Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Fact of Magic

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It's hard to argue with magic when it's right in front of your eyes. Faced with a woman made of water or a man made of stone, it's easier to readjust your understanding of reality than to believe that reality is conspiring against you. If you reject all your senses and all your experiences and everything everyone around you is saying, what's your reality worth anyway?

Yet as soon as magic passes into memory, the fact of magic is trickier to grasp. The most amazing sights can be reclassified as a mistake of memory with enough distance and time. Was it really a woman made of water? Was it really a man made of stone? Of course not! How could it be? I must have been tired. The light was strange that day. I've made it bigger in my mind than it was at the time.

That was how magic worked. That was why we only remembered it in stories. The Admiral had explained it to me on our first meeting, but I only understood it now. Magic exists alongside the real world, but most of us never see it because our minds refuse to accept that it's real. When we see something extraordinary, we marvel at it in the moment and rewrite it after the fact. It might make a good story to tell other people, but we're not willing to swear that we saw what we saw.

When the Admiral gave me a dressing down for going rogue with Éven, all I could think about was Mum, and how she was coming to terms with her new reality. I was terrified she would forget.

"Are you listening to me, Mr Frazer?"

I snapped back to the interview room. "Yes, Admiral Winstanley."

"Well?"

"And I'm sorry."

It seemed like a safe response. The Admiral gave me the same irritated look that my teachers always gave me when I bluffed an answer in class.

"And if Lord Éven contacts you again, what will you do?"

"If Lord Éven gets in touch with me again, I'll report it," I said. "I won't go anywhere or do anything with him without your authorisation."

"Not just him. You are to report to me on any encounter with any magical entity, and that includes Tiana Cavendish, am I clear?"

I nodded.

"Do you think that he's alive, Admiral?" I asked.

"I know he got away, so I think he's alive," she said. "I've assigned Private Abigail Stoker and Private Hari Sharma to be your protective detail, so from now on you're going to see a great deal of them, and they're going to see even more of you. It's their job to keep you safe. They will monitor your home, they will screen your friends and neighbours, and they will be your first point of contact if Lord Éven returns, or if you see anything suspicious or untoward. Do you understand?"

I nodded. I wasn't worried. There wasn't much to investigate. Most of my friends had been Danny's friends, and they had all moved on.

"We're offering you a consultancy position, Mr Frazer. That's the deal on the table, and it's a generous one, so you'd better take it. You'll report to our civilian liaison Miss De Souza, but you'll work most extensively with Dr Southey at C Branch. Your behaviour to date would typically disqualify you as a desirable recruit, but your immunity makes you uniquely valuable."

I didn't mention that I didn't desire to be a recruit. The Admiral had already heard my objections, and she knew the reality of the situation. Mum's abduction had made the Admiral's point; my life was forever changed. I was a target, my family was a target, and having Horseshoe on our side was the best of all the bad options.

"This is the pleasant way, Mr Frazer. If you do anything to jeopardise your own safety or that of those around you, I can have you placed in protective custody, and I can promise you, that is a very different experience. Do you understand?"

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