Iced - Page 83/120

I heard of the White Mansion from eavesdropping but never paid much attention to the talk. I was always more interested in the Sinsar Dubh. “What do you mean, you can follow the scenes through?”

“Their residue is still here. They loved so intensely that moments of their life have been etched into the very fabric of the mansion. Some say the king designed it that way, so if one day he lost her he could come live with her residue. Some say the mansion was built of memory-tissue and is a living creature, with a great brain and heart hidden somewhere in the house. I’ve no wish to believe it’s true because that would mean the White Mansion can be killed, and she must never die. The record of the greatest love in the history of History would be lost, along with countless artifacts from myriad universes that could never be collected together again. This place is home, love story, and museum all in one.”

“So, where’s the library?”

“You see, lass,” he says tenderly, like I never even just opened my mouth, like I’m looking for a lesson in love, and I ain’t, “the Unseelie King fell in love with a mortal woman. She was his reason for being. His every defining moment occurred because of her, and only in her presence did he know peace. She was his brightest shining star. She made him a better man, and to men who know how fundamentally and deeply they’re flawed, such a woman is irresistible. The idea that she would live less than a single century was more than he could bear, so he resolved to make her Fae like himself that they might live forever together. While he worked in his laboratory, trying to perfect the Song of Making, he needed to keep her safe and alive. He knew it might take him eons to learn to wield the power of creation.”

If he was human I might call that funny glint in Christian’s iridescent eyes speculative as it rests on me. I can’t look too long trying to decide because one short lock with his gaze and my eyes are already leaking blood. Dude’s getting more potent by the minute. And weirder. Like he’s thinking him and me are like the Unseelie King and his concubine, some kind of star-crossed lovers. “And where did you say the library was?”

“He built his beloved a playground of infinite proportions, tucked away in a safe pocket of reality where she could stay for all time, unchanging. Unaging. She would be safe. Nothing and no one could ever hurt her. He would never have to worry that he might lose her.” His voice sinks to a whisper, as if he’s forgotten I’m even here. “They would be together always. Soul mates. He would never be alone. Never get lost in madness, for she would never fail to find him and bring him back.”

“Dude, your story’s fascinating and all, but where’s the library? Time’s wasting. We got the Hoar Frost King to stop.”

“If you stayed here, Dani, my light o’ love, you’d never die. I’d never have to worry about anyone hurting you. Ever.”

“Yeah, and I’d, like, be fourteen forever. I’d kind of like to grow a few more inches,” I say irritably. In more than a few places. He tries to keep me here out of some lunatic thought that I’m his queen, we’ll be staining this place with a whole new residue: it’ll be war in the White Mansion.

“I’d forgotten that.” He sighs. “Come, lass. Shall we go find the library?”

“Dude, thought you’d never ask.”

We exit the white room on white marble floors and enter a sparkling white hallway with floor-to-ceiling windows that stretch to domed ceilings forty feet high. There I see my first residue. Beyond tall windows is a beautiful woman in a snowy garden, silken folds of a bloodred gown spilling over a white marble bench. Face pressed into her hands, she weeps.

“It’s the king’s concubine,” he says.

“I thought you said they were crazy in love. Why is she crying?”

“She wearied of being alone while the king labored at his experiments. She waited hundreds of thousands of years for him, alone except for those few creatures he trusted with her, and his occasional visits.”

Christian tells me the rest of the story while we twist and turn down hallways and corridors. I’m riveted in spite of myself. Who’d have ever thought such fantastical places existed side by side with our world, accessible through hidden portals and mirrors? My life is so fecking interesting I almost can’t stand it!

We pass over lemon marble floors in sunny wings with tall windows that frame brilliant summer days, down rose quartz floors that reflect violet hues of the sunset beyond, across bronze tiles that wind through rooms that have no windows, only stately, enormous, kingly chairs and couches and beds. There are fireplaces here as tall as a small house, with ceilings higher than the spires on cathedrals.

“How big is this place?”

“Some say it goes on forever, that the king created a house that constantly grows itself.”

“How do you find anything?”

“Och, and there’s the rub, lass. It’s difficult. Things move. It doesn’t help that the king created decoys. To better protect his dangerous journals, he seeded multiple libraries within the house. Barrons thinks he found the true repository. He didn’t. I saw the books he pilfered. They came from the king’s Green Study.”

“How do you know where the true library is?”

He hesitates. “Something in it calls to me,” he says finally. “I was trapped for a while in the king’s boudoir, and I could feel the pull of the house beyond it. The residue in his chambers was so strong that reality and illusion blurred for a time. Sometimes I would hear whispers as I fell asleep, and those times I would dream I was the king, walking my halls. I knew where everything was, as if it was I who’d fashioned this house. I even understood how things shifted. A few of those memories remain. Others aren’t so trustworthy. Still, I know that down a crimson hall that will always be found off a bronze corridor is a music room with thousands of instruments that play themselves when you twist a key inside the door, like a giant music box. I know there is a vast arena in the cobalt wing with no gravity, and stars painted all around where sometimes he took his beloved and created universes in the air for her amusement. And I know that because he feared other Fae would find the journals he kept, filled with notes about his experiments, he brought them into the White Mansion. It is said that he locked away the recipe for every Unseelie he ever created, and countless more unborn, that he chiseled a warning above the entry when he left. It is by that inscription you can know it’s the true library.”