CHAPTER 13: THE TRAITOR WAITS
Eamonn closed his eyes and breathed in, letting the night air tell him it’s story.
He could smell car exhaust, sweat and fast food, all grace notes against the crescendo of alcohol and gunpowder smoke. He opened his eyes.
Dublin on Halloween night, halfway between a party and a warzone. Same as it ever was.
Good to be home.
He strode down Dame Street, passing the great golden globe that stood before the Central Bank and taking a sudden left down a vice-tight alley that led towards Temple Bar. A few drunk youths eyed him as they passed but the broad shoulders, purposeful stride and most of all the “Just try it” grin on his face dissuaded them from starting anything. He stopped outside a small wooden door with flaking green paint. He knocked once. Paint came off and stuck to his knuckles, which he had expected. The door swung open, which he hadn’t.
“Alright then.” Eamonn murmured to himself, “If you want to make it easy for me.”
He climbed the pitch black stairs until he reached another door at the top.
This one was also unlocked, and as he pushed through he found himself in a small, comfortable looking pub. The lighting was low, and here and there he could barely make out patrons huddled in ones and twos in the corner. He could hear a few of them whispering to each other in a language that Eamonn knew no linguist would have recognised. As soon as they noticed him however, a particularly prickly silence descended on the room.
Okay, thought Eamonn. So I’m not welcome here. I can live with that.
Someone else who was clearly not overly concerned with being popular was slumped at the bar. She was short and heavyset, with dark boyish hair, pale skin and a quite beautiful oval face with green, almond shaped eyes. And she was clearly plastered.
“Hello Aoife.” said Eamonn, taking a stool beside her.
“Hi hi.” she said happily.
“I thought you were supposed to be watching the outside of this place?”
“Oh I did.” said Aoife “And then when I watched it enough I decided to watch the inside. And I’m glad I did. It is much nicer.”
“How much have you had?” he asked.
“I see. Did you have any trouble getting in?”
“They said “No Humans Allowed” and I said PUNCH.”
“You said PUNCH?”
“Yeah. And then I said GROIN KICK.”
“And what happened then?”
“They were persuaded by the power of my words. And they gave me my damn drink. And it had many babies. That’s why they didn’t give you any trouble when you came in here. ‘S’okay, you don’t have to thank me I know I’m spectacular and great.”
“Yeah. I’m getting a real “We don’t take kindly to your kind” around here.”
“You think they don’t like Irish?”
“Well who does?”
“Oh I know, we’re just awful.”
“Aoife. I recommended you for this because…”
“Because everyone else was dead.” Aoife cut him off.
Eamonn’s face froze.
“Sorry.” Aoife slurred “But it’s true. That’s why. You asked me to do this because there is literally no one else. And I bet you still had to fight tooth and nail before Kathy and Mariana would even consider giving me a spot on the team so don’t give me the whole “You’ve got to prove yourself, I’ve put a lot of faith in you” spiel because I know you don’t expect anything from me. So don’t act so surprised.”
“That’s not true.”
“Psshh…Barkeep. My friend’s a liar. Get him a liar drink.”
“What do you want?” the bartender asked in a less than hospitable tone.
Eamonn studied him. He had hair, a face, eyes ears and nose, all in reasonably orthodox positions and quantities. And yet, no one who wasn’t blind would have mistaken him for a human being. And even the blind would have twigged as soon as they heard his voice. It was hard to describe what exactly it was that gave him away, but all the same there it was. Dolphins and sharks are physically similar, yet no one has any difficulty telling them apart. In the same way, no one was in any danger of mistaking the bartender for a human being.
“Nothing for me.” said Eamonn curtly.
The bartender clearly was not overly concerned with the loss of Eamonn’s custom. Eamonn leaned in closer to Aoife and whispered “You know you’re not supposed to eat or drink anything they offer you.”
“Okay, first of all they didn’t offer it to me, I extracted it by threat of violence.” said Aoife “Second, this isn’t a fairy hill. It’s a dive in Temple Bar. And lastly, I really don’t think they want to keep me here as a prisoner for ever. Do you?” she said to the bartender.
“Hell no.” was the answer.
“There, you see?”
“In fact, I would pay you to leave.”
“Really, how much?”
Eamonn cut in.
“Listen, you don’t want us here, and we don’t want to be here.” he said to the bartender.
“I want to be here.” Aoife said, raising her hand.
“Please ignore my inebriated friend.” said Eamonn.
“Oh, nothing would give me greater pleasure.” said the bartender.
“Buddy, better bar-creatures than you have tried, believe me.” said Aoife with a snort.
“We are looking for someone.” said Eamonn, pressing on gallantly “Someone like you.”
“But also…” the bartender finished “Someone like you?”
“I think you know who I’m talking about.” said Eamonn.
“I know him.” the inhuman bartender nodded.
“He comes here?” Eamonn pressed.
“Throws his head in, now and then. Throws other people’s heads in too, depending on the kind of night he’s had.”
“People like us?” Eamonn asked.
“Most definitely.” the bartender replied. He had a slight Northern twang to his accent. Fermanagh maybe.
“So what, he’s your bouncer?” Aoife asked.
“More like a guardian angel.” the bartender said.
“I know. Irony, right?” said the bartender “But that’s how it is now. Times are tough. The old agreements are breaking down. Nowadays the Mils don’t hesitate to bulldoze our mounds, cut down our trees. We get trapped on the other side and starve to death.”
“Mils?” Aoife asked.
“Milesians.” Eamonn explained “Us.”
“Wow, no wonder they hate us.”
The bartender continued “So we have to come here. To the cities. Our power’s almost gone and we’ve no way to replenish our numbers. We’re dying slowly. We can’t afford to lose anymore. So your friend looks after us. Protects the ones who remain.”
“How altruistic of him.”
“Yeah. He’s a real peach.”
“So” Eamonn spread his arms expansively “Where is he?”
“Well I could tell you that” said the bartender, looking shiftily from side to side “But…”
“He’s on the roof.” said Aoife.
Eamonn looked over his shoulder at her. She was standing, rigid as a glacier with her head tipped at a right angle to the ceiling. Suddenly, the spell was broken and she relaxed. Eamonn remembered why he had brought Aoife along in the first place. Because she was, quite simply, the greatest tracker of any known Temporal Adept outside of the Original Fifty (and better than most of them). Trackers could sense disruptions in space time, and trace them back to their point of origin.
“Alright then.” said Eamonn.
“I’d take the stairs if I were you.” said the bartender “He might get the wrong idea if you just start popping out of thin air.”
Eamonn nodded and pulled a mobile phone out of his jacket pocket and dialled.
“Kathy?” he said “I think we’ve got him.”
Baako flipped the coin into the air with a musical ping as the silver rim glanced off his thumbnail and flipped beautifully upwards.
It came down and he repeated the process.
Flipping coins was something he tended to do when he got nervous. And why was he nervous?
Well, there was the fact that they were chasing a homicidal Temporal who’s power easily dwarfed that of every other person in this room.
The coin landed. He flicked it again without thinking.
Then there were the people in the room themselves. Not exactly the kind of people to set you at ease.
There was Eloi of the Seventh chapter, draped in a hood and cloak and standing in the corner of the darkened room, so still he seemed to be carved from stone.
Junko Imai, a statuesque, grey haired Japanese woman who paced the room impatiently as they waited for news from Eamonn, radiating barely contained rage. When she turned around you could see why. Half her face had been lost to the bomb that Mabus had planted at the hotel Baur Au Lac, and she wore a porcelain half-mask over the right side of her face and jaw to hide the carnage. Of all of them, she wore her desire for vengeance the plainest. Baako remembered when she had simply been a slightly stern, but perfectly calm elder member of the Council of Temporal Adepts. Now she was someone else entirely, and it seemed only a matter of time before she lashed out at and hurt someone, regardless of whether they were a friend of foe.
And then of course there was…
The coin did not come down.
Baako looked up to see it frozen in mid-air.
He stared at the stern, impossibly tall lady standing before him. Eyes that seemed as old as creation bore into his young face.
“Please.” said Mariana quietly “Don’t do that.”
Baako swallowed nervously. For some reason, he found Mariana more unsettling than any of them. Perhaps it was because he was at least reasonably sure that the others were sane.
The door opened and Baako was relieved beyond measure to see Kathy walking through the door with a mobile phone in her hand.
As always, she took a second to flash him a reassuring smile. Baako had found himself becoming increasingly dependent on that smile. It’s okay, the smile seemed to say, you’ve been drafted into a suicidal war with a bunch of enraged/insane Temporal warriors who would probably cut your throat or erase you from history if you became too much of a liability, but at least Kathy’s here and she’s pretty and all together sane and she has a really nice smile. Then Baako realised that he was thinking like a hormonal teenaged boy (which in fairness, he was) and wondered for the millionth time what he was doing here.
Junko spun around to face Kathy.
“Well?” she hissed.
“They found him.” said Kathy “We’re moving out.”
She glanced around. “Where’s Magnus and Carlos?”
“In the kitchen.” said Baako “I’ll go get them.”
Kathy nodded in thanks and Baako stood, only too happy to get out of there.
Junko returned to her furious pacing. Eloi had not moved at all during the entire exchange. If she had not known him better, she would have been worried that he had suddenly died on his feet.
She felt a thin but iron-strong hand on the crook of her elbow, and let Mariana take her aside.
“Explain to me again what you were thinking.” Mariana said.
“About what?” said Kathy, confused.
“Him.” said Mariana, raising her chin the way Baako had gone.
“What about him?”
“He is a child, Kathy. Haven’t we already lost enough children?”
“Honestly, it’s not him I think we should be worried about.” Kathy replied.
She glanced over Mariana’s shoulder at Junko, still pacing, and now cracking her knuckles, her lips moving as she muttered profanities in Japanese.
“Perhaps.” Mariana admitted “But Junko is her own responsibility. Baako is ours.”
“I told you. He’s an old fifteen.”
“And I’m telling you, there is no fifteen old enough for what lies ahead of us. Send him home.”
“Do you want to be First? Do you want to run this thing, because that’s what it sounds like to me.”
“I am not trying to usurp you. I am trying to press upon you why we can’t have a child fighting our battles with us, and one who’s in love with you to boot.”
“It’s a crush, he’ll get over it.”
“My concern.” said Mariana gravely “Is that he will not get the chance.”
The house where they had elected to stay while Eamonn and Aoife tracked down their quarry was large, dark and empty, and had been abandoned for many years. Baako had learned from Kathy that it had belonged to Eamonn’s brother. When Baako had asked why Eamonn’s brother no longer lived there, Kathy had replied that no one really knew for sure, but that the story was that he had been a writer, and had gone mad trying to finish a book. Eamonn, never a man to let a good house go to waste, occasionally slipped in when he needed a couch to crash on. Still, there was no chance of mistaking the house for a home, Baako thought as he felt his way through the pitch black hallway (most of the light bulbs in the house had burnt out a long time ago and Eamonn hadn’t bothered replacing them). The house had a damp musty smell, and there was not a room that did not feel crowded with the presence of ghosts.
So it was with not a little relief that Baako reached the kitchen door and heard voices talking within. He put his hand on the door and was about to open it when he was stopped short by what he heard.
“I’m just saying. Watch your back. They suspect you, watch your back.”
Baako recognised Carlo’s Italian accent, and the deep, kindly voice that answered could be no one but Magnus.
“Mariana would never suspect me.” Magnus replied “She trusts me utterly.”
“Mariana…” Carlos snorted dismissively “Is insane.”
“No.” said Magnus calmly “She is not. And given what she has been through, I would not blame her if she was.”
“Whatever. She’s not in charge. It won’t be up to her.”
“What won’t be up to her, Carlos?” Magnus asked, and however reasonable the tone, Baako couldn’t help but think there was something threatening in the way he said it.
“You know what I mean.” said Carlos “Everyone knows there’s a traitor. We’re becoming more and more paranoid. Any day now someone is going to say something that gets misunderstood, or is going to be in the wrong place in the wrong time and they are going to get themselves killed. Junko is about to snap, anyone can see that. If not her then Eloi. And as for Aoife, well it’s not like she doesn’t have a history of accidentally killing the wrong person. I’m saying this as your friend. You need to get out of here. You need to get away from these people.”
“Interesting.” said Magnus “You think that because I am the only one who wasn’t there when the bomb went off, that I am most likely to be suspected of being the traitor?”
“Yes.” said Carlos.
“And you think that suddenly disappearing in the middle of the night without explanation is the best way to assuage their suspicions?” Magnus replied with barely detectable sarcasm.
Carlos said nothing.
“No.” said Magnus “If they suspect me, I shall convince them that they are mistaken. I shall do this by serving to the best of my ability, and helping them bring Mabus to justice for his crimes any way that I can. I suggest you do the same. And I also suggest we don’t talk about this any more. You are right about one thing, it is very easy for the most innocent remarks to be misunderstood. And even easier for them to be overheard. Isn’t that right, Baako?”
Realising he’d been discovered, Baako briefly considered teleporting away, but decided that would probably only make matters worse. He pushed the door open and stood nervously in the doorway. Inside the kitchen, a thin young man with curly black hair and sallow skin leaned against the kitchen counter with his arms folded glared angrily at Baako. Sitting at the table, drinking a steaming mug of tea, a man with the most amazingly snow white beard and kind twinkling eyes smiled gently at him.
“What were you doing?” Carlos asked “Spying on us?”
Magnus hushed him with a weary gesture. “Sit down, lad.” he said to Baako.
“Kathy told me to get you.” Baako said, by way of explanation “Eamonn’s found the man we’re looking for.”
“And do you know who it is we’re looking for?” Magnus asked.
“Mariana’s son.” Baako replied “That’s what I was told.”
Baako was becoming increasingly nervous. Magnus still hadn’t mentioned anything about his eavesdropping. He decided it would be better to get the topic out of the way.
“I wasn’t spying.” he said “I swear. I just heard you talking and I wanted to hear what you were saying but I thought you’d stop if you knew I was there.”
“Yes.” said Carlos “We call that spying.”
“Now, now Carlos” said Magnus “We mustn’t begrudge a young boy’s curiosity. I’m sure you must have questions?”
Baako glanced from one to the other.
“What you said, about there being a traitor. Is it true?”
Carlos looked at Magnus. Magnus sighed and said nothing for a few seconds.
“It’s a possibility that certainly needs to be considered.” he said finally.
“Who do you think it is?” Baako asked.
“Don’t answer that.” said Carlos to Magnus “You don’t know who it’ll get back to.”
“I told you, I wasn’t spying.” said Baako.
“And I told you that you were.” said Carlos.
Magnus raised a hand to silence both of them.
“I know everyone who has been chosen for this new Nine.” said Magnus “I know them all. Most are very good friends of mine and I cannot believe that any one of them would betray us. That includes both of you.”
“You think that bomb just appeared in the conference room by coincidence? You honestly don’t think Mabus had help?”
“I’m not convinced Mabus would have needed help. None of us know just what he’s capable of. Not really.”
“But she’s mad, surely?” said Magnus casually.
“Look, you can play games all night long. But you know I’m right, and every minute we stay here is another chance for whoever it is to line us up and slit our throats for Mabus.”
“Then why are you still here, Carlos? If you’re so convinced that we’re either going to be killed by the traitor, or killed by our fellows who’ve mistaken us for him, then why stay?”
“Two reasons.” said Carlos “One, I was there when the bomb went off. I almost died. And I overheard Kathy say they think the traitor was an Unknown Man. So that’s me out. They don’t suspect me. And two, I want some revenge. Definitely. When we track Mabus down? Hellfire. I’ll be the one cutting his heart out with a knife. Believe that.”
Mabus took a sip from his tea and closed his eyes.
“It seems that all we talk about these days are death and killing.” he said wistfully “I miss the old days.”
He opened his eyes.
“I know this.” said Magnus “If there really is a traitor, a man or woman of flesh and blood plotting against us then he or she is simply one against eight. But if the traitor is simply a phantom, a creature of our paranoia, then he might kill us all.”
Baako felt his throat becoming very dry.
“We should hurry.” he said, his voice squeaking slightly. He chess board
swallowed, and it returned to it’s normal pitch. “Kathy and the others are waiting for us.”
Magnus actually laughed so loud at this that Baako and Carlos started nervously.
“My dear boy” Magnus hooted “We are time travellers. The whole point is that we don’t have to hurry anywhere. Carlos, put another kettle on, would you?”
Aoife remembered how, many years ago, she had visited an Art gallery. Not really her thing, in fact it had been Mariana who had dragged her to it (this had been before the unpleasant business that had gotten her kicked off the Nine.) Back then, Aoife had been totally in awe of Mariana, and would have followed her over a cliff if asked. So an Art gallery had seemed, on the surface, to be quite a reasonable request. By the end of it, Aoife would have been quite eager for the cliff, if only because she could probably have stayed awake until she reached the bottom. After what had seemed like hours, they had finally stopped in front of a piece that looked, to Aoife at least, to be a small, half-filled glass of water on a small glass shelf. And beside the glass was a text piece explaining that what looked, at first glance, like a small, half-filled glass of water on a small glass shelf was in fact an oak tree.
Aoife had read it a couple of times to make sure she had gotten that part right.
“What do you think?” Mariana has asked her.
“I don’t get it.” said Aoife, for what had felt like the millionth time that day.
If Mariana felt any impatience she did not show it.
“There’s nothing to get. It’s an oak tree.”
“No it’s not.”
“No. It’s a glass of water.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because it looks like a glass of water. And I could pick it up and drink it. Something I definitely couldn’t do to an oak tree.”
“So just because it looks like a glass of water, and appears to have all the properties of a glass of water, it must be a glass of water?”
“Yes.” said Aoife, a little annoyed.
“Isn’t it possible that it’s an oak tree in the form of a glass of water?”
“I don’t get it.”
“As I said, there’s nothing to get. You either believe it’s an oak tree or you don’t.”
“So it’s a faith thing?”
“It is, as you say a “faith thing”. But regardless of whether it is an oak tree or not, it makes an important point.”
“And what’s that?” Aoife asked.
“That things can take the form of other things. That enemies can take the form of lovers, and vice versa. That parents can take the form of children. That there are giants and angels who walk the world in the shape of men.”
“So you think it’s an oak tree?”
“Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.”
Mariana turned and smiled at her “It was only installed a few days ago. Oak Trees take hundreds of years to grow. It’s clearly still an acorn.”
The man who stood before Eamonn and Aoife on the roof was as broad as a wall, at least two and a half metres tall and looked taller.
“Do you know who I am?” he whispered.
Yes, Aoife thought, you’re an oak tree.
She finally understood what Mariana had told her all those years ago. Her eyes were telling her that there was a man standing in front of her, a huge man, a giant, but still just another member of the human race.
Every other sense told her that her eyes were liars.
Her ears were tingling as if a storm was seconds away from breaking, her muscles were tensed to run, and she could smell something wafting in the breeze that reminded her of childhood trips to the zoo, of looking through a chain link fence at some caged jungle prince, eyes yellow and ancient and utterly pitless.
“Yes.” Eamonn said quietly “We know who you are. Do you know who we are?”
“No.” said the man “But it is my intention to find out. First. Roll up your sleeves.”
Aoife blinked and glanced at Eamonn. Eamonn clearly had not expected this either.
“Em…excuse me?” Aoife asked nervously.
“Sleeves.” said the giant “Now.”
It was then that Aoife noticed that in his hand he held a syringe full of silver fluid.
“Ah. Right. Sorry, let’s backtrack a bit.” said Eamonn “That’s not what we’re here for. Really. See, we need your help…”
The giant blurred and Eamonn got the impression that he had been knocked against the wall by another wall moving at high speed.
“Excuse me if I gave you the impression I was asking.” the giant hissed, and pressed the syringe against Eamonn’s arm.
“You know what?” said Eamonn through gritted teeth “I don’t care know who your mammy is.”
He teleported away right before the needle pierced his skin, appeared five feet in the air, right behind the giant, produced a wooden hurley in mid air and casually smashed it across the giant’s head, knocking him to the ground.
Watching, Aoife could not help feeling that had not been a smart move on Eamonn’s part.
The giant spun around and hissed.
“Temporals.” he said.
“Card carrying.” Eamonn snarled back.
The giant lunged for him, running on all fours like an animal.
Eamonn stayed where he was long enough to smash him another blow across the face and then he was gone, ‘porting to the side and raising the hurl over his head to land one on the left side of the giant’s face. This time, however, the giant was ready for him, turning his head and biting down on the stick as it came at his face. Aoife watched in horror as the giant bit clean through the solid ash. Eamonn stood dumbfounded, looking at the splintered remains of his weapon.
The giant pounced and pinned him to the ground, stunning him with a blow that bounced his head against the solid roof and placing the syringe against his neck, Eamonn screamed in pain and anger as the needle pierced his skin, but he was still too disorientated to shift out.
Aoife reached inside her pocket and drew out a small hand mirror.
“Hey, Donal, look over here!” she shouted.
The giant looked up and for the briefest of moments saw his own reflection, roared in panic and leapt away, doing a double back flip in the air and landing over the door to the stair well. Aoife kept the mirror trained on him as he leapt from wall to wall to avoid its gaze. It might have been her imagination, but it seemed to her that the mirror was getting hotter and hotter. Then she gave a cry of shock as she saw the cheap pink plastic begin to bubble and smoulder.
“Enough!” came a voice that would brook no dissent.
Aoife instantly dropped the mirror to her side where it simmered quietly.
The giant, Donal, sprang back onto the roof. Eamonn was helped to his feet by Kathy, who had appeared from thin air along with Mariana, Baako, and the rest of the Nine.
“Would someone mind telling me what the hell that was all about?” Eamonn, said angrily rubbing his neck.
“Be quiet.” said Mariana.
“No, I want to know what he just injected me with!”
“Congratulations, you’ll never get flu again.” said Mariana “Hello Donal.”
“You told her to bring a mirror?” Donal growled, gesturing to Aoife.
“I did.” said Mariana “I never for a moment thought that she’d have cause to use it. I thought I raised you better than that.”
“You didn’t raise me at all.”
Mariana tutted disapprovingly “Come now. That’s hardly fair. It’s not exactly easy to raise a child who’s fully grown by the time he’s three. And already privy to all the wisdom of heaven by the time other children should be learning not to mess themselves. Why did you attack my friends?”
“I thought they were infected. Had to make sure.”
“None of us are infected with Apex. I can promise you that. None of us have ever been close to that far in the future except Eloi, and I believe he’s already had his shots.”
Donal turned and saw the silent cleric for the first time.
“Welcome Eloi of the Seventh Chapter.” said Donal, bowing respectfully.
“All honour to you, Donal-oli-adann-dagan-el-Yoli. ” said Eloi, returning the bow.
“Donal. Can’t you pretend you’re happy to see me?” Mariana asked.
“I am.” said Donal quietly.
“What’s wrong?” Mariana asked, noticing for the first time that her son seemed almost…agitated.
Suddenly she felt herself in a slow time envelope.
“Don’t move.” Donal said to her. “Stay perfectly still.”
As long as she didn’t move, no one outside the slow time envelope would even notice it.
“We need to talk.” said Donal “Alone.”
She instinctively felt the envelope fall away, and her inner clock, flawless after over a century of time travel, told her that less than a second of time had passed around them. She turned to Kathy.
“I’ll meet you all back at the house.” she said “We have some catching up to do.”
Kathy gave her a look that was as good as to say “What’s going on?”
Mariana replied with one that simply said “Trust me.”
Kathy nodded. “Alright everyone. You heard the lady.”
“That’s it?” Junko growled.
“Yes.” said Kathy “It is.”
And they were gone, leaving Mariana and Donal alone on the rooftop.
“Well.” said Mariana.
“Tell me why you came here first.” said Donal.
“I take it you heard about the attack on the Hotel?” Mariana asked him.
“Yes.” he said “I was relieved to hear you had survived.”
“Were there many lost?”
“Yes. A great many. In fact those you saw here tonight are just about all those who are left of us.”
Donal didn’t seem to know what to say to that. Mariana smiled to herself. The little human things like grief and loss had always been baffling to her son. The human side of him understood the need to mourn, but the angelic side of his heritage couldn’t really see the point.
“If you want to know if I know anything about Mabus…” Donal began.
Mariana raised her hand “No. No, I know he’s covered his tracks too well for that. And I know you’d be the first to tell me.”
They stood looking out over the city. So many fireworks had been launched into the night sky that thick fogs of smoke could be seen drifting between the buildings.
Mariana turned to look at her son. Tall though she was, her head didn’t even come up to his shoulder.
“I need your help with something else. You remember Virgil?”
“Yes. Where is he?”
“He died. In the bomb blast.”
“Impossible. Yes, because he was already dead.”
“I think I see what you’re getting at.”
“Yes. The bomb that went off at the Hotel was no ordinary bomb. Somehow it was even able to kill a Time Ghost. It was not human technology. Which leads me to think it was designed by someone here. Someone amongst these people that you have taken it on yourself to protect.”
Donal shook his head “No.”
“I think “yes”. The Sí are desperate. Their numbers are dwindling, their connection to the Yoli-awhey was cut long ago and the people of this island no longer even believe in them. The belief that was once enough to sustain them is gone. And now on top of all that they have the Apex trying to infect them. And you can only do so much, my boy. They’re running out of time and options. So here’s what I think. Mabus approached one of them, most likely through an intermediary. He prayed on their desperation. He offered them…well anything really. Maybe he offered to bring them back to a time where they were still believed in. Maybe he just offered them money. Enough to drink themselves to a quick end. Who knows? And all they had to do was use their knowledge to build him a bomb. A bomb that could do what no other weapon ever designed could. What even obliteration cannot do. A weapon that could destroy the human soul. Blow it apart.”
Donal shuddered at the thought. Again he shook his head.
“No. Not one of them would do that. No one…”
“Yes?” Mariana asked.
“What? I didn’t say anything.”
“Donal-oli-adann-dagan-el-Yoli” said Mariana sternly “Do not lie to your mother.”
“There is one man who might have known how to create something like that. He has experience with mixing human weapons with Sí…well I don’t want to call it magic but…”
“I understand.” said Mariana “What kind of experience?”
“He made some special curses for the government back in the forties. He was basically the reason neither the Allies or the Nazis ever invaded this place. DeValera invited the German, American and British Ambassadors into his office and told them that every enemy soldier that set foot in Ireland would lose his firstborn son.”
“And they believed him?”
“They were convinced.”
“Who was this man?”
“His name is Darrach. There was less work for him after the war ended. And being a Sí he was quickly forgotten by the Irish and left to fend for himself. Last I heard he was eking out a living somewhere in Kildare running a bookshop.”
“Can you get me an address?”
“Listen, if he did this, he must have been really desperate. And he is still under my protection. They all are.”
“If you’re asking me whether I can guarantee his safety, then I’m afraid the answer is no. Some of the people with me have simply been hurt too much to expect rationality.”
“Including you, maybe?”
Mariana arched an eyebrow imperiously.
“I am never anything less than rational.” she retorted.
“I will be coming with you.” said Donal firmly “To make sure he’s given a fair hearing.”
“As you wish.” said Mariana “But that’s not the only reason, is it?”
Donal shook his head sadly.
“So it’s true? I’d hoped it wasn’t.” she sighed bitterly “I’d hoped that somehow Mabus had found out another way. But one of us is going to betray the rest.”
Donal nodded slowly.
“Do you know who?” she asked.
“Yes.” he said “I could smell it a mile off. There is nothing quite like the smell of a soul preparing for betrayal. It smells like mercaptan, and rotting eggs.”
Mariana lowered her head and raised her hand to her mouth. Finally she whispered: “Who is it?”
Donal leant in and gently told her.
Mariana felt tears come to her eyes, and then her son’s great arms enveloping her, holding her tight until the tears had run their course.
It was strange, she thought, to be here in the arms of her half-angel son who had been so strong and so wise almost from the moment of his birth. To stand there, crying and utterly helpless to prevent what was to come. But that, she knew, was the way of the world. Enemies took the form of friends, children took the form of parents and parents the forms of children.