Amy lowered her chin, looking at him as much as she could without meeting his eyes. “I don’t want the throne, and even if I did, I don’t want to kill my sister and plunge the kingdom into war.”
The man shrugged. “Give yourself time. You might find that you feel differently in another hundred years.”
Hundred years? I thought.
To judge from Amy’s thoughts, Daniel replied, the nobility, and particularly the Bloodmaidens are long lived—assuming they don’t die in combat—and they do that a lot.
“And maybe I won’t,” Amy told him. “But enough of this, neither of us are here to talk about my family. Before we talk about why we are here, I think we should be properly introduced. I’m Princess Amelia of the House of Sacrifice, Lords of the Northern Islands, sometime Emperors of all the lands between there and the River Whip. Here, I’m known as Amy to my friends, and Bloodmaiden to the world at large.”
Though I deliberately avoided his eyes, I saw him smile. A flicker of fire escaped the corner of his mouth. “Though young, you are remarkably well trained. You managed to introduce yourself completely accurately, and yet not in such a way that your name could be used. Well done. Allow me to do the same. I’m called Artaxus, Eldest of the Great Worms. I am an earl of the Unseelie Court, and hold the Nightmare Mountains from the Frozen Land south to the Great Sea. I am know as Earl Landreaver to the fae, and in certain books that have made it to mortal lands. Some refer to me as the Eldest.”
Amy and Samita exchanged a look.
I didn’t know what they were thinking, but found myself thinking about our chances in a fight. Mostly I didn’t want to get into one in the hallway. If the dragon could breath fire while wearing a human shape, Daniel, Samita, Haley, Vaughn, Camille and Sean would probably die in an instant.
We had to get out where Haley might be able to dodge, and the rest could bring bring their own powers into play.
The problem was that if we did get out, we’d also have to keep him away from the other students in case a stray blast of fire went in their direction.
“Now,” Artaxus said, “let’s talk about why we’re here. I’m here because a young man of your acquaintance let me in. All I had to do was agree to be a distraction for the inhabitants for a day or two, and after that I was free to do whatever I wanted with the compound. You, I assume, are here to stop me.”
Amy said, “That’s right,” in a flat voice.
“Then all I ask you to do is leave me alone until tomorrow. After that I’ll release all your friends, though I will insist that all humans leave the compound.”
Amy nodded. “And why is that?”
Artaxus grinned, showing more white teeth than a human mouth should have. “Because after that, I’ll hunt down every human remaining unless they’ve pledged their fealty to me.”
From behind me, Sean’s voice rang out clearly. “Oh come on, people won’t rest until they’ve destroyed this place and all of you.”
Still grinning, Artaxus said, “That’s possible, but I’ll take my chances. You have to remember young man, that we tried this before, and we learned from it. This is our beachhead in the mortal world. We won’t surrender it easily. Let me assure you that your world’s response is anticipated, and we are preparing for it.”
Daniel? I thought. We need to distract him until we actually have some clue as to how they think they’ll win, or at least we need to get out of the tunnel.
I know. Daniel replied, and I felt the nervousness coming through our link. That was good. It meant he’d caught my thought about who would most likely die first.
I did, he added. I told Amy. She’s going to try to get us out into the open.
I felt a little tension go away. At least Haley would have a chance there. Then another thought occurred to me. Any chance you could sneak into his head and put him to sleep or something?
A hint of frustration gave way to acceptance. Not a chance. You remember what it was like when I first spent time around Lee. I was so disoriented I could barely function. It’s like that with Artaxus, but not as strong. That’s not going to stop him from crushing my mind like a grape if I make the mistake of entering it though. It’s only because of constant exposure to Lee that I can even function near this guy.
That opened up interesting avenues to explore, but I left them alone. Something had flashed in my HUD. Rachel, Travis, and Jaclyn’s communicators glowed green.
Moments after they appeared Rachel sent a message. “Hey little brother, who’s the suit?”