Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, Luca Vero is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of the days. His first mission takes him to a nunnery where the women are showing terrible signs of possession under an imprisoned Lady Abbess — Isolde. Thrown together by danger, Luca and his true friend Freize, alongside Isolde and her companion Ishraq, embark on a daring journey across Europe, as they uncover the secrets of Order of Darkness, racing to stay ahead of the end of the world. Behind the book Released in My first three books in the Order of Darkness series which proved to be a really liberating experience. The series opens in and the circumstances of the novels are authentic history but the characters are completely invented and their adventures are imaginary.
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The young man scrambled for the dagger under his pillow, stumbling to his bare feet on the icy floor of the stone cell. He had been dreaming of his parents, of his old home, and he gritted his teeth against the usual wrench of longing for everything he had lost: the farmhouse, his mother, the old life.
The thunderous banging sounded again, and he held the dagger behind his back as he unbolted the door and cautiously opened it a crack. A dark-hooded figure stood outside, flanked by two heavyset men, each carrying a burning torch.
One of them raised his torch so the light fell on the slight dark-haired youth, naked to the waist, wearing only breeches, his hazel eyes blinking under a fringe of dark hair. He was about seventeen, with a face as sweet as a boy, but with the body of a young man forged by hard work. And you are sworn to obedience. He turned to the bed, sat to pull on his boots, slipping the dagger into a scabbard hidden inside the soft leather, pulled on a linen shirt and then threw his ragged woolen cape around his shoulders.
The man made no answer, but simply turned and led the way as the two guards waited in the corridor for Luca to come out of his cell and follow. Luca wanted to ask if he was under arrest, if he was being marched to a summary execution, but he did not dare.
He was fearful of the very question; he acknowledged to himself that he was terrified of the answer. He could feel himself sweating with fear under his woolen cape, though the air was icy and the stone walls were cold and damp.
He knew that he was in the most serious trouble of his young life. Only yesterday four dark-hooded men had taken him from his monastery and brought him here, to this prison, without a word of explanation.
He did not know where he was or who was holding him. He did not know what charge he might face. He did not know what the punishment might be. He did not know if he was going to be beaten, tortured or killed.
They paid no attention to him at all, but pressed him on, down the narrow stone-flagged gallery. It was silent, with the closed doors of cells on either side. He could not tell if it was a prison or a monastery, it was so cold and quiet.
It was just after midnight, and the place was in darkness and utterly still. No one answered him, but the guard behind him closed up a little. At the bottom of the steps, Luca could just see a small arched doorway and a heavy wooden door. The leading man opened it with a key from his pocket and gestured that Luca should go through. When he hesitated, the guard behind him simply moved closer until the menacing bulk of his body pressed Luca onward.
A hard shove thrust him through the doorway, and he gasped as he found himself flung to the very edge of a high, narrow quay, a boat rocking in the river a long way below, the far bank a dark blur in the distance. Luca flinched back from the brink. He had a sudden dizzying sense that they would be as willing to throw him over, onto the rocks below, as to take him down the steep stairs to the boat.
The first man went light-footed down the wet steps, stepped into the boat and said one word to the boatman who stood in the stern, holding the vessel against the current with the deft movements of a single oar.
Then he looked back up to the handsome white-faced young man. Luca could do nothing else. He followed the man down the greasy steps, clambered into the boat and seated himself in the prow. The boatman did not wait for the guards but turned his craft into the middle of the river and let the current sweep them around the city wall.
Luca glanced down into the dark water. If he were to fling himself over the side of the boat, he would be swept downstream—he might be able to swim with the current and make it to the other side and get away.
But the water was flowing so fast he thought he was more likely to drown, if they did not come after him in the boat and knock him senseless with the oar. The river ran like a wide moat around the tall walls of the city of Rome. The boatman kept the little craft close to the lee of the walls, hidden from the sentries above; then Luca saw ahead of them the looming shape of a stone bridge and, just before it, a grille set in an arched stone doorway of the wall.
As the boat nosed inward, the grille slipped noiselessly up and, with one practiced push of the oar, they shot inside, into a torch-lit cellar. With a deep lurch of fear, Luca wished that he had taken his chance with the river. There were half a dozen grim-faced men waiting for him, and as the boatman held a well-worn ring on the wall to steady the craft, they reached down and hauled Luca out of the boat, to push him down a narrow corridor.
Luca felt, rather than saw, thick stone walls on either side, smooth wooden floorboards underfoot; heard his own breathing, ragged with fear; then they paused before a heavy wooden door, struck it with a single knock and waited. Luca stood, heart pounding, blinking at the sudden brightness of dozens of wax candles, and heard the door close silently behind him.
A solitary man was sitting at a table, papers before him. He wore a robe of rich velvet in so dark a blue that it appeared almost black, the hood completely concealing his face from Luca, who stood before the table and swallowed down his fear.
Whatever happened, he decided, he was not going to beg for his life. Somehow, he would find the courage to face whatever was coming. He would not shame himself, nor his tough stoic father, by whimpering like a girl.
But, first, you must answer me everything that I ask. Do you understand? Your life hangs in the balance here, and you cannot guess what answers I would prefer. Be sure to tell the truth: you would be a fool to die for a lie. Xavier, having joined the monastery when you were a boy of eleven? You have been an orphan for the last three years, since your parents died when you were fourteen?
He cleared his tight throat. They were captured by an Ottoman raid, but nobody saw them killed. Nobody knows where they are now, but they may very well be alive. Luca watched the tip of the black feather as the quill moved across the page.
Luca knew this was a citation of his heresy. He knew also that the only punishment for heresy was death. Before God, I am no heretic. I meant no wrong. I have heard better men than you begging for the stake, longing for death as their only release from pain. He dared to say nothing more. But you can still see the size of it. Peter has a nail from the true cross. So does the abbey of St. I looked in the monastery library to see if there were any others, and there are about four hundred nails in Italy alone, more in France, more in Spain, more in England.
There are far too many relics for them all to come from one crucifixion. The Bible says a nail in each palm and one through the feet. The Bible itself says it clearly. Then, in addition, if you count the nails used in building the cross, there would be four at the central joint to hold the cross bar.
That makes seven original nails. Only seven. Say each nail is about five inches long. But there are thousands of relics.
I think about numbers—they interest me. And you took it upon yourself to decide that there are too many nails in churches around the world for them all to be true, for them all to come from the sacred cross? He looked at Luca. You were sworn into an order with certain established beliefs, and then you started thinking for yourself.
The flame of the candles bobbed as somewhere outside a door opened and a cold draft blew through the rooms. With numbers? Have you discussed this with anyone? He was only twelve or thirteen himself. He kept bringing me extra food. I feel very alone, if that is the same thing. That such an old couple should suddenly give birth to a son, and such a handsome son, who grew to be such an exceptionally clever boy? Clearly, you are clever.
And yet they did not brag about you or show you off. They kept you quietly at home. We troubled nobody else, we lived quietly, the three of us. Was it that they thought you would be safer inside the Church? That you were specially gifted? I was a child: I was only eleven. Then when some gypsies came through the village, I learned their language. My father thought that I had a gift, a God-given gift. My father thought that I had a gift like that, only for studying.
He wanted me to be more than a farmer.
Shelves: books , slit-wrists-before-reading-sequel , historical-fiction This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes Cover Impressions: The cover is pretty, but expected. It makes it appear that Isolde is the main character when, in actuality, the plot follows Luca for a majority of the time. I was glad to see the omission of the "heaving bosoms" that normally accompanies this type of cover The Gist: Seventeen year old Luca is accused of heresy and thrown out of his religious order for using math to prove that it is impossible for all of the relics This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes Cover Impressions: The cover is pretty, but expected. I was glad to see the omission of the "heaving bosoms" that normally accompanies this type of cover The Gist: Seventeen year old Luca is accused of heresy and thrown out of his religious order for using math to prove that it is impossible for all of the relics from the true cross to be real. He is quickly recruited by a secret order and sent on a mission to hold an inquiry into strange occurrences. Isolde has been cast out from her home upon the death of her father and forced to vows at a nunnery and serve as their lady superior.
Changeling (Order of Darkness Series #1)