This week’s sample is from the last book published in the Assassin Chronicles series: The Red Cross of Gold:. The Jealous God. In Book 24, many secrets, surprises and loose ends are laid to rest, but the adventure continues as the story continues to unfold toward its the eventual end. In this scene, we have Merry Sinclair and Catharine de Goth talking to each other about ‘things’, Catharine trying to console her a bit, educate her a little and maybe make a little headache into the strange Ramsay Clan herself. All books are $2.99 at Amazon. Also at Smashwords for ebook formats and available in paperback. ON SALE for the Holidays is the Combination Book I & II, the Knight of Death and the King of Terrors, BOGO at: http://tinyurl.com/RCG-I-II-Double-Book
“I don’t know,” Merry said. She blushed and wrung her hands in front of her, suddenly feeling very stupid and silly. “You would have to know Planxty. He’s really silly sometimes. I wish he were here. I’ll bet he would know where Luke is.”
“No, really. Tell me about this vampire thing. I might know something about it,” Catharine told her. “I find the subject quite fascinating myself.”
“Oh, well.” Merry perked up and sipped her cup of coffee. “It seems when they were having the great Council, Vallen Martin supposedly admitted he had been a member of a blood-drinking cult in Italy. The Grand Tetons or something. I don’t remember the name. It was not supposed to be discussed, but Planxty had overheard Christopher and Vallen talking about it in the library one night. Scared the bejesus out of the old man. He related the story to Gil Pairaud, and Gil tried to explain to him vampires did not go around as wolves and bats, knocking on windows and sleeping in coffins. I guess Planxty was worried a vampire would get him while he was asleep or something.”
Catharine sat on her bed listening to this with a peculiar expression on her face. Merry’s misnomer made her heart beat very rapidly. Grand Tetons. Teutons. Teutonic. “That is truly fascinating. What did this Gil Pairaud say they were?”
“Well,” Merry frowned and sipped her coffee again. She looked about the apse. It was truly eerie in the old church with only the candles and a small lamp to light the depths. The sun was up outside, but the overcast sky and the thick, stained-glassed windows did not allow much natural light inside, even on sunny days.
“I’m not sure I should be talking about this with you,” Merry finished lamely. Gil had mentioned Catharine to Planxty by name. Merry had not known who Catharine was at the time. She’d heard snatches and tidbits of information, but she and Luke had had several arguments about the woman during that time. Merry had naturally wanted to know the entire story of Catharine and Simon and the Grand Master with all the details, but Luke had flatly refused to tell her much of anything.
“He said vampires were an invention of the church… I assume he meant the Church… Rome,” she made little quotation marks in the air. “He said the bishops and the popes made up stories like that to frighten the masses into submission to the will of the Holy See. In the early days, most of the people couldn’t read or write or even speak Latin, and so, they were at the mercy of the clergy for their understanding of the religion they practiced. I never knew any of that until I met Luke Matthew. He told me all about the failings of the Church. Of course, he considers himself Catholic, though he doesn’t always agree with the Pope. He likes to talk about it; in fact, it’s one of his favorite rants.”
Catharine nodded her head in agreement. “That is well known to be true, Meredith. I saw how the Church worked first hand. Their methods were not quite Christian. Your brother-in-law barely escaped their little Inquisition himself from what I understand. First they came after my people; and then, they turned on the Templars.” Catharine looked up at the vaulted ceiling. “God was with him.”
“I don’t know if God was with him, but Mark Andrew seems immune to everything. I’ve read a lot about the early history of the Church, and I don’t know how Mark Andrew escaped being burned at the stake,” Merry said. “I have always liked history, and legends, and stuff and, of course, when I found myself involved with the Order, I wanted to know everything I could know, so I could understand what was happening around me. After I married Luke, I guess you could say, I wanted to understand what made him tick. It has not been easy living with him. Half the time, he wants to darn my socks for me and chew my food for me; and the other half of the time, I believe, he wants to cut off my head!” Merry laughed nervously. “Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone else in the world. I love him to death.” She fell silent at the thought of what might be happening to her absent husband at that very moment.
“This child you had…” Catharine narrowed her eyes and she looked up at the ceiling again as if something had just come to her from nowhere. “She… you lost her? She was taken from you. You did not tell me this. Someone took her.”
Catharine looked down at her hands and frowned. Merry sat staring at her with her mouth hanging open. She had told Catharine about the baby, and how she had lost the baby during a ‘misadventure’ in the underworld. About how Mark Andrew had convinced Luke, it was hopeless to look for the baby and convinced her husband the baby girl was not his, but she had stopped short of telling her the entire story, afraid of what Luke might do if he learned of it. “An evil man… no, not a man. An Ifrit. A Djinni!” Catharine looked up at her visitor in wonder. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. Sometimes these things just happen. I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t be,” Merry said quietly. A feeling of calm washed over her, and she knew, she had been denying everything, though, she knew it was all true. The baby did not belong to Luke, and Mark Andrew had been trying to protect Luke by calling off the search. The Knight of Death knew his brother quite well. “It’s all right. That’s true. She did not belong to Luke Matthew. I… it wasn’t in the plans. I didn’t know. He didn’t know either. Luke is a good man. He never held it against me. He’s never held anything against me. Even the things that really were my fault.” She set her coffee cup on a small table and blinked at the woman in awe, wondering why she suddenly felt euphoric, as if she was totally safe here in this sanctuary. A place she had never liked before. A place that had formerly made her shudder with horror when she thought about coming here. Now, she almost felt as if she could have drifted up into the vaulted ceiling if she let go of the edge of the seat.
“You are a blessed woman, Meredith. In time, you will learn many things, if you keep your mind open.”
“I don’t feel blessed, Catharine.”
“Please go on. Tell me more about your daughter,” Catharine urged her and took a swallow of coffee. “Would you like another cup?”
Merry declined and waited while Catherine refilled her own cup.
Merry began to tell her about the birth of her daughter, and how she had become desperately ill in the underworld, and unable to give birth to the child. When she told her about Lucio’s part in the delivery of the baby, Catharine sat with her hand over her mouth in disbelief. Merry continued on with the story, as if, she had only been waiting to have someone to pour it out to, as if, it had been a great burden that needed to be shared with someone… anyone who was willing to listen. She ended by telling the woman about how Luke Matthew had finally confronted his brother and learned the truth of the baby’s parentage.
When she finished, Catharine handed her a cup of cool wine, and she drank it down.
“That is a most remarkable journey, Meredith,” Catharine spoke in the silence after a few moments. “I am honored, you shared it with me. You have let go of a terrible burden, and now, you can put to rest your hatred for Mark Andrew. He loves you a great deal, didn’t you know?”
Merry’s euphoria left her with almost the same speed it had arrived.
“I see you didn’t,” Catharine nodded her head slowly and looked deep in Merry’s eyes. “There is much here I do not understand.”
Merry squirmed in the chair like a child in the principal’s office, and Catharine searched about in her baskets for something more potent to drink. She produced a bottle of brandy and filled two plastic tumblers for them before resuming her comfortable perch on the mattress amidst the hodge-podge assortment of vari-colored and shaped pillows.
“Mark Andrew could have had you for himself, isn’t that right?” She narrowed her eyes slightly.