I unzipped my backpack, looking for something that definitely didn’t belong in Faerie. The first thing I came upon was my camera, but I was reluctant to part with it.
“How about this?” the Erlking suggested, holding up my gun. “I have no plans to give it back to you, and as soon as I leave your presence it will be gone anyway.”
I nodded. The gun had outlived its usefulness. The Erlking walked to the other end of the room, putting the gun on the floor approximately where my watch had been.
“Bring her closer,” Titania ordered her Knight, who yanked Elizabeth forward, practically pulling her off her feet.
Henry was still trying to play it calm, but he wasn’t doing a very good job of it. His facial expression might have been bland, but every muscle in his body looked coiled and tight. I didn’t need to see the gun disappear to be sure that I was right, but Titania would need the concrete proof.
The Knight shoved Elizabeth down to her knees while still keeping hold of her arm. She gave a little cry of pain, quickly stifled.
“There is no reason to be brutal with the poor child,” Arawn said, stepping forward and getting up into the Knight’s face. “She isn’t going anywhere.”
The Knight paled and let go of Elizabeth’s arm, taking a hasty step back. Even one of the Queen’s Knights knew better than to mess with the Erlking.
My stomach twisted as I realized the Erlking was already beginning his campaign to seduce Elizabeth, coming to her rescue, showing her kindness when no one else would. She was a miserable, broken creature, and even younger than me. What were the chances she could resist Arawn’s charms? He certainly had them, when he wanted to. Somehow, I was going to have to find a way to warn her of her danger.
But I was getting ahead of myself. I still had to prove she was a Faeriewalker. And once I did, Titania might turn her over to the Erlking anyway.
“This is a trick,” Henry said. “That is not truly a mortal weapon. It is merely an illusion, and Seamus has arranged this.”
I might have blurted an outraged response, except Titania’s laugh surprised me into silence. Henry’s cheeks reddened, and his eyes flashed with anger. And a hint of fear, I was sure of it.
“Seamus is a clever and subtle man,” Titania said, “but I’m sure he could have found a simpler way than this to strike at you if he wished.” She stalked closer to him, the coldness of her gaze now directed at him rather than me. “You seem strangely reluctant to see this test carried out, my son. Almost as though you already know this child is a Faeriewalker. Perhaps I begin to understand why you were so opposed to my decision to invite Seamus’s daughter to Court.”
Henry shook his head. “You cannot possibly think that of me! I am merely concerned that this is a trick.”
Titania’s smile was almost wry. “And that I am too weak-minded to see through such a trick?”
That shut him up, at least momentarily. His hand rubbed nervously over his hip, and I wondered if he had a weapon concealed somewhere in his doublet.
Titania turned to me and nodded. I took that as my cue to leave the room, so I made my way hastily to the door. I had to go around Henry to get there, and I didn’t like that one bit. He’d stopped rubbing his hip, and I saw no sign of a weapon in his hand, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t one.
The only thing that kept me moving forward was the conviction that Henry didn’t dare kill me in front of all these people, especially when that would make him look guiltier than ever. I let out a breath I hadn’t even realized I was holding when I made it past him without incident and walked through the door out into the hall. I made a point of walking past where I’d stood when the watch disappeared, just to make it doubly obvious that the gun was still there.
“Now the child,” Titania said.
The Knight who’d dragged Elizabeth into the room cast a brief, worried look at Arawn before reaching for her again. Arawn stopped him with a forbidding glare.
“I will escort her,” Arawn said, and when Titania didn’t object, the Knight backed off.
Elizabeth still looked terrified, but Arawn bent and said something to her I couldn’t hear. She sniffled and nodded, then allowed him to help her to her feet.
“Just look at her!” Henry said, and now he sounded downright desperate. “Does she look like a half-breed? You can plainly see mortal blood in that one.” He gestured contemptuously at me. “But Elizabeth is entirely Fae. You may check for glamour if you’d like.”
“How kind of you to allow me such a privilege,” Titania said acidly. “Looks can be deceiving, and I will not rely on them to tell me whether the child is a Faeriewalker or not. Arawn, please take her out of the room.”
Arawn bowed, then put a hand lightly on Elizabeth’s back and guided her toward the door. She looked even tinier and more vulnerable next to him. She wiped tears from her face as she walked, but her cheeks were still blotchy and her eyes red and swollen. I had to fight another surge of guilt.
I forced my eyes away from Elizabeth’s pitiful figure and watched Titania instead. The Queen was facing away from the door, watching the gun. Henry was looking back and forth between her and the gun, no doubt trying to figure out how to salvage the situation.
When Titania suddenly whirled on Henry with a snarl, I knew the gun had disappeared. And then Henry did what any trapped animal would do: he attacked.
I’d been right all along. Henry did have a concealed weapon. He must have known the moment the Knights had come for Elizabeth that he was in deep trouble.