Chapter Twenty: The Court at Dusk

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Grace stood at the iron table at the edge of the Glass Embassy. She placed a black crystal on the table and covered it with a black velvet cloth.

"Queen Zorya of the Court at Dusk, the Glass Embassy calls to you."

Grace turned her back to the embassy. She looked to Hari and his hammer and he gave her a nod.

Behind her, wisps of black and purple smoke unfurled around the glass and reached out to the same invisible wall that had contained the rushing water of the Ocean Court. Sparks of silver and gold glistened in the dark trails as the Court at Dusk seeped into the Glass Embassy.

This was Éven's court.

"Don't watch this, Mr Frazer," said the Admiral. She pulled off her black tie and tried to wrap it around my head. I pulled away.

"What are you doing?"

"Put it on. You'll need it."

"I'm magic-proof!"

"You're not madness-proof. Cover your eyes or I'll have you removed from the room."

I didn't want to leave. I didn't like that the Admiral was still asking questions about Éven, but I wanted to know as much about him as I could, and that meant learning about his court. I covered my eyes with the tie and knotted it at the back of my head.

At once I heard a whisper behind me, followed by sighs and groans. I picked out words, but they were so faint that I could not hear them properly. I heard my name, close by my ear. And I heard my mother's name, clear as anything, and I turned and lifted my blindfold. The Admiral slipped it back down and pressed her hand to my face.

"They're not words, Mr Frazer. They're just sounds."

"I thought I heard—"

"You didn't. Everyone makes sense of it their own way. They're only sounds."

The voices grew louder and more urgent, as if a crowd of people were fighting for my attention. There were so many voices that I could not make out anything they said, and they got so loud that I had to cover my ears.

It didn't make any difference. The voices were already in my head. A thousand voices screaming in my skull. I thought I was going insane, and I wanted to scream back.

Then it stopped.

All at once the voices went away. The Admiral tapped me on the shoulder, and I realised I had curled into a crouch. I lowered my hands and stood up straight and cautiously lifted my blindfold. The Admiral did not stop me.

The Glass Embassy was now engulfed by a heavy blackness that shifted and flickered like a storm cloud. It was beautiful. Black silk and lightning.

Grace stood at the edge of the wall, trembling. Hari gripped the hammer so tight that his whole body shook, and Abigail stared into the darkness with her hands bunched into fists as if she meant to punch anything that stepped out of the shadows. I could only guess at what they might have heard from the voices that had agitated them so. These were some of the most hardened people I had ever met, and they were terrified of Éven's court.

"To attention, all of you," said the Admiral. Hari and Abigail jumped back into their positions.

A voice whispered out of the darkness. "You stand in the presence of Zorya, Queen of Dusk. Come before me, friend, and let me make sense of your sorrows."

"All right," said Grace. "Let's do it."

She stepped into the dark.

As soon as Grace entered the circle I found that I could follow her shape; a thicker shadow in the gloom. The darkness softened like a clearing fog. I gasped when I saw that Grace was surrounded by figures, all of them cloaked, some of them wielding swords.

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