He had never run before. Often he had hastened through the castle’s
crystalline halls, darted up the long flights of bejeweled stairs,
scurried past the lush and beautiful gardens, but he had never run. He
had never had cause to. Until now.
Though young and strong, he was unaccustomed to this new type of
exertion and after only a few hundred yards he had to stop to catch his
breath. Doubled over, his hands on his knees, his lungs drawing in great
draughts of the sweet evening air, he raised his eyes nervously toward
the castle from which he had just fled. It was dusk and the palace’s
translucent walls, catching the last, dying rays of the setting sun,
glimmered with an almost pinkish hue. Scouring the palace’s many
turrets and parapets for signs of movement, he took another deep breath,
exhaling with a heavy sigh of relief. The castle was still asleep; he
had not yet been missed.
Straightening up, the young man winced as a cacophony of tiny, muffled
cries disrupted the quiet of the meadow. Looking fretfully at the
mangled flowers beneath his feet, he shifted his weight nervously from
one leg to the other, all the while trembling at the thought of the
castle’s sharp-eared sentries who, it was said, could discern the
chirp of a cricket more than a thousand yards away.
Although he knew it was foolhardy to attempt to cross the royal garden,
he had little choice. He could not have gone the way of the grove, for
the trees there were in the service of the queen and so late in the day
they were sure to have stopped him, to have interrogated him and, when
he failed to answer their questions satisfactorily, to have seized him.
Nor could he have attempted to cross the gorge, for that way lay near
the lair of the beast and at this hour it would be out hunting.
The only other route lay through the queen’s garden and standing amid
the endless rows of expertly pruned flowers, the young man strained for
a glimpse of the thing he sought. It lay somewhere beyond the
westernmost border of the garden; or so the story went. He himself had
never seen it and, in truth, could not be sure that it even existed. Yet
such was his desperation that he had this day gambled everything on
Drawing a last, deep breath, the youth readied himself to set off again
when a sudden, clarion note shattered the stillness of the encroaching
dusk. Turning abruptly toward the castle, he began to convulse with
fear. He had been sought for and not found and now the hunt was on.
With the tiny cries of the flowers popping like breaking glass beneath
his feet, the young man began running again, making for the western edge
of the garden. Though the chase had begun sooner than he had
anticipated, he banished from his mind all thoughts of failure and its
attendant consequences. His pursuers, he knew, would not follow him into
the garden. Nor would they dare traverse too near to the beast’s
hunting grounds. That left only the grove and the trees, gossips one and
all, would surely delay them. Thus, he consoled himself, there was still
He was nearly through the garden when something curious in the distance
caught his eye. Hardly noticeable at first—just an odd play of lights
in the western sky—it became more pronounced as the evening grew
darker. A strange kind of sparkling, it was as if a jewel-studded veil
was slowly being draped across the horizon. Encouraged by this sign, the
youth increased his speed. Reaching the end of the garden, he leapt over
the last row of flowers as gracefully as a young stag.
Beyond the garden lay an overgrown thicket and landing squarely in its
midst, the young man did not hesitate to catch his breath but raced on.
In the distance he heard a faint barking followed by another shrill
blast of a horn; the hounds had picked up his scent. Suddenly, the very
earth beneath his feet began to tremble and the young man knew the
hunters had joined the chase.
Evermore quickly he ran, his untrained lungs gasping for air, his
exhausted legs threatening any moment to give way under him, but still
the rumbling under his feet grew stronger, the cries of his pursuers
more distinct. Soon he could smell the fetid odor of the hounds.
At last reaching the edge of the thicket, the youth emerged into a
clearing beyond which loomed what could only be the thing he sought. A
sheer, glistening wall of glass, like a crystal sea, it extended in all
directions, stretching outward to infinity. Shimmering like the face of
a pond, with gentle swirls and eddies rippling across its surface, it
gave off a noise like the tinkling of wind chimes on a blustery
afternoon. Devoid of color, it reflected a distorted image of the
surrounding countryside and approaching it, the young man could see
clearly in its glossy exterior his rustled hair, his sallow cheeks, the
look of wild desperation in his eyes.
The great barrier was not at all what he had expected. A wall of glass,
it seemed impossible that anything made of flesh and bone could pass
through it. Nervously, he stretched out a hand to touch it.
An explosion of cries suddenly broke upon the clearing and looking into
the barrier the young man saw a half-dozen hounds leaping over the edge
of the thicket. Ferocious beasts, more wolf than dog, they ran toward
him with their red eyes blazing, their sharp fangs gnashing, their
mouths dribbling thick drops of bubbling saliva.
Calling upon the last vestiges of the courage that had already brought
him so far, the young man closed his eyes. The dogs were almost upon
him. He took a deep breath. The foremost hound leapt high into the air.
He took a step forward.
Excerpted from "Faerie Moon" by Matt Mark and Francesca Tedesco. Copyright © 2017 by Matt Mark and Francesca Tedesco. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.