Marble-patterned wallpaper and stucco friezes. Fluted half-columns sunk into the walls. White plaster statues of ancient gods and goddesses in alcoves, on bookshelves and on the coffee table. Mr Alykonides's home was certainly more extensively decorated than Éven's flat, but it would be a stretch to say that the decorations made it better.
Mr Alykonides was a man of particular tastes. He wore a rainbow dressing gown, gold chains around his neck and gold rings on his fingers. His tan was three shades too dark, and his long blond hair was striped with too many tones.
Mr Alykonides leaned back on his couch and looked us over.
"Are you going to sit down?" he asked. "I have iced coffee." He held up a large glass of milky coffee and rattled the ice cubes.
"We do not have time," said Éven. He was tense, not just because Horseshoe was on his tail, but because something about Alykonides set him on edge. "We need to get away. Nicky said you might aid us."
"You're not one to make friends, are you, dusk mite? Except for this one." He nodded at me. "He must be something exceptional."
The squawk of a loudhailer filled the world outside the windows. "Attention please! Attention please! This is Horseshoe Division. This commune has been placed under a search order. We ask for your full cooperation. We are looking for Lord Éven of the Shade, sought under warrant by the Crown of Great Britain, the Crown of Stone, and the Crown of Ocean. Anyone harbouring him will face no charges if they come forward now. Lord Éven, if you surrender immediately we will advise the courts to be lenient."
I went to the window and looked down at the courtyard. I could see five Horseshoe agents armed with what I hoped were tasers. I did not recognise any of them. The one with the loudhailer lowered it and signalled to the others to split off into teams of two. One team headed to the nearest apartment and knocked on the door. The other team headed upstairs.
"They're going door-to-door," I said.
"Can you help us escape?" asked Éven.
Alykonides sighed. "Why don't you just put them to sleep? Isn't that what you did in Hastings?"
"That is a substantial spell, Alykonides. I could only put a town to sleep with the power of the Jack-in-the-Green behind me, and even that was borrowed magic. A neighbourhood like this would require a unique invocation."
"Tsk. So, you come to me? I invited you to an audience several times, and you always refused," he said. "Now that I have you, why should I let you leave? You have never shown proper deference."
Éven scowled. He dropped to one knee and bowed his head.
"Your highness, I come before you to ask a boon. If it is in your mercy to do so, please grant me safe passage from this place. In return I will make an offering unto you."
I was surprised by this display of submission. There was nothing regal about Alykonides. He did not have the majesty or presence of the other monarchs I had met. Was he really a king among the fey?
I looked around his living room in case I had misunderstood what I was looking at. Maybe the columns, friezes and statues were real? Maybe this was a little slice of the other world in the human world? But it all looked as cheap and artificial as my first impressions had indicated. This was not a palace, and Mr Alykonides was an unlikely king.
"Now you show me proper respect," said Alykonides. "And you, little passenger?" He gestured at me.
Éven shook his head. "He is not part of this. He does not know our traditions."
YOU ARE READING
The Twilight PrinceFantasy
What happens when your fairy godmother and your commanding officer don't see eye to eye? Ben Frazer frets about exams, university, and finding a boyfriend, but he has a lot more to worry about when he discovers the secret world of Britain's fairies...