"You're not as good as you think you are, girl," Maman had said yesterday morning. We'd been standing in the root cellar, she and I. The magic I'd been gathering to scry the day's weather had scattered when I heard her steps, and I itched to draw it all back to me and lose myself in the one thing I knew for sure. "Your brother's real good. The comte de Champ offered him this, and chances like these are once in a lifetime."
I'd run my finger along the rim of my bowl and refused to look at her. "He's not that good."
"Annette Boucher, keep that jealousy out of your mouth, or I'll wash it out." She'd bent over me, wobbling, and patted my cheek too hard. Like she'd forgotten how. "We're family, and family makes sacrifices. Now, you're going to Bosquet and picking up what he needs. You can get something small for yourself too."
She never asked. Just watched. She narrowed her eyes, the little crinkles of age bundled up in the corners like a handful of nettle cloth.
Bosquet was so much bigger than home. I slipped through one of the narrow alleys between two towering buildings, and wrapped and unwrapped my necklace around my fingers. The market was taking advantage of school starting up too, and nearly every available space was someone selling something. Country people brushed past rich merchant kids, and a rich girl glittering like gold in mud stopped at a stall serving food from our eastern neighbor Kalthorne. She bought dumplings topped with poppy seeds and dripping plum jam for her and her guards. She was nice at least.
She was still one of those destined for school, though. They'd use hacks, country kids like me who had magic but no money for training, to channel Mistress Moon's power for them. They'd get to do the magic with none of the consequences.
I stopped, a rock in a river of people who couldn't care less about me. I couldn't see the end of the market, and the rows of trees leading past it were spotted with couples and families resting in the shade. A stall next to me sold sage water faster than the identical twins distributing it could pour, and the twin on the other side of the stall, clothed in a dusky purple and so focused on her work that her look of concentration made me feel like I should be working, lifted a jar of honey to the sunlight. A ribbon of power burned in it, the midnight arts trapped in a lemon slice. I leaned closer to get a better look.
"Drink it right before you need the illusion," the girl said. "It'll make it last a few minutes more than normal."
There were three types of midnight arts—illusions, scrying, and divining—and illusions were the easiest to master. Scrying was harder, but it let you observe what was happening anywhere in the present, so long as you had a looking glass to see through and knew what you were looking for. The hardest art, divining the future, showed artists all the different possible futures and let them puzzle out which one was true. Most artists never mastered it.
I'd never been trained in the midnight arts, but I could do them without wearing myself down too fast like most people. Even on dark, new-moon nights, magic called to me, thrummed in my heart and urged me to use it. Magic was the only thing that wanted me.
"Something small," I muttered to myself, walking away from the stall and onto the gravel-lined path beneath a line of trees. The interlaced branches were a blessing for my sunburned skin. There'd been no shade on the walk here. "Something small."
At the end of the wall was a crowd, and a kid holding a twig like a knife ran past me.
"Ask her where Laurel is!" someone shouted after the kid. "I want that five-hundred-lune reward on his head."
"Like His Majesty would ever pay up," someone else shouted. "Ask her how to join Laurel."
I took off for the crowd. Vaser got news two days late and two truths off, but everyone was waiting for news of Laurel. They'd started a petition for the king to release how much money the crown was spending, called the king a coward when he hadn't answered, and pamphlets had started peppering Demeine with copies of nobles' ledgers too specific to be fake. Papa had clucked and said they had a death wish. Macé had talked about nothing except the reward money His Majesty had offered up for Laurel's capture. Not even the royal diviner Mademoiselle Charron had been able to find them.
This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys.