By the time Sage brought me back to the manor, I had better control of the migraine that had threatened to overwhelm me in Tir Na Nog. Whatever kept me blocked from the other members of the Unseelie Court did not sit well with my entire body.
Rowan had commented it was my own magic rising up in dislike, which resulted in a nice black eye from Sage.
A golden tabby blur shot out from the living room, knocking me to the ground. “Puck!” I exclaimed when he started nosing my face and shoulders for injury. A heavy paw rested on my kneecap, another on my lower ribs. I pushed him away with more strength than I expected.
“She’s fine, Goodfellow. I was told to cheer her up, not to hurt her.”
The emerald glare he turned on Sage was deadly. Still lying on the ground beside him, I made a face up at the prince. The ghost of a grin touched his lips, and Puck’s gaze shot to me. He growled softly, although I couldn’t tell to whom.
“You don’t scare me,” I taunted.
Puck huffed in my face. If you came back in more than one piece…
Saying goodbye to Sage, I straightened up. “I can handle myself, you know. Plus, Sage and Rowan were there, and I was glamoured to even the most prying spies.”
Doesn’t mean you were invincible. He followed me into the room, lashing his tail. Next time, take Ren with you, too.
I rolled my eyes at him. Ash and Kishan were still not back yet, but I could smell something going in the kitchen, toward the rear of the house. Since Meghan was curled up with a book on the couch, I figured out where Kelsey and Ren were. Puck jumped up by Meg’s feet.
“Have some bonding time in my absence?” I took to the armchair, hoping they didn't notice the bitterness in my voice.
Meghan smirked ever so slightly. “Are you jealous I have a foot warmer, Starr?” she teased, not unkindly. It was still a jab either way she said it.
Maybe a little… “No,” I lied easily.
The trickster twitched an ear, and laughter filled my mind. I shook my head to clear it. Meghan marked her page before setting the book down. “So, Kelsey thinks she knows how to break the first part of the curse.”
“Oh really?” I drawled, leaning back in the chair. “How?”
Speaking of, Kels walked in at that moment, the white tiger beside her. “Dessert’s cooling in the kitchen. As for the curse, you practically dented it, Starr. We just need to strengthen you.”
“Easier said than done,” I grumbled. Ren collapsed at my feet, pressing against my shins. I tried to be interested, for their sakes. “What are you planning?”
Kelsey and Meghan exchanged a look. My friends could recall everything they had to; I realized that was just it, an instant before it was said. “We need to get your memory back, and see if we can get your magic tied in, too,” Kelsey informed me softly, confirming my suspicion.
No! I winced at the shout in my head. Ren growled in Puck’s direction. The blood started to roar in my ears, but I pushed away the thought of being hurt. Not remembering that part of my life had to stop crippling me every time someone mentioned it. I sent a glare at Puck, who paid no attention to me or to the fact he could have made the situation so much worse by yelling. Actually, he looked as if his mental cry hadn’t reached me or Ren at all, with the way he ignored the two of us.
“Who said I even had magic in the first place?” I asked casually. My pulse raced. “Maybe I wore a talisman or something that helped me control glamour.”
You’re a compulsive liar.
Only with things I have to be! I silently retorted. My friends refused to meet my gaze. I knew they wanted me to remember, to have something miraculously happen and solve everything. I wanted to reassure them I was exactly who they expected me to be, but I just wasn’t. Grief and pain ricocheted through my limbs in the next instant.
That girl had been dead since she changed the course of time.
My pendant burned against my chest. The door slammed open out front. There was a muffled curse, and then strong arms were pulling my hands from my hair, wrapping me tightly in an achingly familiar embrace. I hadn’t even realized I had gotten to my feet or tried to claw myself.
“Starr, that’s enough.” Ice flowed into my veins. “Whatever you know” –– Ash covered my hands with his –– “it isn’t worth this.”
I looked down at my hands. The nails had really grown into claws; they were talon-like. I could have killed myself if I freaked out badly enough. Ash tucked my head under his chin while I tried not to hyperventilate. Glamour reached me through the wards on the manor in response to my nervous breakdown. God, I turned back time. I was supposed to be dead!
“Stop,” Ash murmured. “We’ll get through this.”
There was the sensation of movement, yet I was in such a haze I didn’t notice him bringing me to one of the back rooms. When it finally registered, my first thought was that these people had taken care of their servants as if they were family. My second was that Ash locked and barred the door behind us for pretty much no reason.
Cocking one eyebrow at him, I leaned against the wall when he returned to my side. My legs were a bit rubbery. “I’m not going to go on a rampage, you know. That wasn’t exactly the ambush.” With a pinch to the bridge of my nose, I added, “It only hurt like hell.”
“Because you were getting the before and after pictures of the ambush,” Ash responded. “Your trigger might be somewhere close, or it can be a time, as well. Maybe you’ll heal yourself sooner than we think.” I slid to the floor; my dark faery joined me. He almost draped one arm around my shoulders, until I shifted away from his touch. “What do you remember, my friend?” he asked quietly, his presence almost human.
I reminded him of my impending death, and told him what happened when I literally changed history. Mercury flashed as I skirted around the topic of the ambush itself. Ash wanted the same thing I did.
“Your glamour would help break your curse,” Ash admitted.
“Can you tell me about what I was like before?” I fingered the pendant. “Please?”
My dark faery shook his head. “Everything you have in your personality now, amplify that times all of us. You were the best of the best.” I relaxed my too-tense muscles, leaning toward Ash ever so slightly. “Starr, I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed you and Puck without sounding like a heartbroken mortal. I only wish you’ll be alright soon.”
The words were out of my mouth before they even crossed my mind. “Kishan and Ren were dead.” I glanced sidelong at him. “Or am I wrong?” Ash was reluctant to nod. “I brought them back to life.” I stared down at my hands. “I changed the course of time, and I stopped them from being killed. But they were cursed anyway, just for being on my side.” My heart pounded furiously in my chest.
“Careful. You’ve already done a lot today.”
Nearly touching him, I pulled my legs up and curled my arms around my shins. My chin hit my knee sullenly. “I’ve been trying not to think about it. I want to remember, to be something more than this.” I sighed. “I’m broken, Ash. I keep thinking that maybe I can go back to normal, but there’s nothing predictable about the… visions.”
“What’s broken can be fixed.” Ash snaked an arm around my waist protectively. “If you feel up to it, we should go to Arcadia first thing tomorrow.” He drew me closer, only enough that our legs brushed. I was growing too sleepy to care.
The Seelie Court. The courts wanted them dead; Seelie knights had already taken a few allies. I had defended Puck against them multiple times. Ash’s mere existence constantly pissed off the monarchs. Mab at least tolerated us. Titania and Oberon were only ever concerned about themselves.
I straightened up. “Do I get to burn them if they try anything?”“They’re already masters of fire,” he chuckled. “And I won’t stop you.”