The Iron Daughter, Page 30Julie Kagawa
She waggled her fingers at me and vanished in a swirl of glitter. I blinked and fought the urge to sneeze.
“Show-off,” Puck muttered, appearing from behind one of the bookshelves, as if he’d been waiting for her to leave. He crossed the room to perch on the armrest, rolling his eyes. “She could’ve left without all the sparkly. But then, Lea always knew how to make an exit. ”
“BUT SHE IS GONE. ” Ironhorse hurried over, looking around as if he feared Leanansidhe was really hiding behind one of the chairs in the room, listening to him. “SHE IS
GONE, AND WE CAN FIND A WAY OUT OF HERE. ”
“And do what, exactly?” Grimalkin raised his head and gave him a scornful look. “We still do not know where the scepter is. We would only be announcing our presence to the enemy and lowering our chances of finding it. ”
“Furball’s right, unfortunately,” Puck sighed. “Lea’s not the easiest fey to deal with, but she’s true to her word, and she has the best chance of finding the scepter. We should stay put until we actually know where it is. ”
“SO. ” Ironhorse crossed his massive arms, his eyes smoldering heat and fury.
“THAT IS THE PLAN FROM THE GREAT ROBIN GOODFELLOW. WE SIT HERE AND
DO NOTHING. ”
“And what’s your brilliant plan, Rusty? Go clomping off to the city and poke our noses into every major corporation until the scepter falls on our heads?”
“PRINCESS. ” Ironhorse turned to me. “THIS IS FOOLISH. WHY WAIT
HERE ANY LONGER? DON’T YOU WANT TO FIND THE SCEPTER? DON’T YOU
WANT TO FIND PRINCE ASH—”
“Stop right there. ” My voice dropped a few degrees, and maybe Ironhorse heard the warning in it because he quickly shut up. I stood, clenching my fists. “Don’t you dare bring Ash into this,” I hissed, making him take a step back. “Yes, I want to find him—he’s on my mind every single day. But I can’t, because we have to find the scepter first. And even if the scepter wasn’t an issue, I still couldn’t do anything about Ash because he doesn’t want to be found. Not by me. He made that perfectly clear last I saw him. ” My throat started to close up, and I took a shaky breath to fight it. “So, the answer to your question is, yes, I want to find Ash. But I can’t. Because the damn scepter is more important. And I’m not gonna screw up just because you can’t sit still for two damn minutes. ” Tears welled, and I blinked angrily, aware that all three were staring like my head was on fire. I couldn’t tell what Ironhorse was thinking behind that expressionless mask, but Grimalkin looked bored, and Puck’s face was balanced between jealousy and pity.
Which pissed me off even more.
“Meghan,” Puck began, but I spun around and stormed out before I really started bawling. He called after me, but I ignored him, swearing that if he grabbed me or got in my way he would get an earful.
“Let her go,” I heard Grimalkin say as I bashed the door open. “She would not hear you now, Goodfellow. She wants only him. ”
The door swung shut behind me, and I stomped down the hall, fighting angry tears.
It wasn’t fair. I was tired of being responsible, tired of making the hard decisions because it was the right thing to do. I wanted nothing more than to find Ash and beg him to reconsider. We could be together; we could find a way to make it work if we tried hard enough, screw the consequences. And the scepter.
The hallways stretched on, each one similar to the last: narrow, dark and red. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t really care. I just wanted to get away from Puck and Ironhorse, to be alone with my selfish wishes for a while. Statues, paintings and musical instruments lined the corridors; some of them vibrated softly as I passed, faint shivers of music hanging on the air.
Finally, I sank down beside a harp, ignoring a piskie that watched from the end of the hall, and buried my face in my hands.
Ash. I miss you.
My eyes stung. I swiped at them angrily, determined not to cry. The harp thrummed in my ear, sounding curious and sympathetic. Idly, I drew my finger across the strings, and it released a mournful, shivery note that echoed down the hall. Another chord answered it, and another. I raised my head and listened as the low, faint strains of piano music drifted into the corridor. The song was dark, haunting and strangely familiar. Wiping my eyes, I stood and followed it, down the twisted hallways, past instruments that hummed and added their voices to the melody.
The song led me to pair of dark red doors with gilded handles. Beyond the wood, it sounded like a symphony was in full swing. Cautiously, I pushed the doors open and stepped into a large, circular red room.
Waves of music flowed over me. The room was full of instruments: harps and cellos and violins, along with a few guitars and even a ukulele. In the middle of the room, Charles sat hunched over the keys of a baby grand piano, eyes closed as his fingers flew over the instrument. Along the walls, the other instruments thrummed and trilled and lent their strains to the melody, turning the cacophony into something pure and wondrous. The music was a living thing, swirling around the room, dark and eerie and haunted, bringing new tears to my eyes. I sank onto a red velvet couch and gave in to my churning emotions. I know this song.
But try as I might, I couldn’t remember from where. The memory taunted me, keeping just out of reach, a gaping hole where the image should be. But the melody, mysterious and devastatingly familiar, pulled at my insides, filling me with sadness and a gaping sense of loss.
Tears flowing freely down my skin, I watched Charles’s lean shoulders rise and fall with the chords, his head so low it almost touched the keys. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought his cheeks were wet, too.
When the last note died away, neither of us moved for several heartbeats. Charles sat there, his fingers resting on the final keys, breathing hard. My mind was still spinning in circles, trying to remember the tune. But the longer I sat there, trying to recall it, the farther it slipped away, vanishing into the walls and carpet, until only the instruments remembered it at all.
Charles finally pushed the seat back and rose, and I stood with him, feeling faintly guilty for eavesdropping.
“That was beautiful,” I said as he turned. He blinked, obviously surprised to see me there, but he didn’t startle or jump. “What was the name of the song?”
The question seemed to confuse him. He frowned and cocked his head, furrowing his brow as if trying to understand me. Then a sorrowful expression crossed his face, and he shrugged. “I don’t remember. ”
I felt a pang of disappointment. “Oh. ”
“But…” He paused, running his fingers along the ivory keys, a faraway look in his eyes. “I seem to recall it was a favorite of mine. Long ago. I think. ” He blinked, and his eyes focused on me again. “Do you know what it’s called?”
I shook my head.
“Oh. That’s too bad. ” He sighed, pouting a bit. “The rats said you might remember. ”
Okay, now it was time to leave. I stood, but before I could make my escape, the door creaked open, and Warren entered the room.
“Oh, hey, Meghan. ” He licked his lips, eyes darting about in a nervous fashion. One hand was tucked into his jacket, hiding it from view. “I…um…I’m looking for Puck. Is he here?”
Something about him put me off. I shifted uncomfortably and crossed my arms. “No. I think he’s in the library with Ironhorse. ”
“Good. ” He stepped in farther, pulling his hand out of his jacket. The lights gleamed along the black barrel of a gun as he raised the muzzle and pointed it at me. I went stiff with shock, and Warren glanced over his shoulder. “Okay,” he called, “coast is clear. ”
The door swung open, and a half-dozen redcaps poured into the room behind him. The one with the fishhook in his nose, Razor Dan, stepped forward and leered at me with a mouthful of jagged teeth.
“You sure this is the one, half-breed?”
Warren smirked. “I
’m sure,” he replied, never taking the gun, or his eyes, off me. “The Iron King will reward us handsomely for this, you have my word. ”
“Bastard,” I hissed at Warren, making the redcaps snicker. “Traitor. Why are you doing this? Leanansidhe gives you everything. ”
“Oh, come on. ” Warren sneered and shook his head. “You act like it’s a total shock that I want something better than this. ” He gestured around the foyer with his free hand.
“Being a minion in Leanansidhe’s sorry refugee cult hasn’t exactly been my life goal, Princess. So I’m a little bitter, yeah. But the new Iron King is offering half-breeds and exiles part of the Nevernever and a chance to kick the pure-blooded asses of all the dicks who stomped on us if we just do him a teensy favor and find you. And you were nice enough to drop into my lap. ”
“You’ll never get away with it,” I told him desperately. “Puck and Ironhorse will come looking for me. And Leanansidhe—”
“By the time Leanansidhe gets back, we’ll be long gone,” Warren interrupted. “And the rest of Dan’s crew is taking care of Goodfellow and the iron monster, so they’re a little busy at the moment. I’m afraid that no one is coming to your rescue, Princess. ”
“Warren,” snapped Razor Dan with an impatient glare. “We don’t have time to gloat, you idiot. Shoot the crazy and let’s get out of here before Leanansidhe comes back. ”
My stomach clenched tight. Warren rolled his eyes, swinging the barrel of the gun around to Charles. Charles stiffened, seeming to grasp what was happening as Warren gave him a crooked leer.
“Sorry, Charles,” he muttered, and the gun filled my vision, cold, black and steely. I saw the opening of the barrel like Edgebriar’s iron ring, and felt a buzzing beneath my skin. “It’s nothing personal. You just got in the way. ”
Tighten, I thought at the pistol barrel, just as Warren pulled the trigger. A roar shattered the air as the gun exploded in Warren’s hand, sending the half-satyr stumbling back. Screaming, he dropped the mangled remains of the weapon and clutched his hand to his chest as the smell of smoke and burning flesh filled the room. The redcaps stared wide-eyed at Warren as he collapsed to his knees, wailing and shaking his charred hand. “What are you waiting for?” he screamed at them, his voice half shout and half sob. “Kill the crazy and get the girl!”