"My Knight," Mab said.
I tried to think of two words in the entire English language I hated more, and couldn't.
"I had hoped not to have to issue this order," she continued, voice warm and sympathetic. Color me impressed. All Mab's sympathy really meant was that she wasn't going to be the one personally causing me pain or forcing me to hurt things in the immediate future. And at this point, I frankly didn't give a damn which of the Court was giving me orders; all of them were just as awful to obey.
Unless it was Maeve again. Empty night, I hoped it wasn't Maeve.
I racked my brain, trying to think which of the higher-up Fae were likely to be cashing in on a favor, but came up with nothing. Things had been...well, not peaceful, recently. Not quiet. But...consistent. Yeah. Consistent was a good word.
Before Maggie, before Mexico, before Mab, I used to think I didn't have a peaceful life. I used to be wrong.
I tuned back in only to find that Mab had finished speaking and was looking at me expectantly. Shit. "Sorry. What?"
Her eyes narrowed.
"I said," she repeated, the air around me growing just a few degrees colder (a warning, and not a very subtle one - stars, she was pissed), "I am going to have to order you to kill John Marcone."
"I know you were listening, Knight. I thought I had trained you in manners sufficiently last August." Icicle coldness prickled up my spine, and I flinched.
"My deepest apologies, my Queen," I said with thorough sincerity, dropping into a bow. I used to think there wasn't a monster alive that could force me into good manners. It was a point of pride with me: they could destroy my home, they could destroy my friends, they could destroy my life and my freedom and my body, but they couldn't ever destroy my God-given right to mouth off.
Stars and stones, I'd been innocent. Ignorant. Looking back on it, I almost scared myself.
"I don't understand the order, my Queen. Baron Marcone is a signatory of the Accords. It would be an act of war for any agent of Winter, even the Winter Knight, to openly attack him."
"Which is why the attack will not be open," said Mab coolly. "Baron Marcone will shortly attempt a ritual which will place him in a position resulting in certain death. Your orders are to help ensure he places himself in this position. I am giving you to him."
"It is not a trade I am pleased to make," Mab said, sounding almost petulant. "But circumstances compel me. Go to him, and follow his orders as you would mine until such time as I call you to return. And do try not to die in the interim."
And with that she disappeared, fading out of sight like a vanishing snowflake, leaving me with my marching orders and confusion. And a whole faceful of melty new snow.
I huddled into my duster (faerie leather, made from the skins of I-didn't-ask-what), glanced around, and started walking quickly, rubbing my hands in front of me. It was three days before Halloween, and Chicago was getting cold.
Nobody has ever accused me of being bad at my job.