* Chapter 1 *
I had a sister once. She was a beautiful baby, eyes silver as moonlight off the river at night. From the hour of her birth she was long-limbed and graceful, faerie-pale hair clear as glass from Before, so pale you could almost see through to the soft skin beneath.
My father was a sensible man. He set her out on the hillside that very night, though my mother wept and even old Jayce argued against it. "If the faerie folk want her, let them take her," Father said. "If not, the fault's theirs for not claiming one of their own." He left my sister, and he never looked back.
I did. I crept out before dawn to see whether the faeries had really come. They hadn't, but some wild creature had. One glance was all I could take. I turned and ran for home, telling no one where I'd been.
We were lucky that time, I knew. I'd heard tales of a woman who bore a child with a voice high and sweet as a bird's song--and with the sharp claws to match. No one questioned that baby's father when he set the child out to die, far from our town, far from where his wife lay dying, her insides torn and bleeding.
Magic was never meant for our world, Father said, and of course I'd agreed, though the War had ended and the faerie folk returned to their own places before I was born. If only they'd never stirred from those places--but it was no use thinking that way.
Besides, I'd heard often enough that our town did better than most. We knew the rules. Don't touch any stone that glows with faerie light, or that light will burn you fiercer than any fire. Don't venture out alone into the dark, or the darkness will swallow you whole. And cast out the magic born among you, before it can turn on its parents.
Towns had died for not understanding that much. My father was a sensible man.
But the memory of my sister's bones, cracked and bloody in the moonlight, haunts me still.
•Chapter 2 *
Three weeks after my sister's birth I hurried through town, my breath puffing into the chilly air and an empty bucket banging against my hip. The sun was just above the horizon, turning layers of pink cloud to gold. Most of the other townsfolk were already in the fields, their morning chores done.
I walked quickly past the row of whitewashed houses I'd known all my life. Their windows were firmly shuttered or else tacked with old nylon against the cold. My gaze lingered a moment on the gap among those houses, but then I rushed on, thinking about how I'd overslept again that morning, not waking until Father had slammed the door as he left the house--deliberately loud, a warning to me. I'd already been sleeping badly since Father had cast my sister out, my dreams filled with restless shadows and a baby's cries. Then a week ago Mom left us. Since then I'd hardly slept at all, save in the early hours for just long enough to make it hard to wake again.
I passed the last of our town's tended houses; passed, too, the houses we didn't tend, which were little more than tangles of ragweed with splintered wood poking through. At the fork in the path I caught a whiff of metallic steam from Jayce's forge. I headed left. The path skirted the edge of the cornfields, then narrowed. Maples and sycamores grew along its edges, draped with wild grapes. Green tendrils snaked out from the grapevines as I passed. I knew those vines sought skin to root in, so I kept to the path's center, where they couldn't reach. Plants used to be bound firmly to the places where they grew, but that was before the faerie folk came to our world.
No one knew why they came. No one even knew what they looked like. The War happened too fast, and the televisions people once had for speaking to one another all died the first day. Some said the faerie folk looked like trees, with gnarled arms and peeling brown skin. Others said they were dark winged shadows, with only their clear hair and silver eyes visible as they attacked us. Hair like that remained a sure sign a child was tainted with magic.
But whatever the faerie folk looked like, everyone agreed they were monsters. Because once they were here they turned their magic against us, ordering the trees to seek human flesh and the stones to burn with deadly light. Even after the War ended and the faerie folk left this world, the magic they'd set loose lingered, killing still.
The path ended at the river, though another path, narrower still, continued both ways along its near bank. I clambered down a short rocky slope and dipped my bucket into the water. Our well had silted up again, so the river was the only place to draw water for cooking and chores.
When the bucket was full I drew it out again, set it down, and cupped my hands for a drink. As I did a wind picked up, and I shivered. Mom would be cold, out alone on a morning like this. I knew better than to hope she yet lived, but still I whispered as I dipped my hands into the bucket, "Where are you? Where?"
Light flashed. A sickly sweet scent like tree sap filled the air. I jerked my hands back, but I couldn't turn away. The water in the bucket glowed like steel in the sun, holding my gaze. The wind died around me. From somewhere very far away, Mom called my name.
I grabbed a stone and threw it into the bucket. There was a sound like shattering ice, and then the water within was merely water, clouded by ripples and mud from the rock, nothing more.
My mother was gone. Why couldn't I accept that? I must have imagined her voice, just as I'd imagined the way the water had seemed to glow.
Yet I'd seen light like that once before.
The night my sister was born--the night I'd fled from the hillside, where I never should have been--I'd seen flashes at the edges of my sight, like lightning, though the night was clear. I'd ignored them and kept running, calling the name my mother had chosen but only once been able to use. "Rebecca! Rebecca!" My throat and chest had tightened, but I couldn't seem to stop.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner. Copyright © 2009 by Janni Lee Simner. Excerpted by permission of Random House Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.