Read Witchfall Online

Authors: Victoria Lamb

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #General, #Juvenile Nonfiction, #Language Arts



About the Book
Title Page
Hampton Court
The Inquisition
The Conjuror’s Cell
Dead Queen
Instruments of Torture
Into the Woods
A Vile Thing
Hatfield House
Rain, Lutes and Pigs
The Conjuror’s Apprentice
Dark of the Moon
Caput Draconis
Dead King
Genius Loci
Dead Witch
The Tower
About the Author
Also by Victoria Lamb
About the Book

London, 1555. The court of Mary Tudor is terrorized by the Spanish Inquisition, and life is safe for no one. But Meg Lytton has more reason to fear than most – for Meg is a witch, and the discovery of her craft would mean certain death. Even more perilous, Meg is secretly betrothed to the young priest Alejandro de Castillo; a relationship which they must hide at all costs.

In service to the Queen’s sister, Princess Elizabeth, Meg attempts to foretell her mistress’s future. But when terrible dreams begin to haunt her, Meg fears she has released a dark spirit into the world, intent on harming everyone around her.

The darkly magical and passionate sequel to

Winner of the Romantic Novelist Association YA Novel of the Year

For my father, Richard Holland

Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones.

Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so

That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever.

I know when one is dead, and when one lives.

She’s dead as earth.

William Shakespeare:
King Lear, Act V, Scene iii

Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.

Ted Hughes:
Examination at the Womb-Door

Hampton Court
Spring 1555

I had been here before in a dream. I was standing in a high place, buffeted by winds and wrapped in a reddish mist that stretched into cloud a few yards ahead. My loose hair whipped about my face, longer than it was now. The wide skirt of my gown billowed around my ankles, flapping like a ship’s sail. Power prickled at my fingertips, tingling with familiar heat. Yet I was not permitted to use magick. Not in this place. My senses strained for clues as to my whereabouts, catching strange sounds, a rushing noise like wings.

Sensing movement above my head, I glanced up. A hawk came soaring out of the sunset. It screamed impatiently, tilting its barred body as though hunting for a place to land.

When I looked down again, Marcus Dent was standing in front of me, clothed all in black.

‘You always knew it would come to this, Meg Lytton.’ His words echoed in my mind. ‘Didn’t you?’

I stared at him, too horrified to speak.

I had to get away from him, yet seemed unable to move. My arms hung stiffly by my side, my feet rooted as though tied to a stake.

‘You bested me with your girl’s magick last time we met. But now you will find I have the advantage.’

The witchfinder showed me what was in his hands: a broad-headed axe, shiny and cruel, its thick shaft wrapped thrice about with holly.

‘No,’ I managed hoarsely.

Marcus Dent watched as I struggled to break free from whatever supernatural hold he had asserted over me. His blue eyes gleamed with malicious amusement.

‘Why waste your last moments on this tiresome show of resistance? Accept your fate and kneel for the axe. You have tried before to escape me – and might have succeeded with a little more talent. But you are a mere girl. It is your destiny to die at my hands. You have neither the strength nor the knowledge to fight me. I will always be stronger than you, and your blood spilt in this place today will prove it.’ With the axe, he pointed to the stone between us. ‘Now, down on your knees!’

Sweat broke out on my forehead as I battled to break free of Marcus Dent’s hold over me. How had the witchfinder managed this feat, binding me so tight to this time and place that I could not escape?

‘I will not kneel to you, Dent. I refuse!’

‘Meg,’ he said deeply, leaning closer. The axe blade flashed in my eyes, dazzling me. His voice grew urgent. ‘Meg! Meg!’

Then a hand came down on my shoulder and I turned, looking up into Alejandro de Castillo’s concerned face.

The young Spanish novice was balancing a tallow stump
on his palm, its flickering flame reflected in his eyes. As though I had never seen him before, I drank in the sight of my secret betrothed: strong cheekbones, dark hair swept back from his forehead, a burning intensity about him – and yet a steadiness too, like a rock set in the midst of a wild torrent.

‘Meg, it is time to go.’

I closed my eyes, dazed and confused as reality flooded back. I was no longer standing in that high place, about to have my head chopped off by the witchfinder Marcus Dent. Instead, I was kneeling on the dirt floor in a tiny disused storage room adjacent to the kitchens of Hampton Court Palace.

My heart was juddering, my palms clammy. It was hard not to let my frustration show as I stumbled over my words. ‘I must keep scrying . . . just another few minutes.’

‘The kitchen servants are assembling to carry the dishes into the Great Hall. Your absence will be noted if you are not at the princess’s side when the banquet begins.’

‘But I must finish the vision! I must see how it ends.’

Alejandro pointed to the ground. The copper scrying bowl had been tipped over, the wine almost drained away into the dirt. ‘Forgive me, I had no choice. It was the only way to wake you.’

‘You had no right to interfere, Alejandro. What I see in these visions is important.’

Alejandro helped me to my feet, brushing the dirt from
my skirts. ‘
Mi querida
,’ he murmured, his Spanish accent pronounced, ‘your fury is quite charming. As is the flash in your eyes when you say “Alejandro” in your very English voice. Have I ever told you that?’

‘The Lady Elizabeth has ordered me to keep scrying and consulting my books of magick, looking for any threat that may lie ahead for her,’ I countered, ignoring his question as deliberately provocative. He put his arms about me, and it was hard to push him away. ‘Be serious, please, just for a moment.’

‘I am always serious with you. I know you serve
la princesa
well, but might I suggest you find somewhere less dangerous to practise your scrying?’ His slow, warm smile made my heart flip over. ‘Now that I have found the woman of my dreams, I would hate to lose her to the Inquisition.’

The woman of his dreams? I was hardly that. Not only was I that most forbidden of creatures, a witch, but I was also in the pay of the Lady Elizabeth, whose dislike for the Catholic faith was widely whispered at court. Yet there was no denying the heat between myself and Alejandro. That passion was what had led him to offer me marriage, and although I felt the same about him, I had not yet been able to give him a final answer. Life would not be easy for such an ill-matched pair, after all.

I turned away, tucking the copper scrying bowl away out of sight under a dusty shelf, and stoppering the wine bottle I had used to fill it before carefully hiding that too. They
would be needed next time I came here to scry in silence and solitude.

‘I am safe enough from the Inquisition,’ I insisted, though the black-robed priests who prowled the court looking for heretics made me very nervous indeed. I halted before him and smiled up into his eyes. ‘They do not even know of my existence. Give me your patience a little while longer.’

Frustration flickered in his face, though he did not refuse. Instead, he put out a hand and tucked a loose strand of hair back under my courtly hood. ‘You are beautiful, Meg, but vulnerable too. Do you have any idea of the horrors in store for you if these activities should be discovered?’

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