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The War of Independence appears to have no end in sight. Discouraged by the bloodshed and suffering their magic can do nothing to prevent, Proctor and his wife, Deborah, dream of starting a family. But when Deborah gives birth, a powerful demon called Balfri, summoned by the secret society of European witches known as the Covenant, tries to possess the child. Though the attack in unsuccessful, it makes Proctor and Deborah realize that there can be no safety for them, or for anyone, until the Covenant is destroyed.
With the help of such patriots as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, Proctor embarks on a desperate journey to take the fight to the heart of the Covenant’s power: Europe. There he will uncover a dark, necromantic design of chillingly vast proportions. Meanwhile, back in America, Deborah will face Balfri again–only this time the demon will have the whole British army to command.
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C. C. Finlay was born in 1964 in New York City but soon thereafter was banished to rural Ohio. His childhood was divided equally between playing in the woods and reading his way through the fiction shelves of his small town’s Carnegie library. Like Jay Gatsby, he studied abroad briefly at the University of Oxford, and it was there, at New College, founded in 1379 around a remnant of the old city wall built by William the Conqueror, that he fell in love with history. He studied literature at Capital University and did graduate work in history at the Ohio State University, where he was a research assistant on two award-winning books about the U.S. Constitution. He started writing fiction after the birth of his first son because he wanted to set an example about chasing one’s dreams. He lives in Columbus with his wife, Rae, and two sons, all smart readers, who keep him honest.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
New York State, near the Connecticut border
Fourteen hundred hooves pounded the dark, muddy road, mingling with the noise of the raindrops that slapped the sodden trees and the ordinary jangle of soldiers’ gear. The dark green coats of the British Legion riders blended into the backdrop of the night and pouring rain. The cavalry raid was Banastre Tarleton’s first in de pen dent command, and he led from the front. Not, as he heard some whisper, because it kept the mud from being kicked up in his face, but because this was where the action was likely to be.
“They’ll learn,” Tarleton murmured to himself. “War requires men to act like beasts. The sooner we unsheathe our claws, the quicker this rebellion will end.”
He had his own questions about the soldiers he led. The three hundred and fifty men with Tarleton were Loyalists, believers in king and Crown, but they were still Americans. Tarleton would see what they were made of when they fought their own neighbors and countrymen.
He glanced over his shoulder to take his mea sure of them and one caught his eye, a mere boy without even a cap to cover his draggled blond hair. He rode near enough to Tarleton to be his shadow. His anomalous red coat, like the one worn by British regulars, stood out among the green jackets. His mount was anxious, frequently tossing its head and nipping at invisible antagonists. The other horses jostled to keep their distance.
Tarleton opened his mouth to ask the boy who he was— A chill shot through him. He spun around and peered into the dark, looking for his advance scout. It must be near dawn, and they must be close to the rebels’ camp at Pound Ridge. He estimated that they’d ridden almost seventy miles from Long Island since yesterday morning.
They’d come thirty miles in less than ten hours overnight, all of it through the constant downpour. Even without mud splattered on him, Tarleton was soaked through to the bone, just like his men, but he had chosen the weather to cover their attack and he was glad it held.
A dark shape filled the road in front of them, and Tarleton reared his horse back, shifting to keep his balance as it slipped in the mud. The rest of the legion thundered to a stop behind him.
“It’s no good, sir,” the scout said, mopping water from his scruffy, unshaven face. “One of them must’ve seen me. I practically stumbled into their camp before I saw it. They’ve formed up a line on the road ahead, maybe a hundred men.”
Damn the luck. They would be facing the Second Continental Light Dragoons, Sheldon’s horse— as if rebels deserved either flag or name. A smaller force than his, but big enough to cause him trouble.
“What of their weapons?” Tarleton demanded.
“Muskets,” said the scout.
“No, I mean do they have bayonets?”
“Not as I saw. You know the rebels’ guns aren’t fit for ’em, most cases.”
Tarleton laughed aloud. “It’s too wet to fire,” he said.
The other advantage of an attack in the rain, if the commander was bold enough. He drew his saber and waved it over his head. “Let’s show them what cavalry does.” Steel whispered from three hundred and fifty sheaths. Cold metal flashed like the first hints of sunrise.
Tarleton whirled his horse and put spurs to it. The beast jumped foward, kicking up clods of mud. The rest of the legion galloped to catch up.
They hammered down the country road, trees whipping past, sloping downward until a clearing opened ahead. A mass of men blockaded their way. Tarleton raised his saber and leaned forward in his saddle to strike. The rest of the legion surged around him, like breakers in a wave.
The men blocking the road shouted threats and raised their useless weapons.
The legion responded, their voices roaring violence. Just before the horses smashed into them, the rebels broke, throwing down their guns as they ran.
Tarleton galloped through the empty spot where they had been and reined in his horse. He called to his men, “See, that’s how it’s done! Always go straight at them and you’ll never lose.”
The men laughed. Victory without battle was even sweeter when you could find it.
The rebel camp was little more than a motley collection of sagging tents erected at the edge of a small town. Tarleton sent a detachment off to pursue the rebels and prevent them from regrouping. He sent another group to find the rebel Major Ebenezer Lockwood’s house and detain him. Meanwhile, he took possession of the camp. Some of the men were already searching the abandoned tents.
Shots sounded as the pursuit entered the town. Tarleton peered through the rain at the small cluster of houses. “Shall we form an offensive?” asked one of his captains, a man considerably older than Tarleton. But he was only twenty- four, and many of the men were older. He had to prove himself in battle to them, and show them that he knew how to lead.
“Pursue where they show themselves, but not too far,” Tarleton said. “Don’t lose sight of what we came for.”
“Here’s Tallmadge’s tent,” one of the men called out. Major Benjamin Tallmadge. George Washington’s spymaster. The man whose spies had been causing all sorts of trouble for the British in occupied New York.
Tarleton dismounted and handed the reins to the first person to hold out his hand. He flung open the flap and entered the tent. The rain beat like a drum corps on the taut canvas. A lantern stood on a small table beside the small writing desk. The light twitched as the flap opened again behind Tarleton. He looked up and saw a strange boy in a red coat enter and stare at him.
He opened his mouth to demand the boy’s expulsion— “Give me that bag,” Tarleton snapped as he turned to the soldier.
The soldier tossed a saddlebag to him. Tarleton flipped it open and began looking through the letters inside. Many were in code, but some weren’t. There was Washington’s own handwriting in notes to Tallmadge. Here was a mention of a Highday— he must be one of the Americans’ new spies, should be easy to find. He saw a reference to C— r, the spy in Seatucket, on Long Island, who was making secret movement by the British army in New York so difficult. He flipped through the sheets and saw one more.
Persuade Brown to return.
Need his special talents.
Brown was a common enough name, Tarleton thought. It would be hard to find him. But more importantly, what were his special talents? He tucked the letters back into the bag and closed it before his wet hands smeared the ink. These would be valuable to his commanders. “Bring this,” he said, tossing the bag to one of his aides.
The first soldier was still tearing through Tallmadge’s belongings. “Look here,” he said. His eyes gleamed, and his smile spread from ear to ear. He held open a purse full of money.
Tarleton snatched it away. A handful of guineas, and near as many shillings, plus a variety of other coin. He wrapped the purse shut and shoved it in his belt. They had almost everything they came for.
“Where’s Lockwood’s house?” he asked.
Major Ebenezer Lockwood, a rebel who served in New York’s provincial congress as well as the army, had a bounty on his head. Forty guineas to the man who captured him. Tarleton could make his name and start on his fortune. He could pay off his gambling debts and stop begging his mother to send him new shirts.
“The house is over here,” said the scout, who had just returned to the tent entrance. Like most of the men here, he was from New York, the one colony where men had sense enough of their duty to stay loyal. “But Lockwood’s already gone.”
“Gone, you say?” Tarleton snarled as he burst out of the tent. The rain slapped him like a wet rag.
“He left his wife behind,” the scout said, pointing the way to an undistinguished wooden house. Lockwood was an important man in the colonies, and he lived in this? Anger boiled up inside Tarleton. How could any of these men think they deserved to rule themselves in place of the king?
The front door had been kicked in and hung aslant on a broken hinge. Guards stood just inside the door, out of the rain. Lockwood’s frightened wife shivered in the front room, a plain creature heavy from bearing children, wearing only her nightdress.
“Where is that damned rebel?” Tarleton demanded.
Lockwood’s wife stared down at him. Tarleton was not a tall man— one reason he preferred horse back, where he was the equal of any. “You are the rebel,” she sneered.
“You rebel against the will of God when you make men slaves to a tyrant.”
One of his officers— Tarleton was going to have to learn their names— slashed at the woman with his saber. She screamed and ducked, but the heavy hilt cracked her forehead, splitting the skin. She collapsed to the floor, blood gushing from the wound and mixing with the muddy water from their boots.
The officer raised his arm to strike again, but Tarleton caught his hand in the air. “She’s a woman,” he said, but the words sounded far away. A part of him wanted to strike her as well. They were all exhausted from the long ride, beat down by the constant batter of the rain, on edge from the charge and the snipers’ shots.
“Burn it,” whispered a voice.
Tarleton turned and noticed a boy in a red coat. He had a cherubic face, even with his hair plastered to his skin by the rain. His eyes were alight and his lips pursed.
“Who are you—?”
A sob from the woman caught Tarleton’s attention. He cast the officer’s arm aside, then bent down and grabbed the bleeding woman by the collar of her dress. He dragged her toward the door and flung her out into the mud. Then he turned back to his men.
“Burn it,” he commanded.
“Sir?” the officer asked. He’d been willing to strike a woman for disobedience to her king, but he hesitated at burning houses.
Tarleton couldn’t let them doubt his orders ever, not if he meant to lead them. “I said, burn it. What’s difficult to understand?”
On their own, the other soldiers quickly loaded their arms with silver, clothes, books— any valuables they could snatch up. Many of them had lost property to the rebels, and now they wanted some of it back.
Tarleton looked the other way. He knocked over an oil lantern and watched the greasy fluid pour over the edge of the table and run across the uneven floor to the rag rug, which soaked it up. He felt strangely excited, even though he didn’t care for fire except in a practical way. Was it command? Did command always have this effect on men? The scout picked up a burning candle and looked to Tarleton for confirmation.
“Burn it” came a boyish whisper.
Certainty surged through him, and he nodded.
The scout dropped the candle into the oil and the sudden flame cut a scar across the floor. The rug caught fire in an instant, and the fire leapt from the rug to the long curtains that covered the windows.
Tarleton went outside and watched the flames jump through the windows and sizzle against the rain. Soon black smoke poured out from under the eaves.
It wasn’t enough.
“Take what ever you want,” he yelled to the men gathered around him. Plunder was a part of war. It always had been. Let them reclaim what they had lost to the rebels. He walked through the street as his men ransacked the houses.
His eyes fell on the church.
And suddenly plunder didn’t matter to him. One of his men rode by with a torch, sputtering in the rain. Tarleton whistled, drawing his attention. The man turned back, and Tarleton took the torch from him. He kicked the door of the church, smashing his heel against it three times before it swung open. Then he walked down the center aisle, holding the torch aloft while it grew in strength.
“Burn it,” whispered a voice.
Tarleton tossed the torch into the pulpit. The dry wood sizzled and cracked until it caught fire. Tarleton stood there, transfixed, while the flames jumped up to the raf - ters and ran like mice to every corner of the roof.
“Sir.” The scout’s voice, coming from the doorway, broke Tarleton from his reverie.
“What is it?” he snapped, turning and marching smartly out of the burning building. A crowd of his men had been watching from the door.
“Their colors,” the scout said. He held up the regimental flag of the rebels who’d been stationed here. “We found them in an officer’s bag, in one of the houses.”
“I’ll take that,” Tarleton said. The fire in the church burned vigorously, flames licking from the windows like tongues from the mouth of a demon. Tarleton held up the captured flag to the light for a better look. Thirteen red and white stripes on a field with a painted thundercloud. The thundercloud seemed very appropriate.
Someone had eased in close, looking over Tarleton’s shoulder.
A red coat. Tarleton reached out and grabbed an arm. He was startled to find that he had a mere boy in his hand, with an angel’s face and no cap on his head. The coat he wore was a threadbare soldier’s jacket, something from the regulars, but cut for a drummer boy or fifer. It had holes shot through it and dark stains around the holes. The fire lit up the boy’s face, transforming it into something red and eerie.
He tilted his head to Tarleton. “Persuade Brown,” he whispered. “We can use his special talents.”
“Who are you?” Tarleton demanded.
“William Reed. I was assigned to your command.”
Tarleton didn’t remember that. He was certain he had no drummer boy on the rolls. Drummer boys were for infantry, not cavalry. “Somehow I doubt that very much.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t get in the way,” the boy said innocently.
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Book Description Del Rey, 2009. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Brand New!. Seller Inventory # VIB0345503929
Book Description Del Rey, 2009. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110345503929
Book Description Del Rey, 2009. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0345503929
Book Description Del Rey, 2009. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Original. Seller Inventory # DADAX0345503929
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