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The Iron Knight, Page 57

Julie Kagawa

Page 57


  “What?” I pulled back to look at him, really look at him. He did seem a little different than before. Maybe his features were a little less sharp, and he wasn't quite as cold, but he stil had those intense silver eyes, that same unruly hair. He might have been human now, but he was stil Ash, stil the same person I'd fal en in love with, loved stil with my entire heart. And if he had really found a soul and become human…

  We can be together. We can be together without fear of anything now.

  He really did it.

  Ash blinked under my scrutiny. “Do I pass?” he almost whispered.

  “Wait a minute. ” Frowning slightly, I reached up and brushed his hair back, revealing a graceful, pointed ear. “If you're human, how do you explain that?”

  Ash grinned. His eyes sparkled, and I could suddenly see the soul shining through, bright and pure and beautiful. “Apparently, I have a little fey magic stil left in me,” he said, running his fingers through my hair, stroking my cheek with his thumb. “Enough to keep up with the rest of Faery, anyway. Maybe enough to keep from growing old. ” He laughed softly, as if the very idea thril ed him. “Better get used to this face, your majesty. I plan to be here a long, long time. Probably forever. ”

  My eyes misted over, and there was a bal oon in my chest, swel ing with happiness, pushing away the darkness until there was no room for anything but joy. But all I could think to say was, “Aren't you already centuries old?”

  Ash lowered his head, drawing us even closer. “I went to the End of the World for you, and all you have to say is how well I've aged?” But his eyes danced, and he was stil smiling. I decided I liked this Ash; this light, free creature, as if a soul had unlocked a part of him that hadn't been all owed to surface in the chil of the Winter Court. It made me feel I could tease him a little more.

  “I didn't say anything about aging well—” But at that moment, amid the cheers and whistles of the Iron Court, Ashal ayn'darkmyr Tal yn gently took my face in his hands and covered my mouth with his own, beginning the first day of our forever exactly as he should.

  A warm wind howled through the branches of a certain hol ow, rustling the leaves, whistling through the skeleton of an enormous reptile in the center of the glade. Sprawled in the grass in the center of the hol ow, it seemed extraordinarily out of place, a token of death in the midst of so much life. Flowers carpeted the once muddy ground, birds twittered in the branches, and the sun shone ful and bright through the clouds, slowly burning away the mist that stil clung to smal patches of bramble throughout the glen. The skeleton, with its bleached white bones and snarling maw, looked pale and insignificant among the riot of color, but nature was slowly doing its work. Moss and weeds were already creeping up the dead giant, and tiny f lowers were just beginning to sprout through its rib cage, coiling delicate vines around the bones. In a few seasons, it would be unrecognizable.

  A shadow melted out of the brambles, blinking as it stepped into the sun, a large gray cat with glowing yel ow eyes. It padded its way across the hol ow, past the slowly disappearing skeleton, until it reached the trunk of a great tree, white blossoms ful y in bloom. Sitting down at the trunk, it curled its bushy tail around itself and closed its eyes, listening to the sound of the wind in the trees. A pair of blossoms swirled around it, teasing its long whiskers, and it appeared to smile.

  “I am happy that you have finally found peace. ”

  The branches above it rustled, sounding suspiciously like laughter.

  Standing, the cat raised its head, letting the breeze toss its coat, watching a petal dance on the wind. Then, with a f lick of its tail, it bounded into the undergrowth, a streak of gray fur in the sun, and the light swal owed it completely.