Chapter Two In the short time that Miranda had been in the kingdom, Marak had kept his ward very much to himself, determined that Catspaw would hold her the thrill of the unknown. Miranda had lived quietly in an apartment on the elves' floor, content with her ongoing studies and Marak's daily visits. If she had seen almost nothing of Catspaw, she had seen very little else of goblin life, either. Now the girl found herself propelled to the very center of goblin society. The new King kept her by his side at every social occasion, and the fascinated monsters thronged around her. Miranda played her part to perfection, exhibiting the fine manners and graciousness that Marak had drilled into her. She hid her true feelings from everyoneincluding, at first, from herself. Because the fact of the matter was that many goblins were hideous. They didn't just look funny, as Marak had always said. There were deformities among them that sent a chill down Miranda's spine, a shock such as she might have felt at the sight of a corpse. She could barely swallow food in their company. There was the goblin, for instance, with the huge flat head, burly arms, and tiny body. His doll's legs dangled uselessly a foot above the ground as he swung himself from place to place on his hands. There was the genial little goblin with the common abnormality, eyes of two different colors. One of his eyes was dark brown, twinkling with good humor. The other eye was huge and blood-red. And there was an entire family of goblins who were the color of dark gray earth, with the impression of things too long underground. Their hairless heads were round and bulbous, like soft rubber balls. Their pale eyes bulged alarmingly, as if they were being strangled. Seen in the light of an honest day, these forms would have been frightful enough, but far worse was their appearance in the thick shadows of the kingdom. At any moment, Miranda might turn a corner in the dim hallways and find herself face to face with a horror she had never even imagined. And when she met it, she had to remember to smile. It didn't occur to the girl that Marak's death had left her overwrought and that her repugnance was compounded by her grief. All Miranda knew was that she was acting the one part she had never known she would have to act. She had looked forward all her life to coming to Marak's kingdom and being a King's Wife. She had never once considered that it might be difficult. ************* Catspaw leaned toward her as she glanced up and held her gaze with his own. "My spells keep the lamps lit, Miranda," he said quietly. "I won't ever leave you in the dark." Miranda was touched by his consideration. She hadn't imagined the goblin King like this. She saw her royal suitor as someone to charm and impress, but she hadn't realized that she would have to trust him. Maybe he wouldn't always seem like such a stranger, she thought with relief. She remembered Marak's last talk with her: Catspaw will be all that to you. "That night when I was frightened, Marak told me about my future," she recalled. "It was the first time that he said I would be a King's Wife." "Then I remember that night as well," said Marak Catspaw. "It's one of the only times I saw Father worried. I was up late studying political economy or some such when he came into my room. 'You've gotDunkle, Clare B. is the author of 'In the Coils of the Snake', published 2006 under ISBN 9780805081107 and ISBN 0805081100.