One hundred and eight

They convened in the Throne Room.

‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ Pyrgus was saying. ‘All I know is that Beleth doesn’t have real troops in the desert. Or real portals either. It’s all a big bluff.’

‘To do what?’ Fogarty asked him crossly. ‘What’s the point?’

‘You could try asking Henry – he’s the one’s been spending time with demons.’

‘Henry’s not here,’ Fogarty snapped. ‘I told you that. We were talking about Blue and he ran off.’

Madame Cardui arrived a little late. ‘Blue’s not in her rooms,’ she said at once. ‘I’m worried.’

Pyrgus said, ‘She’ll be safe in the palace.’

Madame Cardui looked at Fogarty. ‘You haven’t told him about Blue’s implant?’

Pyrgus looked from one to the other. ‘Implant? What implant?’

‘So I forget things,’ Fogarty said irritably and shrugged. ‘He’d just crashed his flier into a tree, for God’s sake!’

Madame Cardui said, ‘Beleth had Blue implanted like Henry. To give her false memories.’

‘Wait a minute -’ Fogarty said suddenly.

‘What’s an implant?’ Nymph asked. It was the first time she’d spoken since their dramatic arrival.

‘Wait a minute -’ Fogarty said again. He was frowning. ‘That’s not making sense. We assumed the false memories were a diversion to distract attention from Beleth’s invasion. But Pyrgus has just told us the invasion is phoney too.’ He stopped and looked from face to face.

Madame Cardui took it up. ‘So what was the real reason for Blue’s implant?’

‘And where is Blue now?’ Pyrgus whispered.

‘Right behind you,’ Blue said grimly.