Sam knew it was a terrible idea, but once he realised he had to go back to Exilium his course was set. It was like the time he and Dave decided to see who could drink the most tequila without throwing up or passing out. As they matched each other shot for shot he knew it was stupid – perhaps even dangerous – but once they’d had the idea it was impossible to ignore. It was like a cannon already fired; something was bound to be broken, it was just a matter of what.
As he walked out of King’s Cross station and looked down the Euston Road, Sam doubted his plan. It wasn’t much of one anyway: go to the last place the blonde girl had been seen and look for something… weird. The television appeal from her family was still raw in his thoughts. If he hadn’t been watching the news over breakfast he’d be at work now, perhaps even successfully putting the events of the last few weeks behind him and doing what the Sorcerer had ordered: not telling a living soul about his entanglement with the Fae, and getting back to his mundane life.
But he had seen it and recognised the blonde as one of the enslaved dancers in Exilium. Cathy had said there was nothing he could do but everything had changed since then. The Rose had been broken, that’s what they said. Those people might be free, but trapped on the wrong side of the Nether.
He’d tried to call Cathy but the phone went straight to voicemail. She was probably in the Nether and he had no idea how to get there without the Sorcerer’s help. He couldn’t go to the police. What would he say? “Good morning, officer. Those missing blondes – the ones you didn’t seem to notice were being kidnapped – are being held in a beautiful magical prison created for the Fae.” Sam knew they’d either laugh at him or have him sectioned. Neither would help those people.
Sam wasn’t entirely sure he was still sane. At least Leanne had left without being tangled up in it all. She’d already moved to London and he’d promised to join her as soon as he could arrange some time off work. He would never be able to tell her anything about what had happened to him and he wasn’t sure their marriage could survive the strain.
Ultimately he would have to hand in his notice – if he wasn’t sacked first – and move to London. He’d never really wanted to live in the Big Smoke, but since the trip to Exilium he’d lost all motivation for his job. Perhaps a change would be good for the marriage too.
Perhaps he needed therapy.
He walked past the British Library with the slow pace of a lost tourist. He looked up at the higher floors of the huge buildings and down into the drains and gutter. What did he expect to find? A lock of blonde hair? A rose petal? A convenient note detailing instructions for the kidnappers?
“You twat,” he whispered to himself. “What the arse are you going to do anyway?”
He headed back towards the station, thinking it might be best to abandon his childish attempt at heroics and go and visit Leanne at the apartment. He hadn’t even seen it and he was supposed to be moving in soon.
Waiting at a set of traffic lights, he looked up at the huge hotel on the other side and then down the road he was about to cross. Surely they wouldn’t take a girl anywhere near such a busy road? Perhaps they’d led her into a side street like the one he was looking down, away from the crowds and CCTV.
He crossed and turned left, keeping the hotel and station on his right. He’d never appreciated how far back King’s Cross stretched. He passed dozens of waiting taxis and decided to do a circuit of the area immediately around the station. Further down Midland Road he was about to turn back when he saw greenery incongruous with the urban concrete around him. Remembering the intense green of Exilium’s meadows he pressed on, finding a church set back from the road behind ornate iron gates.
The churchyard had been turned into a small park and Sam found its natural peace irresistible. He went through the gates and immediately felt better, as if the place had dropped a blanket around his shoulders to protect him against the quiet violence of the city.