Chapter 9 begins with Merry and Co wondering how they’re going to get out of the newly created (evil) magical forest. Frosts tells Merry to ask the sithen to create a door, and even though it’s been readily established that the sithen will do anything Merry asks so she needs to be careful how she speaks while within, the guys immediately start questioning whether that will work. I mean, hell, the LAST chapter had an aside where Merry wished it would stop raining AND IT DOES and one of her men tells her to be careful with her words! It JUST HAPPENED.
Anyway, Merry tells the sithen she needs a door and GASP a door instantly appears. Before we move on, let’s pause here for a moment.
It was already pretty well fucking established that the sithen responds to every request Merry makes, no matter how minor. And even though every time up til now when it’s happened and Merry has gone “Whoops, I forgot!”, it’s happened enough times that she should know this is a newfound ability of hers. So why does Frost have to suggest this to her? Why can’t Merry take lead and do it on her own? We are constantly being told that if Merry is to rule, she has to appear strong and respected and yet we constantly see her men overruling her, ordering her around, suggesting things to her, explaining things to her, etc. If this series, albeit being mostly a super tame faerie smut dream, is supposed to be some sort of comment on female empowerment, it does a really shitty job.
So they all step through the doorway and notice the entire hall is made of a special black stone. Frost notes that the hallway that Merry and Mistral had sex in (in the previous book) is turning to white marble, so it’s strange to see a new hallway turning to black stone.
So they DID have sex in the previous book? Then wtf was all the crap about it being Mistral’s first and last time in the previous chapters?
Anyway, Doyle orders Merry to call the door back for some reason he won’t explain, so she does, and this somehow turns into a pissing match between Doyle and Mistral. Mistral doesn’t want them to pass through the door, since it’s not the same garden on the other side, and Doyle thinks he’s being a pussy. Or maybe Doyle is still jealous. Who even cares. They go through the door regardless, and they’re now standing on the shore of a lake. And then Doyle orders Merry to call for the door again for some reason, and the door appears on the far side of the lake.
Lake may have been too strong a word. The depression was dry except for a slimy skim of water at the very bottom. Bones littered the floor of the dying lake, and the shore where we stood. The bones shone dully in the dim light that fell from the stone ceiling, as if the moon had been rubbed into the rock. All around the shore, the stone walls of the cavern rose steeply up into the gloom, surrounded only by a narrow ledge before a steep drop-off into the lake bed.
The lake is full of large, sharp bones that had belonged to the sluagh, so they start carefully making their way around the lake towards the new door. The chapter then ends with Sholto, King of the Sluagh, appearing in front of the door.
Chapter 10 begins with Doyle apologizing to Sholto for their intrusion. Doyle is yet again doing something that Merry should probably be doing, you know, future ruler to reigning ruler. Especially since it’s MERRY that has the actual relationship with Sholto. They’ve almost had sex!
So anyway, they’re all apologetic about having accidently come into the sluagh’s lands, and Sholto’s bodyguards, the night-hags, are arguing that they should just all be killed. Black Agnes, who we all remember from the first book, right? Right? Black Agnes is Sholto’s main bodyguard, and also chief among his night-hag lovers. She also helped to raise him as a child, and she’s extremely jealous of Merry.
Sholto wants to know where they came from that left them all naked and muddy, and then there’s a ridiculous little bit about how the sidhe cannot lie.
“Answer the question, Darkness… or Princess… or whoever. How did you get wet and muddy? I know that it is snowing aboveground; do not use that to lie.”
“The sidhe never lie,” Mistral said.
Sholto and his guards all laughed. The high tittering mixed with the rumbling bass/alto of the hags and Sholto’s open, joyous laughter. “The sidhe never lie: Spare us that, the biggest lie of all,” said Sholto.
This makes me like Sholto a bit more. First, he calls Doyle out on always answering for Merry. Then he pokes at the sidhe never lie bullshit.
So Merry swears that they became muddy from the rain in the dead gardens in the Unseelie sithen, and everyone is astonished. They don’t want to believe her, but because of the oath she swears, they know she must be telling the truth. Agnes claims that Merry used Seelie magic to do it, and to prove that it’s Unseelie magic, Merry makes the door disappear. Well, actually Doyle again orders Merry to make the door disappear.
Merry and Co are finally allowed to move closer to Sholto and his gang, and Merry feels Sholto’s powerful gaze on her naked body the entire time. Once they get closer, Merry forces all her men to kneel to Sholto, to show their respects to the King of the Sluagh, and apologize for their trespass. This just pisses him off.
“Get up, get up, and do not mock me!” Sholto’s words were inexplicably rage-filled.
I looked up to find that handsome face consumed with anger, twisted with it. “I do not understand-” I began, but he didn’t give me time to finish the sentence. He strode forward, grabbed my hand, and jerked me to my feet. Doyle came with me, tightening his grip on my other hand.
Sholto’s fingers dug into my upper arm as he pulled me closer and raged inches from my face. “I did not believe Agnes. I did not believe that Andais would allow such outrage, but now I do. Now I believe it!” He shook me hard enough to make me stumble. Only Doyle’s hand kept me from falling.
I fought to keep my voice even as I said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Don’t you, don’t you!” He let go of me abruptly, sending me stumbling back against Doyle. Sholto dug his uninjured hand into the bandages at his chest and stomach, tearing at them.
Turns out, Sholto thinks that Merry and Co came only to mock his injuries. As the bandages fall from his chest, Merry sees that his tentacles had been chopped off, and he’s just an open gaping maw across his stomach where they used to be. The chapter ends with Merry realizing the horror of this.