Page 26

“Maybe when the questions are impossible to answer, that’s because the answers themselves are impossible,” she whispered.

Friedle smiled.

“Let me ask you something,” she said. “When we first came up behind you on the sidewalk and you turned around, you said something about somebody finally coming for you. But you said ‘us.’ Who’s us?”

His smile faded. He looked around, as though despite all of the wild things he had told them, this was the one thing he did not want anyone else to overhear.

“Some of us—Borderkind—we don’t ever want to go back. We want to live here forever, in the ordinary world. We like it here. But whoever wanted the Bascombes has been sending Hunters into this world, killing my kind. After what happened in Maine, I came down here to stay with friends. All of us at Bullfinch’s, we’re Borderkind. I thought you were Hunters, come for us.”

Sara studied him. “So you have this other face; your real face.”

Friedle glanced away, perhaps ashamed of his true self. “Of course.”

“Can we see it, just for a moment? Just so we know what’s real?”

“Here?” he asked, glancing around.

Sara looked at Sheriff Norris. He seemed genuinely baffled, but he focused expectantly on Friedle.

“Here,” she confirmed.

The glamour dropped for a single eye blink, but that was enough. The waitress screamed, then looked embarrassed at the attention she had brought upon herself. Confused, she kept looking over at them, trying without luck to confirm that she hadn’t had a hallucination.

Sara looked at the sheriff, but Jackson only stared at the goblin sitting across from him.

“All right,” Sheriff Norris said. “What now?”

“What do you mean?” Robiquet asked.

“You made a promise. You screwed up. But as far as you know, Melisande’s children are still alive. We want to find them, and Julianna and Sara’s father, too. You said there were Doors.”

The human-faced goblin shook his head. “Oh, no. The Doors are always under guard.”

Sheriff Norris smiled thinly, a little bit of strain around his eyes. His understanding of the world had just been broken into pieces, so Sara didn’t blame him. She knew she must look much the same, but her own worldview had been shattered slowly, over the weeks since her father had vanished and she’d had to come to terms with the possibility he might never return and she might never know his fate.

Maybe that had changed.

“Under guard?”

Robiquet nodded.

The sheriff left forty dollars on the table to cover their lunch and stood up. He glanced at Sara, then at the goblin.

“That’s what guns are for.”


They fought their way out of Palenque. Black pillars of smoke rose above the city—fires burning somewhere near the palace.

Cheval Bayard had forsaken her human form and now the kelpy galloped along the cobblestones. Hours had passed since Oliver and Julianna had escaped from the dungeon, and the word had spread.

A full-scale rebellion had erupted in the heart of the city. It would spread, just as the smoke and fire would spread. But here at the edges of Palenque, the spirit of revolution had yet to arrive. A single building disgorged a band of Encerrados—horrid twisted little creatures whose mouths were crusted with gore—and the monsters rushed through their human neighbors to get at the escaping Borderkind. Cheval crushed one of them under her hoof with a sound like the bursting of rotten melon. Li stepped forward, fire roaring up from his eyes, and held out both hands. The very air around the little cannibals exploded into flame, charring their flesh instantly.

Cheval Bayard sideswiped a huge serpent. It coiled around her legs and brought her hard to the ground. Blue Jay would have gone to her aid, but Leicester Grindylow arrived before him, swinging a stolen battle axe with ruthless abandon. Grin had once been a sweet, amiable fellow, but in these past weeks a darkness had come into his eyes. The water boggart hacked the serpent’s head off and helped Cheval to her feet. She neighed and tossed her head, and he took that as a signal, grabbing hold of her mane and throwing one leg over to sit astride her back. They charged together along the widening cobblestone street.

Blue Jay saw it all.

He lagged back, letting others take the lead, so he could keep close to Oliver and Julianna, who were still on horseback. A pair of soldiers—some kind of city guard—came from an alley toward the exodus. Blue Jay spun, dancing in a swift circle that lifted him from his feet. He whirled around, summoning mystic wings that blurred the air beneath his outspread arms. When the soldiers tried to attack him, his wings sliced through bone and meat and muscle, severing reaching hands. With a final twist, he swept his wings out and cut off their heads.

Savage, but swift, and right now quickness was the only thing that mattered. Though he was a trickster, Blue Jay did not have a callous heart. He grieved for these men, who likely had no idea they were following the commands of Atlantis, but this had become a war. In war, death decided the outcome.

Blue Jay stepped up into the air, riding the wind and transforming into a bird. Wings spread, the little bird rose higher and circled above the running melee below. As they’d stampeded through the labyrinthine streets, they had attracted both rebels and crown loyalists. Lost Ones fought one another in the ripple current of their passing. Blood splashed the cobblestones.

Jaguar-men and the vampiric, serpentine Pihuechenyi shoved and slithered and leaped through the crowds to reach the legends who dared to try to stanch the flow of the rebellion that carried Oliver and Julianna toward the city’s edge. Other Yucatazcan Borderkind had joined them. Back toward the center of the city, the blue bird saw the pillars of fire rising into the air, still pluming black smoke. The turmoil continued, and would spread. Suspicion had run rampant long before he and his comrades had arrived to foment rebellion. All they had done was set a match to the fuse. Their work here was done.

He soared higher, dipped a wing and wheeled around to see that they were only one curve in the road away from the outer limit of Palenque. Beyond the city’s edge there was a long stretch of grassland and—past that—nothing but jungle and mountains.

“Bastards!” Oliver shouted from the saddle, down below.

Blue Jay began to descend and spotted Oliver immediately. He had a sword of his own—no replacement for Hunyadi’s blade, which still hung in the palace—but it would do. A couple of human thugs grabbed hold of Julianna and began to pull her from her saddle. Lost Ones had formed a protective wedge around Oliver’s mount, just trying to get him out of the city. But he spurred the horse past them, and then jumped down into the crowd, sword in hand. On foot, now, he went after the thugs who were dragging Julianna into the midst of the fray.

Panic shot through Blue Jay. They’d gone through too much for Oliver to be killed now. Much as he hated to admit it, the symbolic victory Ty’Lis would achieve if the Legend-Born were killed was too much too allow. It didn’t matter that Collette still lived, somewhere. Blue Jay counted Oliver as a friend, but more than that was at stake.

He darted toward the ground, wind whipping his feathers as he pinned his wings back. Fifteen feet above the heads of the crowd, he transformed again from bird to man. Dancing in the air, he dropped down into the chaos.

Even as he did, Blue Jay saw Julianna grab a fistful of the long hair of one of her attackers. She drove her forehead into his nose, yanking him toward her by his scalp. The unwashed warrior staggered back, hands going to his bleeding, broken nose, and Julianna drop-kicked him in the groin.

She spun, ready to face the other.

Oliver reached her then, stepping between her and the potbellied man. The fool laughed and raised a cudgel in one hand. Oliver slashed the man’s arm, severing tendons and breaking bone, then turned the tip of the sword and followed through with a lunge that drove the blade through the man’s right shoulder even before his cudgel could hit the ground.

Blue Jay whipped through a small group of Lost Ones and a pair of creatures who looked like knotted masses of black seaweed, their tentacles whipping at his face. Blood and green ichor flew into the air as his mystical wings cut them down. The trickster no longer hesitated.

“Well done,” he said as he stepped up to Oliver and Julianna.

“How much further?” Julianna asked, her voice sharp.

“One more turn.”

Oliver brandished his sword, keeping a black, wraithlike creature at bay. “Let’s go,” he said, and then they were off again, rushing along as though carried on the current of a swift river.

Blue Jay let out a battle cry. The other Borderkind who heard it might not have known the significance, but they recognized his voice and picked up their pace. They were breaking free now, the flow of the exodus too powerful to be contained in this one street.

“You know what I noticed?” Oliver said, glancing at Blue Jay as he ran. “No Perytons. No Atlantean giants.”

“Yeah. Good for us. But bad for Hunyadi, I think. Atlantis has sent its worst against Euphrasia.”

Oliver had no reply for that but his dark determination turned even more grim. They fought together to the next turn in the road. Another fire had started behind them, likely thanks to Li. The burning man had left a trail of charred and flaming corpses behind them. Blue Jay caught sight of him several times with Grin and Cheval. They had become almost like family to him by now, and he worried for them.

When they rounded the corner, the opposition began to break up. At the end of the road—at the edge of the city—a single person stood in their path. Even from a distance she was beautiful, her long red hair flowing around her shoulders and down her back. Her dress seemed like little more than a thin shift. Sunlight streamed around her, silhouetting her body.

“What the hell is she?” Julianna asked.

Blue Jay grinned. “She’s a friend. Keep running!”

When they passed between a pair of three-story whitewashed apartment buildings that marked the end of the street, the red-haired woman before them spread her arms wide. Blue Jay grabbed Oliver and Julianna and held them back.

“Give her room.”

Fighting, trudging, marching, running, the others came on behind them—friend and foe alike. But then a brilliant yellow light exploded from the eyes of the woman who blocked their path. Blue Jay threw up a hand to shield his eyes. When the brilliance had receded enough that he could lower his hand, he saw the bird of light on the road ahead of them.

“Alicanto!” a voice cried out in alarm.

“You said she was a friend!” Oliver told him.

Blue Jay nodded. “She is. We’re done here. Let’s go.”

Again he issued a battle cry and they rushed forward, moving past the treasure bird. Blue Jay had met Alicanto only once. She did not visit the human world often, but she was Borderkind.

Cheval galloped past him with Grin astride her back. Li rode his tiger. Jaguar-men and other Yucatazcan Borderkind followed. He saw Ahuizotl, the little monkey-dog who had proven both loyal and resourceful. They flooded out of the city along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Lost Ones, but their enemies halted and then returned to the city, terrified of facing the primal elemental force of Alicanto.

Julianna’s legs ached, her muscles burned, and her throat was parched, but she kept running. Her fingers were wrapped around a long wooden staff that she barely remembered picking up. It had a blade on either end, almost like a rifle bayonet. Her auburn hair blew in the wind, whipping wildly across her face, and she knew she had been bruised and battered by running the gauntlet of Palenque’s streets.

But they were out.

She whooped loudly, exultant, and turned to Oliver with a grin on her face. His free hand reached for hers and she took it. How had their lives come to this—lovers racing along a hard-packed dirt road with a city of legends behind them, he with a sword in one hand and she carrying that strange, double-bladed stick?

“You’re laughing,” Oliver said, his eyes shining bright.

Julianna hadn’t realized it, but now she laughed harder. Her long legs stretched and she felt like some wild gazelle as she ran.

“We’re out!”

Oliver only smiled. With his scruffy beard and sinewy body, he looked almost like an entirely different man. Julianna had loved him when he had only been ordinary Oliver Bascombe, but he looked like a warrior now, formidable in ways neither of them could ever have imagined. She felt some of this same change within herself, too—and though it frightened her, she also relished it.

This world would never be home. But with Oliver, she could endure. She had always prided herself on her intelligence and the strength of her heart, and if she had to live in the Two Kingdoms, none of that would change. They were in the midst of war, and for the first time she understood that it was her war just as much as it was anyone’s. Julianna Whitney was one of the Lost Ones.

“What’s going on?” Oliver called to Blue Jay, who ran along beside them, braided hair swaying, the feathers that had been missing before now magically returned, tied there where they belonged.

“What do you mean?” the trickster asked.

“The bird, Jay,” Oliver said. “If she’s on our side, why didn’t she help us before?”

“Alicanto won’t enter Palenque, but now that we’re out of the city, she won’t let any of them follow.”

Julianna glanced over her shoulder and saw that he was right. Surprised, she surveyed the sky, thinking an attack might come from there.

“Seriously?” she asked. “Nobody’s going to chase us?”

“Not right away,” Blue Jay replied.

She let go of Oliver’s hand, her weapon becoming heavy. She shouldered it as though it were a baseball bat. “Then why are we still running?”

Blue Jay laughed, leaped and twisted in the air, then came down, still running. “Why? Don’t you want to run?”