Amy had never been so pinched and pampered her whole life. The fairies washed her hair and scrubbed her face till her cheeks were sore and smarting. They dried her till she thought she might peel. And then they dressed her in gauzy fine things and tied lovely-smelling flowers in her braid, and turned her around so they could see her from every odd angle, and adjust her sash here, her bracelet there. Perhaps they meant to please, but it all made Amy rather hot and unhappy. She didn’t want to be rude, but she was tired of being treated like a doll, and missed the weight of her sword at her side.
“Where is my sword?” she asked. “I’m not going without Bear-Biter.”
The castle was different. The hanging weapons were taken from the walls and replaced with classical paintings. The dungeon was carpeted and clean. But ghosts are like fireweed, and I could see them in the eyes of my companion.
The Shadow Maker was thin and tall. You could tell he enjoyed his work from the way he smiled. His smile could be wide, but it wasn’t a sly smile like other long smiles can be. It was the smile of someone suited to his work.
But today, he wasn’t smiling.
“Put this on, duckling,” he said. “Hold out your arms.”
The child folded his arms. “Hmm-mm!”
The Shadow Maker held the sweater open. “You know you won’t go anywhere if you don’t put it on.”
It’s a fact that you don’t see many mermen. I wonder if it isn’t because the merwomen keep them hard at work in the weeds under the sea. Of course merpeople are real. There isn’t any question about that.
Perhaps mermen are shy. Maybe they would rather be tending coral or scrubbing manatees than spying on ships. I think they must be smooth-cheeked—otherwise their hair would always be floating up in their faces—or else, they must be careful to tie their beards down. I know for a fact that one of them was clean-shaven, because I saw him.
She sat braiding her hair. In the morning light the strands shone rusty brown. The young woman’s agile fingers weaved in and around each other, but her mind was elsewhere. She remembered gathering chestnuts last fall, and the man who had offered to buy her basket.
“But, my lord! This is gold.”
“I am no one’s lord,” said the man. “And the real gold is what you carry.”