#htkoelths

 Behold! The final artwork from my Spring 2020 quarantine lockdown is revealed! This artwork was fea Behold! The final artwork from my Spring 2020 quarantine lockdown is revealed! This artwork was fea Behold! The final artwork from my Spring 2020 quarantine lockdown is revealed! This artwork was fea Behold! The final artwork from my Spring 2020 quarantine lockdown is revealed! This artwork was fea

Behold! The final artwork from my Spring 2020 quarantine lockdown is revealed! This artwork was featured on a tote bag in the November 2020 FairyLoot box and is inspired by The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black!

*** SPOILERS FOR Queen of Nothing ****

Originally, I was asked to craft this concept relating to the quote ‘By you, I am forever undone’. So I thought, “When Cardan is undone, what would Jude find?”. A shabby heart; one that looks so like a cocoon just waiting to hatch. The three rings in the background also represent elements that were 'undone’. The crown, the curse, and the Greenbriar bloodline (encircled in starry branches, referencing the prophecy foretold in the stars)

So yeah, was all about those QON vibes….. until.

NOVEMBER 24, 2020

Y'ALL.

I’ve adopted this as HTKOELTHS fanart, and you can’t stop me.


Post link

Exclusive edition of How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Fairy Loot!!

Lost & Found - Chapter 6

Summary:Jude navigates her discovery of Cardan’s curse. She and Pellia make a deal. || Inspired by this promptby@newblood-freya

Words:5198

Rating:T

Warnings:Descriptions of violence, injuries, and a panic attack.

Links:

***

Jude woke buried beneath the blankets with Cardan asleep in the hollow of her curled body.

She watched him for a long moment, the rise and fall of his sides as he breathed, and wondered what on earth she was doing. In wake of her nightmare, the biggest concern her confused, sleep-addled mind had come up with was that Cat Cardan had been around while she was changing (which, while mildly mortifying, she could get over).

But she had fallen asleep before actually processing the gravity of the discovery, and now… Well, now Jude had time to think.

Once he was back in his faerie body, what would happen? What would he do? say? He knew so much of her, her family, the way she thought and lived and felt—

All she could do was hope he wouldn’t use any of it against her if they managed to turn him back.

And they would. They would turn him back, or at least try, because as tempting as it was to hold this power over him, she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t leave him as a cat forever. (And besides, Jude could think of worse things than having a prince of Faerie in her debt.)

Tentatively, Jude brushed the knuckles of one hand over Cardan’s fur before letting her fingers come to rest on the rounded curve of his curled back. He stirred at her touch, turning amber cat eyes to meet Jude’s gaze. She jerked her hand back.

“Sorry, I—” Jude caught herself, biting her lip.

Cardan gave her a soft chirp in response and stood, giving a long stretch before sitting, his tail wrapped close to his body and his cat eyes watching her.

Jude watched him back, studied him—the ways he moved, and the ways he didn’t, graceful and haughty and careless all at once. He’d always been like that, even in his fey form, but the fact that these traits seemed only amplified by this curse made Jude’s stomach burn.

“Is it horrible?” she blurted, surprising him as much as herself. Cardan tilted his head at her and she swallowed. “The curse. Being a cat. Is it… hard? Terrifying? Does it scare you to know you may never be fully yourself again?”

He didn’t move for a long moment, and Jude thought maybe he wouldn’t answer. She wasn’t sure she had expected him to in the first place, if she let herself be completely honest.

But then he nodded. Just once, the smallest dip of his head, a twitch of his whiskers, and Jude was certain that there was something like apprehension in his amber gaze.

She regarded him, gauging the truth in his answer, even though she knew he couldn’t lie, before inclining her head.

“Good,” she said. There was nothing malicious in her tone, nor, she would say, in her heart. But the truth of his fear made her chest tingle and her stomach tighten at the fact that he knew—he knew what it was, now, to have dread hang over everything he did, every move he made, every moment and every thought.

Still, Jude couldn’t bring herself to meet his eyes as she said it, focusing instead on the blankets that separated them.

She took a deep breath.

“Get up. We’re going to pay a friend of yours a visit.”

~ ~ ~

If Pellia had learned anything in her eighteen years of life, it was that most humans had a very skewed view of the magic and whimsy of Faerieland.

When she was seven and recently enrolled in public school, her teacher had read a story to the class about a pair of human children who befriended the faeries and would visit Faerieland occasionally. Her classmates had eaten it up. But for the pixie girl living amongst magicless mortals, the most memorable thing about that story had been how wrong it all was.

Young as Pellia had been at the time, she’d known the truth: the fey were not friendly, not most, and their land was not so full of whimsy, with giant toadstools and talking frog butlers and pots of gold at the ends of each rainbow. And certainly, more than anything else, Faerie was not a peaceful place to which two mortal children could safely come and go.

Now, huddled on her cot with the damp chill of the underground seeping into her bones, Pellia marvelled at just how right she had been.

She tilted her head back to rest against the cold stone. Her body ached from yesterday’s beating, her skin mottled with patches of red and blue and black. She was fairly certain one of her ribs was fractured, too, which sucked, but on the bright side, it hadn’t punctured a lung, so, at the very least, she could breathe—somewhat, through the swell of her split lip and crooked nose.

Pellia almost wanted to laugh at how pathetic she was, to be suffering so greatly from a few bruises and a broken rib. She didn’t, though, because that would hurt even more. And her entire body was already in agony.

There was a pain in her chest that wasn’t from her ribs, a gaping hole where her heart should have been. Pellia let her eyes slide closed as she listened to the closed whine of air through her broken nose.

Everything hurts.

She squeezed her eyes tighter, till starbursts danced on her lids and her ears rumbled with a sound like distant thunder.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered into the empty noise. She didn’t know who she was apologising to; Amber? her mother? herself? Pellia wasn’t sure it mattered much anymore. She wasn’t sure she would ever get out of here.

The world spun as she dropped her head to her knees and wished for a miracle.

~ ~ ~

The sun had barely sunk below the horizon when they left, secreting out of the house and into the Milkwood on foot, inconspicuous as shadows in the dark.

As they walked, Jude gnawed on a piece of bread, salted against magicks and spread with sweet jam. Cardan, who had been trotting along at her heels, sprung up to sit on her shoulder.

“You leave picks in my clothes every time you do that,” Jude remarked, not looking up from where she was squinting to see the path in the dark. She surprised herself with how easy it was to talk to him, the same as she had before, even though she knew now that it was him.

Cardan snuffed and dug his claws into her shoulder in response. His gaze was fixed on her bread, and when he noticed her looking, he lifted his little cat chin imperiously, giving her a haughty meow.

“Oh, get over yourself,” she scoffed, but she broke a piece off and held it up for him.

He nibbled at it as she picked through the dark, until she nearly tripped in a rut in the ground, causing her to stumble several steps. She swore under her breath as she caught her balance, but Cardan, perched precariously as he was on her shoulder, was forced to jump, or run the risk of being rather gracelessly dislodged.

He walked after that, lithe and soundless as a ghost, picking out the best paths with his superior night vision and guiding Jude over logs and around dips and divots in the uneven earth.

Usually, a journey through the Milkwood, in the dark and on foot, took her the better part of an hour. With Cardan’s help, they made it to the Hill in three quarters of that time.

She was grateful, certainly, but she would never admit to it.

Jude paused on the edge of the Milkwood, crouching low and pulling her hood up to disguise her face as she watched the single guard posted outside the Hill’s entrance. She fingered the hilt of one of the daggers she had at her waist.

Cardan grumbled, eyeing her.

“Well, how were you thinking we get in?” she retorted, frowning.

He made another, decidedly displeased, sound and rolled his eyes before darting towards the hill. She lost him in the shadows a moment later, but soon after saw the guard move away from the gate, hand on their sword as they went to investigate whatever noise had caught their attention.

Jude took her chance, dashing across the open ground and, eyes squeezed tightly shut, through the illusioned entrance to the Hill.

She paused to catch her breath as she waited for Cardan, who came trotting through a few minutes later, looking rather pleased with himself.

She gave him a begrudging nod of approval, at which he twitched his whiskers and gave a smug little purr.

Jude shot him a look.

“Watch it, buddy. I may live here now, but I’m still American and you’re still football-sized.”

He grumbled loudly and she conceded.

“Okay, not football-sized, but close enough.”

The look Cardan gave her was so baleful that she had to laugh.

“I’m joking, I’m above animal cruelty. Now,” she made a show of stepping aside for him, “lead on.”

He did, guiding her through the maze of halls, clear of the bustling servants busy with their chores, past the rooms of sleeping courtiers. Down and down, until they reached the dungeon and the same back entrance they had used before.

At Cardan’s touch, the door unlocked, grating open on rusty hinges so he and Jude could slip into the damp prison beyond.

“Follow the path to the left, fifty-three cells down,” Jude breathed, freeing a dagger from its sheath. “I’ll be back.”

She kept straight, following a hunch down the rows of crowded cells until, sitting slumped on a bench at the end of the row, cradling his helmet in his arms, she found a snoring guard with a key ring at his belt.

She crouched to examine it.

The metal ring was fastened to him by a long loop of fabric, the keys themselves tucked through his belt to hold them in place.

One cut and then pull them free. That was it.

Jude took a deep breath.

Carefully, touching him a little as possible, she lifted a loop of the fabric and sliced through it.

That was the easy part.

Jude sheathed her knife and took hold of the metal ring, her breath stopping as she began sliding it slowly, slowly, slowly from his belt.

The guard snorted, his body jerking slightly. She froze, heart in her throat, afraid to even blink lest she disturb him—

But then he sighed and his breathing returned, easy and regular as his head lolled to one side.

She freed the keys the rest of the way, eyes glued to the guard’s face.

They clanked together and she grimaced, catching them in her hand and trying to silence the ringing metal—

But it was too late. The guard snapped awake, his hand shooting out to wrap around Jude’s throat as she cried out.

“What are you—aargh!” He bellowed, his words cut off by Jude’s fist burying itself in his groin. His grip on her loosened as he curled in on himself and she fell, scrambling back and panting.

Her neck ached and the air whistling down her throat felt dry and raspy, but Jude forced herself to her feet, gaze still locked on the faerie before her.

In the cramped confines of the dungeon her sword would be rendered mostly useless but for short jabs, so Jude drew a dagger, holding it at the ready as she acted.

The guard kicked out weakly in an attempt to hold her back but she moved just out of his reach, her free hand knocking the blow aside as she stepped between his legs.

One swift hit was all it took, the hilt of her dagger crashing down on his unprotected head, rendering him unconscious.

His eyes rolled back and he slumped forward, his forehead planting itself in Jude’s stomach. She shoved him off and watched him tip to one side and crash to the floor. There was a trickle of red sliding down his temple and into his face.

Jude swallowed. Sheathing her blade, she crouched next to him, feeling under his jaw for a pulse.

Nothing. Had she killed him? Her own heart pounded painfully in her chest at the stillness, panic building—

And then she felt it: soft, fluttering—but there, nonetheless.

She let out a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding, her lungs aching. She reached out to press her free hand against the cold stone floor, grounding herself.

She didn’t have time for this.

Grabbing the keys from where they’d fallen, Jude stood and headed back to where Cardan waited.

~ ~ ~

The cat prince was standing outside the cell when Jude got there, tail held straight up and fur slightly fluffed. His eyes were fixed on the figure inside. When she stepped closer to the bars, Jude understood why:

On the cot in the back corner, curled loosely in on herself, was the pixie. She looked up at the sound of Jude’s footsteps.

“Oh. It’s you.” The words came out slow and slurred, through a split lip and laboured breathing. The red eyes that had flashed so brightly on their last visit were dull and clouded with pain.

“Are you here for another clue or did you finally figure it out?” The pixie’s voice grated against Jude’s ears, rasping and thick.

She didn’t respond for a moment, taking in the tattered, shortened hem of the fey’s once-beautiful gown.

“I have a deal to make with you.”

A look like disdain passed over the swollen features of the pixie’s face. “Do I look like I’m in any position to be making a deal?”

“You’ll want to hear this one,” Jude said flatly. “Trust me.”

“Trust is a very dangerous thing.”

Jude shrugged. “I’ll make it worth your while.”

The pixie gave a smirk that looked more like a wince. “Are you tryna seduce me?”

“What—?”

“All I’m saying—” she shrugged then winced. “Ow. All I’m saying is, my type is definitely fellow redheads who hold the keys to my cell.”

At her feet, Cardan gave an amused snicker. Jude ground her teeth.

“I am going to turn Cardan back. I want to know what kind of spell you put on him and how to break it. And in return, I’ll get you out of this cell and you can crawl back to whatever hole you came from.”

The pixie regarded Jude for a long moment.

“No deal.”

“What—” Jude snapped her mouth shut. She should have guessed it would come down to this. It was never simple. Never.

“No. Deal,” the fey repeated. “Getting out of this cell is the least of my concerns right now.”

Jude pressed her lips together. “Then bargain with me.”

The pixie tilted her head, her gaze intent as she studied the mortal girl and the cat prince sitting at her side, tail twitching. It made Jude’s skin crawl. Cardan leaned into Jude’s leg, the small weight of him reassuring.

“What’s your name?” the fey asked instead.

When Jude stayed silent she turned to Cardan.

“So she knows who you are—” Cardan inclined his head, and she continued: “—but did y’all figure out the rest of my little riddle?”

Jude failed to see how this had to do with any kind of bargain, but she nodded. Still, the pixie stared at her expectantly. When Jude still didn’t say anything, she sighed.

“‘Kay, look. I can’t tell you all the information here unless I know that you know the basics. Our lovely friend left a loophole that said I can’t reveal anything to anyone. But once you know it, I can talk about him all I want, because then I’m not revealing anything, am I?”

Jude rubbed her thumb over the stump of her shortened ring finger. She wasn’t sure why she was even hesitating on this.

“It’s Balekin,” she said as a blur of black fur clawed its way up her body to settle on her shoulder.

“Nailed it.” The pixie nodded, then stood, slowly, wincing in pain as she moved up to the bars.

In the lesser darkness of the hall, Jude could see just how battered she really was.

Her face and shoulders were more bruise than skin, her lip swollen and split. Her face was puffy around the crooked line of her nose, and dried blood still stained her skin in places. She’d bound her torso with strips torn from the bottom of her dress.

She met Jude’s gaze full on.

“I’m Pellia. Anything I can call you?”

“Jude.”

“Hm. Well, I’d say it’s nice to meet you, Jude, but honestly, nothing is nice, right now.” She let out a little huff of laughter, then grimaced. “So, let’s bargain. You want Cardan to be un-catted and I want back something that was stolen from me. And as you’ve already figured out, the key to both of those things lies with Balekin.”

Jude was silent, waiting for her to continue.

“So here’s my bargain,” Pellia said. “You break me out of here and help me get what I want from Balekin—”

“Which is what?”

“What?”

“What do you want from Balekin,” Jude clarified. “What did he take from you?”

The pixie’s jaw tightened and a look of what Jude could only describe as seething rage contorted her face. “My sister,” she said. “He took my sister.”

Jude’s mouth went dry at the thought and she swallowed. “Okay. So, I help you get your sister back, and you…”

Pellia cleared her throat, attempting to clear the anger from her face, but Jude could still sense it, a searing intensity simmering beneath the surface of her flippant facade. “And I’ll get you what you need to turn Catboy back into,” she paused, “less Catboy.”

Jude frowned. “Into himself. Turn Cardan all the way back to how he was before he even met you.”

“That’s what I said.”

“You said less cat. He needs to be no cat.”

Bitter amusement sparked in Pellia’s eyes, the first kind of light Jude had seen in them.

“He’s always gonna be a catboy, babe.” She leaned in conspiratorially. “He has a tail.”

“So I’ve heard,” Jude responded, frowning.

“Well, there you go. Unless you want me to cut it off once we’ve changed him back—”

She was interrupted by a sudden hiss from Cardan himself. The cat’s claws dug into Jude’s shoulder and she shot him a look.

“But something makes me think he’s not too fond of that idea,” Pellia continued. “So he keeps the tail, ergo: catboy.”

Jude shook her head. “We’ve gotten distracted. Was that your whole bargain?”

One of Pellia’s brows raised. “Unless you can think of something else you’d like to give me? That dagger’s pretty nice.” She nodded at Jude’s belt.

“No.”

“Okay, then yeah. That’s all. I promise I will help you undo the spell on Cardan, provided that you, in return, help me save my family from Balekin’s felonius, rotten clutches.”

It took Jude a moment to realise that this was Pellia’s version of an oath; she had never before heard one made with such informality.

Frowning, Jude responded, “And I promise that in return for your help reversing the curse on Cardan, I will help you save your family.” When Pellia maintained her expectant stare, Jude finished: “…from Balekin’s felonius, rotten clutches.”

Inside the cell, Pellia’s eyes seemed to shine a little brighter as Jude slid the key into the lock.

~ ~ ~

They made their way up from the dungeons, Jude supporting Pellia’s weight and Cardan scouting ahead at Jude’s behest. Well, she said it was scouting. In all honesty, Cardan just didn’t want to be near the pixie girl and the stench of her unwashed, bloodied body.

The scent of it all was nearly overpowering to Cardan’s hypersensitive nose and it, along with everything else about Pellia’s current state, made his stomach flip with nausea.

While he wasn’t particularly fond of blood, Cardan had never considered himself squeamish—that is, until they had made their way into the brighter upper levels of the palace, and Pellia’s bruised and battered state had been on full display.

She was a far cry from the elegant seductress he had met all those nights ago; the soiled fabric of her dress was dark and stiff with dried blood, hanging loosely where it used to hug her body, and her skirt, having been torn into strips, was now knee length at best. Her arms, shoulders, and chest were barely recognizable as skin, covered as they were with the ugly purple-black and red of fresh bruises. But bad as that was, Cardan knew it would be worse beneath her clothes, in the places where people couldn’t see.

It was always worse where people couldn’t see.

Just the thought of it made his stomach flip and his own back ached. He tried not to look too hard at her after that.

When they got to the illusioned exit, Jude held up a hand for them to stop.

“The guard could be right on the other side,” she said. “They’re not gonna fall for your trick twice, Cardan, but I don’t want them to have the chance to raise the alarm.”

Cardan’s tail flicked nervously of its own accord. He sat and pinned it with his paws before he caught Pellia smirking at him. If he’d been less of a coward, he might have stared her down. Instead, he twitched his whiskers in a nervous cat smile as she turned back to Jude.

“You’re making this too complicated,” the pixie said, wincing as she leaned against the wall, a hand to her ribs. “They’re gonna know I’m gone soon anyway, so just knock the guard out and let’s go. Or kill him, I don’t care.”

At Jude’s hesitation, Pellia continued, “If you won’t, then give me a dagger and I will. But if we hang around here much longer, sooner or later someone is gonna come along and—”

Footsteps echoed down the hall.

“We’re gonna get caught,” Pellia said, and Cardan’s mouth almost dropped open at the absolute gall this pixie girl had, as she reached for the dagger in Jude’s belt.

Jude was faster, unsheathing the weapon and glaring at the pixie before flipping it hilt-first to offer to her.

The footsteps were growing louder, closer. Cardan turned to face the direction they were coming from, glancing back and forth between the two women at his back and the sound of their oncoming potential doom.

“We may be working together,” he heard Jude hiss, “but that doesn’t mean we’re friendly. Keep your hands off my knives unless I say otherwise.”

The warning in Jude’s voice made Cardan’s skin tingle, and when he shot a glance at her over his shoulder, he felt his hair rise; if her gaze had been pointed at him, he was fairly certain his blood would have frozen in his veins, too.

Pellia, on the other hand, only seemed amused as she accepted the weapon from Jude, a half-smirk on her lips.

At the other end of the corridor, a guard rounded the corner. Cardan whipped back around to face him, a terrified hiss finding its way unbidden from his throat. The guard caught sight of the blade flashing in the pixie’s hand and shouted, breaking into a run.

“Have fun with that one,” Pellia said, her ruby eyes flicking to the guard. “I’ll clear the way out.”

As she stepped through the portal, Cardan felt, rather than saw, the sneer Jude sent after her.

Turning to face the oncoming guard, Jude muttered to him, “You owe me so big for putting up with that insufferable piece of work,” and drew her sword.

Cardan couldn’t even disagree with her because if he was being fair, he couldn’t say he would voluntarily interact with Pellia either.

Then all thoughts of the pixie were driven from his head as the guard reached the spot where they stood and he leapt back to avoid the fight.

Jude sidestepped the guard’s first thrust, letting him take the offensive for a moment before meeting him head on, parrying his sweeping blow with a force he hadn’t expected, judging by the look on his face. He tried to disengage to reset, but she held him on the defensive, forcing him back and back, their blades coming together in a clanging metallic symphony.

The clash of them smashed into Cardan’s head and rang in his ears, shattering his thoughts, and he pinned his ears back. He wished he had a goblet of Faerie wine. Or better yet, a whole bottle.

The guard cried out as Jude broke past his defense, flinging his sword from his hand. It skittered across the floor, the sound making Cardan’s hair stand on end. He scrambled back as it slid toward him, flashing the torchlight in his eyes.

Jude had the guard subdued now, backed against a wall with her blade at his throat.

The sounds of their heaving breaths was grating on Cardan’s nerves, and he backed into the wall, crouching at its base. He vaguely registered the sound of Jude’s voice, threatening the poor Fey she held at sword point before leaving him cowering against the wall as she moved swiftly, gathering first his fallen sword, which she shoved into her belt, and then Cardan, holding him tight to her body. Her firm grip and the regular beat of her heart helped steady him a little as, Nightfell still held at the ready, she backed through the illusioned gate.

~ ~ ~

Jude gave the guard’s sword to Pellia the moment she stepped through the portal.

“So you can ruin someone else’s blades,” she snarked as she reclaimed her own blood-speckled dagger. There was a fresh smear of red across the pixie’s dress where she’d wiped the blade clean.

Pellia’s only response was a raised eyebrow as she traded the weapons. “So,” she asked, “what’s the plan now?”

“We’re going home. We’ll figure out the rest there,” Jude said. “You can walk?”

Pellia gave her a look of baleful determination. “I can do whatever I have to do.”

Jude nodded as she turned away. “Let’s go then.”

~ ~ ~

They made slow progress away from the hill.

Pellia had thought once she got moving again the adrenaline would kick in and she wouldn’t hurt so much. She was so wrong. Every step sent pain lancing through her body as she was forced to climb over fallen logs or duck under the occasional low branch. The reason she was even somewhat keeping pace with Jude was almost solely because the other girl was half blind in the darkness.

The fact that she was also running on no food and minimal sleep wasn’t exactly helpful either. Her stomach ached with hunger and her bones felt slow; moving forward was like dragging herself through waist-deep sludge. She gritted her teeth and pushed on.

Once, Pellia stumbled over a root, hissing a quiet curse as she caught herself on the tree trunk. Jude glanced at her but said nothing. She was grateful.

By the time Madoc’s manor was in sight, Pellia was ready to drop. It was an effort not to drag her feet as they made their way up to the manor, or drop to all fours and crawl her way up the stairs as she followed Jude to a room on the upper floor.

The room was sparsely decorated—a wardrobe, a vanity and mirror, a separate room for bathing and dressing—but Pellia didn’t notice any of it; her attention was trapped on the bed shoved against the far wall.

Her steps toward it were halting as the full force of her fatigue slammed into her. She nearly stumbled, forcing Jude to catch her, but the mortal girl didn’t take her toward the bed.

“You need a bath before you go anywhere near my furniture,” Jude said, and Pellia couldn’t argue with that.

Within the span of a few minutes, Pellia was sinking into scalding water, feeling its heat seep into her skin and soothe her aching bones.

She was fast asleep a moment later.

~ ~ ~

The water had gone cool and pink with blood by the time Pellia woke. She shivered under its touch and scrubbed at what blood hadn’t already mixed itself into the water, careful of the bruises marring her skin. The ones along her ribs were the worst, dark purple and red eclipsing the space along her side and back. She prodded at it gently, trying to find where the bone had cracked, but succeeded only in causing herself more pain.

Gingerly, Pellia stood and climbed from the tub. Jude had left her a change of clothes: tawny leggings that were too long and a moss green tunic that hung too loose on her emaciated frame. She fixed the accompanying belt loosely around her hips and exited the antechamber.

The bedroom was dark and empty, save for Cardan, curled asleep on the bed. He chirped at her as she entered.

“Hey, catboy,” she said. She wandered to the vanity and pulled open the drawers. From the bed, Cardan meowed loudly.

“Chill, bud, I’m just looking for a comb,” she reassured him as she dug through the contents of the lower drawers. Decorative pins and wires and silk ribbons were sorted meticulously and glinting in the low light.

Pellia’s eye caught on a floral hair clip, sparkling slightly as she picked it up. Her mind flashed back to the day everything had started: a flower crown, a Faerie spy, and Pellia’s own stupid pride.

She closed her eyes against the threat of tears and pocketed the pin before moving on to the upper drawers.

She found a comb there, wide toothed and made of smooth wood. Beneath it was an envelope of heavy white parchment. Pellia shot a glance at Cardan to make sure he wasn’t watching and pushed the comb aside. She opened the letter with her back turned to him.

Her stomach dropped as she recognized Balekin’s bold, angular font. She read, then reread, the letter, feeling her stomach twist tighter each time.

If she has become a liability, he’d written, I expect you will deal with the situation appropriately.

He was going to have her killed. Balekin had all but ordered Madoc to kill her. The paper creased in her hands as her grip tightened and the ink grew blurry through the tears welling in her eyes.

“That wasn’t part of it,” she whispered. Pellia swallowed and shoved aside the shock and terror, felt the oily weight of wrath rise in its place. She closed her eyes, let it build and settle in her bones.

That wasn’t part of the deal, Balekin,” she hissed, the prince’s name like acid in her throat, hurled from her tongue like a curse. If he thought she was dead, would he bother to uphold his end of their bargain? She didn’t want to think about what might happen to Amber if he didn’t.

Her mind narrowed to a single point, one single thought that burned like a brand in her mind: that prince had better watch his back.

***

A/N:Can we please pretend it hasn’t been like a month since I last updated? I’m so thankful for those of you who have patiently waited for this chapter for so long and I do very much apologise for taking so long with it. Things have been crazy lately and writing has been the last thing on my list, honestly. I’m not sure when I’ll get the next chapter out either, and to be honest, I’m not even going to try and give updates on a timeline/date because chances are I won’t stick to it. I will see this fic through to completion though, and that’s a promise. Not sure if it will be a good ending but it will get one

Anyway, thank you for reading and if you have the time, I’d love if you reblogged and let me know your thoughts! Truly, all of your support is what keeps me going :) <3

Tagging:@stardustsroses@nahthanks@jurdanhell@my-one-true-l@thefolkofthefic@greenbriarxrose@bookavert@queen-of-demons-and-hell@theviolettulip@lysandra-ghost-leopard@playlistmusings@black-like-my-soul@mirubyai@eldritchred@hpcdd3@myunfortunatenightmare@angelpaulene ​ @localgoof @garnet-babe @iamaprincessallgirlsare

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