- زمان مطالعه 18 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
“The coven failed the test.” Vivian flung her satchel-size purse onto the kitchen island and poured herself a cup of coffee.
“Is she a witch, too?” Chris asked me in a whisper.
“I am,” Vivian replied instead, noticing Chris for the first time.
“Oh.” He looked at her appraisingly. “Can I take a cheek swab? It’s painless.”
“Maybe later.” Vivian did a double take. “I’m sorry, but who are you?”
“This is Chris Roberts, Vivian, my colleague from Yale. He’s a molecular biologist.” I passed the sugar and gave Chris a pinch on the arm to keep him quiet. “Can we possibly talk in the family room?
My head is killing me—and my feet are swelling up like balloons.”
“Somebody complained to the Congregation about covenant violations in Madison County,” Vivian told us when we were comfortably ensconced in the sofas and armchairs arranged in front of the TV.
“Do you know who it was?” Sarah asked.
“Cassie and Lydia.” Vivian stared morosely into her coffee.
“The cheerleaders narked us out?” Sarah was dumfounded.
“Figures,” I said. They’d been inseparable since childhood, insufferable since adolescence, and indistinguishable since high school with their softly curling blond hair and blue eyes. Neither Cassie nor Lydia had let her witchy ancestry keep her in the shadows. Together they had co-captained the cheerleading squad and witches credited them with giving Madison its most successful football season in history by inserting victory spells into every chant and routine.
“And what are the charges—exactly?” Matthew had switched into lawyer mode.
“That Diana and Sarah have been consorting with vampires,” Vivian muttered.
“Consorting?” Sarah’s outrage was clear.
Vivian flung her hands up in the air. “I know, I know. It sounds positively lewd, but I assure you those were Sidonie’s exact words. Happily, Sidonie is in Las Vegas and can’t come in person to investigate. The Clark County covens are too heavily invested in real estate, and they’re using spells to try to shore up the housing market.”
“So what happens now?” I asked Vivian.
“I have to respond. In writing.”
“Thank goodness. That means you can lie,” I said, relieved.
“No way, Diana. She’s too smart. I saw Sidonie question the SoHo coven two years ago when they opened up that haunted house on Spring Street, right where the Halloween parade lineup begins. It was masterful.” Vivian shuddered. “She even got them to divulge how they suspended a bubbling cauldron over their parade float for six hours. After Sidonie’s visit the coven was grounded for a full year—no flying, no apparating, and positively no exorcisms. They’re still haven’t recovered.”
“What kind of witch is she?” I asked.
“A powerful one,” Vivian said with a snort. But that’s not what I meant.
“Is her power elemental or based in the craft?”
“She’s got a good grasp of spells, from what I hear,” Sarah said.
“Sidonie can fly, and she’s a respected seer, too,” Vivian added.
Chris raised his hand.
“Yes, Chris?” Sarah sounded like a schoolmarm.
“Smart, powerful, flying—it doesn’t matter. You can’t let her find out about Diana’s children, what with the Bad Seed’s latest research project and this covenant you’re all worried about.”
“Bad Seed?” Vivian stared at Chris blankly.
“Matthew’s son knocked up a witch. It seems that reproductive abilities run in the Clairmont family.” Chris glared at Matthew. “And about this covenant you’ve all agreed to. I take it that witches aren’t supposed to hang out with vampires?”
“Or with daemons. It makes humans uncomfortable,” Matthew said.
“Uncomfortable?” Chris looked dubious. “So did blacks sitting on buses next to white people.
Segregation isn’t the answer.”
“Humans notice creatures if we’re in mixed groups,” I said, hoping to placate Chris.
“We notice you, Diana, even when you’re walking down Temple Street by yourself at ten o’clock in the morning,” Chris said, shattering my last, fragile hope that I appeared to be just like everybody else.
“The Congregation was established to enforce the covenant, to keep us safe from human attention and interference,” I said, sticking to my guns nonetheless. “In exchange we all stay out of human politics and religion.”
“Think what you want, but forced segregation—or the covenant if you want to be fancy about it— is often about concerns for racial purity.” Chris propped his legs on the coffee table. “Your covenant probably came into being because witches were having vampire babies. Making humans more ‘comfortable’ was just a convenient excuse.”
Fernando and Matthew exchanged glances.
“I assumed that Diana’s ability to conceive was unique—that this was the goddess at work, not part of some broader pattern.” Vivian was aghast. “Scores of long-lived creatures with supernatural powers would be terrifying.”
“Not if you want to engineer a super race. Then such a creature would be quite a genetic coup,”
Chris observed. “Do we happen to know of any megalomaniacs with an interest in vampire genetics?
Oh, wait. We know two of them.”
“I prefer to leave such things to God, Christopher.” A dark vein pulsed in Matthew’s forehead. “I have no interest in eugenics.”
“I forgot. You’re obsessed with species evolution—in other words, history and chemistry. Those are Diana’s research interests. What a coincidence.” Chris’s eyes narrowed. “Based on what I’ve overheard, I have two questions, Professor Clairmont. Is it just vampires who are dying out, or are witches and daemons going extinct, too? And which of these so-called species cares the most about racial purity?”
Chris really was a genius. With every insightful question he was delving deeper into the mysteries bound up in the Book of Life, the de Clermont family’s secrets, and the mysteries in my own—and Matthew’s—blood.
“Chris is right,” Matthew said with suspicious speed. “We can’t risk the Congregation discovering Diana’s pregnancy. If you have no objection, mon coeur, I think we should go to Fernando’s house in Seville without delay. Sarah can come with us, of course. Then the coven’s reputation won’t be brought into disrepute.”
“I said you can’t let the Wicked Witch find out about Diana, not that she should run away,” Chris said, disgusted. “Have you forgotten Benjamin?”
“Let’s fight this war on one front at a time, Christopher.” Matthew’s expression must have matched his tone, because Chris immediately subsided.
“Okay. I’ll go to Seville.” I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want the Madison witches to suffer either.
“No, it’s not okay,” Sarah said, her voice rising. “The Congregation wants answers? Well, I want answers, too. You tell Sidonie von Borcke that I have been consorting with vampires since last October, ever since Satu J?rvinen kidnapped and tortured my niece while Peter Knox stood by and did nothing. If that means I’ve violated the covenant, that’s too damn bad. Without the de Clermonts, Diana would be dead—or worse.”
“Those are serious allegations,” Vivian said. “You’re sure you want to make them?”
“Yes,” Sarah said stubbornly. “Knox has already been banished from the Congregation. I want Satu’s ass kicked off, too.”
“They’re looking for Knox’s replacement now,” Vivian reported. “It’s rumored that Janet Gowdie is going to come out of retirement to fill the chair.”
“Janet Gowdie is ninety if she’s a day,” Sarah said. “She can’t possibly be up to the job.”
“Knox insists that it be a witch known for her spell-casting abilities, as he was. No one—not even Janet Gowdie—ever bested him when it came to performing spells,” Vivian said.
“Yet,” said Sarah succinctly.
“There’s something else, Sarah—and it might make you pause before you go after the witches of the Congregation.” Vivian hesitated. “Sidonie has asked for a report on Diana. She says it’s standard procedure to check on witches who haven’t developed their magical talents to see if anything manifested later in life.”
“If it’s my power the Congregation is interested in, then Sidonie’s request really has nothing to do with Sarah and me consorting with vampires,” I said.
“Sidonie claims that she has a childhood assessment of Diana that indicated she was not expected to manifest any of the normal powers traditionally associated with witches,” Vivian went on, looking miserable. “Peter Knox conducted it. Rebecca and Stephen agreed to his findings and signed off on it.”
“Tell the Congregation that Rebecca and Stephen’s assessment of their daughter’s magical abilities was absolutely correct, down to the last detail.” Sarah’s eyes glittered with anger. “My niece has no normal powers.”
“Well done, Sarah,” Matthew said, his admiration of her careful truth evident. “That answer was worthy of my brother Godfrey.”
“Thank you, Matthew,” Sarah said with a little nod.
“Knox knows something—or suspects something—about me. He has since I was a child.” I expected Matthew to argue. He didn’t. “I thought we’d discovered what my parents were hiding: that I’m a weaver, like Dad. But now that I know about Mom’s interest in higher magics, I wonder if that doesn’t have to have something to do with Knox’s interest as well.”
“He’s a dedicated practitioner of higher magics,” Vivian mused. “And if you were able to devise new dark spells? I imagine that Knox would be willing to do almost anything to get his hands on them.”
The house moaned, and the sound of a guitar filled the room with a recognizable melody. Of all the songs on my mother’s favorite album, “Landslide” was the one that most tugged at my heart. Whenever I heard it, I remembered her holding me on her lap and humming.
“Mom loved this song,” I said. “She knew that change was coming, and she was afraid of it, just like the woman in the song. But we can’t afford fear anymore.”
“What are you saying, Diana?” Vivian asked.
“The change my mom was expecting? It’s here,” I said simply.
“And even more change is on the way,” Chris said. “You’re not going to be able to keep the existence of creatures secret from humans for much longer. You’re one autopsy, one genetic-counseling session, one home genetic-testing kit away from being outed.”
“Nonsense,” Matthew declared.
“Gospel. You have two choices. Do you want to be in control of the situation when it happens, Matthew, or do you want to get smacked upside the head with it?” Chris waited. “Based on our limited acquaintance, I’m guessing you’d prefer option A.”
Matthew ran his fingers over his scalp and glared at Chris.
“I thought so.” Chris tipped back his chair. “So. Given your predicament, what can Yale University do for you, Professor Clairmont?”
“No.” Matthew shook his head. “You are not using research students and postgraduates to analyze creature DNA.”
“It’s scary as hell, I know,” Chris continued in a gentler tone. “We’d all rather hide somewhere safe and let someone else make the tough decisions. But somebody is going to have to stand up and fight for what’s right. Fernando tells me you’re a pretty impressive warrior.”
Matthew stared at Chris, unblinking.
“I’ll stand with you, if that helps,” Chris added, “provided you meet me halfway.” Matthew was not only an impressive warrior but an experienced one. He knew when he was beaten.
“You win, Chris,” he said quietly.
“Good. Let’s get started, then. I want to see the creature genetic maps. Then I want to sequence and reassemble the three creature genomes so they can be compared to the human genome.” Chris ticked off one item after another. “I want to be sure that you’ve correctly identified the gene responsible for blood rage. And I want the gene that makes it possible for Diana to conceive your child isolated. I don’t believe you’ve even started to look for that yet.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with?” Matthew’s brows rose.
“As a matter of fact, there is.” Chris’s chair thudded to the ground. “Tell Miriam Shephard I want her ass in Kline Biology Tower on Monday morning. It’s on Science Hill. You can’t miss it. My lab is on the fifth floor. I’d like her to explain how my conclusions in Science were wrong before she joins us for our first team meeting at eleven.”
“I’ll pass that message along.” Matthew and Fernando glanced at each other, and Fernando shrugged as if to say, His funeral. “Just a reminder, Chris. The research you’ve outlined thus far will take years to complete. We won’t be at Yale for very long. Diana and I will have to be back in Europe by October, if we want the twins born there. Diana shouldn’t travel long distances after that.”
“All the more reason to have as many people as possible working on the project.” Chris stood up and put out his hand. “Deal?”
After a long pause, Matthew took it.
“Smart decision,” Chris said, giving it a shake. “I hope you brought your checkbook, Clairmont.
The Yale Center for Genome Analysis and the DNA Analysis Facility both charge steep fees, but they’re fast and accurate.” He looked at his watch. “My bag is already in the car. How long before you two can hit the road?”
“We’ll be a few hours behind you,” Matthew said. Chris kissed Sarah on the cheek and gave me a hug. Then his finger rose in a gesture of warning.
“Eleven A.M. on Monday, Matthew. Don’t be late.”
On that note he left.
“What have I done?” Matthew muttered when the front door slammed shut. He looked a bit shell shocked.
“It will be fine, Matthew,” Sarah said with surprising optimism. “I have a good feeling about all this.”
A few hours later, we climbed into the car. I waved to Sarah and Fernando from the passenger seat, blinking back the tears. Sarah was smiling, but her arms were wrapped so tightly around herself that the knuckles were white. Fernando exchanged a few words with Matthew and clasped him briefly, elbow to elbow, in the familiar de Clermont fashion.
Matthew slid behind the wheel. “All set?”
I nodded. His finger pressed the switch, and the engine turned over.
Keyboard and drums flooded out of the sound system, accompanied by piercing guitars. Matthew fumbled with the controls, trying to turn the music down. When that failed, he tried to turn it off. But no matter what he did, Fleetwood Mac warned us not to stop thinking about tomorrow. Finally he flung up his hands in defeat.
“The house is sending us off in style, I see.” He shook his head and put the car in drive.
“Don’t worry. It won’t be able to keep the song going once we leave the property.”
We drove down the long driveway toward the road, the bumps all but imperceptible thanks to the Range Rover’s shock absorbers.
I twisted in the seat when Matthew flicked on the turn signal to leave the Bishop farm, but the last words of the song made me face forward again. “Don’t look back,” I whispered. Sol in Virgo
When the sun is in Virgo, send children to school. This sign signifieth a change of place. —Anonymous English Commonplace Book, c. 1590, Gonçalves MS 4890, f. 12v
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