Home > Legendary (Caraval #2)(6)

Legendary (Caraval #2)(6)
Author: Stephanie Garber

Centuries ago, before they’d vanished, the Fates pictured in Decks of Destiny had ruled over most of the earth like gods—cruel ones. Tella read everything she could about them, so she’d heard of luckless coins, but she felt ridiculous admitting it now.

“People called them luckless because finding one was always a bad omen,” Dante said. “The coins were rumored to have the magic ability to track a person’s whereabouts. The Fates would slip them into the pockets of their human servants, their lovers, or anyone else they wished to follow, keep close, or control. I’ve never held one before today, but I’ve heard if you spin a luckless coin, you can see which Fate it belonged to.”

Dante set the coin atop the edge of a nearby bench.

An unpleasant thrill danced up Tella’s spine. Although he seemed to know a lot of obscure history, she couldn’t tell if Dante put faith in the power of the Fates, but she believed in them.

The Maiden Death was said to predict the loss of a loved one or family member. And within days of flipping it over, and seeing the maiden with her head caged in pearls, Tella’s mother had vanished. She knew it was childish to believe that turning the card had caused this disappearance. But not all childish beliefs were wrong. Her mother had warned her, the Fates had a way of twisting futures. And Tella had seen the Aracle, time and time again, predict futures that came to pass.

Tella held her breath as Dante gave the object a sharp twist.

Whir, whir, whir.

The coin twirled until the etchings on either side began to take a solid shape, merging together as if by magic to form a brutally familiar picture. A dashing young man with a bloody smile, and the sort of havoc-wreaking grin that made Tella picture teeth biting into hearts and lips pressed against punctured veins.

Though it was small, Tella could clearly see the image. The cruel young man held one hand near his pointed chin, clasping the hilt of a dagger, while red tears fell from his eyes, matching the blood staining the corner of his mouth.

The Prince of Hearts.

A symbol of unrequited love and irrevocable mistakes that never ceased to fill Tella with both dread and morbid bewitchment.

Scarlett had spent half her childhood obsessed with Legend and Caraval. But Tella had been fascinated by the Prince of Hearts ever since he’d predicted her loveless future when she’d pulled him from her mother’s Deck of Destiny.

The myths claimed the Prince of Hearts’s kisses had been worth dying for, and Tella had often wondered how such a deadly kiss would feel. But as she’d grown, and kissed enough boys to realize that no kiss could be worth dying for, Tella started to suspect the stories were merely fables to illustrate the dangers of falling in love.

For it was also said the Prince of Hearts was not capable of love because his heart had stopped beating long ago. Only one person could make it beat again: his one true love. They said his kiss had been fatal to all but her—his only weakness—and as he’d sought her, he’d left a trail of corpses.

A fresh chill licked the back of Tella’s neck, and she slapped her palm atop the coin.

“I take it you’re not a fan of the prince?” asked Dante.

“The coin looked as if it was about to topple off, and then I’d have to chase it.”

The corner of Dante’s mouth edged up; he couldn’t have looked less convinced.

It also didn’t escape Tella’s notice that he’d just spoken of the Prince of Hearts as if he and the other Fates were still walking around the Empire, and not vanished for more than a century.

“I don’t know why you’re really carrying that coin,” Dante said, “but be careful. Nothing good has ever come from anything a Fate has touched.” His eyes lifted skyward, as if the Fates were watching from above, spying as they spoke.

Then, before Tella could respond, Dante was confidently walking away, leaving Tella with a coin that burned her palm, and the uncanny sensation that perhaps there was more to the pretty boy than she’d originally suspected.


Tella found herself thinking of unrequited love and kisses worth dying for as she spun the Prince of Hearts luckless coin on the same bench Dante had. Why had her friend given her a relic from such an ancient myth? She hoped it wasn’t because he didn’t trust her and wanted to keep track of her.

Maybe the rare coin was a gift from her friend to remind Tella of just how skilled he was at acquiring things that were difficult for most people to find—a reminder that he was the only one who knew how to locate her mother.

A shop bell rang. Just a tiny, pixie-light sound, but Tella snatched her coin up and looked down the street, to where a young man swaggered out of a shop. She followed the deep red lines of his morning coat up to the young man’s vibrant eyes, greener than freshly cut emeralds—

And a bath of crimson clouded Tella’s vision.

She knew this young man. He’d shed his eye patch since Caraval, but he still had the same ink-black hair, overstated aristocratic clothes, and impossibly vain expression as Count Nicolas d’Arcy—Scarlett’s former fiancé.

Tella’s hands clamped into fists, nails digging crescents into her palms. She had only officially met Count Nicolas d’Arcy once, but she spied on him on several occasions during Caraval. She’d seen him chase after her sister, and heard that once he’d caught her, he’d been willing to do unspeakable things to keep her. Scarlett had managed to escape. But Tella could have strangled him, or poisoned him, or mangled his pretty face, if Legend had not promised in one of his letters that he’d remove her sister from the game if Tella strayed from her role and interfered in any way.

So Tella had been forced to do nothing.

But the game was over now; Tella could do as she pleased.

The count was currently several shops away, too busy gazing at his reflection in a window to notice Tella. The wise thing would have been to sneak onto a different street so that he wouldn’t discover she was still alive.

But Tella meant it when she’d said she doubted the count would recognize her if she walked up to him and slapped him in the face. For what he’d done to her sister during Caraval, he deserved more than a slap, but Tella didn’t have any poison in her pockets.

She stalked closer. Maybe she’d throw in a well-aimed kick, and—

One hand clamped over Tella’s mouth, while another banded around her waist. She kicked, but it didn’t stop her assailant from dragging her back into a splinter-thin alley.


Tella pitched forward as the arms around her dropped away.

“It’s all right.” The voice was low with a lilting accent. “I’m not going to hurt you, but don’t run.”

Tella spun around.

Julian’s dark hair was still mussed from Scarlett’s fingers, but his eyes were no longer the warm liquid amber they’d been when he’d gazed at her sister earlier. They were tight around the corners, hard.

“Julian? What in all the hells are you doing?”

“I’m trying to stop you from making a mistake you’ll regret.” His gaze shot down the narrow redbrick alley, back toward the street with the loathsome Count Nicolas d’Arcy.

“No,” Tella said, “I’m pretty sure if I make this mistake, I’ll be very happy. I’m surprised you don’t want to bloody him as well, for what he allowed my father to do to you.” She nodded toward the jagged scar that went from Julian’s jaw to the corner of his eye. Caraval players could come back to life if they died during the game, but their scars remained. Tella had heard that during Caraval Scarlett’s fiancé had just stood there, doing nothing to stop Tella’s father as he’d sliced Julian’s face.

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