Home > The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)(11)

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)(11)
Author: Deborah Harkness

“I wish he were here,” I confessed. “He would know what to do about this mess: Baldwin, the blood vow, the Congregation, Knox, even Ashmole 782.”

“My husband never did anything unless it was absolutely necessary,” Ysabeau replied.

“But he was always doing something.” I thought of how he’d orchestrated our trip to Sept-Tours in 1590, in spite of the weather and Matthew’s reluctance.

“Not so. He watched. He waited. Philippe let others take the risks while he gathered their secrets and stored them up for future use. It is why he survived so long,” Ysabeau said.

Ysabeau’s words reminded me of the job Philippe had given me in 1590, after he made me his blood-sworn daughter: Think—and stay alive.

“Remember that, before you rush back to Oxford for your book,” Ysabeau continued, dropping her voice to a whisper. “Remember that in the difficult days to come, as the darkest de Clermont family secrets are exposed to the light. Remember that and you will show them all that you are Philippe de Clermont’s daughter in more than name.”

5

After two days with Baldwin in residence at Sept-Tours, I not only understood why Matthew had built a tower onto the house, I wished he’d located it in another province—if not another country.

Baldwin made it clear that no matter who legally owned the château, Sept-Tours was his home. He presided over every meal. Alain saw him first thing each morning to receive his orders and periodically throughout the day to report on his progress. The mayor of Saint-Lucien came to call and sat in the salon with him, taking about local affairs. Baldwin examined Marthe’s provisioning of the household and grudgingly acknowledged it to be outstanding. He also entered rooms without knocking, took Marcus and Matthew to task for slights real and imagined, and needled Ysabeau about everything from the salon decor to the dust in the great hall.

Nathaniel, Sophie, and Margaret were the first lucky creatures to leave the château. They said a tearful good-bye to Marcus and Phoebe and promised to be in touch once they were settled in Australia.

Baldwin had urged them to go to Australia and put on a show of solidarity with Nathaniel’s mother, who was not only a daemon but also a member of the Congregation. Nathaniel had protested at first, arguing that they would be fine back in North Carolina, but cooler heads—Phoebe’s in particular—had prevailed.

When questioned later as to why she’d backed Baldwin in this matter, Phoebe explained that Marcus was worried about Margaret’s safety and she would not permit Marcus to take on the responsibility for the baby’s well-being. Therefore Nathaniel was going to do what Baldwin thought best. Phoebe’s expression warned me that if I had a different opinion on the matter, I could keep it to myself.

Even after this initial wave of departures, Sept-Tours felt crowded with Baldwin, Matthew, and Marcus in it—not to mention Verin, Ysabeau, and Gallowglass. Fernando was less obtrusive, spending much of his time with Sarah or Hamish. We all found hideaways where we could retreat for some much-needed peace and quiet. So it was something of a surprise when Ysabeau burst into Matthew’s study with an announcement about Marcus’s present whereabouts.

“Marcus is in the Round Tower with Sarah,” Ysabeau said, two spots of color brightening her usually pale complexion. “Phoebe and Hamish are with them. They’ve found the old family pedigrees.”

I couldn’t imagine why this news had Matthew flinging down his pen and leaping from his chair.

When Ysabeau caught my curious look, she gave me a sad smile in return.

“Marcus is about to find out some of his father’s secrets,” Ysabeau explained.

That got me moving, too.

I had never set foot in the Round Tower, which stood opposite Matthew’s and was separated from it by the main part of the château. As soon as we reached it, I comprehended why no one had included it on my château tour.

A round metal grate was sunk into the center of the tower floor. A familiar, damp smell of age, death, and despair emanated from the deep hole it covered.

“An oubliette,” I said, temporarily frozen by the sight. Matthew heard me and clattered back down the stairs.

“Philippe built it for a prison. He seldom used it.” Matthew’s forehead creased with worry.

“Go,” I said, waving him and the bad memories away. “We’ll be right behind you.”

The oubliette on the Round Tower’s ground floor was a place of forgetting, but the tower’s second floor was a place of remembering. It was stuffed with boxes, papers, documents, and artifacts. This must be the de Clermont family archives.

“No wonder Emily spent so much time up here.” Sarah was bent over a long, partially unrolled scroll on a battered worktable, Phoebe at her side. Half a dozen more scrolls lay on the table, waiting to be studied. “She was a genealogy nut.”

“Hi!” Marcus waved happily from a high catwalk that circled the room and supported still more boxes and stacks. The dire revelations that Ysabeau feared apparently hadn’t happened yet. “Hamish was just about to come and get you.”

Marcus vaulted over the catwalk railing and landed softly next to Phoebe. With no ladder or staircase in sight, there was no way to get to that level of storage except to climb using the rough stones for handholds and no way to get down except to jump. Vampire security at its finest.

“What are you looking for?” Matthew said with just the right touch of curiosity. Marcus would never suspect that he had been tipped off.

“A way to get Baldwin off our backs, of course,” Marcus said. He handed a worn notebook to Hamish. “There you go. Godfrey’s notes on vampire law.”

Hamish turned the pages, clearly searching for some useful piece of legal information. Godfrey had been the youngest of Philippe’s three male children, known for his formidable, devious intellect. A sense of foreboding began to take root.

“And have you found it?” Matthew said, glancing at the scroll.

“Come and see.” Marcus beckoned us toward the table.

“You’ll love this, Diana,” Sarah said, adjusting her reading glasses. “Marcus said it’s a de Clermont family tree. It looks really old.”

“It is.” The genealogy was medieval, with brightly colored likenesses of Philippe and Ysabeau standing in separate square boxes at the top of the page. Their hands were clasped across the space that divided them. Ribbons of color connected them to the roundels below. Each bubble contained a name.

Some were familiar to me—Hugh, Baldwin, Godfrey, Matthew, Verin, Freyja, Stasia. Many were not.

“Twelfth century. French. In the style of the workshop at Saint-Sever,” Phoebe said, confirming my sense of the age of the work.

“It all started when I complained to Gallowglass about Baldwin’s interference. He told me that Philippe was nearly as bad and that when Hugh got fed up, he struck out on his own with Fernando,”

Marcus explained. “Gallowglass called their family a scion and said sometimes they were the only way to keep the peace.”

The look of suppressed fury on Matthew’s face suggested that peace was the last thing Gallowglass was going to enjoy once his uncle found him.

“I remembered reading something about scions back when Grandfather hoped I would turn to law and take on Godfrey’s old duties,” Marcus said.

“Found it,” Hamish said, his finger tapping against the page. “‘Any male with full-blooded children of his own can establish a scion, provided he has the approval of his sire or the head of his clan. The new scion will be considered a branch of the original family, but in all other ways the new scion’s sire shall exercise his will and power freely.’ That sounds straightforward enough, but since Godfrey was involved, there must be more to it.”

“Forming a scion—a distinct branch of the de Clermont family under your authority—will solve all of our problems!” Marcus said.

“Not all clan leaders welcome scions, Marcus,” Matthew warned.

“Once a rebel, always a rebel,” Marcus said with a shrug. “You knew that when you made me.”

“And Phoebe?” Matthew’s brows lifted. “Does your fiancée share your revolutionary sentiments?

She might not like the idea of being cast out of Sept-Tours without a penny after all of your assets are seized by your uncle.”

“What do you mean?” Marcus said, uneasy.

“Hamish can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the next section of Godfrey’s book lays out the penalties associated with establishing a scion without your sire’s permission,” Matthew replied.

“You’re my sire,” Marcus said, his chin set in stubborn lines.

“Only in the biological sense: I provided you with my blood so you could be reborn a vampire.”

Matthew rammed his hands through his hair, a sign that his own frustration was mounting. “And you know how I detest the term ‘sire’ used in that context. I consider myself your father—not your blood donor.”

“I’m asking you to be more than that,” Marcus said. “Baldwin is wrong about the covenant and wrong about the Congregation. If you establish a scion, we could chart our own path, make our own decisions.”

“Is there some problem with you establishing your own scion, Matt?” Hamish asked. “Now that Diana’s pregnant, I would think you’d be eager to get out from under Baldwin’s thumb.”

“It’s not as simple as you think,” Matthew told him. “And Baldwin may have reservations.”

“What’s this, Phoebe?” Sarah’s finger pointed to a rough patch in the parchment under Matthew’s name. She was more interested in the genealogy than the legal complexities.

Phoebe took a closer look. “It’s an erasure of some sort. There used to be another roundel there. I can almost make out the name. Beia—oh, it must be Benjamin. They’ve used common medieval abbreviations and substituted an i for a j. ”

“They scratched out the circle but forgot to get rid of the little red line that connects him to Matthew. Based on that, this Benjamin is one of Matthew’s children,” Sarah said.

The mention of Benjamin’s name made my blood run cold. Matthew did have a son of that name.

He was a terrifying creature, one whose madness was of unfathomable depth.

Phoebe unrolled another scroll. This genealogy looked ancient, too, though not quite as old as the one we’d all been studying. She frowned.

“This looks to be from a century later.” Phoebe put the parchment on the table. “There’s no erasure on this one and no mention of a Benjamin either. He just disappears without a trace.”

“Who’s Benjamin?” asked Marcus, though I couldn’t imagine why. Surely he must know the identities of Matthew’s other children.

“Benjamin does not exist.” Ysabeau’s expression was guarded, and she had chosen her words carefully.

My brain tried to process the implications of Marcus’s question and Ysabeau’s odd response. If Matthew’s son didn’t know about Benjamin . . .

“Is that why his name is erased?” Phoebe asked. “Did someone make a mistake?”

“Yes, he was a mistake,” Matthew said, his voice hollow.

“And Benjamin does exist,” I said, meeting Matthew’s gray-green eyes. They were shuttered and remote. “I met him in sixteenth-century Prague.”

“Is he alive now?” Hamish asked.

“I don’t know. I thought he was dead shortly after I made him in the twelfth century,” Matthew replied. “Hundreds of years later, Philippe heard of someone who fit Benjamin’s description, but he dropped out of sight again before we could be sure. There were rumors of Benjamin in the nineteenth century, but I never saw any proof.”

“I don’t understand,” Marcus said. “Even if he’s dead, Benjamin should still appear in the genealogy.”

“I disavowed him. So did Philippe.” Matthew closed his eyes rather than meet our curious looks.

“Just as a creature can be made part of your family with a blood vow, he can be formally cast out to fend for himself without family or the protection of vampire law. You know how important a pedigree is among vampires, Marcus. Not having an acknowledged bloodline is as serious a stain among vampires as being spellbound is for witches.”

It was becoming clearer to me why Baldwin might not want me included in the de Clermont family tree as one of Philippe’s children.

“So Benjamin is dead,” Hamish said. “Legally at least.”

“And the dead sometimes rise up to haunt us , ” Ysabeau murmured, earning a dark look from her son.

“I can’t imagine what Benjamin did to make you turn away from your own blood, Matthew.”

Marcus still sounded confused. “I was a holy terror in my early years, and you didn’t abandon me.”

“Benjamin was one of the German crusaders who marched with Count Emicho’s army toward the Holy Land. When they were beaten in Hungary, he joined up with my brother Godfrey’s forces,”

Matthew began. “Benjamin’s mother was the daughter of a prominent merchant in the Levant, and he had learned some Hebrew and even Arabic because of the family’s business operations. He was a valuable ally—at first.”

“So Benjamin was Godfrey’s son?” Sarah asked.

“No,” Matthew replied. “He was mine. Benjamin began to trade in de Clermont family secrets. He swore he would expose the existence of creatures—not just vampires but witches and daemons—to the humans in Jerusalem, along with the information that I was afflicted with blood rage. Making him a vampire was the only way I could ensure his silence.”

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