The Chevalier Mark Ramsay, Assassin and Alchemist for the Red Cross of Gold goes after the lost Key to the fabled Ark of the Covenant and in the process, discovers that the Order has attracted the attention of the Ancient Order of Assassins, a far eastern cult and long time enemy of the Knights Templar. He is only days away from marrying his one true love when he is torn away from her by his obligations to the Order and his beloved Brother, Lucio Dambretti. He finds himself in Divine company, fighting for his life against a terrifying dragon.
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The Hesperian Dragon is the fourth book in the Red Cross of Gold ~ Assassin Chronicles series. The series concerns the adventures of Mark Andrew Ramsay, a reclusive Scottish alchemist and semi-Immortal member of the Red Cross of Gold, the only surviving members of the Original Poor Knights of Solomon's Temple.
The ruling council of the Order consists of twelve semi-immortal Knights who are answerable only to the Grand Master of the Order. He, in turn, is answerable only to God and partially to the Pope in Rome. They have been endowed with immortality as long as they remain relatively intact. If some catastrophe befalls them, the Knight of Death, Mark Ramsay, must find them and perform the mystic ceremony of Death which will release their souls from their bodies. He is called the Assassin, because he carried the Key of Death and a twisted golden broadsword forged by the cherubim set to watch the gates of the Garden of Eden.
The Red Cross of Gold maintains a clandestine army that operates in secret around the globe, patiently (more or less) awaiting the Apocalypse in which they plan to fight for the returning Christ at Armageddon.
Things do not always go as planned for the Order and Mark Ramsay is the key to the success or failure of the Order and he is generally not a very positive fellow. He'd much rather spend his years in his home in the Scottish lowlands making gold in his dark, spidery lab for the financial needs of the Order.
Unfortunately, Fate and God has another plan for him.
Mark Andrew was beside himself. There was no reason for him to have to wait to return to Scotland with the Grand Master. He had not been given orders to stay and so why not fly on ahead? But it seemed the entire world was against him now. There were no seats going to Scotland. Everything was booked. The best he could do was book a seat on the next available flight out, which ensured that he would not have the distinct pleasure of traveling with the Knight of the Golden Eagle. He had left the Villa immediately after the meeting upon learning that Lucio would be going with them just as he had feared. Waiting at the airport, alone and miserable, hoping for a cancellation and attracting the attention he hated from passersby, he finally gave up and returned to the Villa in defeat, where he remained in his car, waiting for the morning sun to rise above Vesuvius.
Why were they not answering the phone in Scotland? First it was busy signals for hours and then no answer. He fell into an uneasy sleep in the cramped front seat of the rental car and dreamed of Simon. As soon as the first rays of dawn awakened him, he was off to the airport again to wait for his flight.
It was very early in Scotland when he arrived and the drive down from Edinburgh was uneventful. He pulled up in front of his home just as the sun was peeking over the line of oaks to the east. A misty groundfog obscured the normal curves of the meadow and hugged the base of the house, making it appear to be sitting on a cloud. He would have a full four hours before the others were due to arrive. The old house was still sleeping, it seemed. There were no lights to be seen in the dark windows in front. He hoped that Merry would be glad to see him and that nothing was seriously wrong.
He used his key to open the front door and went in quietly, closing it softly behind. The house seemed to loom over him as if it didn’t recognize him and the air felt unnaturally chilly. He hoped that the furnace was not on the blink again. The old contraption was on the brink of destruction. Generally, he and his apprentice and servants relied on the fireplaces and stoves to keep the place toasty warm, but with Meredith’s recent arrival, he would have to update the heating.
Bruce Roberts was in a very fine mood in the kitchen making breakfast. He was overjoyed to see that his Master had returned. Mark Andrew questioned him about the phone lines, but the man knew nothing of any trouble and told him that they had received calls from Italy the day before. That they were expecting company around noon. It didn’t make sense.
Mark Andrew climbed the stairs quietly and went directly to Merry’s room. When he knocked on her door softly, she came to answer it, dressed in a long, cotton gown. A worried look on her face as if she expected trouble disappeared when she saw who stood in the hall wearing an equally worried expression.
His fear of rejection was overruled immediately. She hugged him and kissed him so many times, he was unable to say more than one or two words for a full five minutes. She finally calmed down enough to go back into the room and close the door.
She had more questions than he did.
“Why haven’t you called me?” she asked at last as he collapsed in the chair by her bed. She rushed about the room gathering her clothes. Her bath was running in the adjoining room and he could smell the scent of vanilla.
“I tried,” he said and waved one hand tiredly. “The phone was constantly busy and then there was no answer.”
“That’s impossible,” she glanced at him. “Simon called Philip and then Philip called back again to tell us when they would be here. The Ritter called and I spoke to John Paul a minute.” She dashed into the bathroom to turn off the water and then came back.
“I don’t know what happened then,” he shrugged as she came to hug him again. “I sent an e-mail.”
“I checked the computer a hundred times at least.” She shook her head. “It never got here.”
“I’m not good on computers,” he said with some chagrin. “I’m sorry.”
“No matter. You’re here now. That’s all that’s important,” she smiled at him. “But you are going to let Simon hook you up with a cell phone or a PDA and then I’m going to teach you how to use a damned computer and that’s final!”
Mark had to smile at her as he nodded his head.
“There is a problem we have to resolve before the Grand Master arrives,” she continued almost breathlessly. “Simon and I have been beating our heads against the wall…” She stopped at the door of the bathroom and bit her lip. “Won’t you come in here? We can talk while I take my bath and save time.”
Mark Andrew looked around the room as if looking for the answer to her question. He remembered what had happened the last time he had gone into the bath with her. But John Paul was not here. Surely no one would come to disturb them this time.
He nodded and followed her into the bathroom. The water looked very inviting. The scent made his mind drift back in time.
“Come on, hurry up,” she told him as she undressed and stepped into the tub. “We don’t have much time.”
He was appalled, but not too appalled to follow her instructions.
“Now,” she said, after he had sufficiently scalded himself and sat breathless in the water facing her. “I know that you don’t like to talk about things from your past, but like I said, we have a problem and you’re just going to have to bear with it.”
“What kind of problem?” he grimaced as she squeezed hot water from a sponge onto his tired shoulders.
“Your son, Ian McShan,” she said and watched his face grow very dark. He seemed to be overcome by rigor mortis at the mention of the name. “He had children?” she asked.
“No,” he told her shortly. “None.”
“But he must have!” she dropped the sponge in the water and then picked it up again. “There is a granddaughter.”
“No, no children,” Mark took hold of her wrist and pushed the sponge away. “What are you talking about?”
“Ian’s granddaughter is here,” she told him simply.
“Here?” he looked around in alarm.
“If he didn’t have children, then how could he have a granddaughter?” she asked him and leaned toward him, taking his face in her hands. His eyes were full of something that resembled fear. A chill coursed up her exposed spine.
“He had no children. No granddaughter,” Mark said and started to push himself up.
“Wait!” She pulled him back down. “She is here. Downstairs. She came to see him and found out that he had died. She came here looking for you.”
“For me?” he exclaimed and fell back in the water causing a great surge of bubbles. “Why?”
“She’s pregnant,” Merry told him.
“That’s impossible. I mean, it’s impossible. Ian had no children,” Mark’s voice cracked. “Surely it is a mistake. I would know.”