The dark queen raised her hand as if to caress the bottle, but stopped just short of touching it. Her eyes gleamed with a crafty look. “That is not the only apple you have in your possession, I believe.”
Kya blinked and put the apple back into the pouch. “No.”
“The apple is for you?”
“No.” Stronger this time as the certainty that the dark queen meant to trap her somehow grew with each beat of her heart.
A secret smile deepened the corners of the Moon Queen’s lips. “Do you know for whom the last apple is intended?”
Wednesday stared at the path, the basket his mother had packed tied securely to his back. Neither his mother nor his gran had been able to see them off, for which he was grateful. The yellow paths were perhaps the rarest in the UnderWhere, and he didn’t like to think what they would have to say about that—especially if they ever learned that this wasn’t the first time he’d set foot on one.
“Nah-nain,” Glop observed from beside him. The child frowned at the buttercup stones that uncoiled before them. His bear said nothing, but simply dripped with slime and stuffing.
“No,” Wednesday sighed, “not a nain.”
Mira swallowed the squeal that shot up from her chest and into her throat. She backed up as quickly as she could, earning a few more scrapes.
“Your fear tastes of cinnamon,” the owner of the eyes said with a voice that reminded her of a fuzzy blanket that had had most of its color washed out. It grinned at her as though it very much liked the taste of cinnamon.
Without a word, Mira grabbed the strap of her bag and scrambled to her feet. The creature was fast, so she would have to be faster.
Her heart setting the pace, Mira ran up the sidewalk to her front door. She’d fished her key out of her pocket as she ran, and jammed it into the lock the second she reached it. She wrenched the key out, and was inside, the door slammed and locked again before she’d taken another breath.
Her lips pursed into a tight rosebud, Lyra reached into Gwyn’s apron pocket and pulled out a pair of disgruntled gloves. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to.
“All this time . . .” All this time she’d been fearful of the Ruby Queen because she knew she couldn’t fight back. She hadn’t the magic for it.
Or so she’d thought.
Lyra held out the gloves and Gwyn took them. She felt numb all over, as though she were nothing more than one of the queen’s tiny marionette dolls. She had a wooden head that was too solid for thought. Strings she didn’t control lifted one hand while her other slid the glove onto it.
The change was instantaneous.
The new queen gave her a smile like the edge of a knife, bright and shining and ever so sharp. “For the same reason you had to give up your roots to sprout wings. To have one, you must give up the other. Not all dearest dreams are willing to share.”
The queen turned and sat on her throne, her hair white and her gown silver once more. “It is a cruel fate, but one that all creatures share if they only dare to look.”
Kya looked down at the perfect moon apple that glimmered with a quiet light. If what the Moon Queen said was true, then she held perhaps the rarest and most dragonish of treasures in her hand. And the dragon himself had given her not one, but three. Entrusted them to her care.
And the seeds!