"Is it going to keep doing that?" I stood, frowning, hands on my hips, and stared up at Susanna's ceiling.
"'She,' Diana. Your firedrake is female," Catherine said. She was also
looking at the ceiling, her expression bemused.
"She. It. That." I pointed up. I had been trying to weave a spell when my dragon escaped confinement within my rib cage. Again. She was now plastered to the ceiling, breathing out gusts of smoke and chattering her > teeth in agitation. "I can't have it-her-flying around the room whenever she feels the urge." The repercussions would be serious should she become loose at Yale among the students.
"That your firedrake broke free is merely a symptom of a much more serious problem." Goody Alsop extended a bunch of brightly colored silken strands, knotted together at the top. The ends flowed free like the ribbons on a maypole and numbered nine in all, in shades of red, white, black, silver, gold, green, brown, blue, and yellow. "You are a weaver and must learn to control your power."
"I am well aware of that, Goody Alsop, but I still don't see how this- embroidery floss-will help," I said stubbornly. The dragon squawked in agreement, waxing more substantial with the sound and then waning into her typical smoky outlines.
"And what do you know about being a weaver?" Goody Alsop asked sharply.
"Not much," I confessed.
"Diana should sip this first." Susanna approached me with a steaming cup. The scents of chamomile and mint filled the air. My dragon cocked her head in interest. "It is a calming draft and may soothe her beast."
"I am not so concerned with the firedrake," Catherine said dismissively.
"Getting one to obey is always difficult-like trying to curb a daemon who is intent on making mischief." It was, I thought, easy for her to say. She didn't have to persuade the beast to climb back inside her.
"What plants went into the tisane?" I asked, taking a sip of Susanna's brew. After Marthe's tea I was a bit suspicious of herbal concoctions. No sooner was the question out of my mouth than the cup began to bloom with sprigs of mint, the straw-scented flowers of chamomile, foamy Angelica, and some stiff, glossy leaves that I couldn't identify. I swore.
"You see!" Catherine said, pointing to the cup. "It's as I said. When Diana asks a question, the goddess answers it."
Susanna looked at her beaker with alarm as it cracked under the pressure of the swelling roots. "I think you are right, Catherine. But if she is to weave rather than break things, she will need to ask better questions." Goody Alsop and Catherine had figured out the secret to my power: It was inconveniently tied to my curiosity. Now certain events made better sense: my white table and its brightly colored puzzle pieces that came to my rescue whenever I faced a problem, the butter flying out of Sarah's refrigerator in Madison when I wondered if there was more. Even the strange appearance of Ashmole 782 at the Bodleian Library could be explained:
When I filled out the call slip, I'd wondered what might be in the volume.
Earlier today my simple musings about who might have written one of the spells in Susanna's grimoire had caused the ink to unspool from the page and re-form on the table next to it in an exact likeness of her dead grandmother.
I promised Susanna to put the words back as soon as I figured out how. And so I discovered that the practice of magic was not unlike the practice of history. The trick to both wasn't finding the correct answers but formulating better questions.
"Tell us again about calling witchwater, Diana, and the bow and arrow that appear when someone you love is in trouble," Susanna suggested. "Perhaps that will provide some method we can follow."
I rehearsed the events of the night Matthew had left me at Sept-Tours when the water had come out of me in a flood and the morning in Sarah's orchard when I'd seen the veins of water underground. And I carefully accounted for every time the bow had appeared-even when there was no arrow or when there was but I didn't shoot it. When I finished, Catherine drew a satisfied sigh.
"I see the problem now. Diana is not fully present unless she is protecting someone or when forced to face her fears," Catherine observed. "She is always puzzling over the past or wondering about the future. A witch must be entirely in the here and now to work magic."
My firedrake flapped her wings in agreement, sending warm gusts of air around the room.
"Matthew always thought there was a connection between my emotions, my needs, and my magic," I told them.
"Sometimes I wonder if that wearh is not part witch," Catherine said.
The others laughed at the ridiculous notion of Ysabeau de Clermont's son having even a drop of witch's blood.
"I think it's safe to leave the firedrake to her own devices for the time being and return to the matter of Diana's disguising spell," Goody Alsop said, referring to my need to shield the surfeit of energy that was released whenever I used magic. "Are you making any progress?"
"I felt wisps of smoke form around me," I said hesitantly.
"You need to focus on your knots," Goody Alsop said, looking pointedly at the cords in my lap. Each shade could be found in the threads that bound the worlds, and manipulating the cords-twisting and tying them-worked a sympathetic magic. But first I needed to know which strands to use. I took hold of the colorful cords by the topknot. Goody Alsop had taught me how to blow gently on the strands while focusing my intentions. That was supposed to loosen the appropriate cords for whatever spell I was trying to weave.
I blew into the strands so that they shimmered and danced. The yellow and brown cords worked themselves loose and dropped into my lap, along with the red, blue, silver, and white. I ran my fingers down the nine-inch lengths of twisted silk. Six strands meant six different knots, each one more complex than the last.
My knot-making skills were still clumsy, but I found this part of weaving oddly soothing. When I practiced the elaborate twistings and crossings with ordinary string, the result was something reminiscent of ancient Celtic knotwork. There was a hierarchical order to the knots. The first two were single and double slipknots. Sarah used them sometimes, when she was making a love spell or some other binding. But only weavers could make the intricate knots that involved as many as nine distinct crossings and ended with the two free ends of the cord magically fused to make an unbreakable weaving.
I took a deep breath and refocused my intentions. A disguise was a form of protection, and purple was its color. But there was no purple cord. Without delay the blue and red cords rose up and spun together so tightly that the final result looked exactly like the mottled purple candles that my mother used to set in the windows on the nights when the moon was dark.
"With knot of one, the spell's begun," I murmured, looping the purple cord into the simple slipknot. The firedrake crooned an imitation of my words.
I looked up at her and was struck once again by the firedrake's changeable appearance. When she breathed out, she faded into a blurred smudge of smoke. When she breathed in, her outlines sharpened. She was a perfect balance of substance and spirit, neither one nor the other. Would I ever feel that coherent?
"With knot of two, the spell be true." I made a double knot along the same purple cord. Wondering if there was a way I could fade into gray obscurity whenever I wished, the way the firedrake did, I ran the yellow cord through my fingers. The third knot was the first true weaver's knot I had to make. Though it involved only three crossings, it was still a challenge.
"With knot of three, the spell is free." I looped and twisted the cord into a trefoil shape, then drew the ends together. They fused to form the weaver's unbreakable knot.
Sighing with relief, I dropped it into my lap, and from my mouth came a gray mist finer than smoke. It hung around me like a shroud. I gasped in surprise, letting out more of the eerie, transparent fog. I looked up. Where had the firedrake gone? The brown cord leaped into my fingers. "With knot of four, the power is stored." I loved the pretzel-like shape of the fourth knot, with its sinuous bends and twists.
"Very good, Diana," Goody Alsop said. This was the moment in my spells when everything tended to go wrong. "Now, remain in the moment and bid the dragon to stay with you. If she is so inclined, she will hide you from curious eyes."
The firedrake's cooperation seemed too much to hope for, but I made the pentacle-shaped knot anyway, using the white cord. "With knot of five, the spell will thrive."
The firedrake swooped down and nestled her wings against my ribs. "Will you stay with me?" I silently asked her.
The firedrake wrapped me in a fine gray cocoon. It dulled the black of my skirts and jacket, turning them a deep charcoal. Ysabeau's ring glittered less brightly, the fire at the heart of the diamond dimmed. Even the silver cord in my lap looked tarnished. I smiled at the firedrake's silent answer. "With knot of six, this spell I fix," I said. My final knot was not as symmetrical as it should have been, but it held nonetheless.
"You are indeed a weaver, child," Goody Alsop said, letting out her breath.
I felt marvelously inconspicuous on my walk home, wrapped in my firedrake muffler, but came to life again when my feet crossed over the threshold of the Hart and Crown. A package waited for me there, along with Kit. Matthew was still spending too much time with the mercurial daemon. Marlowe and I exchanged cool greetings, and I had started unpicking the package's protective wrappings when Matthew let out a mighty roar.
"Good Christ!" Where moments before there was empty space, there was now Matthew, staring at a piece of paper in disbelief.
"What does the Old Fox want now?" Kit asked sourly, jamming his pen into a pot of ink.
"I just received a bill from Nicholas Vallin, the goldsmith up the lane," Matthew said, scowling. I looked at him innocently. "He charged me fifteen pounds for a mousetrap." Now that I better understood the purchasing power of a pound-and that Mary's servant Joan earned only five pounds a year-I could see why Matthew was shocked.
"Oh. That." I returned my attention to the package. "I asked him to make it."
"You had one of the finest goldsmiths in London make you a mousetrap?" Kit was incredulous. "If you have any more funds to spare, Mistress Roydon, I hope you will allow me to undertake an alchemical experiment for you. I will transmute your silver and gold into wine at the Cardinal's Hat!"
"It's a rat trap, not a mousetrap," I muttered.
"Might I see this rat trap?" Matthew's tone was ominously even.
I removed the last of the wrappings and held out the article in question.
"Silver gilt. And engraved, too," Matthew said, turning it over in his hand. After looking more closely at it, he swore. "'Ars longa, vita brevis.' Art is long, but life is short. Indeed."
"It's supposed to be very effective." Monsieur Vallin's cunning design resembled a watchful feline, with a pair of finely worked ears on the hinge, a wide set of eyes carved into the cross brace. The edges of the trap resembled a mouth, complete with lethal teeth. It reminded me a bit of Sarah's cat, Tabitha. Vallin had provided an added bit of whimsy by perching a silver mouse on the cat's nose. The tiny creature bore no resemblance to the long-toothed monsters that prowled around our attics. The mere thought of them munching their way through Matthew's papers while we slept made me shudder.
"Look. He's engraved the bottom of it, too," Kit said, following the romping mice around the base of the trap. "It bears the rest of Hippocrates' aphorism-and in Latin, no less. 'Occasio præceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile.'"
"It may be an excessively sentimental inscription, given the instrument's purpose," I admitted.
"Sentimental?" Matthew's eyebrow shot up. "From the viewpoint of the rat, it sounds quite realistic: Opportunity is fleeting, experiment dangerous, and judgment difficult." His mouth twitched.
"Vallin took advantage of you, Mistress Roydon," Kit pronounced. "You should refuse payment, Matt, and send the trap back."
"No!" I protested. "It's not his fault. We were talking about clocks, and Monsieur Vallin showed me some beautiful examples. I shared my pamphlet from John Chandler's shop in Cripplegate-the one with the instructions on how to catch vermin-and told Monsieur Vallin about our rat problem. One thing led to another." I looked down at the trap. It really was an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship, with its tiny gears and springs.
"All of London has a rat problem," Matthew said, struggling for control. "Yet I know of no one who requires a silver-gilt toy to resolve it. A few affordable cats normally suffice."
"I'll pay him, Matthew." Doing so would probably empty out my purse, and I would be forced to ask Walter for more funds, but it couldn't be helped. Experience was always valuable. Sometimes it was costly, too. I held out my hand for the trap.
"Did Vallin design it to strike the hours? If so, and it is the world's only combined timepiece and pest-control device, perhaps the price is fair after all." Matthew was trying to frown, but his face broke into a grin. Instead of giving me the trap, he took my hand, brought it to his mouth, and kissed it. "I'll pay the bill, mon coeur, if only to have the right to tease you about it for the next sixty years."
At that moment George hurried into the front hall. A blast of cold air entered with him.
"I have news!" He flung his cloak aside and struck a proud pose.
Kit groaned and put his head in his hands. "Don't tell me. That idiot Ponsonby is pleased with your translation of Homer and wants to publish it without further corrections."
"Not even you will dim my pleasure in today's achievements, Kit." George looked around expectantly. "Well? Are none of you the least bit curious?"
"What is your news, George?" Matthew said absently, tossing the trap into the air and catching it again.
"I found Mistress Roydon's manuscript."
Matthew's grip on the rat trap tightened. The mechanism sprang open. When he released his fingers, it fell to the table with a clatter as it snapped shut again. "Where?"
George took an instinctive step backward. I'd been on the receiving end of my husband's questions and understood how disconcerting a full blast of vampiric attention could be.
"I knew you were the man to find it," I told George warmly, putting my hand on Matthew's sleeve to slow him down. George was predictably mollified by this remark and returned to the table, where he pulled out a chair and sat.
"Your confidence means a great deal to me, Mistress Roydon," George said, taking off his gloves. He sniffed. "Not everyone shares it."
"Where. Is. It?" Matthew asked slowly, his jaw clenched.
"It is in the most obvious place imaginable, hiding in plain sight. I am rather surprised we did not think of it straightaway." He paused once more to make sure he had everyone's full attention. Matthew emitted a barely audible growl of frustration.
"George," Kit warned. "Matthew has been known to bite."
"Dr. Dee has it," George blurted out when Matthew shifted his weight.
"The queen's astrologer." George was right: We should have thought of the man long before this. Dee was an alchemist, too-and had the largest library in England. "But he's in Europe."
"Dr. Dee returned from Europe over a year ago. He's living outside London now."
"Please tell me he isn't a witch, daemon, or vampire," I said.
"He's just a human-and an utter fraud," Marlowe said. "I wouldn't trust a thing he says, Matt. He used poor Edward abominably, forcing him to peer into crystal stones and talk to angels about alchemy day and night. Then Dee took all the credit!"
"'Poor Edward'?" Walter scoffed, opening the door without invitation or ceremony and stepping inside. Henry Percy was with him. No member of the School of Night could be within a mile of the Hart and Crown and not be drawn irresistibly to my hearth. "Your daemon friend led him by the nose for years. Dr. Dee is well rid of him, if you ask me." Walter picked up the rat trap. "What's this?"
"The goddess of the hunt has turned her attention to smaller prey," Kit said with a smirk.
"Why, that's a mousetrap. But no one would be foolish enough to make a mousetrap out of silver gilt," Henry said, looking over Walter's shoulder. "It looks like Nicholas Vallin's work. He made Essex a handsome watch when he became a Knight of the Garter. Is it a child's toy of some sort?"
A vampire's fist crashed onto my table, splitting the wood.
"George," Matthew ground out, "do tell us about Dr. Dee."
"Ah. Yes. Of course. There is not much to tell. I did w-what you asked," George stammered. "I visited the bookstalls, but there was no information to be had. There was talk of a volume of Greek poetry for sale that sounded most promising for my translation-but I digress." George stopped and gulped. "Widow Jugge suggested I talk to John Hester, the apothecary at Paul's Wharf. Hester sent me to Hugh Plat-you know, the vintner who lives in St. James Garlickhythe." I followed this complicated intellectual pilgrimage closely, hoping I might reconstruct George's route when I next visited Susanna. Perhaps she and Plat were neighbors.
"Plat is as bad as Will," Walter said under his breath, "forever writing things down that are none of his concern. The fellow asked after my mother's method for making pastry."
"Master Plat said that Dr. Dee has a book from the emperor's library. No man can read it, and there are strange pictures in it, too," George explained. "Plat saw it last year when he went to Dr. Dee for alchemical guidance."
Matthew and I exchanged looks.
"It's possible, Matthew," I said in a low voice. "Elias Ashmole tracked down what was left of Dee's library after his death, and he was particularly interested in the alchemical books."
"Dee's death. And how did the good doctor meet his end, Mistress Roydon?" Marlowe asked softly, his brown eyes nudging me. Henry, who hadn't heard Kit's question, spoke before I could answer.
"I will ask to see it," Henry said, nodding decidedly. "It will be easy enough to arrange on my way back to Richmond and the queen."
"You might not recognize it, Hal," Matthew said, prepared to ignore Kit as well, even though he had heard him. "I'll go with you."
"You didn't see it either." I shook my head, hoping to loosen Marlowe's prodding stare. "Besides, if there's a visit being paid to John Dee, I'm going."
"You needn't give me that fierce look, ma lionne. I know perfectly well that nothing will convince you to leave this to me. Not if there are books and an alchemist involved." Matthew held up an admonishing finger. "But no questions. Understood?" He had seen the magical mayhem that could result.
I nodded, but my fingers were crossed in the fold of my skirt in that age-old charm to ward off the evil consequences that came from knotting up the truth.
"No questions from Mistress Roydon?" Walter muttered. "I wish you luck with that, Matt."
Mortlake was a small hamlet on the Thames located between London and the queen's palace at Richmond. We made the trip in the Earl of Northumberland's barge, a splendid vessel with eight oarsmen, padded seats, and curtains to keep out the drafts. It was a far more comfortable-not to mention more sedate-journey than I was accustomed to when Gallowglass wielded the oars.
We'd sent a letter ahead warning Dee of our intention to visit him. Mrs. Dee, Henry explained with great delicacy, did not appreciate guests who dropped in unannounced. Though I could sympathize, it was unusual at a time when open-door hospitality was the rule.
"The household is somewhat . . . er, irregular because of Dr. Dee's pursuits," Henry explained, turning slightly pink. "And they have a prodigious number of children. It is often rather . . . chaotic."