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The Chevalier Ramsay must return to the Abyss to conduct a bit of damage control in the Seventh Gate in spite of the danger of running into old acquaintances. His old enemies, routed from New Babylon, begin searching for him and the Mighty Djinni with a new plan for bringing chaos to the world of men. Omar must try to run his New World Order from behind the scenes with a new attitude and a new outlook on life. Back at the Isle of Ramsay, Montague is left trying to fend off unknown forces trying to steal some of the Red Cross of Gold’s powerful relics. Mark’s unruly son, Luke Andrew, joins his father’s Order in spite of the obstacles he might face and must prove himself worthy of an apprenticeship. Things do not improve when the new King of the Faeries decides that he needs to get to know the royal family a bit better.
How Men Do It is the nineteenth installment of the Assassin Chronicles continues the adventures of the Knight of Death, the Chevalier du Morte, Mark Andrew Ramsay, poor Knight of Solomon's Temple. He is the assassin for the Red Cross of Gold, a sub-order of the Templar Knights as they have survived underground for well over a millennium. He was born the simple son of minor Scottish nobility in the thirteenth century, but his life took a turn for the bizarre when he fell in first with the Templar Knights in Jerusalem and then later with the Red Cross of Gold after the fall of Jerusalem. For a thousand years and then another thousand years he has striven to right the wrongs not only of his own life, but those of the world in general. Being immortal is not all it's cracked up to be.
He made his way back to the lower hall and checked the rooms at the rear of the keep. Storerooms, completely empty. A grand kitchen that appeared never to have ever been used. There was only one place left to check and he did not want to go down there. The dungeon and the laboratory. His brother’s laboratory.
The heaviness in his heart increased with every step down into the lower regions of the keep. He could smell the scent of oil here. Torches still burned low in the brackets on the walls, casting deep shadows in the hall. One of the cell doors stood open. He checked the cell and found the woolen blanket on the bed mussed as if someone had lain here. There was a basin of water, a pitcher and a glass. A prisoner? But who? Corrigan? His brother? Someone else? Whoever it had been was gone now, leaving behind no clues as to what had happened here. He turned finally toward the last place he would look. If he found no one here, he would ride over and check the little cottage. The keep and the cottage were the only two places he knew to look. If they had been taken off or lost in the vastness of this place, he would have a hard time finding them alone. He didn’t even know which way they might have gone and he knew the hands of time would be racing in the overworld and his chances of finding Merry would be growing thinner and thinner, the longer he tarried here. He could see the guttering shadows of lamp light through the half open door of the laboratory and his knees turned to jelly as he approached the door. Again, he used the tip of his sword to push the door open wide enough to pass through it.
The laboratory made his heart hurt as if a great hand were squeezing it. Here was his brother everywhere. The lamp was almost empty and only a tiny flickering flame illuminated the vast stone chamber beneath the keep. The only thing missing was the spiderwebs and dust that Mark Andrew seemed to take great pride in collecting. Everything was immaculately clean and sparkling in the light of the lamp. Its yellow flame was reflected in a hundred glassy surfaces about the room. A brass bowl full of water sat on a tripod under the lamp. He stepped forward and tripped over something on the floor. He squatted in the darkness and felt a booted foot.
“Mark!” He gasped and reached further to feel a leg above the boot and another leg. He stood up and quickly sheathed his sword. He found the shoulders and helped the prone figure up off the floor.
The sleeping man did not stay asleep long and came at him suddenly, shouting at the top of his lungs about monsters and witches and Black Death. Luke slammed him against the counter and caused all the objects there to shudder and rattle.
“Luke Andrew?” He peered closely into the face of his brother’s son.
“Luke Matthew?” Luke’s eyes were wild with terror. “Where’d you come from? Is she gone? Where is Jozsef? Where is…”
“Hush now, laddie!” Luke Matthew hissed and took his nephew by the shoulders and held him at arm’s length. “Tell me wot ’appened ’ere. Whair’s me brother?”
“The Queen!” Luke sputtered and jerked his head around. “We have to get out of here.”
“Thair’s no one ’ere, boy,” Luke told him and let go of him. “They air oll gone. Tell me wot ’appened.”
Luke spun around and began to search about the floor using his hands and his feet to feel about in the darkness.
Luke Matthew grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him up again.
“Whattar ye doin’?” He asked him. “Whattar ye lookin’ fur?”
Luke glanced at the bell jar on the counter. It was empty. The black cloth lay where he had left it when he had unwrapped his gruesome treasure.
“The Queen’s taken Father!” He told his uncle.
“The Queen of the Abyss. She came here after him.” Luke started for the door. The two swords clanked and slapped his boots.
Luke Matthew hurried after him as he took the steps two at a time. He caught up with his nephew in the great hall and stood staring at the younger man as he spun around in the hall in confusion. He wore Mark Andrew’s rings, his golden sword of the Cherubim and…
Luke Matthew stepped forward and caught his arm again. He turned him sideways roughly and caught his neck in the crook of his arm, pulling on his hair.
“Owww!” Luke tried to pull away from him.
“Wot’s this?!” Luke slapped him in the face with something that stung his cheek.
“What?! You’re choking me. I can’t see,” Luke Andrew sputtered and coughed.
Luke Matthew let go of him, but held onto a handful of his hair.
“This. Wot is this?!”
Luke pulled his head back and squinted down at the handful of hair very close to his face. He could see his own black hair and in the center was a white braid with the silver earrings of his mother bound in it.
“My God!” Luke almost fainted and his uncle caught him, lowering him to one of the benches. “My God!” Luke pressed his hands to his face.
“Ye nevar cared aboot God before, Luke.” His uncle bent in front of him, remembering what Edgard d’Brouchart had told him about Mark Andrew turning his errant son into a Templar. That had been hard enough to swallow, but it seemed his brother had done more than that. It looked like he had turned Luke into himself.
“Father is dead.” Luke looked up at him through his fingers. The golden ring glittered on his left hand. The silver ring gleamed on his right pinky finger. “The Grand Master killed him.”