Chapter Forty-Two: The Eighth Nail

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The last protector. The last safeguard. The last nail.

I was the one keeping the country safe. Without John Dee's horseshoe, without Gogmagog's Wall, the only thing left to prevent the return of magic to the British Isles was a descendant of one of John Dee's students. The eighth nail. The bulletproof boy.

Me.

I was the only obstacle standing in Éven's way.

"I knew it the moment I met you," said Éven. "Your resistance to magic is the conspirators' last gift; a bulwark against the returning tides. They made a boy who could not be touched by magic and hid him so that the Barren King could not reclaim the island so long as that boy lived."

I backed up against the railing and looked for the door that we had come up through. The door was gone.

"That's why you brought me here?" I asked. "So that when all the other rituals were done, you could kill me?"

Éven frowned.

"No, Ben. I have never wished you any harm. I wanted a bloodless revolution."

I could have laughed.

"You didn't get one. Alykonides is dead. My brother might join him. I don't know who else died in Colchester, but I know three people died trying to protect my Mum. And what happened in Whitby, in Belas Knapp—it was too dangerous. You went too far. It doesn't matter what you wanted, Éven. Any blood that's spilled is on your hands."

Éven showed a flash of anger.

"The worst I could do to your people is no answer to the harm they have done to mine. There is always a price."

"And where does it end? What happens to my people when yours are in charge?"

Éven closed his eyes.

"It will be a golden age," he said. "Human and fey together, as it was meant to be."

"With the fey as kings and queens? People like Selkie and Kain?"

Éven scowled.

"My people are kinder than yours. The fey will seek harmony. This is why we were chosen, you and me. We were both born into this war. We were both given purpose by those who came before us. You are the eighth nail, and you are the only one who understands me. I need you with me, Ben."

I didn't know what to say to that.

I didn't understand him. Not at all. He had deceived me, he had put my family at risk, and he had threatemed whole towns and led a man to his death. He was trying to start a revolution, and my brother was bleeding hundreds of miles away because of it.

I didn't understand him. But I couldn't let him know that.

"What are we meant to do?" I asked. "If I'm the eighth nail, how do I bring back magic?"

"The Barren King has a way," said Éven. He produced a glass vial from the pocket of his coat. "This draught will free you of your condition. He promises me that if you drink this, you will no longer be magic-proof. You will no-longer be the eighth nail."

He handed me the vial. It looked like thin oil. I pulled the cork and sniffed it. It had no scent. Éven smiled at me and his hand hovered by my cheek, by my scar, but he did not touch me this time.

"Drink it, Ben," he said. "That is all we need. When the last nail is drawn, the twelve ships will be restored to full majesty. They will carry their magic across the land and all of mankind will open their eyes and see it. The ritual will be complete. Human and fey united. You and I together."

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