"That is not what I have been doing," I spat.
"Is it not?" Mab asked. "Have I misunderstood? First you captured her imagination and affection as an associate of her father's. You made her curious about what you could do, and nurtured that curiosity with silence. Then when she went to explore the Art, you elected not to interfere until such time as she found herself in dire straits-at which point your aid placed her deep within your obligation. You used that and her emotional attachment to you to plant and reap a follower who was talented, loyal, and in your debt. It was actually very well-done."
I stood there with my mouth open for a second. "That . . . that isn't . . . what I did."
Mab leaned closer to me and said, "That is precisely what you did," she said. "The only thing you did not do is admit to yourself that you were doing it. Which is why you never availed yourself of her charms. You told yourself lovely, idealistic lies, and you had a powerful, talented, loyal girl willing to give her life for yours who also had nowhere else to turn for help. As far as your career as a mentor goes, you grew into much the same image as DuMorne."
"That . . . that isn't what I did," I repeated, harder. "What you're doing to her will change her."
"Did she not change after you began to indoctrinate her?" Mab asked. "You were perhaps too soft on her during her training, but had she not already begun to become a different person?"
"A person she chose to be," I said.
"Did she choose to be born with her gift for the Art? Did she choose to become someone so sensitive that she can hardly remain in a crowded room? I did not do that to her-you did."
I ground my teeth.
"Consider," Mab said, "that I have done something for her that you never could have."
"What's that, exactly?"
"I have put her beyond the reach of the White Council and their Wardens," Mab said, again as if explaining something to an idiot. "While they might howl and lecture as much as they wish about an apprentice wizard, they can do nothing at all to the Winter Lady."
I took a deep breath.
That . . . was also true.
"You've made her life so much harder," I said quietly. I wasn't saying it to Mab, really. I was just sounding out loud the chain of argument in my head. "But so have I. Especially after Chichen Itza."
"You trusted her with your mind and your life," Mab said. "I took that as a statement of confidence in her abilities. You will be working frequently with the Winter Lady. It seems to me that this would be a most appropriate match."
"And her duties?" I asked. "What is the purpose of the Winter Lady?"
"That is for her to know," Mab said. "Know this, my Knight: Had I not considered her an excellent candidate, I would never have had her prepared. She has the basic skills she will need to master the power of the mantle-especially if one she trusts is there to advise and reassure her."
"You should have spoken to me about this first," I said. "You should have spoken to her."
Mab moved so quickly that I literally never saw it. The gun was suddenly, simply gone from my hand and was being pushed into my face-in exactly the same spot where Maeve had been shot.
"I," Mab said coolly, "am not your servant, Dresden. You are mine."
"Demonreach," I said. "If our guest pulls that trigger, take her below and keep her there."
The guardian spirit's vast shadow fell over us even though there was nothing actually casting it, and Mab's eyes widened.
"Servant," I said. "I don't like that word. I suggest that you consider where you stand and choose a different term. My Queen. And you will be gentle with that girl, or so help me I will make you regret it."
Mab's mouth quirked very slightly-her eyes more so. She looked up at me almost fondly, exhaled, and said, "Finally, a Knight worth the trouble." She lowered the gun and calmly passed it back to me.
I took it from her.
"Have you any other questions?" she asked.
I frowned, thinking. "Yeah, actually. Someone called Thomas and told him to be ready at the boat when I first got back to town. Do you know anything about that?"
"I arranged it, of course," Mab said, in a voice that sounded exactly like Molly's. "As a courtesy to the ancient one, just before your party started."
At that, I shuddered. Molly's voice coming from that inhumanly cold face was . . . just wrong.
"Lily," I said. "She waved her hand over my chest, as if she could detect the influence of the adversary."
Mab's lips pressed into a firm line. "Yes."
"Could she?" I asked.
"Of course not," Mab said. "Were it so simple a task, the adversary would be no threat. Not even the Gatekeeper, at the focus of his power, can be absolutely certain."
"Then why would she think she could?" I asked. Then I answered my own question. "Because Maeve led her to believe that she could. All Maeve had to do was lie, and maybe sacrifice a couple of the adversary's pawns to make it seem real. Then she could have Lily wave her hands at her, and 'prove' to her that Maeve was clean of any taint. And Lily wasn't experienced enough to know any better. After that, Lily would have bought just about anything Maeve was selling."
"Obviously," Mab said, her tone mildly acidic. "Have you any questions you cannot answer for yourself?"
I clenched my jaw and relaxed it a couple of times. Then I asked, "Was it hard for you? Tonight?"
"Hard?" Mab asked.
"She was your daughter," I said.
Mab became very silent, and very still. She considered the ground around us, and paced up and down a bit, slowly, frowning, as if trying to remember the lyrics of a song from her childhood.
Finally she became still again, closing her eyes.
"Even tonight, with everything going to hell, you couldn't hurt her," I said.
Mab opened her eyes and stared down through a gap in the trees at the vast waters of Lake Michigan.
"A few years back, you got angry. So angry that when you spoke it made people bleed from the ears. That was why. Because you figured out that the adversary had taken Maeve. And it hurt. To know that the adversary had gotten to her."
"It was the knife," Mab said.
"Morgana's athame," Mab said in a neutral tone-but her eyes were far away. "The one given her by the Red Court at Bianca's masquerade. That was how the Leanansidhe was tainted-and your godmother spread it to Maeve before I could set it right."