Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

Maggie Stiefvater


This novel wouldn't have been possible without the help of several people: my generous and charming editor Andrew, who believed in this novel back when it was a fugly duckling; my friend Naish, who dropped everything for tireless editing sessions and fixed grammatical errors that even drunk monkeys speaking English as a foreign language wouldn't have made; my sister Kate, whose intense enthusiasm for Luke and Deirdre kept this story alive and who giggled with me over the plotting process (one word, Kate: "splat-shmear"); my sister Liz, who threatened me into beginning this story in the first place... no really, she did threaten me--I have it in writing; my mom, because without her I wouldn't be here; my cyber-chums for their enthusiasm, especially Wendy, who lives in a place where they stand upside down; and of course my husband/love-slave Ed, whose long-suffering expression hides a true heart.


He didn't know how long he'd been clinging there. Long enough for the bone-cold water to drive the feeling from his legs. Long enough for his fingers to tire of holding his head above water.

Somewhere in the distance, the eerie wail of the hounds quickened his heartbeat.

He closed his eyes, concentrating on keeping his hold on the old well's uneven sides, willing his heart to slow. They can't smell you in here. They'll lose your scent in the stream and they'll never find you here.

The water's chilly touch crawled farther up his neck and he tightened his grip, looking up to the clear night sky. Sighed. Weary. How long had he been doing this? As long viii

as he could remember. Above the well, the howls fell away; they'd lost the scent.

Just leave me alone. Haven't I paid enough? He prayed for Them to go back where They came from, but he didn't expect an answer. God's attentions were for those with souls, a status he'd lacked for a thousand years or more. He swallowed. Deep in his chest, he felt the soft and curious rustling that meant They'd entered the cage room. He reached down through the water to his pocket, withdrew two old, rusty nails, and held them tightly. All he had to do was not cry out.

He could do this.

Somewhere else, in a small, round, gray room of stone and moss soft as a fox cub's fur, a dove beat furiously in a cage made of a net of the hair-fine wires. Wings crashed into the bars, and claws scraped at the perch only to unsuccessfully seek purchase on the thin wire sides. It was a frenzy not of a desire to escape--the cage had no door-- but rather of fear. It was the worst kind of fear--the hopeless kind--and it sent the bird's eternal heart racing until it seemed it would burst out of its breast.

Somehow, slender hands took the pale dove from where it trembled at the bottom of the cage and held it out to a bright lady, oddly golden in this gray-green room.

When she spoke, her voice shimmered in the room, beautiful enough to draw tears. "The wing,"

she said softly, holding up a candle. The fingers gently tugged the dove's wing outward from its body and offered the prone bird to the lady. The candle she held reflected the colors of the sun in the dove's eye.


The lady smiled thinly and held the pale flame beneath the bird's wing.

The boy in the well shuddered. Biting his lip, he pressed his forehead into his arms, willing himself quiet. The pain in his chest gnawed and burned, squeezing his heart with a fiery touch.

As quickly as it began, it abated, and he gasped silently.

The lady in the gray room held the candle beside her face, illuminating her beauty: beauty that looked at the beauty of a perfect summer day and scoffed that they should bear the same description. "He always chooses the hard way, doesn't he?" The dove began to thrash wildly at the sound of her voice. This time, she held the candle closer, and the flames seized the feathers, twisting and blackening them like shreds of paper. The dove froze, beak parted in silent pain, eyes fixed blankly on the ceiling.

In the well, the boy gasped again, audibly, and tried to remember to hold his head above water.

His heart writhed within him, and as he squeezed his eyes shut as tightly as he could, his heartbeat stopped. Feeling curiously hollow, he slid silently under the water, fingers limp, the nails he had been holding tracing a slow line into the dark below him.

His head jerked back, his neck seized in an inhuman grip. He was pulled into the night and dropped to the clover-scented ground, water trickling from his mouth.

"You're not to die quite yet, old friend." The Hunter looked down at him, neither angry nor happy with his captured quarry. The chase was done, so the entertainment was over. Hounds milled around the body in the clover. "Work to do."



... you've left my heart shaken With a hopeless desolation, I'd have you to know It's the wonders of admiration your quiet face has taken And your beauty will haunt me wherever I go.

--"Bridgit O'Malley"


You'll be fine once you throw up," Mom said from the front seat. "You always are."

Standing behind our dusty station wagon, I blinked out of my daze and tugged my harp case out of the back, feeling nauseated. It struck me that Mom's statement was just about the only reason I needed to avoid a career in public music performance. "Keep that pep talk coming, Mom."

"Don't be sarcastic." Mom tossed me a cardigan that matched my pants. "Take this. It makes you look more professional."

I could've said no, but it was easier just to take the sweater. As Mom had already pointed out, the sooner I got


into the auditorium and threw up, the easier it would be. And once I got this

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