With Griever’s help Kiara had finally gotten through the melee to the set of cells Puck had informed her of earlier, and Griever quickly made work of the guard that had the keys.
He tossed them to her and she started trying each of them, squinting through the bars at the dim interior and the formless shapes inside.
The lock clicked and she forced the door open, her eyes adjusting to the darkness as she heard Griever moving to open the other cells.
Kiara looked at the assortment of women in front of her, their eyes shining in mute fear.
“You’re free now.” She told them, “Come on, we’ll lead you to safety.”
“You’re a Hawk.”
Kiara tried not to notice how young the girl that had spoken looked.
The women rose to their feet with an unmistakable dignity as Kiara ushered them into the hall.
Kiara looked up to see Kate and Corin running towards them, looking considerably battered.
Griever was leading another group of women out of the adjacent cell as he turned to meet them.
“What’s happening?” he started, “The Sherriff-“
“-he’s dead.” Kate interjected, “We have another problem.”
“The Fae have been working with him.” Corin explained, “Their king should still be on the grounds. Apparently –“ he paused and looked at Griever, “- he can only be killed by a lion.”
“My sword.” Griever said abruptly, cursing, “It’s somewhere in the middle of the woods!”
Kiara felt an idea coming to her.
“Wait – I know who could…”
She realized with a start that there was no finch, snake, weasel, imp, wolf, rabbit or other purple-eyed creature in the vicinity.
“Puck!” she hissed, “Puck! Where in blazes -!”
She realized that she was being looked oddly by a considerable number of eyes and sighed.
“Griever, you saw him! When he looked like me!” she insisted.
“That was a he?” he asked incredulously, “From what I could see – “
“He’s a shapeshifter!” Kiara hissed, “And if I could find him, he could turn into an eagle or something – “
“This 'he' is a Fae?” Kate asked, stunned.
“Yes. It’s a…long story.” Kiara offered, switching the sword in her grasp from her right hand to her left.
“You find this Fae, then,” Kate replied, “We’ll escort the women out and track down the Fae King.”
“I’ll come with you.” Kiara sighed, “I won’t be of much use questioning every rat in the castle.”
The women had been handed over to a few remaining Hawks, who themselves were in no condition to continue fighting, to be taken into the village.
Kiara had left the party and was doing the best she could with what little supplies she had to help their wounded. The battle had taken its toll. The grass was slippery with blood and the stench was unbearable.
She had just been in the midst of tying a tourniquet when she saw it.
There, on the horizon, was what looked like a large bird, flying as though it were drunk.
When it drew closer, Kiara recognized a familiar head of white hair.
Kiara barely had time to stand before Puck crashed clumsily into the ground, his massive black wings hardly cushioning his fall. He skidded to a stop and she ran towards him, terrified.
“What on Earth – “
“Here.” He muttered, before sliding something towards her feet.
She picked it up, realizing quickly that it was covered in dark purple blood.
“What is this?”
When she looked at Puck she could see the same blood dripping from his elven hands, his eyes, the corner of his mouth –
“It’s…like iron.” He managed through gritted teeth, “It’s enchanted against Fae. Take it. Go.”
“I can’t leave you here like this!” she hissed, kneeling beside him and trying to staunch the bleeding with the hem of her shirt.
“You have to.” He grimaced before continuing, “Go. Bring…bring me back his head.”
She could swear she saw something of a grin on his bloodied face.
“I don’t even know where the others are!” she shot back, tearing off a sleeve and using it as a crude bandage.
“I saw His Highness on the North Tower. I’m sure they’re close… by.”
He pulled his hands away.
“I’ll survive, firebird. Go.”
She picked up the sword and, against all of her instincts as a healer, she ran.