His father and mother came when Philippe decided to build on this land back when Clovis was king. That's the only reason the vil age is here-it was where the farmers and craftsmen who built the church and castle lived."
"Why did your husband pick this spot?" I leaned against the pil ows, my knees folded close to my chest under the bedclothes.
"Clovis promised him the land in hopes it would encourage Philippe to fight against the king's rivals. My husband was always playing both sides against the middle." Ysabeau smiled wistful y. "Very few people caught him at it, though."
"Was Matthew's father a farmer?"
"A farmer?" Ysabeau looked surprised. "No, he was a carpenter, as was Matthew-before he became a stonemason."
A mason. The tower's stones al fit together so smoothly they didn't seem to require mortar. And there were the oddly ornate chimneys at the Old Lodge gatehouse that Matthew just had to let some craftsman try his hand at constructing. His long, slender fingers were strong enough to twist open an oyster shel or crack a chestnut. Another piece of Matthew fel into place, fitting perfectly next to the warrior, the scientist, and the courtier.
"And they both worked on the chateau?"
"Not this chateau," Ysabeau said, looking around her.
"This was a present from Matthew, when I was sad over being forced to leave a place that I loved. He tore down the fortress his father had built and replaced it with a new one."
Her green-and-black eyes glittered with amusement.
"Philippe was furious. But it was time for a change. The first chateau was made of wood, and even though there had been stone additions over the years, it was a bit ramshackle."
My mind tried to take in the time line of events, from the construction of the first fortress and its vil age in the sixth century to Matthew's tower in the thirteenth century.
Ysabeau's nose crinkled in distaste. "Then he stuck this tower onto the back when he returned home and didn't want to live so close to the family. I never liked it-it seemed a romantic trifle-but it was his wish, and I let him." She shrugged. "Such a funny tower. It didn't help defend the castle. He had already built far more towers here than we needed."
Ysabeau continued to spin her tale, seeming only partial y in the twenty-first century.
"Matthew was born in the vil age. He was always such a bright child, so curious. He drove his father mad, fol owing him to the chateau and picking up tools and sticks and stones. Children learned their trades early then, but Matthew was precocious. By the time he could hold a hatchet without injuring himself, he was put to work."
An eight-year-old Matthew with gangly legs and gray- green eyes ran around the hil s in my imagination.
"Yes." She smiled, agreeing with my unspoken thoughts.
"He was indeed a beautiful child. A beautiful young man as wel . Matthew was unusual y tal for the time, though not as tal as he became once he was a vampire.
"And he had a wicked sense of humor. He was always pretending that something had gone wrong or that instructions had not been given to him regarding this roof beam or that foundation. Philippe never failed to believe the tal tales Matthew told him." Ysabeau's voice was indulgent.
"Matthew's first father died when he was in his late teens, and his first mother had been dead for years by then. He was alone, and we worried about him finding a woman to settle down with and start a family.
"And then he met Blanca." Ysabeau paused, her look level and without malice. "You cannot have imagined that he was without the love of women." It was a statement, not a question. Marthe shot Ysabeau an evil look but kept quiet.
"Of course not," I said calmly, though my heart felt heavy.
"Blanca was new to the vil age, a servant to one of the master masons Philippe had brought in from Ravenna to construct the first church. She was as pale as her name suggested, with white skin, eyes the color of a spring sky, and hair that looked like spun gold."
A pale, beautiful woman had appeared in my visions when I went to fetch Matthew's computer. Ysabeau's description of Blanca fit her perfectly.
"She had a sweet smile, didn't she?" I whispered.
Ysabeau's eyes widened. "Yes, she did."
"I know. I saw her when Matthew's armor caught the light in his study."
Marthe made a warning sound, but Ysabeau continued.
"Sometimes Blanca seemed so delicate that I feared she would break when drawing water from the wel or picking vegetables. My Matthew was drawn to that delicacy, I suppose. He has always liked fragile things." Ysabeau's eyes flicked over my far-from-fragile form. "They were married when Matthew turned twenty-five and could support a family. Blanca was just nineteen.
"They were a beautiful couple, of course. There was such a strong contrast between Matthew's darkness and Blanca's pale prettiness. They were very much in love, and the marriage was a happy one. But they could not seem to have children. Blanca had miscarriage after miscarriage. I cannot imagine what it was like inside their house, to see so many children of your body die before they drew breath."
I wasn't sure if vampires could cry, though I remembered the bloodstained tear on Ysabeau's cheek from my earlier visions in the salon. Even without the tears, however, she looked now as though she were weeping, her face a mask of regret.
"Final y, after so many years of trying and failing, Blanca was with child. It was 531. Such a year. There was a new king to the south, and the battles had started al over again.
Matthew began to look happy, as if he dared to hope this baby would survive. And it did. Lucas was born in the autumn and was baptized in the unfinished church that Matthew was helping to build. It was a hard birth for Blanca.
The midwife said that he would be the last child she bore.
For Matthew, though, Lucas was enough. And he was so like his father, with his black curls and pointed chin-and those long legs."
"What happened to Blanca and Lucas?" I asked softly.
We were only six years from Matthew's transformation into a vampire. Something must have happened, or he would never have let Ysabeau exchange his life for a new one.
"Matthew and Blanca watched their son grow and thrive.
Matthew had learned to work in stone rather than wood, and he was in high demand among the lords from here to Paris. Then fever came to the vil age. Everyone fel il .
Matthew survived. Blanca and Lucas did not. That was in 536. The year before had been strange, with very little sunshine, and the winter was cold. When spring came, the sickness came, too, and carried Blanca and Lucas away."
"Didn't the vil agers wonder why you and Philippe remained healthy?"
"Of course. But there were more explanations then than there would be today. It was easier to think God was angry with the vil age or that the castle was cursed than to think that the manjasang were living among them."
"Manjasang?" I tried to rol the syl ables around my mouth as Ysabeau had.
"It is the old tongue's word for vampire-'blood eater.' There were those who suspected the truth and whispered by the fireside. But in those days the return of the Ostrogoth warriors was a far more frightening prospect than a manjasang overlord. Philippe promised the vil age his protection if the raiders came back. Besides, we made it a point never to feed close to home," she explained primly.
"What did Matthew do after Blanca and Lucas were gone?"
"He grieved. Matthew was inconsolable. He stopped eating. He looked like a skeleton, and the vil age came to us for help. I took him food"-Ysabeau smiled at Marthe -"and made him eat and walked with him until he wasn't so restless. When he could not sleep, we went to church and prayed for the souls of Blanca and Lucas. Matthew was very religious in those days. We talked about heaven and hel , and he worried about where their souls were and if he would be able to find them again."
Matthew was so gentle with me when I woke up in terror.
Had the nights before he'd become a vampire been as sleepless as those that came after?
"By autumn he seemed more hopeful. But the winter was difficult. People were hungry, and the sickness continued.
Death was everywhere. The spring could not lift the gloom.
Philippe was anxious about the church's progress, and Matthew worked harder than ever. At the beginning of the second week in June, he was found on the floor beneath its vaulted ceiling, his legs and back broken."
I gasped at the thought of Matthew's soft, human body plummeting to the hard stones.
"There was no way he could survive the fal , of course,"
Ysabeau said softly. "He was a dying man. Some of the masons said he'd slipped. Others said he was standing on the scaffolding one moment and gone the next. They thought Matthew had jumped and were already talking about how he could not be buried in the church because he was a suicide. I could not let him die fearing he might not be saved from hel . He was so worried about being with Blanca and Lucas-how could he go to his death wondering if he would be separated from them for al eternity?"
"You did the right thing." It would have been impossible for me to walk away from him no matter what the state of his soul. Leaving his body broken and hurting was unthinkable. If my blood would have saved him, I would have used it.
"Did I?" Ysabeau shook her head. "I have never been sure. Philippe told me it was my decision whether to make Matthew one of our family. I had made other vampires with my blood, and I would make others after him. But Matthew was different. I was fond of him, and I knew that the gods were giving me a chance to make him my child. It would be my responsibility to teach him how a vampire must be in the world."
"Did Matthew resist you?" I asked, unable to stop myself.
"No," she replied. "He was out of his mind with pain. We told everyone to leave, saying we would fetch a priest. We didn't, of course. Philippe and I went to Matthew and explained we could make him live forever, without pain, without suffering. Much later Matthew told us that he thought we were John the Baptist and the Blessed Mother come to take him to heaven to be with his wife and child. When I offered him my blood, he thought I was the priest offering him last rites."
The only sounds in the room were my quiet breathing and the crackle of logs in the fireplace. I wanted Ysabeau to tel me the particulars of how she had made Matthew, but I was afraid to ask in case it was something that vampires didn't talk about. Perhaps it was too private, or too painful.
Ysabeau soon told me without prompting.
"He took my blood so easily, like he was born to it," she said with a rustling sigh. "Matthew was not one of those humans who turn their face from the scent or sight. I opened my wrist with my own teeth and told him my blood would heal him. He drank his salvation without fear."
"And afterward?" I whispered.
"Afterward he was . . . difficult," Ysabeau said careful y.
"Al new vampires are strong and ful of hunger, but Matthew was almost impossible to control. He was in a rage at being a vampire, and his need to feed was endless.
Philippe and I had to hunt al day for weeks to satisfy him.
And his body changed more than we expected. We al get tal er, finer, stronger. I was much smal er before I became a vampire. But Matthew developed from a reed-thin human into a formidable creature. My husband was larger than my new son, but in the first flush of my blood Matthew was a handful even for Philippe."
I forced myself not to shrink from Matthew's hunger and rage. Instead my eyes remained fixed on his mother, not closing my eyes for an instant against the knowledge of him. This was what Matthew feared, that I would come to understand who he had been-who he stil was-and feel revulsion.
"What calmed him?" I asked.
"Philippe took him hunting," Ysabeau explained, "once he thought that Matthew would no longer kil everything in his path. The hunt engaged his mind, and the chase engaged his body. He soon craved the hunt more than the blood, which is a good sign in young vampires. It meant he was no longer a creature of pure appetite but was once again rational. After that, it was only a matter of time before his conscience returned and he began to think before he kil ed.
Then al we had to fear were his black periods, when he felt the loss of Blanca and Lucas again and turned to humans to dul his hunger."
"Did anything help Matthew then?"
"Sometimes I sang to him-the same song I sang to you tonight, and others as wel . That often broke the spel of his grief. Other times Matthew would go away. Philippe forbade me to fol ow or to ask questions when he returned."
Ysabeau's eyes were black as she looked at me. Our glances confirmed what we both suspected: that Matthew had been lost with other women, seeking solace in their blood and the touch of hands that belonged to neither his mother nor his wife.
"He's so control ed," I mused aloud, "it's hard to imagine him like that."
"Matthew feels deeply. It is a blessing as wel as a burden to love so much that you can hurt so badly when love is gone."
There was a threat in Ysabeau's voice. My chin went up in defiance, my fingers tingling. "Then I'l have to make sure my love never leaves him," I said tightly.
"And how wil you do that?" Ysabeau taunted. "Would you become a vampire, then, and join us in our hunting?" She laughed, but there was neither joy nor mirth in the sound.
"No doubt that's what Domenico suggested. One simple bite, the draining of your veins, the exchange of our blood for yours. The Congregation would have no grounds to intrude on your business then."
"What do you mean?" I asked numbly.
"Don't you see?" Ysabeau snarled. "If you must be with Matthew, then become one of us and put him-and yourself -out of danger. The witches may want to keep you as their own, but they cannot object to your relationship if you are a vampire, too."
A low rumble started in Marthe's throat.
"Is that why Matthew went away? Did the Congregation order him to make me a vampire?"
"Matthew would never make you a manjasang, " Marthe said scornful y, her eyes snapping with fury.
"No." Ysabeau's voice was softly malicious. "He has always loved fragile things, as I told you."
This was one of the secrets that Matthew was keeping. If I were a vampire, there would be no prohibitions looming over us and thus no reason to fear the Congregation. Al I had to do was become something else.
I contemplated the prospect with surprisingly little panic or fear. I could be with Matthew, and I might even be tal er.
Ysabeau would do it. Her eyes glittered as she took in the way my hand moved to my neck.
But there were my visions to consider, not to mention the power of the wind and the water. I didn't yet understand the magical potential in my blood. And as a vampire I might never solve the mystery of Ashmole 782.
"I promised him," Marthe said, her voice rough. "Diana must stay as she is-a witch."
Ysabeau bared her teeth slightly, unpleasantly, and nodded.
"Did you also promise not to tel me what real y happened in Oxford?"
Matthew's mother scrutinized me closely. "You must ask Matthew when he returns. It is not my tale to tel ."
I had other questions as wel -questions that Matthew might have been too distracted to mark as off-limits.
"Can you tel me why it matters that it was a creature who tried to break in to the lab, rather than a human?"
There was silence while Ysabeau considered my words.
Final y, she replied.
"Clever girl. I did not promise Matthew to remain silent about appropriate rules of conduct, after al ." She looked at me with a touch of approval. "Such behavior is not acceptable among creatures. We must hope it was a mischievous daemon who does not realize the seriousness of what he has done. Matthew might forgive that."
"He has always forgiven daemons," Marthe muttered darkly.
"What if it wasn't a daemon?"
"If it was a vampire, it represents a terrible insult. We are territorial creatures. A vampire does not cross into another vampire's house or land without permission."
"Would Matthew forgive such an insult?" Given the look on Matthew's face when he'd thrown a punch at the car, I suspected that the answer was no.
"Perhaps," Ysabeau said doubtful y. "Nothing was taken, nothing was harmed. But it is more likely Matthew would demand some form of retribution."
Once more I'd been dropped into the Middle Ages, with the maintenance of honor and reputation the primary concern.
"And if it was a witch?" I asked softly.
Matthew's mother turned her face away. "For a witch to do such a thing would be an act of aggression. No apology would be adequate."
Alarm bel s sounded.
I flung the covers aside and swung my legs out of bed.
"The break-in was meant to provoke Matthew. He went to Oxford thinking he could make a good-faith deal with Knox.
We have to warn him."
Ysabeau's hands were firm on my knees and shoulder, stopping my motion.
"He already knows, Diana."
That information settled in my mind. "Is that why he wouldn't take me to Oxford with him? Is he in danger?"
"Of course he is in danger," Ysabeau said sharply. "But he wil do what he can to put an end to this." She lifted my legs back onto the bed and tucked the covers tightly around me.
"I should be there," I protested.
"You would be nothing but a distraction. You wil stay here, as he told you."
"Don't I get a say in this?" I asked for what seemed like the hundredth time since I came to Sept-Tours.
"No," both women said at the same moment.
"You real y do have a lot to learn about vampires,"
Ysabeau said once again, but this time she sounded mildly regretful.
I had a lot to learn about vampires. This I knew.
But who was going to teach me? And when?