Chapter Twenty Nine

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We stood in the dark larder, I trained the slim beam of torchlight onto the floor where piles of sandy earth had been scraped aside and struggled to control my breathing. Ty knelt with his hands resting on his thighs, grains of sand stuck to the hairs on his forearms where he had dug feverishly for several minutes.

"Is that it?" I whispered, despite us being alone in the cool air of the old food store.

The artificial white circle of torchlight danced across an old leather suitcase in a rhythm matching the frenetic beating of my heart. I stood with my back pressed against the wall of the subterranean larder to leave room for Ty to excavate. The suitcase lay about thirty centimetres below the surface, directly beneath where the line in the sand had been drawn. It was a medium-sized and dented dark leather object that might have been fashionable sometime in the mid-seventies, but it didn't look to has suffered too badly from its time underground.

"It must be," Ty grasped the edges of the case and tried to lift it; the case didn't budge.

"Still stuck..." He scraped further handfuls of grainy earth from around the corners of the case and tossed them aside.

"If this is it, the votives I mean, what are we going to do with them?" I wondered aloud.

"I don't know, but we are certainly not going to give them to Sharp," Ty replied. He motioned for me to bring the light closer and I obliged; focusing the beam on the shallow trench he had excavated around the case.

Ty got a firm grip on the handle and heaved the case clear of the hole. I knelt next to him as he blew firmly into the case's old metal fastenings to clear any grains that may have clogged them. I held my breath as he popped both clasps and opened the lid.

There before me in the bottom of the case lay the two most beautiful objects I have seen in my life.

A sword of about seventy five centimetres in length and whose blade tapered in the middle, lay atop an oval disc the size of a large tea tray. Both were encrusted in dirt but showed patches of burnished gleaming golden metal.

"Holy shit!" I let the breath out of my lungs in a low whistle.

"Yes, quite literally. Hold that light steady," Ty admonished me. He lifted the sword from the case and held it up with the fingertips of both hands. The blade was five centimetres wide at its broadest and it melted into a hilt of intricately-worked gold that was covered with winding patterns. Ty shifted the sword and examined a neat hole in the bottom of the hilt, then gently rubbed some dirt away from the swirling designs. He passed it to me and I took it in one hand, immediately surprised by the dead weight of it.

"This weights an absolute bloody tonne!" I exclaimed.

"It looks to be made mostly of gold. The blade and hilt might even be hollow," Ty replied.

"Jesus, I think Martha mentioned something about them being hollow for the ceremonial use of blood." I was remembering Martha's mini-lecture.

"It would be incredibly hard to use in battle, and gold is soft." Ty rubbed the edge of the blade where the uniform sharpness was marred by several dents, "but it looks like it was used."

He reached back into the case and withdrew the oval disc. It was far more ornate than the sword and was covered with twisted bands of metal in an immensely intricate Celtic pattern. Between the bands were inset areas of shining mother of pearl, some of which were obscured with mud, but others shone out like gems. Ty flipped the disc in his hands and noted a pair of raised hoops.

"This is the shield; it probably had leather straps that have rotted away," he said.

"It's so beautiful," I said.

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