Mercy Thompson

 
 

Mercy Thompson Book 5 - Page 69


She'd have been right had it not been for one thing. I didn't own the Silver Borne; Phin did. When she killed me, all she'd get was a boatful of trouble - and I'd do my best to convince her of that once the others were free. All I'd have to do would be hold out until Adam came to get me.

Of course, if Ariana managed to hold on to the last shape the fae took, it would make my life a lot easier.

For three minutes, Ariana held on to the werewolf - and then it changed. The hound looked a little like a giant beagle: white with brown spots, rounded ears that hung on either side of its face, but there was no sign of the friendly expression that most beagles live and die with.

Ariana looked at the hound she held, her arms wrapped around its throat and her legs tucked almost under its body. For a moment, nothing happened and, despite myself, I felt a great leap of hope. I didn't want to be left alone with the fairy queen, who wanted to kill me.

Then Ariana rolled away from the hound, who must have looked like one of the hounds her father had tortured her with, and curled into a fetal position, her mouth open and screaming, but the sounds locked in by terror. Samuel picked her up and crooned to her. Not saying anything, just giving her his voice. He hadn't forgotten who the enemy was, though. His eyes were on the fairy queen.

"Five," said the fairy queen, sounding moderately grumpy. "I thought I might get to keep you, werewolf, too, but she was stronger than I thought."

Samuel snarled at her.

I noticed that Zee's rock, lying on the ground under the belly of the hound, who was focused on Ariana, was flickering.

"Samuel," I told him urgently. "Zee will be waiting. Get the kids and Phin, too - " Especially Phin. Any fae willing to use a black witch and allow her to torture another being was not someone I wanted to give more power to. We needed to get Phin out of here and safe so the Silver Borne was out of her reach. "Take them and get out of here."

"Can't you help me up?" Phin asked Gabriel. He knew what we needed.

There was a momentary pause, but when the queen didn't interfere with Phin's request, Gabriel helped him to his feet.

"You," said the queen, pointing to the fae nearest to her. "You take them to Outside and let them leave. You'll have to carry the human man." She looked at Jesse, then glanced at Gabriel. "Go, children, and when you are outside my Elphame, be thou as thou wert."

The fae she'd pointed to bowed deeply and picked Phin up with the same ease that Ariana had displayed. Not all fae are so strong. Silently, Jesse and Gabriel followed him when he started out the door.

Samuel stopped and kissed my cheek, still holding Ariana, who was shivering in terror. "Stay alive," he told me.

"Planning on it," I said. I gave Ariana, who was very deep into a panic attack, a wary look. I remembered her concern when she'd returned to herself last time, and so I added, "You stay alive, too. Now get out while the getting is good."

"Semper Fi," he said, glancing down at Zee's rock. Then he hurried after the others.

So far as I knew, Samuel had never been a Marine. But he'd known I'd catch the reference. The Marines never leave a man behind. He'd be back, and so would Adam. All I had to do was survive.

We all waited until the fae who had escorted them out returned. He bowed to the queen, and said, "They are Outside, safe and alive, my queen."

I took a deep breath, and a few seconds later Zee's stone was just another gray rock among the roots in the floor of the cave. They'd made it with almost two minutes to spare by my rough count - though probably Zee had held the opening until he saw them.

"My bargain is done," the queen told me.

"Fine," I said.

"You will exchange the book for your life."

"Nope." I shook my head. "I've considered it - and decided that it is not going to happen."

There were no humans to protect anymore. Just me. Worry over what the witch might do if I freed her made me hesitate before I pulled my gun - and it was one hesitation too many. I reached under my T-shirt, and two of the queen's people grabbed my arms. The gun fell on the ground, and the fairy queen kicked it aside - well out of the witch's reach.

"You misunderstand," she told me. "I will take your life, and you will give me the book with your death."

"I thought I had to own the book before that worked," I said in a puzzled voice.

The fairy queen stared at me. "Did you give the book to someone before you came down here?"

"Not the way you mean it," I answered.

"How would you mean it?" she said softly.

"Why would I answer that?" I asked. The fairy queen gave a sharp nod, and the witch reached out and touched me.
* * *

I CAME BACK TO MYSELF LYING ON THE BED WHERE Phin had been. At least it smelled like Phin, but the room was made of roots and dirt rather than marble. I was confused for a moment, but then I woke more fully and realized that I'd never seen it without the glamour - just smelled it.

My whole body hurt, though I had no additional bruises. I'd held out as long as I could, to give Samuel and Adam time to make everyone safe. I didn't know if it was long enough. I'd expected to be dead when it was over. But I could work with unexpected results - even if it involved using a chamber pot. That had to be what the white porcelain vessel under the other bed was. The fairy queen had a kitchen with fridges and everything and didn't have a bathroom? I considered it a minute and decided that maybe she just didn't have a bathroom for prisoners.

After a very long time that was probably no more than an hour after I woke up, the door opened, and the queen walked in with two female attendants, and two male.

The first man was the fae who had seen Samuel and the rest out. He was tall, taller than Samuel, with seafoam eyes. For the first time, I realized he was the water fae who'd broken into the bookstore. The second man was short by human standards but not oddly so. His skin was green and rippled like the waves of an ocean at sea. Like the fairy queen, he had wings on his back, though his were grayish and leathery and less insectlike.

One of the women was carrying a chair. She was nearly human in appearance except that her eyes were orange and her skin pale, pale blue. The second woman was covered, head to toe, with sleek brown hair about two inches long, and her arms were a third again as long as they should have been. She was carrying a narrow silver ring just big enough to fit around my neck.

At the sight of the silver ring, I tried to run. The tall man caught me and sat me in the chair while the woman who'd carried it in tied me into it: wrists, elbows, and ankles.