Legendary (Caraval, #2): Chapter no 22

Legendary (Caraval, #2)

Tella would have traded a year of her life for another hour of sleep. She didn’t even care that she possibly had less than one year to live. She never wanted to leave the blissful blue comfort of her bed with all its soft blankets and downy pillows. Yesterday had been brutally long. But she’d already slept much more than she should have—and if she never got up she would definitely have less than one year to live.

Beat … beat.



Beat … beat.


Beat … beat … Nothing.


Her heart was even slower than it had been the night before. But it was still beating. And Tella would make sure it didn’t stop. It did slow her down a bit, but after drinking a pot of strong tea and eating several toffee tarts and berry puffs, she felt a little more like herself.

She managed to finish dressing just before twilight. For that evening she’d chosen to wear a slender-skirted, corset-less dress the dark blue color of tears cried from storm clouds. It was perhaps too thin of a gown to wear at night, but it was easy to move about in. Although Tella was still a little breathless by the time she reached the sapphire wing, where Scarlett was staying.

Only Scarlett wasn’t in her room.

Tella knocked for a full minute, nearly bruising her knuckles on the heavy wood door.

Given how adamant Scarlett had been about not leaving the palace at night and becoming accidentally caught up in the game, Tella expected her sister to be safely in her suite. But either Scarlett had lost track of time— which was doubtful—or she really was hiding something from Tella.

Tella hated doubting her sister again, but as wary as Scarlett was, it made no sense for her to be out. Especially on an evening like this, when it seemed all of Valenda was Legend’s game board.

Unlike the previous two nights, where Legend’s constellations had been specific in their location, on this night they covered every district in shimmering bursts of celestial blue.

Tella found herself unusually grateful to Armando for pressuring her into earning the second clue. Without it, Tella would have had no idea where to begin her search.

As she left the palace in a sky carriage, she saw stars forming all the traditional symbols of Caraval: a dazzling blue top hat; a bouquet of blue roses; a blue hourglass. Though those weren’t the only shapes in the sky. Constellations reminiscent of the Fates hovered over Valenda’s hills and districts as well. Tella spotted a jeweled eye patch, a dagger crown, a skeleton key, a cage of pearls, lips sewn shut, and a pair of shimmering dark blue wings. The wings were probably meant to represent the Fallen Star, but they were so achingly similar to the wings tattooed on Dante’s back that Tella’s dying heart managed to speed up at the sight of them, filling her veins with a warm rush of blood.

When her carriage touched down in the Spice Quarter, Tella found herself looking around for Dante, but he didn’t appear to be following her that night.

She glanced back up at the star-bright sky, wondering which constellation he was beneath, and if he was there with someone else. She pictured his wide, tattooed hands on another girl’s neck, brushing her pulse as he charmed her with the same low words he’d said to Tella the night before. Even if I wasn’t Legend I would want you to win.

Tella’s stomach clenched painfully at the thought. Not that she wanted Dante there with her. She didn’t need to be distracted by his cryptic teasing or the low sound of his voice. The narrow streets of the Quarter were enough of a diversion.

Every lane and alley was packed, much fuller than the last time she’d visited. The colorful inhabitants of the Spice Quarter mingled with the holiday merchants, who appeared to be preparing the city for Elantine’s Eve by selling overpriced bits of costumes. The merchants stood in front of almost every shop, all of them shouting.

“Five coppers for the Murdered King’s crown!”

“Three coppers for the pearly cage worn by the Maiden Death!” “Four coppers for a Prince of Hearts mask!”

“Two coppers for Chaos’s gauntlets!”

“One copper for the Unwed Bride’s veil of tears!”

Tella didn’t notice any of Legend’s performers, at least that she knew of, among them, but she thought she spied other people playing the game. More than once she’d heard someone knock on a brick wall and say, Legend sent me, as if it were a code to open some hidden door that would lead to the next clue. She envied their energy and their careless effervescence. Whatever courses these people were on, they seemed very different from hers.

Either Legend was personally toying with Tella, or they weren’t all playing the same game.

The second clue she’d received told Tella to seek the woman of parchment and ink, which clearly indicated the older lady who worked at Elantine’s Most WantedBut when Tella arrived, no one was there.

The scent of tall tales, charcoal pencils, and parchment tickled Tella’s nose as she stepped farther in. In one corner of the shop, a slim square of the space was set aside for a disorganized yet well-appointed art studio. Everything else was covered in paper—even the ceiling was plastered with yellowing posters that appeared to be older than the shop’s absent proprietor.

Tella tried to take in every image as she waited for the old woman to return. These posters were not scraps of paper with hastily drawn faces.

These were works of art, with detailed renderings of criminals that Tella had only heard rumors of. There were many she’d not heard of as well. Every square of parchment and canvas seemed to tell a tale as marvelous as it was macabre.

Augustus the Impaler’s name apparently said it all.

There was also the Duchess of Dao. Wanted for inland piracy, selling poisons, and seduction.

“I didn’t know seduction was a crime,” Tella murmured. “Depends on who you’re trying to seduce.”

Tella spun around. But instead of finding the ink-stained crone, Tella came face-to-face with a girl in a luminous parchment-white gown, sewn together with thick black stitches that made her look as if she could have been one of the inked portraits escaped from the wall. Aiko, another one of Legend’s performers.

She was always difficult for Tella to read. Aiko generally kept to herself, since her job was to observe. She worked as a histographer, immortalizing the history of Caraval by drawing significant events in a magical notebook, which was currently tucked under her arm.

Her appearance clearly meant that Tella was on the correct path. But Tella couldn’t honestly say she was happy to see the girl.

Tella liked Aiko well enough outside of the game. But she’d preferred to have avoided her inside the game. Aiko was known for making unforgiving bargains. During the last Caraval she had made a deal with Scarlett that had cost her sister two days of her life; Scarlett’s temporary death had not been like Tella’s, but it was still not something Tella would ever willingly experience again.

“You’re welcome to look as long as you wish,” Aiko said, “but choose wisely before asking a question. I’ll only answer one for free, and after that each will cost you something irreplaceable.”

“Can I just ask for the next clue?”

“You can, but I won’t give it to you. The most I can do is guide you toward it, if you manage to ask a better question next time.”

Blast it. Tella hadn’t meant that to come out like a question.

She kept her mouth shut as her eyes wandered over several more posters, searching for an actual figure from the Deck of Destiny, hoping it might possibly lead to the next clue.

She didn’t spy any Fates, but she did see crimes ranging from blood- drinking and cannibalism to necromancy, selling bad spells—

Tella halted. All thoughts of crimes and clues and Fates fled from her thoughts as she reached a poster in the center of the back wall.

She forgot how to exhale. How to speak. How to blink. How to move. Trimmed in a starry border, this portrait was prettier than the others,

though maybe that was also because of the beautiful face beneath the word Wanted—a face that bore an uncanny resemblance to Tella and Scarlett’s missing mother, Paloma.

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