“… the story was from when Faerie was new, and the human world that would follow little more than a dream.”

In the Bones of Faerie trilogy, one of the differences between the town protagonist Liza grows up in and the town the young healer Allie grows up in is that Allie’s town was quicker to value magic than Liza’s was, for all the dangers magic holds.

Another difference is that Allie’s town values storytelling, which any writer or reader will tell you is almost the same thing.

So it’s not surprising that it falls to Allie to tell Liza the first half of the story of the Faerie realm’s First Tree, which she’s learned from the fey in her town, at a point in the story where they’re both in need of a distraction.

And I keep thinking that story makes for a nice excerpt.

**** excerpt / mild Faerie After spoilers ahead ****

Allie worked the tangles from her hair as she spoke. “The story begins with a summoner–Rhianne was her name–who could control her own shadow. And it begins with a speaker, but I don’t remember his name. The speaker and the summoner were deeply in love. Of course they were, because that’s how these stories go. Together they walked the forests of Faerie, the summoner calling the things of that world to them, the speaker listening to their voices and telling her what they said. But they were too easily distracted by each other’s words and presence.” A small grin tugged at Allie’s face, the first I’d seen since she returned. “That means kissing. You know that, right, Liza?”

“Yes, Allie.” I kept my voice as grave as I could manage. “I do know that.” I suspected it was far more than kissing Karin meant.

“You would,” Allie said. “You and Matthew both.”

I gave Allie a level look. Her cheeks flushed. We both laughed, but my laughter stopped as I thought of Matthew and Caleb, running through wind and rain to reach us. I would have told Allie about that vision, but what if Nys was listening again?

“So one day while Rhianne and the speaker were distracted–” Allie gave me a meaningful look– “a hunting cat saw them. Hunting cats were much bigger than they are now, and this cat’s claws swiftly found the speaker’s heart. I hate this part. Because while Rhianne used her summoning to send the wild creature away, she wasn’t fast enough. The speaker’s heart and breath stopped, so fast neither the summoner nor any of Faerie’s healers could bring him back, because even then magic wasn’t always enough, no matter how strong it was.”

Allie tugged a particularly stubborn tangle. “Rhianne’s grief at losing her speaker ran so deep. The summoner stopped talking, nearly stopped eating. Months and months later she had a daughter, and once her daughter was born she decided she was done with life and love and with everything, which is the saddest thing I ever heard. Rhianne left her daughter and her people and her body behind, and she sent her shadow wandering, which was stupid, because that meant she was all alone with her grief. Rhianne wandered far and wide, through all of Faerie, while her people waited and watched over her body and hoped maybe one day she’d come back.”

The tangle wouldn’t give. Allie let it go. “Eventually Rhianne’s body grew old and died, because faerie folk died younger then, like I said. Her flesh melted into the soil and the tree, well, the tree ate her, like trees did, even Before. It was only after that that Rhianne’s shadow returned, her grief used up at last. She searched for her body with her magic, but found only the tree. And–this is the strangest part. Rhianne sent her shadow into the only shelter she could find for it, the tree’s bark and branches and leaves. The tree didn’t fight her. Maybe it couldn’t, or maybe it recognized her, after eating her skin and bones and all. Karin thinks it welcomed her. No one knows, because this was so long ago. All we know is that Rhianne’s shadow and the quia tree’s shadow became all jumbled together, and no one could tell, after that, where the woman ended and the tree began. They were the same.” Allie leaned against me. “I’m not sure what that means, Liza. Are you?”

I thought of Matthew, wolf and boy at once. “I think it means their shadows were tangled together. Like a shifter’s shadows.”

“It was only after that that Rhianne’s daughter came to the tree where her mother had died.” Allie pressed her fingers against her eyes, as if to keep them open.

I wrapped my arm around her shoulders. “Go ahead. Sleep. I’ll wake you if anyone comes.”

Allie hunched in on herself. “I sound all stupid and scared, don’t I?”

“It isn’t stupid to be scared when the danger’s real. And the moment I hear anything, I’ll wake you. I promise.” I could at least do that much.

“All right.” Allie sighed, a sound troubled as the wind before a storm, and shifted to rest her head on my thigh. It took a while, but eventually her eyes closed, and her breath relaxed into sleep.

I kept watch, listening for noises in the dark, long past when the purple light dimmed and went out.

Rhianne’s daughter is, of course, as important as Rhianne herself. But that gets told later, by another character–Elin, who is fully fey and has not been a friend to either Liza or Allie–and sharing it would involve far larger spoilers.

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