Mansions of Darkness (St. Germain Series #9)

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Overview

Ambitious in its scope and provocative in its content, the saga of Count Saint-Germain is a monumental feat of the imagination. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's powerful and evocative novels have captured Saint-Germain throughout his long existence, from the temples of ancient Eygpt to our present century.

Now the count's endless travels bring him to seventeenth-century Peru, where he finds solace for his loneliness in the arms of an Incan priestess. But mighty Spain has conquered the ...

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Overview

Ambitious in its scope and provocative in its content, the saga of Count Saint-Germain is a monumental feat of the imagination. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's powerful and evocative novels have captured Saint-Germain throughout his long existence, from the temples of ancient Eygpt to our present century.

Now the count's endless travels bring him to seventeenth-century Peru, where he finds solace for his loneliness in the arms of an Incan priestess. But mighty Spain has conquered the Incan people—and brought the dreaded attention of the Holy Inquisition to the New World.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Yarbro's creation, Count Saint-Germain, has evolved into quite an intriguing character as her novels have followed his adventures through the centuries. He's far more introspective and ethical than Anne Rice's more famous and flamboyant vampire, Lestat." —Amarillo Globe-News

"Take the time to read one of the Saint-Germain stories and you'll be grateful. You'll also be hooked for life." —Scripps Howard News Service

From the Publisher
"Yarbro's creation, Count Saint-Germain, has evolved into quite an intriguing character as her novels have followed his adventures through the centuries. He's far more introspective and ethical than Anne Rice's more famous and flamboyant vampire, Lestat." —Amarillo Globe-News

"Take the time to read one of the Saint-Germain stories and you'll be grateful. You'll also be hooked for life." —Scripps Howard News Service

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The long-suffering vampire Count Saint-Germain turns up in 16th-century Peru in this latest installment (after Darker Jewels) in a series that began with Hotel Transylvania in 1978. Although Saint-Germain hopes to live quietly in this land where a monolithic Church is systematically destroying the remnants of Inca culture, his eccentric interests immediately mark him as an outsider. The local clergy believe his medical knowledge is evidence of witchcraft; those rumors are inflamed when Saint-Germain befriends a woman said to be the last of a once-powerful family of Inca priests and nobles. Side plots present priests vying for supremacy in the Church hierarchy and fortune-hunting Spaniards seeking legendary Inca treasure. As usual with Yarbro, the tone here is old-fashioned, the pace slow, with mood and character, not action, of paramount concern. Saint-Germain's vampirism is low key; his presence acts mainly as a catalyst for the treacheries around him. Those who enjoy well-researched historical fiction will relish the detailed setting and the tangled plottings of the churchmen and secular agents whose mortal lives brush against that of the immortal undead. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
An addition to Yarbro's noteworthy series about the immortal vampire Count Saint-Germain (Better in the Dark, 1993, etc.). Here, in 1640, the Count takes up residence in Cuzco, Peru, in order to learn what he can of Inca civilization before it's totally destroyed by its Spanish conquerors. Acanna Tupac, the middle-aged, last pure-blooded scion of the Inca royal house, soon becomes the object of the Count's attentions. Meantime, the Portuguese nobleman Dom Enrique and his cohorts, with the connivance of the Spanish—intending to despoil the Incas of the last of their hidden treasure, despite Acanna Tupac's denial that any such thing exists—invade Acanna Tupac's house and molest her. The Count comes to her rescue, thereby earning the enmity of Dom Enrique and the Spanish. And soon, the saintly Saint-Germain, with his herbs and anatomical knowledge, heals the sick and injured, even the natives—thus condemning himself as a heretic and sorcerer. Fatefully, the last Inca High Priest dies; Acanna Tupac, seeing no hope for her people despite her love for Saint-Germain and his offer of vampirical immortality, dons ritual dress and commits suicide. The Spanish quickly attempt to arrest the Count, who flees with his faithful servant, Rogerio, his dwindling supplies of native earth, and a map supplied by Acanna Tupac. In the high mountains, he hopes to find temporary refuge in a monastery.

Another illuminating and satisfying episode in the life of Saint-Germain. His historical range is much wider than Lestat's—although, perhaps because of this particular cultural milieu and its inescapable implications, somewhat predictable.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312863821
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 10/15/1997
  • Series: St. Germain Series , #9
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,436,948
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's interests range from music—she composes and has studied seven different instruments as well as voice—to history, from horseback riding to needlepoint. Her writing is similarly wide-ranging; under her own name and pseudonyms, she has written everything from westerns to mysteries, from science fiction to nonfiction history.

Yarbro's critically-acclaimed historical horror novels featuring the Count Saint-Germain, including Hotel Transylvania, A Feast in Exile, Communion Blood, and Night Blooming, have a loyal readership. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has always lived in California and currently makes her home in the Berkeley area.

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Read an Excerpt

1

It was a splendid afternoon for early September; spring was finally taking hold of the mountains, and flowers were everywhere, turning the slopes from green to a brightly mottled pattern of red and orange and sunset pink. From the market square to the mud-and-stone houses of the poor, to the new buildings of the Spanish, all of Cuzco was filled with color and perfume, and the promise of the ripening year.

Don Ezequias Pannefrio y Modestez tore his eyes away from the fragrant display on his balcony and gave his attention to his visitor. His servant, pausing to listen in the doorway, attracted no real attention from either man. "Yes, Conde, what may I do to be of service?" He was a mature man, of imposing stature and impeccable manners, with regular features, clever golden-brown eyes and an unexpected, quirky smile that turned his thin-lipped mouth from severe to wry in an instant; his hair was streaked with silver and cut somewhat shorter than current fashion so that it only brushed his soft, wide collar. Seated be-hind his writing table, he was not quite so impressive as when he was standing, but the breadth of his shoulder was still remarkable.

Francisco Ragoczy, el Conde de San Germanno, bowed slightly to the regional magistrate and said, "I regret I must impose upon the introduction of your cousin once again, but I fear it is necessary, Presi-dencia. I have been told I must apply to you for permission to employ natives as servants. I believe the license is called an encomienda, though I do not wish to be allotted any territory."

"As a foreigner, you would need the permission of the Corregidor in any case. For employing servants in the household, I have the authority to grant the encomienda." Don Ezequias hinted a bow.

"That is my understanding. Therefore, behold me and my petition." His quick, ironic look belied the formality of his words. Like Don Ezequias, he wore black, but unlike Don Ezequias, it suited him, as did the Italian cut of his clothes and the ruby fixed in his white silk lace-edged collar bands. A pectoral in the form of a winged disk depended from the ruby-studded silver chain around his neck.

"Ah, yes," said Don Ezequias. "Of course. I had not realized you would want to do that, or I should have issued the license before now. Your house must be almost ready to receive visitors, and servants are always required to serve one's guests." He drew a sheet of vellum toward him, then selected one of the sharpened quills and dipped it into his standish; the fragile plume seemed too small for his large hand, as did the moderate ruffles at his wrist. "These servants—how many do you think you will need?"

"Eight at first. To establish the household. If more are necessary, I will ask for them when the need arises, if that is acceptable to you," said San Germanno, his left hand resting comfortably on the hilt of his sword in the same manner as most of the Spaniards affected.

"Suppose I authorize ten?" offered Don Ezequias. "That should be sufficient to your needs, Conde, don't you think?"

"You are very understanding," said San Germanno. He watched while Don Ezequias completed the brief document and sanded the ink. "If there is some appropriate way I might show my thanks for this?"

Don Ezequias was about to say no, but then his expression changed. "Yes. I think there may be something you can do for me." He tapped his big hand twice at the edge of the page. "I will be giving a reception for the Incan nobility in ten days' time. If you would be available to attend, I would appreciate it if you would be willing to escort the daughter of Quispe Titu. Her name is Acanna Tupac, she is a woman past youth but of some importance, and most of her relatives prefer not to recognize her. In spite of this, she must be included because of her birth. It would be less of an ordeal for all of us if you would do this for me."

"Certainly," said San Germanno at once, inwardly glad for the opportunity he was being presented; then he added, "I would consider it an honor to perform that office. But it might be easier for all of us if I knew the reason she is shunned by her kinsmen."

"Ah, that is something of a difficult matter," said Don Ezequias, fingering the point of his small beard. "But I suppose it would be best to tell you." He leaned back in his chair and again let his gaze wander to the profusion of flowers on his balcony. "It is a question of family lines. She is the last of the senior branch of the royal family. We promoted the cadet branch; they were more willing to assist us than the senior was."

"Hardly surprising that they would," said San Germanno, recalling many other times when this ploy had succeeded where force of arms would not.

"I agree," said Don Ezequias, his attention still on the flowers. "Still, the woman must have a suitable escort and I would be grateful if you would do this for me. It would spare me the necessity of asking one of the Dominicans to do it, and I would rather not. Acanna Tupac would be offended."

"So might the Dominician," San Germanno remarked, and repeated with an emotion which Don Ezequias could not read, "I would be honored." He paused a moment, then went on. "Tell me more of this Acanna Tupac. Do I have her name right? If I am to be in her company, I should know more about her, so that I will not commit any gaffe while with her, or give offense to your guests."

"You have her name right, Conde." The Presidencia shrugged and began to prepare wax for his official seal on the encomienda. "I actually know very little about her, aside from her being the great-granddaughter of Quispe Tupac and the great-great granddaughter of Atahualpa Inca and his third wife Choque Suyo. Juan Enrique de Almansa Inca y Loyola explained the genealogy to me shortly after I arrived; such things are as important to these Incas as they are to Spaniards. I have met her only twice before. She keeps to her own society, in part because she has little money, and in part because the clergy have not been kind to her. She is probably nearer forty than thirty, unmarried, though whether she is a spinster or a widow, I cannot discover."

"What company does she bring with her?" asked San Germanno. "Someone of so high a birth surely does not come alone."

"Occasionally she brings another woman with her, but most often her only suite is her servants, and she does not have many of them." He dropped a blob of hot wax onto the foot of the vellum sheet, then turned his ring to fix its impression in it.

"I take it she is not well-connected, then; I would have thought with such relations she would have been better provided for. Is there not an inheritance to support her?" There was no criticism in this observation; San Germanno waited for Don Ezequias' answer with interest.

"No. She has nothing. None of the senior line have much left. My predecessors saw to that." This last was admitted grimly. "It was a successful ploy, and it suited their purposes perfectly, keeping the senior branch in obscurity while raising the cadet branch to prominence for their own uses." He stared at his fingers. "She is…striking, not beautiful, and most dignified."

"And such treatment rankles with you, does it not? the elevation of the cadet branch as a way to control the senior branch by removing the privileges of the senior line," said San Germanno, recalling the many times he had seen cadet relatives supplant their seniors. "You believe it is an unworthy way to gain control of the country."

"I did not say so," Don Ezequias responded promptly.

"No, you did not, but your implication was fairly clear; for what comfort it will bring you, I share your indignation," San Germanno told him, and waited.

Don Ezequias answered carefully. "If I were indignant, I would be most unwise to admit it. And so would you. Indignation on behalf of these people will benefit neither you nor them. Obispo Punto y Sello is inclined to think such opinions are heresy, and though he may be in Lima, his power reaches from the southern tip of Audiencia de Charcas to the northern-most edge of Audiencia de Nueva Galicia. All other Obispos are afraid of him. And no one—not clergy, not officials—is promoted without his approval." He inspected the impression of his seal and nodded twice before handing the license to San Germanno. "There, Conde: permission to employ up to ten natives in your household. No one will question it. If you have any interference from…anyone, show them this."

"Thank you," said San Germanno, taking the vellum and rolling it with care. "You have made my situation much less awkward with this single sheet." He bowed again, this time formally.

"It pleases me to have men of your calibre here in Cuzco, where one cannot be too selective if one wishes any friends at all. You improve the society more than you know. If we had more like you, and fewer of those who seek—" Don Ezequias broke off, noticing the ironic lift of San Germanno's fine brows. He cleaned the point of his quill on a small square of cotton and put it back in the stand. After a moment he added, "Too often those who come here are those who are not welcome in Europe, or those greedy for what they cannot have in the Old World. We are where all the misfits are sent. All of them. Only a few, like yourself, are here from choice that is not the product of zeal or greed."

"So I have gathered," said San Germanno, his tone level; this was not a matter he wanted to discuss, for it could be used to his detriment if Don Ezequias reported his opinions to the Church authorities in the region.

"Oh, you have no cause to fear me. Why do you think I have been sent to this remote part of the world, if not to keep from embarrassing my family? Yes, they put another face on it, as you would expect, but their intention in sending me to this place was to make certain I would have no opportunity to express my views where they would bring disgrace upon them. It is not wise to be liberal in España. The Church disapproves, and perforce so does the Crown." His lips curved, though the smile did not light his eyes. "My wife, of course, still lives in Espana, along with our children. I haven't seen any of them in eight years, though I have letters occasionally." This last admission was more troubling to him than the rest.

San Germanno considered his response carefully, and spoke calmly. "That is…unfortunate, Presidencia."

Don Ezequias shrugged with false unconcern. "They are an assurance that I will continue to behave well, meaning that I keep my opinions to myself." He indicated the window and the noisy plaza beyond. "Who is going to listen to me here, after all?"

"There are those who might," said San Germanno with a nod in the direction of the massive, dark-wood crucifix on the far wall.

"True enough; for they listen to everything, not just Confession, and report to more than the Obispo," said Don Ezequias. He rose abruptly, a good head taller than San Germanno, though this did not appear to bother el Conde. "I will have a formal invitation delivered to your house tomorrow, with all the particulars. You may send me your reply with my servant. If you have brought court dress with you, it would be appropriate for the occasion."

"Certainly," said San Germanno, stepping back from Don Ezequias' writing table and offering him a graceful bow. "You are all kindness to a stranger."

"Hardly an effort in your case, San Germanno," said Don Ezequias as el Conde left him alone in his reception room.

All through the plaza the people of Peru were selling their wares, their foodstuffs, their cloth; the cacophony was tremendous. San Germanno passed the length of market at a leisurely pace so that he could see the fruits of these people's industry and imagination. His manner was calm even when he was accosted by a dozen boys all demanding coins from him in broken Spanish, their voices strident. One or two of them held knives at the ready.

"Not today," he answered them, the authority in his voice and stance unquestionable though there was no trace of aggression about him.

The leader of the band made a single, short lunge at San Germanno, who stepped aside easily. The boy swore.

"You aren't going to stab me in the middle of the market, are you? where the sentries can see you?" San Germanno asked lightly. "Wait for a dark alley. It's much safer."

The youths hesitated in confusion, and then one of them made an obscene gesture before he turned toward the nearest street.

A woman watching from one of the booths chuckled as the boys moved away sheepishly but with the swagger of victory in their walk. "They are fools, those youngsters, reckless fools," she said to San Germanno when the young men were gone; her Spanish was flavored with the rhythms and vowels of her native tongue. Her face was broad and had few wrinkles, though the lines bracketing her mouth revealed her age more than any other feature.

"Not fools, just youths afraid of their futures," he answered, and paused to look at the lengths of alpaca fabric she had draped over the sides of her market-stall.

"And so they might be," she replied heavily. "But they put themselves and all the rest of us in danger when they behave so, though they will not believe it. What they are doing will turn into misfortune if it is not checked. They are daring the Spanish to notice them. One day they will go too far, and someone will be killed or maimed, and then what?"

"You are to be applauded that it has not happened yet," San Germanno said as he fingered the wool, testing its hand.

She snorted. "They play at games they do not understand. For they are not games."

"You will never convince them of that," San Germanno told her, and selected a portion of fabric the color of soot. "How much?"

"Two golden reales, Señor," she answered at once, knowing the amount was outrageous.

They bargained their way down to a single golden real and two silver doña, both of them enjoying the exchange. San Germanno gave her the coins and took possession of the cloth, then continued on his way to the house he had purchased upon his arrival in Cuzco six weeks since.

It was in an unpaved street that led eventually to the abandoned Incan fortress Sacsahuaman; it was a building less than ten years old, two storeys high, with a courtyard with a large tree growing in the center. The courtyard was even now being paved in rough tiles made of Spanish clay and finished in a dull-ocher glaze. The workmen looked up from their task as San Germanno came through the stout wooden gate and paused in his walk to the main section of the house to see how they were progressing. "Save the decorated tiles for the base of the tree and the edge of the courtyard. Make sure there is a layer of earth beneath each tile," he reminded the foreman of the crew.

"If that is your wish, Patrono, it is our duty." He lowered his head in a show of submission.

"You know that it is, but you need not abase yourself because of it." He studied the man with concern. "You are not my slave, Inigo, you are a craftsman I have hired to supervise this work, and the men of your crew are craftsmen, too. Do this well, and I will be satisfied." For an instant the face of Gasparo Tuccio filled his memory, and his palazzo in Fiorenza.

Inigo looked away from him. "I do not want the priests saying I have failed to honor you, mi Patrono."

"If I do not say it, how can they? I am the one who employs you, not they, and I am satisfied with all you have done," he said with more assurance than he felt, for he was well-aware that it would take less reason than one he might provide for the priests to decide that the Peruvians had not worked with the required obsequiousness. "You have set the cross-beams in place in my ceilings, reinforced the doors and the chimneys, and now you are completing the courtyard to my specifications. Where is the error in any of that?"

"I do not know, Señor. But fault may be found in spite of what you tell me and we will have to answer for it. The priests are not men like other men, and they demand things of us that others may not," said Inigo, clearly wishing to get back to his work and end this difficult exchange. "But we will do what you have paid us to do, and we will do it well, if God will permit it."

"Amen to that. We are obeying your instructions. One double-handful of earth for every tile," San Germanno reminded him, already feeling the support of his native earth in this place.

"As you have said." Inigo touched his forehead to show his acceptance of these orders. "Another two days and we will be finished."

"You are doing well, you and your men," said San Germanno, hoping to make the workman believe him.

"The Patrono is gracious. We will strive to do his bidding." He lowered his head once more as if taking on a great burden.

"Excellent," San Germanno declared, trying to make it clear that he was satisfied with this. "I am most satisfied and grateful." He was saved the trouble of finding more assurances for Inigo by the sight of his manservant approaching from the far side of the courtyard.

"My master," said Rogerio as he approached San Germanno, pausing to bow as much as society demanded. He was wearing a long, Italian smock of a pale blue over his grey breeches and buff-colored muslin shirt; his boots were soft leather that reached to his knees. In one hand he held a ledger, two fingers marking his place in the pages. "The accounts are not yet complete, but I will present them to you if you wish to review them."

"I trust you, old friend. If you tell me the cook needs five reales for stocking the kitchen, I am sure you will attend to it." He glanced around the courtyard, his face showing little more than mild interest. "How many trunks of my native earth are left? I reckon the number at nine."

"That is correct," said Rogerio, standing aside to permit San Ger-manno to pass into the house ahead of him. Once out of earshot of the workers, the manservant asked, "How did you fare with the magistrate? the Presidencia?" he corrected himself. "Did he accept your petition? Will he authorize you to staff the household?"

"Yes he will, as I told you he would, and without any delays. I have a license for hiring ten servants," San Germanno declared, holding up the rolled vellum. "Behold—the encomienda, signed by the Presidencia. You may commence your interview tomorrow, if you like. We will need a kitchen staff, a groom for the horses, and a seamer to make cushions and draperies for the house for a start. Then a gardener and someone to tend the fires for the household. Nights are cold so high in the mountains." Then he handed the alpaca wool to Rogerio as well. "I will want this made into a cloak. One of those Venetian ones, with the standing collar. Use the white silk we brought for a lining."

Rogerio took the cloth and nodded to show his compliance. "It will be done, my master."

"You are always reliable, Rogerio," said San Germanno. They had reached the door to his private study, and he retrieved a large key to open the lock. As the wards turned, San Germanno glanced along the corridor, hoping that none of the workers were watching him. Quickly he swung the door open and stepped into his study.

The room was more an alchemical laboratory than a study, for although there were several hundred books in the shelves that lined the walls, the focus of the room was on two trestle tables that flanked the egg-shaped brick athanor located at the center of the room. There were a number of glass vessels set upon stands, as well as a dozen large jars sealed with wax in a variety of colors. A brass scale stood near the largest of the glass vessels, its weights lined up beside it like ranks of soldiers.

Rogerio closed the door with care and stood near it, not quite keeping guard. He indicated the high windows in the far wall. When he spoke again, it was in the Latin of Imperial Rome. "Are you certain you have not been watched?"

"No, I am not," said San Germanno bluntly in the same language. "And that causes me concern, given where we are."

"I should think so," said Rogerio. "There will be rumors enough in your household without marketplace gossip adding to it."

"True enough." San Germanno rubbed his eyes with one small, beautiful hand. He had not yet accustomed himself to the altitude of the place, or his hunger, and as a result he suffered occasionally from a slight, ill-defined headache, as he did now. He thought back more than four hundred years to his travel in Asia, and the majesty of those distant mountains, where he had faced worse than headaches. Deliberately he straightened up to the limits of his moderate height. "You think I should leave here."

"I think it might be wise," said Rogerio carefully.

"And go where? Europe is not safe, which is why we are here. Asia is caught up in wars no stranger could survive, and surely you do not want to return to Russia?" He turned around and looked directly at Rogerio. "This place is as much a haven as one of my blood will ever find, but for my native earth."

"And still the Church watches you," warned Rogerio.

"But not in the numbers as they do in Europe, and not with the same power, not yet." He touched the scales lightly, watching the balance tilt. "Make a note: I have a social obligation in ten days."

Rogerio had been with San Germanno long enough not to permit such abrupt announcements to distress him. He schooled his features to neutrality. "What obligation is that?"

"There is some sort of reception the Presidencia is giving which I am supposed to attend to provide a suitable escort for a senior descendant of the Incan ruler, a woman of middle years and no apparent fortune, more's the pity for her. I gather her presence is required but not entirely welcome." He stared at the neat array of vials on the nearer of the two trestle tables.

"A strange request," said Rogerio in a noncommittal voice.

"It is, isn't it?" San Germanno countered. "And I fear it may prove as awkward for her as it is apt to be for me." He gave a fleeting smile and went on with a trace of amusement in his tone, "Still, she may prove more interesting than Don Ezequias knows. Or so I hope."

"You hope she will tell you who among her people keeps to the old ways," Rogerio said, certain of this.

"That I do." He glanced at his manservant. "Do not worry, old friend. I will tread lightly. We may be an ocean and a continent away from the Holy Office for the Faith, but their grasp certainly reaches this far, though not with the strength they desire. I will not forget them, for her sake if not for mine." He smoothed the front of his fine black coat, his finger tracing the elaborate lacing around the buttonholes.

"Take care you do not forget that, for all of us," warned Rogerio, his face severe. "They may be few, but they are the more determined because they are few. And their presence is increasing steadily. Before long they will do all in their power to show their might in this place."

San Germanno shook his head. "You are right. And leaving now would be…unpleasant." He looked down at the square toe of his boot. "All those days lying in that stinking hold, weak as an infant and so ill it hurt to move. I would not care to repeat the experience soon. I will endeavor to keep your caution in mind."

Rogerio shook his head emphatically. "You think you can ignore them, my master. You are gambling on the isolation of Cuzco to provide protection. You look at these mountains and suppose that they would not be able to pursue you, let alone catch you, if they took up the chase." His blue eyes took on a metallic cast. "But this is not your native earth, and between you and it lies the Atlantic Ocean. You dare not expose yourself to their scrutiny, not with so much water between you and home."

It took San Germanno a little time to reply. "All right. I will be discreet, even in being a friend to this Acanna Tupac, if she is willing to have me be one. Will that satisfy you: I doubt I can do anything more that will not compromise me in some way in the eyes of the Spanish. If you are convinced, then write to Olivia and tell her you have delivered her message, and thank her for her concern. How like her." This time his smile lasted longer as he saw the confusion in Rogerio's blue eyes. "Well, who but Olivia would tender me such a lecture as the one you have delivered. Not content with upbraiding me herself she has tasked you with the work as well." He raised his hands in mock surrender, his dark eyes glowing with something that was not quite amusement. "Very well. I will comply with her requests and caveats."

"That I will, my master," said Rogerio, though it was obvious from the set of his countenance that he was unconvinced.

"She has more to fear in Paris than I do in Peru, but she will not believe it. She thinks I am the one among savages, and she is safe at the French court. As if she or anyone could be safe there, no matter what the Italian Cardinal tells her. She might as well be in Moscovy, for all the safety she has." With a shake of his head expressing disbelief, he crossed his arms and walked the length of his study, past the athanor and other equipment he used to make gold and jewels, past the alembics where he combined mouldy bread with other ingredients to create his sovereign remedy, to a tall candelabrum where a massive beeswax taper with three wicks stood. "There is much to learn here, and for a while, I may do it unimpeded. You and Olivia are right—I intend to make the most of this place while I am able. The people of these mountains have information that I seek, and skills I wish to acquire. The Church is not yet the uppermost power in Cuzco, and that lends me a little…grace." His smile at his own witticism was wry. "When that changes, I will have to be on the alert, for no matter how much a friend Don Ezequias may want to be, there are demands made on him by his family, and I will not put him to the test of making a choice."

"Are you sure of this?" Rogerio asked. "Truly?"

San Germanno regarded him in silence. "I am reasonably certain of it, yes, and that is the best I can hope for, given that this place is under Spanish rule, and their strength, as you have reminded me, is increasing every month."

"And that is the trouble, that Espana is the force in this place." Rogerio looked around the study meaningfully. "You dare not let any of the workmen know of what you do here. This is not Fiorenza—"

"Nor was Fiorenza Fiorenza after Savonarola came," San Germanno interjected with a trace of emotion that was not quite grief, not quite despair.

Rogerio would not be put off. "—but an outpost of the Inquisition, with the purposes of the Inquisition. There are no Artei here, no Guilds to protect them. Those men would be in danger if they knew what you do here."

"I was not planning to tell them," said San Germanno with sudden weariness.

"Just as well," said Rogerio.

"So I thought," San Germanno remarked, adding with a rueful smile, "Give me a little credit, old friend. I have had some experience in these matters." He put his hand deep into his pockets. "Break out my court dress for the reception. Make it the Hungarian fashion, so that it will be apparent to all that I am not among the Spaniards. I don't think I should wear the Order, however. It would seem too much like display."

"The Italian is handsomer," said Rogerio, "and richer."

"True," San Germanno allowed after a moment. "But the Hungarian will tell the Church more than the Italian. It will show that I have stood against the Turks in their advancement to the west, which I have, upon more than one occasion. They will not want to discredit me for that."

"Turks, Huns, Romans, Dacians, Greeks, Scythians, Hittites, and all the rest; your poor homeland has endured much." Rogerio's manner softened as he recited these peoples, many of whom were forgotten by history, but not by San Germanno.

"So much that my own people have left it long ago," San Germanno said as if he were speaking of the weather. "Yet it is my native earth, and I will defend it, no matter who comes against it." He sighed once. "I ought to understand the Incan people here better than they know."

"Will that be enough, your understanding? Will they accept you, do you think?" asked Rogerio.

San Germanno fingered his silver pectoral, outlining its raised wings and then the disk. "That remains to be seen. I will know more after the reception, when I have met those who are in power here."

"Do you think it likely?" Rogerio persisted, acutely aware of the number of times San Germanno had sought such acceptance and failed to achieve it, often at great cost to himself.

"I don't know, but I have hope, damnable hope. And because I do, I want more than acceptance: I want learning, I want to find comprehension, I want to know compassion," said San Germanno quietly, his eyes glowing with intensity. "And I want touching."

"Is that possible?" Rogerio wondered aloud. "After you have come so far and made so great an effort to isolate yourself?"

"Is that what I have done?" asked San Germanno, his handsome, irregular face sardonic.

"Isn't it?" Rogerio countered.

San Germanno's answer was given softly and his tone was distant. "I will find out after I have escorted Acanna Tupac to this reception."

• • •

Text of a letter from Frey Jeromo to Obispo Hernan Guarda.

To the most reverend and excellent Obispo Heman Guarda, the humble greetings of your servant, in God's name.

You have asked me to tell you all that I observed during the reception of last week, given by the magistrate, Don Ezequias Pannefrio y Modestez, in the honor of the Peruvian nobility. I pray that I may report truly to you, and that my account finds favor in your eyes.

I arrived with four of my Brothers, at the end of siesta, and we were greeted by Don Ezequias and Don Alejandro Morena y Osma, Capitan of soldiers here. From there we were taken by the major domo to the courtyard where tables were laid for the banquet. There were eight tables set, and barrels of wine were already tapped as we arrived, and many of the guests were taking their first cupfuls. As you yourself will remember, there were many fine people present, and I will not bore you with a recitation of their names, for you were introduced to all of them during the afternoon and evening. While you were in deep conversation with the two Portuguese explorers, I made my way amongst the other guests who were gathered for the occasion.

It appears you are right about the French officer—he told Don Alejandro that he was in disfavor with the King's Guards and had thought it best to seek employment elsewhere until the scandal attached to his name should fade. Peru appealed to him for any number of reasons, which include the chance for plunder and the favors of Indian women. He is seeking a place with Don Alejandro's men, as an officer, not a regular soldier. I do not know if he will get it, for at that moment, Don Alejandro noticed I was near and changed the subject to horseflesh.

I then listened to Padre Juan Batista Serrano y Piedrascaldas, who was deep in discussion with the men who had just arrived from Lima. He was much distressed to learn they had not brought him certain packets. He was expecting a number of books, the titles of which were not mentioned, but from his furtive inquiry I take to be those not approved by the Pope. He was upset to learn he would have to wait until the next pack-train for them, or perhaps the one after that. It may be useful to search for the items mentioned when these are delivered, for even Jesuits must learn that they cannot hide heresy in these mountains.

The young nobleman from Lisboa was boasting that he had made arrangements with certain Dutch merchants, so that even if the Jesuits and the Portuguese are not permitted in Japan, he will be able to continue to protect his investments there. I noticed that only four men were listening to him, and that they did not believe that such drastic arrangements would be necessary. The nobleman made no secret of his dealings, and I report them to you only because my Brothers will also remark upon him, I am certain, and you will wonder if the account is not in my report. Duca Roldo Simao Vila Nova de Gois has not made himself inconspicuous in the time he has been here, with his nine ships in the ports of Arica and Callao. His pride may bring him to grief before his time here is done.

I then encountered that foreigner, Ragoczy, who was in full court regalia 1 did not recognize, but I have since been informed was Hungarian. He had been given the task of providing an appropriate escort for Acanna Tupac, that last descendant of the old Incan line, who was a necessary guest for the occasion, though her cousin, whom the banquet honored, did not speak to her at all. Her garments were simple and she had but one jewel—a cabochon emerald set in gold—at her throat. Her features have little beauty, but she bears herself well and has the dignity that befits her years. She did not seem as displeased with his company as she has been with most Don Ezequias has assigned to her in the past, but whether that was because Ragoczy was pleasant to her, or because he told her tales of being an exile, I cannot say. If he was aware I was listening, nothing in his manner suggested it, and I lingered for some time to hear his accounts of all the various invasions his land has suffered over the decades. They live in the same quarter of the city, although Ragoczy's house is much finer than hers, and that gave them more grounds for discussion. Acanna Tupac, at Ragoczy's urging, described what the city was like in her youth, and the many legends of the place before any Spaniard came here. The manner in which Ragoczy indulged the woman was quite remarkable, given that he must have known at least half her accounts were nothing more than fables. The woman was seated with those wives in attendance, in the alcove adjacent to the courtyard, when the dinner began.

For the banquet, I was seated with the four men from Genova who are trying to buy silver ornaments from the Indians here. Their greed was so open and obvious that I did not think they presented a danger to anyone but the unwary Indians they seek to prey upon. I told them that the Mean people living in Cuzco cannot be easily fooled, and they declared they would venture into the distant valleys for the purpose of making their fortunes. What could I do but laugh at their dreams?

At the conclusion of the meal, when it was growing dark, I happened to overhear Dom Enrique Vilhao say he wanted to arrange to bring black slaves here as laborers. One of the other Portuguese said he would try to arrange it, for it has succeeded in Brazil, but warned that so long a voyage would increase the costs of the slaves, since many of them would not survive the journey from Africa. They will meet again to discuss money before entering into any agreement.

I left with my Brothers to return to our church, and we have said that we will each prepare our accounts for you without consulting among one another, so that you will be better able to judge our efforts without prejudice. If there are any particulars upon which we disagree, I pray you will examine and correct our errors to that we may serve you and Holy Mother Church in full devotion.

Frey jeromo

Order of the Preachers of San Domingo

At Cuzco, the 17th day of September, the feast of Santa Colomba de

Cordova, in the Year of Grace, 1641. By my own hand.

Copyright © 1996 by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2006

    I loved it!

    I'm not usually big on this type of book. But this one is well written. I like the slower pace. The setting and language are wonderful and fitting. For me this was one of those books that once you begin you can not put down.

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