Uneasy Alliance, page 8
was hurt. When he had returned, only minutes later, Dylan had gone through. She was so angry that he had left the door for any reason that she had nearly turned him into a cockroach.
But right now she didn’t care about Gideon. It was another of the Five she needed.
“Shanachie,” she said and the old man limped over to her, glaring fiercely at the kids in the crowd. “Shanachie, is it possible? Could that boy have been from the Otherworld?”
Reaching up to tug on his mustache, he said, “It’s possible, I suppose. I have kept good records of the fae folk who came to this country with us, but you know that a few of them stayed behind in Ireland. It’s possible that some of their descendants eventually came to America. It seems unlikely that the boy would have ended up here accidentally if that’s the case, but not entirely impossible.”
Leena frowned. She had been told that they boy—she knew his name, but persisted in thinking of him as the boy—was in foster care. It did seem unlikely that a boy, descended from her people but separated from his parents and ignorant of his heritage, would have been sent to a foster home in New Elphame of all places.
“But that means he might really be one of your people,” Kira said.
Whirling back around, Leena demanded, “What do you mean?”
Startled, Kira took a step backward. “Just that he might not be human. That would explain why he could go through the door,” she said. “Wouldn’t it? And…well…If he’s one of your people, shouldn’t you try to rescue him?”
There were a few ragged cheers from their audience, but that fizzled out pretty quickly when Leena flashed a glare at the crowd. “How dare you tell me about my responsibilities when it’s your fault that the door is open at all?”
Although she looked like she had more to say on that subject, Caitlin stopped her by putting a hand on her arm. “She’s right, Leena. We can’t just let someone disappear through the door. It doesn’t matter who’s to blame. What if it had been someone else who went through? One of the kids we grew up with? You wouldn’t just close the door and forget about one of them would you?”
Caitlin gestured around at the crowd.
Leena followed the gesture and looked at all of the kids gathered in the courtyard. Except this time instead of seeing a group of irritating people who had come to get in her way and shout about things they couldn’t possibly understand, she saw kids she had known her whole life. Doug was over there with Nessa and Jasmine. They were mostly Caitlin’s friends, but lately they had been hers as well.
And there was Caleb Green, who might be really annoying, but who her father had paid to mow their lawn every summer for as long as she could remember.
One face after another sunk into her heart with a terrible feeling of weight. Caitlin was right. She wouldn’t have let any of them stay in the Otherworld without some kind of attempt to rescue them. They weren’t just the kids she had grown up with, they were the many times great-grandchildren of the people who had left behind everything they knew and faced an unknown world to help her. When she looked at them, she didn’t just see them. She saw their long dead ancestors, just as she saw Aidan Mulloy whenever she looked at Kira.
“What if Dylan is the great-great-great-grandson of someone you used to know?” Kira asked, as if she could read Leena’s thoughts. “Don’t you want to at least find out?”
We have convinced Leena. I can tell, even if she is still putting up an argument.
“It’s too dangerous,” she says. “If I go through the door…Well, the seal isn’t all the way broken yet. There’s still some protections in place. I don’t think anyone from the other side could get through, for example. But if I go through? I’ll rip open the door wide. And possibly not only this door, but all of the doors in the Otherworld. I left to make sure the Queen couldn’t use them to hurt anyone else, but I made myself the key. Like you were the key to this door, Kira. I can’t just go back and risk opening them all up again.”
She sounds hopeless, which might at least be better than angry. Angry Leena scares me. Hopeless, I can work with.
“So, you have to stay here,” I say. Then, before I even know what’s about to come out of my mouth, I hear myself adding, “I’ll go.”
“And me!” Daphne says quickly.
Leena gives us a disgusted look. “You two? You don’t even have any magic and you don’t know anything about the Otherworld. You’d just get lost or something and then we’d have to send someone in to rescue you.”
“I could accompany them, Your Highness,” Mr. Shanachie offers. When Leena gives him one of her looks, he continues, “It makes sense. You are right. You cannot go back. It’s too dangerous. But someone must. Let me go and bring the boy back. And these girls could be useful. They are unknown and not powerful. They could sneak into the Queen’s castle more easily than I.”
Leena bites her lip and looks unhappy. “Don’t call me Your Highness,” she mutters. “You know I don’t like it.”
Then her sister surprises everyone by announcing, “I want to go, too.”
“What?” Leena says, her eyes widening. “Are you kidding, Caitlin? Mom would kill me!”
“I want to help,” Caitlin replies simply. “Lately everything’s been so…crazy. You’re some kind of fairy and you’ve got wings and magic and all these crazy memories about books you read during World War II.”
I have no idea what that last bit is about, but I have to admit that Leena’s sister has a point. Things have been crazy lately and they are getting crazier by the minute. I watch as Caitlin grabs one of Leena’s hands and the sisters look at each other for a long time. I have a feeling that they are reading each other’s minds, like I sometimes feel like I can with my mom.
“And I’m still just me,” Caitlin says finally.
There’s another long moment and then Leena laughs and hugs her sister. “Now you know what it was like being your sister for the first sixteen years of our lives! Fine…You can go, but I really don’t know how I’m going to tell Mom.”
“If Caitlin’s going, so am I,” says a boy who has been standing nearby.
I look at Daphne and raise an eyebrow. She mutters, “That’s Jeremy, Caitlin’s boyfriend.”
Makes sense, I guess.
I look around. Daphne, Caitlin, Jeremy, Mr. Shanachie, and me. I guess that’s it.
I can’t believe it, but I think the five of us are going to fairyland. Or the Otherworld. Or whatever it is.
Leena stared at the small group of determined people in front of her. She was going to do it. She was going to send them into the Otherworld. Her stomach clenched at the thought. It would be so dangerous, but what choice did she have? She couldn’t just abandon the boy. Someone had to try and rescue him.
So she was going to send them through the door and she was going to do it right now.
If they waited, if they tried to take time to gather supplies or make a plan, it would never happen. Leena might be the Lady reborn, a powerful fairy who had once ruled half of a world, but she was also just a teenager. If the adults in town—aside from the Five, of course—caught wind of her plan to send four teenagers into another world with only the local pub keeper to protect them, they would put a stop to it.
So, she said, “You must go now.”
Daphne nodded eagerly, but Kira and Caitlin looked surprised and dismayed.
“Right now?” Caitlin asked. “Shouldn’t we…I don’t know, go home and pack a bag or something?”
“It’s not a vacation,” Leena pointed out. “And you don’t own any clothes that wouldn’t stick out over there. Shanachie will help you get what you need once you’re through the door. Imagine what would happen if Mom found out what we were planning.”
Caitlin thought for a moment and then nodded. “You’re right. We have to go now.”
They all looked at each other while the crowd watched in silence. They really had to hurry befo
Jeremy broke the silence by saying, “So, do I get a sword or what?”
Caitlin elbowed him and muttered, “Idiot.”
“What? Don’t heroes get a sword when they head off to fairyland on a dangerous rescue mission?”
Ignoring them, Shanachie stepped forward. With a grunt, he started to kneel in front of Leena.
“Oh, don’t,” she said, reaching out to stop him, but he brushed her hand away and got down on his good knee.
“I will take them through the door, Your Highness, and I will bring them back again, with the boy. You have my word on that,” Shanachie said gruffly.
Leena remembered a younger version of the pub keeper making another vow to her many years ago. A vow to forsake everything and everyone he had ever known to keep her safe. And he had kept his vow. Time and time again he had kept her safe. How many more times would he risk his life for her?
But she needed him. She needed them all. So with a sigh, she placed a hand on his bent head and said, “I have your word, old friend. Do as you say and keep them safe. Especially my sister,” she added.
With another grunt, Shanachie pulled himself back to his feet and gave her a swift, fierce hug. “I will, my girl. I will guard her as if she were you.”
Then he limped to the door and stepped through. The crowd took a collective breath, as if waiting for something terrible to happen. When nothing did, they began to
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