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#how the king of elfhame learned to hate stories
JURDAN BEST QUOTES
JUDE DUARTE AND CARDAN GREENBRIAR- THEIR STORY
#couplegoals
Jude: If I cannot be better than them, I will become so much worse.
Cardan: If he thought I was bad, I would be so much worse.
 “My sweet villain.”
“My darling god.”
“My sweet nemesis.”
 “I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.”( TCP)----- “And when he kisses me, I feel as though I can finally breathe again.” ( TQON)
“She loved someone else. He’s the one she’s want dead.”( TQON Beginning)------- “ You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hear those words. You don’t want me dead.”( TQON)
 “Prince Cardan will be your last born child. He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne. Only out of his spilled blood can a great ruler rise, but not before what I have told you comes to pass.“
  “Let me tell you a story…Once upon a time, there was a boy with a clever tongue. Perhaps he had reasons to be awful, perhaps he was born bad, but no matter . None of it gave him much pleasure, so he went to the woods and begged a troll woman to turn his heart to stone. He was angry. And a fool. Thereafter he could neither pleasure nor pain, not fear nor hope. At first, it seemed like the blessing he had supposed it would be. But as the evening came, the boy was aware of the strangeness of feeling nothing at all. He had begged for the heart of stone, but for the first time, he felt the weight of it in his chest. He wondered if he ought to be afraid of what was to come. He wondered if there was something profoundly wrong with him that he could not. Though his heart was as hard and cold as ever, he wondered what he would feel if it were not.” ( HowTheKingOfElfhameLearnedToHateStories)
 “Let me guess. They marry and live happily ever after, and the meaning of this tale is that love redeems us.”- “You don’t think monster girls and wicked boys deserve love?” ( HTKOELTHS)
 “Is this a story about people getting what they deserve?”- “Everyone finds different lessons in stories, I suppose, but here’s one: Having a heart is terrible, but you need one anyway. It doesn’t matter if the boy with the heart of stone was the villain. It doesn’t matter if he got what he deserved. No one’s heart has to remain stone.” (HTKOELTHS)
 BEST ONES:
 “ We’re all trapped in cages, little sprite,” he told her. “How can I free you when I can’t even free myself? “ ( The Lament Of Lutie-Loo- The Modern Faerie Tales)
“ The odd curve of her ear was what he had noticed first. A roundness echoed in her cheeks and her mouth. Then it was the way her body looked solid, as though meant to take up space and weight in the world. When she moved, she left behind footprints in the forest floor. Because she didn’t know how to glide silently, to disturb no leaf or branch. He felt smug to see how bad she was at even such an easy thing. It was only later that it disturbed him to think back on the shape of her boot in the soil, as though she was the only real thing in a land of ghosts.(HTKOELTHS)
“At the sound of the horse’s hoofbeats, a few got to their feet. -“Ha!” he shouted at them as they scattered. He chased after several, then veered widdershins to run down others who’d thought themselves safe. Another laugh bubbled up. A few more turns and he spotted Nicasia, standing beside Locke, sheltered beneath the canopy of a tree. Nicasia looked horrified. But Locke couldn’t hide his utter delight at this turn of events. Whatever flame lived inside Cardan, it burned only hotter and brighter. “Lessons are suspended for the afternoon, by royal whim,” he announced.- “Your Highness,” said one of his tutors, “your father—”- “Is the High King,” Cardan finished for him, pulling on the reins and pressing with his thighs so the horse advanced. “Which makes me the prince. And you one of my subjects.”- “A prince,” he heard someone say under her breath. He glanced over to see the Duarte girls. Taryn was clutching her twin sister’s hand so hard that her nails were dug into Jude’s skin. He was certain she wasn’t the one who’d spoken. He turned his gaze on Jude. Curls of brown hair hung to her shoulders. She was dressed in a russet wool doublet over a skirt that showed a pair of practical brown boots. One of her hands was at her hip, touching her belt, as though she thought he might draw the weapon sheathed there. The idea was hilarious. He certainly hadn’t buckled on a sword in preparation for coming here. He wasn’t even sure he could stay standing long enough to swing, and he had only beaten her when he was sober because she let him. Jude looked up at him, and in her eyes, he recognized a hate big enough and wide enough and deep enough to match his own. A hate you could drown in like a vat of wine. -  Too late to hide it, she lowered her head in the pretense of deference. Impossible, Cardan thought. What had she to be angry about, she who had been given everything he was denied? Perhaps he had imagined it. Perhaps he wanted to see his reflection on someone else’s face and had perversely chosen hers. With a whoop, he rode in her direction, just to watch her and her sister run. Just to show her that if she did hate him, her hatred was as impotent as his own.” (HTKOELTHS)
  “ “ Locke’s taken one of the mortal girls as his lover.”- “Which one? Which mortal girl?” It shouldn’t mater. The human girls were insignificant. Nothing.” (HTKOELTHS)
“It wasn’t until he was glaring down at Jude, standing waist deep in river water, fighting the current, that he realized he was in trouble. He was the one who’d retreated. He was the one who’d backed down.“ (HTKOELTHS)
“He couldn’t rid his thoughts of her. Not the hatred in her eyes. She ought to be nothing. She ought to be insignificant. He had to make her no matter. But every night, Jude haunted him. It was too much, the way he thought of her. He knew it was too much, but he couldn’t stop. It disgusted him that he couldn’t stop.” (HTKOELTHS)
“I am no murderer,”
“Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude.. (..) “
“I am going to keep on defying you. I am going to shame you with my defiance. “
“You really do hate me. Don’t you?”- “Almost as much as you hate me.”
“Most of all, I hate you because I think of you. Often. It's disgusting, and I can't stop.”
“Sweet Jude, you’re my dearest punishment”
“ “ You believe I planned your humiliation?” He laughs. „ Me? That sounds like work.”
 “For a moment,” he says, “I wondered if it wasn’t you shooting bolts at me.”- I make a face at him. “And what made you decide it wasn’t?” He grins up at me. “They missed.”
 “ The disturbing thing about Cardan is how well he plays the fool to disguise his own cleverness. “
“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”
“If you’re the sickness, I suppose you can’t also be the cure.”
“I want to tell you so many lies”
“Tell me that you hate me, Jude.”
“And the single last thing in my head: that I like him better than I've ever liked anyone and that of all the things he's ever done to me, making me like him so much is by far the worst.”
 “He stares and stares as though he could see down to the depths where Jude is being held as though he could see into the hearts of those holding her, to find a way to hurt them so dearly they would be forced to let her go free. “ (TheWickedKing Deleted Scenes ( Barnes&Noble Edition) )
 “Marry me,” he says. “Become the Queen of Elfhame.”
“I, Cardan, son of Eldred, High King of Elfhame, take you, Jude Duarte, mortal ward of Madoc, to be my bride and my queen. Let us be wed until we wish for it to be otherwise and the crown has passed from our hands.”
“I exile Jude Duarte to the mortal world. Until and unless she is pardoned by the crown, let her not step one foot in Faerie or forfeit her life.”
 “I urge you: Come be angry at nearer distance.”
“You are in no mood for games. Very well. I am in no mood for them, either. Let me write is outright: you are pardoned. I revoke your banishment. I rescind my words. Come home. Come home and shout at me. Come home and fight with me. Come home and break my heart, if you must. Just come home.”
“And yet my heart is buried with you in the strange soil of the mortal world, as it was drowned with you in the cold waters of the undersea. It was yours before I could admit it, and yours it shall ever remain.”
„ As you wish. Then I suppose I will have to examine you alone in my chambers.”
„ If I am undressed, he will know me.”
” Jude, you can’t really think I don’t know it’s you. I knew you from the moment you walked into the brugh.”
„Cardan steps in front of me, pulling his cloak up. The metal needles glance off the fabric, falling to the floor. For a moment, we stare at each other, wide-eyed. He looks as surprised as I am that he protected me.”
„Do not touch her. She is my wife, The rightful High Queen of Elfhame. And most definitely not in exile.”
  „It was terrifying, 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 a lament.” You never break.”
 „Well, I was hurt, and yes, you scare me. You’ve always scared me. You gave me every reason to fear your capriciousness and your cruelty. I was afraid of you even when you were tied to that chair in the Court of Shadows. I was afraid of you when I had a knife to your throat. And I am scared of you now. You despised me. When you said you wanted me, it felt like the world had turned upside down... But sending me into exile, that made sense. That was an entirely right-side-up Cardan move. And I hated myself for not seeing it coming. And I hate myself for not seeing what you’re going to do to me next.”
„ This is my room. And that’s my wife.”- „So you keep telling to 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.”
„I witnessed Cardan’s being whipped by a human servant at Balekin’s direction. I am sure far worse things happened there, although he has never spoken of them. I rub my thumb over the stub of my missing finger top, bitten off by the one of Madoc’s guards, and realize abruptly that if I told Cardan about it, he might understand. Maybe more than anyone, he’d comprehend the odd mingling of fear and shame I feel- even now- when I think of it. For all our conflicts, there are moments when we understand each other entirely too well.”
“Maybe it isn’t the worst thing to want to be loved, even if you’re not. Even if it hurts. Maybe being human isn’t always being weak. Maybe it was the shame that was the problem.”
“ I recall going to the low Court encampments after Balekin and Madoc’s coup, trying to persuade the lords and ladies and lieges of Faerie to ally with me. It was Cardan who told me which of them to approach, Cardan who gave me enough information about each for me to guess how to best convince them. If anyone can get me through tonight, it’s him.”
„You didn’t come to bed last night”- „I am here now.”
„Is this how you pictured my eventual surrender?”- „Along with some begging on your part. A little light groveling.” He gives me an embarrassed smile.” My fantasies were rife with overweening ambition.”
“Mock me all you like. Whatever I imagined then, now it is I who would beg and grovel for a kind word from your lips. By you, I am forever undone.”
„We have lived in our armor for so long, you and I. And now I am not sure if either of us knows how to remove it.”- „Is this another riddle? And if I answer it, will you go back to kissing me?”
„Madoc says you will duel for love.”- “It’s you I love,” he says.” I spend much of my life guarding my heart. I guarded it so well that I could behave as though I didn’t have one at all. Even now, it is a shabby, worm-eaten, and scabrous thing. But it is yours.” He walks to the door to the royal chambers, as though to end the conversation.” You probably guessed as much,” he says. “But just in case you didn’t.”
 „Please,” I say to the dirt floor of the brugh, to earth itself. „I will do whatever you want. I will give up the crown. I will make any bargain. Just please fix him. Help me break the curse.”
„ I think about how much cleverer the Bomb is than I am, because when she had her chance, she took it. She told him how she felt. I failed to tell Cardan. And now I never can.”
„What I want is him back, him standing beside me, him laughing at all this. I would settle for even his worst self, his cruelest trickster self, if only he could be here. I think of Cardan’s words in the brugh, before he destroyed the crown: neither loyalty nor love should be compelled. He was right. Of course he was right. And yet, I want the bridle.”
„With my whole heart, I wish Cardan was here. (..) I lift my goblet, and all around, goblets and glasses and horns are raised. „Let us drink to Cardan, our High King, who sacrificed himself for his people.”
„Do you remember the servants that Balekin had? The human servants? ”I nod mutely. Of course I remember. I will never forget Sophie and her pockets full of stones.” They’d go missing sometimes, and there were rumors that Cardan hurt them, but it wasn’t true. He’d return them to the mortal world. ”I admit, I’m surprised.- „Why?”- „I don’t know! Perhaps to annoy his brother. But you’re human, so I thought you’d like that he did it. And he sent you a gown. For the coronation. ”I remember it- the ball gown in the colors of night, with the stark outlines of trees stitched on it and the crystal for stars. A thousand times more beautiful than the dress I commissioned.”
„Cardan, It’s Jude. Jude. You like me, remember? You trust me.” The serpent explodes into motion, sliding fast over the grass in my direction, closing the distance between us. Soldiers scatter. Horses rear up. Toads hop into the shelter of the forest, ignoring their riders. Kelpies run for the sea. I lift the bridle, having nothing else in my hands to defend myself with. I prepare to throw. But the serpent pauses perhaps ten feet from where I am standing, winding around itself. Looking at me with those gold- tipped eyes. I tremble all over. My pals sweat. I know what I must do if I want to vanquish my enemies, but I no longer want to do it. This close to the serpent, I can think only of the bridle sinking into Cardan’s skin, of his being trapped forever. (..)I take another step toward the serpent. And then another. This close, I am stunned all over again by the creature’s sheer size. I raise a wary hand and place it against the black scales. They feel dry and cool against my skin. Its golden eyes have no answer, but I think of Cardan lying beside me on the floor of the royal rooms. I think of his quicksilver smile. I think of how he would hate to be trapped like this. How unfair it would be for me to keep him this way and call it love. „I do love you, ”I whisper. „I will always love you.” I tuck the golden bridle into my belt. Two paths are before me, but only one leads to a victory. But I don’t want to win like this. Perhaps I will never live without fear, perhaps power will slip from my grasp, perhaps the pain of losing him will hurt more than I can bear. And yet, if I love him, there’s only one choice.”
„The blade falls, cutting through scales, through flesh and bone. Then the serpent’s head is at my feet, golden eyes dulling. Blood is everywhere. The body of the serpent gives a terrible coiling shudder, then goes limp. I sheath Heartsworn with trembling hands. I am shaking all over, shaking so hard that  fall to my knees in the blackened grass, in the carpet of blood. I hear Lord Jarel shout something at me, but I can’t hear it. I think I might be screaming.”
„Cardan takes a step forward, and little cracks appear from his footfalls. Fissures in the very earth. He speaks with a boom that echoes through everyone gathered there.- „The curse is broken. The king is returned.” He’s every bit as terrifying as any serpent. I don’t care. I run into his arms. Cardan’s fingers dig into my back. He’s trembling, and whether it is from ebbing magic of horror, I am not sure. But he hold me as though I am the only solid thing in the world.”
„I haven’t worn anything in days, I don’t see why I ought to start now.”- „Modesty?” I force out, playing along, surprised he can joke about the curse, or anything. He gives me a dazzling, insouciant smile. The kind of smile you can hide behind.- „Every part of me is a delight.” My chest hurts, looking at him. I feel like I can’t breathe. Through he is in front of me, the pain of losing him hasn’t faded.”
„„I don’t know what to apologize for first. Cutting off your head or hesitating so long to do it. I didn’t want to lose what little there was left of you. And I can’t quite think past how wondrous it is that you’re alive.”- „You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hear those words. You don’t want me dead.”- „If you joke about this, I am going to-”- „Kill me?””
„I let go of him and remain standing. I promised myself I would do this, if I ever had the chance again. I promised I would do this the first moment I could. „I love you,” I say, the words coming out in an unintelligible rush. Cardan looks taken aback. Or possibly I spoke so fast he’s not even sure what I said.- „You need not say it out of pity,” he says finally, with great deliberateness.” Or because I was under a curse. I have asked you to lie to me in the past, in this very room, but I would beg you not to lie now.” My cheeks heat at the memory of those lies.” I have not made myself easy to love,” he says. (..) - „I first started liking you when we went to talk to the rulers of the low Court. You were funny, which was weird. And when we went to Hollow Hall, you were clever. I kept remembering how you’d been the one to get us out of the brugh after Dain’s coronation, right before I put that knife to your throat. After I tricked you into being the High King, I thought once you hated me, I could go back to hating you. But I didn’t. And I felt so stupid. I thought I would get my heart broken. I thought it was a weakness that you would use against me. But then you saved me from the Undersea when it would have been much more convenient to just leave me to rot. After that, I started to hope my feelings were returned. But then there was the exile-”I take a ragged breath.” I hid a lot, I guess. I thought if I didn’t, if I let myself love you, I would burn up like a match. Like the whole matchbox.”- „But now you’ve explained it. And you do love me.”- „I love you,”.- „Because I am clever and funny,” he says, smiling.” You didn’t mention my handsomeness.”- „Or your deliciousness. Although those are both good qualities.””
„”And you.” He looks at me, his lips curving in something that’s not quite a smile, it’s more and less than that.” I knew little else, but I always knew you.” And when he kisses me, I feel as though I can finally breathe again.”
„„What did you do?” Cardan asks.- „Beat Grimma Mog in a duel,” I say. He looks at me incredulously.-”He ought to have paid you in gold.” That makes me grin as we walk along the sidewalk.”
„ Heather and Vivi have tied up a silvery banner that reads CONGRATULATIONS, NEWLYWEDS! In bright colors. Under it, on the kitchen table, is an ice-cream cake with scattered gummy snakes on it and several bottles of wine. (..) Vivi blows a noisemaker. - „Here,” she says, passing out paper crowns for us to wear.- „This is ridiculous.” I complain, but put mine on. Cardan looks at his reflection in the door of the microwave and adjusts his crown so it’s at an angle. I roll my eyes, and he gives me a quick grin. And my heart hurts a little because we are all together and safe, and if wasn’t something I’d known how to want. And Cardan looks a little shy in the face of all this happiness, as unused to it as I am.”
„Vivi opens pizza boxes and uncorks a bottle of wine. Oak takes out a slice of the prawn pizza and digs in.  I raise a plastic glass. „To family.”- „And Faerieland,” says Taryn, raising hers.- „And pizza,” says Oak.- „And stories,” says Heather.- „And new beginnings,” says Vivi.- Cardan smiles, his gaze on me. „ And scheming great schemes.” To family and Faerieland and pizza and stories and new beginnings and scheming great schemes. I can toast to that.”
 “They are two people who ought to have, by all means, remained enemies forever.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “It’s absurd, sometimes, the thought that she loves him. She wants him for a lover. The same boy she fantasized about murdering. She likes nothing safe or easy or sure. Nothing good for her.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Why didn’t you hate everyone? Everyone, all the time?”-“I hated you.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Your pardon. Might you have some means by which I can navigate your land?”(…)-“If you’re looking for interesting spots in the area, I wrote this myself and am my own publisher, too. A Guide to the Secret Places of Portland, Maine.”- “Very well, sir, I shall have it.” Cardan congratulates himself on his skill at passing for human.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “ Cardan doesn’t add that he laughs when he is nervous.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Let me tell you a story…Once upon a time, there was a boy with a clever tongue. Perhaps he had reasons to be awful, perhaps he was born bad, but no matter . None of it gave him much pleasure, so he went to the woods and begged a troll woman to turn his heart to stone. He was angry. And a fool. Thereafter he could neither pleasure nor pain, not fear nor hope. At first, it seemed like the blessing he had supposed it would be. But as the evening came, the boy was aware of the strangeness of feeling nothing at all. He had begged for the heart of stone, but for the first time, he felt the weight of it in his chest. He wondered if he ought to be afraid of what was to come. He wondered if there was something profoundly wrong with him that he could not. Though his heart was as hard and cold as ever, he wondered what he would feel if it were not.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Let me guess. They marry and live happily ever after, and the meaning of this tale is that love redeems us.”- “You don’t think monster girls and wicked boys deserve love?” ( HTKOELTHS)
 “Is this a story about people getting what they deserve?”- “Everyone finds different lessons in stories, I suppose, but here’s one: Having a heart is terrible, but you need one anyway. It doesn’t matter if the boy with the heart of stone was the villain. It doesn’t matter if he got what he deserved. No one’s heart has to remain stone.” (HTKOELTHS)
  “And you think it was sunrise I was waiting for and not my queen? Do you not hear her footfalls? She has never quite managed the trick of hiding them as well as one of the Folk. Surely you’ve heard of her, Jude Duarte, who defeated the redcap Grima Mog, who brought the Court of Teeth to their knees? She’s forever getting me out of scrapes. Truly, I don’t know what I would do without her.”
 “Cardan lets himself fall back on the grass. He lies there for a long, dizzy moment, until he hears the tinkling of the leaves on Jude’s armor. He looks up to see her running toward him. “What is wrong with you?” she shouts, falling to her knees by his side. Her hands go to his shirt, pushing it aside to look at the wound on his shoulder. Her fingers are cold against his flushed skin. It’s nice. He hopes she won’t take them away. “You told me not to come alone, and yet here you are—”-“I knew Aslog,” he says. “We were friends. Well, not precisely friends. But something. We were something. And I decided to play the hero. See how it felt. To try.”- “And?” -“I didn’t like it,” he admits. “Henceforth, I think we should consider our roles as monarchs to be largely decorative. It would be better for the low Courts and the solitary Folk to work things out on their own.”- “I think you have iron poisoning,”-  “If you’re angry with me, it’s only that I executed your mad plan before you got a chance,” he points out.- “That’s absolutely untrue. I am not so arrogant as to have begun my fight with a troll in the middle of the night. And I definitely wouldn’t have managed to talk her to death.”- “She’s not dead,” Cardan objects. “Merely imprisoned in stone. In fact, that reminds me. We need to alert our retainers to haul her back to Elfhame before sunset. She’s probably rather heavy.”- “Oh, rather,” Jude agrees.-“You didn’t hear the story I told,” he goes on. “A shame. It featured a handsome boy with a heart of stone and a natural aptitude for villainy. Everything you could like.”- She laughs. “You really are terrible, you know that? I don’t even understand why the things you say make me smile.”- “There is one thing I did like about playing the hero. The only good bit. And that was not having to be terrified for you.”- “The next time you want to make a point, I beg you not to make it so dramatically.”-His shoulder hurts, and she may be right about the iron poisoning. He certainly feels as though his head is swimming. But he smiles up at the trees, the looping electrical lines, the streaks of clouds. “So long as you’re begging,” he says.” (HTKOELTHS)
  ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  
WHOLE STORY:
 “Many times in his first nine years, Prince Cardan slept in the hay of the stables when his mother didn’t want him in their suite of rooms. It was warm there, and he could pretend he was hiding, could pretend that someone was looking for him. Could pretend that when he was not found, it was only because the spot he’d chosen was so extremely clever. ”(HowTheKingOfElfhameLearnedToHateStories)
“Cardan was uninterested in politics but well acquainted with his father’s indifference. “If you think I can help you, I can’t. He doesn’t like me, either.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Once upon a time,” Aslog told him, “there was a boy with a wicked tongue.” Cardan tried not to snort. Despite being a little afraid of her, despite knowing better, he had a tendency toward levity at the worst possible moments. She went on. “He would say whatever awful thought came into his mind. He told the baker her bread was full of stones, told the butcher he was as ugly as a turnip, and told his own brothers and sisters they were of no more use than the mice who lived in their cupboard and nibbled the crumbs of the baker’s bad bread. And, though the boy was quite handsome, he scorned all the village maidens, saying they were as dull as toads.”-Cardan couldn’t help it. He laughed. She gave him a dour look. “I like the boy,” he said with a shrug. “He’s funny.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Cardan interrupted. “The moral is obvious. The boy wasn’t rude to the innkeeper, so he was given a quest. And because he was rude to the witch, he got cursed. So the boy shouldn’t be rude, right? Rude boys get punished.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Cardan had grown up in the palace, a wild thing to be cosseted by courtiers and scowled at by the High King. No one much liked him, and he told himself he cared little for anyone else. And if he sometimes thought about how he might do something to win his father’s favor, something to make the Court respect him and love him, he kept that to himself. He certainly asked no one to tell him stories, and yet he found it was nice to be told one. He kept that to himself, too.”(HTKOELTHS)
 “By the third night, the household was in a state of giddy anticipation. They dressed the boy like a bridegroom and planned for a wedding at dawn.”-Cardan heard something in her voice that suggested that wasn’t how things were going to go at all. “And then what?” he demanded. “Didn’t he break the curse?”- “Patience,” said Aslog the troll woman.(HTKOELTHS)
 “That’s a terrible story,” Cardan said, outraged. “He would have been better off if he’d never left home. Or if he’d said something cruel to the tavern-keeper. There is no point to your tale, unless it is that nothing has any meaning at all.”- The troll woman peered down at him. “Oh, I think there’s a lesson in it, princeling: A sharp tongue is no match for a sharp tooth.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “You can’t frighten me, Cardan thought.-“Welcome, my princes,” said the door, swinging open to admit him and Balekin into the ominously named Hollow Hall. As Cardan passed through, a wooden eye gave him a companionable wink.- You can’t befriend me, either, he thought.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “ Ever since Dain had tricked him so that the arrow that slew the lover of his father’s seneschal seemed to have belonged to Cardan, ever since his mother had been sent to the Tower of Forgetting for his supposed crime and Eldred had refused to hear the truth, ever since he had been sent from the palace in disgrace, Cardan had felt like the boy in Aslog’s story. His heart was stone.”(HTKOELTHS)
 “What’s the matter with her?” Cardan asked.- Balekin yawned. “She’s ensorcelled. A victim of her own foolish bargain.” Cardan had little experience of mortals. Some came through the High Court, musicians and artists and lovers who had wished for magic and found it. And there were the twin mortal children that Grand General Madoc had stolen and insisted on treating as though they were his own born daughters, kissing them on the tops of their heads and resting his clawed fingers protectively on their shoulders. “Humans are like mice,” Balekin went on. “Dead before they learn how to be canny. Why shouldn’t they serve us? It gives their short lives some meaning.” Cardan looked at Margaret. The emptiness of her eyes still unnerved him. But the strap in her hand unnerved him more. “She is going to punish you,” Balekin said. “And do you know why?”- “I am certain you are about to enlighten me,” answered Cardan with a sneer. It was almost a relief to know that curbing his tongue wouldn’t help, as he’d never been very good at it.”(HTKOELTHS)
 “Now, little brother, you must choose a future.” It turned out that Cardan didn’t have a heart of stone after all. As he removed his shirt and sank to his knees, as he fisted his hands and tried not to cry out when the strap fell, he burned with hatred. Hatred for Dain; for his father; for all the siblings who didn’t take him in and the one who did; for his mother, who spat at his feet as she was led away; for stupid, disgusting mortals; for all of Elfhame and everyone in it. Hate that was so bright and hot that it was the first thing that truly warmed him. Hate that felt so good that he welcomed being consumed by it. Not a heart of stone, but a heart of fire.”(HTKOELTHS)
 “Cardan thought they were fools. Their father already favored his secondborn child, Princess Elowyn. And if she wasn’t chosen as his heir, it would be Prince Dain, with his machinations. None of the others had the shadow of a chance. Not that he cared.”(HTKOELTHS)
 “Prince Cardan bit into one of the raw, wriggling shrimps. It was foul. He spat it onto the packed dirt floor. One of the Undersea guards eyed him, obviously feeling that this was an insult. Cardan made a rude gesture, and the guard looked away. He secured himself a large plate of oatcakes slathered with honey and was dunking them into tea when Princess Nicasia wandered over to him. He paused midchew and hastily swallowed.-“You must be Prince Cardan,” she said.-“And you’re the princess of fishes.” He sneered, making sure she knew he wasn’t impressed. “Over whom everyone is making such an enormous fuss.”-“You’re very rude,” she told him. Across the floor, he saw Princess Caelia rushing toward them, her corn-silk hair flying behind her, too late to prevent the international incident that was her youngest brother.-“I have many other, even worse, qualities.”-Surprisingly, that made Nicasia smile, a lovely, venomous little grin. “Do you now? That’s excellent, because everyone else in the palace seems very dull.” Understanding came to him all at once. The daughter of fearsome Orlagh, expected to rule over the brutal, vast depths of the Undersea, had coldbloodedness for her birthright. Of course she would despise empty flattery and have contempt for the silly fawning of his siblings. He grinned back at her, sharing the joke. At that moment, Princess Caelia arrived, her mouth open, ready to say something that might distract their honored guest from a wretched younger brother who might not be so tame after all.-“Oh, go away, Caelia,” Cardan said before she had a chance to speak. “The sea princess finds you wearisome.”-His sister closed her mouth abruptly, looking comically surprised. Nicasia laughed. For all the charm and distinction of his siblings, it was Cardan who won the Undersea’s favor. It was the first time he’d won anything.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Valerian, who loved cruelty the way some Folk loved poetry. Locke, who had a whole empty house for them to run amok in, along with an endless appetite for merriment. Nicasia, whose contempt for the land made her eager to have all of Elfhame kiss her slipper. And Cardan, who modeled himself on his eldest brother and learned how to use his status to make Folk scrape and grovel and bow and beg, who delighted in being a villain. Villains were wonderful. They got to be cruel and selfish, to preen in front of mirrors and poison apples, and trap girls on mountains of glass. They indulged all their worst impulses, revenged themselves for the least offense, and took every last thing they wanted. And sure, they wound up in barrels studded with nails, or dancing in iron shoes heated by fire, not just dead, but disgraced and screaming. But before they got what was coming to them, they got to be the fairest in all the land.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “He told himself this was nothing more than a prank, a way to pay Balekin back for ill treatment, by stealing away one of his servants. Cardan wasn’t saving her, and he would never do this again. “You know I don’t like you,” he told Margaret with a scowl. She didn’t reply. He wasn’t even sure she’d heard with the wind whipping around them. “You made Balekin a promise, a foolish promise, but a promise all the same. You deserve—” He couldn’t get out the rest of the sentence. You deserved everything you got. That would have been a lie, and while the Folk could trick and deceive, no untruth could pass their lips. He glared out at the stars, and they twinkled back at him accusingly. I am not weak, he wanted to shout, but he wasn’t sure he could say that aloud, either.“ (HTKOELTHS)
 “The sight of the human servants unnerved him. Their empty eyes and chapped lips. Nothing like the twins from the palace school. He thought of one of those girls frowning over a book, pushing a lock of brown hair back over one oddly curved ear. He thought of the way she looked at him, brows narrowed in suspicion. Scornful, and alert. Awake. Alive. He imagined her as a mindless servant and felt a rush of something he couldn’t quite untangle—horror, and also a sort of terrible relief. No ensorcelled human could look at him as she did.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “What happens to me now?” Margaret asked, looking down at him.-Cardan hadn’t been sure he’d successfully removed the glamour on her when he’d left Elfhame, but it seemed that he had. “How ought I know?” he said, gesturing vaguely toward the shore. “You do whatever it is mortals do in your land.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Why me?” she asked. She was neither the youngest nor the oldest. She was not the strongest and far from the most pitiable. They both knew the one thing that distinguished her, and it was nothing for either of them to like.-“Because I don’t want to look at you anymore,” Cardan said.-The woman studied him. Licked her chapped lips. “I never wanted to...” She let the sentence fall away, doubtless seeing the expression on his face. It had the unsettling effect, however, of mimicking how the Folk spoke when they began a sentence and realized they couldn’t speak the lie. It didn’t matter. He could finish it for her: I never wanted to take a strap to your back and flay it open. It was just that I was glamoured by your brother, because part of Balekin’s punishment is always humiliation, and what’s more humiliating than being beaten by a mortal? But of course, I do hate you. I hate all of you, who took me away from my own life. And some part of me delighted in hurting you.-“Yes,” Cardan said. “I know. Now get out of my sight.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Finally, she turned away and walked up the cold and desolate beach,toward the lights beyond. He watched her go, feeling wrung out, wretched, and foolish. And alone.-I am not weak, he wanted to shout after her. Do not dare to pity me. It is you who should be pitied, mortal. It is you who are nothing, while I am a prince of Faerie.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “ The odd curve of her ear was what he had noticed first. A roundness echoed in her cheeks and her mouth. Then it was the way her body looked solid, as though meant to take up space and weight in the world. When she moved, she left behind footprints in the forest floor. Because she didn’t know how to glide silently, to disturb no leaf or branch. He felt smug to see how bad she was at even such an easy thing. It was only later that it disturbed him to think back on the shape of her boot in the soil, as though she was the only real thing in a land of ghosts. He had seen her before, he supposed. But at the palace school, he really looked. He noted her skirts, spattered with mud, and her hair ribbons, partially undone. He saw her twin sister, her double, as though one of them were a changeling child and not human at all. He saw the way they whispered together while they ate, smiling over private jokes. He saw the way they answered the instructors, as though they had any right to this knowledge, had any right to be sitting among their betters. To occasionally better their betters with those answers. And the one girl was good with a sword, instructed personally by the Grand General, as though she was not some by-blow of a faithless wife.”(HTKOELTHS-ChapterV-ThePrinceOfElfhameIsMildlyInconvenienced)
 “When she stood up against him, she was so good that it was almost possible to believe she hadn’t let him win. The seeds of Prince Cardan’s resentment came full bloom. What was the point of her trying so hard? Why would she work like that when it would never win her anything?- “Mortals,” said Nicasia with a curl of her lip.He had never tried like that for anything in his life.-Jude, Cardan thought, hating even the shape of her name. Jude.” (HTKOELTHS-ChapterV-ThePrinceOfElfhameIsMildlyInconvenienced)
 “Come back with me to the Undersea,” Nicasia whispered against Cardan’s throat. They were lying on a bed of soft moss at the edge of the Crooked Forest. He could hear waves crashing along the shore. She was sprawled out in a robe of silver, her hair spread beneath her like a tide pool. It was a relationship they had fallen into, slipping easily from friendship to kisses with the eagerness of youth. She whispered to him about her childhood beneath the waves, about a foiled assassination that nearly ended her life, and recited poetry to him in the language of the selkies. In turn, he told her about his brother and his mother, about the prophecy hanging over his head, the one that foretold he would be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne, the one that set his father against him. He could not imagine being parted from her.-“The Undersea?” he murmured, turning toward her.-“When my mother returns for me, come away with us,” she said. “Live with me forever in the deep. We will ride sharks, and everyone will fear us.”-“Yes,” he agreed immediately, thrilled by the idea of abandoning Elfhame. “With pleasure.” She laughed, delighted, and pressed her mouth to his. (HTKOELTHS)
 “Let’s dive down into the deep,” she said, springing up. “Let me show you what it will be like.”-“Now?” he asked, but she was already on her feet, wriggling out of her dress. Naked, Nicasia ran toward the waves, beckoning him. With a laugh, he kicked off his boots, following her. He liked swimming and spent hot days in a pond near the palace or bobbing in the Lake of Masks. Sometimes he would float, staring up at the sky and watching the drifting of the clouds. In the sea, he threw his body against the waves, daring them to drag him out with them. If he liked that, then surely he would like this better. “(HTKOELTHS)
 “He wanted to speak, but when he opened his mouth, water flowed in, shocking his lungs. The magic allowed him to breathe, but his chest felt heavy. And even though her enchantment protected him, he could still feel the oppressive cold and the stinging of salt in his eyes. Salt that curbed his own magic. And darkness, all around. It didn’t feel like the expansiveness of splashing through a pond. It felt like being trapped in a small room.-Give this up and you’ll have nothing, he reminded himself.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “The weight of the sea seemed to press down on him. He no longer had a sense of up or down. One was always suspended, fighting against the current or giving in to it. There would be no lying on beds of moss, no barbed words easily spoken, no falling down from too much wine, no dancing at all. Not even that mortal girl could leave a footprint here without it being instantly washed away. Then he spotted a glow, distant but sure. The sun. Cardan grabbed hold of Nicasia’s hand and made for it, kicking his way to the surface, gasping for air he didn’t need. Nicasia broke the surface a moment later, water flowing from the gills on the sides of her throat. “Are you all right?” He was coughing up too much water to answer. “It will be better next time,” she told him, searching his face as though she was looking for something, something she rather obviously didn’t find. Her expression fell. “You did think it was beautiful, didn’t you?”-“Unlike anything I could have imagined,” he agreed between breaths.-Nicasia sighed, happy again.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “On their way back toward their homes, Cardan tried to tell himself that he could grow used to the Undersea, that he would learn how to survive there, to make himself consequential, to find some pleasure. And if, as he had floated in the cold darkness, his thoughts turned to the curve of an ear, the weight of a step, a blow that was checked before it could land, that didn’t matter. It meant nothing, and he should forget it.”(HTKOELTHS)
 “Playing the villain was the only thing he’d ever really excelled at.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “To his surprise, however, his sister Rhyia was already there, candles flickering beside her, a book in her lap. She looked up at him and yawned. “Have you read many human books?” she asked.-He liked Rhyia best of his sisters. She was seldom at Court, preferring the wild places on the isles. But she had never paid him any special attention, and he wasn’t sure how to behave toward her now that she was.“ Humans are disgusting,” he said primly.- Rhyia looked amused. “Are they?”-There was absolutely no reason to think of Jude in that moment. She was utterly insignificant.- Rhyia waved the book at him. “Vivienne gave me this. Do you know her? It’s nonsense, but amusing.”- Vivienne was Jude and Taryn’s older sister and Madoc’s legitimate daughter. Hearing her name made him feel uncomfortable, as though his sister could read his thoughts. “What is it?” he managed. She put it in his hand. He looked down at a red book, embossed in gold. The title was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. He frowned at it in confusion. It wasn’t what he’d thought a mortal book would be like; he thought they would be dull things, odes to their cars or skyscrapers. But then he recalled how humans were frequently brought to Faerie for their skill in the arts. Flipping the book open, he read the first sentence his gaze fell on. “I always thought they were fabulous monsters!” said the Unicorn. Cardan had to flip a few pages back to see whom the Unicorn was discussing. A child. A human girl who had fallen into a place that was apparently called Wonderland.- “This is really a mortal book?” he asked. (..)Rhyia leaned over and pushed a fallen strand of his hair back over one of his ears. “Take it.”- “You want me to have it?” he asked, just to be sure. He wondered what he’d done that was worthy of being commemorated with a present.- “I thought you could use a little nonsense,” she told him, which worried him a little. He took it home with him, and the next day he took it to the edge of the water. He sat, opened the book, and began to read.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “He remembered her as something nightmarish and dreamlike from his boyhood. He had half thought he’d invented her. She was dressed in a long cloak with a pointed end to her hood that curled a bit. She was carrying a basket with a blanket over it. “I was reading, not sulking,” Cardan said, feeling childish. Then he stood, tucking the book under his arm, reminding himself that he was no longer a child. “But I am happy enough to be distracted. May I carry your basket?” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Walk with me to the market.”- “As you like.” Her basket was surprisingly heavy. “What’s in here?”- “Bones,” she said. “I can grind those just as easily as I ground grain. Your father needs to be reminded of that.”- “Whose bones?” Cardan asked warily.- “Wouldn’t you like to know.” Then she laughed. “You were quite young when I told you that story; perhaps you’d like to hear it again with new ears.”- “Why not?” Cardan said, not at all sure that he would. Somehow, in her presence, he couldn’t manage to behave in the polished, sinister way he’d cultivated. Perhaps he knew how quickly she would see through it.- “Once, there was a boy with a wicked heart,” the troll woman said.-“No, that’s not right,” Cardan interrupted. “That’s not how it goes. He had a wicked tongue.”- “Boys change,” she told him. “And so do stories.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “But he was committed to his course and so allowed himself to be led into a chamber with a curtained bed. On the wall were scrapes disturbingly like claw marks. The boy went to a low bench and waited as the moon rose outside the window. Finally, she entered, a monster covered in fur and her mouth filled with three rows of razor-sharp teeth. He would have screamed or run and fled, but for his heart of stone. She gnashed her teeth, waiting for him to show fear. But instead he climbed up into the bed and beckoned for her to join him so that he could swive her.”- “This is most certainly not the story you told me when I was nine,” said Prince Cardan, eyebrows rising.- “How better to show that he had no fear?” The troll woman’s smile was all teeth.- “Ah, but without the terror, surely it had not half the savor,” he returned.- “I think that says more about you, princeling, than about the boy,” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Well, I’ll be off. We both know what happens on the third night. The boy’s curse is broken, and he dies.”- “Oh no,” said the troll woman. “The rich man makes the boy his heir.”- He frowned. “No, that’s not right—” She cut him off.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “But before he could strike, the two monsters went out the window, flying into the night. He watched them go, his heart no longer stone, but heavier than before. The next morning, when he was discovered, he went to the rich man and told him the tale. And since the man’s only daughter was gone, he declared that the boy should be his heir and inherit all his lands.”- “Even though he was terrible?” Cardan said. “Because they were both terrible? Don’t ask me the lesson, because I don’t know it and I can’t imagine there is one.”- “No?” Aslog inquired. “It’s simply this. A heart of stone can still be broken.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “If Aslog’s tale was an ill omen, Prince Cardan did his best to push it away with overindulgence, merriment, and an absolute refusal to think about thefuture. It was working a treat when Prince Cardan awoke on a rug in the parlor of Hollow Hall. Late-afternoon sunlight streamed in through the window. He was fully dressed, stank of wine, and felt light-headed in a way that suggested he might yet be drunk.(..) Much wine was poured. Courtiers shared gossip and flirtations and promises for the evening ahead. There was a brief spate of declaiming erotic poetry. Powders were pressed on Cardan’s tongue, and he passed them to Nicasia with a kiss. As dawn broke, Cardan experienced a vast delight with the world and everyone in it. He even felt an expansiveness toward Balekin, a gratitude for being taken in and remade in his eldest brother’s image, no matter how harsh his methods. Cardan went to pour another goblet of wine with which to make a toast. Across the room, he saw Locke sit down beside Nicasia on one of the low velvet couches, close enough that his thigh pressed against hers, and then turned to whisper in her ear. She glanced over, a guilty look flashing across her features when she saw Cardan notice. But it was easy to let such a little thing slip from his thoughts as the evening wore on. Revelry is inherently slippery; part of its munificence is an easing of boundaries. And there were plenty of entertainments to distract him. “It’s too bad Balekin didn’t invite the Duarte girls,” said Valerian with a curled lip, his gaze on an ensorcelled human taking a silver platter of grapes and split-open pomegranates to the table. “I would relish the chance to demonstrate their true place in Elfhame.”-“Oh no, I rather like them,” Locke said. “Especially the one. Or is it the other?”- “The Grand General would mount your head on a wall,” Nicasia informed him, patting his cheek.- “A very fine head,” he informed her with a wicked grin. “Suitable for mounting.”- Nicasia cut her gaze toward Cardan and said no more. Her expression was a careful blank. He marked that, when he wouldn’t have marked their words. Cardan tipped back his goblet and drank it to the dregs, ignoring the sourness in his stomach. The evening quickly became a blur.(…...) He stumbled up the stairs and into his room. There he found Locke and Nicasia curled up on the rug before the dying fire. They were wrapped in the tapestry blanket from his bed. Her black silk gown had been discarded in a shining puddle, the cage she’d worn over it now tucked half underneath the bed. Locke’s white coat was spread across the wooden planks of the floor. Nicasia’s head rested on Locke’s bare chest. Fox-red hair stuck to his cheek with sweat. As Cardan stared at them, a rush of blood heated his cheeks, and the pounding in his head grew so loud that it momentarily drowned out thought. He looked at their tangled bodies, at the glowing embers in the grate, at the half-finished work for the palace tutors that was still on his desk, sloppy blotches of ink dotting the paper. Cardan ought to have been the boy with the heart of stone in Aslog’s story, but somehow he had let his heart turn to glass. He could feel the shattered shards of it lodged in his lungs, making his every breath painful. Cardan had trusted Nicasia not to hurt him, which was ridiculous, since he well knew that everyone hurts one another and that the people you loved hurt you the most grievously. Since he was well aware that they both took delight in hurting everyone else that they could, how could he have thought himself safe? He knew he had to wake them, sneer, and behave as though it didn’t matter. And since his only true talent so far had ever been in awfulness, he trusted that he could manage it. Cardan nudged Locke with a booted foot. It wasn’t quite a kick, but it wasn’t far from one, either. “Time to get up.”-Locke’s eyelashes fluttered. He groaned, then stretched. Cardan could see the calculation flash in his eyes, along with something that might have been fear. “Your brother throws quite the revel,” he said with a deliberately casual yawn. “We lost track of you. I thought you might have gone off with Valerian and the treewoman.”- “And why would you suppose that?” Cardan asked.- “It seemed you were attempting to outdo each other in excess.” Locke gestured expansively, a false smile on his face. One of Locke’s finest qualities was his ability to recast all their lowliest exploits as worthy of a ballad, told and retold until Cardan could almost believe that staggeringly better or thrillingly worse version of events. He could no more lie than any of the Folk, but stories were the closest thing to lies the Folk could tell. And perhaps Locke hoped to make a story of this moment. Something they could laugh over. Perhaps Cardan ought to let him. But then Nicasia opened her eyes. And at the sight of Cardan, she sucked in her breath. Tell me it means nothing, that it was just a bit of fun, he thought. Tell me and everything will be as it was before. Tell me and I will pretend along with you. But she was silent.-“I would have my room,” Cardan said, narrowing his eyes and assuming his most superior pose. “Perhaps you two might take whatever this is elsewhere.”- Part of him thought she would laugh, having known him before he perfected his sneer, but she shrank under his gaze. Locke stood up, putting on his pants. “Oh, don’t be like that. We’re all friends here.”- Cardan’s practiced demeanor went up in smoke. He became the snarling feral child that had prowled the palace, stealing from tables, unkempt and unloved. Launching himself at Locke, he bore him to the floor. They collapsed in a heap. Cardan punched, hitting Locke somewhere between the eye and the cheekbone. “Stop telling me who I am,” he snarled, teeth bared. “I am tired of your stories.” Locke tried to knock Cardan off him. But Cardan had the advantage, and he used it to wrap his hands around Locke’s throat. Maybe he really was still drunk. He felt giddy and dizzy all at once.- “You’re going to really hurt him!” Nicasia shouted, hitting Cardan’s shoulder and then, when that didn’t work, trying to haul him off the other boy.- Locke made a wordless sound, and Cardan realized he was pressing so tightly on his windpipe that he couldn’t speak. Cardan dropped his hands away. Locke choked, gasping for air. “Create some tale about this,” Cardan shouted, adrenaline still fizzing through his bloodstream.- “Fine,” Locke finally managed, his voice strange. “Fine, you mad, hedgeborn coxcomb. But you were only together out of habit; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been so easy to make her love me.”- Cardan punched him. This time, Locke swung back, catching Cardan on the side of the head. They rolled around, hitting each other, until Locke scuttled back and made it to his feet. He ran for the door, Cardan right behind.- “You are both fools,” Nicasia shouted after them. -They thundered down the stairs, nearly colliding with Valerian. His shirt was singed, and he stank of smoke. “Good morrow,” he said, apparently not noticing the bruises rising on Locke’s face or how the sight of him had brought them all up short. “Cardan, I hope your brother won’t be angry. I’m afraid I may have set one of the guests on fire.” “ (HTKOELTHS)
 “Then she spun on Cardan. He folded his arms over his chest protectively. “I’m a little glad you hit him,” Nicasia said. “I’m even glad you found us. You ought to have known from the first, and it was only cowardice that kept me from telling you.”- “Do you suppose that I am glad as well? I’m not.” Cardan was having difficulty assuming his previous reserve, what with his left ear ringing from the blow Locke landed, his knuckles burning from the punches he’d thrown, and Nicasia before him.- “Forgive me.” She looked up, a little smile at the corners of her mouth. “I do care for you. I always shall.”- He wanted to ask if Locke was right, if friendship had stolen the thrill from being lovers. But looking at her, he knew the answer. And he knew the only way he could possibly keep his dignity. “You have cast your lot with him,” he said. “There is nothing to forgive. But if you regret it, do not think that you will be able to call me back to your side like some forgotten plaything you mislaid for a while.” -Nicasia looked at him, a little frown forming between her brows. “I wouldn’t— “-“Then we understand each other.” Cardan turned and stalked from the parlor. (HTKOELTHS)
  “By the time it occurred to him that he had missed school, he had been drunk for three days and consumed enough powders and potions to have been awake for most of that time. If he stank of wine before, now he reeked of it, and if he’d felt lightheaded then, now he was reeling. But it seemed to him that he ought to present himself to his tutors and show the children of the Gentry that no matter what they’d heard, he was fine. In fact, he had seldom felt so fine before in his life. He staggered through the hall and out the door.-“My prince?” The door’s wooden face was the picture of distress. “You’re not truly going out like that, are you?”- “My door,” Cardan replied. “I most certainly am.” He promptly fell down the front steps. At the stables, he began to laugh. He had to lie down in the hay he was laughing so hard. Tears leaked out of his eyes. He thought of Nicasia and Locke and dalliances and stories and lies, but it all jumbled together. He saw himself drowning in a sea of red wine from which an enormous moth was steadily drinking; saw Nicasia with a fish’s head instead of a tail; saw his hands around Dain’s throat; saw Margaret looming over him with a strap, giggling, as she transformed into Aslog. Dizzily, he climbed up onto the back of a horse. He ought to tell Nicasia she was no longer welcome on the land, that he, son of the High King, was disinviting her. And he was going to exile Locke. No, he was going to find someone to put a curse on Locke so that he vomited eels every time he spoke. And then he was going to tell the tutors and everyone else at the palace exactly how wonderful he felt.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “But nearly falling made him briefly feel clearheaded. He looked out at the horizon, where the blue sky met the black sea, and he thought of how he no longer would spend his days beneath it. You hated it there, he reminded himself. But his future stretched in front of him, and he no longer saw any path through it.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “At the sound of the horse’s hoofbeats, a few got to their feet. -“Ha!” he shouted at them as they scattered. He chased after several, then veered widdershins to run down others who’d thought themselves safe. Another laugh bubbled up. A few more turns and he spotted Nicasia, standing beside Locke, sheltered beneath the canopy of a tree. Nicasia looked horrified. But Locke couldn’t hide his utter delight at this turn of events. Whatever flame lived inside Cardan, it burned only hotter and brighter. “Lessons are suspended for the afternoon, by royal whim,” he announced.- “Your Highness,” said one of his tutors, “your father—”- “Is the High King,” Cardan finished for him, pulling on the reins and pressing with his thighs so the horse advanced. “Which makes me the prince. And you one of my subjects.”- “A prince,” he heard someone say under her breath. He glanced over to see the Duarte girls. Taryn was clutching her twin sister’s hand so hard that her nails were dug into Jude’s skin. He was certain she wasn’t the one who’d spoken. He turned his gaze on Jude. Curls of brown hair hung to her shoulders. She was dressed in a russet wool doublet over a skirt that showed a pair of practical brown boots. One of her hands was at her hip, touching her belt, as though she thought he might draw the weapon sheathed there. The idea was hilarious. He certainly hadn’t buckled on a sword in preparation for coming here. He wasn’t even sure he could stay standing long enough to swing, and he had only beaten her when he was sober because she let him. Jude looked up at him, and in her eyes, he recognized a hate big enough and wide enough and deep enough to match his own. A hate you could drown in like a vat of wine. -  Too late to hide it, she lowered her head in the pretense of deference. Impossible, Cardan thought. What had she to be angry about, she who had been given everything he was denied? Perhaps he had imagined it. Perhaps he wanted to see his reflection on someone else’s face and had perversely chosen hers. With a whoop, he rode in her direction, just to watch her and her sister run. Just to show her that if she did hate him, her hatred was as impotent as his own.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “My prince,” the door said as he stumbled up the steps, “news of your escapade has reached your brother. You might want to delay—”- But Cardan only laughed. He even laughed when Balekin ordered him into his office, expecting another servant and another strap. But it was only his brother.”(HTKOELTHS)
 “I have seen enough of your maudlin display to understand that you have lost some favor with Nicasia?” Balekin said. Since he wasn’t sure he could stay upright, Cardan sat. And since a chair wasn’t immediately beside him, he sat on the floor. “Do not invest a dalliance with greater significance than it warrants,” Balekin went on, coming around from behind his desk to peer down at his younger brother not entirely unsympathetically. “It is a mere nothing. No need for dramatics.” -“I am nothing,” Cardan said, “if not dramatic.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “ Cardan had his polished boots resting on a rock and his head pillowed on the utterly ridiculous mortal book he’d been reading. Since the one with the girl and the rabbit and the bad queen, he’d discovered he had a taste for human novels.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “I wish to talk,” she said, and settled beside him, arranging a blanket and some little cakes dotted with dried fish and wrapped in kelp beside a bottle of what appeared to be a greenish wine. Cardan wrinkled his nose. There was no reason for her to go to all this trouble. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t behaved perfectly civilly toward her and Locke. The four of them menaced the rest of the Court as thoroughly as before. And if his cruelty had the sharp edge of despair, if slights and taunts were all that fell from his tongue now, what did it matter? He had always been awful. Now he was just worse. “Have one,” she offered.- If he wasn’t going to rule by her side in the Undersea, he didn’t have to eat the food there. “Perhaps once you’ve told me why you’ve disturbed my repose.”- “I want you to take me back,” she said. “None of our plans need to change. Nothing between us needs to change from the way it was before.”- He yawned, refusing to give her the satisfaction of his surprise. Those were the words that he’d hoped for her to say when he’d discovered her with Locke, but now, he found he no longer wanted them. In the end, he supposed Balekin had been right. Her dalliance had been a mere nothing. Balekin was probably also right when he said that only with her by his side would Cardan have some measure of political power. If he lost her, he was only himself, the despised, youngest prince. Luckily, Cardan cared very little for politics. Or reprimands from Eldred. “No, I don’t think so,” Cardan said. “But I am curious about your change of heart.” (..)For a long moment, Nicasia didn’t speak. She picked at a fishcake. Cardan raised his eyebrows. “Ah, you didn’t make the choice to leave him, did you?”- “It’s more complicated than that,” she told him. “And it affects you as well.”- “Does it?” he inquired.-“You must listen! Locke’s taken one of the mortal girls as his lover,” Nicasia said, obviously attempting to keep her voice from shaking. Cardan was silent, his thoughts thrown into confusion. One of the mortal girls.-“You can’t expect me to pity you,” he said finally, voice tight.- “No,” she said slowly. “I expect you to laugh in my face and tell me that it’s no more than I deserve.” She looked out toward Hollow Hall, miserable. “But I think Locke means to humiliate you as much as he does me in doing this. How does it look, after all, to steal your lover and then tire of her so quickly?” -He didn’t care how it made him look. He didn’t care in the least. “Which one?” Cardan asked. “Which mortal girl?” -“Does it matter?” Nicasia was clearly exasperated. “Either. Both.”- It shouldn’t matter. The human girls were insignificant, nothing. In fact, he ought to feel delighted that Nicasia had such swift cause to regret what she’d done. And if he felt even angrier than he had before, well then, he had no cause. “At least you will have the pleasure of seeing what the Grand General does when Locke inevitably mishandles this situation.”- “That’s not enough,” she said.- “What then?”- “Punish them.” She took his hands, her expression fierce. “Punish all three of them. Convince Valerian he’d like tormenting the mortals. Force Locke to play along. Make them all suffer.”- “You should have led with that,” Cardan told her, getting to his feet. “That I would have agreed to just for fun.” ( HTKOELTHS)
 “Jude’s wet chestnut hair was plastered to her throat. Her cheeks were flushed with cold, her lips turning bluish. And her dark eyes blazed with hatred and contempt. Which was fair, he supposed, since he was the reason she was in the water. Valerian, Nicasia, and even Locke jeered from the bank. Jude ought to be cowed. She was supposed to bow and scrape, to submit and acknowledge his superiority. A little groveling wouldn’t have gone amiss. He would have very much liked it if she begged. “Give up,” Cardan said, fully expecting she would.- “Never.” Jude wore an unnerving little smile in the corners of her mouth, as though even she couldn’t believe what she was saying. The most infuriating part was that she didn’t have to mean it. She was mortal. She could lie. So why wouldn’t she? In this, there was no winning for her.” (HTKOELTHS)
  “Never is like Forever.”
“It wasn’t until he was glaring down at Jude, standing waist deep in river water, fighting the current, that he realized he was in trouble. He was the one who’d retreated. He was the one who’d backed down.“ (HTKOELTHS)
“And all through that night and for many nights after, he couldn’t rid his thoughts of her. Not the hatred in her eyes. That he understood. That he didn’t mind. It warmed him. But the contempt made him feel as though she saw beneath all his sharp and polished edges. It reminded him of how his father and all the Court had seen him, before he had learned how to shield himself with villainy. And doomed as she was, he envied her whatever conviction made her stand there and defy him. She ought to be nothing. She ought to be insignificant. She ought not to matter. He had to make her not matter. But every night, Jude haunted him. The coils of her hair. The calluses on her fingers. An absent bite of her lip. It was too much, the way he thought about her. He knew it was too much, but he couldn’t stop. It disgusted him that he couldn’t stop. He had to make her see that he was her better. To beg his pardon. And grovel. He had to find a way to make her admire him. To kneel before him and plead for his royal mercy. To surrender. To yield.”(HTKOELTHS)
“I promise you this is the least of what I can do.”
“ I know what you did. Wicked girl. Yet you let your sister take the brunt of my ire. That wasn’t very nice, was it? “(..) A slow smile spread across his mouth. “Oh, I see why Locke likes you.” For a moment I thought that might be almost a compliment. “ You’re awful.” He said it as though he was delighted. “And the worst part is that you believe otherwise.“ Tears sprang to my eyes. I hated that I cried so easily. And he was wrong. I hadn’t know. Not until that afternoon by the river. I shook my head, wiping away my tears.- “Does that mean you’re going to leave her alone now?”-Cardan leaned in close, close enough that I could feel his breath on my cheek. “It’s much too late for that. “Than you came out of nowhere and grabbed his shoulder. Before I could even speak, you’d spun him around and slammed his back against a tree. Your hand went to his throat. Cardan’s eyes went wide with shock. All around us, the children stared, agog. Cardan was a Prince of Elfhame. And you were putting your hands on him-there, in front of everyone. Hands he was likely to order to cut off.” (TheLostSisters-Taryn’s novella-her POV)
“He’s handsome, but that makes his horribleness worse, somehow. As though he’s taken something nice and made it awful. Being the single focus of his attention made me feel like a bug that a child was going to burn with a magnifying glass.” (TheLostSisters-Taryn’s novella-her POV)
“ When the servant lifts his arm to strike a third time, Cardan lunges for his blade, resting on Balekin’s desk where the servant put it. For a moment, I think Cardan is going to run the human man straight through. The servant does not cry out or lift his hands to protect himself. Maybe he is too ensorcelled for that. Maybe Cardan could stab him right through the heart and he wouldn’t do a single thing to defend himself. I am weak with horror. “Go ahead,” Balekin says, bored. He makes a vague gesture toward the servant. “Kill him. Show me you don’t mind making a mess. Show me that at least you know how to land a killing blow on such a pathetic target as this.”- “I am no murderer,” says Cardan, surprising me. I would not have thought that was something to be proud of.-In two strides, Balekin is in front of his brother. They look so alike, standing close. Same inky hair, matching sneers, devouring eyes. But Balekin shows his decades of experience, wrenching the sword from Cardan’s hands and knocking him to the ground with the crossbar. “Then take your punishment like the pathetic creature that you are.” Balekin nods to the servant, who rouses from somnolence. I watch every blow, every flinch. I have little choice. I can shut my eyes, but the sounds are just as terrible. And worst of all is Cardan’s empty face, his eyes as dull as lead. “
“Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude Jude.. (..) “-“If that’s what he did to the paper, I shudder to think what he wants to do to me.”
“Cardan’s gaze goes to me. His eyes are barely open, but I can see the shine of them, wet as tar. He watches me as the girl kisses his mouth, watches me as she slides he hand beneath the hem of his silly, ruffly shirt.”
“Do you really think you can win against me? Against a prince of faerie? “
“Get down on your knees, beg. Make it pretty. Flowery. Worthy of me.”
“I am going to keep on defying you. I am going to shame you with my defiance. You remind me that I am a mere mortal and you are a prince of Faerie. Well, let me remind you that means you have much to lose and I have nothing.“
“Cardan looks at me as though he's never seen me before. He looks at me as though no one has ever spoken to him like this. Maybe no one has.”
“”It’s funny how you get under his skin.” At first, I’m not sure I heard him right. I almost ask whom he’s talking about, because I can’t quite believe he’s admitting that high and mighty Cardan is affected by anything. “Like a splinter?” I say. “Of iron. No one else bothers him quite the way that you do.””
“ “Do you know what he said when I told him you’d stabbed me? He told me it was no more than I deserved. “That’s impossible; Valerian must have misunderstood. Cardan must have been mocking him for letting me under his guard.- “Why did you expect?” I ask him, trying to hide my surprise. “ I don’t know if you noticed, but the guy is a real jerk.”
"Time to change partners. Oh, did I steal your line?"
“You really do hate me. Don’t you?”- “Almost as much as you hate me.”
“The tall faerie boy who held her in his arms had a mess of black hair. His cheeks were painted in silver, his eyes edged in black kohl, and he looked drunk, his crown askew. The girl was glaring, at him, and Kaye wondered how they wounded up dancing together. They she noticed the way he was looking at her. But that made things even more puzzling.” ( The Modern Fearie Tales)
“Until we spare again.”
„ „ Ruling is like wine. It brings out the worst in anyone who takes too deep a draught, yet we all want a taste.”- „ Even You?”- Kaye asked. He looked away, his gaze going toward the dais, and Kaye realized he was looking at the girl. The mortal girl.- „ What I want is for Dain never to get the throne. Failing that, I’d love to see the whole Court Of Termites walk out of here without your king’s pledging anything. But then it is my nature to only wants things I cannot have.”” ( The Modern Fearie Tales)
“ “ You’re a mortal. It’s not safe for you here. Especially if you go around stabbing everyone. “- “Not safe for me? Get down here before you’re recognized. “ – “Playing hide-and-seek under the table? Crouching in the dirt? Typical for your kind, but far beneath my dignity. “He laughs unsteadily, like he expects I am going to laugh, too. I don’t. I ball up my fist and punch him in the stomach, right where I know it will hurt. He staggers to his knees. “Ow! “ he shouts, and lets me tug him under the table. – “We’ll get out of here without anyone noticing,“ I tell him. “ We stay under the tables and make our way to the steps to the upper levels of the palace. And don’t tell me it’s beneath your dignity to crawl. You’re so drunk you can barely stand anyway.”-I hear him snort. “If you insist,” he says. “
“We climbs the steps together. I let him keep his possessive grip on my arm, guiding me. I let him open the doors with his own keys. I let him do whatever he wants. And then, once we’re in the empty hall in the upper level of the palace, I turn and press the point of my knife directly underneath his chin. “Jude?” he asks, up against the wall, pronouncing my name carefully, as though to avoid slurring. I am not sure I have ever heard him use my actual name before.- “Surprised?” I ask, a fierce grin starting on my face. The most important boy in Faerie and my enemy, finally in my power. It feels even better than I thought it would. “You shouldn’t be. “
“I’m just borrowing your stupid ring. “- “ I don’t suppose you have anything to drink around here? I don’t imagine that whatever happens next is going to be particularly comfortable for me, and I would like to stay drunk in order to face it. “- “Do you really think I care if you’re comfortable? “
“You’re going to shoot me? Right now? I can see why you’d want to. But I’d really prefer if you didn’t.”- “Then you shouldn’t have smirked at me constantly-you think I am going to stand being mocked, here, now? You still so sure you’re better than me?”- “I’m nervous. I smile a lot when I’m nervous. I can’t help it. “
“I found a piece of paper with my name on it. Over and over, just my name. Well?”- “That’s not a question. Ask me a proper question, and I’ll give you an answer.”- “You’re terrible at this whole ‘telling me whatever I want to know’ thing. “- “Just ask me something. Ask about my tail. Don’t you want to see it? “
“How did he know it was her room?”-“Maybe he didn’t. Maybe either of you would have done as his first mortal conquest. I believe his goal is to have both of you in the end.”- “What about you?”- He gives me a quick, odd look. “Locke hasn’t gotten around to seducing me yet, if that’s what you’re asking. I suppose, I should be insulted.“
“Did you love her?”- “What kind of question is that?”- “I want to know. “- “Yes. I loved her.”- “Why do you want me dead?”
“Most of all, I hate you because I think of you. Often. It's disgusting, and I can't stop.”
“It occurs to me that if I kill him, I can finally stop thinking about him.”
“You really do want me,'” I say, close enough to feel the warmth of his breath as it hitches. “And you hate it.”
“But kissing Locke never felt the way that kissing Cardan does, like taking a dare to run over knives, like an adrenaline strike of lightning, like the moment when you've swum too far out in the sea and there is no going back, only cold black water closing over your head.”
“Is that what you imagined?”- “No.”- “Tell me.”- “Unless you’re really going to stab me, I think I won’t. And I might not tell you even if you were going to stab me.”
“Get up.”- “So you’re not worried I’m going to run for it?”- “After our kiss, I am such a fool over you that I can hardly contain myself. All I want to do is nice things that make you happy. Sure, I’ll make whatever bargain you want, so long as you kiss me again. Go ahead and run. I definitely won’t shoot you in the back.”- He blinks a few times. “Hearing you lie outright is a bit disconcerting.”- “Then let me tell you the truth. You’re not going to run because you’ve got nowhere to go.“
“You can have my service for a year and a day.”- “That’s not long enough. I can’t-“-“I am sure that your brother will be crowned and gone by then. Or we will have lost, despite your promises, and it won’t matter anyway. You won’t get a better offer from me, especially not if you threaten me again.”- “Fine. We’re agreed.”
“Have I told you how hideous you look tonight?”- “No. Tell me.”- “I can’t. “
“ “Bring me the crown, Cardan,” Balekin says- “No, brother. I do not think that I will. I think that if I did not have another reason to cross you, I would do it for spite.” “
“I can be charming. I charmed you, didn’t I?”- “Do not expect others to share my depraved tastes.”
“I have lied and I have betrayed and I have triumphed. If only there was someone to congratulate me.”
“And to Jude, who gave me a gift tonight. One that I plan to repay in kind.”
“You made me your puppet. Very well, Jude, daughter of Madoc, I will be your puppet. You rule. You contend with Balekin, with Roiben, with Orlagh of the Undersea. You be my seneschal, do the work, and I will drink wine and make my subjects laugh. I may be the useless shield you put in front of your brother, but don’t expect me to start being useful. Come, have a seat. This is what you wanted, isn’t it? What you sacrificed everything for. Go on. It’s all yours.“
 “We all dance at Jude’s command. “
“I have said that he has the power to deliver a compliment and make it hurt. So, too, he can say something that ought to be insulting and deliver it in such a way that it feels like being truly seen.”
“Sweet Jude, you’re my dearest punishment”
“I am the Corn King, after all, to be sacrificed so little Oak can take my place in the spring.”
“What about asking a servant to put a very sharp pebble in your boot?”
“You ought not to be here tonight, little ant. Go back to the palace.”
“Tell us what you think of our lady.”- “I have too often been troubled by dreams of Jude. Her face features prominently in my most frequent nightmare.”
“Some among us do not find mortals beautiful. In fact, some of you might swear that Jude is unlovely. But I believe it is only that her beauty is.. unique. Excruciating. Alarming. Distressing.”
“ “ You believe I planned your humiliation?” He laughs. „ Me? That sounds like work.”
“For a moment,” he says, “I wondered if it wasn’t you shooting bolts at me.”- I make a face at him. “And what made you decide it wasn’t?” He grins up at me. “They missed.”
“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”
“He hates you. Even if he wants you, he hates you. Maybe he hates you more for it.”
“If you’re the sickness, I suppose you can’t also be the cure.”
“You’ve delivered your message. I have no bit of doggerel to send back—my own fault for having a seneschal who cannot double as my Court Poet—but I will be sure to crumple up some paper and drop it into the water when I do.”
“I want to tell you so many lies”
“Tell me that you hate me, Jude.”
“I hate you.” I breathe into his mouth. “I hate you so much that sometimes I can’t think of anything else. I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”- He kisses me harder.”
“And the single last thing in my head: that I like him better than I've ever liked anyone and that of all the things he's ever done to me, making me like him so much is by far the worst.”
“I still feel the warm pressure of his fingers against my skin. Something is really wrong with me, to want what I hate, to want someone who despises me, even if he wants me, too. My only comfort is that he doesn’t know what I feel.”
“It seems I have a singular taste for women who threaten me.”
“Nice dress “
“Why are you doing this?”- “For Cardan.”
 „ „ Did Jude say anything? Anything at all?”- „ Only that she freed me for your sake. Which only goes to show how little she knows about you.”-
( DELETED SCENES from THE WICKED KING)
 “I hope Cardan misses me.”
“Balekin and Orlagh are planning your murder.”- “Yes. So why did I wake up at all?”- “Because I am difficult to charm.”- “I could have told my brother that.”
“He continues looking at me in this strange way, as though he’s never seen me before or as though he thought he might never see me again.”
“I wasn't kind, Jude. Not to many people. Not to you. I wasn't sure if I wanted you or if I wanted you gone from my sight so that I would stop feeling as I did, which made me even more unkind. But when you were gone—truly gone beneath the waves—I hated myself as I never have before.”
“The three of you have one solution to every problem. Murder. No key fits every lock.” Cardan gives us all a stern look, holding up a long-fingered hand with my stolen ruby ring still on one finger. “Someone tries to betray the High King, murder. Someone gives you a harsh look, murder. Someone disrespects you, murder. Someone ruins your laundry, murder.”
“Yes, my great villain, my darling god. I will be as sober as a stone carving, just as soon as I can”
“Jude Duarte you will leave the High King’s side,” Balekin says. At that tone, Cardan’s focus narrows. I can see him straining to concentrate. “She will not,” he says.
“He’s the High King of Elfhame and he has the strength of the land to draw on. But he’s very weak already. And I don’t think he knows how to do it. Your Majesty?”- “Whatever do you mean? I just took a mouthful of the land at your behest.”
"She didn't have to force me, Jude. She didn't have to use any magic. I trust you. I trusted you."
“Marry me,” he says. “Become the Queen of Elfhame.”- “But you can’t.”- “I can.”
“Yes. Yes.”- “To what are you agreeing?”-“Okay. I’ll do it. I’ll marry you.”-He gives me a wicked grin. “ I had no idea it would be such a sacrifice.”- “That’s not what I mean.”-“Marriage to the High King of Elfhame is largely thought to be a prize, a honor of which few are worthy.”
“I, Cardan, son of Eldred, High King of Elfhame, take you, Jude Duarte, mortal ward of Madoc, to be my bride and my queen. Let us be wed until we wish for it to be otherwise and the crown has passed from our hands.”
“We trade kisses in the darkness, blurred by exhaustion. I don’t expect to sleep, but I do. My limbs tangled with his, the first restful sleep I’ve had since my return.”
“Well, wife,” He says to me, a chill in his voice. “It seems you have kept at least one secret from your dowry. Come, we must dress for our first audience together.”
“Are you challenging me to duel?”-“And if I was? What then, boy?”- “Beneath every bit of your sea is land. Seething volcanic land. Go against me, and I will show you what this boy will do, my lady. “
“I exile Jude Duarte to the mortal world. Until and unless she is pardoned by the crown, let her not step one foot in Faerie or forfeit her life.”
“But I’m the Queen of Faerie,” I shout, and for a moment, there is silence. Then everyone around me begins to laugh. I can feel my cheeks heat. Tears of frustration and fury prick my eyes as, a beat too late, Cardan laughs with them.”
“I remember what it was to hate him with the whole of my heart, but I've remembered too late. “
“Deny it then. Deny me.”- He cannot, of course. So he does not. “
 “ LETTERS TO JUDE FROM CARDAN (Lady Asha- his mother took each one and burnt it. Jude never saw any.) (QON Bonus Content)
 „ Jude,
you are perhaps only being overcautious, but I am writing to inform you that all is settled between the undersea and Elfhame. The treaties are signed in sea-foam and blood.
Expectantly,
Cardan.”
  „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 nearer distance.
Cardan”
   „ Jude,
you are in no mood for games. Very well. I am in no mood for them, either.
Let me write is outright: you are pardoned. I revoke your banishment. I rescind my words.
Come home.
Come home and shout at me. Come home and fight with me. Come home and break my heart, if you must.
Just come home.
Cardan.”
  „ Jude,
Not even responding to my missives is ridiculous and beneath you and I hate it.
Cardan”
 „ To the High Queen Of Elfhame,
Above me is the same silvery moon that shines down on you. Looking at it makes me recall the glint of your blade pressed against my throat and other romantic moments.
I do not know what keeps you from returning to the High Court- whether it is vexation with me, or whether, having spent time in the mortal world, you have come to believe that a life free of the Folk is better than one ruling ever them.
In my most wretched hours, I believe you will never come back.
Why would you, save for your ambition? You have always known exactly what I am and seen all my failings, all my weaknesses and scars. I flattered myself that at moments you had feelings for me other than contempt, but even were that true, they would be but watered wine beside the feast of your other, greater desires.
And yet my heart is buried with you in the strange soil of the mortal world, as it was drowned with you in the cold waters of the undersea. It was yours before I could admit it, and yours it shall ever remain.
Cardan.”
  „ JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE  JUDE JUDE JUDE
PLEASE JUDE”
      “He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.”
„ I keep my head down, as I probably should have done in the first place. And if I curse Cardan, then I have to curse myself, too, for being the fool who waked right into the trap he set for me.”
„ I don’t want to know anything about him.” I snap, too fast and to angrily. I hadn’t been expecting her to invoke Cardan.(..) But Cardan’s name pounds in my ears. Does he have a new seneschal? Does he have a new lover? Is he going to Council meetings himself? Does he talk about me? Do he and Locke mock me together? Does Taryn laugh?”
„ I hate how much the idea of returning to Elfhame thrills me, hate how much I want another bite at the everyapple, another chance at power, another shot at him.”
“Vivi wants me to explain. She wants me to say that Cardan married me and made me, effectively, High Queen Of Elfhame. But I can’t. Every time I even think about it, I feel a rush of shame for believing he wasn’t going to play me. I don’t think I can explain any part of it without seeming like a fool, and I am not ready to be that vulnerable with Taryn.”
“ Come with me”- Cardan,” I knew you liked her. That’s why I had to have her first. Do you remember the party in my maze garden? How I kissed her while you watched?”-Locke „ I recall that your hands were on her, but her eyes were on me.”- Cardan (..) „ You’re so beautiful. So very beautiful… But your beauty will fade. This smooth skin will winkle and spot. It will become as thin as cobwebs. These breasts will droop. Your hair will grow dull and thin. Your teeth will yellow. And all you have and all you are will rot away to nothing. You will be nothing. You are nothing.”- „ I’m nothing.”- I echo.- „ You come from nothing, and it is to nothing you will return.” (..)- „ You’re lying.”- „ Of course I’m lying. This is your dream. Let me show you.” He presses a warm hand against my cheek. „ I love you, Jude. I’ve loved you for a long time. I will never stop loving you...”- „ Stop it!” I say. Then it’s Locke standing over me, water spilling from his mouth- „ Let’s be sure she’s really dead.”- A moment later, he plunges a knife into my chest. It goes in over and over and over again. At that, I wake, my face wet with tears and scream in my throat.” - JUDE’S DREAM.
„ Of course , Taryn probably saw him quite recently. For her, it hasn’t been long at all. Panic drums in my chest. I am going to have to do more than answer questions at the inquest. I am going to have to pretend that I am a cordial acquaintance of High King Cardan to his face. I fix myself with a look in the mirror, trying to summon the correct expression of deference, trying not to scowl.” Greetings, Your Majesty, you betraying toad.” No, that wouldn’t work, no matter how good it felt.”
„ Good, I suppose. The weaker she seems, the more believable her innocence. My gaze darts away from the dais even as I move toward it. High King Cardan’s presence seems to infect the very air I breathe. For a wild moment, I consider turning and getting out of there before he spots me. I don’t know if I can do this. I feel a little dizzy. I don’t know if I can look at him and not show on my face any of what I am feeling. I take a deep breath and let it out again, reminding myself that he won’t know I’m the one standing in front of him. He didn’t recognize Taryn when she dressed in my clothes, and he won’t recognize me now.”
„ It occurs to me that maybe he made a mistake with that phrasing. Maybe I can pardon myself. But then I remember when I insisted I was the Queen of Faerie, and the guards laughed. Cardan didn’t need to deny me. He only had to say nothing. And if I pardoned myself, he would only have to say nothing again...” (..)” And if I don’t manage to escape.. Idly, I wonder what sort of execution Cardan might order. Maybe he’d strap e to some rocks and let the sea do the work, Nicasia would like that. If he’s not in the mood, though, there’s also beheading, hanging, exsanguination, drawn and quartered, fed whole to riding toad..”
 „ Since I cannot do that while looking at his face, I make sure that I keep my gaze on the ground. „ Taryn?” Cardan asks, and the sound of his voice, the familiarity of it, is shocking. With no more excuses, I raise my eyes to his. He is even more horrifically beautiful than I was able to recall. They’ re all beautiful, unless they’re hideous. (..) He regards me with gold- rimmed black eyes, a smirk hovering at the corners of his mouth..” (..) „ Your Majesty,” I say, because I have to say something and because everything I practiced began with that.- „ We recognize your grief,” he says, sounding annoyingly regal. „ We would not disturb your mourning were it not for questions over the cause of your husband’s death.” (..) „ Jude is in exile.” I say. „ And I’ve never hurt Locke.”- „ No?” Cardan says.- „ I lov…. I loved him.”- „ Sometimes I believed that you did, yes. But you could well be lying. I am going to put a glamour on you. It will do is force you to tell us the truth.” I feel nothing. Not even the High King’s glamour can ensorcell me. „ Now.” Says Cardan.” Tell me only the truth. What is your name?” - „ Taryn Duarte. Daughter of Madoc, wife of Locke, subject of the  High King of Elfhame.”- His mouth curves. „ What a fine courtly manners.” (..) I try to summon tears. It would be useful to cry right now, but standing in front of Cardan, I cannot weep. He peers down at me, black brows drawn together. „ Well, what do you think? Did your sister do it? And don’t tell me what I already know. Yes, I sent Jude into exile. That  may or may not have deterred her.” I wish I could punch him in his smug face and show him how undeterred I am by his exile.- „ She had no reason to hate Locke. I don’t think she wished him ill.”- „ Is that so?” Cardan says (..) „ She loved him, but he chose you. Some sisters cannot bear to see the other happy.”- Lady Asha.- „ Jude never loved Locke.” My face feels hot, but my shame is an excellent cover to hide behind.” She loved someone else. He’s the one she’d want dead.” I am pleased to see Cardan flinch.- „ Enough.” he says before I can go on. „ I have heard all I care to on this subject--” (..)” No! Taryn could have a charm on her, something that makes her resistant to glamours.”- Nicasia.- „ I suppose she’ll have to be searched.”- Cardan. (..) They will guess I am not Taryn. I can’t let that happen. „ My husband was murdered” I say „ And whether or not you believe me, I do mourn him. I will not make a spectacle of myself for the Court’s amusement when his body is barely cold.”- Unfortunately, the High King’s smile only grows. „ As you wish. Then I suppose I will have to examine you alone in my chambers.”
 „ If I am undressed, he will know me.”
 „ Cardan himself lounges, his booted feet resting on a stone table carved in the shape of a griffin, claws raised to strike. He gives me a quicksilver, conspirational grin that seems completely at odds with the way he spoke to me from his throne. „ Well” he says, patting the couch beside him.” Didn’t you get my letters?” - „ What?” I am confused enough that the word comes out like a croak.- „ You never replied to a one.” He goes on.” I began to wonder if you’d misplaced your ambition in the moral world.” This must be a test. This must be a trap.- „ Your Majesty. I thought you brought me here to assure yourself I had neither charm or amulet.”-  A single eyebrow rises, and his smile deepens. „ I will if you like. Shall I command you to remove your clothes? I don’t mind.”- „ What are you doing?” I say finally, desperately.” What are you playing at?”- he’s looking at me as though somehow I am the one who’s behaving strangely.” Jude, you can’t really think I don’t know it’s you. I knew you from the moment you walked into the brugh.” - „ That’s not possible.” If he knew it was me, then I wouldn’t be here. I would be imprisoned in the Tower Of Forgetting. I would be preparing for my execution.(..) „ Come closer.” I take a step backward. He frowns. „ My councilors told me that you met with an ambassador from the Court of Teeth, that you must be working with Madoc now. I was unwilling to believe it, but seeing the way you look at me, perhaps I must. Tell me it’s not true.”- For a moment I don’t understand, but then I do. Grima Mog. „ I’m not the betrayer here,”- „ Are you angry about-” He cuts himself off, looking at my face more carefully. „ No, you’re afraid. But why would you be afraid of me?”- „ I’m not.” I lie. „ I hate you. You sent me into exile. Everything you say to me, everything you promise, it’s all trick. And I, stupid enough to believe you once.”- „ Of course it was a trick-” (..) Everything shakes. An explosion, close by and intense enough that we both stumble. Books fall and scatter over the floor. Crystal orbs slip off their stands to roll across floorboards. Cardan and I look at each other in shared surprise. Then his eyes narrow in accusation. This is the part where I am supposed to stab him and run. A moment later, there’s the unmistakable sound of metal striking metal. Close by. „Stay here,” I say, drawing the blade and tossing the sheath onto the ground.- „Jude, don’t-”he calls after me as I slip into the hall.”
„Cardan was so disarmingly casual, as though sentencing me to death was some shared joke between us. And talking of messages, messages I never got. What could they have said? Could he have intended to pardon me? Could he have offered me some kind of bargain? I cannot imagine a letter from Cardan. Would it have been short and formal? Full of gossip? Wine-stained? Another trick? Of course it was a trick. Whatever he intended, he must believe I am working with Madoc now. And though it shouldn’t bother me, it does.”
„But that brings me to the thing I cannot get past. Even though it’s ridiculous, I can’t stop the anger that rises in me, lighting a fire in my heart. I am the Queen Of Elfhame. Even though I am the queen in exile, I am still the queen. And that means Madoc isn’t trying to take Cardan’s throne. He’s trying to take mine.”
 „”But I am going to challenge him to duel- and after I win, I will split his melon of a head.”- „A duel? Why would he fight you?”- „For love. And for duty.”- „Love of whom?” I can’t believe that Taryn would be any less confused than I am right now.- „There is no banquet too abundant for starving man.””
 „”I don’t think she loved him, but then I don’t think she loved anyone. He was petted and fed wine and adored, then forgotten. But for all that, if he was bad with her, he was worse without her. They are cut from the same cloth.” I shudder, imagining the loneliness of that life, the anger. That desire for love. There is no banquet too abundant for a starving man.” If you’re looking for reasons why he disappointed you,” Oriana says, „by all accounts, Prince Cardan was a disappointment from the beginning.””
„ I will force a bargain with Cardan to rescind my exile and to end the inquest into Taryn. I’m not going to let myself get distracted by letters I never received or the way he looked at me when we were alone in his rooms or my father’s theories about his weaknesses.”
„I wake to the press of a hand over my mouth. I slam my elbow into where I think the person holding me must be and am satisfied to hear a sharp intake of breath, as though I connected with a vulnerable part. There’s a hushed laugh from my left. Two people, then. And one of them is not too worried about me, which is worrisome. I reach under my pillow for a knife.” Jude, ”says the Roach, still laughing.” We’ve come to save you. Screaming would really hurt the plan.”- „You’re lucky I didn’t stab you!” My voice comes out harsher than I intend, anger masking how terrified I was.- „I told him to watch out,” the Roach says. There’s a sharp sound, and light flares from a little box, illuminating the jagged planes of the Roach’s goblin face. He’s grinning. „But would he listen? I’d have ordered him, if not for the little matter of his being the High King.”- „Cardan sent you?” I ask.- „Not exactly,” says the Roach, moving the light so that I can see the person with him, the one I elbowed. The High King of Elfhame, in plain brown wool, a cloak on his back of a fabric so dark it seems to absorb light, leaf blade in the scabbard on his hip. He wears no crown on his brow, no rings on his fingers, nor gold paint limning his cheekbones. He looks every inch a spy from the Court of Shadows, down to the sneaky smile pulling at a corner of his beautiful mouth. Looking at him, I feel a little light-headed from some combination of shock and disbelief.- „You shouldn’t be here.”- „I said that, too. ”the Roach goes on.” Really, I miss the days when you were in charge. High Kings shouldn’t be gallivanting around like common ruffians.”- Cardan laughs. „What about uncommon ruffians?” I swing my legs over the edge of the bed, and his laugh gutters out. The Roach turns his gaze to the ceiling. I am abruptly aware that I am in a nightgown Oriana lent me, one that is entirely too diaphanous. (..)- „How did you find me?”- The Roach cuts a glance at Cardan. „Your sister Vivienne. She came to the High King with a message from your stepmother. She worried it was a trap. I was worried it was a trap, too. A trap for him. Maybe even for myself.”(..)- „Vivi went to you?”- „We spoke after Madoc carried you off from the palace.” Cardan begins. „And whom did I find in her little dwelling but Taryn? We all had quite a lot to say to one another.”- I try to imagine the High King in the mortal world, standing in front of our apartment complex, knocking on our door. What ridiculous thing had he worn? Had he sat down on the lumpy couch and drank coffee as though he didn’t despise everything around him? Did he pardon Taryn when he wouldn’t pardon me? (..) But I am not so easily taken in now. If he’s here, it’s to his own purpose. Maybe allowing his queen to fall into the hands of his enemies is dangerous to him. Which means I have power. I just have to discover it and then find a way to wield it against him. „I can’t go with you yet. There’s something I have to do. And something I need you to give me.”- „Perhaps you could just allow yourself to be rescued,” Cardan says.” For once.” Even in his plain clothes, his head bare of any crown, he cannot pretend away how much he has grown into his royal role.- „Perhaps you could just give me what I want.” I say.- „What? ”the Roach asks. „Let’s put our cards on the table, Jude. Your sisters and their friends are waiting with the horses. We need to be swift.” My sisters? Both of them? And a friend- Heather?- „You let them come?”- „They insisted, and since they were the ones who knew where you were, we had no choice.” The Roach is obviously frustrated with the whole situation. (..) - „If Cardan will promise me safe passage to Elfhame and to lift my exile once we’re there, I will give all that to you. Plus, you will have the prisoner delivered into your hands before he can be used against you.”- „If you’re telling the truth,” The Roach says. „And not leading us into a net of Madoc’s making.”- „I’m on my own side. I tell him. „You of all people should understand that.”- The Roach gives Cardan a look. The High King is staring at me strangely, as though he wishes to say something and is holding himself back from it. Finally, he clears his throat. „Since you’re mortal, Jude, I cannot hold you to your promises. But you can hold me to mine: I guarantee you safe passage. Come back to Elfhame with me, and I will give you the means to end your exile.”- „The means to end it?” I ask. If he thinks I don’t know better than to agree to that, he’s forgotten everything worth knowing about me.- „Come back to Elfhame, tell me what you would tell me, and your exile will end,” he says. ”I promise.”(..) - „Madoc has his true name. He got it from Locke. Whatever punishment the Ghost deserves, you can dole it out once he’s back in the Court Of Shadows. But it’s not death.”- „Locke?” Cardan echoes, then sighs. „Yes, all right. What do we have to do?”- „I was planning to sneak into Grimsen’s forge and steal they key to Ghost’s chains. ”I say.- „ I’ll help you” says the Roach, then turns to Cardan ”But you, sire, will absolutely not. Wait for us with Vivienne and the others.”- „I am coming.” Cardan begins.” You cannot order me otherwise.”- The Roach shakes his head. „I can learn from Jude’s example, though. I can ask for a promise to go back to Elfhame immediately. You must do everything in your power to get to safety, no matter what.”- Cardan glances toward me, as though for help. When I am silent, he frown, annoyed with both of us. „Although I am wearing the cloak Mother Marrow made me, the one that will turn any blade, I still promise to run, tail between my legs. And since I have a tail, that should be amusing for everyone. Are you satisfied?””
„The Roach moves with perfect ease, slipping from shadow to shadow. Cardan moves behind him, more silently that I might have supposed. It gives me no pleasure to admit that he’s grown better at slyfooting than I am. I could pretend that it’s because the Folk have a natural ability, but I suspect that he also has practiced more than I have. I spread my learning too thin, although, to be fair, I’d like to know how much time he spent studying all the things he ought to know to be the ruler of Elfhame. No, those studies fell to me.”
„I lift the crystal key from the wall gingerly. Cardan stands by me, looking over the array of objects. The Roach crosses the floor toward the sword. He’s halfway there when a sound like the chime of a clock rings out. High up the wall, two inset doors open, revealing a round hole. All I have time to do before a spray of darts shoots out is point and make a sound of warning. Cardan steps in front of me, pulling his cloak up. The metal needles glance off the fabric, falling to the floor. For a moment, we stare at each other, wide-eyed. He looks as surprised as I am that he protected me.”
„”The Bomb can help him. She can make an antidote.” I hope she can, at least. I hope there’s time. With surprising ease, Cardan lifts the Roach in his arms.- „Tell me this wasn’t your plan,” he pleads.” Tell me.”- „No,” I say.” Of course not. I swear it.”- „Come then,” he says.” My pocket is full of ragwort. We can fly.” I shake my head.” Jude,” he warns. We don’t have time to argue.- „Vivi and Taryn are still waiting for me. They won’t know what’s happened. If I don’t go to them, they’ll be caught.”- I can tell he’s not sure if he should believe me, but all he does is shift the Roach so that he can untie his cloak with one hand. „Take this, and do not stop,” he orders, his expression fierce. Then he heads into the night, bearing the Roach in his arms. I set out for the woods, neither running nor hiding, exactly, but moving swiftly, tying his cloak over my shoulders as I go.”
„”Whom did you send him after?” My voice shakes a little, imagining Cardan escaping from Madoc’s camp only to be shot in his own palace as he was once almost shot in his own bed.- „You’re still loyal to that puppet. Why, Jude? Wouldn’t it be better if he took an arrow through the heart in his own hall? You cannot believe he makes a better High King than I would.”- „Maybe I believe that it’s time for Elfhame to be ruled by a queen.”- He laughs at that, a bark of surprise. „You think Cardan will just hand over his power? To you? Mortal child, surely you know better. He exiled you. He reviled you. He will never see you as anything but beneath him”(..) „That boy is your weakness. But worry not. His reign will be short.” (..) - „I never wanted to be your enemy.” I say.” But I didn’t want to be in your power, either.” With that, I take off through the snow. I do the one thing I told myself I would never do.- „Do not run from me!” he shouts, a horrible echo of his final words to my mother. The memory of her death makes my legs go faster. (..) As I run, my hopes of losing him in the woods diminish. No matter how I zig and zag, he doesn’t let up. My heart thunders in my chest, and I know that, above all things, I can’t lead him to my sisters.”
„It’s no long before I falter. His sword slices against the cloak covering my shoulder. Mother Marrow’s fabric is unscathed. He pauses in surprise, and I strike for his hand. It’s a cheat move. But I draw blood, and he roars. Grabbing the cloak, he winds it around his hand, hauling me toward him. The ties choke me, then rip free. His sword sinks into my side, into my stomach. I look up at him for a moment, eyes wide. He seems as surprised as I feel. Somehow, despite knowing better, part of me still believed he would pull a killing blow. Madoc, who was my father ever since he murdered my father. Madoc, who taught me how to swing a sword to actually hit someone and not just their blade. Madoc, who sat me on his knee and read to me and told me he loved me. I fall to my knees. My legs have collapsed under me. His blade comes free, slick with my blood. My leg is wet with it. I am bleeding out.”
„After all, who wants to die slowly when you can die fast? Me. I don’t want to die fast. I don’t want to die at all.”
„”Let me take you back to the camp, Jude” Madoc says. „You’re dying.”- I shake my head. „I’m staying here.”- „Goodbye, then, daughter.” Madoc says.” You would have made a good redcap.””
„”I am not sure it will work. I’m not magic.” I tell her. I know I am leaving out parts. I know I am not explaining this the right way, but everything has become a little unmoored. ”Even if I am the true queen, the land might not have anything to do with me.”- „The true queen?” Taryn echoes.- „Because she married Cardan,” Vivi says, sounding frustrated. „That’s what she’s talking about.”- „What? ”Taryn says, astonished. „No.””
„” Where’s Cardan? What happened to that goblin he was traveling with?” Vivi looks ready to scream. „They were supposed to take care of you.”- „The goblin called himself the Roach.” Taryn reminds her. - „He was poisoned. And Cardan had to rush him to the antidote. But he doesn’t know that Madoc sent the Ghost after him.”- „The Ghost.” Taryn echoes.- „It’s ridiculous the way everyone acts like killing a king is going to make someone better at being one.” Vivi says. ”Imagine if, in the mortal world, a lawyer passed the bar by killing another lawyer.” I have no idea what my sister is talking about. (..) ”We’ll see you there.” Vivi warns.” Don’t fall off the horse.”- „Thank you,” I say, reaching out my hands. Vivi takes one, and then Taryn clasps the other. I squeeze. As the pony kicks its way into the frigid air, I see the mountains below me, along with Madoc’s army. I look down at my sisters, hurrying through the snow. My sisters, who, despite everything, came for me.”
„Please let the Roach be okay. Let Cardan not be shot. Let the Ghost be clumsy. Let me get inside easily. Let me stop him.”
„You. Mortal girl in the mask. You smell like blood. ”I turn. Frustrated and desperate as I am, I blurt out the first thing that comes to me.- „Well, I am a mortal. And a girl, sir. We bleed every month, just like moon swells.””
„Then Cardan enters with his guard around him and the Blood Crown gleaming atop his ink- black curls. When I look at him, I feel dizzy dissonance. He does not seem like someone who has been carrying poisoned spies through the snow, someone who has braved an enemy camp. Someone who pushed his magical cloak into my hands. He seems like the person who shoved me into the water and laughed when it close over my head. Who tricked me.
That boy is your weakness.”
„Wouldn’t it be better if he took an arrow through the heart in his own hall? Madoc set me up. He never sent the Ghost here. He only made me think he did, so I would come and chase after a phantom in the rafters. So I would incriminate myself. Madoc didn’t have to deliver the killing blow. He made sure  would march straight to my doom. The Bomb shoots, and I dodge. Her bolt goes past me, but my foot slips sideways in my own blood, and then I plunge backward. Off the rafter and into the open air. For a moment, it feels like flying. I crash onto the banquet table, knocking pomegranates to the floor. They roll in every direction, into puddles of spilled mead and shattered crystal. I am sure I ripped a lot of stitches. Everything hurts. I can’t seem to get my breath. I open my eyes to see people crowded around me. Councilors. Guards(..) „Jude Duarte, ”someone says „Broken her exile to murder the High King.”- „Your Majesty. ”Says Randalin.” Give the order.”- Cardan sweeps across the floor toward me, looking like a ridiculously magnificent friend. The guards part to let him closer, but if I make a move, I have no doubt they’ll stab me through.- „I lost your cloak. ”I croak up at him, my voice coming out all breath. He peers down at me.- „You’re a liar,” he says, eyes glittering with fury.” A dirty, mortal liar.””
„I close my eyes again against the harshness of his words. But he has no reason to believe I haven’t come here to kill him. If he sends me to the Tower Of Forgetting, I wonder if he’ll visit. „Clap her in chains,” says Randalin. Never have I so wished there was a way for me to show I was telling the truth. But there isn’t. No oath of mine carries any weight. I feel a guard’s hand close on my arm. Then Cardan’s voice comes.- „Do not touch her.” A terrible silence follows. I wait for him to pronounce judgment on me. Whatever he commands will be done. His power is absolute. I don’t even have the strength to fight back.- „Whatever can you mean?” Randalin says. „She’s--”- „She is my wife,” Cardan says, his voice carrying over the crowd.” The rightful High Queen of Elfhame. And most definitely not in exile.” The shocked roar of the crowd rolls around me, but none of them are more shocked than I am. I try to open my eyes, try to sit up, but darkness crowds in at the edges of my vision and drags me under.”
 „I am on the High King’s enormous bed, bleeding on his majestically appointed coverlets. Everything hurts. There’s a hot, raw pain in my belly, and my head is pounding. Cardan stands over me. His jacket is thrown on a nearby chair, the velvet soaked through with some dark substance. His white sleeves are rolled up, and he’s washing my hands with a wet cloth. Getting the blood off them. I try to speak, but my mouth feels like it is full of honey. I slide back into the syrupy dark.”
„”Well, they drugged you.” Oak says with a shrug. „So you’ve woken up before, but not for too long. Not like this.” That’s disturbing, partially because I don’t remember it and partially because I must have been hogging Cardan’s bed this whole time, but I refuse to think too much about it, the way I refused to think about sweeping out of the High King’s chambers in nothing but his shirt and cloak. Instead, I pick out one of my old seneschal outfits- a gown that is long column of black with silver-tripped cuffs and collar. It is perhaps too plain for a queen, but Cardan is extravagant enough for both of us.”
„”I couldn’t help that Madoc kidnapped me,” I point out. Vivi goes on, ignoring me.- „Yeah, and the next thing we know, the High King is on our doorstep looking ready to tear down the whole apartment complex to find you. And when we finally hear from you through Oriana, it’s not like we could trust anyone. So we had to hide a cannibal redcap to come with us, just in case. And it’s a good thing we did-”- „Seeing you lie in the snow- you were so pale, Jude,” Taryn interrupts.” And when things started budding and blooming around you, I didn’t know what to think. Flowers and vines pushed right up through the ice. Then color came back into your skin, and you got up. I couldn’t believe it.”(..) „I still can’t believe you married Prince Cardan.” Taryn says.”
„His expression is remote. „Walk with me,” he says, leaving little room for refusal.- „Of course.” My heart speeds, despite myself. I hate that he saw me when I was at my most vulnerable, that he let me bleed all over his spider-silk sheets. Vivi catches my hand.- „You’re not well enough.”- Cardan raises his black brows. „The Living Council is eager to speak with her.””
 „”The Living Council waits to hear all you know about the sword and his maps. They found my descriptions of the camp to be sadly inadequate.”- „They can wait a little longer, ”I say, forcing out the words. „I need to talk to you.” He looks surprised and a little uncertain. „It won’t take long.” The last thing I want is to have this conversation, but the longer I put it off, the larger it will loom in my mind. He ended my exile- and while I extracted a promise from him to do that, he had no reason to declare me queen. „Whatever your scheme is, whatever you are planning to hold over me, you might as well tell me now, before we’re in front of the whole Council. Make your threats. Do your worst.”- „Yes,” he says, turning down a corridor in the palace that led outside. „We do need to talk.”(..) „I assume you weren’t actually trying to shoot me,” Cardan says. „Since the note was in your handwriting.”- „Madoc sent the Ghost-”I say, then stop and try again. „I thought that there was going to be an attempt on your life.”- „It was terrifying,” he says,” watching you fall. I mean, you’re generally terrifying, but I am unused to fearing for you. And then  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 a lament.” You never break.” Which is ridiculous, as hurt as I am. I feel like a constellation of wounds, held together with string and stubbornness. Still, I like hearing it. I like everything he’s saying all to well. That boy is your weakness.- „When I came here, pretending to be Taryn, you said you’d sent me messages,” I say. „You seemed surprised I hadn’t gotten any. What was in them?”- Cardan turns to me, hands clasped behind his back. „Pleading, mostly. Beseeching you to come back. Several indiscreet promises.” He’s wearing that mocking smile, the one he says comes from nervousness. I close my eyes against frustration great enough to make me scream.- „Stop playing games,” I say. „I sent me into exile.”- „Yes,” he says.” That. I can’t stop thinking about what you said to me, before Madoc took you. About it being a trick. You meant marrying you, making you queen, sending you to the mortal world, all of it, didn’t you?”- I fold my arms across my chest protectively. „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 negotiations 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.” Oh. OH. It wasn’t an accident, his choice of words. It wasn’t infelicitous. It was deliberate. A riddle made just for me. Maybe I should feel foolish, but instead, I feel furiously angry. I turn away from him and walk, swiftly and completely directionless through the garden. He runs after me, grabbing my arm. I haul around and slap him. It’s a stinging blow, smearing the gold on his cheekbone and causing his skin to redden. We stare at each other for long moments, breathing hard. His eyes are bright with something entirely different from anger. I am in over my head. I am drowning.- „I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He grabs my hand, possibly to keep me from hitting him again. Our fingers lace together. „No, it’s not that, not exactly. I didn’t think I could hurt you. And I never thought you would be afraid of me.”- „And did you like it?” I ask. He looks away from me then, and I have my answer. Maybe he doesn’t want to admit to that impulse, but he has it. „Well, I was hurt, and yes, you scare me.” Even as I am speaking, I wish I could snatch back the words. Perhaps it is exhaustion or having been so close to death, but the truth pours out of me in a devastating rush. „You’ve always scared me. You gave me every reason to fear your capriciousness and your cruelty. I was afraid of you even when you were tied to that chair in the Court of Shadows. I was afraid of you when I had a knife to your throat. And I am scared of you now.” Cardan looks more surprised than he did when I slapped him. He was always a symbol of everything about Elfhame that I couldn’t have, everything that would never want me. And telling him this feels a little like throwing off a heavy weight, except that weight is supposed to be my armor, and without it, I am afraid I am going to be entirely exposed. But I keep talking anyway, as though I no longer have control of my tongue. „You despised me. When you said you wanted me, it felt like the world had turned upside down... But sending me into exile, that made sense.” I meet his gaze.” That was an entirely right-side-up Cardan move. And I hated myself for not seeing it coming. And I hate myself for not seeing what you’re going to do to me next.” He closes his eyes. When he open them, he releases my hand and turns so I can’t see his face.- „I can see why you thought what you did. I suppose I am not to be trusted, but let me say this: I trust you.” He takes a deep breath. „You may recall that I did not want to be the High King. And that you did not consult me before plopping this crown on my head. You may further recollect that Balekin didn’t want me to keep the title and that the Living Council never took a real shine to me.”- „I suppose.” I say, though none of those things seemed particularly unusual. Balekin wanted Cardan to show up for meetings, which he seldom did.- „There was a prophecy given when I was born. Usually Baphen is uselessly vague, but in this case, he made it clear that should I rule, I would make a very poor king.” He pauses. „The destruction of the crown, the ruination of the throne- a lot of dramatic language.”(..) Cardan turns back to me, gazing down at me as he did in my imaginings.” When you forced me into working fro The Court of Shadows, I never thought of the things I could do- frightening people, charming people- as talents, no less ones that I might be valuable. But you did. You showed me how to use them to be useful. I never minded being a minor villain, but it’s possible I might have grown into something else, a High King as monstrous as Dain. And if I did- if I fulfilled that prophecy- I ought to be stopped. And I believe that you would stop me.”- „Stop you? ”I echo.” Sure. If you’re a huge jerk and a threat to Elfhame, I’ll pop your head right off.”- „Good.” His expression is wistful. „That’s one reason I didn’t want to believe you’d joined  up with Madoc. The other is that I want you here by my side, as my queen.” It is a strange speech, and there’s little of love in it, but it doesn’t seem like a trick, either. And if it stings a little that he admires me primarily for my ruthlessness, well, I suppose there should be come comfort that he admires me at all. (..) He gives me a half smile. „But now that you’re High Queen and back in charge, I won’t be doing anything of consequence anyway. If I destroy the crown and ruin the throne, it will be through neglect.”- That startles a laugh out of me. „So that’s your excuse for not doing any of the work? You must be draped in decadence at all times because if you aren’t kept busy, you might fulfill some half- baked prophecy?”- „Exactly.” he touches my arm, his smile fading. „Would you like me to inform the Council that you will see them another time? It will be a novelty to have me make your excuses.””
 „ „Well, Jude did get herself tangled up with Grima Mog.” Randalin has never much liked me, and I don’t think recent events have improved his feelings at all.” Leave it to you to spend your exile recruiting infamous butchers.”- „So did you murder Balekin? ”Nihuar asks me, clearly able to put off her curiosity no longer.- „” Yes.” I say. „ After he poisoned the High King.”- „Poisoned? ”she echoes in astonishment, looking at Cardan. He shrugs, lounging in a chair, looking bored as ever.- „You can hardly expect me to mention every little thing.”- Randalin rises to the bait, looking puffed up with annoyance.” Your Majesty, we were led to believe that her exile was justified. And that if you wished to marry, you would consult-”- „Perhaps at least one of you could have told us-”Baphen says, talking over Randalin. This was what they really wanted to discuss, I suppose. Whether there was any way they could prevent what’s already occurred and invalidate my elevation to High Queen. Cardan puts up a hand.- „No, no, enough. It’s all too tedious to explain. I declare this meeting at an end.” His fingers make a flicking gesture toward the door. „Leave us. I tire of the lot of you.” I have a long way to go before I can manage that level of shameless arrogance. It works, however. They grumble but rise and go out.”
„She takes some bandages from her coat and turns to Cardan. „You should go.”- „This is my room, ”he points out, affronted. „And that’s my wife.”- „So you keep telling to 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.”
„But I would like to say something to Cardan’s mother, and now seems like an excellent time to do so. (..) „Once you’re no longer a challenge, he will despise you.” I stare at her.- „And you’re giving me this warning out of the kindness of your heart? ”She smiles.- „I am giving you this warning because it doesn’t matter. You’re already doomed, Queen of Elfhame. You already love him. You already loved him when you questioned me about him instead of your own mother. And you will still love him, mortal girl, long after his feelings evaporate like morning dew.” I can’t help thinking of Cardan’s silence when I asked if he liked that was afraid. A part of him will always delight in cruelty. Even if he has changed, he could change again. I hate being a fool.(..) Maybe it isn’t the worst thing to want to be loved, even if you’re not. Even if it hurts. Maybe being human isn’t always being weak. (..) Maybe it was the shame that was the problem. But it’s not as though my own fears are the only reason I was in exile for so long. - „Is that why you intercepted the letters he sent? To protect me or was it because you’re afraid that he won’t tire of me? Because, my lady, I will always be a challenge.””
„Nicasia stands in front of them, in armor of iridescent scales, her hair dressed with shark teeth, clasping Cardan’s hands in hers. Her eyes are red- rimmed and swollen, as though she’s been weeping. His dark head is bent toward hers, and I am reminded that they were once lovers. She whirls when she sees me, wild with anger. „This is your father’s doing! ”I take a step back in surprise.- „What?”- „Queen Orlagh,” Cardan says with what seems like slightly exaggerated calm. „Apparently, she..”
„”Jude like 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.”
„Is she wants me to come to Hollow Hall, something is very wrong. „As soon as you can get away,” Fand says.- „I’ll come now,” I say, and then turn back to the councilors, the generals, and the High King.” There’s been a family difficulty. You will excuse me.”- „I will accompany you,” Cardan says, rising. I open my mouth to explain all the reasons that he can’t go. The problem is that as I look up into his gold- rimmed eyes and he blinks mock- innocently down at me, I can’t think of a single one that will actually stop him. „Good,” he says, sweeping past me. „We’re decided.”(..) In the hall, I am forced to walk faster to catch up with Cardan.- „You don’t even know where we’re going.”- „Fand, where are we going?” The knight looks miserable but answers.- „To Hollow Hall.”- „Ah.” he says.” Then I am already proven useful. You will need me to sweet- talk the door.””
„Cardan emerges, his gaze going to neither me nor the guard, but to Hollow Hall itself. His tail lashes the air behind him, showing all the emotion that’s not on his face. Covered in a heavy coat of ivy, with a crooked tower and pale and hairy roots hanging from its balconies, this was once his home. I witnessed Cardan’s being whipped by a human servant at Balekin’s direction. I am sure far worse things happened there, although he has never spoken of them. I rub my thumb over the stub of my missing finger top, bitten off by the one of Madoc’s guards, and realize abruptly that if I told Cardan about it, he might understand. Maybe more than anyone, he’d comprehend the odd mingling of fear and shame I feel- even now- when I think of it. For all our conflicts, there are moments when we understand each other entirely too well. „Why are we here?” he asks.”
„Cardan is gazing at my sister as though attempting to puzzle something through. „You know him, don’t you?” he asks. She nods, crossing her arms over her chest.- „He would visit Locke sometimes. But he didn’t have anything to do with Locke’s death, if that’s what you’re thinking.”- „I wasn’t thinking that,” Cardan says. „Not at all.” No, he would have already been Madoc’s prisoner then. But I don’t like the way this conversation is going. I am still not sure what Cardan would do if he knew the truth of Locke’s death.”
„I am too stiff to fight him, too sore. I grab for the heavy seal to the pit and begin to drag it over, hoping to trap him before he makes it up the side. Cardan calls for the guard and draws a wicked- looking knife from inside his doublet, surprising me. That’s got to be the Roach’s influence. My sister clears her throat. „ Larkin Gorm Garrett,” she says.” Forget all other commands but mine.””
„”I will not go to my husband’s house until I am sure Jude isn’t in any danger.” She says.- „Jude and I had a misunderstanding,” Cardan says carefully. „But we’re not enemies. And I am not your enemy, either, Taryn.”- „You think everything’s a game, ”she says. ”You and Locke.”- „Unlike Locke, I never thought love was a game,” he says.” You may accuse me of much, but not that.”- „Garrett, ”I interrupt, in desperation, because I am not sure I want to hear more. ”Is there anything you can tell us? Whatever Madoc is planning, we need to know.””
„”I’ll walk you back to your rooms,” Taryn says with something of the conspiratorial, leading me in the direction of the royal chamber. I go wither her down the hall, two of the royal guard following us at a discreet distance “ Do you trust him?” she whispers when Cardan is no longer within earshot.- „Sometimes.” I admit. She gives me a sympathetic look.- „He was nice in the carriage. I didn’t know he knew how to be nice.” That makes me laugh. At the door to my chambers, she puts her hand on my arm. „He was trying to impress YOU, you know. Talking to me.” I frown. - „I think he just wanted to hear about weird candy.” She shakes her head.- „He wants you to like him. But just because he wants to doesn’t mean you should.””
„Our marriage is an alliance. It is a bargain. I tell myself that it doesn’t have to be more than that. I try to tell myself that Cardan’s desire for me has always been mixed up with disgust and that I am better off without it.  I fall asleep waiting for the sound of the door opening, for his step on the wooden floor. But when I wake, I am still alone. No lamps are lit. No pillows moved. Nothing is changed. I sit upright. Perhaps he spent all the rest of the morning and afternoon in the Court of Shadows, playing darts with the Ghost and checking on the Roach’s healing. But I can more easily imagine him in the great hall, overseeing the last dregs of the night’s revelry and swilling gallons of wine, all to avoid lying beside me in bed.”
„”You create those doubts-”Ah. Now I know what this is about. He goes on. „There has never been a mortal Queen Of Elfhame. And there should not be one now.”- „Do you really expect me to give up such enormous power on your say-so?” I ask.- „You were a good seneschal,” Randalin says, surprising me. „You care about Elfhame. That’s why I implore you to relinquish your title. ”It’s at that moment that the door swings open. „We did not send for you, and we do not need you!” Randalin begins, clearly intending to give some servant- probably Fand- the tongue- lashing he wishes he could bestow on my person. Then he blanches and lurches to his feet. The High King stands in the doorway. His eyebrows rise, and a malicious smile pulls at the corners of his mouth.- „Many think that, but few are bold enough to say it to my face.” Randalin sputters.- „Your Majesty! Great shame is mine. My incautious comments were never intended for you. I thought that you-”He stops himself and starts again. „I was foolish. If you desire my punishment-”Cardan interrupts.- „Why don’t you tell me what you were discussing? I have no doubt you’d prefer Jude’s levelheaded answers to my nonsense, but it amuses me to hear about matters of state nonetheless.”- „I was only urging her to consider the war that her father is bringing. Everyone must make sacrifices.” Randalin glances toward Grimma Mog, who sets down her tureen on a nearby table, then at Cardan again. I could warn Randalin that he ought to be afraid of the way that Cardan is looking at him. (..) Cardan turns to me, and some of the heat of his anger is still in  his eyes.- „Jude, would you give me and the councilor a moment alone? I have a few things I would like to urge him to consider. And Grimma Mog has brought you soup.”- „I don’t need anyone to help me tell Randalin that this is my home and my land and that I am going nowhere and relinquishing nothing.”- „And yet,” Cardan says, clamping his hand on the back of the councilor’s throat, „there are still some things I would say to him.” Randalin allows Cardan to hustle him into one of the other royal parlors. Cardan’s voice goes low enough for me to not make ut the words, but the silky menace of his tone is unmistakable.- „Come eat,” Grimma Mog says, ladling some soup into a bowl. „It will help you heal.””
„Cardan leans against the doorframe, looking very satisfied with himself. „There’s a ball tonight to welcome guests from some of my Courts. Heather, I hope you and Vivienne will come. The last time you were here, we were poor hosts. But there are many delights we could show you.”- „Including a war,” puts in Grimma Mog.” What could be more delightful than that?””
„”Tonight you’re going to have to speak with all the rulers.”- „I know”- „Because only one of us can tell them lies, and they need to believe our victory is inevitable.”- „Isn’t it?” I ask. He smiles.- „You tell me.”- „Madoc has no chance at all.” I lie dutifully. I recall going to the low Court encampments after Balekin and Madoc’s coup, trying to persuade the lords and ladies and lieges of Faerie to ally with me. It was Cardan who told me which of them to approach, Cardan who gave me enough information about each for me to guess how to best convince them. If anyone can get me through tonight, it’s him. He’s good at putting those around him at ease, even when they ought to know better.”
„Across the room, Cardan raises a goblet. „Be welcome on the Isle of Insmire,” he says. „ 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.”
 „”You were very formidable tonight, my queen,” Cardan says, crossing the floor to me.- „After that speech you made, it didn’t take much.” Despite my fatigue, I am hyperaware of his presence, of the heat of his skin and the way his slow, conspiratorial smile makes my stomach twist with stupid longing.- „It cannot be anything other than the truth,” he says. ”Or it never could have left my tongue.” I find my gaze drawn to his soft lips, the black of his eyes, the cliffs of his cheekbones.- „You didn’t come to bed last night,” I whisper. I occurs to me abruptly that while I was unconscious, he would have spent his nights elsewhere. Perhaps not alone. It has been a long time since I was last at Court. I have no idea who is in his favor. But if there is someone else, his thoughts appear far from her.- „I am here now,” he says, as though he thinks it’s possible he misunderstands me. It’s okay to want something that’s going to hurt, I remind myself. I move toward him, so we are close enough to touch. He takes my hand in his, fingers lacing together, and bends toward me. There is plenty of time for me to pull away from the kiss, but I don’t. I want him to kiss me. My weariness evaporates as his lips press against mine. Over and over, one kiss sliding into the next. „You looked like a knight in a story tonight.” he says softly against my neck. „Possibly a filthy story.” I kick him in the leg, and he kisses me again, harder. (..) His mouth is against my neck, his tongue on my skin. His hand moves to my hips, lifting me. I feel overheated and out of control. That thought cuts through everything else, and I freeze. He releases me immediately, letting me down and then stepping back as though scalded.” We need not-”he begins, but that’s even worse. I don’t want him to guess how vulnerable I feel.- „No, just give me a second,” I say, then bite my lip. His eyes are very dark, pupils dilated. He’s so beautiful, so perfectly, horribly, inhumanly beautiful that I can barely breathe.” I’ll be right back.” I flee to the wardrobe. I can still feel the drum of my thundering pulse all through my body.”
„When I was a kid, sex was a mystery, some bizarre thing people did to make babies when they got married. Once, a friend and I placed dolls in a hat and shook the hat around to indicate that they were doing it.(..) But though I understand what sex is now and how it’s accomplished, I didn’t anticipate how much it would feel like losing myself. When Cardan’s hands are on me, I am betrayed into pleasure. And he can tell. He’s practiced in the arts of love. He can draw whatever response he wants from me. I hate that, and yet I want it, all at once. But maybe I don’t have to be the only one made to feel things. I strip off my dress, kick off my shoes. I even take down my hair, letting it fall over my shoulders. In the mirror, I catch sight of my curves- the muscles of my arms and chest, honed by swordplay; the heaviness of my pale breasts; and the swell of my hips. Naked, there is no disguise for my mortality. Naked, I return to the bedroom. Cardan is standing by the bed. When he turns, he looks so astonished that I almost laugh. I have seldom seen him unsure of himself, even when drunk, even when wounded; it is rare to see him overset. A wild heat leaps into his eyes, an expression not unlike fear. I feel a rush of power, heady as wine. Now this is a game I don’t mind playing.” Come here,” he says, voice rough. I do, crossing the floor obediently. I might be inexperienced in love, but I know a lot about provocation. I slide to my knees in front of him.- „Is this what you imagined I’d be like, back in your rooms at Hollow Hall, when you thought of me and hated it? Is this how you pictured my eventual surrender?” He looks absolutely mortified, but there’s no disguising the flush of his cheeks, the shine of his eyes.- „Yes,” he says, sounding like the words was dragged out of him, his voice rough with desire.- „Then what did I do?” I ask, my voice low. I reach out to press my hand against his thigh. His gaze shimmers in his face, though, and I realize he believes I might be asking him all this because I’m angry. Because I want to see him humiliated. But he keeps speaking anyway.- „I imagined you telling me to do with you whatever I liked.”- „Really?” I ask, and the surprised laugh in my voice makes him meet my gaze.- „Along with some begging on your part. A little light groveling.” He gives me an embarrassed smile.” My fantasies were rife with overweening ambition.” On my knees, it is a small thing to lie back on the cold stone. I reach up my hands, like a supplicant. - „You may do with me whatever you like, ”I say. „Please oh please. All I want is you.” He sucks in a breath and gets down so we’re both on the floor and he’s on his hands and knees, making a cage of his body. He presses his mouth to the pulse point of my wrist, racing in time with my heart.- „Mock me all you like. Whatever I imagined then, now it is I who would beg and grovel for a kind word from your lips.” His eyes are black with desire.” By you, I am forever undone.” It seems impossible that he’s saying those words and that they’re true. But when he leans down and kisses me again, that thought blurs into sensation. He arches against me, shuddering. I begin to undo the buttons of his doublet. He tosses his shirt after it. - „I am not mocking,” I whisper against his skin. When he looks down at me, his face is troubled.- „We have lived in our armor for so long, you and I. And now I am not sure if either of us knows how to remove it.”- „Is this another riddle? And if I answer it, will you go back to kissing me?”- „If that’s what you want.” His voice sounds rough, unsteady. He moves so that he is lying at my side.- „I told you what I wanted,” I say in challenge.” For you to do with me whatever-”- „No,” he interrupts.” What YOU want.” I move so that I am straddling his body. Looking down at him, I study the planes of his chest, the voluptuous black curls damp against his brow, his slightly parted lips, the furred length of his fail.- „I want-”I say, but I am too shy to say the words. I kiss him instead. Kiss him until he understands. He shucks off his pants, watching me as though waiting for me to change my mind. I feel the soft brush of his tail against my ankle, winding around my calf. Then I fumble my way into what I think is the right position. Gasp as our bodies slide together. His face is wholly unguarded. When we’re finished, he kissed me, sweet and raw. „I missed you,” I whisper against his skin and feel dizzy with the intimacy of the admission, feel more naked than when he could see every inch of me. „In the mortal world, when I thought you were my enemy, I still missed you.”- „My sweet nemesis, how glad I am that you returned.” He pulls my body against his, cradling my head against his chest. We are still lying on the floor , although a perfectly good bed is right next to us. I think of his riddle. How do people like us take off our armor? One piece at a time.”
„Then she goes, too, and it is Cardan and me, alone for a moment. „Madoc says you will duel for love.” I say.- „Whose?” he asks, frowning. There is no banquet too abundant for a starving man. I shake my head. „It’s you I love,” he says. „I spent much of my life guarding my heart. I guarded it so well that I could behave as though I didn’t have one at all. Even now, it is shabby, worm-eaten, and scabrous thing. But it is yours.” He walks to the door to the royal chambers, as though to end the conversation. „You probably guessed as much,” he says. „But just in case you didn’t.” He opens the door to prevent me from responding. Abruptly, we are no longer alone. Fand and the rest of our guard stand ready in the hall, with the Living Council waiting impatiently beside them. I can’t believe he said that and then just walked out, leaving me reeling. I am going to strangle him.- „The traitor and his company have entered the brugh,” Randalin says. „Waiting on your pleasure.”- „How many?” Cardan asks.”
„As we walk through the halls, I glance over at Cardan. He gives me a preoccupied smile, as though his thoughts are on Madoc and the coming conflict. You love him, too, I think. You’ve loved him since before you were a prisoner of the Undersea. You loved him when you agreed to marry him. Once this is over, I will find the bravery to tell..”
„”Lord Madoc,” Cardan says. „Traitor to the throne, murderer of my brother, what brings you here? Have you come to throw yourself on the mercy of the crown? Perhaps you hope the Queen of Elfhame will show leniency.” Madoc barks out a laugh, his gaze going to me.- „Daughter, every time I think you cannot rise any higher, you prove me wrong,” he says. ”And I a fool to wonder if you were even still alive. „- „I am alive,” I say. „No thanks to you.” I have some satisfaction in seeing the complete bafflement on Oriana’s face and then the shock that replaces it as she comes to see that my presence at the High King’s side is no elaborate joke. I am somehow wed to Cardan.”
„”You have come to parlay, and you will not surrender,” Cardan says. „So speak. I cannot believe you brought so many troops to sit idle.” Madoc puts his hand up onto the hilt of his sword.- „I have come to challenge you for your crown.” Cardan laughs.- „This is the Blood Crown, forged for Mab, first of the Greenbriar line. You can’t wear it.”- „Forged by Grimsen,” says Madoc.” Here at my side. He will find a way for me to make it mine once I win. So will you hear my challenge?” No, I want to say. Stop talking. But this is the purpose of parlay. I can hardly call a halt to it without a reason.- „You have come all this way,” says Cardan. „And called so many Folk here to witness. How could I not?”-  „When Queen Mab died,” Madoc says, drawing the sword from his back. It gleams with reflected candlelight. „The palace was built on her barrow. And while her remains are gone, her power lives on in the rocks and earth there. This sword was cooled in that earth, the hilt set with her stones. Grimsen says it can shake the firmament of the isles.” Cardan glances toward the shadows, where the archers are positioned.- „You were my guest until..”(..) I realize what’s about to happen and cover my mouth. Then the ancient throne of Elfhame cracks down the middle, its flowering branches turned into splinters, it  seat obliterated. Sap leaks from the rapture like blood from a wound.- „I have come here to give that blade to you,” Madoc says over the screams. Cardan looks at the destruction of the throne in horror.- „Why?”- „If you should lose the contest I propose, it will be yours to wield against me. We will have a proper duel, but your sword will be the better by far. And if you win, it will be yours by right anyway, as will my surrender.” Despite himself, Cardan looks intrigued. Dread gnaws at my gut. „High King Cardan, son of Eldred, great-grandson of Mab. You who were born under an ill-favored star, whose mother left you to eat the crumbs off the royal table as though you were once of its hounds, you who are given to luxury and ease, whose father despised you, whose wife keeps you under her control- can you inspire any loyalty in your people?”- „Cardan-”I begin, then bite my tongue. Madoc has trapped me. If I speak and Cardan heeds me, it will seem to prove my father right.- „I am under no one’s control,” Cardan says. „And your treason began with planning my father’s death, so you can hardly care about his good opinion. Go back to you desolate mountains. The Folk here are my sworn subjects, and your insults are dull.”- Madoc smiles. „Yes, but do your sworn subjects love you? My army is loyal, High King Cardan, because I’ve earned their loyalty. Have you earned one single thing that you have I have fought with those who follow me and bled with them. I have given my life to Elfhame. Were I High King, I would give all those who followed me dominion over the world. Had I the Blood Crown on my head instead of this cap, I would bring victories undreamed. Let them choose between us, and whomsoever they choose, let him have the rule of Elfhame. Let him have the crown. If Elfhame love you, I will yield. But how can anyone choose to be your subject if you never give them the opportunity to make any other choice? Let that to be the manner of the contest between us. The hearts and minds of the Court. If you are too much the coward to duel me with blades, let that to be our duel.”- Cardan gazes at the throne. Something in his expression is alive, something alight. „ A King is not his crown.” His voice sounds distant , as though he’s speaking mostly to himself. Madoc’s jaw moves. His body is tense, ready to fight.- „There is something else. There is the matter of Queen Orlagh.”- „Whom your assassin shot,” I say. A murmur goes through the crowd.- „She is your ally,” says Madoc, denying nothing. „Her daughter one of your boon companions in the palace. ”Cardan scowls. ”If you will not risk the Blood Crown, the arrowhead will burrow into her heart, and she will die. It will be as if you slew her, High King of Elfhame. And all because you believed that your own people would deny you.”- Do not agree to this, I want to scream, but if I do, Cardan might feel he has accept Madoc’s ridiculous contest just to prove I don’t have power over him. I am furious, but I finally see why Madoc believes he can manipulate Cardan into accepting the contest. Too late, I see. Cardan was not an easy child to love, and he’s only grown worse with time, Lady Asha told me. (..) Cardan takes the crown from his head. The crowd gasps. - „What are you doing?” I whisper. But he doesn’t even glance at me. It’s the crown he’s looking at. The sword remains stuck deep in the ground. The brugh is quiet.- „A king is not his throne nor his crown, ”he says. „You are right that neither loyalty nor love should be compelled. But rule of Elfhame ought not be won or lost in wager, either, as though it were a week’s pay or a wineskin. I am the High King, and I do not forfeit that title to you, not for a sword or a show or my pride. It is worth more than any of those things.” Cardan looks at me and smiles.” Besides which, two rulers stand before you. And even had you cut me down, one would remain.” My shoulders sag with relief, and I fix Madoc with a look of triumph. I see doubt in his face for the first time, the fear that he’s calculated wrong. But Cardan is not done speaking.” You want the very thing you rail against- the Blood Crown. You want my subjects bound to you as assuredly as they are now bound to me. You want it so much that risking the Blood Crown is the price you put on Queen Orlagh’s head.” Then he smiles.” When I was born, there was a prophecy that were I to rule, I would be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.” (…) „Behold, half that has come to pass. ”He laughs.” I never considered it was meant to be interpreted literally. And I never considered I would desire its fulfillment.” I do not like where this is going.” Queen Mab created this crown to keep her descendants in power,” Cardan says. ”But vows should never be to a crown. They should be to a ruler. And they should be of your own free will. I am your king, and beside me stands my queen. But it is your choice whether or not to follow us. Your will shall be your own.” And with his bare hands, he cracks the Blood Crown in two. It breaks like a child’s toy, as though in his hands it was never made of metal at all, brittle as wishbone. I think that I gasp, but it is possible I scream. Many voices rise in something that is horror and joy commingled. Madoc looks appalled. He came for that crown, and now it is nothing but a cracked piece of slag. But it is Grimsen’s face my gaze stops on. He is shaking his head violently back and forth. No no no no. „Folk Of Elfhame, will you accept me as your High King?” Cardan calls out. They’re the ritual words of the coronation. I remember something like them said by Eldred in this very hall. And one by one, all around the brugh, I see the Folk bow their heads. The movement ripples like an exultant wave. They have chosen him. They are giving him their fealty. We have won. I look over at Cardan and see that his eyes have gone completely black.”
 „Then the black bleeds down his face. He turns to me, opening his mouth, but his jaw is changing. His whole body is changing- elongating and ululating. And I recall abruptly that Grimsen has cursed everything he has ever made.(..) The monstrous thing seems to have swallowed up everything of Cardan. His mouth opens wide and then jaw- crackingly wide as long fangs sprout. Scales shroud his skin. Dread has rooted me in place. (..) In the place where the High King was, there is a massive serpent, covered in black scales and curved fangs. A golden sheen runs down the coils of the enormous body. I look into his black eyes, hoping to see recognition there, but they are cold and empty. „It will poison the land,” cries the smith.” No true love’s kiss will stop it. No riddle will fix it. Only death.”- „The King of Elfhame is no more,” says Madoc, grabbing for the hilt of his massive sword, intent on seizing victory from what had been almost certain defeat. „I mean to slay the serpent and take the throne.”- „You forget yourself,” I shout, my voice carrying across the brugh. The Folk stop running. The rulers of the low Courts stare up at me, along with the Council and the Folk of Elfhame. This is nothing like being Cardan’s seneschal. This is nothing like ruling beside him. This is horrible. They will never listen to me. The serpent’s  tongue flicks out, tasting the air. I am trembling, but I refuse to let the fear I feel show.” Elfhame has a queen, and she is before you. Guards, seize Madoc. Seize everyone in his party. They have broken the High Court’s hospitality most grievously. I want them imprisoned. I want them dead.” Madoc laughs.-”Do you, Jude? The crown is gone. Why should they obey you when they could just as easily follow me?”- „Because I am the Queen of Elfhame, the true queen, chosen by the king and the land.” My voice cracks on the last part.” And you are nothing but a traitor.” Do I sound convincing? I don’t know. Probably not. Randalin steps up beside me.- „You heard her,” he barks, surprising me.” Take them.”
„The serpent turns, its tongue flickering toward me. The serpent, which was once Cardan. „You want to be the Queen Of Faerie, Jude” Madoc shouts as he moves with a limping gait. „Then slay him. Slay the beast. Let’s see if you have the bravery to do what needs to be done.””
„The Folk are asking me questions, but they seem very far away. My thoughts are filled with the image of Cardan’s eyes going black, with the sound of his voice. I spent much of my life guarding my heart. I guarded it so well that I could behave as though I didn’t have one at all. Even now, it is a shabby, worm-eaten, and scabrous thing. But it is yours.”
„My dress in too heavy. I can’t breathe. I don’t know what to do. Someone is banging on the door, and I know I need to get up. I need to make a plan. I need to answer their questions. I need to fix this, but I can’t. I can’t. I can’t even think.”
„Grimma Mog’s surprise is obvious. „Me? But what of Yorn?”- „He doesn’t have the experience,” I say. „And I don’t like him.”- „I tried to kill you, ”she reminds me.- „You’ve described pretty much every important relationship in my life. I like you fine.””
„Cardan is gone. My mind comes to a stop after that, and I have to force myself to think again. Until I speak with Baphen, I refuse to accept that Grimsen’s words have no answer. There has to be a loophole. There has to be a trick. There has to be a way to break the curse- a way Cardan can survive.”
„”I want to know everything about the prophecy you made when Cardan was born. I want you to tell me it exactly.” (..)- „There are two parts. He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne. Only out of his spilled blood can a great ruler rise.” The second part is worse than the first. For a moment, the words just ring in my head.- „Did you give the prophecy to Prince Cardan?” I ask. „Does Madoc know it?” (..) - „If there is a way to reverse the, uh.. transformation. I don’t know it.”- „And there’s nothing else the stars foretold? No other detail you’re leaving out?”- „I’m afraid not.”- „Can you look at your star charts again? Go back to them and see if there’s something you overlooked the first time. Look at the sky, and see if there’s some new answer.”
„I want to ride out. I want to find it, but if I do- what then? The answer is more than I can bear. I close my eyes against it.”
„”The king had a pretty head,” says Fala.” But can he do without it?”- „Where is he?” I ask.” Where is the High King?”- „The serpent was spotted on the shores of Insear. A knight from the Court of Needles tried his luck against the creature. We found what was left of the knight’s body an hour ago and tracked the creature’s movements from there.”(..) - „The king is tied to the land,” says Baphen.” Cursing the king means cursing the land itself. My queen, there may be only one way to heal-”- „Enough,” I say to Baphen and Randalin and the rest of the Council, startling the guards. I stand.” We are done with this discussion.”- „But you must-””
„The serpent is there, coiled around the ruined throne. It has grown in size. (..) Out of the crack in the floor of the brugh, steam floats gently into chamber, carrying the smell of hot stone. „Cardan?” I ask, taking a few steps toward the dais. The serpent’s great head swings toward me. Its coils slide, unwinding itself to hunt. I stop, and it does not come for me, although its head moves sinuously back and borth, alert to both threat and opportunity. I force myself to keep walking, one step after another. The serpent’s golden eyes follow me, the only part of it- save for its temper- that seems like Cardan at all. I might have grown into something else, a High King as monstrous as Dain. And if I did- if I fulfilled that prophecy- I ought to be stopped. And I believe that you would stop me. (..) He’s a descendant of Mab and the rightful king. I am his wife. I healed myself. Surely I can heal him. „Please,” I say to the dirt floor of the brugh, to earth itself. „I will do whatever you want. I will give up the crown. I will make any bargain. Just please fix him. Help me break the curse.” I concentrate and concentrate, but the magic doesn’t come.”
„”I’m fine. I just needed to think.”- „Does he know you?”- „I can’t tell. He seems not to mind my being here. I’ve been telling him how he can’t hold my to my promises.” The hardest thing- the impossible thing- is to get past the memory of Cardan telling me he loved me. He said those words, and I didn’t answer him. I thought there would be time. And I was happy- despite everything- I was happy, just before everything went so terribly wrong. We won.”
 „Outside, the Ghost and I walk back toward the palace, looking up at the stars. I think about how much cleverer the Bomb is than I am, because when she had her chance, she took it. She told him how she felt. I failed to tell Cardan. And now I never can. (..) The Ghost looks a question at me. „There’s one more thing I need to do before I sleep,” I tell him.”
 „”She says that if this were a movie, someone would find a poem about cursed snakes, and it would give us the clue we needed, so she’s gone off to find one. The archivists don’t know what to do with her.”- „She’s really adapting to Faerie,” I say. Vivi’s only reply is a tight, sorrowful smile.”
„I am not sure how long I sat with the serpent, only that I seem to have lost time without noticing. It feels like forever and no time at all since Cardan was put under the curse.”
„”So maybe Jude quits,” Vivi says, sitting upright on the cushions by sheer force of will. „Abdicates. Whatever.”- „She won’t,” Madoc says.” You’ve only ever half- understood anything Jude was up to, perhaps because if you did, you couldn’t continue to act as though there are easy answers. She’s made herself a target to keep the target from being on her brother’s back.”- „Don’t lecture me,” Vivi returns.” This is all your fault. Oak’s being in danger. Cardan’s being cursed.””
„”That’s what mortal means. We die. Think of us like shooting stars, brief but bright.”- „Poetic. And fatalistic. Very well. You seem as though you can be reasonable. Madoc wishes us to make you an offer. We have the means to control your serpent husband. ”I feel the blood rush behind my ears.- „Control him?”- „As you would any animal. We have a magical bridle in our possession.””
„”Madoc has agreed to marry your brother, Oak, to our little queen, so that when he ascends the throne, his bride will ascend with him.”- „Jude?” Oak asks nervously. Oriana takes his hand and squeezes it tightly. - „You can’t be serious,” Vivi says.” Oak shouldn’t have anything to do with these people or their creepy daughter.””
„It is a monstrous thing, the idea of tying Cardan to me in eternal obedience. What I want is him back, him standing beside me, him laughing at all this. I would settle for even his worst self, his cruelest trickster self, if only he could be here. I think of Cardan’s words in the brugh, before he destroyed the crown: neither loyalty nor love should be compelled. He was right. Of course he was right. And yet, I want the bridle. I want it desperately. I can imagine myself on a rebuilt throne wit the serpent torpid beside me, a symbol of my power and a reminder of my love. He would never be entirely lost to me. It is a horrific image and just as horrifically compelling. I would have hope, at least. And what is the alternative? Fighting a battle and sacrificing the lives of my people? Hunting down the serpent and giving up any chance of having Cardan back? For what? I am tired of fighting.”
„” You can bridle him. And if you die trying, Oak comes to his throne early with our queen beside him.”- „Pragmatic.” I say.”
„I walk through the night to the rocky beach. There, I kneel on the stone and toss a wadded- up scrap of paper into the waves. If you ever loved him, I wrote, help me.”
„Lords and ladies and denizens of Elfhame. As a child in the High Court, I grew up with wild, impossible wonder tales- of curses and monsters. Tales that even here, in Faerie, were too incredible to be believed. But now our High King is a serpent, and we are all plunged into a wonder tale. Cardan destroyed the crown because he wanted to be a different kind of ruler and to have a different kind of reign. At least in one way, that has already been accomplished. Madoc and Queen Suren of the Court Of Teeth laid down their arms. We met and hammered out the terms of a truce. I have invited them here tonight to feast with us, and tomorrow we will all meet on the field, not to battle, but to tame the serpent and end the threat to Elfhame. Together.” There is scattered, uncertain applause. With my whole heart, I wish Cardan was here. (..) I lift my goblet, and all around, goblets and glasses and horns are raised. „Let us drink to Cardan, our High King, who sacrificed himself for his people. Who broke the hold of the Blood Crown.”
„”Would you really force me so far from my son?”- „If you’d prefer to remain here and have a hand in caring for the serpent,” I say,” you have only to say so. ”Lady Asha looks as though what she’d really prefer is to stab me in the throat. I turn away from her and Lady Nore.” Enjoy your conversation.” Maybe they will. They both hate me. That gives them at least one thing in common.”
„”Is it true Cardan is under a curse? He is transformed into a monster whose scales have broken the spears of your Folk.” I give a tight nod. To my astonishment, she sinks down to her knees.- „What are you doing?”- „Please. Please. You must try to break the curse. I know that you are the queen by right and that you may not want him back, but-” If anything could have increased my astonishment, it was that.- „You think that I’d-”- „I didn’t know you, before. I thought you were just some mortal.” I have to bite my tongue at that, but I don’t interrupt her. (..) „While you were in exile, I got more of the story out of him. I know you don’t believe this, but Cardan and I were friends before we were lovers, before Locke. He was my first friend when I came here from the Undersea. And we were friends, even after everything. I hate that he loves you.”- „He hated it, too.” I say with a laugh that sound more brittle than I’d like. Nicasia fixes me with a long look.- „No, he didn’t.” To that, I can only be silent.” He frightens the Folk, but he’s not what you think he is. Do you remember the servants that Balekin had? The human servants?” I nod mutely. Of course I remember. I will never forget Sophie and her pockets full of stones.” They’d go missing sometimes, and there were rumors that Cardan hurt them, but it wasn’t true. He’d return them to the mortal world.” I admit, I’m surprised.- „Why?”- „I don’t know! Perhaps to annoy his brother. But you’re human, so I thought you’d like that he did it. And he sent you a gown. For the coronation.” I remember it- the ball gown in the colors of night, with the stark outlines of trees stitched on it and the crystal for stars. A thousand times more beautiful than the dress I commissioned. I had thought perhaps it came from Prince Dain, since it was his coronation and I’d sworn to be his creature when I joined the Court of Shadows.” He never told you, did he? So see? Those are two nice things about him you didn’t know. And I saw the way you used to look at him when you didn’t think anyone was watching you.” I bite the inside of my cheek, embarrassed despite the fact that we were lovers, and wed, and it should hardly be a secret that we like each other.” So promise me. Promise me you’ll help him.””
„Eventually I sleep. In my dreams, Cardan the snake looms over me, his black scales gleaming.” I love you,” I say, and then he devours me.”
„”Well, even if the serpent bites off your head,” says Tatterfell,” the rest of you will still look good.”- „That’s the spirit,” I tell her.”
„Let me rule over that blackened land with my redcap father as a puppet by my side. Let me be feared and never again afraid. Only out of his spilled blood can a great ruler rise. Let me have everything I ever wanted, everything I ever dreamed, and eternal misery along with it. Let me live on with an ice shard through my heart.”
 „It has grown in size, longer now than one of Madoc’s ships, head large enough that were it to open its mouth, a single fang would be half the size of the sword on my back. It’s absolutely terrifying. I force my feet to move across the wilted and blackened grass.” Cardan,” I say in a whisper. The golden net of the bridle shines in my hands. As if in answer, the serpent draws back, neck curving in a swinging movement as though evaluating how to best strike. „It’s Jude, ”I say, and my voice cracks. ”Jude. You like me, remember? You trust me.” The serpent explodes into motion, sliding fast over the grass in my direction, closing the distance between us. Soldiers scatter. Horses rear up. Toads hop into the shelter of the forest, ignoring their riders. Kelpies run for the sea. I lift the bridle, having nothing else in my hands to defend myself with. I prepare to throw. But the serpent pauses perhaps ten feet from where I am standing, winding around itself. Looking at me with those gold- tipped eyes. I tremble all over. My pals sweat. I know what I must do if I want to vanquish my enemies, but I no longer want to do it. This close to the serpent, I can think only of the bridle sinking into Cardan’s skin, of his being trapped forever. Having him under my control was once such a compelling thought. It gave me such a raw rush of power when he was sworn to me, when he had to obey me for a year and a day. I felt that if I could control everything and everyone, then nothing could hurt me. I take another step toward the serpent. And then another. This close, I am stunned all over again by the creature’s sheer size. I raise a wary hand and place it against the black scales. They feel dry and cool against my skin. Its golden eyes have no answer, but I think of Cardan lying beside me on the floor of the royal rooms. I think of his quicksilver smile. I think of how he would hate to be trapped like this. How unfair it would be for me to keep him this way and call it love.
You already know how to end the curse.
„I do love you,” I whisper. „I will always love you.” I tuck the golden bridle into my belt.
Two paths are before me, but only one leads to a victory. But I don’t want to win like this. Perhaps I will never live without fear, perhaps power will slip from my grasp, perhaps the pain of losing him will hurt more than I can bear. And yet, if I love him, there’s only one choice. I draw the borrowed sword at my back. Heartsworn, which can cut through anything. I asked Severin for the blade and carried it into battle, because no matter how I denied it, some part f me knew what I would choose. The golden eyes of the serpent are steady, but there are surprised sounds from the assembled Folk. I hear Madoc’s roar. This wasn’t supposed to be how things ended. I close my eyes, but I cannot keep them that way. In one  movement, I swung Heartsworn in a shining arc at the serpent’s head. The blade falls, cutting through scales, through flesh and bone. Then the serpent’s head is at my feet, golden eyes dulling. Blood is everywhere. The body of the serpent gives a terrible coiling shudder, then goes limp. I sheath Heartsworn with trembling hands. I am shaking all over, shaking so hard that  fall to my knees in the blackened grass, in the carpet of blood. I hear Lord Jarel shout something at me, but I can’t hear it. I think I might be screaming. (..) From the depths merfolk and selkies rise, their shinning scales catching the sunlight. Nicasia is rising with them, seated on the back of the shark.- „The Undersea honors its treaty with the land and with the queen,” She calls, her voice carrying across the field.” Lay down your arms.” A moment later, the armies of the Undersea are rushing the shore. Then Madoc is standing in front of me.(..) Redcaps are born for this, for the bloodshed and violence and murder. I think some part of him delights in being able to share this with me, even now.- „Stand up.” I have spent most of my life answering to his orders. I push myself to my feet, my hand going to the golden bridle at my belt, the one tied with his hair, the one I could have used to bind him and one I can bind him with still.- „I am not going to fight you. Though I would not delight to see the straps sink into your skin, neither would I mourn.”- „Enough blustering,” he says.” You’ve already won. Look.” He takes me by the shoulders and turns me so that I can see where the great body of the serpent lies. A jolt of horror goes through me, and I try to wrench out of his grip. And then I notice the fighting has ebbed, the Folk are staring. From within the body of the creature emanates a glow.
And then, through that, Cardan steps out. Cardan, naked and covered in blood.
Alive.
Only out of his spilled blood can a great ruler rise.
And all around, people go to their knees. Grimma Mog kneels. Lord Roiben kneels. Even those who moments before were intent on murder seem overcome. Nicasia looks on from the sea as all of Elfhame bows to the High King, restored and reborn. „I will bend my head to you,” Madoc says to me under his breath.” And only to you.”
Cardan takes a step forward, and little cracks appear from his footfalls. Fissures in the very earth. He speaks with a boom that echoes through everyone gathered there.- „The curse is broken. The king is returned.”
He’s every bit as terrifying as any serpent. I don’t care. I run into his arms.
Cardan’s fingers dig into my back. He’s trembling, and whether it is from ebbing magic of horror, I am not sure. But he hold me as though I am the only solid thing in the world.(..) He waves away a knight who proffers his cloak, despite being clad only in blood. „I haven’t worn anything in days, ”The High King drawls, and if there is something brittle in his eyes, nearly everyone is too awed to notice.” I don’t see why I ought to start now.”- „Modesty?” I force out, playing along, surprised he can joke about the curse, or anything. He gives me a dazzling, insouciant smile. The kind of smile you can hide behind.- „Every part of me is a delight.” My chest hurts, looking at him. I feel like I can’t breathe. Through he is in front of me, the pain of losing him hasn’t faded.- „Your Majesty,” Grimma Mog says, addressing me.” Do I have to leave to chain your father?” I hesitate, thinking of the moment, when I confronted him with the golden bridle. You’ve already won. - „Yes,” Cardan says.” Chain him.””
 „”How long have I-”He hesitates.- „Not even three days,” I tell him. „barely any time at all.” I do not mention how long it has seemed. Nor do I say how he might have been trapped as a serpent for all time, bridled and bound. Or dead. He could be dead.”
„”You will want to bathe perhaps,” Randalin says, an understandable sentiment.- „I want to see the throne,” says Cardan. No one is included to gainsay him.(..) Cardan spreads his hands, and the earth heals along the seam, rock and stone bubbling up to fill in back in. Then he twists his fingers, and the divided throne grows anew, blooming with briars, sprouting into two separate thrones where there was once only one. „Do you like it?” he asks me, which seems a little like asking if someone enjoys the crown of stars they conjured from the sky.- „Impressive.” I choke out.(…) Fala sings a song about the king of snakes, and Cardan seems both charmed and horrified by all of it.”
„”Do you remember the fairy tale with the snake who has the helicopter parents and marries the princess?”- „Helicopter?” I echo. I did fall asleep at the end, so maybe I missed that part.”
„”Where’s Cardan? ”I ask(..)- „The brugh. Where else? You’re the one who’s late.””
„For many long days, I have been terrified, and now, when I ought to be feeling great, what I want to do is hide under a table in the brugh with Cardan until I can finally convince myself he’s all right. And maybe make out with his face, if he’s feeling up to that.”
„”The High Queen Of Elfhame, Jude Duarte,” announces a page in a carrying voice. I spot Cardan, sitting at the head of the high table. Even from across the room, I can feel the intensity of his gaze. (..) I can hear performers competiting to get the lyrics right on their new compositions, many of them in honor of the serpent king. At least one is in my honor, however: Our queen sheathed her sword and closed her eyes, And said, „I thought the snake would be of larger size.”
 „I hope that Cardan is undisturbed. Certainly, he appears blithesome, laughing as courties heap their plates. „I always supposed I would be delicious,” I hear him say, although I note that he does not take any of the meat for himself. Again, I imagine ducking underneath the table and hiding there, ad I did when I was a child. As I did after the bloody coronation, with him. (..) - „There’s the matter of prisoners- Madoc, his army, what remains of the Court of Teeth,” Randalin says.” And many other matters we were hoping to take up with you.”- „Tomorrow,” Cardan insists. „Or the next day. Or perhaps next week.” And with that, he rises, takes a long drink from his goblet, sets it down on the table, and walk to where I sit.” Will you dance?” he asks, presenting his hand.- „You may remember that I am not particularly accomplished at it,” I say, rising. The last time we danced was the night of Prince Dain’s coronation, just before everything went sideways. He had been very, very drunk.
You really hate me, don’t you? he’s asked.
Almost as much as you hate me, I’d returned.
He draws me down to where fiddle players are exhorting everyone to dance faster and faster, to whirl and spin and jump. His hands cover mine. „I don’t know what to apologize for first,” I say.” Cutting off your head or hesitating so long to do it. I didn’t want to lose what little there was left of you. And I can’t quite think past how wondrous it is that you’re alive.”- „You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hear those words,” he says.” You don’t want me dead.”- „If you joke about this, I am going to-”- „Kill me?” he asks, raising both black brows. I think I might hate him after all. Then Cardan takes my hands in his and pulls me away from the other dancer, toward the secret chamber he showed me before, behind the dais. It is as I remember it, its walls thick with moss, a low couch resting beneath gently glowing mushrooms. „I only know how to be cruel or to laugh when I am discomposed, ”he says, and sits down on the couch. I let go of him and remain standing. I promised myself I would do this, if I ever had the chance again. I promised I would do this the first moment I could.
„I love you,” I say, the words coming out in an unintelligible rush. Cardan looks taken aback. Or possibly I spoke so fast he’s not even sure what I said.- „You need not say it out of pity,” he says finally, with great deliberateness.” Or because I was under a curse. I have asked you to lie to me in the past, in this very room, but I would beg you not to lie now.” My cheeks heat at the memory of those lies.” I have not made myself easy to love,” he says. (..) But I didn’t think he would doubt me. - „I first started liking you when we went to talk to the rulers of the low Court,” I say.” You were funny, which was weird. And when we went to Hollow Hall, you were clever. I kept remembering how you’d been the one to get us out of the brugh after Dain’s coronation, right before I put that knife to your throat.” He doesn’t try to interrupt, so I have no choice but to barrel on. „After I tricked you into being the High King, I thought once you hated me, I could go back to hating you. But I didn’t. And I felt so stupid. I thought I would get my heart broken. I thought it was a weakness that you would use against me. But then you saved me from the Undersea when it would have been much more convenient to just leave me to rot. After that, I started to hope my feelings were returned. But then there was the exile-”I take a ragged breath.” I hid a lot, I guess. I thought if I didn’t, if I let myself love you, I would burn up like a match. Like the whole matchbox.”- „But now you’ve explained it,” he says.” And you do love me.”- „I love you,” I confirm.- „Because I am clever and funny,” he says, smiling.” You didn’t mention my handsomeness.”- „Or your deliciousness, ”I say. „Although those are both good qualities.” He pulls me to him, so that we’re both lying down on the couch. (..) „What was it like?” I ask. „Being a serpent?” He hesitates. - „It was like being trapped in the dark. I was alone, any my instinct was to lash out. I was perhaps not entirely an animal, but neither was I myself. I could not reason. There were only feelings- hatred and terror and the desire to destroy.” I start to speak, but he stops me with a gesture. „And you.” He looks at me, his lips curving in something that’s not quite a smile, it’s more and less than that.” I knew little else, but I always knew you.”
And when he kisses me, I feel as though I can finally breathe again.”
„”Folk Of Elfhame,” Baphen says” Will you accept Cardan of the Greenbriar line as your High King?” The chorus goes up.- „We will.” Then it’s my turn.- „It is uncommon for any Court to have two rulers. Yet you, Jude Duarte, High Queen, have shown us why it can be a strength instead of a weakness. When the High Court was threatened, you stood against our enemies and broke the spell that might have destroyed us. Come forward and accept your crown from Oak, your brother and your heir.” He plops the crown on my head. It is a twin to Cardan’s, and I am surprised by the weight of it.” Folk Of Elfhame,” he says. „Will you accept Jude Duarte as your High Queen?” For a moment, in the silence, I believe that they will renounce me, but the ritual words come from their many mouths.- „We will.” I grin irrepressibly at Cardan. He smiles back, with a little surprise. It’s possible I don’t smile like that very often.(…)- „To Grima Mog, our Grand General. You shall have Grimsen’s final work and wear it for so long as you should remain in our service. Taryn Duarte, our tribunal  was never formally concluded. But consider it concluded now, in your favor. The Court of Elfhame has no quarrel with you. We grant all of Locke’s estates and land to you and your child. Last. We would like our three friends from the Court of Shadows to step forward.” Cardan beckons, and pages come forward, carrying pillows. On each is a silver mask, denoting nothing of gender, just a gently blank metal face with something slightly impish about the curve of the mouth.” You who dwell in shadows, I wish for you to stand with us sometimes in the light. To each, I give a mask. When you wear it, no one will be able to recall your height or the timbre of your voice. And in that mask, let no one in Elfhame turn you away. Every hearth will be open to you, including mine.”- „You are kind, my king, ”says one, and even I, who know them, cannot tell which is speaking. But what no mask can hide is how, once they give their bows and departs, one masked figure takes another’s gloved hand. Or how the third turns this skinny metal face toward Taryn. Then it’s my turn to step forward. My stomach flutters with nerves. Cardan insisted that I be the one to pass judgment on the prisoners. You won the day, he told me, and the lion’s share of the hard work along with it. You choose their fate. (..) „But you will be marked by your betrayal. Let your hands always be red, as though stained with the blood you hoped to shed.” Cardan  gives me an encouraging smile. Randalin looks annoyed that only I am making pronouncements. He clears his throat, but he dares not actually interrupt me.(..) He does not kneel. Nor does he beg. He only looks from one of us to the other, and then his gaze moves to Oak and Oriana. I see a muscle in his jaw move, but no more than that. I try to speak, but I feel as though my throat has closed up.- „Have you nothing to say? ”Cardan asks him.” You had so much before.” (.. ) I have turned over the question of punishment in my mind, thinking not just of his army and his challenge, not just of our duel in the snow, but of the old crime, the one that has forever been between us. Do I owe him revenge for the murder of my parents? Is that a debt that must be paid? (..) - „You raised me to be uncompromising, yet I learned mercy. And I will give you something like mercy if you can show me that you deserve it.”- „Sire,” puts Randalin, clearly exasperated by my handing down every final decision.” Surely you have something to say about all-”- „Silence, ”says Cardan, his manner utterly changed, his tongue a lash. He looks at Randalin as though the next sentence might be passed on the Minister of Keys. Then he nods to me. „Jude was just getting to the interesting bit.” I don’t take my gaze off Madoc. „First, you will swear to forget the name that you know. You will put it from your mind, and it will never again fall from your lips or fingers… Second, you must give us your vow of loyalty and obedience. And third, you must do both of those things without hearing the sentence for your crimes, which I will nonetheless bestow on you.”- „I want mercy. Or as you said, something like it.” I take a deep breath.- „ I sentence you to live out the rest of your days in the mortal world and to never put your hand on a weapon again.”- „Yes, my queen.”- „Goodbye, Father,” I whisper as he is led away. I say it softly, and I do not think he hears me.”
 „”Like cell phones. Or self- checkouts in the grocery store. Oh, this is going to be amazing. Seriously, his exile is the best present you ever got me.”- „You know that he’s going to be so bored that he’s going to try to micromanage your life.” Taryn says. „Or plan your invasion of a neighboring apartment building.” At that Vivi stops smiling. It makes Oak giggle, though.  (..) What I don’t expect is that Cardan offers to journey with us. „You should absolutely come,” says Taryn.” We can throw a party. You two got married, and no one did anything to celebrate.” I am incredulous.- „Oh, we’re fine. We don’t need any-”- „It’s settled, then,” Vivi says, forever my older sister. ”I bet Cardan has never even tried pizza.” (….) I look at Cardan warily, worried he will be wrinkling his nose, but he appears merely curious, his gaze going to the lit windows and then toward the roar of the nearby highway. (..) - „We should go to the apartment and change first, though.” I guess I can see what she means. Cardan looks as though he just stepped off the stage at a playhouse, and while he can glamour himself, I am not at all sure he knows what it is he’s supposed to were in the illusion. (..) Cardan’s tight pants and boots are passable, and he finds a T-shirt a human friend left there that fits him well enough to wear instead of his fancy doublet. I borrow a dress from Vivi that’s loose on her. It’s a lot less loose on me. „I told Heather about you guys,” Vivi says. „I am going to call her and see is she can come over and bring some supplies. You can meet her- again. And Oak will show you the way to the pizza place.” Taking my hand with a laugh, my little brother starts pulling Cardan and me down the stairs. Vivi chases after us to give me some money.” This is your cash. From Bryern.”- „What did you do?” Cardan asks.- „Beat Grimma Mog in a duel,” I say. He looks at me incredulously.-”He ought to have paid you in gold.” That makes me grin as we walk along the sidewalk. Cardan doesn’t appear to be at all discomfited, whistling a tune and goggling a bit at the humans we pass. I hold my breath, but he doesn’t curse them with a tail to match his own or tempt them with everapple or do anything else that a wicked faerie king might. (..) Heather and Vivi have tied up a silvery banner that reads CONGRATULATIONS , NEWLYWEDS! In bright colors. Under it, on the kitchen table, is an ice-cream cake with scattered gummy snakes on it and several bottles of wine.- „It’s so nice to meet you,” I say, going over to Heather and giving her a hug.” I just know I’m going to love you.” (..) Vivi blows a noisemaker. - „Here,” she says, passing out paper crowns for us to wear.- „This is ridiculous.” I complain, but put mine on.
Cardan looks at his reflection in the door of the microwave and adjusts his crown so it’s at an angle. I roll my eyes, and he gives me a quick grin. And my heart hurts a little because we are all together and safe, and if wasn’t something I’d known how to want. And Cardan looks a little shy in the face of all this happiness, as unused to it as I am. There will be struggles to come, I am certain, but right now I am equally sure we will find our way through them.
Vivi opens pizza boxes and uncorks a bottle of wine. Oak takes out a slice of the prawn pizza and digs in.
I raise a plastic glass. „To family.”
„And Faerieland,” says Taryn, raising hers.
„And pizza,” says Oak.
„And stories,” says Heather.
„And new beginnings,” says Vivi.
Cardan smiles, his gaze on me. „And scheming great schemes.”
To family and Faerieland and pizza and stories and new beginnings and scheming great schemes. I can toast to that.”
  “What is it you wanted me to see? If you’re expecting me to see a particular star sign, remember back at palace school lessons-I have mortal eyes and can’t see anything.”- “Nothing like that.” He laughs. “Our land. Elfhame. Yours and mine. You gave this to me.” There’s a little awe in his voice.- “And you to me,” I remind him, voice soft.- “Well, to be fair, you really more tricked me into being High King. And then I tricked you, which I am particularly proud of.”- I kick my leg into his. (…) “ Now look around you.” –I turn to one side and see what he means. Because where I stepped, small white flowers are growing in my footsteps. “It’s magic.. but I’m not magic. I’m mortal. I’m a mortal girl. “- “You’re the Queen of Elfhame.” –I look around me and drink in the air of Faerieland, a place that is still menacing, but all mine. My land. My home. Mine.” (From Holly Black, NOT USED. ANOTHER ENDING FOR THE QUEEN OF NOTHING)
  “ This?” he demands, looking down at the waves far beneath them. “This is how you traveled? What if the enchantment ended while Vivi wasn’t with you?”-“I suppose I would have plummeted out of the air,” Jude tells him with troubling equanimity, her expression saying, Horrible risks are entirely normal to me. Cardan has to admit that the ragwort steeds are swift and that there is something thrilling about tangling his hand in a leafy mane and racing across the sky. It’s not as though he doesn’t enjoy a little danger, just that he doesn’t gorge himself on it, unlike some people. He cuts his gaze toward his unpredictable, mortal High Queen, whose wild brown hair is blowing around her face, whose amber eyes are alight when she looks at him. They are two people who ought to have, by all rights, remained enemies forever. He can’t believe his good fortune, can’t trace the path that got him here. -“Now that I agreed to travel your way,” he shouts over the wind, “you ought to give me something I want. Like a promise you won’t fight some monster just to impress one of the solitary fey who, as far as I can tell, you don’t even like.” Jude gives him a look. It is an expression that he never once saw her make when they attended the palace school together, yet from the first he saw it, he knew it to be her truest face. Conspiratorial. Daring. Bold. Even without the look, he ought to know her answer. Of course she wants to fight it, whatever it is. She feels as though she has something to prove at all times. Feels as though she has to earn the crown on her head over and over again. “ (HTKOELTHS)
 “ I am what you made me, she’d told him as they battled. Cardan knows Madoc isn’t the only one who made her the way she is. He had a hand in it as well. It’s absurd, sometimes, the thought that she loves him. He’s grateful, of course, but it feels as though it’s just another of the ridiculous, absurd, dangerous things she does. She wants to fight monsters, and she wants him for a lover, the same boy she fantasized about murdering. She likes nothing easy or safe or sure. Nothing good for her.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Let us meet with this Bryern person and hear his tale. If you must fight this thing, there’s no reason to go alone. You could take a battalion of knights or, failing that, me.”-“You think you’re the equal of a battalion of knights?” she asks with a smile. -He might be, he supposes, although there’s no telling how the mortal world will affect his magic. He did once raise an isle from the bottom of the sea. He wonders if he ought to remind her of that, wonders if she had been impressed. “I believe that I could easily best all of them combined, in a suitable contest. Perhaps one involving drink.”-She kicks her ragwort steed forward with a laugh. “We meet Bryern tomorrow at dusk,” she calls back, and her grin dares him to race. “And after that, we can decide who gets to play the hero.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Having only recently stopped playing the villain, Cardan thinks again of the winding path of decisions that brought him to this unlikely place, here with her, racing over the sky, planning to end trouble instead of making more of it.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “You can’t eat some of a dumpling and put it back,” Oak insists. “That’s revolting.” Cardan considers that villainy takes many forms, and he is good at all of them.-Jude stabs the remainder of the bean bun with a single chopstick, popping it into her mouth and chewing with obvious satisfaction. “Gooh,” she gets out when she notices the others looking at her. Vivi laughs and orders more dumplings.” (HTKOELTHS)
  “Oak gave up his room so they could sleep there, and although the bed is small, Cardan cannot mind when he takes Jude in his arms.-“You’re probably missing your fancy palace right about now,” she whispers to him in the dark. He traces the edge of her lip, runs his finger over the soft human hair of her cheek, pausing on a freckle, and comes to rest on a tiny scar, a line of pale skin drawn there by some blade.-He considers explaining how much he despised the palace as a child, how he dreamed of escaping Elfhame. She knows most of that already. Then he considers reminding her that the fancy palace is now as much hers as his.“ Not in the least,” he says instead, and feels her smile against his skin. But once he starts recalling his desire to leave Elfhame, he can’t help but also recall how desperately she wanted to stay. And how difficult that had been, how hard she had fought, how hard she was still fighting, even now that she didn’t have to.“ Why didn’t you hate everyone?” he asks. “Everyone, all the time.”- “I hated you,” Jude reassures him, bringing her mouth to his.”  (HTKOELTHS)
 “That doesn’t bother Cardan—in fact, he’s rather pleased about it—but it’s insulting to think those two would keep Bryern safe from the High King and Queen of Elfhame. Not only that, but Cardan finds their bows to be insufferably shallow. They seem rattled when they realize who he is. And somehow he finds that to be the thing that annoys him most of all, that they thought he wouldn’t be bothered to come, that he would leave this to Jude.” (HTKOELTHS)
 ““Huh,” says Jude. “Where exactly are these w—”- “Which Court?” Cardan interrupts, hoping to keep Jude from immediately volunteering to fight something.” (HTKOELTHS)
“Queen Gliten. Cardan frowns. He knows something about her, but he can’t quite recall what.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “That night, Cardan lies in bed, looking at the ceiling, long after Jude falls asleep. At first, he thinks it is the unfamiliar scents of this world keeping him awake, the iron tang that hangs over everything. And then he thinks that perhaps he has become too used to velvet coverlets and mattresses piled up on one another. But as he slides out of bed, he realizes it isn’t that. After their meeting with Bryern, Jude was entirely amenable to his suggestions. Yes, they should immediately send a message to Queen Gliten and command her representatives to present themselves to be reprimanded. Yes, absolutely, they ought to send for reinforcements. And sure, he could look at the map, although it was tucked into her rucksack, so maybe he should look later. After all, they had time. Heather cooked something she called “plant-based meat” for dinner, formed into the shape of “hamburgers” and dressed with two sauces, leaves, and slices of raw onion soaked in water. Oak ate two. After dinner, Cardan found himself at a picnic table outside, drinking rosé wine from a paper cup and laughing over every detail Vivi supplied about Madoc’s attempts to fit into the mortal world.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “ Marriage means sharing each other’s interests, and since his wife’s run toward strategy and murder, he’s used to her throwing herself at absolutely everything that crosses her path. If she isn’t doing that now, there’s a reason. He pads out to the kitchen and takes her leather rucksack. Fishing around, he draws out the map from Bryern. Beside it, he finds the ancient leafy metal armor that Taryn—of all people—discovered in the royal treasury. He shakes his head, sure now of her plan. Sometime before dawn, she will wake, dress herself in that armor, strap on her mortal father’s sword, sneak out, and go fight the creature. That’s what she always planned, why she wanted to come without retainers or knights in the first place. It would serve her right if he sat at the kitchen table and caught her as she tried to sneak out.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Over the stretch of woods where the creature is supposed to dwell is marked ASLOG. And that’s when he remembers the last time he heard Queen Gliten mentioned—she was the one who cheated the troll woman out of what she’d earned. Now Aslog is being hunted, both by Queen Gliten’s Court and by Jude, if she has half a chance. Maybe he has the power to fix this. Maybe he’s actually the only one who can.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “Although he has the map from Bryern, he quickly realizes it has no street signs and assumes a level of familiarity with the area that Cardan doesn’t possess.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “I was equally surprised to find you here, Aslog of the West. I wonder what changed that Queen Gliten hunts you so fiercely. Surely it isn’t whatever you’re doing here.” He waves vaguely toward her eerie operation.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “ And if I served Queen Gliten the bones of her own consort, at her own table, what of it? It is no more than she deserves, and unlike her, I do pay my debts.”-He snorts, and she looks at him in surprise. “Well,” he says, “that’s awful, but a little bit funny, too. I mean, did she have him with butter or jam?”-“You always did laugh when you would have been better served staying silent,” she says with a glower. “I recall that now.” Cardan doesn’t add that he laughs when he is nervous.” (HTKOELTHS)
  “Iron. He pushes the chair off, getting to his feet. The metal bits cling to his clothing, touch his skin with tiny ant bites of fire. Jude wouldn’t have made a mistake like this, he is dead certain. She would have been on guard from the moment she entered the woods. No, that isn’t right. Jude is on guard every hour of every day of her life. Not to mention that iron wouldn’t have slowed her in the least. If he gets himself killed like this, she is never going to let him live it down.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “He takes a deep breath. “Let me tell you a story.”- “You?” she says. “A story?”- “Once upon a time,” he says, looking up. His shoulder is throbbing. He feels like a child again, like the boy in the stables. “There was a boy with a clever tongue.”- “Oh ho!” She laughs. “This is familiar.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “But as he lay there, he overheard two men speaking about an unusual contest. A wealthy warlord sought someone to marry his daughter. All one had to do was pass three nights in her company without showing fear. Neither man was willing to go, but the boy resolved that since his heart was stone, he would, and pass his life in ease.”- “A warlord?” The troll woman looks skeptical.- “That’s right,” he affirms. “Very violent. Possibly making war on so many people was how his daughter wound up under a curse.”- “Do you know why the Folk can tell stories?” she asks, leaning forward and causing rust to fall around her chair. Her huge body makes it look sized for a child. “We who can never tell a lie. How can we do it?” She speaks as though she supposes he’s never asked himself that same question, but he has. Many times, he has. Cardan tries not to let his nerves show. “Because stories tell a truth, if not precisely the truth.” “ (HTKOELTHS)
 “And so the monster girl and the awful boy with the clever tongue marry, and she gets to stay powerful and monstrous and he gets his own heart back. All because he took a chance.”- “So that’s the lesson of the story?” the troll woman asks, rising from her rusty chair.- Cardan stands, too. “Everyone finds different lessons in stories, I suppose, but here’s one. Having a heart is terrible, but you need one anyway. Or, here’s another: Stories can justify anything. It doesn’t matter if the boy with the heart of stone is a hero or a villain; it doesn’t matter if he got what he deserved or if he didn’t. No one can reward him or punish him, save the storyteller. And she’s the one who shaded the tale so we’d feel whatever way we feel about him in the first place. You told me once, stories change. Now it’s time to change your story. Queen Gliten cheated you, and the High King would not listen to your complaint. You didn’t get what you deserved, but you don’t have to live inside that one story forever. No one’s heart has to remain stone.” (HTKOELTHS)
  “Aslog turns to him in astonishment. He doesn’t hesitate. He slams the rusted legs into her stomach, sending her sprawling backward into the pit. An agonized howl rises as her skin touches the generous dusting of iron at the bottom. As she stands, Cardan draws Jude’s sword from his back. He points Nightfell toward the troll woman. “No part of that was a lie, save for the whole,” he says with an apologetic shrug.- Aslog looks around her pit, her fingers scraping the roots and dirt along the sides. She is larger than Cardan, but not so big that she can clamber out unaided. She has set her trap well, crafting it to suit any of Queen Gliten’s knights. “Now what?” -“We wait for the sun together,” he says, his gaze going to the hot blush of the horizon. “And no one dies.” He sits with her as red turns to gold, as blue edges out black. He sits with her as gray creeps over Aslog’s skin, and he does not look away from the betrayal on her face as she becomes stone.” (HTKOELTHS)
 “You didn’t hear the story I told,” he goes on. “A shame. It featured a handsome boy with a heart of stone and a natural aptitude for villainy. Everything you could like.”- She laughs. “You really are terrible, you know that? I don’t even understand why the things you say make me smile.” He lets himself lean against her, lets himself hear the warmth in her voice.- “There is one thing I did like about playing the hero. The only good bit. And that was not having to be terrified for you.” -“The next time you want to make a point,” Jude says, “I beg you not to make it so dramatically.”- His shoulder hurts, and she may be right about the iron poisoning. He certainly feels as though his head is swimming. But he smiles up at the trees, the looping electrical lines, the streaks of clouds. “So long as you’re begging,” he says.” (HTKOELTHS)
              1. The Cruel Prince 2. 01. 2018
The Lost Sisters ( Taryn’s novella) 2. 10. 2018
2. The Wicked King 8.01. 2019
3. The Queen Of Nothing  19.11.2019
 How The King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories ( Cardan’s novella)  (24.11.2020)
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what-s-up-butternut · 8 months ago
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Here are the bonus pages from Waterstones’ edition of "How the king of Elfhame learned to hate stories".
I repay in kind the people who once shared Cardan’s letters with us. Enjoy!
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ekbelsher · 8 months ago
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I will do one -- ONE -- of Jude with her iconic horned hairstyle. Makes her look like Maleficent, which can only be a good thing. Now that she’s queen, she’s got fancy hair-horns with little gold caps on (or at least, they will be gold when I colour it. This is the underdrawing. It kind of looks like a belated wedding photo. Pretty sure Cardan asked her to wear that dress. Does Elfhame have fashion tape?)
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darklesmylove · 8 months ago
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10 of my favorite parts of how the high king of elfhame learned to hate stories:
1. cardan shading jude for having no sense of self preservation
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2. this heart shattering line
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3. cardan being silently proud and excited to have been able to accomplish something worth noticing
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4. cardan *loving* jude’s name
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5. this self described accuracy
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6. holy fucking shit this part shattered me, the weight of cardan finally letting someone in only to be betrayed so deeply
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7. this description of jude
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8. cardan in the mortal world will never not be pure gold
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9. ahh, marriage is a beautiful thing isn’t it
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10. yes
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lady-lye · 7 months ago
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Queen Jude on her way to cut your head off!! Be sure to thank her. 
WOW I’m so in love with her, she’s one of my favorite fantasy protagonists. I think I have a lot of her defensive tendencies (although I am not skilled in weaponry unfortunately) and I love the way she grows and evolves in the series. 
I just read How The King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories and WOW my mind is blown, I’m just crazy obsessed with this series. Endlessly thanking @hollyblack for her brilliance. <3 
Part 2 of art dump, I’ve been more update-y on my instagram @/ladylyeart go check it out! :^) 
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scythedom · 8 months ago
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Jude looked up at him, and in her eyes, he recognized a hate big enough and wide enough and deep enough to match his own. A hate you could drown in like a vat of wine.
How The King Of Elfhame Learned To Hate Stories | Illustration by Rovina Cai
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