Chapter Twenty-Five: The Drowned Woman

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Thirty seconds.

I stood the length of one rugby pitch from the doors of the saw mill. I started to count down, and I set off in a sprint.

I could do this. Not a problem. I had done this dozens of times in training. In tennis shoes, on a tarmac road, I could do this.

Twenty seconds.

My mum was on the other side of those doors. She was there, and we would get her back. We would have to fight two fey—at least two fey—to get to her, but we would get her back.

Ten seconds.

The plan was simple. Because I was magic-proof, I wouldn't set off the magical alarms. If Éven and I entered at the same time, one through the front door and one through the back, the guards would think they only had one intruder. They would hear the alarms, and they would see me. They wouldn't know about Éven until it was too late.

Zero.

I heard the jangle of bells like wind chimes in a furious storm a moment before I threw open the doors. That was the alarm, and it meant Éven was in here somewhere.

Mum was here as well.

She was in front of me.

In the dark interior of the mill, among the stacks of rotten wood and the rusted old machines, behind a mound of rocks and rubble, her prison glowed like a lantern—a pillar of water that reached from floor to ceiling. Mum floated in its centre like a drowned woman. She swayed gently as the water corkscrewed around her. Her hair swirled over her head like a crown, and her spectacles danced on the end of their chain. Her eyes were closed, and no bubbles escaped her lips.

My heart caught in my throat.

"Mum?"

I whispered it first, and then I repeated it louder.

"Mum, can you hear me? It's Ben. I've come to rescue you. I've come to take you home."

As I ran towards her, a figure leapt from the shadows and landed on the rock pile in front of me. Selkie's henchwoman from the beach. Huracan. She was armoured, and she held a weapon of a sort I'd never seen before; a long wooden sword studded on both edges with shark teeth. I'd seen a weapon just like it in an Aztec display at the British Museum.

"The boy himself," said Huracan. "This building should be masked to your kind. I don't know how you found us, but my mistress will be most pleased to have you."

"Your mistress will want me in one piece," I said. I could hear the surge of hysteria in my voice. I had expected the guards to attack me with magic. I couldn't do anything about swords or shark teeth.

"She will want most of you in one piece," said Huracan. "If you run, I can take a piece or two. Get down on your knees, little man."

I turned and ran. I darted between two wood stacks and around the corner of a band-saw table. This was not how I expected this to go. This was open combat. This was war.

I wished my brother Danny was here. He would know what to do.

But Danny couldn't walk through the doors and sneak Éven in. Only I could do this.

So where was Éven?

Huracan dropped from the rafters and landed in front of me. She swung her shark-tooth sword at my head. She was going to take my head clean off. This was it. I was dead.

Huracan stopped the blade just short of cleaving me in two. She held it steady, her arms taught. The tips of the shark teeth pricked against my skin.

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