A violet firework exploded, gold tendrils arcing from its center and cascading over the city like a weeping willow. An oooooh rose from the crowd.
I turned us a little more toward Daniel Melech and ran my fingers up and down Stellan’s arm, glancing around at the crowd. Most of the Circle families we’d been waiting for were here now.
When we’d learned about the virus, we’d also learned something more: there was a remedy. Napoleon had left the remedy buried. I fear it will only make matters worse, he’d written.
He was right.
With the virus, the Saxons could manipulate their way into control of the Circle—or take it by force. The ideal, of course, would be to destroy the virus, but that was impossible—we were the virus. And any attempts by the team of scientists we’d hired to try to deactivate it in our blood had been unsuccessful. There was just one safeguard.
Lydia had called me every day for weeks after my mom had been killed. So had my father. When I finally answered, Lydia had promised that they’d never meant for my mother to be caught in the cross fire. All they’d wanted was to use what we’d found for the good of the family. The virus in Paris was entirely Cole’s doing, and not sanctioned, she’d said. I knew it was true—Lydia and my father were too cautious to release something so deadly without a way to stop it.
So the Saxons were looking for this remedy. We had to find it before them. And since we couldn’t destroy the virus, we had to destroy the cure instead.
There were more explosions in the sky, set to music only we at this party could hear. Tendrils of multicolored light twisted through the clouds, and I smiled blandly at something Stellan was saying.
We’d been following a virtual treasure map of Napoleon Bonaparte’s since I’d come to the Circle. The final clue pointed to Alexandria, Egypt, as the location of Alexander the Great’s tomb, where the cure was hidden. But even though we had the benefit of nearly unlimited Circle resources, we’d found nothing there. Nothing at various excavation sites. Nothing by ground-penetrating radar.
It was almost accidental how we came across the clue that finally pointed us in the right direction. I’d been reading Napoleon’s diaries over again, combing through story after story that had nothing to do with our quest—battles and strategy and marriages and affairs. And I’d come across something that caught my eye—an entry that referred to returning an unnamed body to its rightful rest. The entry just before it had been torn out. Through some research, we’d discovered that Napoleon had been in Venice at that time.
Jack, with his seemingly endless memory for random facts, was the one who made the connection. There was a theory that linked Venice with Alexander’s body. An archaeological rumor, started by a researcher who had never been able to prove it. Most of the community of historians scoffed at it. The theory said that in the ninth century AD, Alexander’s bones had been mistaken for those of St. Mark, and had been taken to Venice, where they rested for centuries in San Marco Basilica. That Alexander’s body had never been in his own tomb at all.
It was a ridiculous, desperate idea, but we were desperate people. We traveled to San Marco Basilica and, after some tests, found that “St. Mark’s” bones weren’t his at all—but they also weren’t Alexander’s. They dated from the early 1800s. “That’s right when Napoleon wrote that diary entry,” Elodie had said, finally excited about the idea. “He could have moved Alexander’s body back to his real tomb and left some other body in Venice to cover it up.”
But if Alexander’s body wasn’t there, it didn’t help us. We would have been at the end of the road if Elodie hadn’t remembered that the Catholic Church preserved relics of some of their most important saints at the Vatican.
Being Circle did come with some useful privileges, and one of those was that we were able to get into the Vatican and check. It turned out they did have a relic of “St. Mark’s.” A femur. We took it. We tested it.
Despite the evidence we’d seen, we were still shocked when the bone dated to somewhere around 350 BC. Alexander’s time.
“There was a prophecy just after Alexander died that said whoever possessed his body would never be defeated. That was a major cause of the early Diadochi wars,” Jack had remembered. “Is it possible that this bone could be the cure somehow?” But that hope was put on the back burner when our team of scientists discovered something else: a message, etched into a crevice in the bone.
From whence our queen made the twelve, our king’s bone unlocks a map to the place of eternal rest.
Our king, we surmised, was Alexander, and the bone the one in our hands. Our queen appeared to refer to Olympias, Alexander’s mother. She was the one who had created the virus as a way to bring her own line back to power. She’d done the modifications on the Diadochi—Alexander’s twelve generals, who had split his kingdom between them to become the twelve families of the Circle—that both made them susceptible to the virus and gave them the violet eye gene. The ceremony when she’d done this had been the first and only initiation ritual the Circle had done.
Tomorrow, our initiation would be the second.
Ironic that I’d been pushing back against my “fate” with the Circle for so long, and now it was exactly where we needed to be. That didn’t mean we weren’t going to make a last-ditch effort to find whatever it was the bone unlocked before we had to go through with the ceremony itself.
Once we’d realized the clue had to do with the initiation ceremony, we’d gathered as much intel as we could. Jack and Stellan and Elodie knew a little about the original ceremony from the Circle history they’d been taught. Our friends Luc and Colette knew more as members of the Dauphin family, and Luc was able to snag some old texts from the Dauphins’ library to fill in some gaps. There would probably be fire, we found. There would probably be chanting and invocations and some form of accepting us in. But we needed specifics. We assumed we were looking for an object. Something concrete that could be unlocked.
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