Theo’s face stirred, wincing in his sleep. Oboe watched and worried, sitting on the floor, while the doctor checked his pocket watch again. It was only a matter of time until the watchmen came, and then Oboe didn’t know what would happen.
“Kid,” Thistle said, whispering. “If this goes sour, I want you to run. I’ll keep ’em busy. You’re young. You can run to the Korveil border before they can catch you. It’ll be safe there.”
The idea made her angry. “I’m not leaving you guys,” she said.
Mort leaned over them, leering. “What are you fey scheming?”
“Well, I WANTED to plot a daring escape,” Thistle said. “But if no one wants to cooperate, I guess I’ll wait to die instead!”
The crystals dangling from the human science doohickey chimed. Their colors shifted, and the magic around them tensed like a stretched sheet. The doctor rushed to a control panel. His face grew pale.
“Something’s happening,” he said. “The aura-form is spiking.”
“Good,” Thistle said. “Looks like the deputy found his pressure point. If he’s worth anything, he’ll prove to the dream that it should help him.”
“And if he doesn’t?” The doctor said.
“You sent that human to die,” Zither said.
“Shut up!” Oboe said, wishing she’d left the buck to wither. “Theo can do it! He’s smart, and he wanted to help you!”
The doctor planted his hands on the control panel. “This was a mistake. I’m going to cut him out and put a stop to this.”
“He’ll be stuck in there if you do that!” Thistle stood up, and Mort blocked him with his sword. “If you tear the dream, it won’t work right!”
“I don’t care how it works!” The doctor whipped around. “This man’s aura is in the red zone! He’s at risk of going into a coma! This magic is dangerous!”
“It’s only dangerous because it was used wrong,” Oboe said, shooting a glare at Zither. “Magic doesn’t want to hurt anyone. It wants to change things, and make them grow. It wants to be good, even when we’re wicked. You need to trust it.”
There was a knock at the door, and a robed woman entered. “The Watch is here, Dr. Stillwell.”
“Send them up,” he said. “I’ll give report to them myself.”
The door closed. Oboe felt like she was standing on the edge of a cliff. The knights were coming to take her away. If the humans ripped open the dream, it would be weeks or months before Theo could wake up. Depending on what they did with her, she might not see him again.
“I don’t see anything good about what has happened here today,” the doctor said to her. “Give me one reason why I should trust anything about this magic.”
Oboe felt her heart flutter. She remembered what Gardner Feather had told her before. The words weren’t hers, but they felt right.
“All magic, and every creature touched by it, is born with the purpose to do good,” she said. “That includes me, and you, and that spell too. We all mess up, but Thistle says the spell can be a good thing if we let it. Isn’t that what the Mother of Magic thinks too?”
The doctor reached under his robes and pulled out a round talisman. It was the same symbol Oboe saw at the fairy sanctuary, a circle with other shapes inside that all fit together. He held it in his palms as if trying to read it. His shoulders drooped.
The door swung open. A troop of knights crowded in, dressed in white and green tabards. “We received your alert. What is the situation?”
Stillwell replaced his amulet under his clothes. “Yes. There’s been a fairy attack, and I need it dealt with.” He pointed at Zither. “This one cast a curse on Duke Ambergrail. The man’s bodyguard can corroborate if you need proof. I want this creature taken into custody at once.”
The watchmen eyed Oboe and Thistle. “What about these others?”
“Leave them,” he said. “We’re attending to the duke’s condition as we speak. They are assisting me. If they cause trouble, I will send for you again.”
Pulled onto his hooves, Zither’s stony face wavered now that he had to meet his fate. He clenched his jaw, and gave Oboe a determined look before they took him away. Oboe didn’t care. She turned her attention back to Theo, and waited.
The doctor sat down across from them. He seemed more at ease, but not so much to undo their chains. “Tell me more about how this magic works,” he said.