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“Jude, you can't really think I don't know it's you. I knew you from the moment you walked into the brugh.”

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"It was terrifying," he says, "watching you fall. I mean, you're generally terrifying, but I am unused to fearing for you. And then I was furious. I am not sure I have ever been that angry before."

"Mortals are fragile," I say.

"Not you " he says in a way that sounds a little like lament. "You never break."

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“Jude,

Since I cannot imagine there is much in the human lands to interest you, I can only suppose your continued absence in Elfhame is due to me.

I urge you: Come be angry at a nearer distance.

Cardan”

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"Jude never loved Locke" my face feels hot, but my shame is an excellent cover to hide behind.

"She loved someone else. He is the one she'd want dead"

I am pleased to see Cardan flinch.

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“In my most wretched hours, I believe you will never come back.”

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« You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hear those words,” he says. “You don’t want me dead. »

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“Jude,

Not even responding to my missives is ridiculous and beneath you and I hate it.

Cardan”

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"This is my room," he points out, affronted. "And that's my wife."

"So you keep telling everyone," the Bomb says.

"But I am going to take out her stitches, and I don't think you want to watch that."

"Oh, I don't know," I say. "Maybe he'd like to hear me scream."

"I would," Cardan says, standing. "And perhaps one day I will." On the way out, his hand goes to my hair. A light touch, barely there, and then gone.

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"Of course it was a trick. Wasn't that what you said in return ?"

"But that's what you do," Cardan says. "You trick people. Nicasia, Madoc, Balekin, Orlagh. Me. I thought you'd admire me a little for it that I could trick you. I thought you'd be angry, of course, but not quite like this."

I stare at him, openmouthed. "What?"

"Let me remind you that I didn't know you'd murdered my brother, the ambassador to the Undersea, until that very morning," he says. "My plans were made in haste. And perhaps I was a little annoyed. I thought it would pacify Queen Orlagh, at least until all promises were finalized in the treaty. By the time you guessed the answer, the negociations would be over. Think of it: I exile Jude Duarte to the mortal world. Until and unless she is pardoned by the crown." He pauses. "Pardoned by the crown. Meaning by the King of Faerie. Or its queen. You could have returned anytime you wanted."

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The screen door bangs. Then Taryn rushes in front of me, her gown blowing in the morning breeze. If I didn’t know what a real princess of Faerie looked like, I might think she resembled one. For a moment, it seems impossible that we’re related, no less identical.

“What happened to you?” she asks. “You look like you got into a fight.”

I don’t speak. I just keep walking. I am not even sure where I am going, as slow and stiff and sore as I am. Maybe to Bryern. He’ll find me a place to crash, even if I won’t like the price later. Even bunking with Grima Mog would be better than this.

"I need your help,” Taryn says.

"No," I say. “No. Absolutely not. Never. If that’s why you came here, now you’ve got your answer and you can leave.”

"Jude, just hear me out." She walks in front of me, causing me to have to look at her. I glance up and then start to circle around the billowing skirts of her dress.

"Also no." I say. “No, I won’t help you. No, I won’t hear you explain why I should. It really is a magical word: no. You say whatever bullshit you want and I just say no."

"Locke is dead,” she blurts out.

I wheel around. Above us, the sky is bright and blue and clear. Birds call to one another from nearby trees. In the distance, there’s the sound of construction and road traffic. In this moment, the juxtaposition of standing in the mortal world and hearing about the demise of an immortal being — one that I knew, one I kissed — is especially surreal.

“Dead?” It seems impossible, after everything I’ve seen. “Are you sure?”

The night before his wedding, Locke and his friends tried to ride me down like a pack of dogs after a fox. I promised to pay him back for that. If he’s dead, I never will.

Nor will he ever plan another party for the purpose of humiliating Cardan. He won’t laugh with Nicasia nor play Taryn and I against one another again. Maybe I should be relieved, for all the trouble he caused. But I am surprised by feeling grief instead.

Taryn takes a breath, as if steeling herself. "He's dead because I killed him."

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