I shrug. “Another couple of hours. We’ll transfer in Istanbul, and then…” I frown, trying to think of my geography and overlay that into the NeverNever. “Black Sea, from the way this is pointing. North side of the Black Sea. Do you want to do that path?”
The Winter Knight’s eyes are glinting. “Oh, yes.”
The Black Sea section of the Ways, as the Knight and I have both experienced, is not what anyone else would call fun. It’s the fastest route in this area, but it’s mountainous, lawless, and populated by wyldfae who didn’t want to declare for Winter despite their obvious talents in the area. In short, it’s a barrel of laughs.
Our resident Warden looks unimpressed as we step through the rock crevice someplace in the Istanbul area. “This path is not the best, Miss Dollface…”
“But it is the fastest,” I tell him pointedly. “And I’m under instructions from the boss.”
Grey laughs for the first time. “Then we will prepare for the danger, Warden.”
I see a pack of goblins lurking as we step onto a rocky path that threatens to crumble beneath our feet, and I’m aware of shadows flickering once or twice as we walk along it. It’s a pack of wolf-beasts that decide to go for us; I suspect their hunger has driven them into terrain they wouldn’t normally consider. I sense them ahead and slow as the Knight catches up, sensing the same thing I do. I shake my hands out, wishing I had my gun, and he’s readying a snowball; we both automatically turn, backs to the other, guarding our respective sides. For all my annoyance at him, we make a good team.
The first wolf to show itself gets a snowball straight into the muzzle, knocking it backwards with a yelp. I take two out on my side with tiny, well-placed balls of heat that act like bullets, and then turn to see what everyone else is doing. The Warden is just pulling his sword from the head of a wolf that’s slumped on the ground; Grey’s still strolling along, unconcerned, but Marta’s glaring ahead of us.
“Come on, get over here,” I call to them, dancing away from the wolf circling me.
“Incoming,” the Knight snaps, busy with a wolf that’s gone for his throat and instead met the icicle-claws, and I loose off two more shots. There’s a yelp.
“Missed one,” I say irritably, watching it break into a lope towards us.
“All the more for me!” my companion says gleefully, slamming a blast of something that looks like a condensed blizzard into the leaping wolf as I roll aside. The pack’s starting to back off now, whining, uncertain if this prey is worth it.
I let the Knight finish playing while everyone else catches up, stepping a little more quickly over the rocky ground, and then we’re moving again. The Warden keeps his sword out, acting as rear-guard, and I let our Winter psychopath lead with his icicle-claws. The pack shadows us for a little while, but I think their losses – and the occasional snowball that the Knight lobs in their direction – makes them give up. They fade off into the darkness as we transition out of the mountains to a rocky plain.
“How much further to the gate?” the Warden asks.
I consider it. There’s two Ways that intersect up ahead, but I don’t know which one is going to be most useful…or if neither will help. “Winter boy!”
“What?” he yells back from his position on a rocky lump, scanning the path ahead.
“Come and make a portal for me.”
“I need to check where we’re going.”
I stomp up to the Winter Knight and glare up at him. “You know spells change in the NeverNever. Get me back to the real world in a useful place, or I’ll step through and take my chances, and then you’ll be screwed.”
“Fine!” he snarls back at me and hops off the rock. “Aparatum.”
“Thanks, darling,” I coo at him.
“You’re pushing your luck again,” he mutters sourly, but does step through after me.
It’s mid-afternoon in the real world from what I can tell. The Knight folds his arms and glowers around at the beautiful view over the Black Sea that’s spread out in front of us as I wait for the tracking pendant to catch up with where I am.
“That way,” I say eventually, pointing.
The Winter Knight flips his phone out of his pocket and finds the map. “Hmm.” And a grin starts spreading across his face. “Sevastopol.”