The pain in my shoulder had become a steady throb, but I thought it wasn’t bleeding quite so much anymore. Elizabeth’s back arched, and her hand nearly crushed mine as a cry tore from her throat. With a shudder, she went limp, and the Erlking moved his hand away from the wound, holding a squashed bullet between his fingers.
I shivered, suddenly cold. I hoped that meant I was chilled by the Erlking’s suggestion, not that I was in the process of bleeding out.
“It is agreed,” Titania said. I knew that wasn’t good, but my head was foggy enough that for a moment, I forgot why.
“Dana!” Arawn said in an urgent hiss. “You haven’t much time.”
I blinked, swaying and wondering if it would be okay if I lay down. “You kill him,” I mumbled. “You’re not part of her Court, so you’re not covered by the agreement.”
“But I would need Titania’s permission to kill him, and the geis will not allow her to give it to me.”
Oh. That sucked.
“Guess he’s getting away with it,” I said, because there was no way I was going to kill someone in cold blood. Even assuming I was able to gather enough magic to cast my spell before I passed out.
There was already plenty of magic in the air, though thanks to the gun at Titania’s head, no one dared unleash it, but I felt a surge as she accepted the geis Henry forced on her.
I thought it was all over now, that Henry would lower the gun and leave the building and then I could allow myself to collapse. But he wasn’t finished. The gun was still at the Queen’s head.
“I am going to leave the palace now,” he said. “And I’m taking the Faeriewalkers with me. Both of them. Agree that you will make no attempt to stop me.”
Uh-oh. That couldn’t be good. Not for me, and not for Elizabeth.
“Do it now,” the Erlking urged me. “If you leave the palace with him, you will be in no shape to defend yourself later.”
“I’m in no shape to defend myself now,” I said. At least, I think that’s what I said. My words were slurring, my vision swimming
Arawn reached over and grabbed my shoulder, his hand coming down right over the bullet wound. And suddenly, I had no trouble whatsoever feeling the pain.
I couldn’t suppress a scream.
“Take your hands off my property!” Henry shouted, and Arawn sat back on his heels and wiped his hands on his pants.
“I was merely removing the bullet,” he said mildly.
“Don’t touch her again. She is mine.”
“Or at least will be, if Her Majesty agrees to your terms,” the Erlking corrected, and I knew his words were directed more at me than at Henry.
My wounded shoulder was still throbbing, but my head was a little clearer, and I no longer thought I would pass out any moment.
“Help me,” Elizabeth said, and I realized I was still holding her hand. She was conscious, but that was about the best I could say about her condition. Her cheeks were almost as pale as the rose petals. And there was a glassy look in her eyes, like she was on the verge of shock. “Don’t let him take me again. Please. I’d rather die.”
She couldn’t have understood exactly what the Erlking was asking me to do. There were only a handful of people who knew I could do magic at all, and only the Erlking and Ethan knew about my deadly spell. But she did understand that I somehow had the power to kill Henry, and she desperately wanted me to do it.
The terror on Elizabeth’s face was more than I could bear.
There was a roaring sound in my ears, so loud I couldn’t hear whatever Henry and Titania said next. I could, however, feel the swell of magic, and I knew that Titania had agreed to let Henry take both me and Elizabeth. Henry lowered the gun, a self-satisfied smile on his face. Then he strode through the doorway, between the two furious-looking trolls, and headed toward us.
If it had been just myself I was defending, I probably would have hesitated, maybe long enough to make self-defense impossible. But through our clasped hands, I could feel Elizabeth trembling as she cowered on the floor, curled almost into fetal position. And I knew I couldn’t let Henry take her. Not again.
The roaring in my ears drowned out the sound, but I felt the vibration in my head as I started to hum under my breath. The air was already thick with magic. It didn’t appear as if the Knights had lowered their guard one iota, despite knowing they couldn’t hurt Henry. The magic prickled over my skin and made breathing hard, and I wasn’t sure whether it was responding to my call, or if it was just a residual effect of all the Knights’ magic.
I watched Henry approach as I continued to hum. I couldn’t be sure the magic was paying attention to me, and that was probably a good thing. As long as I couldn’t tell where the magic was coming from, no one else could, either, and they couldn’t stop me.
Henry met my glare with a spark of gloating malice. He’d disliked me before he’d even met me, just because I was my father’s daughter. And now he thought he was getting to hurt me and my father by making me his helpless prisoner.
I waited until he was only a couple of steps away before I released my shrill high note, sending the magic at him in a barely controlled rush.
The magic slammed into Henry’s chest, lifting him off his feet. His eyes widened in shock and fear, and he let out a shriek as the magic propelled him away from me, back through the door into Titania’s room. He almost bowled into Titania herself, but she sidestepped neatly and avoided his flailing arms as he tried to grab on to her. He was flying straight for the far wall, but just before he slammed into it, there was a strange popping sound, and Henry just … disappeared.