Home > Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(10)

Time's Convert (All Souls Trilogy)(10)
Author: Deborah Harkness

Marcus strolled in, whistling, his copy of Common Sense tucked under his arm.

“See!” Becca brandished a plastic figure of a knight.

“Wow. A knight in shining armor. I’m impressed.” Marcus joined the twins on the floor.

Not to be outdone by his sister’s claim on Marcus’s attention, Philip toppled his tower of blocks so that they made a mighty crash. Both twins loved the polished cubes, which Matthew had carved for them from bits of wood culled from around the family’s various homes. There were blocks made from apple and hornbeam gathered near the Bishop House in Madison; French oak and lime from Sept-Tours; and beech and ash from the Old Lodge. There were even some freckled blocks made from the limbs of a plane tree that grew near Clairmont House in London, collected when the city had come by and pruned the lower limbs to let the double-decker buses pass. Each block showed subtle differences in grain and tone, which Philip and Becca found fascinating. The primary colors that drew most children were of no interest to our Bright Born twins, who had their father’s keen eyesight. Instead, they loved to trace the patterns in the wood with their tiny fingers as if learning the tree’s history.

“Looks like your knight will need a new castle, Becca,” Marcus observed, laughing at the pile of blocks. “What do you think, sport? Want to build one with me?”

“Okay,” Philip said agreeably, holding up a block.

But Philip’s older brother was momentarily distracted by the books that were still sliding along the shelves, moved by spectral hands that not even vampires could see.

“The ghosts are at it again, I see,” Marcus said with a chuckle, watching the books move to the left, then to the right, then over to the left again. “They never seem to make any progress, though. Don’t they get bored?”

“Apparently not. And we can thank the goddess for that,” I replied, my tone as tart as vinegar. “As ghosts go, those two aren’t very strong—not like the ones who haunt the room off the great hall.”

The two chain-mail-clad men clanking around in that tiny, dark enclosure were a terror: flinging furniture around and pilfering items from nearby rooms to redecorate their space. This insubstantial pair in the library was so vaporous that I still wasn’t sure who or what they were.

“They always seem to pick the same shelf. What’s up there?” Marcus asked.

“Mythology,” I said, glancing up from my notes. “Your grandfather adored the subject.”

“Granddad used to say he liked to read about the exploits of old friends,” Marcus said with the hint of a smile.

Philip held his block toward me now, hoping I’d join in the fun. Playing with the children was far more appealing than Lady Montague. I put my notes aside and crouched down next to them.

“House,” Philip said, happy with the prospect of building.

“Like father, like son,” Marcus said drily. “You better watch out, Diana, or you’ll find yourself in the midst of a massive renovation in a few years.”

I laughed. Philip was always erecting towers. Becca, on the other hand, had abandoned her knight and was constructing something around herself that looked like a fortification. Marcus supplied both of them with blocks, willing as ever to be their assistant when it came to fun and games.

Philip put a block in my hand. “Apple.”

“A is for apple. Good boy,” I said.

“You sound like you’re reading from one of the primers I had when I was a boy.” Marcus handed Becca a block. “It’s strange that we still teach children their alphabet the same way, when everything else has changed so much.”

“Such as?” I asked, wanting to know more.

“Discipline. Clothing. Children’s songs. ‘How glorious is our heavenly King / Who reigns above the sky.’” Marcus sang the words softly. “‘How shall a Child presume to sing / His dreadful majesty?’ That was the only tune in my first primer.”

“Not exactly ‘the wheels on the bus go round and round,’” I agreed with a smile. “When were you born, Marcus?”

My question was an unforgivable breach of vampire etiquette, but I hoped that Marcus would excuse it since it was coming from a witch—not to mention a historian.

“In 1757. August.” Marcus’s voice was flat and coolly factual. “The day after Ft. William Henry fell to the French.”

“Where?” I asked, even though I was pressing my luck to be so inquisitive.

“Hadley. A small town in western Massachusetts, along the banks of the Connecticut River.” Marcus picked at the knee of his jeans, worrying at a loose thread. “I was born and raised there.”

Philip climbed into Marcus’s lap and presented him with another block.

“Would you tell me about it?” I asked. “I don’t know much about your past, and it might help to pass the time while you wait for news from Phoebe.”

More importantly, remembering his own life might help Marcus. From the bewildering tangle of time that surrounded him, I knew that Marcus was struggling.

And I was not the only one who could see the snarled threads. Before I could stop him, Philip grabbed at a red strand trailing from Marcus’s forearm with one pudgy hand, and a white strand with the other. His bowed lips moved as if he were uttering a silent incantation.

My children are not weavers. I had told myself this again and again, in moments of anxiety, in the depths of night while they slept quietly in their cradles, and in times of utter desperation when the hurly-burly of our daily routines was so overwhelming I could barely draw breath.

If that were true, though, how had Philip seen the angry threads surrounding Marcus? And how had he managed to capture them so easily?

“What the hell?” Marcus’s expression froze as the hands of the old clock, a gilded monstrosity that made a deafening ticktock, stopped moving.

Philip drew his fists toward his tummy, dragging time along with them. Blue and amber threads screeched in protest as the fabric of the world stretched.

“Bye-bye, owie,” Philip said, kissing his own hands and the threads they contained. “Bye-bye.”

My children are half witch and half vampire, I reminded myself. My children are not weavers. That meant they weren’t capable of—

The air around me trembled and tightened as time continued to resist the spell that Philip had woven in an attempt to soothe Marcus’s distress.

“Philip Michael Addison Sorley Bishop-Clairmont. Put time down. Immediately.” My voice was sharp and my son dropped the strands. After one more heart-stopping second of inactivity, the clock’s hands resumed their movement. Philip’s lip trembled.

“We do not play with time. Not ever. Do you understand me?” I drew him out of Marcus’s lap and stared into his eyes, where ancient knowledge mixed with childish innocence.

Philip, startled by my tone, burst into tears. Though he was nowhere near it, the tower he had been constructing crashed to the ground.

“What just happened?” Marcus looked a bit dazed.

Rebecca, who could not bear it when her brother cried, crawled over the fallen blocks to offer him comfort. She held out her right thumb. The left was firmly lodged in her own mouth. She removed it before speaking.

“Shiny, Pip.” A violet strand of magical energy streamed from Becca’s thumb. I’d seen vestigial traces of magic hanging off the children before, but I’d assumed that they served no particular function in their lives.

My children are not weavers.

“Shit.” The word popped out of my mouth before I could stop it.

“Wow. That was weird. I could see you, but I couldn’t hear you. And I couldn’t seem to speak,” Marcus said, still processing his recent experience. “Everything started to fade. Then you took Philip out of my lap and it all went back to normal. Did I timewalk?”

“Not quite,” I said.

“Shit,” Becca repeated solemnly, patting her brother on the forehead. “Shiny.”

I examined Philip’s forehead. Was that a speck of chatoiement, a weaver’s signature gleam, between his eyes?

“Oh, God. Wait until your father finds out.”

   
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