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|Night School(Blood Coven Vampire,book 5) by Mari Mancusi|
“Don’t worry, Sunny,” I whisper, dragging a finger down the glass. “We’re coming. We’re going to save you. No matter what.”
We land at a small airport, outside a little town called Donegal, which is complete with requisite ancient castle, lively pubs, and quaint shops. Because the sun is just coming over the horizon, we’re forced to stop for the day at a little bed-and-breakfast in the center of town so the vampires can get their sleep on. Even Jareth, who technically can go out in the sun, decides to take a little nap. He’s been trying to get back on schedule with his fellow vamps now that he’s co-master of the coven.
I, however, having slept on the plane, am restless. Pacing the room until Jareth finally suggests I go out and explore, so he can get some sleep. I acquiesce and head out to the local pub to see if I can find out some information about Tír na nÓg, the fairy land my parents came from.
I decide to try a place called the Olde Castle Bar, which is predictably across from the castle itself. The place looks ancient from the outside, with rough stone walls right out of medieval times, but inside it’s cozy and cheery, with simple furniture and wall hangings. I pull up to the bar and order a pint, giving the young bartender, who can’t be more than my age, a wide smile.
“You here on holiday, are you?” he asks in an endearing, thick Northern Irish accent as he hands me a frothy pint glass in exchange for my coins.
“Not exactly,” I say, taking a sip. Ugh. I forgot they serve ale at room temperature in these parts. “Actually, it’s more like a quest.”
“A quest, eh?” he repeats with a laugh. “You’ve come to see the fairies, then?”
I raise my eyebrows. “You know about fairies?”
“Sure I do,” he says with an amused gleam in his eye. “Ireland’s a magical place after all. And we have our fair share of the fair folk, for good or ill. Every night we leave milk and honey out for them, so they don’t cause mischief.” He glances around at the older patrons in the bar. “We’ve got mischief to spare as it is at the Olde Castle Bar.”
I slump in my seat, suddenly realizing he’s just teasing me. What was I thinking? “Have you heard of the island of Tír na nÓg?” I ask, changing tactics. “We’re trying to get there.”
This time the bartender just breaks out into a loud guffaw. “You’ll be trying a long time, lass,” he says. “Seeing as it doesn’t exist.”
I do a double take. “Wait, what?”
He shakes his head patronizingly. “It is an isle of legends, but appears on no map you’ll find. And you’ll only get lost if you try searching the sea.” He offers me a sympathetic smile. “Why not give up your quest for fairies?” he suggests. “There’s a lot more to see in Donegal, after all. We’ve got fabulous views from the craggy cliffs, and castle tours start daily at ten.” He grins. “Of course, you’re always welcome to while your hours away here at the pub. The fairies know we need the coin to keep them in their milk and honey.”
I scowl and am about to thank him for his time and leave when an old woman interjects into the conversation. “Now, now, Collin,” she scolds. “You’ll be talking a girl’s ear off if she gives you half a chance.” I turn to my right to see the craggy-faced, white-haired little woman who has sidled up beside me at the bar. She smiles at me and I realize she’s missing more than a few of her teeth. “Come sit beside me, dear, and drink your pint,” she urges, “I get lonely taking tea by meself and I promise I won’t blather on like Collin about our local tourist attractions.”
At first, I’m not sure, but something about her hopeful smile compels me to nod in agreement. I follow her to a booth at the very back of the pub, away from all of the other diners, and settle down onto a hard wooden bench.
I turn to the woman and am surprised to see that suddenly her whole manner has changed. Her once-smiling eyes are now piercing and her mouth is set into a firm, scolding line. “Now, how about you tell me,” she says in a steely voice that’s suddenly not even the slightest bit crackly, “why a mischievous Sidhe like yourself would try to trick a simple bartender?”
I stare at her, wide-eyed. “Wh-what?” I ask, shocked beyond belief. How does she know I’m Sidhe? Is she a fairy herself? I suddenly realize I’m shaking with fear.
“I can assure you, Collin is a very sweet boy. And he does his duty well. I’ll not have you try to trick him into breaking the rules, just to test his will.”
“But ... I wasn’t ... I’m not ... I wouldn’t trick him,” I stammer. “I really am trying to find Tír na nÓg. I’ve never been there before and I’m desperate to reach it as soon as possible.”
The woman looks at me incredulously. “But how can you say that?” she demands. “I’ve seen you there myself. On the throne, on your coronation day.”
My mouth drops open. Of course! “You mean, you saw ... oh my God.” I swallow hard, my whole body buzzing with excitement. “You saw Sunny!”
“Yes, Sunny,” the woman agrees. “But you are Sunny! You think I wouldn’t recognize you, just because you colored your hair? Give me a little credit here!”
“No, no—you don’t understand! I’m her sister. Her twin sister. And I’ve been trying desperately to find her. Please,” I say, entreating the woman with my best pleading gaze. “Can you help me? Can you help my friends and me find Tír na nÓg?”