There was nothing else to talk about. They had their plan; now all Dawn and her friends had to do was wait for a call so they could talk to Troy and Link.
Dawn didn’t like the idea of using the Djanaea as bait, but she also knew Corrie was right. Link would agree to it. If it would protect Troy, he would do it. She just didn’t know whether Link alone would make effective bait; after all, Gerlina had chosen to attack Troy, and she’d done so almost as soon as he’d walked out of a building. It was possible that she did know which one was the prince—and it was also possible that she would be afraid of Link, since he was the one who’d fought back against her.
But that was all something to worry about when they actually talked to Troy and Link. With Troy’s injury still healing, he might not be able to participate anyway. And the choice would be up to them. Dawn didn’t have to think of every contingency.
There is no new chapter of Chatoyant College today because I’m busy celebrating with my family. I hope that if you celebrate Christmas, you have had a wonderful day!
Dawn nodded unhappily. She didn’t like the conclusions they were coming to, but it made far too much sense. Of course the faerie who had tried to attack a Djanaea prince when he followed her sister into the woods would have a grudge against the Djanaea, especially after her sister had died.
“Do you really think she would attack Troy just because he was Djanaea?” Edie asked, clasping her hands tightly in her lap. “She couldn’t really have thought he was the same one her sister pined over, could she? Unless she thought Djanaea live as long as faeries…”
“Her body is gone,” Professor Rook said. “It is likely that her mind has deteriorated as well.”
Dawn swallowed. If Gerlina had really been after Troy and Link all along, then they were extremely lucky. How had she missed them on every night but that one? It surely hadn’t been the first night they’d been out on campus… though maybe it was the first time, at least since Gerlina had been paying attention, that Troy had been out on his own. Maybe she only cared about the prince himself, not his servant.
After all, the prince was the one her sister had loved. If she hadn’t been paying attention to what was on campus in the intervening hundreds of years—and she probably hadn’t, if she hadn’t attacked the Djanaea before now—she might not have even realized that the prince usually had a friend to watch over him and help him learn about humanity.
Dawn wasn’t sure what Ginny would be doing with the Circle of the Goddess members, but since she was the professor who was best at healing, she felt reasonably confident leaving them in her hands. Besides, she wanted to know what Professor Lal and Professor Rook had to say. Maybe the end of this mystery was finally here.
She hoped it meant they could catch the killer and end the reign of terror. The professors didn’t seem in any hurry. But was that because they didn’t think they could catch the killer anyway, or because they had a way to protect the students, or simply because their morality was different from humans’ and they weren’t worried?
She had to tell herself that it was one of the first two. Professor Lal, at least, had been pretty consistent about caring enough to protect the students.
They went up to the lounge, and she crowded onto one of the couches with Corrie and Edie again. This time she sat in the middle, wanting to feel the comforting pressure of her friends’ living bodies after seeing all that blood. Corrie put an arm around her shoulders.
“I believe that Professor Rook and I have the same idea as to the identity of the killer,” Professor Lal said without preamble, glancing at Professor Rook as she sat down. He nodded, but remained standing.
Professor Strega sat down in one of the chairs. “Will this help us stop the murders?”
“Yes, I am sure of it.” Professor Lal hesitated for a moment. “Perhaps with some help. But I understand at least part of her motives now.”
“We thought she died long ago,” Professor Rook said. “Her name is Gerlina.”
Corrie gasped. Dawn felt startled herself, though she wasn’t sure why. She’d heard that name somewhere before. But where?
“You know the name?” Professor Lal said.
“Yes,” Corrie said, leaning forward, her arm slipping off Dawn’s shoulder. “She was—“ But she stopped, looking at Edie.
Edie’s eyes were wide. She swallowed. “Link told us about how the Djanaea first came to make an agreement with the faeries. There were two faerie sisters, one of whom fell in love with a Djanaea prince. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and discovered that she was a faerie, and when her sister found out that he’d followed her, she attacked him. She protected him against her sister and made all the faeries promise not to hurt Djanaea, in return for the Djanaea keeping faerie secrets. We, um—I asked Leila for more details, and she told me their names. Balyan and Gerlina. Balyan died after the prince she loved married someone else, but she didn’t know what happened to Gerlina, just that she wasn’t around anymore.”
Professor Rook nodded. “That will do as a summary. I certainly believed that Gerlina was dead.”
“She wasted away,” Professor Lal said. “I was here at the time, and I saw it happening. Her grief was so great after her sister died that she no longer ate or did anything else to keep herself alive. I saw her body fading, and then no one saw her around anymore. We knew she had not left, so we believed her dead.”
“But she had not died,” Professor Strega said.
“It would seem not.”
“You don’t know for sure that it’s her,” Corrie said, frowning. “You can’t see her or recognize her face.”
“Everything matches,” Professor Lal said. “A faerie with no body would of course appear, to trance sight, to take the shape that her body had taken when she had one, if such a thing occurred. Gerlina’s body had certainly been very thin. She also had long, sharp teeth. I do not remember the red eyes, but that may be a consequence of the loss of her body, or perhaps something that Meg only imagined she saw.”
“Why didn’t you think of her earlier?” Dawn said. “You knew Elrath and Sean were torn to pieces by something with long, sharp teeth. You must have seen the bite mark in Troy’s arm as well, right? And there was Roe’s vision.” She turned to Professor Strega. “She must have described the teeth to you. Didn’t you tell anyone else?”
“I did.” Professor Strega looked steadily at Professor Lal. “I described those teeth to you as exactly Roe described them to me.”
“I regret that I did not make the connection,” Professor Lal said, looking down. Dawn wasn’t sure if she was acting or not. “My only excuse is that I must have been thoroughly convinced that she was dead. It had been hundreds of years since I had seen her, after all.”
“I never knew her,” Professor Rook said, frowning. “I didn’t know about the teeth. But I had heard the story, and when Meg described the wasted shape, I realized what the connection to the Djanaea was.”
“Of course,” Corrie said. “She must hate them—it’s their fault her sister is dead. Do you think Troy and Link were her intended victims all along?”
“Okay,” Dawn said quickly, not wanting Meg to get too upset. She was going to have to process the trauma eventually, but for now they still needed some answers. “What about the cold breeze? Did any of the rest of you feel it?”
“No,” Chandra said, shaking her head. None of the others responded.
“Professor Lal,” Dawn said, turning to her. “You remember the cold spot I noticed in class.”
Professor Lal nodded slowly, her lips pinched together. “You think that was the killer.”
Dawn felt sick. She was lucky she hadn’t known the two victims—Corrie and Edie must feel even worse, even though they didn’t like Payton and Elena, just for knowing them.
No wonder the four girls from the Circle of the Goddess were just sitting on the chairs, staring into space or crying. They’d just witnessed something incredibly horrific happen to people they cared about and trusted. She wondered whether they even realized they were still sitting there covered in blood.
“Ash and Chandra,” Corrie said. “How does what Meg described match with what you saw? Did you see the teeth?”
Several more chairs were available, but Dawn didn’t want to sit down. Whether that was because she didn’t think there was any point in trying to relax or because she didn’t want anything in common with the four blood-spattered girls in the chairs, she had no idea. But obviously Corrie and Edie had the same feeling, because neither of them sat down. Dawn nodded at Meg encouragingly. She didn’t think she wanted to hear the story, but she knew she needed to.
“We had our meeting tonight like always,” Meg said. “Payton and Elena said they had an idea. Something we needed to do, that obviously no one else was capable of doing. They wanted to find the killer and bind it.”