Home > Beyond the Mountain (Fae's Captive #4)

Beyond the Mountain (Fae's Captive #4)
Author: Lily Archer

1

 

 

Taylor

 

 

If you haven’t read Fae’s Captive, Road to Winter, and Bite of Winter, you’ll want to do that before starting Beyond the Mountain.

 

 

Someone is crying.

I blink my eyes open and find I’m sitting at a long, dark table, my arms bound to a chair, though I see no rope. A cavern soars above me, the roof covered in icy stalactites. I shiver as a cool wind whips by. Turning my head, I see the cave is open on one side. A dark sky glowers beyond the opening, and a wizened, leafless tree grows in the very center of the cavern, its black roots oozing along the stone floor.

The sniffle comes again, but I can’t see anyone. Where am I? The last thing I remember—Gareth bleeding on the ground, Para’s death. Klaxons blare in my mind. I have to get to Gareth. He needs help. I struggle to pull myself free, but my wrists don’t budge.

“No use.” The voice comes from above.

I twist around and peer up between the stalactites. A gasp whooshes out of me. “Cecile!”

She hangs upside down, her long, golden hair flowing, and her hands bound. Someone else hangs beside her, and a creeping sensation tiptoes through my gut as she spins slowly from the chain attached to her ankles. Her arms hang limp, eyes closed—my eyes, my everything—it’s the girl who looked like me. It is me. My mind spins a little, vertigo and nausea rocketing through me.

“Where are we?” I stare up at Cecile as she rotates.

“Gray Mountains. May as well be the Spires.”

“You are fae.” I knew it.

“Of course I am.” She takes the same snotty tone I’ve heard so many times. It’s like resting bitch face, but in her voice.

“Why did you send me here? Who is the one that looks like me? Why are we in the Gray Mountains? What is going on?” I run out of breath on the last question and try to swallow my rising panic.

“Why are we here, you ask?” She cranes her neck back so she can glare at me. “We’re here, Taylor, because you’re a screwup. You had one job. ONE JOB. Serve my father as his changeling slave. But could you do that? No. You fucked that up right out of the gate and—”

“Your father?” I shake my head. “Tyrios was your father?”

Her now-silver eyes narrow. “What do you mean by ‘was’?”

She doesn’t know he’s dead. This is an ‘oh, shit’ moment buried inside another ‘oh, shit’ moment all tied with a ‘we’re screwed’ bow.

“Leander!” I scream in my mind, but the link between us seems almost severed, a dead end where there was a vibrant highway before. What could make the bond feel this way? Is he … I can’t think about that. Leander is strong. He’s fine. But if I can’t escape this cave, I won’t be.

“Your father doesn’t matter. We need to get out of here.” Something tickles across my consciousness, echoing the word ‘father’ back to me. What had Cenet said to me before he put me to sleep?

“We need to get out of here,” Cecile mimics my voice. Poorly. “You think?” She rattles the chains at her wrists. “This is iron. My skin is on fire, I’m upside down, and you are saying stupid things as usual. And all of this is your fault. Do you have any idea what sort of trouble you’ve caused me? I’m supposed to be partying with the …” She blathers on.

I grit my teeth. I took her crap for far too long back on earth. But now? Now, things are different.

“Cecile!” I snap. “Shut your mouth for once in your life and listen.”

She stops talking, her mouth hanging open.

“We need to get gone before someone comes. I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to make it out of here in one piece if we don’t escape. So, unless you want to be torn apart, tortured, or straight-up sent to the Spires, why don’t you pull your head out of your ass and work on getting free?”

She blinks, her expression so surprised it’s as if I’ve slapped her. And I suppose I have. No one talks to Cecile that way. At least, no one did. Oh boy, the times, they are a-changing.

The more she gawks at me, the higher my anger rises. “And how dare you blame me? You’re the reason I’m here in the first place. Why? Why the hell did you send me here?”

She glances at the other me, her eyes softening just a bit. Just enough for me to understand.

“For her?” I look up at me, I mean her, a bruise on her forehead and her skin pale.

“She’s my friend.” Cecile’s voice is almost a whisper now, and there’s a tremor in it. Before, she was running on empty bravado. But now I see her clearly. She’s afraid. But not for herself. For my twin. “The only friend I’ve ever had. She was stuck here with my father.” She swallows hard, and I suspect she knows just what sort of fae her father was. “And he sent me to earth to keep us separated. But then I saw a chance to make the exchange between you two, so I took it.”

More questions surface, but we don’t have time. Not now. When we get out of here, I intend to sit her down and ask her everything.

I try to twist my wrists out of their invisible shackles even though it causes Leander’s bite on my shoulder to ache and burn. A frustrated cry rips from me, and I have to force myself to stop fighting. I need to think. What tools do I have? I glance up at Cecile again, her long hair hiding her face. “Let’s focus on blowing this taco stand, okay? What sort of powers do you have?”

“I don’t have magic,” she says quietly.

“No talents, no nothing?”

“I have a talent, but it won’t help.”

“Why? What is it?”

She shrugs. “I can … keep things alive.”

“Huh?”

“You know that plant you brought home from the greenhouse and put on our windowsill?”

“Yeah.” I have a green thumb. That little houseplant flourished under my care.

“It would have died ten times over if I didn’t save it.”

“That’s not true.” Pride, thou art gravely wounded. “I’m great with plants.”

“Maybe, but you aren’t great with paying attention to plants when you’re busy doing your nerd stuff. You didn’t water it and left it to bake in the windowsill.” She shakes her head, her hair flying. “But I kept it going just for fun. Or really, just to troll you into thinking you were any good at houseplants.”

“So you can heal, too?”

“No. It’s just a talent, something small I can do. It’s not infused with full magic, not powerful enough to work on much more than that small plant.”

“Look, not to brag, but I just saved the Vundi’s entire farming system, so maybe it wasn’t your magic that—”

“Stow it.” Her petulance is back in full force. “Accept I’m better than you at plants, and everything else, and get me down from here.”

I grumble a few choice words about the clearly lying louse hanging above me, then ask, “What about the other me? What is she? Does she have powers?”

“She’s a human. No powers.”

“A human?” I never considered for a moment that my creepy twin was a human like me.

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