The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Lost Stories Collection
The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Lost Stories Collection is a part of the The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel collection.
Nicholas Flamel appeared in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series—but did you know he really lived? You can learn his secrets in the bestselling Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, and discover the Lost Stories—tales of myth, legend, and magic, previously lost to history and now in a new paperback edition!
Enter the world of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel like you never have before.
The legendary alchemyst Nicholas Flamel and his wife, the sorceress Perenelle, traveled the globe for centuries before they discovered the Twins of Legend, Josh and Sophie Newman. Secrets abound—and now you can discover even more of the Flamels’ story in this volume of eight stories set in the world of the internationally bestselling series.
Stand with the Flamels when they find the Codex, the book that holds the secret to their immortality. Follow Machiavelli under the perilous streets of Paris. Join Scatty and her twin, Aoife, as they journey through mysterious Shadowrealms. Within these pages you will meet enemies old and new and forge alliances with characters from history, myth, and legend, all as you uncover new mysteries and discover answers to questions remaining in the original series.
The Lost Stories Collection contains never-seen-in-print stories featuring series favorites like Niccolò Machiavelli, Billy the Kid, and Virginia Dare, as well as new characters like Edgar Allan Poe and St. Nicholas.
Every myth holds a grain of truth. Discover the truth now!
An Excerpt fromThe Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel: The Lost Stories Collection
A flash of light in the gloomy forest below, a blink of silver in the shadows.
It lasted less than a single heartbeat, vanishing in the same moment that the Airgead Sun dipped below the horizon, leaving only the Óir Sun low in the purpling skies.
“Stop!” The slender young woman in the long waxed cloak, scuffed black leather jerkin and trousers raised a clenched fist as she reined in her tall spiral-horned mount.
Behind her, a dozen huge-wheeled ox-drawn carts came to a lumbering, creaking halt. The long-horned oxen steamed and sweated in the chill air, too exhausted to bellow, and the drovers were experienced enough to remain still and quiet. Six mismatched mercenary guards fell into defensive positions, two on either side and two behind the last wagon, bows and crossbows ready.
Standing in the stirrups, the woman pushed back the hood of a heavy wire-lined cloak, revealing short spiky red hair. Shading bright green eyes against the low light of the setting Óir Sun, she looked ahead and to her left, down into the deeply shadowed valley below the narrow trail.
Moments ago, she’d caught a glimpse of something, but it had vanished as quickly as it appeared. It might have been a trick of the fading suns, the warm golden light of the Óir Sun catching a pool of water, a flock of birds, or weaving bats, but her instincts were telling her otherwise, and Aoife of the Shadows had long ago discovered that warriors who ignored their instincts had a very short life span. Though she looked no older than seventeen, Aoife’s age was measured in centuries, and she fully intended to live for at least a millennium.
Sinking back into the saddle, eyes wide and unblinking, she slowly moved her head left and right, not looking at anything in particular, nostrils flaring, confident that if there was anything out of place, then her unconscious mind would spot it.
“What is it?” Nels the wagon master demanded, interrupting her. The huge ox drover pushed his way through the steaming teams to stand alongside Aoife. He caught the horn jutting from the forehead of Aoife’s mount and held the beast’s head away from his face. The aonbheannach were beautiful but ill-tempered, with huge teeth capable of crushing a man’s arm. Even though Aoife was sitting on the tall slender animal, the wagon master’s bald and deeply scarred skull was almost on a level with hers.
Aoife shook her head. “I’m not sure,” she said quietly, still looking. “I saw something in the valley.”
“Where is it?”
“Probably nothing,” Nels grunted. “A reflection, maybe.” He tugged at the reins of the aonbheannach, urging it forward.
Aoife clamped booted heels against the beast’s side; the creature straightened it legs and refused to move.
Nels gave up. Though they were fine-boned and looked delicate and deer-like, the aonbheannach were as strong as his own oxen and only permitted female riders. The big man looked up at the Óir Sun and then back down the wagon train strung out along the narrow track behind them. “We need to move on. We’re leaving a trail even a blind snake could follow.”
“Most snakes have terrible eyesight but an excellent sense of smell,” Aoife remarked, glancing sidelong at the wagon master.
Nels exuded a sour sweat, which, mingling with the rich odor of oxen, enveloped him in an almost tangible miasma. Aoife suspected that there was Boggart or Torc blood in the stinking wagon leader; she had never seen a man so ugly, and it would certainly account for his perpetual ill-humor.
“The light is fading, and I don’t want to be out on the mountains after dark.”
“Afraid?” Aoife’s teeth were sharp white points against her pale, thin lips.
“Yes,” Nels said quickly. “And so would you be if you knew what lived in the woods.”
“I am Aoife of the Shadows,” she snapped. “I fear nothing.”
“Not even your sister?” Nels said slyly, but the smile died on his lips as Aoife fixed icy green eyes on him. Color drained from her face, leaving the scattering of freckles across her cheeks and nose looking like spots of bright blood.
“It would be a mistake to mention her name in my presence,” she hissed. Her hand fell to the hilt of the coiled metal whip fixed to her saddle.
“I meant no disrespect,” Nels mumbled abruptly, realizing that he had overstepped.
“Yes, you did. I will forgive you this time,” Aoife answered, “but not a second time. Do not test me. Do I make myself clear?”
Nels stepped away quickly, then turned and stomped back down the wagon train, checking the oxen, grumbling at the drivers. He was experienced enough not to raise his voice: sound would carry far into the gathering night . . . and besides, Aoife might hear him. And though he’d never admit it, there was something about the red-haired girl that frightened him . . . even though he was convinced she was not the Aoife of the Shadows.
He knew the legend of Aoife the Gateholder, of course. All of Tir Tairngaire knew the story of the red-haired, green-eyed warrior who’d stood alone at the ancient stone henge and fought the wriggling monsters who’d crawled through the opening. She’d defended that gate for three days and three nights, until the Sheking’s army finally arrived. And then, it was said, Aoife led the charge into the henge and carried the fight into the beasts’ lair. If she hadn’t held the gate, then the monsters would have overrun the island kingdom. Nothing would have survived.
But that had been hundreds of years in the past, and Nels believed that this was just another red-haired green-eyed northern warrior who’d taken the legend’s name as her own. Though occasionally, like now, he was not so sure. Sometimes when she looked at him, he caught the same expression he’d seen in the eyes of ox drovers looking at their cattle: they were looking at dumb beasts needing protection. Watching her over the past few days, he’d come to the conclusion that she was not entirely humani. Maybe she was a half-breed and that was what was making him uneasy. She probably had Fir Dearg or Sidhe blood in her. But she was definitely not the Aoife of the Shadows.
Aoife maneuvered the jet-black aonbheannach to the edge of the trail. Leaning forward, she rested her chin on the beast’s bony skull and peered between its upright pointed ears. The valley below was in shadow. There was a creeping chill on the back of her neck that she had come to know and respect. Staring into the gloom, she allowed her gaze to roam over the dense covering of trees, not looking for anything, simply waiting for something to impress itself on her consciousness. Instincts honed on a hundred Shadowrealms and across centuries were telling her that something was there, something old.
Deliberately not turning her head, aware of the object at the very periphery of her vision, she waited. There was a flash of gold-washed silver, indistinct, fragmentary against the gathering gloom. Then it vanished, lost in a swirl of leaves as she heard something ponderous move on the forest floor. Aoife’s nostrils flared as she tried to work out what could be prowling through these dark northern forests at this time of year. The air was moist with growth and rot, but she thought it smelled like a Torc Madra, a werewolf, though they usually moved silently. It could be any of the Torc clans: bear, boar, forest lion, or elk. This world had more than its share of monsters. In the days following the destruction of Danu Talis, this Shadowrealm had been created by the Archon Cernunnos, a huge horned creature who had populated his world with all manner of beasts. It was said that he hunted them for sport and then took their heads for his trophy wall. Cernunnos did not distinguish between human or animal either.
The crippled Dwarf known only as Bes rode out from the main body of the caravan, urging a shaggy mountain pony over the muddy path. It whinnied nervously as it drew near to the aonbheannach, breaking Aoife’s concentration.
“What is it?” Bes asked, voice rasping and labored. Even though he was wrapped in a heavy oiled traveling cloak, the small man was shivering.
Aoife ran her fingers through her hair. “I saw something in the valley.”
“What did you see?” he asked.
“A light where there should be none,” Aoife murmured.
“Can you see it now?”
“The light is gone. Something moved through the undergrowth.”
“Dangerous?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” she answered. “My instincts are always to err on the side of caution.”
“The veil between the worlds is thin within the Wildwoode,” Bes said very quietly. “Who knows what creatures have come through from other realms.” The Dwarf’s single coal-black eye fixed on Aoife, and in that moment, she guessed that he knew her true nature.
Aoife had no idea who--or even what--Bes was; he had the copper skin and black eye of an easterner, his manners were elegant and refined, and yet his teeth were filed to points in the style of the cannibal Northsea islanders. She was aware that he spoke the Common Tongue with just the trace of an accent she’d never heard on this world before.
Nels hurried over. “We need to move now. We’re losing the light,” he said. When he’d seen the Dwarf talking to the woman, he’d tried to creep closer, but both the Dwarf and the woman had deliberately turned to look at him and he stopped. “I’ll not delay here simply because this woman has a vague feeling . . . ,” he began.
Bes turned his head to face Nels squarely. He was missing his left eye, and the empty cavity was filled with a white marble etched with a swirling triple spiral. His bloodshot right eye fixed on Nels’s face. “I hired you to lead this wagon across the mountains,” he said, every word a rasping effort, “because you came highly recommended. Aoife I hired as guard because she was as highly regarded.”
“I don’t know this woman,” Nels grumbled. “I heard Aoife--the real Aoife of the Shadows--was killed by a thunderbird in the Westlands. This is probably some army deserter who has taken her name. Who recommended her, anyway? Some rogue--”
“The same rogue who recommended you,” Bes snapped. “Someone I respect, and someone who should not be insulted. Now remember who pays you. Get back to your wagon.”
Nels glared at Aoife, who smiled slightly, exposing her pointed incisors. The big man turned away quickly and returned to the first wagon. He took his time checking the two lead oxen, running a calloused hand over the large wooden wheels. Only when he was sure that neither Bes nor Aoife could see him did he spit his disgust into the dirt.
“Something down there troubles me,” Aoife said quietly, leaning forward on the pommel of her saddle. Unconsciously, her fingers traced a trio of scars that began just under her left eye and ran down to her jawline.
Bes looked into the shadows. “I can see nothing,” he admitted, “but then again, my sight is not as it once was. However, I’ve lived this long because I’ve learned to trust the opinions of those I respect.”
“I’ve done nothing to earn your respect,” Aoife said, glancing sidelong at him. “I have not worked for you before.”
“Oh, I have heard of your exploits, Aoife of the Shadows,” Bes said softly. “And unlike our smelly friend, I know you to be the true Aoife. You are held in high esteem by those I respect . . . and that is good enough for me,” Bes added, lips moving in what might have passed for a smile.
“Who recommended me for this job?” Aoife asked.
“A woman who might not have been entirely human,” he said, a hint of sadness in his voice.
“And you’ve met nonhumans before,” Aoife said, turning the question into a statement.
“I was not always as you see me, half blind and neither as fast nor as sharp as I once was. In my youth I was considered handsome. And I had adventures that took me across this world . . . and others,” he added so quietly that she had to strain to hear him.
Aoife nodded. “I suspected that you were not from this place.”
“I was not born on this world, but it is home to me now.”
“And this woman--the one who might not have been entirely human, who recommended me for this job--did she have a name?” Aoife asked.
“I’ve heard her called a witch, but when I first encountered her, when we were both a lot younger, I knew her by the name Zephaniah.” He paused and added very softly, “No doubt you know her.”
Aoife looked back into the valley but did not answer.
“I will take your silence as a yes,” Bes said. “She was sometimes in the company of a man with one hand,” he added.
Aoife nodded almost imperceptibly. “Zephaniah is my grandmother.”
“And the hook-handed man?”
“He has many names. Now he goes mostly by Marethyu.”
She nodded. “Death.”
“Rather dramatic,” Bes murmured.
“But also true. You might know him by other names; he has been called the Destroyer of Worlds.”
“Ah.” The man nodded in recognition. “My people called him Inpu.” From beneath his cloak he produced a small amulet he wore on a leather cord around his neck. A beautifully ornate sickle, shaped from a single piece of amber. “I often wondered why the symbol for death was a curved blade. I always thought it symbolized cutting down or weeding.” He held the amber half circle up to the fading light. “I never thought it simply represented his hook.”
“My grandmother,” Aoife said, “how did she look?”
“Unchanged, unaged, beautiful. Exactly as I last saw her one hundred and more years ago.”
Aoife caught the hint of emotion in his voice, and for an instant, there was the suggestion of moisture in his single eye.
“I presume my grandmother asked you to hire me for a reason?”
“She asked me to pass on a message to you,” the Dwarf answered. He sounded almost relieved that they had moved beyond painful memories. “She said the message came from Death himself.”
“I wonder why he did not deliver it in person,” Aoife pressed.
“I asked her. She said that an old threat has reappeared, and that he had gone in search of an army.”
“Usually I--or my sister,” she added reluctantly, “are all the army he needs. What was his message?”
“She said I was to tell you that your quest nears its end.”
“That’s it?” she asked, trying and failing to keep the disappointment out of her voice. “Did she wonder how I was doing or ask after my health?”