Two Crowns for America

Two Crowns for America

by Katherine Kurtz, Debora Harris


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553762488
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/1998
Pages: 420
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Katherine Kurtz has been writing fantasy for more than four decades and is the author of the Templar series, the Adept series, and the Deryni novels, including Deryni Rising, Childe Morgan, and In the King’s Service. She lives in Staunton, Virginia, with her husband, Scott MacMillan.

Read an Excerpt

In the midnight fastness of a secluded estate in northern Germany, a solitary man sat before a blackened mirror and, by the light of a single candle, watched incense smoke roil across the surface of the polished glass. He had made his preparations, drunk the elixir that gave him the far vision; now he quested outward with mind and spirit, seeking the man whom destiny called to wear a victor’s laurel, and perhaps a crown.
It was March of 1775, and Europe was in growing turmoil; but the man the Master sought had never set foot in the Master’s world. Born some forty-three years before, in a land named for a virgin queen, the man had spent his life to date in preparation for a very special destiny, little though he knew it.
But the Master knew. The name of the man whose image even now was forming in the blackened mirror would soon be on the lips of thousands, both in blessing and in curse. The Master’s gaze sharpened as the scene began to unfold before his dark eyes, and he leaned a little closer, setting elegant, beringed hands lightly on either side of the mirror to steady it. Two men now could be seen, one of them personally known to the Master and presently in disfavor; but it was the other on whom the Master fixed his full concentration.
Slowly the image steadied—of a tall, commanding figure in a black tricorn and a full-cut black cloak with shoulder capelets, striding across a muddy yard toward a brown-clad, slightly younger man holding a pair of horses. Behind him could be seen several other cloaked men, of whom he had just taken his leave. A black ribbon tied back unpowdered reddish hair from a noble face.
Well-muddied boots with spurs showed below fawn-colored breeches as he set one toe in the stirrup the other man held and swung up easily on a tall, rangy gray. The gloved hands that gathered up the reins were big, almost a little awkward, the thighs gripping the gray’s sides thick and powerful. A silver-hilted smallsword hung at his left side, just visible beneath the cloak he settled over the horse’s rump.
“Where next, Colonel?” the other man asked, mounting up on a sturdy bay. “Back to Mount Vernon, or do you wish to press on to Alexandria?”
“Mount Vernon, Doctor,” the colonel replied. “The weather appears to be worsening. I intended to drill Captain Westcott’s militia, but we’ll make a fresh start in the morning.”
The horses picked their way daintily across the muddy yard and moved out smartly as they gained the road, heading east at a ground-eating trot. Dirty snow still edged the road to either side, hard-crusted where it had thawed and refrozen repeatedly in the past week, and ice still rimmed some of the puddles pocking the road itself. The men jammed hats more closely over foreheads and hunched deeper into cloaks as they rode, for the wind was sharp, and growing colder.
As soon as a long, straight stretch presented itself, the pair exchanged confirming glances and set spurs to their mounts, anxious to reach shelter before the rain began. The horses were fresh and eager, their easy canter soon shifting to a flatter gallop—until suddenly the big gray stumbled.
So quickly was destiny set in train. Though the gray’s rider tried valiantly to collect his mount, he knew from the first misstep that all his skill could not prevent the fall that was coming for them both. As if time had slowed, he felt himself catapulted from the saddle, tumbling over the animal’s shoulder, past flailing hooves, to land hard, flat on his back.
For a few breathless heartbeats, everything went utterly black. Then, through a haze of urgency that began slowly to draw him back to painful consciousness, he became aware of the dream that would haunt him for years to come.
He was standing in the doorway of a candlelit room, the apron of a Freemason girt about his waist. The place was none that he had ever seen before, but by its furnishings he could entertain no doubt that it was, indeed, intended as a Lodge of Freemasonry.
But it was no Lodge where he had ever sat. Far at the other end of the room, a black-clad man presided as Master, somehow both known and unknown; and though some of the other brethren in the room seemed vaguely familiar, the colonel could not quite seem to pin identities on any of them.
A Bible lay open on a small table before the Master’s chair, as must always be present in any proper Lodge, with a square and compasses set atop it; but it was another, smaller Bible before which the colonel found himself kneeling, to lay both hands upon it in reverence. The binding was distinctive, with corners and clasps fashioned of silver gilt. The words of the obligation he swore were wholly acceptable, yet somehow beyond his present comprehension, as his stunned mind reeled from the force of his fall and a part of his body began insisting that he really ought to breathe.
There was more, all in a tangled and blurred rush of images, admonitions, instructions: a flagon of oil from which someone anointed his forehead; a wreath of laurel leaves laid upon his brow by a white-clad woman who should not have been in a Lodge of Freemasonry but somehow belonged in this one; his sword—and another sword—and something done between the two of them, so that by the time his own was laid back in his hands, he knew that it was somehow—changed.
Then he was fighting his way back to consciousness in earnest, gulping raggedly for breath and struggling to sit up as strong arms supported him behind the shoulders and a faraway voice called his name and counseled slow, deep breaths.
“Easy, Colonel. It’s Ramsay. You’ll be fine when you’ve caught your breath. You’ve had a nasty fall.”
The face he saw, as he managed to open his eyes, belonged to the voice. It was long familiar, and he almost thought it had been in the dream.
But even as he found himself able to breathe again, and the world stopped reeling, memory of the dream began slipping away, so that by the time he could speak, he was not sure of any of it at all—except that, against all logic, one hand was clenched quite determinedly around the hilt of his sword.…
Smiling, the Master sat back from his mirror, watching the man named Ramsay help the other one to his feet. When they had remounted and were on their way again, he let the images fade from the mirror, drew two sheets of paper before him, and began simultaneously to write upon each.
Dear Dr. Ramsay, the first one began. And the second: My dear Chevalier …

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Two Crowns for America 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have any interest in the history of the masons in early America - and love a touch of fantasy to boot - this book is a great read. Katheeine Kurtz does her usual excellence in this book.