When we finally rode around a bend to the site of the attack, my stomach heaved, and I had to close my eyes and hold my breath in hopes that I wasn’t going to barf all over myself.
There were bodies everywhere, though in my first brief glimpse, I saw only Bogles and a handful of horses. No humans. Er, Fae. Of course, maybe the prince’s people had already carried the dead away from the battlefield.
I opened my eyes again, bracing myself for what I was going to see.
Still lots of bodies, and lots of blood. Some of the prince’s men—servants, not Knights—were piling the dead Bogles together. The pile was already alarmingly high, and there were plenty more bodies littered all around the outskirts of the road. Not all of them were whole, and I did my best not to look at them.
A couple of the wagons had been knocked over, and there were at least three dead horses, but considering the staggering number of Bogles that lay slaughtered on the ground, the battle had gone fairly well. It told me a little something about the power of the Fae I traveled with that they could fight off an attack of this magnitude with so few obvious casualties.
People were hard at work fixing wagons, bandaging wounds, and cleaning weapons. Too busy to see us approach at first. But then someone spotted us, and a cry of alarm went up among the assembled Fae. Behind me, I felt the Erlking sit up straighter, like he was trying to make himself even bigger and more intimidating than he already was.
The prince’s Knights moved quickly to stand between the Wild Hunt and their liege, although it wasn’t like the Erlking could attack anyone from the Seelie Court, not with the geis he’d allowed the Queens to put on him. But that didn’t stop him and his Hunt from being a source of terror. Several of the Fae looked like they were about to pass out from fear, although the Knights just looked grim.
I heard my father’s voice call my name. I strained my eyes trying to see around the Knights. I caught sight of movement, then saw my father, pushing his way through the gawking Fae, Finn and Ethan following close behind him. Keane and Kimber were coming from the other side of the gathering, moving more slowly because they weren’t as aggressive about shoving people out of the way.
The Erlking reined his horse to a halt while still about fifty feet away from the Knights. My dad finally made it to the front, but the Knights blocked his way. I saw the spark of fury in my dad’s eyes, and realized that Ethan hadn’t been exaggerating when he said my dad was “beside himself.” He looked like he was about to explode. I wasn’t close enough to tell, but from the way the Knights whirled toward him, I guessed my dad was pulling magic, maybe about to do something stupid.
“Dad! Don’t!” I yelled. I tried to slide off the horse, but Arawn put an arm around my waist and held me.
“Not yet,” he said. “Someone might get twitchy if you make any sudden moves.”
“Let go of me,” I growled, but he just held me tighter.
I prayed Dad wouldn’t cast anything on the Knights who were blocking his way. I suspected that would be the kind of breach of etiquette that could get him in a whole lot of trouble, especially when the prince had it in for him anyway.
Finn reached out and laid a hand on my dad’s arm, leaning forward and saying something I couldn’t hear. Dad winced, then closed his eyes, visibly taking a deep breath to steady himself. When he opened them again, he looked outwardly calm, his bland Court mask back in place. But the Knights still regarded him warily.
“Now you can get down,” Arawn said. “But move slowly. They’re on edge, still in battle mode. It wouldn’t take much to trigger them.”
I didn’t much want his advice, but I listened to it anyway. I kept a close eye on the Knights as Arawn helped me slide to the ground. I was glad for his steadying hand, because it was a long way down. The Knights looked every bit as on edge as he’d said, so I walked slowly and held my hands away from my sides, trying to look as harmless as possible. Not that that was hard. As my aunt Grace and the Bogles could have told you, I’m not actually harmless, but I definitely look it.
My dad said something to the Knight closest to him. The Knight frowned, then stepped aside with apparent reluctance. My dad slipped past him, although Finn and Ethan stayed behind. Dad walked slowly toward me. After everything I’d seen and been through in the last half hour or so, I wanted to run to him and fling my arms around him—a gesture of affection I’m sure he’d have had no idea what to do with.
We met about halfway between the two groups. I wished the Erlking would take his Hunt and leave, because as long as he loomed there, the tension was going to stay dialed up to maximum.
“Are you all right?” my dad asked, his voice controlled and tight.
“I’m fine,” I assured him, though I wasn’t sure it was quite true. I’d seen more death since I’d come to Avalon than I’d ever imagined, but I’d never seen anything like today. Breaking down and having a fit of hysteria seemed like a reasonable thing to do, although at that moment, I was pretty numb. “What about you?” There was blood on his shirt, and I gasped when I saw the five parallel tears in his sleeve. Blood soaked his shirt around the tears, although there was no sign of a wound.
“I’m fine, too,” he said, then followed my eyes to the tear on his shirt. “It was just a scratch, and Finn healed it for me.” He reached for me, startling me by pulling me into a hug. “I thought I’d lost you,” he said into my hair, his voice choked with emotion.