Chapter Eight: How the World Works

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Fairies. Fairy tales. Magic. If it was true, it had to be the biggest secret in the world. Selkie, Éven and the woman in the water were fairies. Fairies were real.

I tried to remember everything I had ever heard about fairies. Little women in lacy dresses living in flowers and drinking dew; Shakespeare's famous fairy court of Oberon, Titania and Puck; tooth fairies, fairy godmothers, talking animals and Rumpelstiltskin.

Or was he a troll?

Or an ogre?

Were those all fairies as well?

Were all those things real?

If fairies existed, how much else was real in the world that I always dismissed as stories?

"They don't live in flowers?" I asked.

The Admiral shook her head. "Most of the fey you met yesterday are of the Ocean Court, and they most certainly don't," she said. "For the most part, the fey look a lot like us. Some of them look so much like us that they've chosen to live among us. But in houses, not in flowers. Your neighbours could be fey. Although I hasten to add that, in your case, your neighbours are not. We checked. Every fey that chooses to live in Britain must register their presence and swear never to perform unauthorised acts of magic."

"There's a big book somewhere with the names of every fairy in Britain?"

"It's the 21st century, Mr Frazer. We use computers." The Admiral took a biscuit from the plate and dunked it in her tea.

"As you saw yesterday, fey can be exceptionally dangerous. That creature they attempted to summon is a sea monster named Ligeia. She can call up storms and crush ships, and she has dragged hundreds of men to their deaths. We put her to rest in the late 16th century, and she has been dormant ever since."

Having a name for the monster gave me a brief twinge of sympathy for her, which I wasn't expecting. She was a 'somebody' now. But the rest of the Admiral's description only made me more afraid of her.

"Why would they want to raise a monster?"

"To cause trouble. That is their nature. The previous director general described the fey as children with the strength of twenty men."

"That doesn't seem very nice," I said.

"It's a useful way to think of them," said the Admiral. "They're fickle, flickering creatures with minds like magpies. They see something beautiful or interesting and they pursue it with careless enthusiasm. They once fought a hundred-year war across Europe over a single silver thimble, and they fought that war with human soldiers and human blood. It took many tons of gunpowder and steel to win the peace."

The picture the Admiral painted seemed a good fit for Lady Selkie, but it didn't sound like Éven, who had taken a risk to keep me alive. Éven wasn't careless or cruel. He wasn't what the Admiral was describing.

The Admiral continued her brief history.

"The first Queen Elizabeth created Horseshoe Division to prevent another War of the Thimble. She removed the last strands of magic from everyday life in England. Our secret historians called it the Daisy Chain Emancipation, but the official name of the agreement was the Horseshoe Accords."

"Because horseshoes hold back magic?" I asked.

"Very good, Mr Frazer. Horseshoes were once placed above people's doors to keep out wicked spirits, because magic cannot abide iron. With the Horseshoe Accords, Elizabeth meant to hang a horseshoe over the island.

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