cloak. Curved, jeweled rings suddenly covered the second knuckle of each finger, and around my neck settled a necklace – a long, curved feather made from gold, wide enough to cover my breastbone.
I won’t even go into what happened to my underwear.
“Wait,” I puffed, hand out, trying to gain my balance as the magic put me down. I knew my hair was done, and I probably had makeup, but I was far more interested in what came next. “Let me do you. Please.”
Grey handed the bag over. “Use all of it.”
All of it? There was more than one handful in here. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. I don’t want any remaining.” He sounded almost giddy, and his grin made no sense.
I would give my eye-tooth to keep this, but it wasn’t mine to take. “All right. All of it.” I upended the bag over his head.
It looked different from the outside, a whirlwind of magic lifting him off his feet with such force that his hair went flying upward. He rode it with grace, eyes closed, arms out, and I got to watch every stitch of his outfit transform.
A thin, coat-shaped masterpiece of gold lace wove itself out of air and settled over a deep red jacket, which was intricately embroidered and fell to his calves. His slacks changed, but not like mine. This leather was rich brown and buttery-looking, each thigh bisected by a strip of gold brocade with words I couldn’t read, as the meaning ran away to beautiful squiggles when I tried. His boots were simple, black, and narrow, but the toes were tipped with gold, and an arch of rubies drew the eye from his sole to his ankles.
On his head appeared a crown. It wasn’t a king’s crown, but it sure as hell was something, in the same golden-feather design as my necklace, each vane thick and raggedly beautiful. The feathers curled up neatly between his ears, emphasizing their length and slenderness, and though it was gold, it seemed dark against the purity of his hair.
I won’t lie. I stared a lot.
He took the bag. “Let me do the talking. We’re asking about your uncle, right?”
“Whoa,” I said.
He even had a sword, a slender, short thin thing in a black sheath with a jeweled pommel and pretty little curving guards for his hand. I didn’t get a sword. “Whoa,” I said.
“Hey.” When did his ears get pierced? “Focus.”
“I’m trying. You’re freaking gorgeous. Why don’t you do this every day?” I said.
He stopped, mouth open, and turned beet red.
You’d better believe I laughed at him.
That earned a scowl. “Your uncle?”
Focus, Katie Lin. You can drool over him and embarrass him simultaneously later. “Yes.”
“Then let’s go. Hopefully, he won’t make us stay.” Grey headed up the hill, past the Ever Dying ruins, toward an enormous arched doorway with a heavy black-metal rune hanging on the front.
The only downside to his outfit was that his coat-and-lace affair covered his derriere. At least I got to enjoy the loose fishtail braid down his back. Yeah, that was a nice touch.
He’d used fairy dust on this, and he’d used all of it. That stuff was so rare. Fairies nearly died out a few centuries ago, and the few that remain are hidden away in the gardens of the Mythos’ rulers. Where the hell did he get a whole bag of the stuff?
Why was he wearing a crown?
How come he had such powerful magic as a portal, anyway?
Crap. He was some weird fey prince, wasn’t he? A crazy prince on the run, hiding out in New Hampshire, tooling around train stations because it beat being responsible somewhere?
Naw. That was way too contrived. He was probably just a thief.