‘But that doesn’t make any sense,’ Martin said as he followed her across the rocky beach. Between the sea-wind and the waves breaking against the cliffs Ivy could hardly hear him, but she didn’t slow down. ‘Why are you doing this to yourself?’
‘Because I have to,’ she said, not taking her eyes off the peregrine on its cliffside perch. She stopped at the foot of a boulder, leaped for a finger-hold and swung herself up onto the rock, clambering up its broken face as resolutely as she had once climbed the Great Shaft. When she reached the top, she had a much better view of the falcon.
‘Tell me everything you know about them,’ she said to Martin.
He sighed, but he told her. The peregrine was somewhat larger than a hobby but even faster in the dive, capable of hitting a moving target at up to two hundred miles per hour. They nested on uplands and rocky cliffsides like this one, feeding on pigeons and other small game. And though peregrine meant wanderer, they often stayed in the same hunting grounds all year, migrating only if food became scarce or the weather too harsh for comfort.
As he talked, Ivy traced and retraced the falcon’s shape with her eyes, memorising every detail: its hooded cloak of blue-black feathers, its gold-rimmed eyes, the belly and underwings of dappled grey and white. When it launched itself from the cliffside Ivy turned automatically to follow it, nearly falling off the top of the boulder in her haste.
‘Don’t go!’ she shouted after it, scrambling to climb down before it sailed out of sight. ‘I’m not finished yet!’
Martin cleared his throat. ‘You do realise that back at the Delve, when I told you to learn as much about swifts as you could before trying to turn yourself into one, I was stalling for time?’
Ivy stopped halfway down the rock and looked down at him. ‘What?’
‘I had no idea how to teach you to change shape,’ he said. ‘I didn’t even think you’d be able to do it. But I was afraid that if I didn’t say something you’d leave me to starve, so I improvised.’
‘You mean you lied,’ said Ivy. She’d almost forgotten Martin could do that, even though he’d admitted as much himself. I’ve never lied to you yet, he’d told her once. I don’t expect you to be impressed by that, but you should be, because I’m one of the few faeries who can. ‘And then you lied to me about not lying. How am I supposed to trust anything you say?’
‘It wasn’t a lie.’ His words were edged with impatience. ‘I misled you, yes, but hardly with malicious intent. What I’m saying now is, you’ve studied that peregrine long enough to know what it looks like, and have a rough idea of how it behaves. There’s nothing to stop you trying to take its shape, if that’s really what you want.’
She did want it, more than anything. As a swift she’d been fast and nimble, but as a peregrine, she’d also be fearless. She could fly all year round, day or night, without having to worry about being attacked by other birds; she could visit the Delve whenever she pleased and no one, not even Mica, would recognise her. And if she could master falcon-shape, she might even be able to enjoy flying as a swift again, knowing that she could change forms in midair if need be. She climbed to the top of the boulder, spread her arms wide—
And let them fall again, exasperated. ‘Could you go somewhere else?’ she said to Martin. ‘I can’t concentrate with you watching me like that.’
‘Should I watch you like this instead?’ asked Martin, tilting his head sideways. But when Ivy glared at him, he relented. ‘Fine. I’ll go.’