There was just a hint of disdain in his voice, as there always was when he talked about trolls, making it clear that they were considered low-class. Dad trusted Lachlan and was polite to him to his face, but when Lachlan wasn’t around, Dad didn’t hesitate to let his snobbishness shine through. He claimed that he was too old and set in his ways to change, but that generally didn’t stop me from trying to bring his attitude into the twenty-first century.
“Gee, I can’t imagine why they’d rather keep to themselves when the Sidhe are so kind and gracious to them.”
Dad’s smile disappeared and he regarded me with annoyance. “We aren’t in Avalon, Dana. You may not like or approve of how the Fae interact with one another, but you’d best learn to respect it, at least until we get home. I sincerely doubt Henry or his people would appreciate being lectured or judged.”
“I’m not lecturing or judging them,” I said, the already long day in the saddle making me grumpy. “I’m lecturing and judging you. You’re supposed to be a citizen of Avalon, not of Faerie.”
This was becoming an old argument. Dad seemed perfectly happy to rehash it with me, even though neither of us was likely to convince the other. He didn’t get a chance, however, because his retort was cut off by a shout of alarm from somewhere up the line.
Dad went on instant alert, his magic flaring up faster than I could turn my head to see what was going on. Phaedra sidestepped and made a nervous little sound not quite like a whinny. The caravan came to a screeching halt, the Knights in Henry’s entourage drawing their weapons and converging on their prince. They formed a circle around him as he rose in his stirrups, looking for the cause of the disturbance.
We were still near the back of the caravan, with only one Knight and a baggage wagon behind us. That Knight spurred his horse forward, heading toward the prince—and leaving us behind.
“Go,” my dad said to me, pointing for me to follow the Knight. “Get as close to Henry as possible. It’ll be the best-defended area.”
“What’s happening?” I asked, my heart hammering as I kept glancing around, looking for the threat.
“I don’t know,” Dad said. “But move!” He turned to point at Kimber. “You, too.”
Ethan jumped off his horse, a silver knife appearing in his hand. Keane followed suit, but he had two knives. I supposed it was hard to fight with knives on horseback, but I didn’t like the idea of them being on foot when everyone else was on horses. I wouldn’t put it past Henry to run like hell and take his people with him.
Kimber was quicker to follow my dad’s order than I was. She slipped past me, beckoning me to follow.
“Better go with her,” I said to Phaedra, giving her a light kick in the sides for extra emphasis. She snorted and shook her head, showing no sign of wanting to follow Kimber to the relative safety of the center. Stupid horse!
There was another shout from someone ahead of me. And then something sprang out from behind one of the outcroppings of rock. Something that looked suspiciously like a monster, though I had no idea what it was. It was squat and vaguely humanoid, but it was covered in black scales and had a long, barbed tail. And, of course, impressive claws and fangs. It reminded me of a reptilian chimpanzee, though it was wearing leather armor and a helmet that suggested it wasn’t just an animal. It also wasn’t a troll, because trolls are supposed to be huge, and this thing was the size of a small human.
Whatever it was, it roared, the sound much louder than such a small body should have been able to produce. Up ahead, a woman screamed, and there was another roar. Horses everywhere began making sounds of alarm as the shouting increased.
Things went to hell in less than five seconds. The creature I’d spotted leapt through the air, landing on the seat beside the driver of the baggage wagon behind me. He was not a Knight, but he wasn’t completely defenseless. The creature swiped at him with a clawed hand, but the claws grazed off of an invisible shield as the driver dove off the wagon’s seat.
“Get to the center!” Dad shouted at me as he unleashed some kind of spell at the creature.
The spell knocked the creature down mid-leap, but it didn’t seem to hurt it. Finn charged forward while it was still stunned, putting his sword through its torso.
“Move, Phaedra!” I urged, giving her another kick as two more of the creatures popped out from behind the rocks.
Phaedra whinnied and tossed her head, dancing nervously sideways, her eyes ringed with white. All around us, people were screaming and shouting. The monsters roared, and I heard sounds of battle as the Knights protected their prince.
Kimber turned back, calling to Phaedra in an encouraging voice, although even I could hear the fear in it. She knew Phaedra and I weren’t the best of friends. Maybe Phaedra objected to the way I shouted at her, but I couldn’t worry about her delicate feelings while we were under attack.
Phaedra didn’t seem any more moved by Kimber’s coaxing than she was by my attempted bullying. She whinnied again, then reared, her front hooves slashing the air in front of her. I squeezed my legs tight around her and clung to the saddle with everything I had.
One of the creatures went flying, its head split open where Phaedra had apparently kicked it in mid-leap. I’d have thanked her for taking out one of our attackers, except at that moment, she finally leapt into motion—running away from the center of the battle and the safety of the Knights.
“Dana!” my dad cried, reaching out to me.