Blue Lily, Lily Blue Page 22

But this was not Cabeswater, and whatever it was did not attend to Ronan Lynch.

Chainsaw kept singing — a feat made more terrible because she never closed her beak. It was as if she was merely a speaker for some sound inside herself. “The men of all his land, they listened to their fathers —”

Ronan shouted again, “Whoever you are, stop that! She’s mine.”

Chainsaw broke off to laugh.

It was a high, cunning laugh, as much a song as the song.

“Jesus Christ,” Gansey said, to hide the sound of every hair on his body standing up and both of his testicles retreating.

“Chainsaw,” Ronan snapped.

Her attention darted to him. She peered at him, head cocked, something unfamiliar and intense about her. She had gotten large, her inked feathers ruffled round her throat, her beak savage and expressive. Right then, it was impossible to forget that she was actually a dream creature, not a true raven, and that the workings of her mind were the same mysterious stuff of Ronan Lynch, or of Cabeswater. For a dreadful second, too fast for Gansey to say anything, he thought she was about to stab at Ronan with that fierce beak of hers.

But she merely clicked her beak, and then she took flight down the passage ahead of them.

“Chainsaw!” Ronan called, but she disappeared into the black. “Damn it. Untie me.”

“No,” Adam and Blue said at once.

“No,” agreed Gansey, firmer. “I don’t even know if we should keep going. I’m not interested in feeding ourselves to a cave.”

Chainsaw’s defection felt wrong, too. Turned sideways, somehow, or inside out. Everything seemed unpredictable — which was in itself strange, because it had to mean that everything to this point had been predictable. No — inevitable.

Now it felt like anything could happen.

Ronan’s gaze was still focused down the dark passage, his eyes searching for Chainsaw and not finding her. He sneered, “You can stay if you’re too afraid.”

Gansey knew Ronan too well to let the barb sting. “It’s not myself I’m afraid for, Lynch. Reel it in.”

“I think it’s just trying to frighten us,” Blue pointed out, quite sensibly. “If it really wanted to hurt us, it could have.”

He thought of Chainsaw’s beak, poised so close to Ronan’s eye.

“Adam?” Gansey called down to the end of the line. “Verdict?”

Adam was quiet as he weighed the options. His face was strange and delicate in the sharp light of Gansey’s head beam. Swiftly, and without explanation, he reached out to touch the cavern wall. Although he was not a dream thing, he was now one of Cabeswater’s things, and it was hard not to see it in the way his fingers spidered across the wall and in the blackness of his eyes as they gazed at nothing.

Blue said, “Is he also …”


None of them wanted to say it.

Ronan lifted a finger to his lips.

Adam seemed to listen to the walls — who is this person, is he still your friend, what did he give to Cabeswater, what does he become, why does terror grow so much better away from the sun — and then he said, cautiously, “I vote we go on. I think the frightening is a side effect, not the intention. I think Chainsaw is meant to lure us in.”

So they went on.

Down, and down, a more crooked path than the cavern in Cabeswater. That passage had clearly been worn by water, while this one seemed unnatural, clawed out instead of formed. Ahead of them, Chainsaw cawed. It was a strange, daytime sound to hear from the blackness ahead.

“Chainsaw?” Ronan called, voice rough.

“Kerah!” came the reply, from not too far away. This was the bird’s special name for Ronan.

“Thank goodness,” Blue said.

Gansey, at the head, spotted her first, clinging to a ledge in the rock wall, scrabbling with one foot and flapping a little to keep her position. She didn’t flee as he approached, and when he held out his arm to her, she flew to him, landing heavily. She seemed no worse the wear for her possession. He half-turned. “Here’s your bird, Lynch.”

Ronan’s voice was odd. “And there’s your tomb, Gansey.”

He was looking past Gansey.

Gansey turned. They stood at a stone door. It could have been a door to many things, but it was not. It was a carved tomb door — a stone armored knight with hands crossed over his breast. His head rested on two ravens, his feet, on fleurs-de-lis. He held a shield. Glendower’s shield, with three ravens.

But this was wrong.

It was not wrong because this was not how Gansey would have expected Glendower’s tomb to look. It was wrong because it was not supposed to happen this way, on this day, when his eyes hurt from sleeplessness and it drizzled outside and it was a cave they had only found a few days before.

It was supposed to be a clue, and then another clue, and then another clue.

It was not supposed to be thirty minutes of walking and a tomb door, just like that.

But it was.

“It can’t be,” Adam said, finally, from the back.

“Do we just — push it open?” Blue asked. She, too, sounded uncertain. This was not how it worked. It was the looking, not the finding.

“I feel peculiar about this,” Gansey said finally. “It feels wrong for there to be no … ceremony.”

Be excited.

He turned back to the tomb door as the others drew close. Withdrawing his phone, he took several photos. Then, after a pause, he typed in some location notes as well.

“God, Gansey,” Ronan said, but it had made Gansey feel a little better about himself.

Carefully, he touched the seam around the effigy of the knight. The rock was cool, solid, real; his fingers came away dusted. This was happening. “I don’t think it’s sealed. I think it’s just wedged in. Leverage, maybe?”

Adam ran a finger along the edge. “Not much. It’s not in very tightly.”

He thought about the fact of the three sleepers, one to be woken, one to stay asleep. Would they know if this was the one to leave undisturbed? Surely — because if it was Maura’s job to not wake this sleeper, there would be signs of her here.

But he didn’t know. There wasn’t a way to know.

Everything about this day was tinged by indecision and uncertainty.

Suddenly, the wall exploded in.

As dust swirled in the air and they fell back, coughing, Blue said, “Ronan Lynch!”

Ronan rebalanced in the midst of the slowly clearing cloud; he had kicked the tomb door in.

“That,” he said thinly, to no one in particular, “was for taking my bird.”

“Ronan, tell me now if I have to leash you, because I will,” Gansey said. Ronan immediately scoffed, but Gansey pointed at him. “I’m serious. This is not yours alone. If this is a tomb, someone has been buried here, and you’re going to give that person respect. Do not. Make me. Ask you. Again. For that matter, if any of us thinks they won’t be able to contain themselves going forward, I suggest we turn around and come back another day or the party in question waits out here.”

Ronan simmered.

“Don’t, Lynch,” Gansey said. “I’ve done this for seven years, and this is the first time I’ll have to leave a place looking worse because I’ve been there. Don’t make me wish I’d come without you.”

This, finally, made it through the steel to Ronan’s heart. His head ducked.

In they went.

It was like they had walked back into the past.

The entire room was carved and painted. The colors were unfaded by the sun: royal blue; berry purple; ruddy, bloody red. The carvings were sectioned into windows or arcades, bounded by lilies and ravens, columns and pillars. Saints looked down, watchful and regal. Martyrs were speared and shot, burned and impassioned. Carved hounds chased hares chased hounds again. On the wall hung a pair of gauntlets, a helmet, a breastplate.

It was too much.

“Jesus,” breathed Gansey. He stretched his fingers to touch the breastplate and then found he couldn’t. He drew his hand back.

He was not ready for it to be over.

He was ready for it to be over.

In the middle of the tomb was a stone coffin, waist-high, the sides heavily carved. A stone effigy of Glendower lay on top, his helmeted head pillowed on three carved ravens.

Do you remember saving my life?

Blue said, “Look at all the birds.”

She trailed her flashlight over the walls and coffin. Everywhere, the beam found feathers. Wings garnishing the coffin. Beaks plucking fruit. Ravens sparring over shields.

The light landed on Adam’s face. His eyes were narrowed and wary. Beside him, Ronan looked strangely hostile, Chainsaw hunched down on his shoulder. Blue took Gansey’s phone from his pocket and took photos of the walls, the coffin, Gansey.

Gansey’s eyes dragged back to the coffin. Glendower’s coffin.

Is this really happening?

Everything was sideways, mirrored, not exactly as he’d imagined it.

He said, “What are we doing?”

“I think between all of us, we should be able to leverage the lid off,” Adam replied.

But that wasn’t what Gansey meant. He meant: What are we doing? We, of all people?

With a little, unfunny laugh, Blue said, “My hands are clammy.”

They stood shoulder to shoulder. Gansey counted down, a breathless three-two-one, and then they strained. Unsuccessfully. It was like they were trying to shift the cavern itself.

“It’s not even wiggling,” Gansey said.

“Let’s try the other side.”

As they moved to the other side and lifted, fingers barely finding purchase, lid unmoving, Gansey could not help but think of the old fairy tales. He imagined this wasn’t an ordinary weight holding the lid down; rather, it was unworthiness. They had not proven themselves in some way, and so Glendower was barred from them still.

He was relieved, somehow. That, at least, felt right.

“They didn’t have heavy lifting equipment,” Ronan said.

“But they could’ve had ropes and pulleys,” Blue noted. “Or more people. Move over, I can’t get my other hand on it.”

“I’m not sure it’ll make a difference,” Gansey said, but they all pushed closer together. Her body was crushed against his. Ronan was crushed against Adam on the other side of him.

There was silence except for their breathing.

Blue said, “Three, two —” and they lifted as one.

The lid came off, suddenly weightless in comparison. It shifted and slid rapidly away.

“Grab it!” Blue gasped. Then, as Gansey started forward, “No, wait, don’t!”

There was a sick, wrenching sound as the lid scraped diagonally off the opposite side of the coffin and careened to the floor. It came to rest with a smaller but more destructive sound, like a fist hitting bone.

“It’s cracked,” Adam said.

They drew closer. A coarse cloth hid the interior of the coffin from view.

This is not right.

Suddenly, Gansey felt deadly calm. This moment was so opposite to how his vision had portrayed it that his anxiety vanished. In its wake was nothing at all. He whisked the cloth free.

None of them moved.

At first he didn’t understand what he was looking at. The shape of it was alien; he couldn’t put it together.

“He’s facedown?” Blue suggested, but hesitantly.

Because of course that was what it was, now that she’d said it. A figure in a dark surcoat, purple or red, shoulder blades jutted toward them. A mass of dark hair, more than Gansey had expected, darker than he would’ve expected. His hands were bound behind his back.



Something uneasy spasmed inside Gansey.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Adam flicked the flashlight over the length of the coffin. Glendower’s surcoat was hitched, exposing pale legs. Bound at the knee. Facedown, hands tied, knees tied. This was how they buried witches. Suicides. Criminals. Prisoners. Gansey’s hand hovered, pulled away. It wasn’t that his courage had left him; his certainty had.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Adam swept the flashlight again.

Blue said, “Ah …” and then changed her mind.

The hair moved.

“Jesus shit Mary f**k,” said Ronan.

“Rats?” Adam suggested, a suggestion so hideous that both Gansey and Blue recoiled. Then the hair moved again, and a terrible sound issued from inside the coffin. A scream?

A laugh.

The shoulders jerked, shifting the body in the coffin so that the head could turn to see them. As Gansey caught a glimpse of the face, his heart sped and then stopped. He was relieved and horrified.

It wasn’t Glendower.

He said, “It’s a woman.”


The woman didn’t wait for them to free her.

She wriggled and shimmied as they leapt back, and then she crashed down onto the floor, her hands and legs still bound. She landed right by Ronan’s feet and snapped at his toes with a wild laugh.

He and Chainsaw both flapped back.

Blue exchanged a hectic look with Adam.

And now the woman was singing:

“Queens and kings

Kings and queens

Blue lily, lily blue

Crowns and birds

Swords and things

Blue lily, lily blue”

She broke off with a hysterical laugh that perfectly matched the one that had come out of Chainsaw earlier. Rolling onto her back so that she was looking straight up at Ronan’s disgusted features, she cooed, “Cut me free, raven prince.”

“God,” he said, “what are you?”

She laughed again. “Oh! My rescuer came riding on a milk-white steed and he said fair lady I can bring you what you need —”

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