“I can’t say with any great certainty, but count on it being at least three weeks.”
“Three weeks!” I’d been assuming—why, I don’t know—that it would take a couple of days.
Dad smiled at me. “Remember, this is Faerie we’re talking about. There are no cars or planes. The trip from Avalon to the Sunne Palace should take roughly four days on horseback, and you can be certain Titania will keep us waiting for at least a week before she finds it convenient to hold the ceremony. And afterward, we’ll be expected to stay awhile to fulfill our social obligations.”
Horseback? This just got better and better. I’d never ridden a horse in my life, and I’d have been just as happy to keep it that way. Though I supposed if the alternative was walking, horseback would have to do.
“It won’t be until after the presentation ceremony that we’ll be able to speak with Titania. However, I have had a chance to question several members of Henry’s entourage today, and I feel reasonably certain Titania did not send those Knights after you.”
I shook my head, not believing it for a moment. “Just because they say so?”
“No, because I know Titania. Getting her to change her mind at all takes something just short of a miracle. If she wanted you gone so recently, she would not have invited you to Court unless something catastrophic occurred, and it hasn’t.
“Of course, someone was behind the attack,” my dad continued. “Someone with enough clout to command a pair of Knights to carry out a personal errand.”
I shivered. “You mean someone like Prince Henry?”
Dad grimaced. “The thought has crossed my mind. Although hiring Knights to make threats and do bodily harm is not his style. Remember what I told you about the Fae love of subtlety. An overt attack like that would be considered gauche in the extreme.”
“Gee, I feel so much better knowing that him murdering me would be a social faux pas.”
“Princes can’t afford faux pas like that, so it’s more of a deterrent than you think.” He leaned forward a little and gave my shoulder a squeeze. “Don’t worry. I’ll be keeping a careful eye on him, just in case.”
“Do you think whoever was behind that attack would be happy to see me being presented at Court?”
His face wasn’t what I’d call expressive, but even the studied lack of expression was an expression in itself. “You will be well guarded. I’ll be with you, and so will Finn and Keane.”
Keane was Finn’s son and my self-defense instructor. I had what I think of as a like/hate relationship with him. When he’s beating the crap out of me on the practice mats, I really hate him. When we’re not sparring, he can be a pretty decent guy, though things were currently a little uncomfortable between us because I suspected he liked me a whole lot more than I liked him. Still, I would definitely feel safer with him by my side.
“What about Ethan and Kimber?” I asked, because I was sure Kimber would have already started bugging her dad and mine to let them come with me.
My dad managed to look disapproving without changing his facial expression, which was a neat trick. He didn’t insist I stay away from my Unseelie friends, but I knew he’d be a lot happier if I stuck to my “own kind.” If I ever start choosing my friends based on which Court they belong to, just shoot me.
“Alistair has suggested they come along,” he answered. “I hesitate to take the risk when they are both so young and untried.”
“Kimber’s a couple months older than me, and Ethan is the same age as Keane.”
“I know how you feel about Ethan,” he said with a little smile, “but … He and Keane may be physically the same age, but Keane is an adult while Ethan is still a boy.”
I knew what my dad meant, and when I’d first come to Avalon, I might even have agreed with him. But Ethan wasn’t quite the same since I’d rescued him from the Erlking’s clutches. He was still bound to the Erlking in ways I didn’t fully understand, and the ordeal had aged him. He was not the same carefree boy I’d first met.
“However,” my dad continued, “if Alistair is determined that they come along, I shall have to take them. I fear that if I refuse, he might send them after us anyway, and that would be far more dangerous for them.”
I was glad to know I’d have plenty of company, but I hated the thought that Alistair would put his political ambitions above his children’s safety. As ambitious as my own dad was, he was practically fanatical about keeping me safe.
“I don’t believe you will be in danger,” Dad said, “especially not when you are so thoroughly guarded. However…”
I felt the faint prickle of magic, and suddenly there was a pink faux-leather case, about six inches long, in his hand. He extended the case toward me, and I took it. I hadn’t a clue what was in it, and Dad ignored my inquiring look.
With a shrug, I lifted the lid, then almost dropped the case when I saw what was inside, nestled in a bed of red velvet: a gun. The logo on the underside of the lid said “Lady Derringer.”
“It’s only for emergencies,” Dad said. “I’ll teach you how to use it, but I certainly don’t expect you to need it. I just think we’ll both feel better if you have a mortal weapon available.”
Swallowing hard, I touched the ivory-colored grip, which had a picture of a white rose on it. Despite my dad’s reassurances, I didn’t think taking a gun with me into Faerie was going to make me feel safe at all.