Grave Dance
during the meal.”
    Was that a legitimate offer, or would I be part of dinner?
    Either way, she lived under the river, and I definitely couldn’t Either way, she lived under the river, and I definitely couldn’t breathe water. I shook my head. “I’d prefer to keep my feet on dry land.”
    “Then why should I answer your questions, Alex-Craftwith-Tongues-for-the-Dead-who-prefers-to-keep-her-feet-on-
    I blinked at the title and glanced at Malik. He rol ed his shoulders and stood straight so that he matched the kelpie’s impressive height.
    “You should answer because Ms. Craft is working to protect the independent fae in Nekros from the grasp of the Winter Queen.”
    Pale skin flashed beneath the kelpie’s gil s. “And what care I for the troubles of other independents?”
    “You’l care if the queen saddles and stables you.”
    It was hard to read the kelpie’s equine features, but I think she glared at Malik. After several silent seconds, she turned to me, her large eyes unblinking. That’s as close to permission as I’m likely to get. I asked my question.
    “A group of feet recently floated down the Sionan River and washed up in the floodplain to the south. They were tossed into the river sometime in the last four or five days.
    Do you remember seeing or otherwise sensing the feet floating through your territory?”
    The kelpie’s lips once again curled back from those sharp, predatory teeth. “The grotesque offering? The meat was putrefied by magic. It offended me.”
    Offering? That was an unusual way to view body parts dumped in the river, but the feet the police had found were certainly saturated with dark magic, so I guessed we were talking about the same thing. I shuddered at the idea that she’d actual y tried to eat one of the feet, but if I thought about it, that wasn’t real y unexpected.
    “Do you know where the, uh, ‘grotesque offering’ was tossed into the river?”
    “In the place that reeks of iron, near one of the thundering gates.”
    Well, that’s as clear as river muck. The place that
    “reeked of iron” was probably the city—no fae liked iron and the city had a lot of it. But what were the “thundering gates”?
    I didn’t get a chance to ask. A hiccup erupted in my chest, interrupting me. I pressed my fingers over my lips just as a second hiccup hit, fol owed by a third.
    The charm. Glamour—and not from the kelpie or Malik.
    I whirled around, glancing over the bank, the bridge, and the road as I turned. Nothing. My gaze shot to where the woods encroached on the river. Stil nothing.
    Another hiccup gripped my chest, bursting from my throat, and I cringed. Okay, charm, I got the point. There was glamour being used nearby, but I real y wished the charm had a better way of warning me. At least I’d had the foresight to attach the charm with a quick-release clasp this time. I unhooked it from the bracelet and pried open my shields.
    My grave-sight snapped into focus, painting the forest in muted shades as the landscape decayed. Several yards away, amid the forest of rotted trees, a trol moved silently through the wilted underbrush. His shoulders were wide enough that he had to turn sideways to step between two thick trees and avoid tearing the dark business suit he was wearing. His hands, each as big as my head, dragged the ground beside bare green feet sticking out under the hemmed legs of his slacks. I thought for a moment his hands were brown with moss green mounds over his knuckles, until I realized he wore gloves, the leather worn away on the top.
    He moved slowly, sucking in his gut to al ow more clearance between the tree trunks. But not enough clearance. Bark flaked off the trees as he brushed past.
    Beside me, the kelpie’s ears twitched, the skin on her neck quivering as she snapped her head toward the forest. The trol ’s glamour might have hidden his footsteps, but we al trol ’s glamour might have hidden his footsteps, but we al heard

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