Chapter Twelve: Belas Knap

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The barrow was not as sinister inside as I expected, perhaps because of the constant kaleidoscope of flowers that provided carpet, canopy and wallpaper. The flowers sparkled everywhere that our torch lights struck them. I swung my light back and forth across the limestone walls, nervously looking for movement, for watching eyes, or for tiny deadly spiders with poison-tipped fangs.

Hari grabbed my wrist and focused my flashlight on the ground in front of us. "Stop doing that," he said.

"Sorry."

I laughed, because he looked so ridiculous in the pink spectacles. He scowled back at me and we walked on in silence.

There was no graffiti down here; no empty bottles or cigarette butts; no sleeping drunks. No-one had been in here for hundreds of years.

"How did they keep this quiet?" I asked. "It's a hole in the side of a hill. If this was Hastings, it would be full of dirty magazines and beer cans."

"Magic, Frazer. They made it look like the door wasn't here, and they made it so that no-one would want to come in."

"Well, it worked on me."

"No, it didn't," said Hari. "You're immune. You just didn't want to come in."

I felt like an idiot, but he only shut me up for a minute.

"Why didn't they brick it up?"

"Because you can break bricks," said Hari.

His nostrils flared. Obviously, my questions annoyed the hell out of him. I decided to keep going.

"Why are you sympathetic to earth magic?"

He sighed. "How is that any of your business?"

"We're partners down here, aren't we? I ought to know what makes you special. Are you one of them? Are you a fairy?" It felt like a provocative question to ask a man at the best of times. Hari turned and glowered at me over the rims of the rose-tinted spectacles.

"There aren't any fey in Horseshoe," he said. "Pure fey aren't allowed to serve."

"So, what does that make you?"

Hari was exasperated. "I'm half-fey," he said. "On my mother's side."

I laughed again. I didn't mean to, but it sounded ridiculous. The fey I had seen so far had been tall, beautiful and regal. They all fit a type that I could accept as 'fairy.' Hari was certainly tall, and he was good-looking in a heavy-browed, broad-shouldered, brutish way, but he wasn't beautiful or regal. He wasn't Éven.

"Didn't your family mind when you signed up for the fairy police?" I asked.

"I didn't sign up," said Hari. "The day I turned eighteen, I applied to join the...regular police. London Met. Turns out any human with fey blood who joins the emergency services gets pushed into Horseshoe Division. Same for any recruit with a magical gift, or anyone who has a lot of contact with the fey. And if you've got a gift and you're a civilian, well, they'll try to make you sign up as well. Make sure they offer you a good deal."

"I'm not a soldier."

"Yeah, you're telling me," said Hari. He put a hand to my shoulder and peered ahead down the corridor. "Heads up; we've got company."

I yelped and flashed my light at the path ahead—but there was no-one there. We had reached a solid stone wall.

"It's a dead end," I whispered.

"Wait for it," said Hari.

A crack appeared in the stone and raced across the surface. Part of the wall flaked away. Rocks and dust rained down and something moved in the wall. First, I saw a hand, and an arm, and then a shoulder. A leg broke forth, and a faceless head emerged.

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