Dakotah didn’t have time to move or think before a boy stepped out from behind a fence.
“Let us in,” the boy commanded. “If Samantha had realized I was here, the devil-queen wouldn’t have stayed hidden in her cloud.”
The regal tone was earned. Dakotah did not have to ask who the boy was. Though seven or eight years younger, there was no mistaking Roland Cunningham’s striking black albino features. The boy didn’t look human–he was elfin and held himself with poise well beyond his years. This, then, was the lost Seelie Prince.
“I have some questions, bro,” Dakotah said flatly.
The prince waved a hand. “In time. Let us in.”
Slowly, Dakotah opened the gate and the Sanctuary allowed the entrance of the prince and his fifteen warriors.
“Remain out of sight,” the prince barked to his warriors, and only two peeled off to accompany the prince and Dakotah inside.
Dakotah led them back to the circle of chairs and bay window where they liked to do homework. Phin tapped anxiously on the arm of his chair, standing as Dakotah approached. Pete and Val sat on the sofa with Roland–the changeling–between them.
Roland’s slanted fey eyes bulged at the sight of the prince.
The prince took a seat without asking. He did not look at Roland.
“Like your predecessor, you have stumbled into the affairs of the Seelie Court,” the prince said to Dakotah.
“We heard it different,” Dakotah said. “Ike took down Sunil and saved the fey world.”
The prince responded with a soft but scornful snort. “Icarus blundered across our world, leaving a wake of devastation when he poked his nose into what he did not understand. You have done the same.” Here the prince gestured in Roland’s direction. “If Caitlin had gotten the changeling…if the devil-queen had attacked now, before we were ready…it would have been an end to all Good in the fey world.”
“K, well, if anyone had told me about all this, maybe I would’ve known if I was fucking something up!”
“If you stayed within your damn job description, Guardian, it wouldn’t matter at all! Why must we be cursed with the world’s most inadequate House? Why can you not just protect the few who come to you and let that be that?”
“It’s you fey who should just leave me alone!” Dakotah said heatedly. “I’m not looking for trouble, but I’m not going to sit around until there’s a war right outside my door.”
The prince leaned back into his chair and rubbed his eyes. “Outside these walls, you have less power even than your Heroes. That’s why you’re not involved in the greater fey world. We wouldn’t have needed Icarus if Samantha and Sunil hadn’t attacked at the same time. We do not need you know. I am building the army. I will get my parents back. I will defeat the devil-queen and I will defeat Sunil if he dares return. You are making that harder for me, not easier.”
“I don’t want anything to do with your shit. I just don’t want to get killed.”
The eight-year-old boy in front of Dakotah looked more stressed than President Obama. “I admit none of us are safe. But I hope you will do better at staying out of our way. In exchange, I will leave you a way of contacting me. Just in case.”
Dakotah wasn’t sure this was any kind of solution, but he didn’t want to argue. “Fine, works for me.”
The prince nodded in satisfaction. “These are not human affairs.”
Phin snorted. “You’re human.”
The two guards at the prince’s side bristled, their dragonfly wings raising. The prince waved a dismissive hand at them. “He knows nothing of changeling magic, be not offended. Young Hero,” he said to Phin, “what matters most is which side you’ve chosen. I am fey.”
“Then I am human!” Roland said suddenly, loudly. “You have to do something. Fix me.”
The prince and guards traded looks. “What if we send you back to your old life, and Caitlin or another of the devil-queen’s thugs come for you?”
“Dakotah will protect me,” Roland said. “He fucking owes me that.”
“I told Caitlin you were dead,” Dakotah said. “I don’t know if she believed me.”
“It’s plausible,” said the prince. “A changeling might not do well in the human world, and pass prematurely. At least a few of our warriors have been revealed to Queen Samantha, but that won’t be new information to her. She might even count our encounter as a close call, and be wary of hunting you again.”
Roland did not take his eyes off the prince while the boy considered.
“You’ll protect him?”
All eyes flicked to Dakotah to hear his answer.
“That is my job,” Dakotah said.
“We’ll do it,” the prince decided. “It will take a few minutes, and I’ll need your help, Guardian. My parents performed the original glamour; we will need a lot of magic to make one as strong.” He looked to Roland. “And we’ll take your memory, to be safe.”
Roland nodded eagerly.
“Step back,” said the prince to Phin, Pete, and Val.
As they moved away, Roland said, “Pete?”
“Yes?” she asked, stepping closer to him.
“When everything’s back to normal, I want you to break up with me. Make up a reason.”
Her face fell and Dakotah looked away so he wouldn’t have to see her disappointment.
“Yeah, ok, sure.”
She walked past Phin and Val, between the shelves, and out the front door.
“Ready?” asked the prince.
Dakotah turned from her retreating figure. “Let’s do this.”
My novel TURQUOISEBLOOD is out now! Check it out here!