Home > The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)(9)

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)(9)
Author: Deborah Harkness

“This strange household of witches and daemons you’ve gathered must disband immediately,”

Baldwin said, trying without success to rein in his temper. His chair dropped to the floor with a bang.

“Sept-Tours belongs to the Knights of Lazarus! I am the grand master, not you. I say what happens here!” Marcus shouted back.

“Leave it, Marcus.” Matthew had his son by the elbow.

“If you don’t do exactly what I say, there will be no Knights of Lazarus!” Baldwin stood, so that the two vampires were nose to nose.

“Stop threatening me, Baldwin,” Marcus said. “You aren’t my father, and you aren’t my master.”

“No, but I am the head of this family.” Baldwin’s fist met the wooden desk with a resounding crash.

“You will listen to me, Marcus, or accept the consequences for your disobedience.”

“Why can’t the two of you sit down and talk about this reasonably?” Phoebe said, making a rather courageous effort to separate the two vampires.

Baldwin snarled at her in warning, and Marcus lunged for his uncle’s throat.

Matthew grabbed Phoebe and pulled her out of the way. She was shaking, though more from anger than fear. Fernando spun Marcus around and pinned his arms to his sides. Gallowglass clamped his hand on Baldwin’s shoulder.

“Do not challenge him,” Fernando said sharply, when Marcus tried to worm his way free. “Not unless you are prepared to walk out of this house and never return.”

After a few long moments, Marcus nodded. Fernando released him but remained close.

“These threats are absurd,” Marcus said in a slightly more reasonable tone. “The Knights of Lazarus and the Congregation have been in bed with each other for years. We oversee their financial affairs, not to mention help them enforce order among the vampires. Surely—”

“Surely the Congregation wouldn’t risk de Clermont family retaliation? Wouldn’t violate the sanctuary that has always been afforded to Sept-Tours?” Baldwin shook his head. “They already have, Marcus. The Congregation is not playing games this time. They’ve been looking for a reason to disband the Knights of Lazarus for years.”

“They’re doing so now because I brought official charges against Knox for Emily’s death?” Marcus asked.

“Only in part. It was your insistence on having the covenant set aside that the Congregation couldn’t stomach.” Baldwin thrust a roll of parchment at Marcus. Three wax seals hung from the bottom, swaying slightly due to the rough treatment. “We considered your request—again. It’s been denied. Again.”

That one word—“we” — solved a long-standing mystery. Since the covenant had been signed and the Congregation had been formed in the twelfth century, there had always been a de Clermont among the three vampires at the meeting table. Until now I had not known that creature’s present identity: Baldwin.

“It was bad enough that a vampire interfered in a dispute between two witches,” he continued.

“Demanding reparations for Emily Mather’s death was foolish, Marcus. But continuing to challenge the covenant was unforgivably naïve.”

“What happened?” Matthew asked. He passed Phoebe into my care, though his look suggested he was none too happy to see me here.

“Marcus and the other participants in his little rebellion called for an end to the covenant in April.

Marcus declared that the Bishop family was under the direct protection of the Knights of Lazarus, thereby involving the brotherhood.”

Matthew looked at Marcus sharply. I didn’t know whether to kiss Matthew’s son for his efforts to protect my family or chide him for his optimism.

“In May . . . well, you know what happened in May,” Baldwin said. “Marcus characterized Emily’s death as a hostile act undertaken by members of the Congregation intent on provoking open conflict between creatures. He thought that the Congregation might want to reconsider his earlier request to abandon the covenant in exchange for a truce with the Knights of Lazarus.”

“It was an entirely reasonable request.” Marcus unrolled the document and scanned the lines.

“Reasonable or not, the measure went down: two in favor and seven opposed,” Baldwin reported.

“Never allow a vote whose outcome you can’t predict in advance, Marcus. You should have discovered that unpleasant truth about democracy by now.”

“It’s not possible. That means only you and Nathaniel’s mother voted in favor of my proposal,”

Marcus said, bewildered. Agatha Wilson, mother to Marcus’s friend Nathaniel, was one of the three daemons who were members of the Congregation.

“Another daemon sided with Agatha,” Baldwin said coldly.

“You voted against it?” Clearly Marcus had counted on his family’s support. Given my few dealings with Baldwin, I could have told him this was unduly hopeful.

“Let me see that,” Matthew said, plucking the parchment from Marcus’s fingers. His look demanded that Baldwin explain his actions.

“I had no choice,” Baldwin told Matthew. “Do you know how much damage your son has done?

From now on there will be whispers about how a young upstart from an inferior branch of the de Clermont family tree tried to mount an insurrection against a thousand years of tradition.”

“Inferior?” I was aghast at the insult to Ysabeau. My mother-in-law didn’t look at all surprised, however. If anything, she looked even more bored, studying her perfectly manicured long nails.

“You go too far, Baldwin,” Gallowglass growled. “You weren’t here. The rogue members of the Congregation who came here in May and killed Emily—”

“Gerbert and Knox aren’t rogue members!” Baldwin said, his voice rising again. “They belong to a two-thirds majority.”

“I don’t care. Telling witches, vampires, and daemons to keep to themselves no longer makes sense—if it ever did,” Marcus insisted, stony-faced. “Abandoning the covenant is the right thing to do.”

“Since when has that mattered?” Baldwin sounded tired.

“It says here that Peter Knox has been censured,” Matthew said, looking up from the document.

“More than that, Knox was forced to resign. Gerbert and Satu argued that he was provoked to take action against Emily, but the Congregation couldn’t deny he played some role in the witch’s death.”

Baldwin reclaimed his seat behind his father’s desk. Though a large man, he did not seem of sufficient stature to occupy Philippe’s place.

“So Knox did kill my aunt.” My anger—and my power—was rising.

“He claims all he was doing was questioning her about Matthew’s whereabouts and the location of a Bodleian Library manuscript—which sounded very much like the sacred text we vampires call the Book of Life,“ said Baldwin. “Knox said Emily became agitated when he discovered that the Wilsons’

daughter was a witch but had two daemon parents. He blames her heart attack on stress.”

“Emily was healthy as a horse,” I retorted.

“And what price will Knox pay for killing a member of my mate’s family?” Matthew asked quietly, his hand on my shoulder.

“Knox has been stripped of his seat and banned from ever serving on the Congregation again,”

Baldwin said. “Marcus got his way on that at least, but I’m not sure we won’t regret it in the end.” He and Matthew exchanged a long look. I was missing something vital.

“Who will take his place?” Matthew asked.

“It’s too soon to say. The witches insist on a Scottish replacement, on the grounds that Knox hadn’t finished out his term. Janet Gowdie is obviously too old to serve again, so my money would be on one of the McNivens—Kate, perhaps. Or possibly Jenny Horne,” Baldwin replied.

“The Scots produce powerful witches,” Gallowglass said somberly, “and the Gowdies, the Hornes, and the McNivens are the most respected families in the north.”

“They may not be as easy to handle as Knox. And one thing is clear: The witches are determined to have the Book of Life,” Baldwin said.

“They’ve always wanted it,” Matthew said.

“Not like this. Knox found a letter in Prague. He says it provides proof that you either have or once had the book of origins—or the witches’ original book of spells, if you prefer his version of the tale,”

Baldwin explained. “I told the Congregation this was nothing more than a power-hungry wizard’s fantasy, but they didn’t believe me. They’ve ordered a full inquiry.”

There were many legends about the contents of the ancient book now hidden in Oxford’s Bodleian Library under the call number Ashmole Manuscript 782. The witches believed that it contained the first spells ever cast, the vampires that it told the story of how they were first made. Daemons thought the book held secrets about their kind, too. I had possessed the book too briefly to know which, if any, of these stories were true—but Matthew, Gallowglass, and I knew that whatever else

contained paled in comparison to the genetic information bound within its covers. For

had been fashioned from the remains of once-living creatures: The parchment was made from their skin, the inks contained their blood, the pages were held together with creature hair and binding glue extracted from their bones.

“Knox said was damaged by a daemon named Edward Kelley, who removed three of its pages in sixteenth-century Prague. He claims you know where those pages are, Matthew.” Baldwin looked at him with open curiosity. “Is that true?”

“No,” Matthew said honestly, meeting Baldwin’s eyes.

Like many of Matthew’s answers, this was only a partial truth. He did not know the location of two of the missing pages from the Book of Life. But one of them was safely tucked into a locked drawer of his desk.

“Thank God for that,” Baldwin said, satisfied with the answer. “I swore on Philippe’s soul that such a charge could not be true.”

Gallowglass eyed Fernando blandly. Matthew gazed out the window. Ysabeau, who could smell a lie as easily as any witch, narrowed her eyes at me.

“And the Congregation took you at your word?” Matthew asked.

“Not entirely,” Baldwin said with reluctance.

“What other assurances did you make, little viper?” Ysabeau asked lazily. “You hiss so prettily, Baldwin, but there’s a sting somewhere.”

“I promised the Congregation that Marcus and the Knights of Lazarus would continue to uphold the covenant.” Baldwin paused. “Then the Congregation selected an impartial delegation—one witch and one vampire—and charged them with inspecting Sept-Tours from top to bottom. They will make sure there are no witches or daemons or even a scrap of paper from within its walls.

Gerbert and Satu Järvinen will be here in one week’s time.”

The silence was deafening.

“How was I to know that Matthew and Diana were here?” Baldwin said. “But it’s no matter. The Congregation’s delegation will not find a single irregularity during their visit. That means Diana must go, too.”

“What else?” Matthew demanded.

“Is abandoning our friends and families not enough?” Marcus asked. Phoebe slid an arm around his waist in a gesture of comfort.

“Your uncle always delivers the good news first, Marcus,” Fernando explained. “And if the prospect of a visit with Gerbert is the good news, the bad news must be very bad.”

“The Congregation wants insurance.” Matthew swore. “Something that will keep the de Clermonts and the Knights of Lazarus on their best behavior.”

“Not something. Someone,” Baldwin said flatly.

“Who?” I asked.

“Me, of course,” Ysabeau said, sounding unconcerned.

“Absolutely not!” Matthew beheld Baldwin in horror.

“I’m afraid so. I offered them Verin first, but they refused,” Baldwin said. Verin appeared mildly affronted.

“The Congregation may be small-minded, but they’re not complete fools,” Ysabeau murmured.

“No one could hold Verin hostage for more than twenty-four hours.”

“The witches said it had to be someone who could force Matthew out of hiding. Verin wasn’t considered sufficient inducement,” Baldwin explained.

“The last time I was held against my will, you were my jailer, Baldwin,” Ysabeau said in a syrupy voice. “Will you do the honors again?”

“Not this time,” Baldwin said. “Knox and Järvinen wanted you held in Venice, where the Congregation could keep an eye on you, but I refused.”

“Why Venice?” I knew that Baldwin had come from there, but I couldn’t imagine why the Congregation would prefer it to any other location.

“Venice has been the Congregation’s headquarters since the fifteenth century, when we were forced out of Constantinople,” Matthew explained quickly. “Nothing happens in the city without the Congregation knowing of it. And Venice is home to scores of creatures who have long-standing relationships with the council—including Domenico’s brood.”

“A repulsive gathering of ingrates and sycophants,” Ysabeau murmured with a delicate shudder.

“I’m very glad not to be going there. Even without Domenico’s clan, Venice is unbearable this time of year. So many tourists. And the mosquitoes are impossible.”

The thought of what vampire blood might do to the mosquito population was deeply disturbing.

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Drawn into Love (Fluke My Life #4)
» Nightchaser (Endeavor #1)
» Right Where I Want You
» Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)
» Be the Girl
» Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
» If I Only Knew
» Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)
» 99 Percent Mine
» Free (Chaos #6)
» Work in Progress (Red Lipstick Coalition #3
» Moonlight Scandals (de Vincent #3)