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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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“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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“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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'Along with some begging on your part. A little light groveling.' He gives me an embarrassed smile. 'My fantasies were rife with overweening ambition.'

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

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I might have grown into something else, a High King as monstrous as Dain. Anf if I did - if I fulfilled that prophecy - I ought to be stopped. And I believe that you would stop me.

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“Seelie and Unseelie, Wild Folk and Shy Folk, I am glad to have you march under my banner, glad of your loyalty, grateful for your honor.” His gaze goes to me. “To you, I offer honey wine and the hospitality of my table. But to traitors and oath breakers, I offer my queen’s hospitality instead. The hospitality of knives.”

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The High King makes a nonchalant gesture. “Jude likes to suppose the worst of both her enemies and her allies. Her reward is occasionally being wrong about us.”

“Hard to remember an occasion of that,” I say to him under my breath.

He lifts a single brow.

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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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