The Iron Daughter, Page 31Julie Kagawa
The redcap closest to me snarled and lunged. I shrank back, but Charles suddenly stepped between us. Before the redcap could dodge, he grabbed a cello off the wall and smashed it down over its head. The instrument let out a shriek, as if in pain, and the redcap crumpled the floor.
Razor Dan sighed.
“All right, lads,” he growled, as I grabbed Charles’s hand and pulled him back behind the piano. “All together now. Get them!”
Behind them, the door burst open with a furious roar, and two redcaps were hurled through the air, landing face-first into the wall. The pack spun around, their eyes going wide as Ironhorse barreled into them, swinging his huge fists and bellowing at the top of his lungs. Several redcaps went flying and the rest swarmed him with bloodthirsty cries, biting at his arms and legs. They fell back, shrieking in pain, teeth shattered, mouths blackened and raw. Ironhorse continued to hurl them away like he’d gone berserk.
“Hey, Princess. ” Puck appeared beside me, grinning from ear to ear.
“Grimalkin said you were having redcap trouble. We’re here to help, although I must say Rusty is doing fine on his own. ” He ducked as a redcap flew overhead, landing with a crunch against the wall. “I’ll have to remember to keep him around. He’d be great fun at parties, don’t you think?”
The redcap Ironhorse had thrown into the wall staggered to his feet, looking dazed. Seeing us, he bared a mouthful of broken teeth and tensed to lunge. Puck grinned and pulled out his dagger, but there was an explosion of light between them, and a ringing voice filled the hallway.
“Well,” Leanansidhe said, striding over to me and Puck. “Turns out this game was a rousing success. Although, I must say, I was hoping to be surprised. It gets rather boring when you’re right about everything. ”
“L-Leanansidhe,” Razor Dan stammered, all the blood draining from his face as she regarded him with her fearsome smile. “H-how…? You’re supposed to be in Nashville. ”
“Dan, darling. ” Leanansidhe shook her head and tsked. “Did you really think I was blind to what was going on? In my own house? I know the rumors circulating the streets, pet. I know the Iron King has been offering rewards for the girl. I had the feeling there was a traitor in my house, a so-called agent of the Iron King. What better way to flush him out than to leave him alone with the princess and wait for him to make his move? Your kind is so very predictable, darling. ”
“We…” Dan glanced around at his crew, clearly looking for someone else to blame. “This wasn’t our idea, Leanansidhe. ”
“Oh, I know, darling. You’re too dull to organize something like this. Which is why I’m not going to punish you. ”
“Really?” Dan relaxed a bit.
“Really?” I blurted, looking up at her. “But they attacked me! And they were going to kill Charles! You’re not going to do anything about that?”
“They were only following their base instincts, pet. ” Leanansidhe smiled at me. “I expected nothing less of them. What I really want is the mastermind. Why don’t you stick around…Warren. ”
We all turned to where Warren was trying to sneak down the corridor without being seen. He froze, wincing at the sound of his name, and gave Leanansidhe a feeble smile.
“Leanansidhe, I…I can explain. ”
“Oh, I’m sure you can, darling. ” Leanansidhe’s voice made my stomach curl.
“And you will. We’re going to have a little chitchat, and you’re going to tell me everything you know about the Iron King and the scepter. You’re going to sing, darling. Sing as you’ve never sung before, I promise. ”
“Come on,” Puck told me, taking my elbow. “You don’t want to hear this, Princess, trust me. Lea will give us the information when she has it. ”
“Charles,” I said, and he turned from Leanansidhe to me, his eyes blank and empty once more. “Come on. Let’s get out of here. ”
“Pretty lady’s sparkly,” Charles muttered. I sighed.
“Yeah,” I said sadly, taking his hand. “She is. ”
With Ironhorse glowering and Puck leading the way, we fled the music room and Leanansidhe’s presence, leaving Warren to his fate.
“A software corporation?” Puck repeated, brow furrowing. “Really. That’s where they’ve been hiding it all this time?”
“Apparently, darling. ” Leanansidhe leaned back in her chair, crossing her long legs. “Remember, the Iron fey aren’t like us. They’re not going to be hanging around parks and museums, singing to flowers. They like high-tech places that attract the cold, calculating mortals we care so little for. ”
I shared a glance with Puck. We’d been talking about that strange, cold glamour I’d used on the gun before Leanansidhe came in. Though we were only guessing, we’d both come to the conclusion that it had indeed been iron glamour that I’d used on Warren, and that Leanansidhe, with her obvious hate and contempt for the Iron fey, definitely should not know about it yet.
I wished I knew more about it. I had the feeling this had never happened in the faery world before, that I was a first, and there was no expert to talk to. Why did I have iron glamour? Why could I use it sometimes and not others? Too many questions, and no answers. I sighed and decided to focus on the problem at hand, instead of the one I had no hope of unraveling yet.
“What’s the name of this place?” I asked Leanansidhe, not pointing out that I was one of those cold, calculating mortals who liked gadgets and computers and high-tech. I still missed my poor drowned iPod, the victim of a river crossing the first time I came to Faery, and this was the longest I’d ever gone without television. If I ever got back to having a normal life, I’d have a lot to catch up on.
Leanansidhe tapped her fingers against the armrest, pursing her lips in thought. “Oh, what did they call it? They all sound the same to me, darling. ” She snapped her fingers. “SciCorp, I believe it was. Yes, in downtown San Jose. The heart of Silicon Valley. ”
“Big place,” I muttered. “I don’t think we can just walk in. There’s sure to be cameras and security guards and everything. ”
“Yes, a frontal assault is doomed to fail,” Leanansidhe agreed, glancing at Ironhorse, who stood in the corner with his arms crossed. “And remember, it’s not only mortals you have to worry about. There’s sure to be Iron fey as well. You’re going to have to be…sneakier. ”
In the corner, Ironhorse raised his head. “WHAT ABOUT A DISTRACTION?” he offered. “I COULD KEEP THEIR ATTENTION ON ME, WHILE
SOMEONE GOES IN THROUGH THE BACK. ”
“Or I could glamour Meghan invisible,” Puck added.
Grimalkin yawned from where he lay the couch. “It will be risky holding a glamour with all the iron and steel inside,” he said, blinking sleepily. “And we all know how horribly incompetent the human is when it comes to magic, even without her glamour sealed off. ”
I threw a pillow at him. He gave me a disdainful look and went back to sleep.
“Do we know anything about the building?” I asked Leanansidhe.
“Blueprints, security, that kind of thing?” I suddenly felt like a spy in an action movie. The image of me dangling over a net of trip wires, Mission Impossible style, sprang to mind, and I bit down a nervous giggle.
“Unfortunately, Warren didn’t have much to say about the building, though he really wanted to at the end, poor boy. ” Leanansidhe smiled, as if reliving a fond memory, and I shivered. “Thankfully, my spies found out all we needed to know. They said they’re holding the scepter on floor twenty-nine point five. ”
“Twenty-nine point five?” I frowned. “How’s that work?”
“I’ve no idea, darling. That’s just what they said. However—” and she produced a slip of paper with a flourish “—they were able to come up with this. A
pparently, it’s some sort of code, used to get into the Iron faeries’ lair. They couldn’t solve it, but perhaps you will have better luck. I’ve no head for numbers at all, I’m afraid. ”
She handed the paper to me. Puck and Ironhorse crowded around, and we stared at it for several moments. Leanansidhe was right—it was definitely part of a code. 3
“Okay,” I mused, after several moments of racking my brain and not coming up with anything. “So, we just have to figure this out and then we’re home free. Doesn’t sound too hard. ”
“I’m afraid it’s a bit more complicated, darling. ” Leanansidhe accepted a glass of wine from a brownie. “As you said before, SciCorp is not a place you can just walk into. Visitors are not allowed past the front desk, and security is fairly tight. You have to be an employee to get off the first floor. ”
“Well, what if we pretended to be the janitor or cleaning service, or something like that?”
Grimalkin snorted and shifted position on the couch. “Would you not need an ID card for that?” he said, settling comfortably on the pillow I’d thrown at him. “If the building is so well guarded, I doubt they let in common riffraff off the street. ”
I slumped, frowning. “He’s right. We would need a fake ID, or the ID of one of the workers, to make it inside. I don’t know anyone who can get us something like that. ”
Leanansidhe smiled. “I do,” she said, and snapped her fingers twice. “Skrae, darling,” she called, “would you come here a moment? I need you to find something. ”
A piskie spiraled into view, gossamer wings buzzing. Three inches tall, he had indigo skin and dandelion hair, and wore nothing but a razor-toothed grin as he fluttered by. His eyes, enormous white orbs in his pointed face, regarded me curiously, until Leanansidhe clapped her hands.