GLANCING THROUGH the GLIMMER
Liam Boru, the King of Ireland's teenage son, is in serious trouble.
The Ambassadors' Ball is underway at Clontarf Castle.
Liam is enjoying himself until Finvarra, the angry King of the Connaught Fairies,
ambushes him in the ancient cellar to punish him for spying on the Knock Ma Fairy Troop.
Why the devil had the lift gone to the cellar? The staff wouldn’t need it now. The wretched thing was probably banjaxed again. It couldn’t have acted up at a worse time, with the castle full of guests.
Liam stabbed at the silver keypad. The mechanical hooligan failed to respond. Thoroughly vexed, he mashed his thumb against the “Door Open” button. He’d have to take the stairs and report the breakdown to the service staff.
The doors parted. He stomped into the dimly lit hall. The cool cellar air felt downright chilly against his angry cheeks, no doubt because he was all dressed up and more than a tad annoyed.
A whiff of something akin to acrid air before a storm made him wrinkle his nose. Assuming the odor came from the kitchen, he turned toward the staircase, hurrying to make up the time he’d lost.
The stairs should have been on the other side of the Garden of Eden tapestry. They weren’t, nor did Liam see the red exit light. Had someone moved the tapestry?
A few steps on, the Unicorn tapestry told him he’d nearly reached the wine cellar. He’d gone too far. He turned back, but the stairs weren’t where they ought to be. Had he taken a wrong turn? Peeved that he had no cell phone with him, he returned to the lift in hopes it might be working now.
A solid wall had replaced the door to the lift. Before he could think what it meant, a rat ran across his path, pausing as if to say hello before skittering off and dissolving clean into the opposite wall.
Goosebumps broke out on Liam’s arms and neck. He glanced around, stunned to see that the corridor stretched before him impossibly long with not a door in sight.
“Oh no,” he muttered, trying to gulp down the lump of dread that threatened to burst in his throat.
Illusion, it’s all an illusion. The doors are still here…
He ran his suddenly clammy hand along the wall to find the lift. The stone was cold and solid—but he’d just come through it, hadn’t he?
They’d miss him upstairs and start looking for him, wouldn’t they?
…at certain times, certain places belong to Them…
He had to get to the steel, and fast. Where was the drawbridge room from here? He ran, recalling that he and Talty and Kevin had taken a right at the French hunting tapestry.
Liam already knew that the “Other Crowd’s” magic lacked power these days. That seemed to be the case here. Whatever spell had bewitched the place, the wall hangings seemed impervious. They were still on the walls, marking the way. Reassured by the sight of them, he vowed to grab a fistful of steel and pound his way through one of the fairy-enchanted doors.
As his footsteps thumped on the woolen runner, another idea occurred to him. If he reached the hunting tapestry, he could get to the chapel behind it. The stairway hidden beside the altar would get him upstairs in jig time.
But the faster he ran, the longer the passageway grew. Or so it appeared. Still, he kept an eye on the wall to his left. Moments later, the holy water font appeared, a tiny bump that gradually grew in size. Relieved, he slowed as he neared it, breathless as much from fear as from running. The tapestry hung beside the font, but the corridor that should be across from them wasn’t there.
What if the doorway behind the rug was gone as well? Liam prayed that the fairies hadn’t known about the door, that they’d missed it when they’d cast their spell. He hurried toward the tapestry.
“You called me a worm…”
Liam froze. He had felt more than heard the low-pitched voice purring with smug satisfaction. Apparently Finnie the Worm had witnessed the search for the steel in the hidden chamber. Liam suspected he’d never reach the chapel in time to escape. He pivoted to confront the fairy king. “Spying on us? That sounds like your style. Afraid of honest dialogue.”
No one was there.
“I’m not playing this game!” he shouted, and grabbed the edge of the tapestry.
A potent shock flew up his arm to his shoulder. He cried out in pain. Unable to use his sling-bound hand to rub his burning fingers, he tucked them under his arm. As the stinging subsided, he studied the hallway, peering into the gloom, first right, then left.
Standing nearby in the subdued light, a transparent man peered back at him through glowing, electric-blue eyes. Liam stared transfixed as the white-cloaked figure grew solid.
“So here we are, Prince Liam Conor Boru.” Finvarra took his time oozing out the words. His golden hair flowed in waves to his shoulders. He looked tall and youthful, not much older than Liam, and might even have passed for handsome if not for the malice pervading the air around him.
A cold sweat broke out on Liam’s forehead. He was trapped, and the self-defense moves he’d learned would be useless here. Furious that he’d landed in this predicament, he boldly squared his shoulders. “I’d give you a nasty look, but you already have one. What do you want?”
“You, dear prince. I intend to put your eyes out for seeing what you had no right to see, but I’m in no hurry. Let’s play a little first, shall we?” The fairy king raised his sparking fingers.
Liam ducked, but not in time. A bolt of pain shot through his chest. Teeth clenched, he dropped to his knees, unable to speak and gasping for breath.
Grinning like a cunning shark, Finvarra closed in on him.