“No,” Gemma said, sounding somewhat dejected.
“Good. Then you don’t need to read it,” Lydia said and flipped through the book.
“Who wrote this?” Harper asked and pointed to the faded pages.
“This exact one here, I don’t know.” Lydia shook her head. “But the original curse was crafted by Horace, I think, because this Vlad dude really pissed him off, apparently.”
“So this tells you how to break the curse?” Harper asked.
“Well, no.” Lydia closed the book and turned around to face Harper, Gemma, and Marcy. “There is no way to break the vampire’s curse, except by killing them.”
“Wait, wait. But you said in order for the curse to work, it has to be written down somewhere?” Harper asked.
Lydia nodded. “Right.”
“Then why don’t vampires just destroy this book?” Harper asked. “There would be no more curse.”
“Okay, first of all, every vampire over about a hundred years old would turn to dust if the curse was suddenly lifted,” Lydia explained. “The curse extended their natural life, and without the curse, they should all be dead many years over.
“And second, if you destroy this book, it won’t matter, because there’s at least a dozen more books out there just like it,” she finished.
Harper considered this, then asked, “What if you destroyed all the books?”
“You can’t,” Lydia said. “You could probably destroy most of them, but the original one, the one that Horace wrote the curse on, he would put it on something indestructible, because he wouldn’t want his curse to go away that easily.”
“Something indestructible?” Gemma asked. “Like what? A stone tablet?”
“No. Stone can still be shattered, crushed up into powder,” Lydia said. “It would be anything that he’s given indestructible properties.”
“So … magic paper?” Harper asked.
Lydia shot her a look. “If you want to oversimplify, then yes, magic paper.”
“Why isn’t that written on magic paper?” Gemma pointed to the vampire book Lydia was holding.
“It doesn’t need to be, because the original is kept somewhere safe,” Lydia said. “When you look at more common curses, like vampires and zombies, or like really common, more basic spells, like turning someone into a toad—”
“Okay, yeah, we’ll say everyone knows that,” Harper muttered.
“It’s in about a thousand grimoires,” Lydia said. “Somewhere there is a master grimoire, and all the spells and curses are written down on ‘magic paper.’ But the more specific the curse, the fewer copies there are.”
“So when talking about something like a siren, how many copies do you think there are?” Harper asked.
“Considering there can never be more than four sirens in existence at any given time?” Lydia asked. “I’d guess there’s only one copy.”
Gemma sighed. “And you wouldn’t happen to have it, would you?”
“No, I don’t. But I can make a guess who does.” Lydia smiled brightly. “Them.”
“You think the sirens have it?” Harper asked.
“Of course. My understanding is that the sirens are relatively hard to kill. They wouldn’t want the instructions on how to destroy them just floating around. I’m sure the head siren has it.”
“But they’re partially aquatic,” Gemma pointed out. “They move through the water. How could they carry paper with them without it being destroyed?”
“It’s ‘magic paper,’ remember?” Lydia said. “It’s been granted properties that make it indestructible—meaning it can’t be destroyed, not by water or fire or nuclear holocaust.”
“Have you seen Penn with any kind of book?” Harper asked Gemma.
“No, I don’t think so.” Gemma furrowed her brow. “When I moved with them before, Lexi carried a large bag with her, but I never saw what was inside it.”
“It’s probably not a book,” Lydia said. “I mean, the sirens are from Greece? Talking the second or third century? I’m thinking you’re looking for a scroll, probably made from papyrus.”
“So what you’re saying is that we need to find a scroll made of magic papyrus, written in ancient Greek, that may or may not be in the possession of a bloodthirsty siren that does not want us to find it?” Harper asked dryly.
“I never said bloodthirsty. Are they bloodthirsty?” This seemed to excite Lydia, for some reason. “Wow. That’s crazy. I always thought sirens would be nice.”
“They’re not,” Harper said.
“Even if we do find it, there might not be a way to break the curse,” Gemma pointed out. “Like the vampire curse, there’s no way out except death.”
“That’s true. That is a possibility,” Lydia said.
“What if we destroyed the scroll? Would that undo the curse?” Harper asked.
“Theoretically, yes,” Lydia said cautiously. “But you won’t be able to.”
“I can try,” Harper insisted.
“Yes, you can try,” Lydia agreed with some reluctance. “But many people have tried over the last … well, since the beginning of time. And almost nobody ever has.”
“Almost nobody,” Harper said. “So somebody has?”
“There’re always exceptions to the rule,” Lydia said. “But I have no idea how they did it, or how you can destroy this one.”
“Is there anything more you can tell us about the sirens?” Gemma asked.
“Not offhand, no. But I’ll keep my eyes open for anything,” Lydia said.
“Thanks, Lydia,” Marcy said. “You’ve been a big help.”
“Yes, thank you very much.” Harper smiled gratefully at her. “We really appreciate it.”
“No problem.” She smiled. “Stop by anytime. Any of you.”
“Thanks,” Gemma said, but she sounded much more deflated than she had before they arrived.
“Oh, hey, Marcy,” Lydia said as she walked them to the door. “If your uncle gets any more pictures of the Loch Ness Monster, be sure to send them my way.”
“I will,” Marcy promised, and then they stepped outside.
After the darkness of the shop, the sunlight felt almost too bright. The heat was also a bit shocking. Harper hadn’t realized how cold it had been inside the bookstore until she felt the warmth outside.