Beneath the Hallowed Hill, страница 1
Beneath the Hallowed
A division of Damnation Books, LLC.
P.O. Box 3931
Santa Rosa, CA 95402-9998
Beneath the Hallowed Hill
by Theresa Crater
Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-365-2
Print ISBN: 978-1-61572-366-9
Cover art by: Amanda Kelsey
Edited by: Sonia Lenardon
Copyedited by: Barbara Legge
Copyright 2011 Theresa Crater
Printed in the United States of America
Worldwide Electronic & Digital Rights
1st North American and UK Print Rights
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any form, including digital and electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the Publisher, except for brief quotes for use in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
I would like to thank T.L. Morganfield for her critique and Ark Redwood, the head gardener at Chalice Well, for his corrections about the garden. All mistakes are mine. Special thanks to Stephen Mehler for his unflagging support, and to my mother for everything.
Alexander Cagliostro balanced on the side of the yacht, then did a back roll and fell into the warm water. With a kick, he surfaced, tested the airflow in his special face mask, then took the extra air tanks from his assistant, Karl Mueller. He tied his on and looked around for Miriam. Another splash announced her arrival. He waited while she adjusted her own equipment, then motioned for them to submerge.
The turquoise waters of the Caribbean darkened to a royal blue as they swam toward the bottom. A yellow cloud of Spanish Hogfish turned as one and headed away from the two divers. When he could see the bottom clearly, Cagliostro leveled out and treaded water, quieting himself until he could feel the subtle currents of energy around him. Miriam floated a few feet below him, waiting. He dropped deeper into his finely tuned senses, feeling for the magnetic pull he knew would come. Two dolphins swam into view and circled the divers, keeping their distance. Cagliostro gathered his desire, holding it in check until it grew into an ache in his chest, then pushed it out into the water. He tracked the vibration as it radiated out, listening for the thought wave to strike its target and ping back to him like sonar. There was quiet, more quiet, and then he heard it. Southwest. He didn’t spare a glance for Miriam.
He angled down until he was about five feet from the ocean bottom and followed the contour of sand and rock, kicking up over a small hill, then down the other side into a valley. The ping grew stronger. The bottom flattened and he slowed, passing over a stand of pillar coral. It had to be here. Another ridge of rock rose on the other side of the valley. He swam over to it and found scroll marks on the edge of a perfect rectangle. This was no natural rock; it was part of a wall or building of some sort. He took out a compass, checked his tanks, and waited for Miriam. She swam up beside him.
“They’re here somewhere.” The face masks he commissioned allowed them to talk to each other.
“As certain as I can be,” he snapped. “We’ll divide the valley between us. We’ve got just over two hours of air. You start here. This ridge is your western edge. That thick growth of sea fan one boundary and the rough rock the other. We’ll meet in the middle.”
Miriam nodded. She went back to the wall and started to swim over her territory. Cagliostro glided back to the other side of the valley, keeping his senses open as he passed over the relatively even sand. He felt it somewhere close, but now was not the time to get careless. He must be patient and follow protocol. He didn’t think anyone followed them, but if he just swam at random, they might run out of air and light, and then someone else better equipped might come down during the night and uncover it for their own lodge.
He reached the beginning of the valley and forced himself to swim the edge, even though he knew what he was looking for was more to the middle. He moved back and forth, studying the ocean floor for any clue—an edge showing, a shape hinted at by the slope of the sand. All the while his senses were as receptive as a satellite dish.
They swam back and forth for about half an hour, slowly but surely making their way closer to each other and toward the middle of the valley. Cagliostro caught a glint in the light-brown bottom and pointed his flashlight at it. The light bounced back at him from something barely concealed. He moved in closer, ran his hand over the sand…and found rock, smooth and straight. He took out a rubber-tipped shovel and started clearing the sand away. Miriam joined him. She traced the edge of the rock and started digging farther down with a similar implement.
The gleaming flank of a long crystal slowly revealed itself. Cagliostro moved with care and a suppressed urgency, as if he were undressing the most beautiful woman in the world. The straight facet angled deeper and he grunted in disappointment. They would have to bring in heavier equipment.
Cagliostro pulled off his glove and fished under his neckline for the chain he wore. With a tug, he brought out the crystal he took from the dead body of Paul Marchant in Egypt. Pulling it over his head, he looked up at Miriam.
“Ready,” came her clipped response.
Cagliostro quieted himself and created a sacred space around them. He began a chant in his mind, then dangled the small stone over the long stretch of crystal. He waited, continuing his inner song. Nothing. He focused again on the vowel sounds, pushing away other thoughts, relying now on years of honed discipline. After what seemed a millennium, Cagliostro felt a deepening in the floor of the valley, as if a storm were approaching. A flash of light traveled the length of the crystal. It lit the inside of the stone and sent rainbows dancing through the cracks that no doubt occurred when the crystal fell from the temple it was placed in so long ago.
Cagliostro kept up the pressure of his chant, but the crystal did not speak again. It lay dormant, as if one burst of light was all it could muster after all those centuries of silence. Finally, he relented. He took out his GPS and noted the exact coordinates, then set his equipment to measure their ascent. He motioned to Miriam, and the two started up. Cagliostro chaffed at the slow ascent.
“Careful.” Anne tried to not to stare at the shoulder of the road as Michael pulled the black Vauxhall onto the road that led to Glastonbury.
“I’m used to driving on the left side,” Michael said.
Anne hid a smile. She just hoped the tires were sturdy. “It always takes me a couple of days to get used to it.”
Michael completed the turn with no scrapes and Anne leaned back, willing herself to relax. She never used to be so nervous before, she even enjoyed driving with Thomas, who was infamous for speeding. A burning lump constricted her throat. The memorial service was only last month. Thomas Le Clair’s plane was shot from the sky as it left Tibet, where Thomas was tracing one of the six crystal keys to the Hall of Records in Egypt. Although no body was found, Thomas and the crew of his private jet were presumed dead.
Anne reached for the bottle of Celtic Springs water, took a sip, and watched the green fields behind the hedges. A house with a tha
He glanced over at her. “You don’t know the history?”
She shook her head.
“You still surprise me sometimes.”
“I’m still learning all this, remember?”
“It’s been a long time since I was here. I spent one summer on a dig on one of the nearby heaths.” He smiled like a man with a secret. “I think you’ll like it.”
“Yeah?” Anne rubbed her shoulder unconsciously.
“You do remember Egypt?”
“My shoulder is fine, but my ribs are still sore.” Cagliostro kidnapped her. His questioning methods were anything but gentle.
Michael reached over and squeezed her hand. “I don’t ever want you to be in danger again.”
“Don’t worry. We saved the world, remember?”
“I do.” Michael paused. “Do you miss it?”
“Saving the world?” She smiled, remembering the rush of energy that filled the star gate when they brought the six crystal keys together.
“No, in the temple, when we all merged, that moment of…” he searched for the right word, “…illumination.”
Anne turned back to the road. Now they were driving through a tunnel of trees. “It was real, then.”
Michael glanced at her sharply, then back at the road. “You didn’t really doubt it?”
“You’ve had a lifetime of study, I’m still relatively new at this. I never realized humans could have such experiences. It feels like a dream now.”
Anne squared her shoulders. “I’m looking forward to this vacation, to spending some quiet time with you before the official wedding and that zoo.” She reached over and traced his chin with her finger. “Well, maybe not exactly quiet time.”
“Your ribs are still healing.”
“I think I’ll be all right.”
“I’ll be careful.”
Her belly flushed warm. She sat back and stretched out her legs. They drove for a time in companionable silence, the Vauxhall humming along. The trees gave way to a village.
“Look.” Anne pointed ahead. “Is there a sale?”
“Don’t you see that spotlight?”
“What are you talking about?”
“There, that beam of light. It’s like when they open a new store and have a huge spotlight turned up into the sky.” She looked over at him.
“I don’t see any spotlight.”
Anne looked back, her eyes searching. “There.”
Michael negotiated the next roundabout and pulled over. “Show me.”
Anne raised her hand to point, but stopped short. “I thought I saw—”
“That’s the Tor.”
“I thought I saw a light.”
Glastonbury Tor rose out of the fields before them, its green slopes spiraling to a slightly rounded top, the stone finger of St. Michael’s tower etched against the purple-streaked sky of sunset.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
“Told you you were going to like it here.” Michael smiled over at her. “Which way?”
Anne smoothed out the map in her lap. “Go up Street then left on Fisher’s Hill.”
“The Fisher King,” Michael said.
Anne’s face lit up. “Wait, you mean this is where it actually happened? Morgen le Fey? King Arthur?”
“Not all of it. I don’t think Arthur and Guinevere are really buried here, but this is the Sacred Isle all right.”
“Remind me about the Fisher King.”
“You should know, this is your heritage. I’m the Egypt expert.”
“There’s bound to be a connection between Glastonbury and Egypt,” Anne teased.
“Of course, but you’re avoiding the question.”
They passed a grocery store on the left and a slope of green on the right. “There’s his hill now.” Michael pointed.
“Okay, smarty pants. The Fisher King kept the Holy Grail. He had a wound in his thigh…probably higher than that. Percival came to dine and the king showed him the grail.”
“Well, technically the grail was kept by the maiden, but a passing summary.”
“Oh, thank you, Professor Levy. Do I get an A?”
“You’re my best student.”
Anne dug into his side.
“I’m the one with the sore ribs. Oh, turn here. Left.”
The tires protested Michael’s quick response. He drove up the street and negotiated the next roundabout.
“Now, watch carefully. Grandmother Elizabeth said it’s easy to miss the next turn, it’s really just an alley.”
They drove beside a low stone wall. “This might be it. Yes, Wellhouse Lane. Turn left.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“No, this is it. It doesn’t look like much, but—”
“Your Aunt Cynthia owned a house on this road?”
Something in his tone made her turn to look at him. “Why?”
Anne squinted in the growing dark at a squat brick building with wrought iron gates over wooden doors.
“Do you know what that is?”
“An old garage?”
“That, my dear, is White Spring, one of the sacred twin springs of Avalon. Your aunt’s house, your house now, is on the Tor. Smack in the middle of one of the world’s major power spots.”
Anne looked back at Michael. “I thought you said this was the perfect place for R&R.”
“Glastonbury is full of peace.” Michael pulled the car into a spot beneath the house and they climbed cracked cement steps toward a two-story stone cottage. The front yard, filled with ivy and shade-loving flowers, lay in the shade of an ancient oak. The round stones of the house’s foundation supported a white wrap-around porch. They stopped in front of an oak front door with a diamond paned window inlaid with red and white roses. The door swung open to a long hallway and a set of stairs on the left.
“Hello,” Anne called out. They stood in the hall on a blue Persian runner, listening, but no answer came. She called again. They listened for footsteps, a voice, but the house was silent. “The housekeeper said she’d get the place ready.” Anne whispered.
They walked into the parlor on the right, where a small fire burned cheerfully in the grate. “Looks like she did just that and took herself off. The perfect housekeeper.”
“Well, she left the door unlocked.”
Michael swung Anne into his arms and kissed her forehead. “This will be…” He kissed each eye closed. “…an extremely…” He kissed the tip of her nose. “…quiet…” He kissed her mouth lightly. “…relaxing vacation.” Anne pushed against him and the fire between them kindled. Michael’s hand found the smooth skin of her back.
The sound of someone clearing her throat made them jump apart. “Excuse me, ma’am. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
A short, round woman stood in the hallway, watching them quite frankly. Her dark hair hung in a long braid down her back and matched the brown of her eyes, whose fine lines at the corners hinted at her age.
Anne pulled at her blouse. “Tessa?”
“Yes.” The woman walked into the parlor.
“I’m Anne Le Clair, Cynthia’s niece.”
“Tessa Harden.” She extended a reddened hand, which Anne shook. “Welcome to Glastonbury. The house is ready for you, I’ve even stocked the fridge.” She walked into the room to check the fireplace, then straightened a doily on the back of an overstuffed chair
“We’ve got our cells.” Anne found herself blushing under the woman’s gaze.
“Sir.” Tessa inclined her head to Michael, then left.
After a minute, Anne said, “I guess the diffident servants of England are a thing of the past.”
“Anne,” Michael scolded, “you’ve never stood on ceremony.”
“Not usually, but there was something…she acted like I was in her house.”
“Well, she was caretaker for a long time, wasn’t she?”
Anne smiled at his turn of phrase. Michael was already picking up the question at the end of a statement so characteristic of the British.
“I’ll get the bags,” he said.
“Let me help.” Anne followed him to the front door.
He held up a finger to stop her. “You’re still healing.”
She paused at the front door, then on impulse turned and climbed the stairs, trailing her hand along the golden oak banister. The third step from the top let out a rather loud squeak. She found herself drawn by light at the end of the hall. The Tor was framed perfectly by a large window whose inlaid theme of red and white roses echoed that of the windows on the front door. Sheep grazed on the slopes in the last of the sunlight. The silence wrapped around her like a wool blanket.
The squeaky step announced Michael’s arrival. “Which one’s our room?”
“I haven’t looked yet.” She opened the first door to find a bathroom dominated by a claw-foot tub. The door directly across the hall revealed a small room with a low table placed in front of another large window; a futon stood against a wall and colorful cushions lay scattered about. The walls started out a deep purple at the bottom, then faded gradually to almost white. The ceiling darkened again into a midnight blue with a splash of stars painted across it.
“Meditation room, maybe,” Anne said.