The Curious Leaf: Voyage to the Sea 005

TCL#2 Cover“Where I come from, people help each other because it is the right thing to do, not because there is payment involved.”

“How little you know of the mortals you lived among,” Hearthorne said.

Kya shook her head. “I saw for myself, the many times my keeper helped those who came knocking and had nothing to pay her with.”

“You’re thinking too small,” Hearthorne said. “Even the mortals are wise enough to do what they can to keep the balance of their Realm from tipping too far one way or the other. There are plenty of despots and kings, plenty who harm without thinking or those who find joy in it. The mortals like your keeper are simply evening out the balance. Just because she took no reward doesn’t mean there was no debt left to be paid.”

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Secrets of the UnderWhere: Welcome to the UnderWhere 004

SotUcoverWednesday nodded companionably, understanding perfectly that the child didn’t actually want to converse with him so much as he simply wanted someone to listen and make affirming grunts in all the right places.

Well did he know the feeling.

But as they walked along, Wednesday’s tooth started to tingle. Not the one that told the story of his tribe, nor the one that gave a brief history of the UnderWhere itself. No, it was his own personal tooth that was jangling in such a way as to make the fur on his face and arms stand up.

The child was completely foreign, and yet somehow familiar. And why had the Lord Mayor, out of all the UnderWherians he might have chosen, chosen him?

Beneath their feet, the path unwound in a litter of peculiar goldenrod-colored bricks and stones. At first, he’d been so preoccupied with the child that he hadn’t noticed, but now he squinted suspiciously down at the path.

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The Curious Leaf: Voyage to the Moon 004

TCL CoverKya closed her eyes and saw the moon’s country in all its unfettered glory. There was beauty and order, but as her mind’s eye rooted deeper, she saw a wildness hiding just below the surface. It was hungry as all great magicks are, but had the civility to use cutlery where it had it, and long, tapered fingers—slender, but strong—where it had none.

As she turned her mind’s eye to the gate, the silver leaves and star flowers swirled together into a long face with star fire eyes and slender teeth that jutted out of a too-wide mouth. It managed, somehow, to eye both her hand and herself with a hungry gleam, waiting patiently while it considered whether she was prey or hunter.

Kya gasped and opened her eyes. The gate stood with silver elegance, silent and toothless, but her gasp had been enough to turn a small key in the lock she hadn’t noticed before. The key chimed against the lock, and the gate swung open on well-greased hinges.

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Secrets of the UnderWhere: Welcome to the UnderWhere 003

SotUcoverTo the average Underwherian, gillyhoppers were more myth than legend, which might be on account of how shy they were.

Fortunately, Wednesday’s family were the curious sort that were always wondering about the next hill over. They’d found a tribe of gillyhoppers in a forgotten spring in the center of a forgotten forest of stone. They went and visited the gillyhoppers every so often, but never let on they were doing anything more than casual adventuring in the name of curiosity.

That was the other thing Wednesday’s family was very good at: keeping secrets.

He stood next to the child and grinned at him in the most welcoming way he knew how. That is, to say, he bared his teeth so the child could see that he came from a good, if not particularly extraordinary family of a little less than average means. The stories were carved there on his teeth for all the world to see, and the child seemed to be studying them with interest.

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The Curious Leaf: Voyage to the Moon 003

TCL Cover“The moon is a mirror, as it has ever been. What is below, must be above. And what is above, must shine down below.” He glanced at the sky and stiffened. “Already I have lingered longer than I ought. The night is nearly gone. Eat the cheese or not, it is your choice. Only remember that what is promised must be given, one way or another.” With one last quiver of his whiskers, the mouse scampered off, his silken robes flapping behind him.

“The stories my keeper used to read to me,” Kya said, eyeing the bit of cheese that was beginning to melt in her hand, “were filled with dire warnings against eating food from Faerie.”

Hearthorne brightened at the mention of her home. “Really?”

Kya let her nervousness seep out in a small laugh. “Yes. They said that eating the food of the Folk would steal your soul, bind you to the Realm, and empty you instead of filling you. Of course, I’m not sure how that works with plants.” Kya furrowed her brow. At her heart, she was still a small flower of only three seasons who was not content to stand upon the windowsill. And yet, there was something else. Something small and foreign nibbling at the corners of her heart. Different and strange and . . . lovely.

But the stories had things to say about that too.

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