“It means two humans with the same parent,” said the girl impatiently. “Stop asking questions.”

“We’re sisters,” rumbled Erde thoughtfully.

“No, we aren’t! That’s just a stupid human idea. You and I are completely different.” The girl’s eyes blazed with silver flares. “Especially you.”

Yorik worked his mouth again. “Wh-what h-h-happened?” Making words was difficult.

“Do not interrupt me when I’m speaking!” ordered the girl. She raised her arm, which was holding a slender twig with green leaves sprouting off. She waved this at Yorik in a threatening way.

“Tell him!” grunted Erde, waving her arms and hopping.

“Fine,” said the silver girl. She lowered the twig and bent close to Yorik. “What happened is that you’ve died, and it was a really horrible, nasty, tragic death too, by the look of things.”

Yorik wondered if he should apologize for that.

The girl looked him over. “You must have fallen from my elm. How many branches did you hit on the way down, anyway? Here, I’ll fix that.” She brought up the leafy twig and pointed.

Yorik felt the most curious sensation. Warmth spread through his limbs.

“Only my first season here,” continued the girl, waving her twig at Yorik, “and already I’ve found a dead human. You creatures have so little time to live, whatever are you diving out of trees for?”

Something in Yorik’s neck popped into place. He realized he could move his arms and legs.

“There!” declared the silver girl with a flourish. “Completely repaired.”

“Thank you,” Yorik said, sitting up.

“Don’t thank me,” said the girl. “You work for me now!”

Even in the dark night, Yorik could see everything perfectly. There were still remnants of the partridge snare scattered around, but they looked weeks old. He guessed, from the dry, snowy scent of the air and the stark, barren elm, that a month or so had passed, and it was now November.

And he was dead.

“I’m a ghost,” he said, amazed.

“And I am … I am …” The girl paused, seeming to think.

Yorik waited.

“The all-powerful Princess of the Aviary Glade!” she announced at last. “That’s what you can call me. And you are my servant. Your first order is to haunt the lands of your old human masters.”

“You mean the Ravenbys?” asked Yorik.

“Call them whatever you want,” the Princess said, swishing her twig. “You’re a ghost and you’ve got to haunt something. But while you’re at it, I require you to spy, with your ghosty eyes and ears. I want to know everything you see and hear.”

Yorik, who had been a servant his entire life, supposed that it was only natural he would be a servant in death as well. He looked at Erde.

“ ’m Erde,” groaned Erde, hopping. Clumps of dirt fell from her gaping mouth.

“She’s not your concern,” snapped the Princess. “You will serve me, or … or …” She looked about. She spied an acorn and snatched it up. “Or I’ll imprison you in this acorn forever!”

“You don’t have to make threats, Your Highness,” said Yorik humbly. “I’ll help.” He rose gradually to his feet, achingly stretching his creaky limbs.

The Princess looked suspicious. “You’ll help me? Just like that?”

“Of course I will. I want to haunt the Ravenbys. I want revenge!”

“You? Whatever do you want revenge for?”

“They killed me! Well, one of them did. He knocked me out of the elm with a rock.”

“Cor,” moaned Erde, dirt dribbling. “ ’s right.”

“Well then,” said the Princess, seeming disappointed. She dropped the acorn. “I suppose you’ve got to haunt him a bit. But I command you to report back to me.”

Yorik considered for a moment. “May I ask a question, Your Highness?”

Erde snickered muddily.

The Princess fastened her gaze somewhere above Yorik’s head and assumed an imperious air. “There is no need. I already know your question. You wish to know why a being as mighty as I needs a ghost to spy for me!”

“Well, no—” began Yorik.

The Princess stamped her foot. “It’s because of beastly Father! He has trapped me in this glade to punish me! I can’t do any magic outside of it. If I leave its confines I’ll be in terrible trouble. If I hadn’t found Erde hiding here, I’d be all alone, not that I would mind. Anyway, this is why your tragic death is perfectly wonderful! I now have a servant ghost-boy who can leave the glade to do my bidding.” She waved her twig gleefully, and flowers sprang up all around in full bloom, despite its being November. “There,” she said. “I have answered your question.”

Actually, she had not. Yorik hesitated. “Your Majesty,” he said, “I want to haunt my former human masters, but I don’t know how.”

The Princess shrugged. “You’re the ghost,” she said. “Why are you asking me?”

“I’ve only been a ghost for a few minutes,” Yorik replied. “I don’t know what to do.”

The Princess sighed heavily. “You know. Do ghosty things. Stagger around and moan. Make accusations. Humans are very weak creatures and are easily frightened. You’ll hardly have to do anything at all.”

Yorik had even more questions now. But he didn’t dare ask them. The Princess looked impatient, and Yorik had learned that a servant who questioned his betters would soon regret it.

Instead, he looked at Erde, who was sprawled in the dirt. She was using one of her skinny fingers—almost a claw, really—to draw intricate patterns in the earth. “Are you a servant too?” he asked.

Erde stopped drawing and looked up at Yorik, a fathomless expression on her dirty brown face.

“Of course she’s not my servant!” snapped the Princess. “Don’t be stupid! That’s enough questions. Now, you haunt!” 

Chapter Three


Though Yorik looked forward to haunting, his first thought was for his sister. As Pale Moon Luna rushed up from the east, he hurried along the deserted paths of the Estate to the cold one-room cabin. But he found the door hanging open, and inside only cobwebs and dust, shuttered windows, and moldy smells. Susan, and everything of the lives they had lived there, had vanished.

With a frozen rage, Yorik swept back through the Wooded Walk, then onto the riding lane, then over the Tropical Tell to the front gates of Ravenby Manor. He stood looking at the tall iron spikes and the ornate R, as tall as he. He had never been allowed this close to the Manor, and from here its chimneys, gables, and steeples hulked more ominously than ever. Pale Moon Luna slid behind, transforming the house into black silhouette. High up and far behind the Manor, Lord Ravenby’s moored dirigible, the Indomitable, drifted like a thundercloud, its landing lights gleaming dimly through low clouds.

Those low clouds floated over the Manor, and where they caught on the points of the steeples, they sent out wispy tendrils like whirlpools across the roofs, lit by moonlight. Sometimes those wisps seemed to form fleeting faces before dissipating into the night. Yorik was transfixed. The Manor was dark, but here and there lamps flickered watchfully from windows.

Yorik reached for the padlocked gates. I am a ghost.

As he hoped, his ghostly hand pushed through an iron bar as though it were only a stream of water. The rest of him followed, and he stood on the gravel drive of the Manor grounds for the first time in his life.

He strode between the weeping white spruce that lined the drive like sentries. Yorik marveled at how quietly he moved. He seemed to weigh almost nothing at all. His feet, stepping lightly, did not crunch on the gravel. He did

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