The bigger problem was that the others had started to look at me for answers. I saw it in their eyes and the way they waited as they expected me to speak.
This was not, I realized because I held a title back in the Fae lands. Most of them -- maybe all of them -- had no idea whom I might be. Some who did know might think I was a disgraced fae and should be without powers -- but it was clear I had magic.
More than anything, I think they turned to me right now because I looked and acted more human than any of them.
"As much as I think we need to find the crowns and other missing things," I began, letting my voice take on some magic so that everyone could hear it, "I think our first problem is to find a safe way to remain hidden from the humans. We do not want to draw them into our problems."
That drew a quick murmur of agreement from the crowd. Good so far, though I hadn't actually asked them to do anything.
"You cannot remain here for too long. This much magic will draw notice even of the humans. I don't think that would be safe for any of us."
"But they are less safe spread out in small groups," Sylph replied. "Most of these beings have never been on this side of the veil. They don't know how to behave in ways that will not draw attention."
And with those words, she gave a quick glance at Lady Snow, reinforcing those words. She was right, too.
"If they can't go, then I guess we'll just have to work faster to find the answer to what is going on," I said. I kept from shoving both hands through my hair out of pure frustration. I had no idea at all where to start.
"I can help," a small voice said by my ear, and I looked to see a pixie land on my shoulder. I saw the little crown on his head and bowed my own as best I could in the awkward position. "I think you need something to lure the enemy out."
He put his tiny fingers to his crown.
"This would be dangerous, King Pixie," I said, but softly. I did not want to call his bravery into question. "Both for you and for the rest of us if they got your crown."
"It is only time before they try again," he said. Steadier than most pixies. He looked into my face, and I had the feeling I knew why he was the Pixie King -- and why they did better these days than they used to do. "I do not want to send my pixies against some force that it appears even the bigs are having trouble with this time. We will all do better if we can work together. If something still wants my crown, I don't see why any of us would want to make it easier for this enemy."
"You are right," Sylph said and bowed her head.
Then she looked at me.
"I have no more idea of what is going on than the rest of you," I said. I didn't like to admit to it, but the others only nodded. "I think the one thing I can do is try to get to the Faeland and find out what the fae themselves know. There is a reason why they are not here, and that may lead to the answers that we need."
"You do not go alone," Lycan said and then lifted his hand when I started to protest. "No."
I saw that Lady Snow and Sylph nodded agreement. Even King Pixie gave a quick nod, but I thought that might be his worry about having to face the enemy. He had to know, though, that we were bound to face something dangerous as well.
But at least he wouldn't be facing it alone.
"I will return as soon as I can with an answer," I said to the others, letting my voice drift out across the strange crowd. "Try to keep magic to a minimum. If humans come, don't fight them unless you must. You might defeat them, but that just means more will come the next time -- or they will come up with something that might be as dangerous to them as it would be to you. They do not give up."
I had to trust that some of these people had dealt with humans before and knew the truth of what I was saying. I looked at my companions and wanted to ask them to stay behind -- but they'd just argue with me. And I would lose.
We went back out the way we had entered. It grew progressively colder, and I thought that was as much my state of mind as the colder area away from so many people.
"This is a mess," I said and looked to Lycan. King Pixie still sat on my shoulder and nodded in agreement. I stopped worrying about what he might or might not understand. He had one hand to his crown, though, as though he intended to hold on to it no matter what anyone else wanted.
We had to get to a spot away from this area to where I could open a portal to Faeland. I could do it here, but the mass of unintentional magic the others had created here would have made that dangerous.
Besides, I didn't want to give away their hiding place, even to my own people. Who knew what else might be lurking on the other side, waiting for someone to zip through. I said so to the others.
"Only one way to find out," Lycan said. He had his hand on his sword. "And at least it would be a quick answer."
I agreed. "Get ready," I said.
I opened the portal, and we stepped into -- yeah, more trouble.