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was a sudden movement by the parapet wall. She was standing close to the barrier, her face a pale oval in the fit-ful light, her eyes big and wild. The blue cloak shrouded her figure completely; her feet were in soft slippers. My sister was not alone. Beside her stood a tall, black-caped figure. It was not Sorrow. It was not Tadeusz. Those ruby lips, that snow-white skin, that elegant bearing, belonged to the woman of the Night People: the haughty Anastasia.

“Tati,” I gulped, “come inside. You can’t go. It’s too dangerous.” My voice sounded tiny antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница—a child’s, ineffectual and meaningless.smiled, showing her unusual teeth. The effect was deeply troubling. “Take my arm, Tatiana,” she said, and her voice was as musical and as haunting as her brother’s, if brother he was. “I will lead you across. Sorrow is waiting for you just beyond the margin. Your sister is wrong. It’s perfectly safe. You’re women now—you are entitled to this.”

“No!” I cried out. “Tati, don’t!” I could see the longing in my sister’s eyes; Sorrow’s name had brought it sharply to life.for me antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница, I felt the urge to move forward, to obey the coaxing voice and follow wherever Anastasia bid me. I yearned to go. I needed knowledge. What she had said about being entitled warmed me. In her world, there were no men like Cezar to dismiss my aspirations and scorn my quest for independence.

“Come with us, Jenica,” Anastasia purred. “My brother waits to show you the mirror. It’s just on the other side. Come, take my hand.”hesitated, remembering the small, wise voice of Gogu 198in desperate protest. No, Jena! When had he ever been wrong antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница?

“You waver,” the red-lipped woman said dismissively. “You are too cautious, like an old woman. Come, Tatiana.” And, as I watched, Tati slipped her arm through Anastasia’s. They moved away, beyond the small circle of light my candle cast on the cold stones. The portal could be anywhere. They might simply vanish; my sister might never come back. I imagined her pale and lifeless like Ivona, with the livid mark of a bite on her neck. I drew one long, uneven breath and launched myself after them.

Nine candle went out, and I was blind. I stumbled along the antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница terrace, hoping I would catch them before they escaped my reach.this was too far—there should be a wall. . . . Groping before me in the darkness, I touched something chill as winter: a thin-fingered, long-nailed hand. I clutched it, reminding myself to breathe. A moment later we were falling, falling, so far down that I knew our landing would be in a tumble of crushed flesh and broken bones. I screamed, but my voice drifted into nothing; instead, the cold air was full of the cries of strange birds, an eldritch music of night. I squeezed antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница my eyes tightly shut, waiting for the ground to slam into my body.landed gently, my feet on a soft surface, my eyes still closed. From the distance came a sound of faint music. I opened my eyes.were by T˘aul Ielelor, on the path to Dancing Glade.was the avenue of tall trees that led up to the sward; there was the little sandy shore where our boats would glide 200to let us out. The lake was frozen over. Tonight its surface did not glimmer, but lay sullen and dark beneath the willows.in the trees, lanterns antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница still hung, but their forms were changed: in place of beetle, bird, and butterfly were twisted forms of things not quite right—a cockroach with elongated teeth; a child with grimacing features and stunted limbs; a death’s-head; a worm-infested apple. The light they cast was dim and odd, rendering the landscape a greenish purple. Anastasia’s pale face was skull-like and my sister’s a terrified mask.swallowed and released Anastasia’s chill hand, struggling for words. I could not berate Tati for her weakness. I had felt the same urge to come here antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница. It was in my blood now as I walked after my sister and her guide up the pathway toward Ileana’s glade.willed myself to be silent. I would not ask, Where isTadeusz? Where is Dragu¸

˘ ta’s mirror? It seemed far wiser not to give the Night People the impression that I cared greatly for anything they might have to offer. I hoped Ileana would be here as usual and that I might petition her again, since it seemed the whole valley had now fallen under a malevolent shadow. I would simply ask her to send the Night People away antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница. And if the queen of the forest laughed at a human girl for seeking influence in such grand matters, so be it.tried to grasp my sister’s arm so she would stay by my side, for I could see in her eyes that she would not listen to words of caution tonight, but Anastasia hurried her on. I would need to remain on my guard constantly to be certain I could bring Tati home safely. Home. I did not even know how we would get there. Anastasia did not seem like the kind of being 201would snap antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница her fingers and transport us back as soon as we grew tired. There were no boats on the lakeshore tonight.mind that: there would be folk I knew at Dancing Glade, folk who would help me if I needed them.



“Where’s Sorrow?” Tati asked. “You said he was just on the other side. He’s not here.” Her voice rose. “You lied to me!is he?”was walking briskly, her booted heels sinking deep into the damp soil. “Patience, patience, Tatiana. He will be here. He waits for you. He longs for you. I will take antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница you to him.” And she drew Tati on, so fast that I had to break into a run to keep up. The trees seemed to reach out long fingers as we passed beneath, sharp and greedy; they clawed at my cloak and tangled in Tati’s long hair. She brushed them away, shuddering. “Keep up!” snapped Anastasia, her voice no longer beautiful. “You are too slow!”the edge of Ileana’s glade, we halted. The sward was full of dancing figures, as at Full Moon, but there was nothing familiar about it. I could not see tall Grigori, or antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница big, blocky Sten, or diminutive Ildephonsus. I could not see the elegant form of the forest queen or the golden hair of her consort. Instead, a company of beings writhed and cavorted on the grass; Night People were among them, but there were also many that seemed part creature, part man or woman—a person with the head of a boar, a lady whose skin was all scales—and, here and there, stunted beings whose bodies were squashed up on themselves, hobbling in a grotesque mockery of a formal dance. Most disturbing of all, I saw human folk among the motley antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница throng—

and women whose faces were not those of happy revelers but who bore trapped expressions, grimacing or fearful or plain mad. I saw a girl of around Paula’s age—pale-faced, solemn, delicately built—her dark hair tied back in a bow of black silk, her gown a small replica of Anastasia’s. She stood under the trees by the sward’s edge, watching gravely. Two tall women of the Night People flanked this slight figure; I could not escape the impression that they were acting as guards. The girl looked vaguely familiar. There was something antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница deeply unsettling about the sight of her in this unlikely place; her frail innocence surely did not belong here. I saw that she was looking at a group of folk playing some kind of game with long barbed poles.were throwing high, competing to reach a trussed-up bundle that hung on ropes from a willow bough. The bundle was wriggling, struggling—there was something alive inside it. A stick found its mark; a cry of pain came from the target.was already drawing Tati away. “Over here,” she commanded, making her way around the edge of the antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница sward. I followed, my eyes drawn to a circle of Night People who were not dancing, merely standing and watching a figure that capered in the center. It was a man, a human being of middle years, dressed in the ragged remnants of a shepherd’s garb—felt cape, conical hat—performing a crude kind of dance that jerked and contorted his body, as if a mad puppeteer were moving him against his will. I saw the agony in his eyes. He stared wildly at me, and his lips moved in a silent entreaty: Helpme! Then Anastasia grabbed my arm and moved antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница me on.

“Wait,” I protested. “That man—what are they doing to him? And what was that hung from the tree?”’s red lips curved in a smile entirely without mirth. “That man, and a woman of your kind, wandered a little too far,” she said. “Why would you protest? We have spared their lives: like many other foolish folk, they have become part of our revels.”

“But it looked as if that man couldn’t stop—as if he was forced to dance on and on, just so they could mock him.” I glanced back antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница over my shoulder, but a frenzy of dancing creatures had moved between me and that sad, capering figure.

“Do not judge us, Jenica. Your own cousin tore one of Ileana’s folk apart, limb from limb. And for no good purpose, as it came about. Dwarves are ridiculously loyal.”made myself ask. “Can you tell me which one it was? Was it Anatolie?”laughed. The sound of it rang in my ears, derisive and harsh. “What would I care? They all look the same to me.”

“Where’s Sorrow?” Tati had stopped walking, and there was a new look of determination antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница on her face. “I’m not going a step farther until I see him.” She reached back and grasped my hand. “Nor is Jena.”

“That’s right,” I said, fixing Anastasia with an attempt at a glare. “If you can’t make good on your promises, we’re going straight back home.”laughed again, and this time the folk who were dancing close beside us halted and fell silent. Suddenly we had an audience—an audience in which not a single figure was familiar. Where were our friends from Ileana’s glade?

“Home?” It was Tadeusz’s voice. I whirled antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница, letting go of Tati, and there he was, right behind us. “That could prove difficult, Jenica. You will not cross the Dark Between without one of us as your guide. Don’t look like that—we mean you no harm. A little insight, some entertainment, then we will take you safely back again. You have surprised me.” He moved forward, his hand coming up to touch my hair. “I had believed you lacked the courage for this.”

“I’m not here because I want to be,” I said through chattering teeth. “I’m here to make sure my sister antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница comes home safely.to tell you—” I halted. To come right out with a request—, a demand—that they leave the valley alone, in front of such an audience, did not seem particularly wise. “There’s something I need to explain to you,” I told him. “I would prefer to do so in private.”gave a knowing smile; it reminded me of the way Cezar sometimes looked.

“I didn’t mean—” I blurted out, mortified.

“Oh, but I think you did.” The voice was at its velvety best, insinuating itself into the deepest recesses of my mind.

“Without antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница wanting, you could not pass over. You and your sister both.” The dark eyes flicked to Tati and back again. “There will be time enough for private dalliance later. The night is long. Don’t you want to look into Dr˘agu¸ta’s magic mirror?you have done so, we will have a hundred new things to talk about, Jena.”

“I don’t care about the mirror.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Anastasia getting restless, impatient. She was examining her long, polished nails and glancing about her. “I’ll say antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница 205I need to say now. You’ve brought evil on the valley, you and your people. You offered me something and I didn’t accept the offer, but you took payment anyway—payment in an innocent girl’s blood. You started this. You can’t say just wanting something means I’ve agreed to some kind of bargain; that isn’t fair. The people of the valley were already hungry: it’s winter, and times are hard. Killing their animals isn’t only cruel, it’s un-just. Not everyone is like Cezar. Most people understand the need to share antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница. They understand that humankind and the folk of the wildwood have to live side by side, with proper respect for their differences. Ileana’s folk know that. It seems you don’t.”

“You promised that I could see Sorrow.” Tati’s voice was uneven. “If he’s here, I want to see him now. Show me that he’s safe and well.”

“Of course, Tatiana.” Tadeusz’s voice had become kindly, warm; he sounded utterly trustworthy. “I will take you to him.’s a shy boy, as you know. He won’t come out while so many folk antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница are enjoying themselves. This way.”

“Wait!” It seemed my night was to be a long sequence of running, clutching, trying to keep up. “Don’t go without me—”

“This way,” said Anastasia, and I found that she was leading me down a pathway into the woods, and my sister and Tadeusz were nowhere in sight. I tried to pull back, to follow Tati, but my feet were obeying some force beyond me, dragging me along behind my pale-faced guide. I was engulfed by malevolence, in the grip of a fell charm. I tried to call to my sister, but my voice antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница seemed to die in my throat—all I could manage was a strangled gasp. We moved on into the darkness. Behind us, the eerie lights of the glade faded.

“What is this place?” I managed. “Where are Ileana and Marin? Why is it so different?” A terrible fear awoke within me. Perhaps the Night People had changed the Other Kingdom forever. Perhaps Ileana’s rule was over, and our friends were all gone.

“You think that within the Other Kingdom there is only one realm?” Anastasia raised her brows at me, as if she found me unbelievably stupid. “Dark antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница of the Moon is our time; we come to celebrate in our own way. It is Ileana’s choice to shun our festivities. That’s of no matter. My brother’s world is stronger than hers. In time, all this will be ours.”heart went cold. Fear seized me, but not quite enough to stifle common sense. “I thought you were from the east,” I whispered. “I thought you were only visiting. And what about Dr˘agu¸ta?”

“Dr˘agu¸ta?” She tossed her ebony hair. “A mere mountain witch? She’s no more than a puny antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница local herbalist who reaches beyond her abilities. Why else has she failed to make an appearance in all the days since we came to the forest of Piscul Dracului? The crone dares not set foot in the open now the Night People have put their mark on this place.”my feet carried me along after her, I was thinking hard. “If Dr˘agu¸ta has so little power,” I said, “why did your brother hold out her mirror to tempt me here? It must be a tawdry thing of little value. Why did Tadeusz tell antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница me I would find truth in it? Was everything he said to me a lie?”

“I know one thing,” the scarlet-lipped woman said with a twisted smile. “My brother was never interested in you, plain little thing that you are, with your unkempt bush of hair and 207flat chest and your flood of stupid questions. It’s your sister he has his eye on. She’s a choice morsel, all pearly flesh and quivering uncertainty. There’s no need to look like that, Jenica.’re not so precipitate. He wishes Sorrow to see them together, that is all. He antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница wishes to play a little.”, confusion, and terror warred within me. I stayed silent, though inside I was screaming.

“You want to ask questions, don’t you? Look in the mirror, then. You may protest that you are here simply to bring your sister back, but I know the real reason. You are thirsty for knowledge. You must have it whatever the cost—because knowledge allows control, and you do love to be in control, don’t you, Jenica? And you like flattery, poor, silly girl. My brother knew how to manipulate you; it was the easiest thing in the antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница world.”a moment I knew what hate felt like. I knew how Cezar felt in those moments when his face went cold and his eyes dark. Then I saw that we had reached a still pool fringed by ferns, a pool that was perfectly round, with a shimmering to its surface that reminded me of T˘aul Ielelor on the night of Full Moon. Without a doubt, this was Dr˘agu¸ta’s magic mirror. The forest around us was hushed. No night bird called, no small creature rustled a path through the grasses.moment she releases this spell antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница, I told myself, I have to run. Runback, grab Tati, go to the lake, and get across any way we can. Even as I thought this, I knew how impossible it would be. I wished with all my heart that I had not left Gogu behind. He would have thought of some way out, I was sure of it. What my stupidity had gotten us into, his sound common sense would have 208us from. Run. Run. I stood paralyzed, waiting for her to release my feet. I looked anywhere but at that circle of bright water, for it seemed antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница to me that once I let my eyes fall on it, I would be trapped: caught by the vision, a victim of my own hunger for knowledge. I looked up into the elder tree that grew by the pond, and in its drooping branches I caught a glimpse of something small and bright—something that reflected the gleam from the water and shone it into my eyes. I blinked, disbelieving, then reached up a hand and lifted it down. It was a tiny crown made from wire and fabric, beads and braid. I wantto be Queen of antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница the Fairies. gave a hiss. The spell was abruptly undone, my feet freed from what had rooted them to the ground, my throat released from the tight grip that had held my voice to a whisper. I took a step back, ready to flee. The crown slipped through my fingers, and as I reached to catch it, I looked into the water of Dr˘agu¸ta’s mirror.saw a pair of children, pale-skinned and dark-eyed, each as somber-faced as the other. He was perhaps eight years old, she a mere babe. Brother and antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница sister, no doubt, and I was sure I knew them. That sad-looking boy was Sorrow, and the other the fragile girl I had seen not long ago with her minders. The water showed them in the forest, wandering, probably lost—the boy was holding his sister in his arms, trying to make a way through ever thicker undergrowth as the light faded. They came to a clearing as dusk fell, and there, under the trees, was Tadeusz in his black boots and swirling cloak. Do not be afraid, he said, and then the vision faded.I could begin to think antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница about what that meant, a new 209appeared in the mirror. I saw myself, dancing with a young man clad in rags. He was tall and lanky, his dark hair hanging wild and unkempt over eyes as green as beech leaves.was looking at the girl in his arms as if she were his whole world, and the Jena of the vision was gazing back with her heart in her eyes. It made me feel hot and cold and confused—longed for the vision to be real, and for love at first sight to be a true thing after antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница all. His face was everything I liked: the mouth quirky and sweet, the features strong and well defined, the eyes deep and thoughtful. He seemed in some way familiar, though I was certain I had never seen him before. As I gazed, the man in the mirror turned to look out at the world of Dark of the Moon, and the tenderness in his eyes made my heart turn over. Be sensible, Jena, I warned myself. You are in the Other Kingdom;nothing is as it seems. , before my eyes, he changed. As I stared, horrified, the pleasant, clever antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница features became a distorted mask. The eyes went from green to red, the skin puckered and blistered and broke out in festering sores. He lifted a hand, and the fingers were tipped with nails so long, they had grown into yellow curls. He opened his mouth, and what came out was a terrible howl, the cry of a savage thing from the darkest places of the forest. The other Jena was gone from the mirror, but my younger sisters were there, all three of them. I stood frozen with terror as the monstrous figure turned on them: slashing, tearing antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница, rend-ing, as he made them run, pursuing them through the wildwood without mercy. I heard Stela screaming in pain. I heard my own voice, a little, pathetic thing, whimpering, No, no! that one, someone said, and you will deliver up your heart to be 210and skewered and roasted over a fire. The vision dissipated on the water’s surface. All that remained was a leaf or two floating there and a drift of weed below.dashed the tears from my face and fought to get my breathing under control. I was free to go; it seemed these cryptic antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница and horrifying glimpses were all Dr˘agu¸ta’s mirror had to show me.had fallen strangely silent. She was a tall woman and her grip had been strong. I wondered if I had any chance of out-running her. I turned and saw that her eyes were on the little crown in my hands, the trifle of bits and pieces that, at five years old, I had thought the most wondrous thing in the world.was fraying and crumbling and falling apart.

“Throw that away,” Anastasia said, staring at the crown and clutching at her throat as if something antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница hurt her. “It’s an evil charm, one of hers. A human girl cannot hold such a talisman—will kill you, Jenica. Cast it aside.”

“Hers? You mean Dr˘agu¸ta’s? A mere mountain witch?” I edged away from her. If, startling as it seemed, this childhood creation gave me some kind of advantage here where the Night People held sway, I would not hesitate to use it.

“Give it up, Jenica!” Anastasia lunged toward me. As her fingers reached for the little crown, there was a whirl of white between us and we both flinched back antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница. A moment later an owl landed on the bending branch of the elder tree, its plumage snowy, its eyes an odd, cloudy blue-green. Anastasia’s hands moved in a complicated gesture before her, like a ritual charm.reminded me of the sign the folk of the valley used to ward off evil spirits., said my inner voice, and I obeyed, the little crown still 211tight in my hand. “Tati!” I shouted, careless of who could hear me or what they might decide to do. It seemed to me I had been given a second chance and that I antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница must use it quickly.

“Tati, where are you?”ran back up the path to the sward, my heart pounding, my breath coming hard. In my head I was five years old again and the oak tree I had been told to reach moved farther and farther away the faster I drove myself. I could hear Costi’s footsteps behind me, closer and closer, but this time it was Anastasia chasing me, and after a while her steps grew fainter, though I still heard her calling me: “Jenica! Stop!” reached the turning where I had lost Tadeusz antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница and my sister, and paused, not knowing which way they had gone. I might take a wrong turn and keep blundering through the woods until I was lost forever—as lost as those children in the vision had been. Human children: an ordinary boy and girl who had been captured by the wildwood and now could never be set free again.owl flew over my head, making me duck. I ran after it, trying to keep the bird in sight as I brushed past thorny bushes and crept under tangling briars. Surely this was not the way I had antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница come? Where was this creature leading me, into the heart of the wood? “Wait,” I panted, but the bird flew on, uttering an eerie hoot as it winged its way down a steep, overgrown hill. At the bottom of the slope, I glimpsed the strangely glowing waters of the Deadwash, brighter now than before. I forced a way through the prickly undergrowth—my cloak tearing on thorns, twigs catching at my hair. Behind me, at a distance, I could hear sounds of pursuit: a howling arose, like that of hunt-212hounds. And close by me, along the bank, someone antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница else was making a crashing descent. Anastasia—had she caught up with me? I glanced through the bushes and caught a flash of a white, terrified face and a stream of dark hair. Tati—and with her someone in dark clothing, a man leading her along at breakneck speed. He still had her. Tadeusz would get there before me, he would stop me. . . .owl cried out again. I saw it alight on a branch down the hill, where the forest opened up to the lakeshore. I was running so fast that I could not stop. I stumbled between sharp-leaved holly bushes antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница and out onto the open ground, the little crown still clutched in my hand.

“Jena! Quick!” my sister was saying, and when I looked up, I saw that the person with her was not haughty, black-booted Tadeusz, but the slighter form of the young man in the black coat: the man about whom, it seemed, I had been quite wrong.

“Are you all right?” I asked Tati, sure that I could hear the sound of running footsteps and of barking not far behind us.

“I’m fine. I ran away and hid, and Sorrow found antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница me.” In her chalk-pale face, my sister’s eyes were shining bright. “But he says we have to go.”

“You should not have come here.” Sorrow’s voice was muted; he, too, was glancing over his shoulder. “You put yourselves in peril. If I aid you, I break a vow and endanger the innocent. You must go quickly.”sister, I thought. He must be bound to obey the Night People, or she would be hurt. That was cruel.

“I only wanted to see you,” Tati said in a whisper.

“I know that, dear heart, and the sight of you antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница fills me with joy. But you must go now, quickly, before they reach the shore.not come here at Dark of the Moon. Promise me you won’t come again.”

“I promise.” She stood on tiptoe to kiss him. Sorrow enfolded her in his arms, and I had to look away, for he held her with such tender passion that it made my cheeks burn. I felt like an intruder. I remembered Tadeusz’s insinuating talk about wanting. And I remembered the young man with green eyes who had looked at me in just the way Sorrow looked antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница at Tati—as if I were the sun, moon, and stars, all wrapped into one. For a moment I had believed that might be real for me, too, until Dr˘agu¸ta’s mirror had shown how cruelly deceptive such day-dreams could be. I gazed over the lake and saw the owl fly out to land in a birch that grew on the first of many small islands there. The Deadwash was hard frozen. With sinking heart, I knew what we must do.

“Farewell,” Sorrow said, and his voice was the saddest thing I had ever heard.

“When will antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница I see you?” Tati asked him as I drew her away, down toward the frozen lake. “I can’t bear this!”

“Wouldn’t Dr˘agu¸ta help you?” I looked back at Sorrow as I stepped out onto the ice. “Couldn’t you approach her?”

“Go!” whispered Sorrow. “Go before they see you.” And he vanished under the trees.white owl led us all the way across T˘aul Ielelor. The ice was slick—by the time we reached the other side we were bruised, exhausted, and freezing. Tati was crying. I was oddly 214eyed, my heart still pounding antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница with fear and exertion, my mind busily trying to make sense of all that had happened. I had not looked back once. The sounds I had heard behind us suggested that pursuit had come only as far as the lakeshore. Something had helped us, something that was not simply a friendly bird from the Other Kingdom.looked at the owl now; it was perched on a tree stump, coolly preening its feathers like any ordinary creature. “Thank you,” I said, inclining my head in a gesture of respect. “I don’t know why you helped us, but I antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница honor you for it. I don’t suppose the usual portal’s going to open—not tonight. Can you show us how to get home?”a screech, the bird unfolded its wings and flew off.moments it was gone. The only light was the faint gleam from the lake’s surface. On this moonless night, the path we usually took up to the castle and the long winding stair would be impossible.

“It’s all right, Jena,” Tati said, surprising me, for I had thought her beyond rational speech. “We can simply walk home through the forest antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница.”

“How could that work? We’d probably go around and around in circles and never get home. We might be like that . . .”voice trailed away. If she had not seen that pathetic puppet on the sward, capering before his tormentors, I would not tell her about him. As for the pale child in her black gown, it seemed that she and her brother were not so different from us.

“I don’t think so, Jena. It’s the Bright Between that separates the two worlds, and we’re already across.” She shivered, 215her cloak more tightly around her. “I antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница think if we’re careful which way we go, we can get home from here.”

“What are you saying? If that was true, the whole thing with our portal would be . . . It wouldn’t be a magical charm at all—it would be meaningless, Tati. What about the shadow hands on the stone at Full Moon? If it’s not magic, it should work anytime we try it, and anyone should be able to do it.”

“I don’t know. But I think we should start walking. I’m cold. We need to follow the edge of the lake until we antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница find a path; at least the water is a little brighter than the forest.”

“Tati?” I asked her as we picked our way along the lakeshore.

“What?”

“Are you going to tell me what happened?”

“I told you. That tall one, Tadeusz, tried to take me off somewhere, and I just bolted into the forest, not even thinking where I was going. A moment later, there was Sorrow. I could hear Tadeusz laughing. It was almost as if he knew what was going to happen. As if it was all part of some mad game. He frightened me, Jena antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница.”

“Here, there’s a way up beside this stream, between the rocks, I remember it. . . .” It led to the secret hollow where Gogu and I had enjoyed many picnics. That meant the place where we had slipped and staggered to shore was the scene of Costi’s drowning—the sandy beach where my cousins and I had once placed our precious treasures and started a game whose rules none of us understood. I felt the slight weight of the little crown, which I had slipped into the pocket of my cloak. I want 216be Queen of the Fairies antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница. . . . I was missing something. I was on the verge of solving a puzzle, but the pieces would not quite fit.

“Wait a minute,” I said, and I took the crown out and set it on a flat stone by the stream. “I don’t think I’m ready to take it back yet,” I whispered.

“What?”

“Nothing. Come on, then. We should go as quietly as we can; Cezar and his hunting party might be out again. I’ll tell you my story when we’re safely home, with the door locked behind us.”was right about the antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница portal—at least, right in her guess that we could walk back to Piscul Dracului without the need to pass between worlds once more. We had still more cuts and bruises by the time we came up the track past the barn toward the main entrance to the castle. Our boots were sodden from tramping through the snow and the hems of our skirts coated with forest debris. My ears ached; my nose streamed; I’d never felt so cold in my life. Within the castle, lights still burned.the need to conserve fuel, Florica would not have the place antiqueMarillierDancing 11 страница in total darkness on a winter night. One lamp shone over the big iron-hinged doorway.

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