Who had really planted that bomb? I kept stumbling against the fact that for a bomb to work, it would have had to be in my presence continually since we’d left Avalon. The more I tried to figure out how I could have unknowingly carried a bomb—and how, if I’d been carrying it, it ended up under the princess’s chair—the more frustrated and stumped I became.
Stress had done a hatchet job on my brainpower. When the answer to the riddle came to me, it was so obvious I stopped in my tracks and slapped myself on the forehead. The bomb had to have been planted by a Faeriewalker. I hadn’t planted the bomb. Therefore …
“Duh!” I said as the others stopped around me. “I’m not the only Faeriewalker in the world after all!”
The boys both gaped at me, but Kimber just looked grim. “So it would seem,” she said, and I realized she’d figured it out on her own.
“The redhead,” Keane said, then said something Gaelic-sounding that I was pretty sure was a curse.
“What redhead?” Ethan asked.
“Elizabeth,” I said, remembering how jumpy she’d acted at the dinner, the apology that had come out of nowhere, and the way she’d refused to meet my eyes. And realizing that she—like most of the women in Henry’s entourage—always wore a bustle in her skirts. You could probably hide a whole suitcase full of mortal items in one of those things. Maybe she hadn’t been apologizing for what happened with the Green Lady after all. Maybe she’d been apologizing in advance for framing me.
“Who’s Elizabeth?” Kimber asked with a frown.
“The redheaded girl who served us wine at dinner,” Keane answered. “She was one of Henry’s servants, wasn’t she?” he asked me.
I nodded. “Yeah. She’s been with us all the way from Avalon.” Hers had been the only familiar face I’d spotted in the dining room, though I had to admit I hadn’t been looking all that closely. “But she can’t be more than, like, fourteen years old,” I said, appalled.
“She’s completely terrified of Henry,” Keane said. “I’m sure she’d do anything he ordered her to, even if she didn’t like it. And it would explain why she was serving at the dinner. I doubt Henry’s usually terribly anxious to share his servants.”
I remembered the terror in her eyes, and I remembered the abuse Henry had heaped upon her. The poor thing was thoroughly downtrodden. The evidence suggested she was the one who’d planted the bomb, that she was the one who’d tried to kill the princess—and maybe succeeded—while framing me for it. But there was no doubt in my mind that it was Prince Henry who was really behind it.
Kimber was nodding. “You said Titania claimed not to have been behind the threats against you. Can you imagine being a power-hungry asshole like Henry and having a secret Faeriewalker under your thumb? I bet you someone like him would do anything to make sure his was the only Faeriewalker in the world. So he sent those Knights to threaten you, figuring everyone would assume it was Titania who sent them. And as long as they didn’t kill you, there’d be no reason for your father to confront Titania and find out the Knights weren’t hers.”
“Guess he must have been thrilled when she sent him to invite me to Court,” I said. But I couldn’t be terribly satisfied by the thought of his annoyance. “We’re letting him get away with it,” I said bitterly. “By running away, I’m making myself look guilty. Guiltier than I already looked, I mean.”
“You have no choice,” Keane said. “I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Faerie, but I do know that it’s not famous for its fair and impartial justice.”
“He’s right,” Ethan said, making a face to show how little he enjoyed agreeing with Keane. “You wouldn’t even be entitled to a trial if the Queen was pissed off enough not to give you one. If we hadn’t gotten you out of there, you might have been summarily executed. You could be dead already.” His voice went low and raspy, and he pulled me into an unexpected hug.
His words sent a chill racing down my spine. It was one thing to imagine myself locked up and subjected to the Fae version of a trial, but another to think about being judged guilty without being given a chance to defend myself. Not that I thought speaking out in my own defense would do much good—if we were right, it was the Queen’s own son who was behind the bombing, and she most likely wouldn’t want to find him guilty. I made a really easy scapegoat.
Ethan squeezed me tighter, and I burrowed my face into his chest, wishing I could hide there in his arms forever. His shirt stank of smoke, and the temperature was somewhere in the eighties, making it way too hot for cuddling, but for the moment, I didn’t care.
“We have to keep moving,” Keane said.
With a sigh of regret, I eased myself out of Ethan’s arms. Maybe if we managed to evade capture and get all the way back to Avalon, I’d be able to find someone who could help my dad and Finn. Dad was a citizen of Avalon, after all, and considering his political influence, the Council might want to negotiate for his release. Titania might even give in to keep the peace between Avalon and Faerie.
The hope felt fragile, and I wasn’t sure that even if things happened exactly the way I hoped, Finn would be released with my dad. I wasn’t even sure whether Finn was an Avalon citizen or not, and he certainly didn’t have my dad’s influence.
Of course, all of this would be a moot point if the Queen had already had them both killed.