Read an Excerpt
"No! Just do it," Lucio begged him. "Just do it."
"I am. I have to pull the knives out." Mark looked around the room in desperation.
"No! No! Just say the words," Lucio gasped at him and looked up at his hands. "Don’t bother with them. Just say the words. I’m ready."
"What words? What are you talking about?" Mark shook his head. Was he supposed to know some magick to make this go away?
"I am he that liveth and was dead and behold, I am alive forever," Lucio panted the strangely familiar words. "In God, the Master." Lucio closed his eyes tightly. "Santa Maria, just say it. I hold the key of Death. I have seen…" Dambretti opened his eyes and looked at him again. "The words! Say the words!" He moaned as Mark climbed onto the bed with him and put one knee on each side of his stomach. Mark laid his sword on the bed beside him. Lucio continued to speak "I have seen the work of thy labors and have been witness to…" Dambretti stopped talking. He lay breathing very hard against the pain that Mark’s movements on the bed caused him. "I have been witness to the devotion of thy trust, O Brother. By this act…" He stopped again as Mark took hold of one of the daggers with both hands. "No! No! Please, don’t do that."
Mark ignored him.
"By this act I command..."
Mark raised up and put one foot against the headboard, leaning straight back. Dambretti closed his eyes and shouted at him to stop one more time and then began to babble. "I commend thy soul to God and set thee free of this broken body."
Ramsay wiggled the blade slightly and Dambretti screamed at him. He set his jaw and then pushed against the headboard with every ounce of strength he possessed. He closed his eyes when Dambretti raised up beneath him and the knife came free. He tumbled back across the bed, trying to catch himself fruitlessly before flipping over the foot board onto the carpet. He scrambled to his feet holding the bloody knife aloft triumphantly. There was still one to go.
"Mark!" Merry shouted to him from the door. "He’s coming."
She dashed back into the room and stood near the dormer window as he reached for his sword. He came up with the sword as Valentino’s ugly security man stepped in front of the open door swinging the shotgun up to bear on him. The sight of the weapon did not stop the infuriated Knight. The old familiar rage filled him at the sight of the man’s face spattered and smeared with his Brother’s blood. He was on the man before he had time to pull either trigger, knocking him backwards onto the floor in the hallway. His own momentum took him over the man and across the hall where he crashed into another door and bounced off. The man made it to his feet first and scrambled off down the hall toward the stairs, abandoning the shotgun in his attempt to get away from the gleaming sword that had embedded its point in the rug next to his head. Mark yanked the blade free and started after him. He stopped halfway to the stairs and doubled over as the pain caught up with him. The dual impact of door and floor coupled with the tumble from the bed, brought painful reminders of the dreadful wound he had received less than twenty-four hours ago. Gasping for breath and clutching his side, he leaned momentarily on the sword and then ran down the stairs after the man. Merry ran after him, screaming his name. At the second floor landing he stopped. Maxie was halfway down the hall and making for the grand staircase. Merry almost caught him, but he sprinted away after the man oblivious to the pain in his side and her desperate cries for him to stop.
The big man paused at the top of the stairs and turned to look back. Mark brought up the sword and leaped into the air swinging the blade around in a wide arc which would take the man’s head off clean from his shoulders. Merry screamed again, the man threw his arms into the air overbalancing himself. He teetered on the edge of the top riser for what seemed like several long seconds, grabbed for the banister and then toppled backwards down the stairs just as the golden blade grazed his left arm.
Mark turned a complete three-sixty in the air, landed heavily on the rug, stumbled and caught himself on the railing with his left hand. He came down hard on the railing and knocked what remained of his breath away. Pain, pain and more pain. He was momentarily incapacitated as stars danced in front of his eyes.
Maxie tumbled heels over head backwards down the stairs until he sprawled face down on the marble tiles of the foyer below. Valentino appeared from the hallway just as her security man, made his last yelping slap against the stone floor and then lay very still. Blood trickled from his ear. Merry dashed down the length of the upper corridor and stood beside Mark looking down in shock at the scene below. Valentino knelt beside the man and picked up his wrist. She held a handkerchief in front of her face. Only her large, dark eyes were visible above the cloth as she looked up at them. To Mark’s pain-wracked mind, she looked like the veiled Saracen woman in the courtyard. He shouted something down at her in what sounded like Latin and started down the stairs with his sword raised over his head, but Merry threw herself at him, grabbing his shirt, yanking him back against the banister. He spun on her and then blinked rapidly, confused by what had happened.
"No!" she said adamantly. "We’ve got to go! Leave her alone."