Home > The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3)(9)

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3)(9)
Author: Holly Black

At least no one is privy to my thoughts. Stupid as they are, they remain my own.

Inside, Heather and Vivi are standing in a corner of the kitchen near the coffeepot, having an intense conversation that I don’t want to disturb. At least they’re finally talking. That’s one good thing. I head into Oak’s room, where the few clothes I have are shoved in the bottom drawer of his dresser. Taryn follows, frowning.

“I’m going to take a shower,” I tell her. “And smear some ointment on myself. You’re going to make me some magical healing yarrow tea from the kitchen. Then I’ll be ready to hear your confession.”

“Let me help you out of that,” Taryn says with an exasperated shake of her head when I’m about to object. “You have no squire.”

“Nor any armor for her to polish,” I say, but I don’t fight when she lifts my shirt over sore limbs. It’s stiff with blood, and I wince when she tugs it free. I inspect my cuts for the first time, raw and red and puffy. I suspect Grima Mog of not keeping her knife as clean as I’d like.

Taryn turns on the shower, adjusting the taps and then guiding me over the tub’s edge to stand in the warming spray. Being sisters, we’ve seen each other naked a bajillion times over the years, but as her gaze goes to the messy scar on my leg, I recall she’s never seen it before.

“Vivi said something,” Taryn says slowly. “About the night before my wedding. You were late, and when you came, you were quiet and pale. Sick. I worried it was because you still loved him, but Vivi insists that isn’t true. She says you got hurt.”

I nod. “I remember that night.”

“Did Locke … do something?” She isn’t looking at me now. Her gaze is on the tiles, then on a framed drawing Oak did of Heather, brown crayon for her skin bleeding into pink for her hair.

I grab the body wash that Vivi buys at the organic store, the one that’s supposed to be naturally antibacterial, and smear it liberally over the dried blood. It smells bleachy and stings like hell. “You mean, did he try to kill me?”

Taryn nods. I catch her eye. She already knows the answer. “Why didn’t you say something? Why did you let me marry him?” she demands.

“I didn’t know,” I admit. “I didn’t know it was Locke who’d led a hunt for me until I saw you wearing the earrings I lost that night. And then I got taken by the Undersea. And soon after I got back, you betrayed me, so I figured it didn’t matter.”

Taryn frowns, clearly torn between the urge to argue and an effort to stay quiet to win me over. A moment later, arguing triumphs. We’re twins, after all. “I just did what Dad said! I didn’t think it mattered. You had all that power and you wouldn’t use it. But I never wanted to hurt you.”

“I think I prefer Locke and his friends chasing me around the woods to you stabbing me in the back. Again.”

I can see her visibly stopping herself from saying anything more, taking a breath, biting her tongue. “I’m sorry,” she says, and slips out of the bathroom, leaving me to finish my shower alone.

I turn up the heat and take a long time.


When I come out, Heather has left, and Taryn has gone through the fridge and constructed some kind of nervous-energy tea party out of our leftovers. A big pot of tea sits at the center of the table, along with a smaller pot of the yarrow. She has taken our last half sleeve of gingersnap cookies and arranged them on a tray. Our bread got turned into two kinds of sandwiches: ham and celery, peanut butter and Cheerios.

Vivi is brewing a pot of coffee and watching Taryn with a worried expression. I pour myself a mug of the healing tea and drink it down, then pour myself another. Clean, bandaged, and dressed in new clothes, I feel a lot more clearheaded and ready to deal with the news that Locke is dead and that my twin sister murdered him.

I pick up a ham sandwich and take a bite. The celery is crunchy and a little weird, but not bad. Suddenly, I am aware of how hungry I am. I shove the rest of the sandwich into my mouth and pile two more onto a plate.

Taryn wrings her hands, pressing them together and then against her dress. “I snapped,” she says. Neither Vivi nor I speak. I try to crunch my celery more quietly.

“He promised he would love me until he died, but his love didn’t protect me from his unkindness. He warned me that the Folk don’t love as we do. I didn’t understand until he left me alone in his great, awful house for weeks on end. I cultivated hybrid roses in the garden and commissioned new curtains and hosted month-long revels for his friends. It didn’t matter. I was sometimes louche and sometimes chaste. I gave him everything. But he said that all the story had gone out of me.”

I raise my eyebrows. That was an awful thing for him to say, but not necessarily what I expected to be his last words. “I guess you showed him.”

Vivi laughs abruptly and then glares at me for making her laugh.

Taryn’s eyelashes sparkle with unshed tears. “I guess so,” she says in a flat, dull voice that I find hard to interpret. “I tried to explain how things had to change—they had to—but he acted as though I was being ridiculous. He kept talking, as if he could talk me out of my own feelings. There was a jeweled letter opener on the desk and—you remember all those lessons Madoc gave us? The next thing I knew, the point of it was in Locke’s throat. And then he was finally quiet, but when I took it out, there was so much blood.”

“So you didn’t mean to kill him?” Vivi asks.

Taryn doesn’t answer.

I get what it feels like to shove things down for long enough that they erupt. I also get what it’s like to shove a knife in somebody. “It’s okay,” I say, not sure if that’s true.

She turns to me. “I thought we were nothing alike, you and I. But it turns out we’re just the same.”

I don’t think she believes that to be a good thing.

“Where’s his body now?” I ask, trying to focus on the practical. “We need to get rid of it and—”

Taryn shakes her head. “His body was already discovered.”

“How? What did you do?” Before, I was frustrated she came to ask for help, but now I’m annoyed she didn’t come sooner, when I could have taken care of this.

“I dragged his body down to the waves. I thought the tide would carry him away, but he just washed up again on another beach. At least, um, at least some of him was chewed. It was harder for them to tell how he died.” She looks at me helplessly, as though she still can’t conceive how any of this is happening to her. “I’m not a bad person.”

I take a sip of my yarrow tea. “I didn’t say you were.”

“There’s going to be an inquest,” Taryn goes on. “They’re going to glamour me and ask questions. I won’t be able to lie. But if you answer in my place, you can say honestly that you didn’t kill him.”

“Jude is exiled,” Vivi says. “Banished until she gets the crown’s forgiveness or some other high-handed crap. If they catch her, they’ll kill her.”

“It will just be a few hours,” Taryn says, looking from one of us to the other. “And no one will know. Please.”

Vivi groans. “It’s too risky.”

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» Archangel's War
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)
» Fake It 'Til You Break It
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» Sweet Temptation
» Devious Lies (Cruel Crown #1)
» Golden in Death (In Death #50)
» Bringing Down the Duke
» The Burning White
» Credence
» The Toll (Arc of a Scythe)
» Supernova