Legendary (Caraval, #2): Chapter no 11

Legendary (Caraval, #2)

Tella once heard that during another performance Legend had changed the color of the sky. But she’d not thought he was powerful enough to wrangle the stars.

According to myths, the stars weren’t merely distant lights, they were beings older than the Fates, as terrible and powerful as they were mesmerizing and magical. And somehow Legend had manipulated them all. “I’m surprised Legend doesn’t do this to the sky every night,” Tella said.

“He probably would if he could.” Dante’s tone was matter-of-fact, but Tella thought she glimpsed something deepen in his eyes as he looked out of the carriage window. “Magic can be fueled by time, blood, and emotions. Because of the hopes and dreams of those attending Caraval, Legend’s power is at its peak during the game. The constellations should re-form every night. Tonight the symbols rest above the different parties and balls marking the start of Caraval, but tomorrow there will be only one constellation, to guide the participants toward the district where the next set of clues is hidden.”

Tella might not have officially played the game before, but she knew the basics of how it worked. The first rule to remember was that Caraval was only a game. It took place at night, and at the beginning of the game everyone was given the same clue to start them on a journey, which would lead them toward other clues and eventually the prize. Scarlett had needed to find five clues during the last Caraval, and Tella imagined something similar would be true for this game.

But first she needed to locate her friend.

The carriage made a rocky landing, or perhaps it was Tella’s heart as she heard the last of twelve bells ringing in the midnight hour.

She slipped the luckless coin from her pocket to her hand, praying it would let her friend know she’d arrived to Idyllwild Castle just in time.

Holding the coin tight, she scanned the grounds for her friend, but she didn’t know anything about his appearance. All she saw were crackling torches circling a raised castle that looked trapped somewhere between a ruin and a fantasy. The crumbling white sandstone gleamed beneath Legend’s temporary constellations, showing off ancient battlements, crumbling parapet walks, and fanciful towers lined in vines of black-tipped red roses.

The gleaming fortress could have been borrowed from a young girl’s dream, yet Tella noticed the moat surrounding it contained waters so dark they didn’t reflect any of Legend’s stars. She wondered if it was because the fanciful exterior of the castle was merely a magical glamour, or if the stars were one of Legend’s illusions and Tella had been tricked by them.

Only minutes into the game, and already Tella was questioning what was real and what wasn’t.

She peered back toward the water, looking for her friend again, or for a boat to reach the castle, but it seemed there was only one path to the fortress

—a highly arched, narrow bridge of interlocking diamond-shaped stones. “Searching for your fiancé?” Dante asked.

“Careful,” Tella warned, “you sound jealous.”

“I’m hoping you’ll come to your senses,” Dante said. “This is your last chance to turn around. Our host doesn’t like to make it easy for people to come or go.”

“Then it’s a good thing I enjoy a challenge.”

“It seems we finally agree on something.” Dante tucked Tella’s arm into the solid crook of his elbow, as if silently accepting a dare.

“I thought you didn’t like wearing the same girl to a party twice.” Tella boldly met his eyes.

Dante’s coal-dark gaze shined with something wicked as he leaned down, warm lips brushing her hair and making other traitorous parts of her jealous as he said, “I do whatever my job requires.”

Cocky son of a witch.

Tella should have pulled away, but up close the bridge was even narrower than it appeared from afar and without any rails—exactly like the balcony she’d leaped from during Caraval. The fall that had killed her.

Her fingers dug deeper into Dante’s arm. She hoped he’d think of it as part of the little games they played. That he wouldn’t detect any lingering terror as she asked him a question, in need of a distraction before her legs ceased working, or her lungs stopped breathing. “So what does Legend want with me now?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“But you can say that he tasked you to follow me?”

“I didn’t say that, only that he might have. Maybe you were right in the carriage, and I want to spend the evening with you. Maybe I think you were lying to your sister about our kisses in the forest, and I plan to prove it.”

Dante gave her a smile so dissolute and devastating, Tella swore it made the bridge a little weak. But she couldn’t let it make her weak. Too much was at stake tonight, and she’d already kissed him once.

“Even if I chose to believe you, I’d have to remind you that I have a fiancé and I’m not inclined to cheat.”

Dante’s glorious smile vanished the instant she said “fiancé.”

Tella grinned and patted him on his arm, about to finally pull away when they reached the top of the bridge.

Holy saints. Her breath caught, trapped like a bird inside of her throat. The bridge had narrowed and she swore they were higher up than she had ever been in her life, with no rails or net or anything but merciless waters to capture her if she slipped and fell. She fought to take another step, but everything she saw made her faint, light-headed, dizzy.

And was it just her, or did the torches around Idyllwild Castle now reek of sulfur, as if Death himself had decided to stoke their flames, another reminder he was always watching, waiting to take her back?

“Don’t think about it,” Dante warned. “I’m not going to jump,” Tella said.

“That’s not what I was saying.” His lips moved to her ear. “I’ve died more times than I can remember. Every time, I used to fear I wouldn’t come

back, until I learned that it’s the fear that feeds him. It’s the same way hopes and dreams give Legend so much power during Caraval.”

“I’m not afraid of death.” But even as she said the words, Tella looked down and, to her horror, found her arm clinging much tighter to Dante’s.

He pet her arm once, mocking and indulgent.

But Tella wasn’t about to let him win whatever competition they were playing.

“I’m just not fond of cages,” she said, “and this places looks like one giant dungeon.”

He laughed, quietly. Different from the rich sound he’d made in the carriage. Tella wasn’t sure why, but she sensed she’d find out the reason for his subtle amusement as soon as they entered the party.

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