No one had time to react. By the time I saw the glint of metal in Henry’s hand and tried to shout a warning, the gun had already fired.
A giant fist punched me in the shoulder, the impact so brutal I fell backward onto the carpet of rose petals. Elizabeth screamed, and Arawn tried to shield her with his body, but even the Erlking wasn’t fast enough to intercept a bullet. The gun boomed again, and Elizabeth’s scream turned to a shriek as blood suddenly spotted the front of her dress. Her eyes went wide with shock, and she sank to her knees.
I touched my shaking hand to my shoulder, and it came away wet with blood.
“Nobody move!” Henry yelled.
My vision swam, and I felt like the room was bucking beneath me. Maybe that was just the footsteps of the Knights and trolls as they reacted to Henry’s surprise attack. Magic filled the air, making it hard to breathe.
“Anyone casts a spell, and she’s dead!” Henry barked. I had to blink a few times to clear my vision enough to see that he’d put the gun to Titania’s head. “And trust me, I can shoot faster than you can get the Faeriewalkers out of range.”
Oh, a dispassionate voice in my head murmured. That’s why he shot us. To keep us from running away and making the gun go poof. I wondered how many other mortal weapons he had smuggled into Faerie with Elizabeth’s help.
I forced myself up into a sitting position. I thought for a minute I was going to pass out. Blood ran hotly down my chest, and my right arm didn’t want to move. I was weak and nauseous, but it didn’t hurt much at all. I’d read enough books to figure that wasn’t a good sign, but I was thankful not to have to feel it.
Elizabeth was in worse shape than me. Henry’s shot had hit me in the shoulder, but he’d hit her in the chest. She was lying on her back, spatters of her blood making the white rose petals look red. Her chest was moving with her breaths, but she was unconscious, and far too pale. Maybe Henry had intended to kill her—he only needed one of us alive and in the vicinity to keep the gun operational—or maybe he’d been aiming for her shoulder, too, and had missed. He probably didn’t have much practice with mortal weapons. Either way, I knew she was in dire trouble.
The Knights and the trolls had frozen in place with the threat to their Queen. I’d have doubted Henry would shoot his own mother, except he’d obviously had no compunction about shooting his daughter.
Arawn spared a withering look for the Knights who had brought Elizabeth to Titania’s room. “You didn’t think to check him for mortal weapons before you brought him into the Queen’s presence with a suspected Faeriewalker at his side and a charge of treason looming over his head?” He shook his head in disgust, then turned to Henry.
“You are aware she is not my Queen,” Arawn said to Henry. He spoke in a normal tone of voice, as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening.
“And therefore this is none of your business,” Henry responded. “I’m sure you and my mother have some agreements you’d prefer not to lose, so you would prefer not to see the throne change hands. I suggest you stay out of the way.”
Arawn shrugged. “Very well. But you’ve gone through a great deal of trouble to make sure you have a Faeriewalker at your disposal. I assure you, your daughter would make a more tractable servant than Dana, so please allow me to heal the child’s injury before she expires.”
I crawled over to Elizabeth and took her hand in mine. I didn’t know if she could feel it, but after giving her up as I had, I had to give her whatever comfort I could. Her eyelashes fluttered briefly at my touch, but she didn’t open her eyes.
“You may heal her,” Henry said, “but make no attempt to move her or the other Faeriewalker.”
Arawn nodded, then moved slowly to Elizabeth’s other side, keeping a wary eye on Henry as he did so. Not that Henry’s gun could do him any damage, but perhaps he actually cared what happened to Titania. He had been in her bed, after all.
“Now, Mother,” Henry said, “we must put this unfortunate misunderstanding behind us. To that end, you will accept a geis not to harm me nor cause any other person to harm me. We will then peacefully go our separate ways.”
Arawn looked at me across Elizabeth’s body, as he put his hand over the bloody wound.
“You have to kill him, Dana,” he murmured, his voice so soft I almost didn’t hear him over the thudding of my heart.
I blinked stupidly at him, my mind feeling all blurry as the first hints of pain worked their way into my consciousness. “Huh?”
“You’re the only one who can,” Arawn continued, not looking at me anymore. He was trying hard to make sure Henry didn’t realize he was talking to me. “The Sidhe are hard to kill, remember? The Knights would need multiple spells to destroy him, and he will kill Titania as soon as the first is released. You need only one.”
Elizabeth made a soft, whimpering sound, and I squeezed her hand harder. I’d seen the Erlking heal a bullet wound before, and it hadn’t looked like much fun for the healee.
He was joking, right?
“Do you agree to my geis?” Henry asked the queen.
Titania stood tall and proud, her expression devoid of anything resembling human emotion. Her son had betrayed her and was even now threatening her life, but she looked neither hurt nor scared nor angry. I’d seen statues that conveyed more emotion than the Faerie Queen did right now.
“If she agrees,” Arawn continued, “he’ll get away with it. With almost killing Elaine, with framing you, with abusing his child and then shooting her.”