Wondrous Strange
“Another question, then.”
    Bob waited.
    “That girl. The actress playing Titania.” He nodded in the direction of the dressing rooms where she’d gone. “She saw me just now.”
    “I noticed that.”
    Sonny was beginning to lose patience. “I was veiled and she saw me.”
    Bob tilted his head, his expression maddeningly inscrutable, and said, “How is that possible for a mortal?”
    “That is my question to you. How is it possible for a mortal to have seen through my veil?”
    “It isn’t.”
    “What are you saying?” Sonny’s wariness of the ancient, powerful boucca warred with his absolute need to know.
    “You ask a lot of questions.”
    Sonny took a deep breath. If he angered Bob, the boucca was likely to just vanish without another word. “Please. It is…important to me.”
    Bob cocked his head to one side, considering that. He seemed to shift and change in size and proportion ever so slightly as Sonny spoke to him. It was subtle, hard to notice unless you were only looking at him sideways—as if his appearance mirrored the slipperiness of what he said.
    “Do you know why Auberon shut the Gates, young SonnyFlannery?” the boucca asked.
    “Of course I do.” Sonny barely contained his frustration. “I’m a bloody Janus.”
    “You’re a Janus, certainly. And I’m sure you’re a fine one, at that,” Bob said, almost without sarcasm. He put up a hand to forestall any interruption. “And you’re a changeling—cradle-took from a mortal home to the Otherworld, just like the rest of your kind. But, un like the rest of them…I happen to know that you’re also the only Janus that Auberon handpicked to raise under his own roof, at the very center of the Unseelie Court, almost as if you were a son.”
    “Do you have a point to make?”
    “Aye. I do.” Bob nodded slowly, returning Sonny’s steady gaze. “But not about you. About him .”
    Sonny knew well how Auberon was regarded by the majority of changelings and also by a good portion of the Faerie Folk: with suspicion and with fear.
    But the king had treated Sonny like family and, despite an arrogance that could border on casual cruelty, he had never given the young mortal a reason not to trust him. If Sonny was to be honest, Auberon had his loyalty and respect.
    “What tale did the mighty Auberon spin by the fire for his panting Janus pup about the closing of the Gates?” Bob asked, his voice thick with mockery.
    Sonny glared at him. “He closed the Gates to protect us.”
    “Which ‘us,’ little changeling boy?” Bob cocked his head,his tone quizzical. “The mortal us or the Faerie us?”
    “Both. He did it to protect both worlds—each from the other.”
    “What you call ‘protection,’ a goodly portion of the Fair Folk call ‘imprisonment.’ What else did good king Auberon tell you? What dire threat from the mortal world was our benevolent lord and master keeping his loyal subjects safe and sound from?”
    Sonny frowned. He failed to see what this had to do with him or the kelpie or the girl or anything he actually wanted to learn from the boucca. But he obviously had no choice but to play along with Bob’s game of questions. “He told me that, around the turn of the last century, as the mortal world measures time, a human woman found a way through one of the Gates to the Otherworld. And that she stole a Faerie child right from out of the cradle and escaped back to the mortal realm. So the king closed the Gates to keep it from happening again.”
    “And there’s thundering great hypocrisy for you!” Bob did a little jig and swung himself effortlessly up onto the landing of a set of escape stairs. His eyes glowed fiercely. “Putting aside for the moment the fact that stealing children in the other direction was—up until that time—a sort of national pastime for the Fair Folk…don’t you think that whole story is a bit odd? Pretty drastic measures for one wee bairn gone missing, wouldn’t you say?”
    “It wasn’t

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