Beneath her cold smile lurked something with a sinister flair. When the sorceress had visited last week, she’d exuded it like a palpable odor. She’d brought a new vial of medicine, stressing an immediate dose to ensure s healing was complete, that no traces of the beast lingered. ’
The hard glitter in the sorceress’s eyes radiated hatred at Melina. She could live with that. And back at you, witch bitch.
Something else emerged behind ’s gaze, as well, some unspoken wish, and it had nothing to do with his recovery. Maybe the opposite, a resistance to his complete healing? Melina sensed that if she stared into her eyes long enough, the meaning would come clear.
It had haunted her since s last grand exit, her long parting look at ’. The sorceress’s face had softened in a moment of vulnerability before she’d vanished.
Absently, Melina traced the book spines with her fingers. This library held an incredible array of unusual literature from the 1400s to present day. The texts she most treasured were those written by him. Some sections read like historical essays, accounts of events that touched his life. Some were the journal of a soul tortured by his choices, and by the traitorous acts of others. Pages and pages of demented rantings, beast and man struggling for control.
Because he’d written in Italian and Latin, it took her some time to translate. It helped fill the endless stretches of time and acquaint her with his native language. While she slept beside him, he murmured soothing endearments. No sooner did she leave the bed than his murmurs took on a disturbed tone, and he’d thrash as if under attack.
Strolling, she reached the end of the shelves and realized she still had no idea what they held. Her touch disturbed the last book enough for it to fall. She caught it, then stared. Behind its resting place, a door had been cut into the panel.
Moving a few other books revealed a double panel. A safe?
She glanced toward Bruno again. Still resting. Why would he hide something here in his quarters, where he had so few visitors?
A tug on the doors accomplished nothing. Probably hadn’t been opened in too long. Come on, open up. She concentrated on it. She pulled again, and the bookcase drifted out of the wall. Curiosity drew her around it.
What the…? Another entire wall of shelves, like a mirror image. She took out a leather-bound volume and opened it. Handwritten but not in Bruno’s script. Headings marked each passage, some less than a page, others much longer. Illustrations accompanied each, like ingredients for a recipe. Or instructions.
If only I understood the language. It would take her forever to translate. She carried the book to the table and set it beside her laptop, then launched the Italian-English translation site she’d bookmarked. Hoping the loopy script of the title wasn’t some outdated verbiage, she entered each word, hit Enter, and frowned.
“That can’t be right.”
A repeat of the procedure yielded the same result. Weird. Why would Bruno hide such a text? Another round of books proved to be similar. Nearly every type of magic, dark arts, or alchemy. From what she could tell, some were logs of experiments.
Her breath caught. Maybe someone had transcribed Bruno’s transformation into a chimera? She scrambled behind the shelves again but heaved a sigh. No way could she sift through all the volumes.
Magic. It always fascinated her. As Arthur C. Clarke had said, magic was just science we don’t understand yet. An abstract concept, until her first few glimpses of it. The strange couples at the Moon Masquerade ball. Elda appearing and vanishing like a Venetian hat trick. Bruno’s chimera appearance, and the spell transforming him back again. It all amounted to conclusive proof. A magical world existed beyond the awareness of most people.
But any alterations to a person’s anatomy had to have a scientific basis. Didn’t it?