The burn of my pendant against my chest woke me up a few hours later. Puck lay on his stomach with his head on his paws, green eyes barely open to thin slits. Since it had finally been restored before the party, I wished our bond hadn’t frozen over the instant I drank the wine, because I could really use whatever he was thinking right now.
Lifting his head, he blinked in silent greeting. So there hadn’t been enough time for him to regain his shift yet. I sighed through my nose.
“Do we have any idea where to start looking for the others?” I asked. Anything to get my mind off… yesterday, I guessed, looking at the sky. Sitting back on his haunches, Puck bowed his head. “Good.”
I was about to push myself up when his paw fell on my stomach. Ears flat to his head, he jumped to the ground and left, squeezing through the thorns near the door. The Hedge grew even thicker in response, as if manipulated to keep me in. At least, that would help explain the briars that sprouted on the door itself.
Whether or not that was a warning to stay off my feet, I stood and stretched. Power sparked in my veins. Shocked, I held out a hand, palm up. The tiniest of golden embers danced just above my skin. When I willed it to strengthen, though, it sputtered and went out. I fought back the swell of disappointment. My magic was actually coming back, and I would take what I could get for now.
Scratching clawed at the outside of the door. I straightened, pressing my shoulders back despite the fact I had no weapons to weigh down the ache. The briars remained.
“Can’t open the door,” I breathed, not loudly enough that anyone could hear me. It was better the visitor thought nobody was inside this room, especially after what happened the last time they found out I was here.
All at once, the sounds of a fight picked up in the corridor, and the briars on the door shuddered. I found my blades in the closet, along with a small etching tucked behind some of Puck’s hunting gear. I pressed my finger to it carefully.
Quietly, a door that hadn’t been noticeable before swung open. Stairs materialized in the dim lighting, leading in a straight, steep descent. I glanced at the bedroom door as something pounded against the wood. Looking back at the steps, a memory resurfaced in my mind: Spiraling downward out of Ash’s room, the cold of Tir Na Nog failing to slow either of us as we ran. I swallowed hard. Hadn't I expected the two of them would have a back door to the back door, wherever they were? I could escape now, if not for leaving Puck behind.
As if in answer to my thoughts, the briars guarding the main entry dissipated, and it flew open. My trickster rushed in, shifting as he did. The door slammed shut behind him, locking with his glamour the same instant something roared outside. The Hedge seemed to warp itself. I realized a little belatedly that it probably did; Puck had to hide our escape somehow.
“Let’s go,” he panted, the skin straining at his hands and forearms. My pendant continued to burn. My subconscious was using what remnants of glamour I had acquired to spare him a few extra minutes.
I jumped when something slammed into the thorns near his bed. Puck cursed and threw his hand in that direction, although I had no idea what glamour he used. I dove into the darkness in front of him.
Sliding the wall into place once more, Puck snapped his fingers. Torches sprang to light at random intervals along the staircase, green flames dancing almost invitingly. He caught up to me by bounding down the first several steps. “Once we’re out of Court, Starr, you can choose where we go. I’m sorry for bringing you here in the first place.”
“Don’t be.” Entwining my fingers with his, I attempted to get both of us to relax. “You thought it was safe, and it might’ve been under other circumstances. There was no way of knowing that would happen.”
I could hear the self-deprecating smirk in his voice. “Except the bounties on all our heads,” he muttered, hinting at a low growl.
His skin rippled under my touch. A wave of dizziness washed over me. For a second I feared being drunk again, except I was perfectly fine, in control of my actions. “Stay with me,” I murmured through gritted teeth. It took most of my focus to remain upright.
“Whoa.” He steadied me as I knocked shoulders with him. “Are you sure you’re okay, little warrior?”
Glancing down, I saw my pendant starting to glow through the collar of my shirt. I yanked it into full view with my free hand, which was shaking awfully. Puck jerked his chin to the right, and the flames snuffed themselves out. The necklace glowed brightly enough that we could see in the tunnel.
“Even when I have nothing left, I find ways to save you,” I remarked softly, drawing on his comfort as if it could help my dwindling energy. I needed sleep. Actual, honest-to-God sleep, now the few hours I stole here and there. “You’re mine, Goodfellow. Don’t ever let the universe forget that.”
There was a faint noise in the back of his throat that sounded reminiscent of a dying animal. Shifting long enough to duck under me, he wrapped his arms around my legs once I was positioned on his back. I rested my chin on his shoulder from behind, my pendant hanging weirdly against his collarbone not far from his. “If I have to stay, so do you,” he ordered sharply.
We walked in silence for several minutes, Puck carrying me without question. I felt less drained since the magic was directly touching him, too, but I only lasted for that short time before nervously motioning for him to set me down. Ice edged through my veins; I had no fire left for myself, let alone for the two of us.
“Not Tir Na Nog,” I mused aloud. “If the others are there, it’ll be better that we split up. And if they’re not, it’s still the obvious place for us to take refuge. I don’t want to cause the Unseelie any more trouble than they’ve already had in the last week.”
Puck toyed with my fingers. “Then where to, my crazy queen?”
“My house.” In the next instant, I flinched for two reasons: I actually just said that, and he ushered me into a dead-end rock wall that materialized in front of us. We might have walked through it unscathed, yet I was still shaken by the too-realistic glamour.
The pendants flared with light. I recognized the tremor along his arm, since my magic probably stopped him from shifting inside the trod.In the mortal realm, Puck only bowed. “Lead the way.”