On my knees, I tossed my hair out of my eyes and assessed the situation. I’d frozen all six of them in two seconds flat.
But how long would they stay frozen? That was the critical question.
Mallucé looked startled—I guess he’d never seen a Null in action before—then glided toward me in that sinuous way of his. I reached inside my jacket for the spearhead, then remembered what Barrons had said, or rather hadn’t said about how to kill a vampire. Mallucé wasn’t Fae, so I could neither freeze nor stab him and expect it to work. Nor, according to Barrons, would a stake through his heart do the job, so I didn’t see any reason my spear would, either. I removed my hand from my jacket. I didn’t want to show my ace-in-the-hole until I had no other choice. Maybe, just maybe, I could get close to the Lord Master. And maybe I could use the spear to kill him. And then maybe I could freeze all the Unseelie and outrun a vampire. It sounded like a plan to me. The only one I could think of.
I pushed up and began backing away. It seemed it was what the vampire’d wanted, anyway. I held his too-bright yellow gaze as he backed me past the pallet, onto the rune-chiseled floor in front of the dolmen, and into a circle of Unseelie Rhino-boys and assorted monsters.
“What is this, Mallucé?” Though he was behind me and I couldn’t see him, I would never mistake the voice of the Lord Master. It was rich, multitonal, and musical, like V’lane’s.
“I thought I heard something behind the pallets,” Mallucé said. “She is a Null, Lord Master. Another one.”
I couldn’t help it. I had to know. “You mean Alina, don’t you? The other Null, she was Alina Lane, wasn’t she?” I accused.
The vampire’s creepy citron eyes narrowed. He exchanged a long glance with the red-robed thing behind me.
“What do you know about Alina Lane?” the Lord Master said softly, in that melodious voice. It was the voice of something larger than life, an archangel, perhaps—the one that fell.
“She was my sister,” I snarled, whirling around. “And I’m going to kill the bastard that killed her. What do you know about her?”
The crimson cowl shook with laughter. I fisted my hands at my sides to keep from whipping out my spear and lunging for the red-robed figure. Stealth, I told myself. Caution. I doubted I’d get more than one chance.
“I told you she would come, Mallucé,” said the Lord Master. “We will use her to finish what her sister began.” He raised his hands as if to encompass the group and addressed all the Unseelie gathered there. “When everything is in place, I will open the portal and unleash the entire Unseelie prison on this world, as I promised you. Restrain her. She comes with us.”
“Now, that was just stupid, Ms. Lane,” Barrons said, shaking his head, as he dropped onto the floor next to me, his long black coat fluttering. “Did you have to go and tell them who you were? They would have figured it out soon enough.”
I blinked, stupefied.
I guess the Lord Master, Mallucé, and all the rest of them were just as stunned by the unexpected entrance as I was, because we all gaped at him, and then we all looked up. I just wanted to see where in the world he’d come from. I think they were checking to see if there were any others up there. He had to have been on the ceiling girders. They were thirty feet high. I didn’t see a convenient rope dangling anywhere.
When I looked back down, the Unseelie ruler had pushed back his crimson cowl and was looking at Barrons, hard. He didn’t seem to like what he saw.
I gasped, stunned.
I stared in disbelief and confusion at Alina’s boyfriend, the Lord Master. The leader of the Unseelie wasn’t even Fae! Even Barrons looked a little thrown.
The Lord Master barked a command, then he turned in a whirl of red robes. Dozens of Unseelie closed in on us instantly.
Things got kind of crazy then, and I still have a hard time sorting them out. As his minions cut off any chance of pursuit, the prick who’d used and killed my sister and had been planning to do the same to me ordered them to take me alive, or else, and kill the other one.
Then I was surrounded by Unseelie and I couldn’t see Barrons anymore. Somewhere in the distance, I heard chanting, and the runes in the concrete beneath my feet began to glow again.
I closed my mind to everything but battle. I fought.
I fought for my sister, who’d died alone in an alley. I fought for the woman the Gray Man had fed on while I’d eaten french fries, and the one he’d consumed two days ago, while I’d watched in helpless horror. I fought for the people the Many-Mouthed-Thing had killed. I fought for the dehydrated human husks blowing down the forgotten streets between Collins Street and Larkspur Lane. I might have even fought for a few of O’Bannion’s henchmen. And I fought for the twenty-two-year-old young woman who’d arrived in Dublin pretty darned sure of herself, who no longer had any idea where she’d come from or where she was going, and who’d just broken her third Iceberry Pink nail.