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In a strange twist of fate, the Chevalier du Morte, finds himself suddenly catapulted into the role of Grand Master of the Order of the Red Cross of Gold when four members of the Order are struck down simultaneously in a mysterious incident. He is plagued by the idea that he has committed the unforgiveable sin while trying desperately to discover the whereabouts of the Djinn creature whom he suspects has put a curse on the Order. Once more, he inadvertantly incurs the wrath of the Grand Master and another of his beloved Brothers turns against him and calls for his head. He must defeat the Djinn, defeat his own personal demons and figure out some way to get things back to normal before the entire Order falls to pieces.
Book XI:. Ars Arabia begins a new phase in the Chevalier du Morte's life as he abandons the Order of the Red Cross of Gold and takes up with the faeries in the underworld as their King. As he tries desperately to help them fight off the Red Serpent that is terrorizing their land, he must cope with a debilitating disease inflicted on him by the Queen of the Abyss. Dabbling in necromancy does not help his case with the Brothers of the Order, nor does the presence of long-dead Knights in his company help convince them to come to his aid when he is forced to seek military backup from the overworld.
“If you feel you need to confess, Mark,” she said softly and leaned toward him to brush his hair back from his damp forehead “then you should. I think that Simon would be more than willing to hear it. He has never let you down in that respect before, has he?”
“Before is the key word here, Merry,” Mark sighed and looked up at her from a pained frown. “Before covers a lot of ground. And think of the circumstances now. How could I say it to him? You were… he was… Things have changed between us. It’s hard for me to speak with him on private matters. Especially concerning you. Besides, Merry, there’s confession and then there’s confession.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I mean there are things a man confesses and things he does not,” he shrugged and brushed away her hand again. “There are things fit for the ears of a priest and things best never spoken.”
“That’s ludicrous!” Merry objected. “You mean to tell me that you don’t confess everything? That you only confess selected items? Things that you think are proper for a priest to hear?”
“Of course,” he told her irritably. “You know that!”
“I do not know that,” she said and sat down on the bed beside him. “I didn’t know there were unconfessable sins, Mark. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, ask Louis about it or Barry. They’ll tell you,” he said. “But I’m not talking about unconfessable sins, Meredith. I’m talking about unforgivable sins. There’s a difference.”
“Just close your eyes and say it!” she told him in exasperation. “I would confess it for you, if I could. I feel like I’m responsible anyway. It was my stupid idea to start with. You would have never thought of it. I suppose I must feel about like Eve did when she convinced Adam to eat the apple. I’m sorry, Mark Andrew. If there is anything I can do... anything...”
“That’s how you got into trouble the last time.” He smiled at her ruefully. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. There’s nothing you can do except, maybe...” He threw back the covers and climbed out of the bed as the lights dimmed for the last time and went out. The room was thrown into total darkness. The old generator in the basement had been on the blink for three years, nay four. The strobing light of the storm cast bluish hues about the room as he got to his knees in front of her.
“Shrive me, Sister,” she heard his voice above the thunder.
“Don’t you think you should get dressed first?” She asked in the complete darkness.
“Do you think God is embarassed?” He asked.
“Well, no, I guess not,” she answered and shivered at the irreverant thought. She hit him on the shoulder and waited. She had no faith that this would work to ease his mind, but she had said anything... again.
“Bless me father, for I have sinned,” his voice was very low. Lightning flashed and she could see that he had his eyes squeezed tight, almost painfully, and his knuckles were white as he clasped his hands together in front of him. He raised one hand and pressed it to his forehead as a pain shot through his temples. The spots that had been plaguing him of late, stood out white now against a black background. “It has been six months, no seven, no... perhaps... a long time since my last true confession.”
“What is the nature of your sin, my son?” she asked him. It made her very nervous to act the role of a priest. It was the worst part of being a Poor Knight of the Temple.
“I...” he started and stopped. A flash of light showed his head now bowed as he knelt before her one moment and then the next flash showed him with one hand on the floor and then he was up again.
“I have... I have... committed...” he began again and the next flash showed him on both hands on the floor in front of her. She knelt beside him and put her arm around his shoulders.
“Mark Andrew?” she called his name loudly above the rolling thunder. “Are you all right?”
“I’m foine!” She heard his answer in the ensuing darkness and then he struggled up to his knees again. “I can do this! I can! I will! You can’t stop me!”
These words made her shudder. She let go of him and sat on the bed, unsure of what to do. Was he talking to her?
He bowed his head again and clasped his hands in front of him, determined to go on with it in spite of the terrible pain in his head. When the lightning flashed, the white spots in the forefront of his vision turned black and then white again in the ensuing darkness.
“I have blasphemed against the Holy Ghost. I have committed fornication with the mystery of God,” he said the words and Merry thought she would faint at his confession.
“Wait just a minute!” she shouted at him. “You made that up!”
“No, I didn’t,” he said and then pressed his hands to his temples. “Wot else wud ye coll it, Meredith?”
“I don’t know, but not that!” She took his face in her hands. This was not right. This could not be right. She hadn’t thought how what they had done might be classified, but surely this was not a classification that actually existed. It couldn’t be right.
“Call it blasphemy!” She pleaded and knelt again in front of him. He wrapped his arms around her and leaned his head on her shoulder.
“Merry!” He said her name and she could feel him crying, rather than hear him. “I’m sorry I brought this on your head.”
“Look.” She drew back from him. “I can’t possibly give you penance for this. I don’t know how. You’ve got to talk to Simon.”
“I cannot,” he told her and then stood up. The pain began to subside immediately. “The sin is unforgivable. Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is the only unforgivable sin. I used to wonder how one might commit such a crime. I never thought to do it myself.”
Merry watched him as he pulled on his clothes and left the room in the eerie light provided by the storm. No wonder he felt he could not confess this sin. Where on earth had he come up with this self-imposed crime against God?
“Wait for me!” She called and hurried after him.
She caught up with him at the bottom of the stairs.
“Turk!” He shouted down the hall toward the kitchen. There were two oil lamps burning in the entry hall. The old cook’s head appeared in the kitchen door. “This storm is unnatural, Merry.”
She felt another chill course up her spine as the lightning strobed through the thick glass panes beside the front doors.
“Master?” The old cook bobbed into view, looking frightened. Merry had to wonder when the elderly ex-Templar slept. He seemed to always be in the kitchen.
“Bring me a bottle of wine!” Mark Andrew groused at the cook and opened the doors to the library. Merry followed him inside. A fire burned in the hearth and the big room was comfortably warm compared to the hall. He walked across the room and looked out the window at the storm.
“I cannot understand this storm,” he muttered and turned back to face her.
“It seems unseasonable,” she admitted and wrung her hands nervously.
Merry actually squeaked when the phone on the desk rang. Mark Andrew cast a disdainful look at the thing and shook his head. He’d never understood how the phone could work when the lights did not. For such a highly educated man, he sometimes seemed hopelessly ignorant, especially about mundane things. Merry went to answer it.