The iron daughter, p.40
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       The Iron Daughter, p.40

         Part #2 of The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
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Page 40

 

  Puck was beside Kimi instantly, rolling her over. The little half-phouka’s eyes were open, gazing sightlessly at the ceiling, and she didn’t move a muscle. I bit my lip, my heart pounding. “Are they…dead?”

  He paused a moment before rising to his feet. “No. At least, I don’t think so. They’re still breathing, but…” He frowned, squinting at Kimi’s slack expression. “I think their brains have short-circuited. Or the bugs are keeping them in some sort of coma. ” He shook his head, looking up at me. “Sorry, Princess. I can’t do anything for them. ”

  “Of course you can’t, darling. ” Leanansidhe breezed through the doorway, her face a porcelain mask, eyes glowing green. “Fortunately, I know a mortal doctor who might be able to help. If he cannot revive the streetrats, then there is no hope for them. ” She turned to me, and I tried not to cringe under that unearthly gaze. “You are leaving, I presume?”

  I nodded. “Ash is out there,” I said. “He’s going after my family. I have to stop him. ” I narrowed my eyes, staring her down. “Don’t try to keep me here. ”

  She sighed. “I could, darling, but then you would be a complete mess and of no use to us. If there is one thing I’ve learned about humans, it’s that they become absolutely unreasonable when it comes to family. ” She sniffed and waved her hand. “So go, darling. Rescue your mother and father and brother and get it over with. My door will still be open when you come back. If we’re still alive, that is. ”

  “PRINCESS!” Ironhorse bashed the door open, skidding to a halt in the middle of the room, breathing hard. “ARE YOU HURT? WHAT HAS HAPPENED?”

  I gazed around for my sneakers, wincing as a bright talon of pain clawed up my arm. “Virus sent Ash to kill my family,” I said, dropping to my knees to peer under the couch. “I’m going to stop him. ”

  “WHAT ABOUT THE SCEPTER?” he continued, as I pulled out my sneakers and stuffed my feet into them, gritting my teeth as my arm throbbed with every movement. “WE MUST RETRIEVE IT BEFORE VIRUS HAS IT MOVED. SHE IS

  VULNURABLE NOW AND WILL NOT BE EXPECTING US. NOW IS THE TIME TO

  ATTACK. ”

  “No. ” I felt pulled in several directions at once, and tried to stay calm. “I’m sorry, Ironhorse. I know we have to get the scepter, but my family comes first. Always. I don’t expect you to understand. ”

  “VERY WELL,” Ironhorse said, surprising me. “THEN I WILL COME

  WITH YOU. ”

  Startled, I looked up at him, but before I could reply, Grimalkin interrupted me.

  “A quaint idea,” the cat mused, leaping onto the table, “and exactly what Virus is hoping for. We must have scared her quite a bit for her to react so dramatically. If we abandon the mission now, we might never find her again. ”

  “He’s right. ” I nodded, ignoring Ironhorse’s scowl. “We have to split up. Ironhorse, you stay here with Grim. Keep looking for the scepter and Virus. Puck and I will go after Ash. We’ll be back as soon as we can. ”

  “I DO NOT LIKE LEAVING YOU ALONE, PRINCESS. ” Ironhorse raised

  his head in a proud, stubborn manner. “I SWORE I WOULD PROTECT YOU. ”

  “While we were looking for the scepter, you did. But this is different. ” I stood up and met his burning red eyes. “This is personal, Ironhorse. And your mission has always been the scepter. I want you to stay behind with Grim. Keep looking for Virus. ” He opened his mouth to argue, and I spit out the last words. “That’s an order. ”

  He blew smoke from his nostrils like a furious bull and turned away. “AS

  YOU WISH, PRINCESS. ”

  His voice was stiff, but there was no time to dwell on feelings of guilt. I turned to Puck. “We have to get to Louisiana fast. How do we get out of here?”

  He glanced at Leanansidhe. “Don’t suppose you have any trods to Louisiana from here, do you, Lea?”

  “There’s one to New Orleans,” Leanansidhe replied, looking thoughtful. “I just adore Mardi Gras, darling, though Mab tends to hog the spotlight every year. Typical of her. ”

  “That’s too far away. ” I took a deep breath, feeling time slip away from me.

  “Isn’t there a trod that’s closer? I need to get home now. ”

  “The Briars. ” Puck snapped his fingers. “We can go through the Briars. That will take us there quickly. ”

  Leanansidhe blinked. “What makes you think there is a trod to the girl’s house through the Briars, dove?”

  Puck snorted. “Lea, I know you. You can’t stand to be out of the loop, remember? You must have a trod that goes to Meghan’s house from the Briars, even though you can’t use it. I know you’d want keep an eye on Oberon’s daughter. What kind of gossip would you miss out on, otherwise?”

  Leanansidhe pursed her lips as if she’d swallowed something sour. “You caught me there, darling. Though you don’t hesitate to rub salt in the wound, do you? I suppose I can let you use that trod, but you owe me a favor later, darling. ” Leanansidhe sniffed and puffed her cigarette. “I feel I should charge something for letting you in on my greatest secret. Especially since I have no interest in the girl’s family. Such a boring lot, except the little boy—he has potential. ”

  “Done,” I said. “You have your favor. At least from me. Now, will you let us use it or not?”

  Leanansidhe snapped her fingers, and Skrae the piskie fluttered down from the ceiling. “Take them to the basement trod,” she ordered, “and guide them to the right door. Go. ” Skrae bobbed once and zipped to my shoulder, hiding in my hair. “I will continue to have my spies monitor SciCorp,” Leanansidhe said. “See if they can discern where Virus is moving it to. You should get going, darling. ”

  I straightened and glanced at Puck, who nodded. “All right, let’s go. Grim, keep an eye on Ironhorse, would you? Make sure he doesn’t go charging the army by himself. We’ll be back soon. ” I shook my hair, dislodging the piskie huddled against my neck. “All right, Skrae, take us out of here. ”

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  Close to Ice

  Our trip back through the Briars was less exciting than our trip in. We saw no dragons, spiders or killer-wasp fey, though truthfully I could’ve wandered straight into their hive without noticing. My mind was consumed with Ash and my family. Would he really…kill them? Cut them down in cold blood, invisible and unheard? What would I do then?

  I pressed a palm to my face, trying in vain to stop the tears. I would kill him. If he hurt Ethan or Mom in any way, I would put a knife through his heart myself, even if I was sobbing my eyes out while I did it. Even if I still loved him more than life itself. Sick with worry, fighting the despair that threatened to drown me, I didn’t see Puck stop until I ran into him, and he steadied me without a word. We had reached the end of the tunnel, where a simple wooden door waited in the thorns a few feet away. Even in the tangled darkness of the Briars, I recognized it. This was the gate that had led me into Faery, all those months ago. This was where it all began, at Ethan’s closet door. Ahead of us, Skrae gave a last buzz and flew back down the tunnel, back to Leanansidhe to give his report, I assumed. There was no going back for me. I reached for the door handle.

  “Wait,” Puck ordered. I turned back, impatient and annoyed, when I saw the grim severity in his eyes. “Are you ready for this, Princess?” he asked softly. “Whatever lies beyond that door isn’t Ash any longer. If we’re going to save your family, we can’t hold back now. We might have to—”

  “I know,” I interrupted, not wanting to hear it. My chest tightened, and my eyes started to tear, but I dashed them away. “I know. Let’s…let’s just do this, all right? I’ll figure something out when I see him. ” And before Puck could say anything else, I wrenched the door open and walked through.

  The cold hit me immediately, taking my breath away. It hung in the air as I shivered, gazing around in horror, my stomach twisting so painfully that I felt nauseous. Ethan’s bedroom was completely encased in ic
e. The walls, the dresser, the bookshelf; all covered in a layer of crystal nearly two inches thick, but so clear so I could see everything trapped within. Outside the window, a cold, clear night shone through the glass, the moonlight sparkling lifelessly off the ice.

  “Oh, man,” I heard Puck whisper behind me.

  “Where’s Ethan?” I gasped, rushing to his bed. The horrific vision of him trapped in ice, unable to breathe, made me virtually ill, and I nearly threw up at the thought. But Ethan’s bed was empty, the quilts flat and still beneath the frozen layer.

  “Where is he?” I whispered, near panic. Then I heard a faint noise from beneath the bed, a soft, breathy whimper. Dropping to my knees, I peered into the crack, wary of monsters and bogeys and the things that lurked under the bed. A small, shivering lump stirred in the far corner, and a pale face looked up at mine.

  “Meggie?”

  “Ethan!” Relieved beyond words, I reached under the bed and pulled him out, hugging him close. He was so cold; he clung to me with frozen hands, his four-year-old body shaking like a leaf.

  “You c-came back,” he whispered, as Puck crossed the room and shut the door without a sound. “Quick! You have to s-save Mommy and Daddy. ”

  My blood ran cold. “What happened?” I asked, holding him with one arm while pulling open the door we came through. Now it was just a normal closet. I yanked out a quilt that wasn’t covered in ice and wrapped Ethan in it, sitting him on the frozen bed.

  “He came,” Ethan whispered, pulling the folds tighter around himself. “The dark person. S-Spider told me he was coming. He told me t-to hide. ”

  “Spider? Who’s Spider?”

  “The m-man under the b-bed. ”

  “I see. ” I frowned and rubbed his numb fingers between mine. Why would a bogey be helping Ethan? “What happened then?”