I’d have answered her if I had a clue, but I could only stare in horror as my friends tried to pound the crap out of each other.
Ethan never had a chance. Not with Keane’s skill at hand-to-hand fighting. I was certain that some of the magic in the air was Ethan’s, but even he couldn’t get a spell off when someone was kneeling on his chest and pounding on his face.
“Keane! Stop it!” I cried, because Ethan was clearly already down and beaten.
Keane, of course, ignored me. I stepped forward, meaning to try to drag him off of Ethan, but Kimber grabbed my arm.
“Don’t,” she said, and I turned to her in shock. This was her brother who was being beaten senseless!
Kimber’s eyes were wide and frightened-looking, and she winced with every thud of fist hitting flesh. She spoke to me without looking away from the fight.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but as long as Ethan is conscious, he’s dangerous.” A tear leaked down her cheek, and her hand tightened on my arm, like it was taking everything she had not to interfere.
I knew she was right, no matter how much I hated it. Ethan was ridiculously good at magic, and I had no idea what the limitations of his power were. If he had suddenly gone crazy during the night, then he could probably kill us all with a single spell.
Eventually, Ethan went limp, and Keane stopped hitting him, though he remained sitting on his body, poised for action and panting with exertion. After the incident when Ethan had taken Keane’s shield spell down during our sparring session, I might have thought Keane would enjoy beating him unconscious, but he didn’t look like he was having fun.
“Get something to tie him up with,” Keane ordered, not taking his eyes off of Ethan. “I don’t know how long he’ll stay out.”
I didn’t know if he was talking to me or to Kimber, but since I was the only one who had anything other than the clothes I was wearing, I ran to my backpack and yanked the zipper open. My hands were shaking, and I was having a hard time catching my breath as I pawed blindly through my belongings.
I’d been locked in a nightmare about the Erlking when Ethan had attacked me. I didn’t think that was a coincidence. I had freed Ethan from the Wild Hunt, but because he wore the Erlking’s mark on his face, Ethan was still subject to his will. I’d been off-limits to the Erlking on this journey because of Titania’s guarantee of safe passage. I suspected that guarantee had been revoked and the Seelie Queen had just sicced the Wild Hunt on me.
I didn’t exactly have rope stuffed in my backpack, and my frantic searching didn’t find anything even vaguely ropelike. I flinched when I heard the sound of fist hitting flesh again.
“Hurry up!” Keane barked.
Kimber yanked a T-shirt I was pulling out of the backpack from my hands, and I turned to see her easily tear a shred off of it. Well, that solved that problem.
Still shaking and almost sick to my stomach, I watched as Kimber and Keane ripped apart my shirt, then bound Ethan hand and foot. Ethan’s face was badly bruised, and bloody from a split lip. I couldn’t help suspecting Keane had beat on him more than necessary to subdue him, but I bit my lip to keep myself from saying so. Starting another fight was not going to improve the situation.
When Ethan was thoroughly trussed, Kimber turned to me while Keane hovered over her brother with a watchful eye.
“What happened?” she asked, but from the look on her face I thought she’d already guessed.
“I was dreaming about the Erlking,” I said, “and when I woke up, Ethan was trying to drag me away into the woods.”
Keane cursed, and Kimber looked like she was on the verge of tears. I don’t even want to know what I looked like. The pain in my heart was almost too much to bear, even though I knew Ethan hadn’t been responsible for what he’d done. Gingerly, I rubbed the spot on my arm where I’d taken the punch. It throbbed steadily, and I was going to have a humongous bruise in the morning.
Ethan moaned softly, and we all went on red alert. Keane knelt beside him, ready to grab him if he went berserk despite being tied up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Kimber hugged herself and looked worried while I knelt at Ethan’s other side.
“Ethan?” I said. “Ethan, can you hear me?”
He dragged in a shaky-sounding breath, and his eyes fluttered open. He hissed and quickly closed his eyes again, his skin going a sickly shade of green.
“You puke on me and we’ll be going another round,” Keane growled, all heart as usual.
Ethan’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he said, his eyes still firmly closed, his voice tight with pain.
“Are you all right?” I asked, then wanted to slap myself for the question. No, he wasn’t all right. In more ways than one.
He shrugged as best he could with his hands tied. “Been better.” He cracked his eyes open again. His wince said it hurt.
“Are you you again?” Keane asked.
Ethan sucked in a deep breath. “Yeah. For the moment, at least. Whatever you do, don’t untie me.”
“Wasn’t planning to,” Keane said.
Ethan looked up at me, his expression stricken. “I’m so sorry, Dana. He ordered me to bring you to him, and I couldn’t disobey him. I tried to be noisy about it so Keane and Kimber would stop me, but that was the best I could do.”
“I know,” I assured him, laying my hand on his shoulder. I wished I could think of something to say that would make him feel better, but he’d been bitter about the hold the Erlking had on him before this.