“‘I am the daughter of Earth and Water, / And the nursling of the Sky,’” I read from his battered copy of Prometheus Unbound.
“‘I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores,’” Matthew whispered. “‘I change, but I cannot die.’”
After Hamish’s visit our society at Les Revenants gradually expanded. Jack was invited to join Matthew and to bring his cello with him. He played Beethoven for hours on end, and not only did the music have positive effects on my husband, it unfailingly put my daughter to sleep as well.
Matthew was improving, but he still had a long way to go. When he rested fitfully, I dozed at his side and hoped that the babies wouldn’t stir. He let me help him bathe and dress, though he hated himself—and me—for it. Whenever I thought I couldn’t endure another moment of watching him struggle, I focused on some patch of skin that had knit itself back together, leaving scars that I prayed would heal in time. Like the shadows of Chelm, I knew they would never fully disappear.
When Sarah came to see him, her worry was palpable. But Matthew was not the cause of her concern.
“How much magic are you using to stay upright?” Accustomed to living with bat-eared vampires, she had waited until I walked her to the car before she asked.
“I’m fine,” I said, opening the car door for her.
“That wasn’t my question. I can see you’re fine. That’s what worries me,” Sarah said. “Why aren’t you at death’s door?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said, dismissing her question.
“It will when you collapse,” Sarah retorted. “You can’t possibly keep this up.”
“You forget, Sarah: The Bishop-Clairmont family specializes in the impossible.” I closed the car door to muffle her ongoing protests.
I should have known that my aunt would not be silenced so easily. Baldwin showed up twenty-four hours after her departure—uninvited and unannounced.
“This is a bad habit of yours,” I said, thinking back to the moment he’d returned to Sept-Tours and stripped the sheets from our bed. “Surprise us again and I’ll put enough wards on this house to repel the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
“They haven’t been spotted in Limousin since Hugh died.” Baldwin kissed me on each cheek, taking time in between to make a slow assessment of my scent.
“Matthew isn’t receiving visitors today,” I said, drawing away. “He had a difficult night.”
“I’m not here to see Matthew.” Baldwin fixed eagle eyes on me. “I’m here to warn you that if you don’t start taking care of yourself, I will put myself in charge here.”
“You have no—”
“Oh, but I do. You are my sister. Your husband is not able to look after your welfare at the moment.
Look after it yourself or accept the consequences.” Baldwin’s voice was implacable.
The two of us faced off in silence for a few moments. He sighed when I refused to break my stare.
“It’s really quite simple, Diana. If you collapse—and based on your scent, I’d say you have a week at most before that happens—Matthew’s instincts will demand that he try to protect his mate. That will distract him from his primary job, which is to heal.”
Baldwin had a point.
“The best way to handle a vampire mate—especially one with blood rage like Matthew—is to give him no reason to think you need any protection. Take care of yourself—first and always,” Baldwin said.
“Seeing you healthy and happy will do Matthew more good, mentally and physically, than his maker’s blood or Jack’s music. Do we understand each other?”
“I’m so glad.” Baldwin’s mouth lifted into a smile. “Answer your e-mail while you’re at it. I send you messages. You don’t answer. It’s aggravating.”
I nodded, afraid that if I opened my mouth, detailed instructions on just what he could do with his e-mail might pop out.
Baldwin stuck his head into the great hall to check on Matthew. He pronounced him utterly useless because he could not engage in wrestling, warfare, or other brotherly pursuits. Then, mercifully, he left.
Dutifully I opened my laptop.
Hundreds of messages awaited, most from the Congregation demanding explanations and Baldwin giving me orders.
I lowered the lid on my computer and returned to Matthew and my children.
A few nights after Baldwin’s visit, I woke to the sensation of a cold finger jerking against my spine as it traced the trunk of the tree on my neck.
The finger moved in barely controlled fits and starts to my shoulders, where it found the outline left by the goddess’s arrow and the star left by Satu Järvinen.
Slowly the finger traveled down to the dragon that encircled my hips.
Matthew’s hands were working again.
“I needed the first thing I touched to be you,” he said, realizing he’d awakened me.
I was barely able to breathe, and any response on my part was out of the question. But my unspoken words wanted to be set free nevertheless. The magic rose within me, letters forming phrases under my skin.
“The price of power.” Matthew’s hand circled my forearm, his thumb stroking the words as they appeared. The movement was rough and irregular at first, but it grew smoother and steadier with every pass over my skin. He had observed the changes in me since I’d become but never mentioned them until now.
“So much to say,” he murmured, his lips brushing my neck. His fingers delved, parted my flesh, touched my core.
I gasped. It had been so long, but his touch was still familiar. Matthew’s fingers went unerringly to the places that brought me the most pleasure.
“But you don’t need words to tell me what you feel,” Matthew said. “I see you, even when you hide from the rest of the world. I hear you, even when you’re silent.”
It was a pure definition of love. Like magic, the letters amassing on my forearms disappeared as Matthew stripped my soul bare and guided my body to a place where words were indeed unnecessary. I trembled through my release, and though Matthew’s touch became light as a feather, his fingers never stopped moving.
“Again,” he said, when my pulse quickened once more.
“It’s not possible,” I said. Then he did something that made me gasp.
“Impossible n’est pas français,” Matthew replied, giving me a nip on the ear. “And next time your brother comes to call, tell him not to worry. I’m perfectly able to take care of my wife.”
The sign of the ram signifies dominion and wisdom. While the sun resides in
Aries, you will see growth in all your works. It is a time for new beginnings.
“Answer your f**king e-mail!”
Apparently Baldwin was having a bad day. Like Matthew, I was beginning to appreciate the ways that modern technology allowed us to keep the other vampires in the family at arm’s length.
“I’ve put them off as long as I can.” Baldwin glowered at me from the computer screen, the city of Berlin visible through the huge windows behind him. “You are going to Venice, Diana.”
“No I’m not.” We had been having some version of this conversation for weeks.
“Yes you are.” Matthew leaned over my shoulder. He was walking now, slowly but just as silently as ever. “Diana will meet with the Congregation, Baldwin. But speak to her like that again and I’ll cut your tongue out.”
“Two weeks,” Baldwin said, completely unfazed by his brother’s threat. “They’ve agreed to give her two more weeks.”
“It’s too soon.” The physical effects of Benjamin’s torture were fading, but it had left Matthew’s control over his blood rage as thin as a knife’s edge and his temper just as sharp.
“She’ll be there.” He closed the lid on the laptop, effectively shutting out his brother and his final demands.
“It’s too soon,” I repeated.
“Yes, it is—far too soon for me to travel to Venice and face Gerbert and Satu.” Matthew’s hands were heavy on my shoulders. “If we want the covenant formally set aside—and we do—one of us must make the case to the Congregation.”
“What about the children?” I was grasping at straws.
“The three of us will miss you, but we will manage. If I look sufficiently inept in front of Ysabeau and Sarah, I won’t have to change a single diaper while you’re gone.” Matthew’s fingers increased in pressure, as did the sense of responsibility resting on my shoulders. “You must do this. For me. For us.
For every member of our family who has been harmed because of the covenant: Emily, Rebecca, Stephen, even Philippe. And for our children, so that they can grow up in love instead of fear.”
There was no way I could refuse to go to Venice after that.
The Bishop-Clairmont family swung into action, eager to help ready our case for the Congregation.
It was a collaborative, multispecies effort that began with honing our argument down to its essential core. Hard as it was to strip away the insults and injuries, large and small, that we had suffered, success depended on being able to make our request not seem like a personal vendetta.
In the end it was breathtakingly simple—at least it was after Hamish took charge. All we needed to do, he said, was establish beyond a doubt that the covenant had been drawn up because of a fear of miscegenation and the desire to keep bloodlines artificially pure to preserve the power balance among creatures.
Like most simple arguments, ours was reached after hours of mind-numbing work. We all contributed our talents to the project. Phoebe, who was a gifted researcher, searched the archives at Sept-Tours for documents that touched on the covenant’s inception and the Congregation’s first meetings and debates. She called Rima, who was thrilled to be asked to do something other than filing, and had her search for supporting documents in the Congregation library on Isola della Stella.
These documents helped us piece together a coherent picture of what the founders of the Congregation had truly feared: that relationships between creatures, and an increasing interaction with humans, would weaken—and finally destroy—the ancient, supposedly inviolate daemon, vampire, and witch bloodlines. Such a concern was warranted given a twelfth-century understanding of biology and the value that was placed on inheritance and lineage at that time. And Philippe de Clermont had had the political acumen to suspect that the children of such unions could, if they so desired, rise up and rule the world.
What was more difficult, not to mention more dangerous, was demonstrating that this fear had actually contributed to our decline: Vampires found it difficult to make new vampires, witches were less powerful, and daemons were increasingly prone to madness. To make this part of our case, the Bishop-Clairmonts needed to expose both the blood rage and the weavers in our family.
I wrote up a history of weavers using information from the Book of Life. I explained that the weavers’ creative power was difficult to control and made them vulnerable to the animosity of their fellow witches. Over time witches grew complacent and had less use for new spells and charms. The old ones worked fine, and the weavers went from being treasured members of their communities to hunted outcasts. Sarah and I sat down together and drew up an account of my parents’ lives in painful detail to drive this point home—my father’s desperate attempts to hide his talents, Knox’s efforts to discover them, and their terrible deaths.
Matthew and Ysabeau recorded a similarly difficult tale, one of madness and the destructive power of anger. Fernando and Gallowglass scoured Philippe’s private papers for evidence of how he had kept his mate safe from extermination and their joint decision to protect Matthew in spite of his showing signs of the illness. Both Philippe and Ysabeau believed that careful upbringing and hard-won control would be a counterweight to whatever illness was present in his blood—a classic example of nurture over nature. And Matthew confessed that his own failures with Benjamin demonstrated just how dangerous blood rage could be if left to develop on its own.
Janet arrived at Les Revenants with the Gowdie grimoire and a copy of her great-grandmother Isobel’s trial transcript. The trial records described her amorous relationship with the devil known as Nickie-Ben in great detail, including his nefarious bite. The grimoire proved that Isobel was a weaver of spells, as she proudly identified her unique magical creations and the prices that she’d demanded for sharing them with her sisters in the Highlands. Isobel also identified her lover as Benjamin Fox—Matthew’s son. Benjamin had actually signed his name into the family record found in the front of the book.
“It’s still not sufficient,” Matthew worried, looking over the papers. “We still can’t explain why weavers and blood-rage vampires like you and I can conceive children.”
I could explain it. had shared that secret with me. But I didn’t want to say anything until Miriam and Chris delivered the scientific evidence.
I was beginning to think I would have to make this case without their help when a car pulled in to the courtyard.
Matthew frowned. “Who could that be?” he asked, putting down his pen and going to the window.
“Miriam and Chris are here. Something must be wrong at the Yale lab.”
Once the pair were inside and Matthew had received assurances that the research team he’d left in New Haven was thriving, Chris handed me a thick envelope.
“You were right,” he said. “Nice work, Professor Bishop.”
I hugged the packet to my chest, unspeakably relieved. Then I handed it to Matthew.