This excerpt is taken from The Red Cross of Gold XXIV:. The Jealous God of the Assassin Chronicles. If you are keeping up with the series, you might already know some of these characters, or you might not be this far along, at any rate, if you haven’t started the series, now is a good time while Books 1 & 2 are on sale for the Holidays at the BOGO price of $2.99 for both volumes in one edition. That can be looked at as one book free or two books 50% off. :^)
“What do you want?” she asked. “Who are you?”
“I’m Isaac,” he said and put on his best smile. “I am a prisoner here just like you.”
“I’m not a prisoner,” she objected and tried to close the door, but he put his boot in the crack, stopping her.
“Yes, you are. I know who you are.”
“You do?” She looked down at his foot, most of her face lost in the shadows. “And who am I?”
“You are the Healer’s mother. You are my foster father’s grandmother. That makes us related… in a way,” he said, hoping that his guess was right. He’d heard some furtive bits of whispered gossip about a woman named Catharine who was being held on the island at the behest of the Grand Master.
A woman purportedly Simon of Grenoble’s mother, who had intriguingly been suspected of having tried to murder the Knight of the Golden Eagle. No one would say anything further about this ‘prisoner’ and his questions had gone unanswered. He’d searched the crypt below the old cathedral, but that place was not only empty of life, but it, too, was full of spirits like the old tower… very disgruntled spirits. One of them, in particular, was a very freshly implanted ghost of a man, one of the Brothers of the Order of the Red Cross. He’d had a hard time getting away from that one. He did not like encounters with these uneasy wraiths and they naturally gravitated toward him whenever he drew near them. But this woman was not a ghost or a specter, she was very real. Very lovely. Very interesting.
“Whose son are you?” she asked. She had never seen this one. He was not one of the priestly brothers that brought her food and supplies each day.
“My father is Reuben d’Ornan,” he told her.
“You are lying. Reuben has no sons.”
“He is my foster father.” He revised his statement.
“And your real father?”
“Omar Adam Ajax Kadif ibn Adalune ibn Adar, Sultan of New Babylon, Ruler of the Known World, Emperor of the High Seas, Lord of the Ancient Lands of Sumeria, Babylonia and Persia. Grand Imperator of the New Order of the Temple. Prophet of God. Beloved of Allah. Servant to the People.” Joel pressed two fingers to his forehead and bowed low before her in the manner of the ancient Persians and Arabians.
Catharine frowned deeply, smiled and then opened the door.
Joel d’Ornan, also known as, Bari Kadif stepped inside the chapel and looked about the dim interior. The morning light dappled the black floor with overlapping patches of color.
“What do you want?” she asked again in more friendly terms. “Did your father send you?”
“No. I felt your presence. You are in need of company.” He walked slowly into the depths of the eerie chapel. Numerous candles burned on the altar.
“I do not need company.” She followed him. “I need nothing.”
“Everyone needs something,” he countered and then lowered his voice to a bare whisper. “You are an enigma wrapped in mystery. I heard that in a song once. I never knew what it meant until now. The children whisper about you.”
“Do they?” She smiled slightly and then shivered.
His presence was most disturbing. He had an almost mesmerizing voice and his movements were not quite like anything she had ever seen in a man. His age was hard to estimate. He could have been eighteen. He could have been twenty-eight. She watched as he made his way down the center of the darkly gleaming sanctuary. It seemed that he somehow belonged in this place of ominous power, and, yet, he was very different from the Gothic princes her brother had associated with over the years. Some of them had been darkly appealing, but this one was different. “Why do you say you are a prisoner? Surely, the son of the ruler of the world would not be a prisoner. What have you done?”
“I have done nothing other than exist.” He looked up at the scenes of destruction depicted in the stained glass on either side of the sanctuary. “You are Simon of Grenoble’s mother?”
“That would make you very old.” He looked back at her. “You are one of the immortals.”
“I am a simple woman.” She passed by him and stood in front of the altar on the raised portion of the floor that gave her a slight advantage in height. Her reddish blonde hair fell over her shoulders and framed her fair face in subdued colors.
“What do you do here all day?” he asked, his voice silky. She could detect no malice in him, just simple curiosity. Morbid fascination? He continued to look about, taking in all the scenes depicted on the windows, the sparse furnishings, the carvings on the altar….
“I pray and meditate,” she told him in truth. “I write.”
“You are a nun? A religious?”
“No, just a woman.”
“You have the look of a religious. A persecuted one. You are running from something. A great and terrible secret.”
“A secret is only a secret as long as no one knows. My past is known to many; therefore, it is no secret.”
“You have a brother?” He was picking up on many of her thoughts now. She was not as easily approached as his mother had been. She was wary of him. Distrustful. “He loves you very much. If I had a sister such as you, I would love her very much. Treasure her. Protect her and keep her. I would slay any man who would approach her. I would keep her safe, offering up her beauty and grace only for the enjoyment of God.”
“What do you know of my brother?” She narrowed her eyes and glanced about the empty sanctuary. His words and manner of speaking were a far cry from what she had expected.
“I know he is searching for you,” he said evenly and looked directly into her deep emerald eyes. “He searches and searches through crystal angles. Very dangerous. The hounds of the barrier travel through the angles. He should use only the circles and curves, but he is desperate to have his sister home with him. He has lost a part of himself. Such sadness. Such suffering.” Again, his voice trailed off to an inaudible whisper, and it seemed he said more. Although she could not understand the language and was, furthermore, not even sure if he had spoken.
“He knows where I am.” She turned away from him quickly, frightened now that she had let him in. “Would you care for some wine? Or do they allow you to drink? You look very young.”
“I am older than I look.” He smiled. “I would be honored.”
She skirted the altar and led him to the transept where she had set up her small living quarters. A mattress on the floor, a single chair and a small writing desk. Papers and pens and a large Bible lay on the desk and a number of baskets and boxes were stacked about the floor. One of the baskets gave up a bottle of wine and two wooden cups. He stood watching her curiously as she poured a bit of wine in the cups and handed him one.
“I’m afraid I’m not equipped to entertain guests,” she told him and sat down in the only chair. “You should not be here. No one comes here. I am not allowed visitors.”
“Your brother would rescue you. I would rescue you as the knights of old rescued the fair damsel of hope from the thorny bower of despair. The dragon of lies would perish upon my lance of truth; and I would bear you away upon my great steed of promise. Together, we would live happily ever after in the garden of earthly delights.” He sipped the wine and did not look directly at her as he spoke. She listened to these ramblings with her mouth slightly open, unable to believe that he might possibly be serious. He had been reading too much.
“Why do you not want him to do that?” He jerked his head about suddenly, startling her, smiling at her as if he’d read her thoughts.
“I am happy here.” She waved one hand about. “I am tired of running. I pray only that I may live quietly until my death.”
“They are not going to execute you,” he said. “You did nothing wrong.”
“How do you know?”
“I can see it in your mind,” he said. The scene in Lucio Dambretti’s bedroom was quite clear in her thoughts. “You suffered a great deal. I know the man who was there with you.”
Catharine stood abruptly at these words.
“How?” she whispered the words.
“I am the son of the prophet. I can see things. I see that the man wanted something from you, and you gave him what he wanted in return for sparing the Knight’s life. You are in love with the Knight of the Golden Eagle. That is no crime. He should count himself blessed.”
“You should not be here!” she said and the panic began to rise in her voice.
“Why do you not simply tell them what is in your mind? Why not tell them what you see in the future?”
“They would not listen! You must leave now!” She set her cup on the table.
“The man who attacked your Knight is not a man. He is an angel.”
“That’s impossible! He is a murderer!”
“The one is not mutually exclusive of the other,” Isaac told her casually. “He is an angel. His name is Abaddon. I know him because I, too, am an angel. Not all angels issue from your Divine Deity. Some come into being of their own accord. By spontaneous genesis. Some by accident. Some by fell design. Genesis is not uniquely possessed by the Creator. Others may create by His Divine Will.” His voice was hypnotic, and she knew he spoke every word in truth.
Catharine pressed her hands over her ears. She did not want to hear this.
“You have no reason to fear me, Catharine. I can help you.” He continued to smile at her. “My mother also loves the Knight of the Golden Eagle.”
“That is ridiculous!” She fled past him toward the door of the chapel. “Go! Get out! I do not want to see you again.”
Bari followed her slowly and then stopped very near her at the door. The silence was profound in the sanctuary and she could hear her own breathing. The sounds of the waves breaking below the cliffs, the calls of distant sea birds and the sighing of the wind gave the bizarre situation an almost romantic air; and she froze as he placed one warm hand on her cheek.
“If Abaddon finds the skulls, there will be nothing left of this world and your Knight will perish along with the rest of us,” he spoke these words directly into her mind. His lips did not move, nor did he blink as he delivered this ominous warning.
Catharine’s eyes widened and she wanted to scream and cover her face, but she was unable to move, unable to run, unable to close her eyes.
“You should let me help you. We could leave this place and travel to your brother’s castle. We could warn him before it is too late. I could be of great help to him and you would find me a most suitable replacement for your gallant Knight. There are so few of us and so… many of them…”
Catharine lurched forward when he removed his hand.
“Why?” she asked quietly. “Why would you help him?”
“I have no desire to be destroyed, Catharine.” He stepped closer to her and took her arm. “I can be many things.”