The Magus Conspiracy

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Chapter Twenty-Five: Abydos.

When Mark and Del Forgill exited the cave and got back to the green area between the Black Castle and the car park, McCabe and his posse were gone – their litter still strewn about - but Niamh was coming towards them looking agitated.

“There's something up with Ferdia,” she said. “He was trying to figure out the gate code on his tablet, and he suddenly went really pale and got out of the car. He's sitting on one of the benches and won't talk to me. He found something on the Internet that really upset him. He looks kind of sick.”

Mark ran over to the car park and found Ferdia. He was looking into the distance, his iPad dangling in his hand. His expression reminded Mark of when he'd told him about the weird comic page. He looked downright scared.

“Ferd? Are you OK?”

Ferdia didn't answer for a moment then turned to Mark and said:

“I found the code for the gate. We should get going.”

He stood up and started walking back to the car, his eyes unfocused.

“Hang on a minute, Ferd. Are you all right? Niamh said you found something on the Net that upset you.”

“No, I'm fine. Let's go.”

Try as he might, Mark could not prize what had upset Ferdia out of him. He tried a few more times on the drive back to Ashtown Lane, but Ferdia wasn't talking. Forgill watched them in the rear-view mirror, his expression unreadable.

There was still no answer at Abydos when Forgill tried the intercom again. He parked a little farther up the road and beckoned the kids out from where they were hiding in a nearby gateway.

They clustered around the keypad on the wall and Ferdia entered the code he'd gleaned from the Internet, blocking the others' view as he did so. Mark, puzzled by this behavior, asked Ferdia what the code was.

“It doesn't matter,” he muttered, and pushed the star button to finish entering the code.

There was a pause, then a creak, and the heavy wooden gates started to ease open.

“Wow, Ferd! You nailed it first time!”

Ferdia didn't answer. He walked up to the gates, turned sideways and slipped through the opening gap. The others looked at each other, shrugged and followed.

A driveway of sandy pea-shingle curved up the hill, through a well-tended expanse of lawn, to a mansion that would have been entirely comfortable on a plantation in the American Deep South. It was an impressive pile of columns, garrets and balconies, and it dominated the landscape utterly.

“Wow!” said Mark, not for the first or last time that day.

Yeah,” said Niamh, “and I thought your house was awesome!”

Only Ferdia and Forgill seemed unfazed. Ferdia continued his solitary march up the drive; Forgill seemed more interested in the flower beds. He wandered along muttering things like “Juniperus horizontalis” and “Cotoneaster japonicus” to himself, and occasionally bent down to take cuttings from the plants and stuff them in his coat pockets. All the while, Ferdia got further and further ahead. It occurred to Mark it would be best if they stuck together, in case there actually was someone in the house.

“Hey Ferd,” he shouted, “wait for us.” He gestured to Niamh and Forgill and hurried up the drive to join Ferdia.

Soon they arrived at the porch.

“Very well, then,” said Forgill, “Let’s ensure we're alone in this antebellum monstrosity.”

“We are,” muttered Ferdia.

“Most likely, young man, but let's play it safe, eh?”

Forgill walked through the pillared porch – bigger itself than the average home – and tugged on the bell-pull beside the front door.

A bell rang deep inside the house and faded to silence. Forgill waited, straining to hear any noise from within. When there was no answer he tried the front door and, as expected, found it locked.

They left the porch and backed away from the house looking up at the windows and balconies for a way in. Seeing no obvious points of entry, they headed around the house to the left.

The long walk along the side of the mansion turned up only closed shutters, but at the rear they found at a wide ramp leading down into the earth.

“What's that?” asked Niamh.

Judging by the tire tracks, I'd say it's an underground parking garage,” said Forgill. “We should take a look; perhaps there's an access door down there that leads into the house.”

“Good idea,” said Mark.

They headed down the ramp into the gloom of the garage. At the bottom of the ramp a slatted metal security shutter barred their way. As Mark reached it, it lurched then rattled upwards.

“How did ...?”

He turned in surprise and saw Ferdia still at the top of the ramp, standing beside a security keypad on a metal pole.

“Same code,” said Ferdia, looking gloomier than ever.

Ferd, what IS the matter with you,” demanded Mark. “I'm getting a bit tired of this. Either tell me what's wrong or snap out of it, OK?”

Ferdia said nothing and just looked at him.

“Suit yourself, but you're being a complete pain in the ass. C'mon, let's go.”

They walked into the gloom, their footsteps echoing in the dim concrete bunker. After a few paces the lights came on automatically, making them jump. There were parking spaces for dozens of vehicles, and the four nearest the gate were occupied by cars under dust covers.

Forgill paused at the fourth car, and cocked his head to one side.

“That looks very familiar,” he murmured.

He stooped and lifted the front of the cover.

“I knew it,” he shouted, his voice edged with excitement. “Mark, grab this other corner, would you?”

Together they peeled back the cover and the long bonnet of Forgill's Jaguar XK150 was revealed.

Forgill was shaking his head, tears in his eyes.

“I never thought I'd see her again. Keep pulling that cover back, Mark.”

They dropped the cover on the concrete floor. Forgill walked around the car, rubbing his hand along the wings and stooping down to examine the body panels. He reached the driver's door and looked inside.

“Extraordinary! The keys are in her, and she's completely undamaged. The tires are a bit flat, but that's easily fixed. She's here! I just can't believe it!”

Then Ferdia spoke up.

There's something wrong here. You only lost your car yesterday. Judging by the dust that came off that cover, and the condition of the tires, this car has been sitting here for months; years maybe. This can't be your car.”

Forgill looked at him, shocked. A red tinge started at his neck and rose up into his cheeks.

“This is absolutely my car. I'd know her anywhere. That's my registration, and I'd bet my life, if we open the bonnet and check the VIN number, it'll be correct.”

“How do you explain the dust?”

Forgill looked troubled.

I can't. You're right about those tires too. But this is my car, and I can prove it.”

He opened the driver's door and bent down to reach under the seat. When he stood up he was holding a road atlas. He took an envelope from between the pages and showed it to Ferdia. It was an electricity bill with Forgill's name and address on it.”

Satisfied, young skeptic?”

“Well, it's no weirder than any of the other stuff that's happened,” said Mark.

“Indeed,” said Forgill. “I'm sure it will all become apparent in due course.”

During this exchange, Niamh had been looking under the other car covers.

“Mark,” she called, “what was the registration number of your dad's Porsche?”

12-WW-27574. Why?”

“Come and look at this.”

She pulled the dust-cover back across the bonnet of the second car, revealing a Ruby Red Porsche 911.

Mark's jaw fell. “That's my dad's car! This is where he must have come on Christmas day!”

Ferdia shuffled his feet and looked awkward.

“Ferd, do you know something about this?” asked Mark. “Is this what you found on the Internet?”

“No. Nothing like that.”

Mark stared at Ferdia for long moments. He looked like he was about to say something else when Niamh interrupted:

“Look guys, there's a door over here. Let's see if we can get into the house.”

Mark eyeballed Ferdia for another moment then strode over to the metal door and yanked on the handle. To his surprise, the door flew open and crashed against the inner wall of the garage. He staggered back off balance and fell on his backside.

“Well,” said Forgill, “it would appear we've found our point of ingress. Shall we?”

He held his hand out to Mark. Mark gripped it and Forgill pulled him to his feet. Mark shot a sidelong glance at Ferdia and strode through the door into the mansion.

He found himself at the end of a narrow concrete corridor that turned immediately to the right and ran the length of the house. He started down the corridor and the others followed.

Dust motes danced in the flashlight beam as he played it over the bare walls and floor. There were no exits on either side of the corridor but at the end they found a spiral staircase.

They ascended, and emerged into grandeur.

“Wow!” said Mark.

The room was vast. The walls were painted a sumptuous red with paintings and busts in alcoves between the window shutters. The parquet floor was polished to such a sheen they could see their reflections. In the middle of the floor were seven life-sized marble statues in a large circle.

High above their heads, the entire ceiling was a vaulted skylight protected by metal bars. The sunlight streamed through and projected the shadow of the skylight frame onto the floor and the imposing double-doors at the front of the building.

Mark snapped off the flashlight and turned slowly in place, looking around and up.

“I've never seen a room this big in a house. This must be the whole inside of the mansion,” he said.

“Indeed,” said Forgill from beside one of the window frames. “These shutters are decorative. There are no windows, and there is no way to open the front doors. This is not as much a house as a vault.”

“But what's supposed to be kept in it?”

“Perhaps it is designed to keep people out.”

“Well, we got in pretty easily.”

“Quite, but I don't believe that metal door in the garage was meant to be open. I think someone buggered up.”

“But why would someone disguise a huge strongroom as a mansion?”

“Maybe it's something to do with this,” called Niamh.

She was standing in the middle of the circle of statues, her feet far apart, rocking from side to side.

“What the hell are you doing?” asked Mark.

“The floor here moves; look.”

They moved closer to see what Niamh was standing on.

“Good Lord!” said Forgill, “it's like a giant ship's compass.

A huge brass ring, several meters across, was set into the floor. The ring was at the center of an eight-pointed star, the arms of the star formed of hardwood inserts in the parquetry. The statues stood at the tips of seven of the arms.

The perimeter of the brass ring, inset into the wooden floor, was inscribed with radial lines, like the ticks on a clock-face. Outside the lines, at regular intervals were arcane symbols.

Within the ring was Forgill's giant compass: a glass-topped brass dial, almost as wide as the outer ring, the glass top level with the floor. There was a brass rim around the edge of the glass which also had periodic radial tick marks.

When they looked closer they realized the outer ring was an enormous brass crucible set into the floor. Between the edge of the crucible and the huge dial they could see mercury glinting in the sunlight. The disc was over a meter deep.

They stepped onto the glass to join Niamh and felt the disc rock very slightly under their feet.

“The disc is floating on the mercury,” said Forgill, “Whatever it is, this is what the entire place was built to protect.”

“Look what's inside it,” said Niamh.

Beneath the glass, etched into the brass floor of the hollow disc, was a relief map of Ireland. Set into the map at various locations was a series of small old-fashioned electric bulbs. Some bulbs glowed an insipid yellow, but most were out.

“What do those lights mean?” asked Niamh.

“I have no idea,” said Forgill, “but they seem to form a pattern.”

“What pattern?”

“I don't know. It's vaguely familiar, but I can't quite get it.”

“Hey Ferd,” called Mark, “come over here and look at this. You might figure it out.”

Ferdia was sitting at the top of the spiral staircase looking glum. He peered around at Mark, and with a look of resignation got up and joined them on the glass.

“Can you see a pattern in those lights, Ferd?” asked Mark.

“Or at least,” interjected Forgill, “tell us what all the locations have in common.”

Ferdia walked up and down the glass examining each bulb. The disc rocked very slightly in the mercury as he moved around. He looked puzzled at first, and then Mark saw the quick changes of expression ticking across his face as his brain made the connections. He looked back at the other three with a satisfied expression.

“You have it, don't you?” said Mark.

“Yes, I do. They're round towers. It was the islands that gave it away. There are lights on Ram's Island, Devenish and Inis Cealtra. Let me check the rest of them.”

He pulled out his iPad and started Google Earth.

Yes, those lights are all at the sites of round towers; Drumbo, Ram's Island, Clones, Devenish, Drumcliff in Sligo, Oran, Drumlane, Duleek, Clonmacnoise, Seir Keiran, Roscrea, Inis Cealtra and Ardpatrick.”

“Very impressive, young Ferdia.”

“But that's not every round tower, is it?” asked Mark, “I mean, there's a round tower at Glendalough here in Wicklow, and that one's not marked.”

“That's correct,” said Ferdia, “There are many more round towers than this in Ireland. Over fifty more.”

“So what's so special about,” - Mark counted them - “this thirteen, then?”

“I haven't figured that out yet.”

“You know what this reminds me of?” said Niamh. “When my dad worked at the power-station in Turlough Hill, he brought me up there once. There was a big map of Ireland on the wall, with lots of places marked with lights. It was part of the monitoring system for the electricity grid. The lights showed if anything went wrong with any of the substations. I think this floating disc thing is like that?”

“But why would anyone want to monitor round towers?” asked Mark. “And what are they monitoring for?”

Ferdia's eyes glazed over for a moment then he said, “Oh my God; I've got it! Get off the disc, all of you.”

Forgill was about to say something about this rudeness, but Mark stopped him.

“He doesn't mean it. He's just focused. Best to leave him to it.”

Forgill nodded and they stepped off.

Ferdia put one foot on the glass, and the other on the edge of the crucible. He pushed against the disc until it started to move. It was slow work but after a minute it had rotated through several degrees. He stepped away and watched the disc. They all crowded around.

“What are we looking for?” asked Forgill.

“Watch,” said Ferdia.

Slowly the disc revolved back to its former orientation.

“Now look at this,” said Ferdia.

He bent down and pointed out ticks on the outer rim and on the disc that were in alignment. After several minutes the tick on the disc had moved a perceptible distance away from the outer tick.

“It's rotating!” exclaimed Niamh.

“Yes. It's very slow, but it's definitely rotating,” said Forgill.

“What's moving it?” asked Mark. “I can't hear any machinery.”

“You're all missing the point,” said Ferdia. “It's not that the disc is rotating within the crucible; it's that the disc is fixed in space, and the Earth is rotating beneath it.”

“Like a Foucault pendulum?” asked Forgill.

Ferdia turned and pointed at him. “Exactly.”

“But if it's fixed in space, it must be fixed relative to something.”

“Yes. Eridanus.”

“The constellation Eridanus?”

Ferdia nodded.

“And how did you arrive at that conclusion?”

“Let me show you.”

He pecked at the screen of his iPad for a minute then placed it on the floor to show them. They all hunkered around as he worked at the screen.

“This is an aerial view of Ireland in Google Earth, and these place-markers are the thirteen tower locations. I've downloaded an image of Eridanus and flipped it over. Watch what happens when I overlay it on Ireland.”

“Good Lord. Every location corresponds to a major star in Eridanus.”

“Oh my God!” said Niamh. “So it's not just Wicklow; all the round towers were laid out according to the stars too.”

“Well, these thirteen at least, yes.”

“Could it be a coincidence?” asked Forgill.

“Hardly. The towers and Eridanus are a perfect match. Taking into consideration the Orion connection with Wicklow, there's no chance this is coincidental. The thirteen round towers that are marked on here are part of a network of some sort, and this is where they're monitored from.”

“Could this day get any weirder?” said Mark.

Could this life get any weirder!” exclaimed Niamh. “This is awesome. You know, this means this whole business goes back to the time of St Patrick, at least.”

Ferdia shot Forgill a sidelong glance. Forgill looked at his feet for a moment then sighed and nodded.

“It goes back a lot longer than that, young lady,” he said. “I think it's time I told you my full history, and what I know about the background to this. Ferdia's already heard it.”

Niamh and Mark looked at each other with apprehension as Forgill started into his story.

Ten minutes later, they sat around looking dazed. Niamh was shaking her head. “I can't believe you're that old. It's not possible.”

“I'm very sorry to say that it is entirely true, young madam.”

“I dunno if I've gone mad since my dad disappeared,” said Mark, “but your story seems no weirder to me than anything else that's gone on. Maybe I'm lying in bed somewhere imagining all this.”

“I assure you, this is real; as real as every moment of my last twelve thousand years.”

Ferdia cleared his throat. “I, eh ... I've got something to tell you too. It's about what I discovered when I was cracking the gate code – what bothered me so much.”

Mark sat forward, his eyes flashing with interest. “Yeah?”

“This place, whatever it is; it belongs to my father.”


“That's what I discovered on the Internet. It was hidden under a few layers of corporate ownership, but the trail led back to Father.”

Jesus! Are you sure, Ferd?”

“Absolutely sure. The code for the gate is my birthday.”

“Oh my God!” said Niamh.

Ferd looked close to tears.

Well,” said Mark, standing up and wiping his hands on his jeans, “So what. Another mystery to add to the pile. Big deal. We're all tied up in this somehow. Nothing's changed; now we know what your connection is, that's all. Don't be upset, Ferd.”

But Father never told me or Mother about any of this. How could he keep something like this from us?”

Forgill scowled at him.

“I think the clues are in the words 'conspiracy' and 'secret society',” he said. “Stop whining and show some backbone. You're no more unfortunate than these youngsters. In fact, they're worse off: They've had their parents abducted and you don't see them blubbering, do you?”

Abducted!” Ferdia shouted, and leaped to his feet. He pulled out his phone and ran to the other side of the room, dialing frantically. They watched as he suffered the wait of the ringtone, then saw his shoulders relax as his call was answered. After a brief conversation he returned to the others.

My mum is fine. She's at home, but my father's away on one of his“ - Ferdia made air-quotes - “'business trips'.”

“Well, you can count yourself lucky, young fellow,” said Forgill. ”Actually, I never suspected for a moment your parents might have been taken too. I do suspect, if this place belongs to your dad, he's involved in this thing somehow.”

“Well, we don't know that,” said Ferdia.

“No, but it's rather likely, don't you think?”

“We don't know that,” repeated Ferdia.

There were long moments of silence, then Forgill took a deep breath and hitched his trousers. “Hmm. Well, fascinating as all this is, we still haven't located the secret keys we came for.”

This perked Ferdia up.

“What did the lock look like?”

Mark and Forgill described the chamber and the geometric holes to Ferdia, and he raised his eyebrows in admiration as Mark described the relationship he had discovered between the holes and the Fibonacci sequence.

“How many holes?”


“Aha. And what can you see seven of in this room?”

“Err, I ...”

“Statues!” said Forgill. There are seven of them, holding tridents.”

“Not tridents; tridents have three prongs.”

“What do you call a fork with two prongs then?” asked Mark.

“Good God!” said Forgill, “they're tuning forks; large tuning forks. Those are our keys!”

“I believe so,” said Ferdia. “If you check the cross-section of the shafts, I think you'll find they match the holes you found in the cave.”

Well, can we take them and get out of here?” asked Niamh.

“Good idea, young lady.”

Niamh approached the nearest statue.

“This looks Egyptian.”

“It is,” said Ferdia.

“It's Seshat,” said Ferdia and Forgill in unison.

They looked at each other, started to talk at the same time, then stopped and looked at each other again. Forgill laughed and gestured from Ferdia to Niamh.

“Go ahead, young antiquarian. You probably know more about it than I do anyway.”

Ferdia nodded.

“Seshat is the Egyptian goddess of wisdom, writing, astronomy, architecture and mathematics.”

“Why does she have a star over her head?”

It's not a star; it's a papyrus plant, symbolizing writing. Normally she carries a palm stem marked with notches to indicate the passage of time, but here she's holding a large tuning fork. I've never heard of that before.”

Niamh looked at him, shaking her head.

“How do you know all this stuff? I'm going to start calling you Ferdipedia!”

Before Ferdia could retort, Mark interrupted from the other side of the circle:

“They're all the same. The statues, I mean; they're all the same person.”

“Seshat,” said Ferdia, “goddess of ...”

“Yeah, we heard,” said Niamh.

Mark tried to pry the fork out of the grip of the nearest statue. As he wrestled with it, he spoke over his shoulder:

You know, I was thinking; whatever we're caught up in - this conspiracy - the bits of it come together with this goddess. I mean, my dad is an architect, she's the goddess of architecture; all these fibbernadgy numbers, she's the goddess of math; then there's all the astronomy ...”

He broke off, panting. “Damn! I can't get this fork thingy out of her hand.”

They each moved to a statue and tried to remove its tuning fork.

“You're right, young McHewell; this is stuck fast.”

“This one too.”

“Yep. Same here.”

There must be a way of releasing them. But there are no clues. Ah! There's an inscription on the base of this status. 'Seshat opens the door of heaven for you.'”

“This one says the same.”

Mark checked the remaining statues. “They all do.”

“It doesn't tell us much, does it, my young friends? It could merely be referring to the fact that she's holding the keys to the portal. What else do we know about Seshat, young Ferdia?”

“She was a scribe, and a measurer.”

“What did she measure?”

All sorts: Foundations for buildings, sacred alignments, time. She recorded the time allotted to the Pharaoh for his stay on Earth, by making notches on her palm.”

Now that's interesting, young Egyptologist. Everyone; check the statues' palms for notches.”

“No, not the palm of her hand; the palm stem she's normally seen with.”

“But they're not carrying palms, they're carrying those forks.”

Niamh called out: “Guys, look at this. Mr. Forgill is right; this statue has markings on the palm of her free hand.”

“A play on words,” said Forgill. “Well, why not? What do those notches look like, young lady?”

“I think you'd better look for yourself, I can't describe them.”

Forgill joined Niamh and peered at Seshat's outstretched palm.

This is hieratic script. It is the number two-hundred and seventy.”

“How do you know that?”

Forgill looked at Niamh, eyebrows raised, and pointed at himself.

“Twelve-thousand years old, my dear. I’ve watched entire civilizations – including the Egyptian Empire – rise and fall in my lifetime. I've learned and forgotten as many languages and scripts as you’ve had hot dinners.”

“OK, but what’s the significance of the number two-hundred and seventy?”

I think I know,” said Mark. “These statues are at the points of that star on the floor, and that star looks a lot like a compass rose. Two-hundred and seventy degrees is west on a compass.”

“You’re absolutely right, young navigator,” said Forgill. “I wonder …”

He grabbed the statue by the shoulders and tried to rotate it. It turned more easily than he had expected and he almost fell off balance. As the statue rotated, there was a detent at each of the major compass points.

Well, it seems we have the right idea, but which way is north?”

Niamh pointed through the circle to the statue opposite the unoccupied compass point. “That’s north.”

“Righto then.”

Forgill rotated the statue until its outstretched hand faced west. He then went to each of the other statues in turn, read the value off its palm and rotated it accordingly. As the last statue settled into its proper detente, there were seven simultaneous loud clicks and the seven tuning forks fell to the floor in a cacophony of metallic ringing. They all jumped then jumped again as the front doors sprung open. They watched the doorway with apprehension expecting someone to come through, but no-one did.

I guess they were rigged to open when the forks were released,” said Mark.

Indeed,” said Forgill. Well, we got what we came for – and a great deal more, besides. Time to leave, I dare say. Let’s gather up these thingamajigs.”

They moved through the statues picking up the tuning forks.

“Do we have them all?” asked Forgill. “I have three.”

Mark held up two, and Ferdia and Niamh held up one each.

“That’s seven. Very well, let’s make good our escape from this dive.”

They walked out into the porch, then all walked into each other as Mark stopped dead. Niamh bumped her nose on his shoulder.

“Hey, what the ...!”

“Oh my God!” Mark exclaimed.

They spread out to see what had prompted this reaction, then all let out a variety of exclamations as they saw what had stopped him in his tracks.

The entire lawn, on both sides of the avenue, right down to the gates, was covered in cats. This was bizarre enough in itself, but what made it truly unnerving was that the cats were all sitting still, staring at the four humans. None of them was prowling, or cleaning or interacting with other cats. They sat like statues, watching intently, as the humans crept out of the porch.

“Oh, this is freaky,” said Niamh in a whisper. “What do they want?”

“I don't know,” said Mark, his voice unsteady.

“It's almost like they're waiting for us to do something; and look at the way they're only on the grass, not on the driveway. They've left it free for us to pass.”

“Yeah, that's really weird. And there's thousands of them! This must be every cat in Wicklow.”

“More like every cat in Ireland!” said Niamh.

Forgill interjected, speaking quietly: “I think we should make our way to the gates. I believe they're here to protect us rather than hinder us.”

Mark, his dream fresh in his mind, nodded. “I think so too. Let's go.” They headed down the avenue, and as they passed, the cats turned to watch them go by.

They had made it halfway to the gates when an electric buzzing and crackling filled the air. Numerous glimmers appeared in the grounds of the mansion, and quickly expanded to shimmering discs. Dozens of Marforí spilled out of the sidhs and ran screaming for the group on the avenue.

The cats exploded into action.

In seconds the Marforí were engulfed by shrieking cats that tore and bit at them in swarms. The Marforí swung their spear weapons as clubs and discharged them into the feline hordes, but the cats had the numbers. The screams of mutilated Marforí and the howls of injured and dying cats filled the air. One of the Marforí, entirely mantled in a writhing mass of fur and teeth, staggered toward Mark, trying to aim her weapon. As she got closer, Mark could see her eyes were gone – clawed out – and the cats were working on her nose and ears. She took another step and collapsed, jerking on the ground. As she writhed, Mark screamed at the rest of the group, “Let's go. The cats will hold them off; we've got to get out of here.”

They bolted for the gates and ran through the narrow gap onto Ashtown Lane.

“Where's Forgill?” shouted Mark.

“He gave me these and ran back towards the house,” said Ferdia presenting the tuning forks. Mark ran to the gate and looked through the gap. Near the house he could make out Forgill in the grip of two Marforí, who in turn were covered in shrieking cats. As the Marforí struggled to hold onto Del Forgill and fight off the cats, a sidh opened around them then closed, taking Forgill, the Marforí and the cats to God-knows where.

Mark's shoulders slumped and he walked back to Niamh and Ferdia.

“They got him. It's just us again.”

“We need to get out of here,” said Niamh.

“Yeah. Are you OK to drive the SUV again?”

“Forgill had the keys.”

“Ah, crap. OK, we're on foot; let's leg it.”

The headed down Ashtown lane at a trot, putting the tuning forks into their backpacks. Soon they reached the bottom of the lane, crossed over the roundabout and headed down Marlton Road towards Wicklow Town.

Back in the grounds of the mansion, Clodagh watched from her hiding place at the end of the porch, mouthing the Prayer for Deliverance from Fear. The she-devils gathered their dead and wounded and disappeared in small groups into thin air. To her astonishment, the cats did exactly the same, keening over their dead and dying.

When it had gone silent, Clodagh crept out of cover and sidled along the porch. She screamed as the front doors of the mansion slammed shut then screamed again as two she-devils appeared out of thin air and reached for her. Her shriek was cut off as she and the Marforí disappeared through a sidh with a noise like a whip-crack.

At the end of the avenue, the gates swung closed and locked.

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