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The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, Page 1

Catherynne M. Valente




  A FEIWEL AND FRIENDS BOOK

  An Imprint of Macmillan

  THE BOY WHO LOST FAIRYLAND. Text copyright © 2015 by Catherynne M. Valente. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Ana Juan. All rights reserved. For information, address Feiwel and Friends, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

  eBooks may be purchased for business or promotional use. For information on bulk purchases, please contact Macmillan Corporate and Premium Sales Department by writing to [email protected]

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Valente, Catherynne M.,

  The boy who lost Fairyland / Catherynne M. Valente;

  illustrated by Ana Juan.—First edition. pages cm.—(Fairyland)

  Summary: “A young troll named Hawthorn is stolen from Fairyland by the Golden Wind, and becomes a changeling in our world, a place no less bizarre than Fairyland in his eyes”—Provided by publisher.

  ISBN 978-1-250-02349-0 (hardback)—ISBN 978-1-250-07279-5 (e-book)

  [1. Fantasy. 2. Trolls—Fiction. 3. Changelings—Fiction.] I. Juan, Ana, illustrator.

  II. Title. PZ7.V232Boy 2015 [Fic]—dc23 2014042417

  Feiwel and Friends logo designed by Filomena Tuosto

  First Edition: 2015

  eISBN 9781250072795

  mackids.com

  Contents

  Dedication

  Dramatis Personae

  Chapter I: Entrance, on a Panther

  Chapter II: How to Send a Troll by Post

  Interlude: Hic Sunt Dracones

  Chapter III: Troll to Boy, Boy to Troll

  Chapter IV: The Wombat Prince of Chicago

  Chapter V: The Adventures of Inspector Balloon

  Chapter VI: Tamburlaine

  Chapter VII: The Monster on Top of the Bed

  Chapter VIII: Please Be Wild and Wonderful

  Chapter IX: The Emerald Thermodynamical Hyper-Jungle Law

  Interlude: An Equation Is a Prophecy That Always Comes True

  Chapter X: The Painted Forest

  Chapter XI: An Audience with the King

  Chapter XII: The Crunching of the Crab

  Chapter XIII: Unhappy Feet

  Interlude: The Girl Who Lost Omaha

  Chapter XIV: The Changeling Room

  Chapter XV: The Laundry Moose

  Chapter XVI: The Cranberry Bog

  Chapter XVII: Jumping Bean Life by Wombat and Matchstick

  Chapter XVIII: Someone Comes to Town

  Chapter XIX: The Spinster and the King of Fairyland

  Chapter XX: The Boy Who Was Lost, the Girl Who Was Found

  For all my brothers,

  those with whom I was a child

  and those who are children still.

  Dramatis Personae

  HAWTHORN, a Troll

  THE RED WIND, a Harsh Air

  IAGO, a Panther

  BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, a Postmistress

  SEPTEMBER, a Girl

  THOMAS ROOD, a Boy

  GWENDOLYN ROOD, his Mother

  NICHOLAS ROOD, his Father

  A BASEBALL

  MAX, a Schoolboy

  HUMPHREY!, a Desk

  MRS. WILKINSON, a Schoolteacher

  MR. WOLCOTT, a Substitute Schoolteacher

  MR. GRANBERRY, a Gym Teacher

  TAMBURLAINE, Perhaps a Girl, but Perhaps Not

  BLUNDERBUSS, a Wombat

  SCRATCH, a Gramophone

  CHARLES CRUNCHCRAB, King of Fairyland

  THE SPINSTER, a Strega

  BESPOKE ESPADRILLE, a Walrus, but Additionally, a Shoemaker

  PENNY FARTHING, a Changeling

  BAYLEAF, also a Changeling

  HERBERT, a Changeling as Well

  SADIE SPLEENWORT, a Sour Girl

  THE OFFICE

  MADAME TANAQUILL, a Prime Minister

  FOUR VICIOUS ALBINO MOOSE

  SATURDAY, a Marid

  A-THROUGH-L, a Wyverary

  AUBERGINE, a Night-Dodo

  SIR SANGUINE, a Redcap

  THE MARQUESS, Former Ruler of Fairyland

  GRATCHLING GOURDBONE GOLDMOUTH, a Clurichaun and Former King of Fairyland

  SUSAN JANE, a Mechanic

  OWEN, her Husband

  MARGARET, an Aunt

  CHAPTER I

  ENTRANCE, ON A PANTHER

  In Which a Boy Named Hawthorn Is Spirited Off by Means of a Panther, Learns the Rules of the World, and Performs an Unlikely Feat of Gardening

  Once upon a time, a troll named Hawthorn lived very happily indeed in his mother’s house, where he juggled the same green and violet gemstones and matching queens’ crowns every day, slept on the same weather-beaten stone, and played with the same huge and cantankerous toad. Because he had been born in September, and because he had a scar on his right cheek, and because his hands were very small and delicate, for a troll, the Red Wind conspired to cause mischief, and flew to the creaky old well that served as the chimney of his underground house one evening just after his first birthday. She was dressed in a red breastplate, and red hunting boots, and a red gown, and a red bandit’s mask. It is very dangerous below the banana trees, in the Rhyming Jungle where the Red Wind hides her secrets.

  “You seem a sweet and pliable enough child,” said the Red Wind. “How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Panther of Rough Storms and be delivered to a great desert that lies in the midst of a strange and distant land? I am afraid I cannot linger there, as Parched Climates do not agree with me, but I should be happy to deposit you upon the Wild and Walloping Wastes.”

  “No, no,” cried Hawthorn, who deeply loved his green and violet gemstones, and also his huge and cantankerous toad. He began to wail in his whale-skull cradle.

  “Well, then, come and be a good boy, and do not thrash about too much, nor pull too harshly on my Panther’s fur, as she bites.”

  The Red Wind held out her arms, shimmering in red gloves, and Hawthorn, for a moment, was dazzled. He could not help it: He loved anything red. Leaves, some moons, rubies, ragelilies, blood, wine, apples (both poison and not), toadstools, riding hoods. Red was dark and fascinating. You couldn’t deny red things. He once saw a Redcap dancing on a wild moor all tangled with beautiful poison berries and had never wanted anything so much in his life. He would have named it Walter and fed it fresh white rats. His mother said rats would never be enough for a Redcap and besides the little fellow would certainly murder them all in their sleep the first chance she got. Hawthorn had sighed with longing. He kept a few mice in a willow cage by her bed from then on, just in case.

  Hawthorn’s eyes got so full of the Red Wind that he could see nothing else. And so, even though he knew he oughtn’t, Hawthorn reached out and took both the beautiful scarlet hand of the Red Wind and a very deep breath.

  The Panther of Rough Storms picked up Hawthorn in his soft mouth just as any cat might do to a naughty kitten. The great black cat lifted the troll out of his whale-skull cradle, out of his lovely familiar nursery with its wallpaper of garnets and big, blue, long-lashed eyes, out of his underground house, leaving a parlorful of untidy green and violet queens’ crowns with enchantments still clinging to their prongs by the skin of their teeth.

  One enchantment had been cast by Hawthorn’s father, who, at that moment, lay sleeping in a long mulled-wine-colored magician’s cloak, snoring smoke-rings in his bed of green butterflies with a wand clutched in his arms like a teddy bear and gleaming things on his sleeping cap. It was meant to keep his son safe from marauding pirates, of whom he had an irrational fear.

  One had been cast by Hawthorn’s mother, who, at that moment, was bending over an overturned church bell full of leprechaun teeth in a distant
midnight meadow, her arm muscles bulging. It was meant to keep her son safe from marauding disappointments, of which she had too much experience for any one troll.

  One had been cast by a cabbage-gnome a hundred years ago. It was meant to wilt the leaves of anyone who forgot the gnome’s birthday. Of these enchantments, one missed its mark, one bided its time, and one had no effect whatsoever, as trolls have very few leaves.

  “Now,” said the Red Wind, when she had Hawthorn firmly in hand upon her glittering ruby saddle, “there are important rules in your new home, rules from which I am entirely exempt, as Hot Air is the friend of all bureaucracies. I am afraid that if you trample upon the rules, I cannot help you. You may be ticketed, or executed, or elected to high office and given a splendid parade, depending upon the fashions of the day.”

  Trolls are quick learners and quicker growers. They speak as quickly as a newborn giraffe can walk and sprout up like pumpkin plants who have heard Halloween means to come early. Hawthorn was only a baby still, but tall as a table already. He had made friends with all manner of words and some cracking good ones at that. But at the moment, the poor creature was far too terrified to use the better ones on the red-cheeked lady who had burgled him up as though a troll-child were no more than a very fine hat in a shop window. Or her wildcat. All he could make out of the howling air all around them, the last shreds of his sleep, and a troll’s blue tongue was:

  “Is it so terrible there?”

  The Red Wind frowned into her dark crimson hair. “All countries are terrible,” she admitted finally. “But this one, at least, has some lovely scenery.”

  “Tell me the rules at least?” Hawthorn said uncertainly. His father had taught him when he was quite small that if one finds oneself captured by pirates, politeness pays better than sass, and Hawthorn had begun to feel that his current situation might share a drink or two with piracy.

  “Firstly, no magic of any kind is allowed. Customs is quite strict on this point. Any charms, enchanted beans, grimoires, or talismans you might have on your person will be confiscated and sold as Christmas ornaments. Second, the practice of physicks is forbidden to all except young ladies and gentlemen with Advanced Degrees.”

  “But I like physicks!”

  “It is certainly possible you may grab hold of a Degree,” winked the Red Wind, “but I am afraid I do not know where to find their nests. Third, aviary locomotion is permitted only by means of Balloon or licensed Aeroplane. If you find yourself not in possession of one of these, kindly confine yourself to the ground. Fourth, all traffic travels on the right, except where it doesn’t, and no signs will be posted. Fifth, shapeshifting and glamours are restricted to October the thirty-first of each year. Sixth, all children are required to attend School, which is like a party to which everyone forgot to bring punch, or hats, or fiddles, and none of the games have good prizes. Seventh and most important, you will find that several things are extremely dangerous to your person, namely: iron, eggshells, fire, and marriage. You may in no fashion allow any human to call you by the name your mother gave you or pass beyond the borders of Cook County, or else you will either perish in a most painful fashion or be forced to sit through very tedious sessions with doctors in thick glasses. These laws are sacrosanct, except for visiting demigods and bankers. Do you understand?”

  Hawthorn, I promise you, tried very hard to listen, but though his mother had taught him brownie backgammon as soon as he could whack two hazelnuts together, he always forgot when you were allowed to turn your opponent into a raccoon, and he certainly had no hope of remembering such ugly and foreign rules. The rushing wind stopped up his ears and blew his silver-green hair into his face. Its strands wrapped his chin like woolly scarves.

  “Obviously, the eating or drinking of human foodstuffs constitutes a formal and binding agreement to become mortal and never return, releasing Fairyland and all her subsidiaries, holdings, and most particularly, ahem, representatives, from all liability concerning your behavior in Lands Beyond.”

  “What? What does that mean?” Hawthorn had every intention of eating and drinking until he was sick the very moment this ridiculous cat put him down. A goodly size moose might do nicely. Perhaps a polar bear. And a side of basilisk, roasted, not boiled.

  The Red Wind tightened her bandit mask. “That means: Off to bed and no supper for you, wicked Changeling child!” She laughed like the hot, heavy wind of summer crackling before a storm. “Sour and hairy, strong as sherry, the dark of my starry sky!”

  The Panther of Rough Storms yawned up and further off from the cobblestone chimneys of Skaldtown and the green mountains of Fairyland, to which Hawthorn could not even wave goodbye. The Red Wind hugged him so tightly he could not even waggle his thumbs. And a good thing, too! Babies are forever rolling off of beds and ottomans and changing tables and Panthers. If their mothers do not take care, they might keep on rolling and rolling until they get all the way to the ocean and are forced to learn boatbuilding and the language of walruses. Though babies are generally quite bounceable, it does not pay to take chances while at cruising altitude.

  And so Hawthorn could not say farewell to his house, or his mother’s trusty church bell, puffing clouds of luck far below. He could not wave goodbye to his father, dreaming of quick, silent, clever pirates hiding around every shadowy corner. You and I might be well pleased about all this, having read a great many books that begin in such a fashion and end marvelously well for everyone. (Except, naturally, those who end up in red-hot shoes or locked in a chest at the bottom of the sea.) But Hawthorn had not had a chance to read any books without pictures yet. He did not know that to be spirited away by means of jungle cat means that one may reasonably expect a heaping helping of adventure, a pot of daring feats to dip it in, and a hunk of wild coincidence to mop it all up. He did not know that trollmothers and trollfathers only worry when they think their little adventurer has been running about with poorly designed bridges of ill-repute. Once they discover he’s simply been meddling mischievously with humans, everything is forgiven. He did not know that he was headed, at the breakneck speed of flying folklore, toward the Province of Poorly Designed Bridges, the Land of Quiet Libraries, the Kingdom of No U-Turns, the Country of Shops Closed On Sundays. He did not know what was going to happen to him.

  But he suspected that he was at the beginning of a story.

  Hawthorn looked up into the deepening sunset clouds. I shall be as brave as my Toad, he thought, for my Toad never hides under the bed when she is afraid of lightning or bats. She sticks out her tongue and eats them. The troll stuck out his tongue at the whipping, glowing wind. He buried his fists in the Panther of Rough Storms, whose pelt was soft and dark, and listened to the beating of that huge and thundering heart.

  “If you don’t mind my saying, Miss Wind,” said Hawthorn, “where are we going? After awhile we shall certainly pass Pandemonium and the Autumn Provinces and the Perverse and Perilous Sea and simply come round to my house again.”

  The Red Wind chuckled. “I suppose that would be true, if I did not know a great deal more about geography than you.”

  “I’m reasonably sure you know more about everything than me. For example, you seem to know that it’s perfectly all right to kidnap poor trolls in the middle of the night. Who taught you that? You must have had a very bad mother.”

  The Red Wind snorted red clouds through her nostrils. “My mother could blow a hurricane out of one nostril and thump your mother at cards, boxing, and every one of the maternal sports! I have a Receipt made out in very fancy writing indeed which entitles, nay, orders me, to collect one Changeling and deliver it safely in accordance with local conservation laws. You should feel honored! I chose you! Out of all the trolls in Skaldtown, all the hobgoblins of Spleenwort City, all the satyrs of Tusktug. I chose you for the Changeling life—my Panther and I promise you’ll like it, and a cat’s promise is…well, it’s as good as old milk, really. But old milk makes a splendid yogurt, my lad! Doesn’t it just! And when a Wind
promises you a rollicking time, hold on to your skirts and your hats and your billowables! Now, hold on tight, I’ve got to duck the gravity interchange or we shall indeed come round to your house again, which would be awkward for all of us.”

  The Panther of Rough Storms gave a shattering roar. Several fogbanks slunk gloweringly out of their way.

  “Well, I think you’re no better than a pirate. My father says pirates are the worst things in the world after Kings and centipedes.”

  “And what would you know? That might hurt my feelings if we went on holiday together every year and belonged to the same Blustering Society. But we have only just met! One cannot really be bothered by insults from strangers. Might as well cry over the tide coming in! Besides, without pirates, the sea would be an awfully boring place. If I am a pirate, pass me the grog! Poor lump. It’s all right if you feel a bit cross with me and want to thump me on the skull. That’s only to be expected from a Changeling.”

  “What’s those?” asked the little troll.

  “A Changeling, my dear, is rough and wild, vaguely unhinged, a bit of a riddle, a bit of an explosive, and altogether maniacal when its fur is stroked the wrong way, which is always! Think of it as an academic exchange program, my belligerent belladonna. Like the banshee apprentice your uncle Monkshood hired when you were just born.”

  “How did you know about Uncle Monkey?” exclaimed Hawthorn. The clouds gobbled up his cry.

  “I happened to be performing my summer ablutions just then. She had on a suit of birchbark armor; you were all swaddled in salamander skin. She and your industrious uncle built quite a sturdy windmill that day.” The Red Wind scowled darkly. “Harsh Airs have excellent memories for things that have tried to capture them.”

  Hawthorn looked out into the brilliant ruby clouds of the skies between Fairyland and the Other Place the Panther meant to take him.

  “Fairyland is not unlike your cradle,” said the Red Wind kindly, her maroon eyes flashing behind her mask. “We are going to climb over the railing while no one is looking, and when we have slipped the bars and snuck out the nursery door, we shall be in another place entirely, which is to say, the human world. It won’t be long now.”