Chapter 9

Doing our homework went by faster than normal (probably in no small part to Eryl's help) and we quickly left the school. Eryl was tense as he began leading us to the spot he'd mentioned earlier, and his hand kept straying to his hip where his sword used to be. Or maybe where it still was, underneath his glamour.

"What's that?" Edie asked, pointing to the feather tied to my backpack. I glanced at it and shrugged.

"There was a crow in my room last night. It left this behind. I thought it was cool so I kept it."

"There was a crow in your room?"

"Likely an Unseelie spy," Eryl said before I could reply.

"Idunno, it was awfully nice to be an Unseelie spy," I said. "It slept with me and everything."

"What's the word for a furry who's into birds?" Thea snorted. I flipped her off, not deigning her with an answer.

Eventually we reached an alley not far from the one we'd found the body. Eryl led us down it, ducking behind some trash cans that smelled about as good as you'd expect. We followed his example, despite the smell.

"Now what?" I asked.

Eryl never looked away from the mouth of the alley. "Now we wait."

And wait we did, for a good couple of hours. It was getting dark and I was about to put an end to it when a group of faeries entered the alley. There was five of them, each with pointed ears and sharp teeth. They ranged from craggy skin like tree bark to long, stringy hair that clearly hadn't seen a comb in months.

"Unseelies," Eryl whispered.

"We smell you, Seelie," the seeming leader with cloudy blue eyes hissed, inhaling deeply and audibly. Eryl stiffened and unglamoured himself, revealing his armor and sword as he stepped out from behind the trash can. The leader grinned wider. "Well, well, well. What brings a Seelie guard to a place like this?"

"Trying to find the Seelie murderer, of course," Eryl answered calmly, despite being out-numbered.

"What a coincidence," the one with tree bark-like skin said, "so are we."

"We wanted to thank him," sneered one with pitch-black eyes. I saw the ever-familiar tic in Eryl's jaw.

Another with hair like spanish moss took a deep sniff. "You have humans with you."

Eryl stiffened. "I'm alone."

"Are you sure about that?" Spanish Moss Hair stepped closer, close enough that I'm sure he could see me peeking out from behind the trash can.

Suddenly, Eryl's hand flashed faster than I could see and Spanish Moss Hair was on the ground, choking on his own blood from the gash in his throat. I gawked at the dying faerie as his friends growled and lunged at Eryl, who drew his sword.

One peeled off from the attack and ambled behind the trash cans, his eyes settling on Thea and Hallie. "The Chosen Ones! Let's kill them, boys!" he announced in clear delight, light glinting off a knife as he drew it from his belt.

"No!" I cried, grabbing a trash can lid and hitting him as hard as I could with it. He flinched and whirled on me, knife poised for stabbing.

Before he could eviscerate me, his friend with the tree-bark skin stopped him. "Not that one!" he said. "The Prince wants the lapdog unharmed. Kill the others." My response was to hit him again, trying to knock the knife out of his hands. He growled and grabbed for me. Before he could reach me, the tip of a sword was suddenly protruding from his chest. He dropped as soon as it was yanked out, revealing Eryl behind him.

The girls each grabbed a trash can lid and began fending off the faeries as they approached, each armed with a knife. The faeries easily dodged the girls, but were no match for Eryl and his sword. Soon all the faeries were dispatched, leaving us breathless and buzzing with adrenaline.

"You're all idiots," Eryl said coldly as he cleaned off his sword before sheathing it.

"Excuse me?" I scowled.

"You should have left the fighting to me," he said, sounding angrier than I'd ever heard him.

"They were coming after us, what were we supposed to do?" Hallie huffed as she crossed her arms.

"Run!"

"You ungrateful little—" Edie began before Thea cut her off.

"You're right, next time we'll just leave you to defend yourself against five hostiles with knives."

"I'm a soldier, I've fought worse."

"Even soldiers can be out-numbered," I pointed out.

"Can we just go? I don't think the murderer is going to come here now," Thea sighed. Hallie and Edie mumbled agreements and we began heading out of the alley. Eryl grabbed my arm and stopped me.

"If you're going to insist on getting involved, you should be armed." He covered his hand with his cape and pulled a knife out of his belt, handing it to me. It was heavy and warm from being pressed against his side.

"What's this?"

"An iron knife."

"Isn't iron deadly to faeries?"

"Yes. And now you are, too."

"Why?"

He huffed, looking uncomfortable. "You ask a lot of questions."

I frowned. "Excuse me for wanting to know things." I turned and began marching after the girls, Eryl falling into step behind me shortly.

"What was that about?" Thea asked me once I caught up.

I tucked the knife into the waistband of my jeans and shrugged. "Nothing, just Eryl being Eryl."

"He gave you a knife?" She eyed the handle of the knife.

"Yup."

"Why?"

"Since when does Eryl ever give me a straight answer?"