Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of this first in a four-book teen series from the #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl .
The year is 1453 and all signs point to it being the end of the world.
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
- Date: May 2012
From the book
The hammering on the door shot him into wakefulness like a handgun going off in his face. 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.
"You are to come with me."
They saw him hesitate. "Don't be a fool. There are three of us and only one of you, and the dagger you're hiding behind your back won't stop us."
"It's an order," the other man said roughly. "Not a request. And you are sworn to obedience."
Luca had sworn obedience to his monastery, not to these strangers, but he had been expelled from there, and now it seemed he must obey anyone who shouted a command. 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.
"Who are you?" he asked, coming unwillingly to the door.
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.
"Where are you taking me?"
The two guards fell in behind him without answering. 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.
"I insist on seeing a priest, I wish to confess . . ." he said.
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. Luca's guides made no noise as they walked along the gallery, down the stone steps, through a great hall and then down a little spiral staircase into a darkness that grew more and more black as the air grew more and more cold.
"I demand to know where you are taking me," Luca insisted, but his voice shook with fear.
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...