“Yes, it is what it appears to be: a copy of the Mstumpuan, transcribed into Latin by João of Amareleja shortly before he was buried up to his elbows and stoned to death by the Segumbi.” Carlos examined the book reverently, holding it at arm’s length both to read it through his glasses and to keep the tropical steam of his breath away from it.

“What would they do if they knew we had it?” Annabelle said. “The Segumbi.”

“I imagine that many would not care,” Carlos laughed. “But those who still follow the paramount chief, those in the hinterlands…it is probable that they would show us the same hospitality why showed João of Amareleja.”

Annabelle exhaled sharply. “Not exactly what I have in mind when I want to get stoned. Why would they care so much?”

“You have to realize that the Quri have become the boogeymen of Segumbi legend, distant and demonic legends, and the Mstumpuan is their blasphemous liturgy,” said Carlos. “It would be like bringing a book on Satanism into the Spanish Inquisition.”

“Or a self-professed terrorist in Times Square.”

“Yes,” said Carlos. “A knee-jerk reaction of the cultural DNA, one might say.”

“What about the Quri themselves?” said Annabelle, cautiously. “Wouldn’t they be more helpful?”

“They were conquered nearly a thousand years ago by the Segumbi; if there are any of their line left, by now they’d be indistinguishable. But that’s not why we can’t let a word of this escape to the Segumbi or anybody.”

“Why’s that?”

“The same thing it always is. Treasure.”

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