Chapter Twenty-Four: A Boy

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One of the Horseshoe men aimed his taser at Éven; the other switched his attention between Alykonides and me. "Hands in the air," he shouted. "All of you, hands in the air right now. If you so much as think about using magic, I will put you down."

We all raised our hands, but Éven still held the jar of Dayshade.

"It's him," said the second agent. "Look at him, sergeant. It's Lord Éven. We've got him."

"Sergeant, this man broke into my home and tried to rob me," said Alykonides. "The jar in his hand belongs to me."

I don't know how I thought Éven would respond—protest, denial, outrage—but I didn't expect him to fold.

"He speaks the truth," said Éven. "This jar is his. If he allows it, I will gladly hand it over."

"Nobody is handing over anything," said the sergeant. "Nobody moves a muscle, is that understood?"

Éven and Alykonides looked each other squarely in the eyes.

"Yes?" said Éven.

Alykonides gave a minute nod. "Yes," he said.

He clicked his fingers.

Blazing sunlight flooded through the window and for a moment I was blind. The light softened, but it had the effect of turning the room into an over-exposed photograph; everyone frozen, all colours muted.

Éven did not move; nor did the Horseshoe men. Only Alykonides was unaffected by his spell. The would-be king reached for the jar in Éven's hand. His fingers hovered a hair's breadth away.

"If only I could take this from you without restoring you," he said.

"What did you do?" I asked.

Alykonides turned to me with alarm and bumped into his coffee table.

"You're... moving," he said. "Impossible! How are you moving?"

I edged towards one of the Horseshoe agents and reached for his taser.

"Put him back," I demanded. "Put Éven back right now, or so help me I will grab this weapon and shoot you myself."

The threat had the desired effect, but not the way I expected. Alykonides frantically waved his hands.

"Do not touch them. They are slowed—suspended in a sunbeam—but any contact will restore them to the usual flow of time."

So that was his trick. They weren't frozen, they were moving at a different speed. And I could break the spell. All I had to do was touch Éven and we could leave.

Éven looked different in this light. He wasn't simply frozen like a statue; his skin seemed to have the texture of stone, as if he were another of Hari's cousins. His lips looked hard, though I knew that they were soft.

I reached for him.

"Wait!"

My hand hovered half an inch from Éven's arm.

"I will honour my deal," said Alykonides. "I will let you go. But listen first to a word of warning, boy; the man you put your faith in is not interested in you. Do not get tangled in his strings. When the time comes, he will destroy you to seek his ends."

"He's helping me," I said. "He doesn't have to."

"Ask yourself why he should."

Alykonides reached for the jar in Éven's hand. He hesitated for just a moment, perhaps to consider a last-minute change of strategy, but no better plan presented itself. He touched the jar.

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