Find more from this author on:
About the author:
Dara Fogel is a philosopher, author and educator in the American Southwest. When she isn’t chasing after her young son, writing, or engaging in some level of cosplay, she ponders her existence, and assists others to do the same. As the bizarre product of a sci-fi loving, thespian/chemistry professor and a third-generation psychic/artist, Dara’s interests also include art, alternate histories, gnosticism and heretical science.
What inspired you to write your book?
I was inspired by authors such as Frank Herbert (the Dune series), Marion Zimmer Bradley (The Mists of Avalon & the Darkover series), Anya Seton (Green Darkness) and Tanith Lee (Night’s Master), among many others. I was also very intrigued by the conspiracy theories of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln. I started to wonder what would happen if a Victorian scumbag discovered he was a descendent of Jesus and Mary Magdalen, and then was called upon to save humanity? It has proven to be a very interesting lens through which to view and explore morality and Western cultural values, as well as metaphysics and the true nature of personal reality. Throw in the Illuminati, a spunky heroine and a mad genius, and youve got a walloping good time.
Here is a short sample from the book:
15 August, 1872 Villa D’Amici, Northern Italy 2:17 a.m.
“So, my friends, it is decided,” Don Alessandro Eduardo D’Amici told his guests as he ushered them through the secret doorway and into the wood-paneled library. Once all were inside, he said, “Sergio Aldo must be stopped, and it has fallen to we three to do it… we three and my Telepathon device!”
Don Alessandro, the twenty-third Marquis of Perego, pivoted closed and secured the two doors to a large enclosed bookcase, concealing the hidden stairway to the underground. The muffled click of a heavy bolt sounded as he turned the two keys simultaneously in their holes. He removed the keys from the thick, glass-paned doors and placed them into a small silver box, which he slipped into the pocket of his charcoal grey frock coat.
“Aldo cannot be allowed any further influence in the politics and governance of Europe,” Don Alessandro continued, turning to the others, determination hardening his kind features. He was the smallest of the trio, a pudgy man in his mid-seventies, bearded, with a white curly mane and the bearing of an indulgent grandfather. A sweet-acrid whiff of frankincense still clung to the spry Don, lingering evidence of nocturnal activities below.
He made his way to a large, carved mahogany desk, while his two comrades sank into deep red tufted leather armchairs. Behind the desk, a fire roared upon the large hearth, warmth seeping into joints still aching from subterranean cold, despite the moderate summer night outside. Over the mantle, beneath a peak-arched ceiling, hung a fantastical life-size portrait, in which a beautiful young woman in black and blue gazed serenely over the three from her nest of stars.
“Once more, the Dark Brotherhood rises up to threaten the world with violence and tyranny. We thought we had taught them decades past to keep to Bavaria. But like the hydra, they keep returning with a new face. Aldo and his old Carbonari ‘cousins’ are using the unification of Italy to usurp the will of the people. The Carbonari have put their corrupt puppets in high political offices, and are bleeding the nobility and merchants dry. They make themselves rich whilst the people suffer deprivations and tragedy in the wake of civil war. The blackguards are writing this new constitution to favor themselves and their bootlickers, whilst bewitching the foolish masses with talk of ‘One Italia!’ and false promises of security and prosperity.”
“But these Dark Ones are not content with taking only Italy,” the old Don went on, punctuating his words with broad gestures. “No, they threaten the liberty of all peoples, not only in Italy, but also in Spain, Prussia, France, even the Baltic kingdoms. Under the guise of nationalism, the Dark Ones sow the seeds of anarchy and seize the levers of power for themselves. Crying ‘Unity,’ they divide and conquer. Promising sovereignty, they dominate and rule like despots… They are fomenting rebellion and all over the Continent. And this is their most insidious goal, for they are reshaping of the minds of the masses by enticing them with the newest shiny toys. They convince the people to sell their life’s efforts and passions to purchase shoddy manufactured goods, losing their craftsmanship skills to become factory workers, wage slaves afraid to lose their positions, to think only what thoughts the Illuminati would have them think… rendering them incapable of free thought and higher perceptions. The intellectual and spiritual freedom of the world is threatened.”
“It is our duty to fight these forces of entropy and devolution,” D’Amici continued, urgency raising his voice. “If we, the Grail Guardians fail, then many of the other traditions will also fall, and our ancient wisdom will no longer be used to guide humanity – it will vanish from the world, or worse, instead be turned to selfish purposes, and God help us then. All of Europe – perhaps the world, depends on stopping the advance of the Dark Ones, and the soul-destroying greed and materialism they bring. Now, they have sent Aldo to wrest this stronghold from us. I have sworn to defend this repository with my life.” D’Amici slammed his fist on the leather desk pad. “I will destroy the Villa D’Amici and all the knowledge it contains before I will allow the Dark Ones to take it! …However, I am confident that it won’t come to that. I know it has been a long time, but we are now summoned us back into action, my brothers. I stand ready to take up my ancient duty. I now call upon your support to help stop Aldo – we three, just like the old days.”
“Yes, it is decided,” said a stern, spindly man, his long legs folded up beneath him. Giuseppe Calyx, Don Alessandro’s compatriot, was a Milanese judge with silvered hair and wire-rimmed spectacles poised on his hawk-like roman nose. A slight accent of Naples blurred his consonants. “But it is no longer the old days, ‘Sandro. Now, it is a new day…” He stopped to take a deep breath before continuing. “The Matriarch has requested I relay that, after much debate and meditation on the matter, she has approved your plan.” He bowed his head to the aging Don. “She orders you to stop work on developing the war machines for the time being and devote yourself to this matter.
“However, she cautions extreme care,” Calyx went on. “Aldo was one of the most influential members of the Carbonari during the wars and now he has allied himself with outliers from the Germanic wing of the Dark Ones. If he can make these two branches of the Dark Brotherhood to put aside their historical differences and work together… The Illuminati and the Carbonari allied.” He fought an unbidden shudder, and leaned forward to underscore the seriousness of his words. “Heavens defend us… There would be no end to the evil and death unleashed. Yes, we must stop Aldo before it is too late, before he is able to unite these diabolical influences.”
Don Alessandro bowed his white head in mute acknowledgement, hiding the twinkle in his eye.
“What concerns the Matriarch the most about your plan is granting Aldo any access to the villa,” Calyx reported. “We can’t risk losing the Archives, as well as your workshop. If something were to go amiss and Aldo were to gain control of this stronghold…” His pause allowed the implied catastrophe to dawn upon the others. “Aldo and his friends have manipulated the tax laws and will legally seize the Villa if we do nothing. We must act, but is this the best way? It is the ancient trust of your ancestors to hold and protect the library and the accumulated wisdom of our brotherhood that it contains, Alessandro. Under no circumstances can we allow Aldo and his minions to discover how much of the old knowledge we still possess. The disaster that could result if the Archives or the Genealogies fell into the wrong hands would be unlike any previously faced in Europe. It carries the potential to destroy all Christendom, to undermine the very fabric of our civilization. And what of your contrivances? If they managed to seize just one of your Phlogiston devices Aldo could subjugate any army practically single-handed. The only way he could penetrate this fortress’ defenses are from inside, by admitting him. Are you absolutely sure you can manage Aldo alone?”
The third member of the trio, a tall, man of late middling years, rose unbidden, went to a side table containing a large cut-glass cruet of Napoleon brandy and began pouring three stiff drinks.
“They didn’t make me Defender of the Ages for nothing, Giuseppe,” Don Alessandro retorted. “Aldo doesn’t yet know we are onto him. I shall lure him here under the pretense of developing some mineral deposits up in the north quadrant, and then use the Telepathon to capture his mind. Once our trap is sprung, you and Delacroix will step in. Aldo won’t know what hit him,” Don Alessandro said with relish. “Over twenty-one years of working with the blasted thing, but finally, I have it. The Telepathon is my greatest achievement! With it, we cannot only manipulate Aldo’s will, we can also peer into the contents of his very mind. But, you are right – Aldo is coming for Villa D’Amici, whether we stop him or no is up to us. Yes, the risk is great,” Don Alessandro answered the lanky Neapolitan with a reassuring smile, “but I think you give Aldo too much credit. I have dealt with the man, you have not. Aldo is just a glorified errand-boy. I’ll allow that he is cunning after a brutish fashion – but he is not that clever. Most of his success is due to blind luck and intimidation, not guile. You and I handled much worse than he, back in the old days, my friend. Aldo is nowhere near as wily as our old nemesis, Wittgenstein. Thank the heavens that devil Wittgenstein is long since dead and buried! Never fear, we three can easily dispatch the likes of Aldo. He will not have the opportunity to find the Archives.
“Even if Aldo does gain access to the villa, he is too lumpen to discover where Sangraal truly lies. Old Wittgenstein was a much subtler man than Signor Aldo. If I were up against Wittgenstein, then, yes, I would need all the help I could get. But Aldo… pah! The secrets of the Holy Grail are well hidden from the eyes of the profane. Don’t let your new title of Counsel to the Matriarch go to your head, Giuseppe,” he admonished Calyx with a wagging finger. “As well you know, my dear friend and partner, we D’Amici’s have been guardians of the Archives for over thirty generations. We have learned a thing or two about dealing with megalomaniacs bent on twisting our sacred heritage to their own advantage. ” Don Alessandro sat in the high-backed chair, with banked excitement.
He picked up a round brass clockwork device roughly the size of a grapefruit from his desk and waved it before his friends with bravado.
“Once I get the final adjustments completed on my Telepathon, Aldo will become our willing servant. I just need a little more time to calibrate the aetheric resonator with the new power source. The preliminary results are very promising… very promising indeed! Then, I will be able to impress upon Aldo that he has pursued the wrong path by directly accessing the inner recesses of his mind. I can use the Telepathon to learn from Aldo the Dark Brotherhoods’ future intention, and determine if the Matriarch’s suspicions are justified. The intelligences we access should prove extremely valuable. Once Aldo steps into range, boom! My Telepathon will ensnare him, whether he will it or no… We may then hold him for as long as necessary for the Matriarch to complete preparations for her campaign with our main forces, while we squeeze Aldo for information to help our brethren fighting so hard throughout Europe.”
“I hope so, Sandro, I certainly hope so…” replied Calyx. “No one doubts your genius or your invention. However, I must confess to some ethical misgivings about mentally entrapping our enemies… Isn’t that precisely why we condemn them – for enslaving the minds of the masses? I know what you are going to say, Sandro… they do it through deception for diabolical motives, and we are using your mind machine to protect the future of humanity… But does the end justify the means? Does resorting to their level, even if it is to defeat them – doesn’t that corrupt the morality of our efforts…?”
“I can understand your scruples, Peppe,” Don Alessandro said. “But the harsher truth is, if we do not change Aldo’s mind, the only other alternative is to kill him. He is too dangerous to allow his blundering schemes to continue. We must protect this keep. I doubt he would find a nice philosophical conversation sufficiently persuasive.”
Calyx’s dark eyes took on a faraway stare and he considered the conundrum. Then, shaking his head and his doubt, he continued. “But, yes, you are right. The Matriarch agrees with your assessment. We must protect this stronghold. The greater good demands that we use all means at our disposal to stop our enemies. We don’t have the resources for a frontal attack, and therefore needs must use subterfuge before it is too late,” Calyx agreed thoughtfully, rubbing his temple with one hand as he accepted with the other a proffered crystal snifter of brandy from the third, silent member of the trio. “We may not get a second chance. But we must be sure. Remember, it is not only we Guardians whose fortunes are at stake, this has much broader implications. Mater Magda was very clear on that… What about your neighbor?”
Don Alessandro cracked a crooked grin.
“Old Stephano Calendri? He’s in,” the Marquis declared with satisfaction. “He doesn’t like the new regime any more than we do. Calendri knows what is at risk and is willing to buy us all the time we need. Our old ‘feud’ has proven a very helpful camouflage, in that regard. Don’t worry, Peppe. You’ll see… It will be just like that time in Budapest.”
Calyx glanced sidelong at Don Alessandro, as he muttered, “I think we remember Budapest differently.” Removing his spectacles, he wiped them with a monogrammed linen handkerchief before returning them to their craggy perch. He then turned to the other member of their trio. “But what about you, Anton? You haven’t said a word.”
The silent man cleared his throat, uncomfortably on the spot, as he handed a fine crystal snifter to the Don, before taking a swig from his own glass.
“Well, I can see no way around it,” he sighed at last.
Of the three men, Anton Delacroix was the youngest, being in his late fifties, yet easily the most imposing, even compared to the tall Neapolitan Calyx. Powerful, yet leanly built, Delacroix was in the last flush of robust middle age, with an easy agility that once fluttered many a young lady’s heart. His shoulders were still broad and strong, but his narrow waist thickened. His handsomely weathered features twisted into a scowl above his salt-and-pepper beard, as his quick, perceptive eyes moved between his two companions.
“Obviously, Aldo must be stopped before he can gain a foothold. He cannot be allowed to take Villa D’Amici,” Delacroix said, his deep resonant voice carrying a note of concern. “But, I don’t understand why such a delicate job is left to us. We are all well past our prime. Why doesn’t the Matriarch get some younger men to take down Aldo?”
“Because there are no young men available,” Don Alessandro scowled. “You know as well as I that we lost the flower of our warriors in the wars, the remainders are either in Prussia or Spain, like Diego, preparing for the next campaign. Without sons and grandsons, all that is left is old men and babes.”
“Yes, yes, I know all that. But what of that Haldane fellow?” Delacroix argued impatiently, as he retook his seat facing Don Alessandro. Calyx looked over sharply at the name. “Aldo plans to include him in his plot, already. Perhaps Haldane could be convinced to help from inside Aldo’s camp as a double agent. Even if his mother did go renegade, he’s still in the Lineage, and the lad shows promise. I’ve been keeping tabs on him, you know, despite what the Registrar might say about the official purity of his blood. I suspect that he might even carry some of the Delivier gifts, from his mother’s line, of course.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that too,” Don Alessandro agreed, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “He’s certainly got the kind of tactical expertise we sorely need. We might approach him and see where he stands.”
“I suggested as much to the Matriarch, but she said absolutely not,” Calyx said with cautious regret. “Haldane’s too unpredictable, just like his mother. Four decades later and we are still reeling from the blow she dealt us. She set back the Program for generations to come.” Delacroix looked away at Calyx’s words.
The judge continued, “The Matriarch knows how gifted his line is, but that branch of the Delivier bloodline has become unstable, too adulterated with outsider blood. Besides, he is completely untrained, and well past the usual age of training. He has already developed bad habits that he likely could not unlearn. Haldane is unsuitable for our purposes. If the British Royal Army is unable to control him, what makes you think we could do any better? …No, we cannot involve Haldane in this deeper than Aldo intends. The Mater forbids Haldane’s involvement in this scheme of yours, Sandro. If Aldo suspected that Haldane knew the secret of his own heritage, Aldo would kill him without a second thought. As it is, Haldane is all too prone to Aldo’s manipulations. For his own safety and ours, Haldane must never learn of our existence or his own hidden inheritance. We might be able to retrieve his bloodline in a generation or two, once the fires of rebellion have burnt out. But it is best that more experienced heads handle this. It is therefore up to us alone, we cannot trust Haldane.”
The other men nodded in grudging agreement.
“Pity to waste all that potential,” Delacroix murmured. “But I suppose you’re right, Calyx.”
Behind the reflective glass of his wire-rim spectacles, Calyx’s eyes flashed relief at Delacroix’s capitulation. He stood abruptly.
“I must be getting back to Milano – I’m expected at court in the morning. I trust you will notify both Delacroix and I when the time comes?”
“Of course, Giuseppe,” the Don muttered, his white goatee twisted in a thoughtful frown, as he stood up. “I hope that you will be able to get some rest on your long ride back to town.”
“Oh… and one more thing” Calyx paused, peering at the large painting of the ebony and cream young woman dominating the mantle. “A caution to you, Alessandro – keep your daughters well away from Haldane, should he ever have occasion to visit the villa. Remember the prophecy – and his reputation with the fairer sex.”