No doubt the stone the deadhouse is raised from is meant to keep the smell contained. Bodies in a damp environment do not hold integrity long. These stones, though, are saturated with the decay of years and I gag repeatedly as we approach the entrance.
Attis glances at me. “The deadhouse is the only building that survives the water every time.”
I cannot think why. The island is soggy and low. It feels as if the whole will sink below the surface without warning.
We enter and I thank the stars there are no bodies. What there is, is an old man without any hair on his head, bent over a book in the gloom, busy scribbling. Without looking up, he says, “Take the body round back.”
I clear my throat. “I am hoping to look at your list.”
The man slaps his stubby pencil down. “Lists are private,” he snarls, looking up. “You want to see, you go to …” He stops there as he marks my eyes. “And who are you?” he asks more quietly.
“My name is Lyra and I …”
He interrupts. “Where are you from?”
“I have come from Grenmassin to find someone.”
“Grenmassin, the farming commune? You are beyond your reach here, girl.” The old man begins to flip pages, glancing down. “However, when a blue and a green eye asks, it is our task to reveal. This is why someone sent you, not so? Who are you looking for?”
His words have astonished me, but I will examine them later. Now I need what he knows. “He is called Damin Mur.”
A gnarly hand rises to scratch at a hairless head. “He is not in my book.”
My breath almost leaves my body eternally. “Because you know he is alive?”
The old man nods.