Chapter Four: The Horseshoe Men

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At the very moment that the warrior threw her spear, a sudden strong wind blasted in off the sea, knocking the spear off its course so that it sailed past my head by a hair's breadth.

The lady narrowed her eyes and gave her soldier an order. The soldier restrained the third member of their party, the man in grey. He didn't resist.

The lady strode towards me with the surest step I have ever seen on a pebble beach.

I knew I should run, but I didn't want to abandon my brother, and anyway, there was nowhere to run to.

The lady leapt up onto the Harbour Arm and drew a small curved dagger from its sheath. The blade was white as bone. She pressed the blade to my neck and gripped my face with sharp fingernails.

The pupils of her eyes were large and black. Her teeth were serrated with sharp little hooks. She wasn't human.

She slid her fingers to my neck and lifted me off my feet as if I weighed nothing at all.

"What are you?" she asked.

I didn't understand the question, and I was too terrified to answer.

Her thumbnail dragged along my skin, pricking at my birthmark, and she hissed. She was so strong, and her claws so sharp, that I knew she would be able to tear my throat out with less than a moment's thought.

"We can have no witness," she said. "I am sorry for what I—"

Her eyes rolled closed, her grip slacked, and we both fell hard on the concrete.

The man stood over her, with faint wisps of blue smoke fading from his fingertips, and he smiled at me.

He was a wonder.

His dark grey tunic hung like silk from his broad shoulders and clung to the muscles of his arms; the open neck revealed the sharp line of his collarbone. Tight black breeches hugged his thighs, and snug black boots traced the line of his calves. The most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

I tried to remember to breathe.

He reached out a hand and pulled me to my feet.

"She will only sleep for a moment," he said. "We must be quick."

Over his shoulder I saw that the soldier was also asleep on the beach.

Off towards the horizon was something else unexpected; a helicopter. A sign of life. Real life.

The man followed my gaze and saw it too.

"The Horseshoe Men. We must retreat."

He stared at me with an intensity that made me quiver.

"What is your name?"

"Ben," I said. "Ben Frazer."

"My name is Éven. Tell me, Ben; can you break this thread?"

He held his wrists out in front of him, and for the first time I noticed that a long silver thread hung between his wrists, glistening like a spider-web on a dewy morning. It was barely a wisp of hair. Anyone could break it.

I reached out with one finger, and the thread dissolved at my touch.

Éven let out a short, amazed laugh. He put his hands on my shoulders and gripped me with reassuring strength.

"You must run now."

"My brother—"

"The Horseshoe Men approach. If Selkie wakes before they get here, you will be the one who suffers, not your brother. Run, and do not be found. Not by any of them, do you understand?"

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