Adam gave a hint of a smile. “Why would you think I’d know anything about that?”
“Oh.” I realized I’d given something away, and tried to think of a way to answer that did minimal damage. “Well, Troll smelled fey on you, so I guessed you might have a connection.”
He blinked. “I didn’t know it was that obvious, but yes, my powers come from the fey. I’ve never told anybody, but I suppose it had to come out sometime. Sorry, but I haven’t noticed anything unusual.”
“Really? That’s weird. I’d think you’d see something before I would, and I’m pretty sure I saw something inhuman on the Fourth of July.”
He nodded along as I talked. “Interesting. What did you see?”
I hadn’t anticipated that question, and maybe I should have. I didn’t want to tell him about the things I’d actually seen on the drive home. That might lead to a conversation about what Amy could do. “Huh. Well, I thought I saw a person, but too short and shaped wrong. It was near Vaughn after the fireworks.”
“Shaped wrong, huh? Can you say how? I need a little more to go on.”
Not sure how much longer I could go, I shook my head. “It was dark, and seeing it felt weird. I tried not to see it.”
Adam kept his eyes on me, occasionally giving a nod as if to show he was listening. It felt strange trying to trick him into telepathically giving away whatever evil plan he might theoretically have when he was acting more comforting than anything else.
“Understandable. I’ve seen fairies that I can’t unsee. Creepy doesn’t cover it. Some of them give people nightmares even unintentionally, and you never know who to trust. I can tell you from experience that the more attractive of the fae aren’t necessarily the nicest.”
Hoping that Daniel had gotten what he needed, and finding it at least a little odd that he hadn’t said anything to me in the course of the conversation, I said, “Oh well, thanks for listening. I know it’s not really reasonable to expect you to hear my question and know the answer. I’ll head back to—“
Gifford stood up from the table as I took a step backward, preparing to go. “What are you really doing here?”
I stared at him, not able to get out much more than a, “Huh. I—“
“Why would Adam know? You’re accusing him of being involved.” Gifford’s face was turning redder.
In the back of my mind, I began to ask how I’d handle it if he attacked. If he attacked me with wind, I’d best off going under the table or something. That way I’d at least be out of his sight.
Walking back to my own table might do that too. Certainly Gifford wouldn’t attack me if attacking me were part of a group, would he?
“I’m not accusing him of being involved.” I hadn’t been—at least not to his face. That was the whole point. Adam would never give Daniel enough time to get anywhere if I walked over and accused him of things.
Adam put his hand on Gifford’s shoulder. “Relax, sit down.”
Gifford shook his head, his chin jutting forward. “No. He’s getting away with too much. Do you think anyone else would be put in the tournament even though he’s not an upperclassman? Plus he’s been hiding something. I don’t know what it is, but he’s been hiding it.”
His chair scraped on the floor as he moved it sideways, clearing space in between his row of tables and the one behind it.
Everyone nearby was watching us now—almost all of them first years.
Not sure if I should explain myself or simply walk back, I stood there. “I wasn’t the only person from my year in the tournament. There were a few of us—Amy, Sean, Jaclyn, and Izzy. That’s not a couple. Between the five of us, we could have fielded a team. I’m not getting away with much that other people aren’t. I’m helping teach where Gunther thinks I’m useful, but that’s because I already know how he teaches.”
Gifford all but snarled at me. “See, you admit it! No one else gets to do what you get to.”
I didn’t know what to say. It was as if he’d heard me say something completely different from what I actually said.
Beginning to run through possibilities, I realized that Haley had slipped her hand into mine. “Come on, Nick, let’s go.”
I turned my head to follow her lead, and realized that I wasn’t alone. Jaclyn, Izzy, and Travis were walking up behind her. Already standing next to the table, the rest of the League members looked ready to jump in as needed.
I’d have felt gratified for their support if I hadn’t noticed that people near Adam and Gifford were also standing up. Plus Gordon was walking toward Gifford.
That’s the moment where it all began to feel like the musical “West Side Story”—which between the Jets and the Sharks ought to make my side the Jets.
It would be better than Team Rocket at any rate. Granted, that was from a completely different story.
A booming voice echoed throughout the room, the rock around us seeming to vibrate with the words.
It probably was. Earthmover sailed across the stone floor without walking, stopping between Gifford and I.
“This will stop right now,” he said, mustache bristling. “No more arguments.”
I raised my left hand, the one Haley wasn’t holding, and said, “Excuse me, sir. I think—“
I was going to tell him that someone must be using magic to influence people’s minds, but I didn’t get the chance.
“No more arguments,” he said, pointing his hand in my direction.
Red rock surrounded me, and I sank into the floor.