"He can't be dead," said the Admiral. "We wouldn't be so lucky."
I didn't respond to that. I knew she wasn't saying it for my benefit. The memory of that moment, of the gunfire, was too fresh and horrible in my mind. They would have killed him. They would gladly have ended him right there. I was sure they hadn't, but not because they weren't willing to try.
The Admiral's intended audience was a meeting of the heads of Horseshoe, in a wood-panelled windowless room with a wall of televisions at one end.
According to Dr Southey, the room served as England's cockpit in the event of a magical war. In any 'mundane' crisis the authorities typically met in a secure above-ground bunker called COBRA, which stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. In the event of a magical crisis the heads of Horseshoe meet at Lancaster House, in Horseshoe Division Directorate Room A. It doesn't have such a tidy acronym, but its nickname is "Hydra".
Three of the seven heads of Horseshoe's Hydra were present for this meeting—the Admiral and Dr Southey, and the deputy director, Vice-Admiral William Lennox, a handsome black man in his forties. The other directors attended via remote link, and two of them were people I knew. Grace, head of civilian relations, and Keele, head of intelligence. They were already on a helicopter heading to London from the Solent Oubliette.
The only non-heads in the room were me and the secretary, a young man named Lieutenant David Choi. These were the people who would determine Éven's fate.
"We must assume that the suspect is still at large," said the Admiral. "The situation is this: Lord Éven of the Shade, the Twilight Prince, the trickster of the Court at Dusk, has orchestrated a series of attacks on our nation at the apparent instigation of an unidentified figure known only as the Barren King. Dr Southey?"
Dr Southey stood up and clicked the remote in his hand. An image appeared on the video wall; the bookplate from Southey's diary. There was Dr John Dee with the horseshoe in his hand and the map of England on the wall behind him, and the motto beneath that read; 'We have cast a horseshoe and affixed it to our island.'
"Right, here we are," said the doctor. "The last known portrait of the first master of the Horseshoe Men; Dr John Dee. This image, you may know, was etched some years after he left the post, when Queen Elizabeth died, and King James of Scotland inherited the throne. James hated magic. He implemented a much harder line against the fey.
"Dee believed that James would push the fey to extremes and spark fresh hostilities that would make us less safe. We suspect that Dee took precautions against that eventuality. We always assumed that the motto beneath this portrait was a reference to the Horseshoe Men, but I've been investigating the locations of Lord Éven's attacks and I now think that Dee meant a different horseshoe, and the engraving was a clue to its significance."
Dr Southey clicked again, and the image changed to a poorly drawn 17th century map of England. I had seen the map before among Tiana Cavendish's treasures, in the bags and boxes that the doctor had sorted through. The geography was distorted, but everything was almost in the right place.
"We think that this map belonged to Dr Dee."
The doctor clicked again, and Tiana's rusty old horseshoe appeared on the screen beside the map.
"We also think that this horseshoe was Dee's."
He clicked again. The horseshoe moved over the map, transparent so that the map was visible behind it.
"This, then, is the key. Dr Dee and his students conducted a ritual to purge the nation of magic. Seven rituals at seven locations along the English coast. Seven nails to hang a horseshoe on the kingdom."
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...