His empty clothes fell to the floor.

Chapter twenty-three

The hall fell completely silent, everyone staring in shock and confusion at the pile of clothes that had once been Prince Henry. Everyone except Arawn, of course, who wasn’t surprised by what had happened and was stroking Elizabeth’s hair as she quietly cried.

Titania, still showing no emotion, walked slowly toward Henry’s clothes. When she reached them, she gave them a little nudge with her foot, as if she wasn’t sure that Henry wasn’t still there. Then she knelt beside them and ran her hand over the rich velvet fabric, the gesture almost tender, like she was brushing the hair out of a child’s face.

I sat very still on the floor, hugging myself and tucking my hands under my arms to hide their trembling.

I’d just killed a person. No, Henry’s wasn’t the first death I was at least partially responsible for. I had used my terrible spell against Aunt Grace, but it wasn’t my spell that killed her, at least not directly. And though I’d hated her, I hadn’t actually been trying to kill her. But I’d known Henry would die when I cast my spell on him. I was a murderer.

“Killing someone in self-defense is not a crime,” Arawn said, his voice seeming to echo through the hall. I didn’t know if he was talking to me, or to Titania. Maybe both.

Titania rose to her feet slowly, moving like an old lady. Her expression was still tightly controlled, but I got the feeling she was holding on to that control by a thread. I also got the feeling it would be bad news for everyone around her if she lost that control. There was a palpable tension in the air, and it wasn’t just because of the shock of Henry’s death. Her eyes locked on me, and the ancient power in her gaze held me trapped as she stepped away from Henry’s body—well, Henry’s clothes—and came toward me.

My instinct for self-preservation suggested I start humming again, but I resisted the urge. Threatening the Queen didn’t seem like such a hot idea after I’d just killed her son. I’m sure she’d been plenty mad at him after what he’d done, but I knew from experience that it was hard to stop loving family, even when they screwed up.

“What did you do to my son?” Titania asked, her voice as icy as it had ever been.

I licked my lips nervously. “I, um, made him mortal, I think. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t let him take me. Or Elizabeth.” Inspiration hit me, though I might have been confusing inspiration with desperation. “Elizabeth is your granddaughter. You saw how he treated her: like a piece of property, one he didn’t have to take good care of. He shot her, and if Arawn hadn’t spoken up, Henry would have been just as happy to let her die. Never mind what you think about me, but did you really want him leaving here with her as his prisoner? Again?”

I couldn’t tell from looking at her whether my argument was having any effect or not. Poker players everywhere would envy her lack of expression.

“I should have you executed,” she said, and one of the trolls eagerly stepped forward. Volunteering for the job, I guess.

“She has committed no crime,” Arawn said. I wasn’t sure why he was defending me, but I wasn’t about to complain. I seemed to be very good at annoying the Fae. I didn’t want to annoy Titania while she was deciding whether to execute me, so I was happy to let Arawn do the talking.

“She killed my son.”

“In self-defense. And after he had shot her and your granddaughter and held a mortal weapon to your head. Surely you can’t blame her for that.”

“Henry would never have resorted to such drastic methods had she not forced him into it.”

It didn’t sound like Titania was much for forgiving and forgetting. Maybe I should start calling magic after all. Only now everyone was aware I could do it, and I suspected I’d be dead before the first note left my lips. Henry’s magic might have protected him from being killed by one deadly spell—except for mine—but I didn’t have the same luxury.

“He sired a Faeriewalker, Titania,” Arawn said with what sounded like a hint of exasperation in his voice. “Sired her and then kept her secret from everyone, including you. You can’t imagine his motives for doing that were pure.”

Titania considered that for a long, painful moment. Then she turned to Elizabeth, and her voice softened.

“Where is your mother, child?” she asked.

Elizabeth still looked like she was one wrong move away from fainting in terror, but she managed to answer. “He killed her,” she said, sounding even younger than she was. “He came to Avalon about three years ago and he visited my mother.” Her eyes welled with tears. “She was so happy that I would finally have a chance to meet my father. But when he found out about me…” Her voice trailed off.

“What happened when he found out about you?” Titania prompted. Considering how cold and terrifying she was capable of being, I had to admit I was impressed by how gently she spoke to Elizabeth.

“He killed her,” Elizabeth whispered. “He killed her and took me away. Then he brought me to Faerie.”

Titania looked appalled. “That cannot be,” she said, but it didn’t sound like she believed her own words.

“Dana did you a favor,” Arawn said. “Let her go, and be consoled that you have gained a granddaughter.”

“I will think on it,” Titania responded.

A Fae serving woman stepped through the fake wall and into the hallway. She didn’t look surprised by what she saw, so I guessed she’d been summoned somehow. Titania beckoned the woman forward, putting a hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder.