he was unsure what to say, but she liked the fact that he clearly understood how important the ballet slippers were to her. He just nodded, then said, âSo youâre all set then.â âAll set. Oh! Except for these.â She dropped the Scrabble tiles onto the tree stump. âTell Kerwyn where they are after Iâve gone.â âAll right.â Daniel walked her to the special spot where the pattern would work. He had to leave her at the clearingâone could only go through the gate alone. She knelt down and drew the hopscotch grid. Then she turned and waved good-bye. He looked so sad, but when he realized she was looking at him, a grin spread across his face. âSee ya!â he called. âCome back soon!â Marya patted her pouch. She took a deep breath and began to hop and chant. âMary, Mary, quite contrary How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockleshells And pretty maids all in a row. My mother says to pick just one So out goes Y-O-U!â With that last phrase, she hopped the last part of the patternâright out of Free Country.
Chapter Five T IM STOOD UP AND LOOKED AROUND. There were more people in the cemetery now. On the weekends, the dead always had more visitors. Tim brushed off his jeans and started walking. It wasnât that he had any destination in mind. Unless there is some weird realm I havenât yet visited called Explanations Land, or Confusionâs End , Tim mused. He left the graveyard, and it finally occurred to him that having Titania, Queen of Faerie, as an enemy might not be very good. In fact, antagonizing her the way he had probably wasnât the brightest tack to take. But heâd taken it. There was no going back now. But he couldnât go forward either. Titaniaâs accusations stung. Mostly because he was so afraid they were true. She was rightâhe didnât know anything, and that made him dangerous. Hehadnât meant to go to the manticoreâs lair. But if he hadnât, Faerie would still be a wasteland, and Tamlin might have wound up dead anyway. Titania, too, for that matter. Why didnât she see that? He shook his head. Who knows how her twisted green mind works? Grown-ups were always interfering, getting in his way, or plain old coming after him. Still, he supposed he had to try to figure them outâif only in self-defense. He wandered into a playground and was surprised to see how deserted it was. The only kid around was a chubby girl, about ten years old, sitting on a swing. She rocked slowly back and forth, one foot trailing in the dirt. This is Saturday, isnât it? Tim thought. The place should have been overrun with kids. The lone girl sat muttering and scowling. Her mood matched Timâs exactly. He sat on the swing beside hers. She glanced over at him. âWho are you?â she demanded. âAre you one of the kidnappers?â Kidnappers? Tim raised his eyebrows above his spectacles. He didnât think he particularly looked like a kidnapper. Then again, he didnât exactly look like a magician either, and he supposedly was one. âNo. Iâm just me. Wondering if youâre okay.â âOh.â She looked puzzled. âNo one has been asking me that.â She pouted and kicked her legs hard, setting herself swinging. âTheyâre all too busy worrying about Oliver.â âWhoâs Oliver?â Tim asked. âAnd whyâs everyone so worried about him? Is he sick?â âNo, heâs gone missing. Like the others.â âWhat others?â Tim asked. She stared at him with open eyes and mouth. âDonât you read the papers? Or watch the news?â She shook her head as if she couldnât believe Timâs sheer stupidity. âI was interviewed on the nine oâclock news after it happened. Mummy taped it and everything.â Tim squinted. The girlâs story was beginning to sound