Home > Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)(13)

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)(13)
Author: Deborah Harkness

Hancock grinned. "That's why there's always a de Clermont on the Congregation-to make sure lofty ideals don't get in the way of good business."

"This isn't the first time I've worked for Philippe, nor will it be the last. You're good at uncovering secrets. I'm good at keeping them," Matthew said simply.

Scientist. Vampire. Warrior. Spy. Another piece of Matthew fell into place, and with it I better understood his ingrained habit of never sharing anything-major or minor-unless he was forced to do so.

"I don't care how much experience you have! Your safety depends on Walsingham-and you're deceiving him." His words had only made me angrier.

"Walsingham is dead. I report to William Cecil now."

"The canniest man alive," Gallowglass said quietly. "Except for Philippe, of course."

"And Kit? Does he work for Cecil or for you?"

"Tell her nothing, Matthew," Kit said. "The witch cannot be trusted."

"Why, you sly, wee boggart," Hancock said softly. "It's you who's been stirring up the villagers."

Kit's cheeks burned red in twin pronouncements of guilt.

"Christ, Kit. What have you done?" Matthew asked, astonished.

"Nothing," said Marlowe sullenly.

"You've been telling tales again." Hancock waggled his finger in admonishment. "I've warned you before that we won't stand for that, Master Marlowe."

"Woodstock was already buzzing with news of Matthew's wife," Kit protested. "The rumors were bound to bring the Congregation down upon us. How was I supposed to know that the Congregation was already here?"

"Surely you'll let me kill him now, de Clermont. I've wanted to do so for ages," Hancock said, cracking his knuckles.

"No. You can't kill him." Matthew rubbed a hand over his tired face.

"There would be too many questions, and I don't have the patience to come up with convincing answers at present. It's just village gossip. I'll handle it."

"This gossip comes at a bad time," Gallowglass reported quietly. "It's not just Berwick. You know how anxious people were about witches in Chester. When we went north into Scotland, the situation was worse."

"If this business spreads south into England, she'll be the death of us," Marlowe promised, pointing at me.

"This trouble will stay confined to Scotland," Matthew retorted. "And there will be no more visits to the village, Kit."

"She appeared on All Hallows' Eve, just when the arrival of a fearsome witch was predicted. Don't you see? Your new wife raised the storms against King James, and now she has turned her attention to England. Cecil must be told. She poses a danger to the queen."

"Quiet, Kit," Henry cautioned, pulling at his arm.

"You cannot silence me. Telling the queen is my duty. Once you would have agreed with me, Henry. But since the witch came, everything's changed! She has enchanted everyone in the house." Kit's eyes were frantic.

"You dote on her like a sister. George is half in love. Tom praises her wit, and Walter would have her skirts up and her back against a wall if he weren't afraid of Matt. Return her to where she belongs. We were happy before."

"Matthew wasn't happy."

Tom had been drawn to our end of the room by Marlowe's angry energy.

"You say you love him." Kit turned to me, his face full of entreaty. "Do you truly know what he is? Have you seen him feed, felt the hunger in him when a warmblood is near? Can you accept Matthew completely-the blackness in his soul along with the light-as I do? You have your magic for solace, but I am not fully alive without him. All poetry flies from my mind when he is gone, and only Matthew can see what little good I have in me. Leave him to me. Please."

"I can't," I said simply.

Kit wiped his sleeve across his mouth as if the gesture might remove all trace of me. "When the rest of the Congregation discovers your affections for him-"

"If my affection for him is forbidden, so is yours," I interrupted. Marlowe flinched. "But none of us choose whom we love."

"Iffley and his friends won't be the last to accuse you of witchcraft," Kit said with a note of sour triumph. "Mark me well, Mistress Roydon. Daemons often see the future as plainly as witches."

Matthew's hand moved to my waist. The cold, familiar touch of his fingers swept from one side of my rib cage to the other, following the curved path that marked me as belonging to a vampire. For Matthew it was a powerful reminder of his earlier failure to keep me safe. Kit made a horrible, half-swallowed sound of distress at the intimacy of the gesture. "If you are so prescient, then you should have foreseen what your betrayal would mean to me," Matthew said, gradually unfolding himself.

"Get out of my sight, Kit, or so help me God there will be nothing left of you to bury."

"You would have her over me?" Kit sounded dumbfounded.

"In a heartbeat. Get out," repeated Matthew.

Kit's passage out of the room was measured, but once in the corridor his pace quickened. His feet echoed on the wooden stairs, faster and faster, as he climbed to his room.

"We'll have to watch him." Gallowglass's shrewd eyes turned from Kit's departing back to Hancock. "He can't be trusted now."

"Marlowe could never be trusted," Hancock muttered.

Pierre slipped through the open door looking stricken, another piece of mail in his hand.

"Not now, Pierre," Matthew groaned, sitting down and reaching for his wine. His shoulders sagged against the back of his chair. "There simply isn't room in this day for one more crisis-be it queen, country, or Catholics. Whatever it is can wait until morning."

"But . . . milord," Pierre stammered, holding out the letter. Matthew glanced at the decisive writing that marched across the front. "Christ and all His saints." His fingers rose to touch the paper, then froze. Matthew's throat moved as he struggled for control. Something red and bright appeared in the corner of his eye, then slid down his cheek and splashed onto the folds of his collar. A vampire's blood tear.

"What is it, Matthew?" I looked over his shoulder, wondering what had caused so much grief.

"Ah. The day is not over yet," Hancock said uneasily while he backed away. "There is one small matter that requires your attention. Your father thinks you're dead."

In my own time, it was Matthew's father, Philippe, who was dead-horribly, tragically, irrevocably so. But this was 1590, which meant he was alive. Ever since we'd arrived, I had worried about a chance encounter with Ysabeau or with Matthew's laboratory assistant, Miriam, and the ripples such a meeting might cause in future times. Not once had I considered what seeing Philippe would do to Matthew.

Past, present, and future collided. Had I looked into the corners, I would surely have seen time unspooling in protest at the clash. But my eyes were fixed on Matthew instead, and the blood tear caught in the snowy linen at his throat.

Gallowglass brusquely picked up the tale. "With the news from Scotland and your sudden disappearance, we feared you'd gone north for the queen and been caught up in the madness there. We looked for two days. When we couldn't find a trace of you-hell, Matthew, we had no choice but to tell Philippe you had vanished. It was that or raise the alarm with the Congregation."

"There's more, milord." Pierre flipped the letter over. The seal on it was like the others I associated with the Knights of Lazarus-except that the wax used here was a vivid swirl of black and red and an ancient silver coin had been pushed into its surface, the edges worn and thin, instead of the usual impression of the order's seal. The coin was stamped with a cross and a crescent, two de Clermont family symbols.

"What did you tell him?" Matthew was transfixed by the pale moon of silver floating in its red-black sea.

"Our words are of little consequence now that this has arrived. You must be on French soil within the next week. Otherwise Philippe will set out for England," Hancock mumbled.

"My father cannot come here, Hancock. It is impossible."

"Of course it's impossible. The queen would have his head after all he's done to stir the pot of English politics. You must go to him. So long as you travel night and day, you will have plenty of time," Hancock assured him.

"I can't." Matthew's gaze was fixed on the unopened letter.

"Philippe will have horses waiting. You will be back before long," Gallowglass murmured, resting his hand on his uncle's shoulder.

Matthew looked up, eyes suddenly wild. "It's not the distance. It's-" Matthew stopped abruptly.

"He's your mother's husband, man. Surely you can trust Philippe-unless you've been lying to him as well."

Hancock's eyes narrowed. "Kit's right. No one can trust me." Matthew shot to his feet. "My life is a tissue of lies."

"This isn't the time or place for your philosophical nonsense, Matthew. Even now Philippe wonders if he has lost another son!" Gallowglass exclaimed. "Leave the girl with us, get on your horse, and do what your father commands. If you don't, I'll knock you out and Hancock will carry you there."

"You must be very sure of yourself, Gallowglass, to issue me orders," Matthew said, a dangerous edge to his tone. He braced his hands on the chimneypiece and stared into the fire.

"I'm sure of my grandfather. Ysabeau made you a wearh, but it is Philippe's blood that courses through my veins."

Gallowglass's words wounded Matthew. His head snapped up when the blow landed, raw emotion overcoming his usual impassiveness.

"George, Tom, go upstairs and see to Kit," Walter murmured, pointing his friends to the door. Raleigh inclined his head in Pierre's direction, and Matthew's servant joined in the efforts to get them out of the room. Calls for more wine and food echoed through the vestibule. Once the two were in Françoise's care, Pierre returned, shut the door firmly, and placed himself before it. With only Walter, Henry, Hancock, and me there to bear witness to the conversation-along with the silent Pierre-Gallowglass continued his efforts with Matthew.

"You must go to Sept-Tours. He won't rest until he claims your body for burial or you are standing before him, alive. Philippe doesn't trust Elizabeth-or the Congregation." Gallowglass intended his words to bring comfort this time, but Matthew's air of remove remained.

Gallowglass made an exasperated sound. "Deceive the others-and yourself, if you must. Discuss alternatives all night if you wish. But Auntie's right: It's all shite." Gallowglass's voice dropped. "Your Diana doesn't smell right. And you smell older than you did last week. I know the secret you're both keeping. He'll know it, too."

Gallowglass had deduced that I was a timewalker. One look at Hancock told me that he had, too.

"Enough!" Walter barked.

Gallowglass and Hancock quieted immediately. The reason blinked on Walter's little finger: a signet bearing the outlines of Lazarus and his coffin. "So you're a knight, too," I said, stunned.

"Yes," said Walter tersely.

"And you outrank Hancock. What about Gallowglass?" There were too many overlapping layers of loyalty and allegiance in the room. I was desperate to organize them into a navigable structure.

"I outrank everyone in this room, madam, with the exception of your husband," Raleigh cautioned. "And that includes you."

"You have no authority over me," I shot back. "Exactly what is your role in the de Clermont family's business, Walter?"

Over my head, Raleigh's angry blue eyes met Matthew's. "Is she always like this?"

"Usually," Matthew said drily. "It takes some getting used to, but I rather like it. You might, too, given time."

"I already have one demanding woman in my life. I don't need another," Walter snorted. "If you must know, I command the brotherhood in England, Mistress Roydon. Matthew cannot do so, given his position on the Congregation. The other members of the family were otherwise occupied. Or they refused." Walter's eyes flickered to Gallowglass.

"So you're one of the order's eight provincial masters and report directly to Philippe," I said thoughtfully. "I'm surprised you're not the ninth knight."

The ninth knight was a mysterious figure in the order, his identity kept secret from all except those at the very highest levels.

Raleigh swore so vehemently that Pierre gasped. "You keep the fact that you're a spy and a member of the Congregation from your wife, yet you tell her the most private business of the brotherhood?"

"She asked," Matthew said simply. "But I think that's enough talk of the Order of Lazarus for tonight."

"Your wife won't be satisfied leaving it there. She will worry at this like a hound with a bone." Raleigh crossed his arms over his chest and scowled.

"Very well. If you must know, Henry is the ninth knight. His unwillingness to embrace the Protestant faith makes him vulnerable to allegations of treason here in England, and in Europe he is an easy target for every malcontent who would like to see Her Majesty lose her throne. Philippe offered him the position to shield him from those who would abuse his trusting nature."

"Henry? A rebel?" I looked at the gentle giant, stunned.

"I'm no rebel," Henry said tightly. "But Philippe de Clermont's protection has saved my life on more than one occasion."

"The Earl of Northumberland is a powerful man, Diana," Matthew said quietly, "which makes him a valuable pawn in the hands of an unscrupulous player."

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