Home > The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3)(8)

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3)(8)
Author: Holly Black

Heather takes a deep breath. “Vee told me that she grew up here, before your parents were murdered. I’m sorry to even mention it, but I know she’s messed up about it. I mean, of course she is. Anyone would be.” She takes a breath. She’s waiting to see how I react.

I think about her words as I sit on the stairs, bruises coming up beside sluggishly bleeding slashes. Anyone would be. Nope, not me, not messed up at all.

I remember a much younger Vivi, who was furious all the time, who screamed and broke whatever she touched. Who slapped me every time I let Madoc hold me in the crook of his arm. Who seemed as though she would bring down his entire hall with her rage. But that was so long ago. We all gave in to our new life; it was just a matter of when.

I don’t say any of that. Heather takes a shaky breath. “The thing is, I wonder if she’s, you know, playing house with me. Pretending her life went the way she wanted. Pretending she never found out who she was and where she was from.”

I reach out and take Heather’s hand. “Vivi stayed so long in Faerie for me and Taryn,” I say. “She didn’t want to be there. And the reason she finally left was because of you. Because she loved you. So yeah, Vivi took the easy way out in not explaining stuff. She should definitely have told you the truth about Faerie. And she should have never, ever used magic on you, even if it was out of panic. But now you know. And I guess you have to decide if you can forgive her.”

She starts to say something, then stops herself. “Would you?” she asks finally.

“I don’t know,” I say, looking at my knees. “I am not a very forgiving person these days.”

Heather stands. “Okay. You rested. Now get up. You need to go inside and take a bath in Neosporin. You probably should see a doctor, but I know what you’re going to say about that.”

“You’re right,” I say. “Right about everything. No doctor.” I roll onto my side to try to push myself to my feet, and when Heather comes over to help me, I let her. I even lean my weight on her as we limp together to the door. I have given up on being proud. As Bryern reminded me, I am no one special.

Heather and I go together through the kitchen, past the table with Oak’s cereal bowl sitting on it, still half-full of pink milk. Two empty coffee mugs rest beside a box of Froot Loops. I note the number of mugs before my brain gives meaning to that detail. Just as Heather helps me into the living room, I realize we must have a guest.

Vivi is sitting on the couch. Her face lights up when she sees Heather. She looks at her like someone who just stole a giant’s magnificent talking harp and knows consequences are on the horizon but can’t bring herself to care. My gaze goes to the person beside her, sitting primly in a fanciful Elfhame court dress of gossamer and spun glass. My twin sister, Taryn.



A drenaline floods my body, despite my stiffness and soreness and bruises. I’d like to put my hands around Taryn’s neck and squeeze until her head pops off.

Vivi stands, maybe because of my murderous look, but probably because Heather is right beside me.

“You,” I say to my twin. “Get out.”

“Wait,” Taryn says, standing, too. “Please.” Now we’re all up, looking at one another across the small living room as though we’re about to brawl.

“There’s nothing I want to hear out of your lying mouth.” I’m glad to have a target for all the feelings Grima Mog and Heather stirred up. A deserving target. “Get out, or I’ll throw you out.”

“This is Vivi’s apartment,” Taryn counters.

“This is my apartment,” Heather reminds us. “And you’re hurt, Jude.”

“I don’t care! And if you all want her here, then I can go!” With that, I turn and force myself to walk back to the door and down the stairs.

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 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 that I kissed—is especially surreal.

“Dead?” It seems impossible, even 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 chasing 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 me against each other 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.”

I shake my head, as though that’s going to help me understand what she’s saying. “What?”

She looks more embarrassed than anything else, as though she were confessing to some kind of dumb accident instead of to murdering her husband. I am uncomfortably reminded of Madoc, standing over three screaming children a moment after cutting down their parents, surprise on his face. As though he hadn’t quite meant for it to go so far. I wonder if that’s how Taryn feels.

I knew I’d grown up to be more like Madoc than I was comfortable with, but I never thought she and he were anything alike.

“And I need you to pretend to be me,” she finishes, with no apparent worry that suggesting the very trick that allowed Madoc to march off with half of Cardan’s army, the very trick that doomed me to agreeing to the plan that got me exiled, is in poor taste. “Just for a few hours.”

“Why?” I start, and then realize I am not being clear. “Not the pretending part. I mean, why did you kill him?”

She takes a breath, then looks back at the apartment. “Come inside, and I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you everything. Please, Jude.”

I look toward the apartment and reluctantly admit to myself I have nowhere else to go. I don’t want to go to Bryern. I want to go back inside and rest in my own bed. And despite being exhausted, I can’t deny that the prospect of sneaking into Elfhame as Taryn has an unsettling appeal. The very thought of being there, of seeing Cardan, speeds my heart.

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