They walked back to the gyrocopter landing area hand in hand. She wasn’t precisely sure how that had happened. Their hands had bumped a couple times, and then, if she was honest with herself, she had to admit that she’d taken his hand. On the other hand, he didn’t have to walk next to her, and she was fairly sure that he’d bumped her hand first. So, they’d had the same mutually bad idea.
And it was a bad idea. She was literally leaving tomorrow, possibly for ten years. Plus, if everything went well, and her parents brought her home next year… Well, if any hint of this reached the tabloids, it would be the royal scandal of the season.
On the other hand, given what she’d become, her existence was a scandal. Even if she could go home, the smart choice would be for her parents to use her to frighten their enemies, not make alliances.
In one sense, it was the end of everything she’d ever expected, but in another she was free.
She wouldn’t have to be part of a sham marriage built on a need to keep the peace or provide heirs. The old line of Bloodmaidens had only rarely gotten married, but they’d had lovers. Of course, this was back when there was no empire, and the family ruled little more than their own islands. They were a rougher and wilder clan back then–
Voices and images interrupted her thoughts, the voices telling her about loves lost and found during both war and peace. The images told her more about the human body, male and female than she’d ever known or wanted to know. It wasn’t all people having sex, and there were as many or more sweet and slightly awkward scenes, but it was too much.
She found that her cheeks were burning.
Nick turned his head toward her. “Are you alright? If you’re uncomfortable…” His grip loosened.
She squeezed his hand. “No. It’s not you. It’s… Listen, I can hear all the Bloodmaidens of the old line in my head. They’re all offering me advice. Some of them are nice. Some are smart. Some have the restraint of a cat in heat. Guess what they’re telling me?”
He blushed, but then he stopped. “Do you have all of their knowledge? That would be hundreds of years of magical background, or history, or combat. Think about that. That would be amazing. Have you used it?”
She stopped walking. She was about to say no, but, “I think I did when we were fighting the assassins. I never learned how to use the spear–at least not that well.”
Nick furrowed his brow. “Do you think they could take over?”
“I hope not.” She didn’t feel like they could. For all that they shouted, she didn’t feel like anything but herself.
Inside her head, she heard only a chorus of denial, all of the past Bloodmaidens saying, “No”–all except one, the closest one to her. That one said nothing, and now that Amy thought about it, the closest one hadn’t ever said anything.
That one only watched.
Amy looked up at Nick. “We need to get to the gyrocopter. There might be more of them. Anyone with any magic sensitivity at all will have felt me change.”
Nick’s eyes widened, and he nodded. “That’s a good point.”
They hurried to the copter, no longer holding hands, and took to the air. The sun had fallen in the sky since they’d gone to the park. It wasn’t dark, but the sun was setting. It hung in the west. Amy wondered if the towers there were all part of New Amsterdam or other cities that butted up against each other.
Whatever the truth was, towers extended as far the eye could see.
Nick landed the gyrocopter, and the Harcourts burst into the room as Nick and Amy pushed the copter into the storage room that served as its hangar. Mr. Harcourt’s first words were shouted at full volume, “Whatever possessed you to change in the middle of this city?”
Not waiting for a response, he turned toward Nick, “And what gave you the idea to take a princess who is supposed to be going into hiding out into the middle of a city?”
Nick opened his mouth, but beyond the word, “I…” nothing more came out.
Red light filled the room along with music and the wails of all the past Bloodmaidens. The wailing was only heard in Amy’s head, but she heard it very well as she transformed.
Meeting Mr. Harcourt’s eyes, she felt her eyes narrow as his grew wider. “You’ve no right. You don’t know why we had to.”
Amy’s hands had stopped touching the copter’s wing when she changed, but she knew without asking that she was strong enough to throw it at him if she wanted to, and if the room weren’t so small.
Breaking William Harcourt’s neck wouldn’t take much effort either.
Agnus Harcourt touched William’s shoulder, pulling him backward, and saying, “Of course not, your highness.”
Mr. Harcourt tried to pull away from her, but Agnus kept her hand on his suit coat. “Let me go, if we don’t stand up to her, she’ll never respect us.”
He put his right hand in the front pocket of his suit coat. Amy didn’t know what was in it, but the pocket glowed with the red of blood magic.
Nick’s grandfather entered the room with no sign of weakness, walking like a much younger man than his years. Amy saw no sign of magic, but she thought she heard the clacking of gears as he took a step. His suit jacket and pants seemed bulkier than before too.
“There will be no violence under this roof,” he said.
He wasn’t alone. Along with him came a long haired man in the blue jacket and white pants of New Amsterdam’s army. He held a short sword in each hand. “Harcourt,” he said. “I see that your head is still attached to your body. It’d be a shame if that changed.”
Mr. Harcourt pulled his hand out of his pocket and let his wife pull him back.
Captain Lee nodded to Amy. “My ladies,” he said. “It’s good to meet the most recent of your number.”
Amy felt approval from some of those inside her, fear from others, and saw no sign of magic in him at all. Whatever Nick might say, he was no Elderkin.