In rags and lace the half-folk come, in velvet and in iron. On the year’s longest night the ancient kings shake free their bones, and the forgotten creatures pass from their world into this. From their standing stones and crossroads the hobs and fairies come, from their hills and holes the sidhe and the elves, all down deep into the long, cold barrow.



Inside the box is a large glass case, almost as large as the box itself, and inside the case is a shrunken figure. It looks like a mummy, but it is unlike any that I’ve ever seen before. The position is all wrong, for a start: it is sat upright, hugging its knees to its chest, and its chin is perched neatly upon its folded arms. There are no bandages; instead it is naked apart from a perished woollen loincloth, a couple of dull gold bracelets and a woven headdress tied with feathers made almost translucent by age. Its dead skin is the miserable grey of wet slate, and dry black fingernails protrude like chips of bark from its fingers. Worst of all is its face, from which two black pebbles stare dully out of the puckered sockets of its eyes above a collapsed nose and two desiccated lips that have shrivelled into a cruel grin.