This week’s sample is from Hesperian Dragon, the third book in the Assassin Chronicles series. The series consists of thirty books concerning the adventures of a group of semi-immortal Templar Knights left over from the Crusades waiting around for Armageddon.
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Mark frowned and then continued his pacing. He stopped again. “The Master shielded… used magick to keep the memory of it from him. He was afraid it would make him insane…” his voice trailed off and then he looked up. “There was something… else.”
Merry was horrified. There was so much she did not know about her Brothers and how could she ever hope to understand them? Even Simon.
“John Paul said but thou art he who took me from the womb,” Mark repeated the words again and went back to pacing. “Someone in that Council room knows where Simon came from. Someone took him from the womb.”
“I don’t understand at all, Mark. Someone on the Council delivered Simon when he was born?” Merry frowned at him. “What does that mean?”
“It would mean that Simon was delivered by the knife. Someone cut him from his mother’s womb. What you would call a cesarean section,” Mark told her in aggravation as if she should already know this.
Merry frowned deeply and placed her hand over her mouth. Scenes of bloody horror danced through her head. When was Simon born? In the fourteenth century? A C-section in the Dark Ages? Or was that the Renaissance? She didn’t know and didn’t care. Anesthesia was a modern medical miracle.
“I’m sorry,” Mark said suddenly and stopped once more. His expression softened “I should not be telling you this. I’m an ass.”
“Why should you not tell me?” she asked, though she did not want to hear more, she had to know. “I am not that squeamish though I know it must have been painful for his mother.”
“It isn’t proper and yes, it would have been fatal more often than not. It was used only as a last resort to save the child. The mother did not usually… survive… and was more likely dead before they cut her…” his voice trailed off and his complexion darkened. He remembered the time.
“Don’t you think I need to know these things?” she asked. “Why do you insist on keeping all these things to yourself? Does anyone else know about him that you know of? Listen, Mark, I will not say a word to Simon. I swear it! What would I say, for God’s sake?”
“Sir Philip was with the Master when Simon was found on the doorstep so to speak. He must know something,” Mark told her almost reluctantly. “But you must never tell it, Merry. Simon would not appreciate me telling you what he doesn’t even know himself.”
“He will never know it from me, Mark Andrew,” Merry assured him. She glanced at the clock on the mantel. Surely the others would be arriving soon. Perhaps the Grand Master would know how to wake Simon. He would be certainly be unhappy to hear what had happened and she did not want to be the one to tell him what had transpired concerning Elizabeth.
Bruce came in to announce that lunch was ready. They had missed breakfast and the cook would not hear of them missing lunch. The old man refused to take no for an answer even in the face of his Master’s anger.
Mark agreed to eat after a bit of cajoling and they ate in deep silence at the kitchen table. The meal was almost over when someone knocked loudly on the front door. Mark Andrew rushed from the kitchen to the foyer to answer it personally, expecting the Master.
Von Hetz stood on the steps looking like a vision from hell. His long, dark hair hung in his face, his cheeks were sunken, his eyes surrounded by deep shadows.
“Brother Simon,” he said without preamble.
“This way,” Mark answered without question and led him down the hall. The Apocalyptic Knight’s appearance was unexpected, but not unwelcome.
The Ritter bade them wait in the hall while he went in the room and closed the door.
A few minutes later, he emerged from the room and stood silently for several long moments in the dim light. Merry shuddered. He looked even worse than before.
“You knew of this?” the Ritter addressed Mark Andrew.
“What?” Mark Andrew answered with a question and frowned at him.
“Of this… woman?” the Ritter’s voice sounded hoarse and raspy.
“I only just learned of it this morning,” Mark Andrew answered. “I knew her when she was… alive.”
“You knew of Simon of Grenoble?” the Ritter tilted his head up slightly and narrowed his eyes at the Knight.
“Yes,” Mark nodded.
“You know who his father is?” Von Hetz continued to eye him steadily.
Von Hetz seemed to relax almost imperceptibly, then turned his eyes on Merry. “How did the girl get in the house?”
“We invited her in,” Merry told him. “She was on foot. We had no idea that anything was wrong.”
“How long has she been here?” he asked.
“Two days,” Merry whispered. The Knight of the Apocalypse truly scared her. “I swear, Brother, I had no idea. Simon wanted to turn her out. It was my fault.”
The Knight seemed about to explode and then his features relaxed completely as he seemed to come to grips with something internally. Mark cleared his throat. He would not see von Hetz treat Merry less than respectfully. Not in his house. If the man had some idea of taking her mind by force, it would be over his dead body.
“And do you have any idea where she is now?” Konrad asked finally.
“No. She was gone this morning,” Merry answered a bit louder.
“She accomplished her mission,” he told them with some measure of resignation. “Brother Simon does not want to wake up. He wants to die. Before he can come back to us, he must face his nightmare. There is nothing I can do for him.”
“But why?” Merry looked at Mark. “It was not his fault! If the girl was… evil, and he didn’t know…”
“Ignorance is no excuse, Sister,” Von Hetz told her. “Believe me, I know. Evil spares none. Not even children. She has caused him to relive something he never knew. Her reasons are her own. I cannot fathom her mind. I dare say she has no mind of her own. Perhaps she wishes simply to hurt or destroy those close to Sir Ramsay or all in proximity of the chapel. I cannot say. I did my best to banish her and thought it done.”
“You know her?” Mark Andrew eyed the tall man suspiciously.
“I do,” Von Hetz nodded. “I would speak to you alone, Brother.”