The Sin Eater

The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne Read Free Book Online

Book: The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sarah Rayne
Tags: Fiction, General
and indigo light, and the ocean was murmuring to itself instead of roaring gustily – the sounds so soft you could believe the creatures of the legends were singing inside them. On a night like this, if you stood on a particular point on the Moher Cliffs you could persuade yourself you were glimpsing the
sidhe
dancing on the water’s surface – the ancient faery people who had chill inhuman blood in their veins, and who would pounce on the souls of men and drag them down to their world for ever.
    â€˜I think I’d go with them without having to be pounced on,’ Colm said, as he and Declan stood looking out to the shimmering wastes.
    â€˜It’s Homer’s wine-dark sea tonight,’ said Declan, staring across the water’s surface.
    â€˜Wine was never that gloomy colour.’
    â€˜Your trouble is you’ve no romance in your soul.’
    â€˜I have plenty of romance,’ began Colm hotly. ‘In fact—’ He broke off and turned to look back at the path that wound back down to the village. ‘Someone’s coming up the path,’ he said.
    It was unusual for anyone to venture out to this part of Kilglenn. Most people said it was too lonely and too steep, and the spray from the ocean was enough to give anyone a terrible dose of the pneumonia, but after a few drinks at Fintan’s, they also reminded one another that the devil had once walked those cliffs. You couldn’t trust him not to still do so if the mood took him – especially just when everyone had finally been relaxing and thinking he had left Kilglenn for richer pastures.
    But tonight it was not the devil’s footsteps Declan and Colm could hear coming towards them through the warm, scented May twilight. It was Colm’s cousin, Romilly.
    Her hair was dishevelled and streaming out behind her like copper silk, and her small face was tear-smudged. She ran up to them, gasping for breath, clutching Colm’s hands.
    â€˜What’s happened? Romilly, what’s wrong?’
    â€˜Sit down and tell us,’ said Declan, fishing in his pocket for a handkerchief.
    â€˜I was mad ever to agree,’ said Romilly, sobbing into the handkerchief. ‘I know I was mad. But he was persuasive, you know. The silver tongue of the devil, isn’t that what they all say about him?’
    â€˜Say about who? Rom, stop crying and tell us properly.’
    The story came out in hiccupping sobs, with frequent recourses to Declan’s handkerchief, and many self-reproaches. She had been walking on the cliff side that very afternoon, said Romilly. Yes, she knew it was a stupid thing to be going up to that stretch of the cliff, but there were times you wanted to be on your own, away from everyone and everything.
    This was understandable. Romilly had had to live with a series of her father’s people ever since her parents died in the influenza outbreak four years back. Even Declan’s mother, who disapproved of most girls on principle, said it was a disgrace the way Romilly Rourke was passed around like a lost parcel.
    Anyway, said Romilly, wiping away a fresh batch of tears, she had gone up to the cliff side and that was where she had met him.
    For a moment the two boys thought after all this was going to be a new episode in the story of the devil walking the Moher Cliffs, but in fact it was not the devil whom Romilly had encountered, although Declan said afterwards it might have been the devil’s apostle.
    It was Nicholas Sheehan. The disgraced priest who lived in mysterious seclusion in the old watchtower; the rebel hermit and the sinner (opinions were always divided on that point), whom legend said had challenged the devil to a chess game, and had won.
    â€˜He was walking on the cliffs as well,’ said Romilly. ‘It would have been rude not to say good afternoon, so I did. And we were quite near to the watchtower path, and he started talking to me about it. How it was built by a High

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