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An evil being has been sealed away for centuries in a sarcophagus never meant to be opened, waiting patiently for his chance to rise again. Now, brought to the Egyptology Department of Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, the seals and spells that imprisoned him chipped away from his discoverers, he has reached forth to claim the minds and souls of Toronto’s unsuspecting citizens. And only three people had any sense that something was wrong….
For Henry Fitzroy, it began with terrifying images of the sun, a marker of death for a vampire. Fearing for his sanity, he turns to his sometimes-lover, private investigator Vicki Taylor, for help. As the two struggle to cope with Henry’s obsession, Vicki’s closest friend and former partner Mike Celluci, is following up on two mysterious deaths at the museum, certain that a force from beyond the grave is responsible for everything.
About the author
Tanya Huff may have left Nova Scotia at three, and has lived most of her life since in Ontario, but she still considers herself a Maritimer. On the way to the idyllic rural existence she shares with her partner Fiona Patton, six cats, and a chihuahua, she acquired a degree in Radio and Television Arts from Ryerson Polytechnic—an education she was happy to finally use while writing her recent Smoke novels. Of her previous twenty-three books, the five—Blood Price, Blood Trail, Blood Lines, Blood Pact, Blood Debt—featuring Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII, romance writer, and vampire are among the most popular.
Excerpt: Blood Lines (by (author) Tanya Huff)
HE HAD BEEN ALMOST aware for some time. Nothingness had shattered when they removed him from the chamber long concealed behind the centuries empty tomb of a forgotten priest. The final layer of the binding spell had been written on the rock wall smashed to gain access and, with that gone, the spell itself had begun to fray.
Every movement frayed it further. The surrounding ka, more souls than had been near him in millennia, called him to feed. Slowly, he reached for memory.
Then, just as he brushed against self and had only to reach out and grasp it and draw home the key to his freedom, the movement stopped and the lives went away. But the nothingness didn’t quite return. And that was the worst of all.
Sixteenth Dynasty, thought Dr. Rax running his finger lightly along the upper surface of the plain, unadorned rectangle of black basalt. Strange, when the rest of the collection was Eighteenth. He could now, however, understand why the British were willing to let the artifact go; although it was a splendid example of its type, it was neither going to bring new visitors flocking to the galleries nor was it likely to shed much light on the past.
Besides, thanks to the acquisitiveness of aristocracy with more money than brains, Great Britain has all the Egyptian antiquities it can hope to use. Dr. Rax was careful not to let that thought show on his face, as a member of said aristocracy, albeit of a more recent vintage, fidgeted at his shoulder.
Too well bred to actually ask, the fourteenth Baron Montclair leaned forward, hands shoved into the pockets of his crested blazer.
Dr. Rax, unsure if the younger man was looking worried or merely vacant, attempted to ignore him. And I thought Monty Python created the concept of the upper-class twit, he mused as he continued his inspection. How foolish of me.
Unlike most sarcophagi, the artifact Dr. Rax examined had no lid but rather a sliding stone panel in one narrow end. Briefly, he wondered why that feature alone hadn’t been enough to interest the British museums. As far as he knew the design survived on only one other sarcophagus, an alabaster beauty found by Zakaria Goneim in the unfinished step pyramid of Sekhem-khet.
Behind him, the fourteenth baron cleared his throat.
Dr. Rax continued to ignore him.
Although one corner had been chipped, the sarcophagus was in very good condition. Tucked away in one of the lower cellars of the Monclairs’ ancestral home for almost a hundred years, it seemed to have been ignored by everything including time.
And excluding spiders. He brushed aside a dusty curtain of webbing, frowned, and with fingers that wanted to tremble, pulled a penlight out of his suit pocket.
“I say, is something wrong?” The fourteenth baron had an excuse for sounding a little frantic. The very exclusive remodeling firm would be arriving in a little under a month to turn the ancestral pile into a very exclusive health club and that great bloody stone box was sitting right where he’d planned to put the women’s sauna.
The thudding of Dr. Rax’s heart almost drowned out the question. He managed to mutter, “Nothing.” Then he knelt and very carefully played the narrow beam of light over the lower edge of the sliding plate. Centered on the mortared seam, six inches above the base of the sarcophagus, was an oval of clay—a nearly perfect intact clay seal stamped with, as far as Dr. Rax could tell through the dust and the spiderwebs, the cartouche of Thoth, the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom.
Just for a moment, he forgot to breathe.
An intact seal could mean only one thing.
The sarcophagus wasn’t—as everyone had assumed—empty.
For a dozen heartbeats, he stared at the seal and struggled with his conscience. The Brits had already said they didn’t want the artifact. He was under no obligation to let them know what they were giving away. On the other hand . . .
He sighed, switched off the penlight, and stood. “I need to make a call,” he told the anxious peer. “If you could show me to a phone.”
“Dr. Rax, what a pleasant surprise. Still out at Haversted Hall are you? Get a look at his lordship’s ‘bloody-great-black-stone-box’?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. And that’s why I’ve called.” He took a deep breath; best to get it over with quickly, the loss might hurt less. “Dr. Davis, did you actually send one of your people out here to look at the sarcophagus.”
“Why?” The British Egyptologist snorted. “Need some help identifying it?”
Abruptly, Dr. Rax remembered why, and how much, he disliked the other man. “I think I can manage to classify it, thank you. I was just wondering if any of your people had seen the artifact.”
“No need. We saw the rest of the junk Montclair dragged out of his nooks and crannies. You’d think that with all the precious bits and pieces leaving Egypt at the time, his Lordship’s ancestor could have brought home something worthwhile, even by accident, wouldn’t you?”
Professional ethics warred with desire. Ethics won. “About the sarcophagus . . .”
“Look, Dr. Rax . . .” On the other end of the line, Dr. Davis sighed explosively. “. . . this sarcophagus might be a big thing for you, but trust me, we’ve got all we need. We have storerooms of important, historically significant artifacts we may never have time to study.” And you don’t, was the not too subtly implied message. “I think we can allow one unadorned hunk of basalt to go to the colonies.”
“So I can send for my preparators and start packing it up?” Dr. Rax asked quietly, his tone in severe contrast to the white-knuckled grip that twisted the phone cord.
“If you’re sure you don’t want to use a couple of my people . . .”
Not if my only other option was to carry the sarcophagus on my lap all the way home. “No, thank you. I’m sure all your people have plenty of historically significant things to do.”
“Well, if that’s the way you want it, be my guest. I’ll have the paperwork done up and sent down to you at the Hall. You’ll be able to get your artifact out of the country as easily as if it were a plaster statue of Big Ben.” Which, his tone said clearly, is about its equivalent value.
“Thank you, Dr. Davis.” You pompous, egocentric asshole, Dr. Rax added silently as he hung up. Oh, well, he soothed his lacerated conscience, no one can say I didn’t try.
He straightened his jacket and turned to face the hovering baron, smiling reassuringly. “I believe you said that 50,000 pounds was your asking price . . . “”
“Uh, Dr. Rax . . .” Karen Lahey stood and dusted off her knees. “Are you sure the Brits don’t want this?”
“Positive.” Dr. Rax touched his breast and listened for a second to the comforting rustle of papers in his suit pocket. Dr. Davis had been as good as his word. The sarcophagus could leave England as soon as it was packed and insurance had been arranged.
Karen glanced down at the seal. That it held the cartouche of Thoth and not one of the necropolis symbols was rare enough. What the seal implied was rarer still. “They knew about . . .” She waved a hand at the clay disk.
“I called Dr. Davis right after I discovered it.” Which was true, as far as it went.
She frowned and glanced over at the other preparator. His expression matched hers. Something was wrong. No one in his right mind would give up a sealed sarcophagus and the promise that represented. “And Dr. Davis said . . . “” she prodded.
“Dr. Davis said, and I quote, ‘This sarcophagus might be a big thing for you, but we’ve got all we need. We have storerooms of important, historically significant artifacts we may never have time to study.’ ” Dr. Rax hid a smile at the developing scowls. “And then he added, ‘I think we can let one unadorned hunk of basalt go to the colonies.’ ”
“You didn’t tell him about the seal, did you, Doctor?”
He shrugged. “After that, would you?”
Karen’s scowl deepened. “I wouldn’t tell that patronizing son of a bitch, excuse my French, the time of day. You leave this with us, Dr. Rax, and we’ll pack it up so that even the spiderwebs arrive intact.”
Her companion nodded. “Colonies,” he snorted. “Just who the hell does he think he is?”
Dr. Rax had to stop himself from skipping as he left the room. The Curator of Egyptology, Royal Ontario Museum, did not skip. It wasn’t dignified. But no one mortared, then sealed, an empty coffin.
“Yes!” He allowed himself one jubilant punch at the air in the privacy of the deserted upper cellar. “We’ve got ourselves a mummy!”
The movement had begun again and the memories strengthened. Sand and sun. Heat. Light. He had no need to remember darkness; darkness had been his companion for too long.
As the weight of the sarcophagus made flying out of the question, a leisurely trip back across the Atlantic on the grand old lady of luxury ocean liners, the QE II, would have been nice. Unfortunately, the acquisitions budget had been stretched almost to the breaking point with the purchase and the packing and the insurance and the best the museum could afford was a Danish freighter heading out of Liverpool for Halifax. The ship left England on October 2nd. God and the North Atlantic willing, she’d reach Canada in ten days.
Dr. Rax sent the two preparators back by plane and he himself traveled with the artifact. It was foolish, he knew, but he didn’t want to be parted from it. Although the ship occasionally carried passengers, the accommodations were spartan and the meals, while nourishing, were plain. Dr. Rax didn’t notice. Refused access to the cargo hold where he could be near the sarcophagus and the mummy he was sure it contained, he stayed as close as he could, caught up on paperwork, and at night lay in his narrow bunk and visualized the opening of the coffin.
Sometimes, he removed the seal and slid the end panel up in the full glare of the media; the find of the century, on every news program and front page in the world. There’d be book contracts, and speaking tours, and years of research as the contents were studied, then removed to be studied further.
Sometimes, it was just him and his staff, working slowly and meticulously. Pure science. Pure discovery. And still the years of research.
He imagined the contents in every possible form or combination of forms. Some nights expanding on the descriptions, some nights simplifying. It wouldn’t be a royal mummy—more likely a priest or an official of the court—and so hopefully would have missed the anointing with aromatic oils that had partially destroyed the mummy of Tutankhamen.
He grew so aware of it that he felt he could go into the hold and pick its container out of hundreds of identical containers. His thoughts became filled with it to the exclusion of all else; of the sea, of the ship, of the sailors. One of the Portuguese sailors began making the sign against the evil eye whenever he approached.
He started to speak to it each night before he slept.
“Soon,” he told it. “Soon.”
He remembered a face, thin and worried, bending over him and constantly muttering. He remembered a hand, the soft skin damp with sweat as it brushed his eyes closed. He remembered terror as he felt the fabric laid across his face. He remembered pain as the strip of linen that held the spell was wrapped around him and secured.
But he couldn’t remember self.
He could sense only one ka, and that at such a distance he knew it must be reaching for him as he reached for it.
“Soon,” it told him. “Soon.”
He could wait.
"Entertaining characters, wry humor, crazy plots, glimpses of horror, the occult, romance, and just a dollop of sex."—VOYA
"The novel [has] an unexpected serious theme that helps raise it above the crowd. It may be funny, often lighthearted and highly entertaining, but it's more than just another 'light' fantasy."—Locus
"A yummy concoction of equal parts fantasy and mystery, throwing in a splash of humor and a dash of romance to beguile the palate quite delightfully.... Ms. Huff manages to develop all her different plot threads to marvelous effect. How could anyone resist this vastly entertaining pastiche?"—RT Book Reviews
"A fine mix of the detective story with the supernatural, and easily Huff's best novel to date.... A rousing adventure tale with likable characters and an interesting setting."—Science Fiction Chronicle
"The author of the Blood novels has once again proven herself a master of urban fantasy."—Library Journal
"Huff tells a great story, but never takes herself or it too seriously. She consciously borrows elements from other books as well as movies, comics, and mythology and combines them with her own great imagination to make a thoroughly satisfying story."—SF Site