The Iron Raven(3)

By: Julie Kagawa


Part of the Seelie Court?

Curiosity battled defiance. I was intrigued, of course. Living by myself in the wyldwood meant I could come and go as I pleased, but it was getting a bit lonely. I wanted to talk to people, others of my kind, not just forest creatures and the occasional scatterbrained piskie. And of the two courts, Summer territory sounded much more pleasant than the frozen, hostile land of Winter.

Still, it was never a good idea to take the first offer. Even I, with my limited knowledge of bargains and deals, knew that much.

“I like it in the forest.” I crossed my arms and smiled at the king. “Why should I go live at the Summer Court?”

The Seelie King smiled, as if he’d expected that answer. “Because, Robin, I am king.” He spoke the phrase like it was the most important fact in the world. “And as King of the Seelie, I can give you whatever your heart desires. I can grant you power, wealth, the love of as many hearts as you wish.” He paused when I wrinkled my nose. “But I can see you are not interested in these things. Perhaps, then, this would be of note. I have many enemies, Robin. Both within the court and without. From time to time, these enemies need to realize that they cannot underestimate the sovereignty of Summer. If you join me... Well, let us say you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your magic on things other than common forest beasts.”

Now that sounded interesting. I glanced back at the pond, at the motionless bodies surrounding it. Poor dumb animals. I hadn’t meant to harm them, but it seemed normal creatures were very fragile. I would love to try some of my ideas on sturdier creatures, maybe even a few fey, and Oberon was dangling that big, bright carrot in front of me. He seemed to know exactly what I wanted. The only question was, did I care?

“So, Robin of the Wyldwood,” King Oberon went on, peering down at me from his horse. “What is your decision? Will you join my court? I will name you court jester, and you can play your tricks and practice your magic without boundaries. All I ask is that you do me a small service from time to time. Do we have a deal?”

Something nagged at me, a feeling that this agreement wasn’t quite what I thought it was. I’d made deals before, but they were with piskies and sprites and a couple local dryads. Never with someone as important as the ruler of the Seelie Court. Was I missing something? This did seem a little too good to be true.

I hesitated a moment more, then shrugged. Then again, why not join the Summer Court? What was the worst that could happen? I was aching for something new, and if I was under the protection of King Oberon himself, think of all the pranks and tricks I could play without fear of retribution.

This was going to be fun.

“All right,” I agreed, grinning up at Oberon, who raised a thin silver brow in return. “You have a deal, King. I’ll join the Summer Court, as long as I get to practice my magic and play as many tricks as I want.”

“Excellent.” Oberon nodded and raised both hands. “Then I name you Robin Goodfellow, jester of the Summer Court,” he announced in sudden, booming tones, and the branches of the trees shook, as if acknowledging his declaration. Lowering his arms, the Summer King gazed down at me with a sudden, almost proud smile. “Welcome to the Seelie Court, Robin Goodfellow. Wear your name proudly. Perhaps someday the world will come to know it as well.”





1


PUCK IN THE MARKET





Present day


I love the goblin market.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the market is super sketchy and dangerous. Make the wrong deal, agree to the wrong bargain, and you’ll find yourself cursed or enslaved for a thousand years. Or under contract to give away your firstborn kid (not that I have any). Or in possession of a thing that wasn’t quite what you were expecting, in that it tries to eat your face off every now and again.

You can find anything in the goblin market. Need a potion that will make someone fall in love with you? There’s a vendor on every corner that will sell you one. Want to buy a lamp with a genie inside that will grant you three wishes? The goblin market has you covered; turns out genies aren’t quite as rare as everyone thinks.

What they neglect to mention is that the love potion you bought will make your target psychotically obsessed with you, and the genie will grant your wish in the most twisted and sadistic way possible, because that’s just what they do. And this is after you’ve bargained away your soul or your voice or your best friend. The prices at the goblin market are high—mostly too high—for anyone to pay without massive regrets.