Unfortunately, we’d said them so often as children that they’d become a habit just as hard to break as real cusswords. To my endless humiliation, the way it usually worked was the more upset I got, the more likely I was to fall back on my childhood vocabulary. It was a little difficult to get an out-of-hand bachelor party at the bar to take you seriously when your threat was they’d better “back off or the bouncer was going to kick the fudge-buckets out of them and toss their petunias right out the door.” In this desensitized day and age, clean language got you laughed at more often than not.
I cleared my throat. “Walking victim, my ass.”
Okay, I’ll admit it; I’d been quaking in my proverbial boots by the time Jericho Barrons was done with me. But I’d gotten over it. There was no question in my mind that he was a ruthless man. But a murdering man would have killed me last night and been done with it. And he hadn’t. He’d left me alive, and by my reasoning, that meant he would continue to do so. He might bully and threaten me, even bruise me, but he wouldn’t kill me.
Nothing had changed. I still had my sister’s murderer to find, and I was staying. And now that I knew how to spell it, I was going to find out exactly what the Sinsar Dubh was. I knew it was a book—but a book about what?
Hoping to miss the rush-hour crowds and conserve money by eating less frequently, I stopped for a late lunch/early dinner of crispy fried fish and chips, then headed for the library. A few hours later, I had what I was looking for. I had no idea what to make of it, but I had it.
Alina would have known some clever way to search computer indices and go straight to what she wanted, but I was one of those people who needed the placards at the ends of the aisles. I spent my first half hour at the library pulling books about archaeology and history off shelves and toting them to a corner table. I spent the next hour or so paging through them. In my defense, I did use the rear indexes, and midway through my second stack I found it.
Sinsar Dubh1: a Dark Hallow2 belonging to the mythological race of the Tuatha Dé Danaan. Written in a language known only to the most ancient of their kind, it is said to hold the deadliest of all magic within its encrypted pages. Brought to Ireland by the Tuatha Dé during the invasions written of in the pseudohistory Leabhar Gabhåla3, it was stolen along with the other Dark Hallows and rumored to have found its way into the world of Man.
I blinked. Then I scanned down the page for the footnotes.
1Among certain nouveau-riche collectors, there has been a recent surge of interest in mythological relics, and some claim to have actually beheld a photocopy of a page or two of this “cursed tome.” The Sinsar Dubh is no more real than the mythical being said to have authored it over a million years ago—the “Dark King” of the Tuatha Dé Danaan. Allegedly scribed in unbreakable code, in a dead language, this author is curious to know how any collector proposes to have identified any part of it.
2The Tuatha Dé Danaan were said to possess eight ancient relics of immense power: four Light and four Dark. The Light Hallows were the stone, the spear, the sword, and the cauldron. The Dark were the mirror, the box, the amulet, and the book (Sinsar Dubh).
3Leabhar Gabhåla (The Book of Invasions) places the Tuatha Dé Danaan thirty-seven years after the Fir Bolg (who followed Cesair, the granddaughter of Noah, the Partholonians and the Nemedians) and two hundred and ninety-seven years before the Milesians or Q-Celtic Goidelic people. However, earlier and later sources contradict both the true nature of the Tuatha Dé and their date of arrival as put forth by this 12th-century text.
I closed A Definitive Guide to Artifacts: Authentic and Legendary and stared into space. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Seriously. One of those little down ones from inside a decorative pillow. If you’d just swished it at me, I would have toppled.
Mythological race? Dark King? Magic? Was this all some kind of joke?
Alina didn’t get into woo-woo stuff any more than I did. We both loved to read and watch the occasional movie, but we always went for your run-of-the-mill mysteries, thrillers, or romantic comedies, none of the bizarre paranormal stuff.
Vampires? Eew. Dead. Enough said. Time-travel? Ha, give me creature comforts over a hulking highlander with the manners of a caveman any day. Werewolves? Oh please, just plain stupid. Who wants to get it on with a man who’s ruled by his inner dog? As if all men aren’t anyway, even without the lycanthrope gene.
No thank you, reality has always been good enough for me. I’ve never wanted to escape from it. Alina was the same way. Or so I’d always thought. I was seriously beginning to wonder if I’d ever really known my sister at all.