The Legions of Eyes shall rise

"Necavi, necavisti, necavit, necavimus, necavistis,neca... necavint? This is stupid, Master Legard." Margaret slammed her book down on the table, heedless of its value. "Why do I need to know Latin? Nobody believes that girls need a classical education anymore. It's not going to teach me to run a home, or get me a husband, and it's certainly not going to help me fight demons." She batted her eyelashes at him, trying for outrageous. "Couldn't we do some combat training instead?"

Christopher Legard looked up from the notes he'd been making as Margaret mangled her Latin. "What's the matter, Pretty Peggy? Feeling frustrated? You think that taking out your failure to study on the decrepit old body of your poor tutor will make everything better?" He scowled at her, and she giggled.

"Oh yes, my ancient tutor." She pursed her lips in a 15-year-old's parody of seduction. "Who's in trouble again for seducing poor Lady Jane Darby. If you keep up your swath of destruction through the Queen's ladies, your infamy might grow to the point at my parents learn who you are, and then there will be trouble."

"That they might wonder why a dissolute lordling is tutoring the daughter of a merchant and his Venetian wife? Don't worry, comfit, your honored parents are far too oblivious to Court dealings." He tapped sternly on her discarded Latin grammar. "I, on the other hand, am not so oblivious to your attempts to escape work. Neco, necare."

Margaret picked up her book, and flipped it open to a random page. "But why, Master Legard? Why keep up this pretense when there are vampires to stake, demons to kill? Ungodly evil to vanquish." She reached... what else could she find? "Malice to defeat. Peccancy to destroy. Um, inquity to scourge!"

He grinned and chucked her under the chin. "You sound like the Inquisition, marchpane. Bloodthirsty Mogget, a Slayer needs an education not just to defeat evil, but to recognize it. What if what you're fighting isn't a vampire? What if you're fighting a sorcerer? You need to know if what he's chanting is an invocation to Satan, the summoning of a demon, an apocalyptic spell, or a surrender. So when we are done with Latin there shall be Greek, and Aramaic, and Hebrew. " He waited until she met his eyes. "Is it so hard, Peg? I promise you can kill some vampires tonight. And I have to leave you to your family at noon, anyway, as it's Friday."

Margaret sighed, a touch theatrically. "Oh, fine. Slaying later. Studying now." She flipped through the pages. "Um. Momordi, momordisti, momordit --"

"Pardon, sly baggage, you'll not cozen me. I'll thank you to get neco right, before you move on."

Damn, she'd hoped he wouldn't notice. Well, maybe there would enough vampires tonight that the day wouldn't be a complete loss.

Late at night, after her parents and even most of the servants were asleep, Margaret slipped out of bed and changed into the bundle of clothes she kept beneath the false bottom of her clothes press. The hose and tunic were disgraceful, but she had them done up like an acrobat's outfit, which allowed her freedom of movement and she climbed down the wall outside her bedroom window. When Master Legard had first started teaching her slaying, he'd suggested that she wear boys' clothes. Apparently that was what his books told him slayers wore. Poor Master Legard had been somewhat nonplussed to be confronted with a short and dumpy slayer who could never pass for male, even in boys' garb. The books didn't cover that eventuality. So they made do, and now she roamed the streets of London at night dressed like a short and dumpy acrobat in slightly indecent clothes. Given how many whores populated London's nighttime streets, she wasn't too worried about being bothered for indecency.

Speaking of prostitutes, there was one right on that corner, leading a drunken and wealthy looking young man into an alleyway. Funny, but the woman looked more eager for what was about to happen than Margaret would expect of a street corner whore. Margaret hefted her stake, licked her lips in anticipation, and sidled up to the lovemaking pair. "Pardon, good sir. I think you should come with me. I'll give you a better time than this wench." It sickened her to speak this way, but she had to get the vampire's victim to safety.

The prostitute spun around with a snarl. "Get off my turf, you whoreson mandrake, or I'll --" She was too involved in her curses to notice the stake until a moment before she dissolved into dust. Margaret grasped the arm of the stunned looking young man and led him back toward the main street, making placating sounds about too much to drink. As soon she could be shut of him, she headed back toward her patrol at St. Mary Overy's. That kill had been much too swift, and scarcely any fun at all. It was probably for the best; a flamboyant vampire-killing spree in the public streets was probably not the safest thing she could do, but she barely felt warmed up.

When she reached the Southwark churchyard, Master Legard was waiting for her, lounging desultorily on a gravestone, cleaning his elegant fingernails with a stake. Away from her parents' house and his tutor's identity, he was always much more glamorous, with gold embroidery on his hose and an emerald dangling from his ear. "Pardon my lateness, sir," she said. "I ran into a vampire in Bankside."

"You shouldn't cut through Bankside, madam," he said, taking up a guard position behind her. "Your parents would not approve."

"No, sir, and nor would they approve of my slaying demons in Southwark while wearing boys' tunic and hosen." She walked nonchalantly between gravestones, pretending not to notice the two vampires lurking at the cemetery's edge.

"Of course not, baggage. If you're going to slay, you could have the courtesy to stay close to home and kill the Cheapside demons." He leaned toward her as if he were a lover.

Margaret giggled and made cows' eyes back at him. "While wearing a farthingale, of course."

The vampires didn't attack all at once, but took the opportunity to taunt what they thought was a pair of lovers (and this was one of Margaret's favorite parts of the game: being mistaken for the lover of a man who, while positively old -- nearly 36! -- was awfully sexy and worldly).

"Look, John," said the taller of the two, still in human face. "A hopped-up lord taking his leman for a tour of the stews. How charming."

John the vampire leered like a far more human variety of villain. "Give us a kiss, then, love. And then your valuables."

"In any order," said the first vampire.

Margaret smiled beatifically at her tutor, keeping her attention on the vampires all the while. "Alderliefest," she cooed, "did you arrange this entertainment just for me? Fond man."

Master Legard returned her smile. "Anything for you, dear heart."

The vampires charged, and Master Legard stepped back to lean against a nearby tomb and watch. Margaret rushed with energy as she kicked one in the head, then grappled with the other while the first staggered back. She prolonged the fight longer than need be just for the fun of it. When the fight was over, she walked back to her tutor, brushing the dust off our sleeves.

"Why did you close for combat, Peg?" he asked.

"Practice, sir." She shrugged. "I knew it would be a simple fight, and you're always telling me that I am weak at wrestling. I thought I could use the practice."

He looked thoughtful. "Fair reasoning. But be careful. Practice is no reason to risk your --" He stopped as a third vampire leapt out from behind the church, fully in demon mode and screaming incoherently: you killed my friends I'll kill you both how dare you I'll make it slow you'll get yours. Master Legard grabbed the demon by one arm and slammed him into the nearest tombstone -- a cross, as it happened -- where the monster fizzed and screamed, and something jangled as it fell. Margaret flipped a stake through the air which cut off the vampire in the midst of his crazed shouts. You'll see the Doctor will take you and all of London and its heresies too no don't!

Margaret stepped forward and picked up the metal disc in the still settling pile of dust. AmuletA cross-like structure was surrounded by strange and disturbing symbols. She turned a shaken gaze on her tutor, who returned it with a troubled look of his own.

"Who is the Doctor?" she asked, and for once he had neither answer nor jest.

Over the next week it was more of the same. Margaret killed six vampires and a Hogarth Demon, and heard about "the Doctor" four more times. Master Legard arrived one Thursday an hour late for her lessons with a nasty bruise on his temple; he told her he been jumped in broad daylight by a Shur-Hod who'd yelled "For the Doctor and down with the false gods!" during its charge.

"I can't find anything about our friend the Doctor," he told her. "All I can discover through my usual channels is that the image on that amulet has something to do with an obscure prophecy called the Rantapharian Codex. I'm afraid we're going to need to call in reinforcements and go to my father. In all England, only he and his Collegium friends have a translation of the poxy thing; this could get ugly. Are you game, madam?" He looked genuinely worried.

Margaret was confused. "Ugly, sir? I thought your father was the one who trained you to be a watcher of slayers. Aren't we all fighting for the same side?"

Master Legard sighed. "It's a long story. I trust in your secrecy, poppet?" Margaret nodded. "My father -- and most of his peers among those who watched the slayer line -- never became comfortable with the new Church."

"They're heretics?" Margaret was shocked.

"It isn't that simple. Remember, they'd all been fighting demons and watching over the slayer line for untold generations. Their sorcery wasn't merely with the sanction of the church -- unlike ours, which is practiced largely in secret -- it was within the church. The Collegium Spectatorum didn't particularly separate between religion and the mission." The worried line between his eyebrows relaxed as he settled into lecturer mode. "It was easy for them to think that the divine magic we use in the fight came from the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and any magic that could be used within the Reformed Church must perforce be demonic."

"Instead, they were the ones practicing demonic magic."

Master Legard looked tired. "No, poppet. No one is practicing demonic magic. Whether used by a papist or by a member of the Church of England, our magic defeats evil and demons just the same."

"But they're heretics," Margaret protested. "And isn't the Collegium Spectatorum part of the Inquisition? How can that be on the side of God?"

Master Legard flipped open one of the demonology treatises lying on Margaret's work table. He looked almost idly through woodcuts of vampires, demons, and apocalyptic beasts. "By this point I would think you'd have a pretty good idea of what evil looks like. The Inquisition comes pretty close, and I've no love lost for the Collegium Spectatorum, the church office which watches slayers in Catholic countries. They lost sight of our mission when they joined the Inquisition a few decades back. But though I know you've never seen a Catholic mass, I can assure you that it does not resemble the Sisterhood of Jhe feasting on its enemies, or a spawning Skilosh demon." He left the book open to a page of Satan visiting a Black Mass, and tuouched her cheek so she would meet his eyes. "I'd rather you didn't tell your priest or Her Majesty I've said this, but a Catholic mass is just another way of worshiping God."

"So the Catholics don't really worship the devil, then?"

He shook his head.

"Or sell English children to the paynim for their seraglios?"

"Where are you hearing these things, poppet?"

"Or eat babies' scrotums?"

He barked a laugh. "Do you even know what a scrotum is? And I'll have you remember your Latin, girl."

She smiled, relieved by his manner. "Sorry, sir. Scrota." Intrigued, she added, "what are they, anyway?"

"Something Catholics don't eat, and that's the best you're going to get from me on the subject."

Well, it was worth a try. Changing the subject was the better part of valor, anyway, or he'd press her on the subject of where she was learning her rumors and then she would get in trouble for listening to servants' gossip. "So we do we go visit your father?"

Master Legard's father's London house was grand. Margaret was impressed. Day after day Master Legard pretended to be a simple tutor at her house, and he'd grown up with more luxury than even a wealthy merchant's daughter could quite comprehend. He clearly wasn't noticing the wealth. Well, why would he? It had been his home, after all, and today he was once again dressed the part, in black and silver finery. While they waited in the anteroom for Lord Goring, Margaret was appalled that her always calm, always collected tutor and mentor was... fidgeting? Pacing, fiddling with objets d'art, and once even gnawing on a thumbnail. When he caught her looking, he whipped his hand away from his mouth and glared at her as if to dare her to make a comment. Usually she would have giggled at catching him out in something embarrassing, but right now she was petrified. What an ogre Lord Goring must be that Master Legard of all people was worried.

When the door was flung open, Margaret braced herself for the worst. A plainly dressed gentleman slightly older than her father burst in and paused on the threshold. Master Legard looked steadily at his feet, the wall, the fireplace. Everywhere but at the newcomer. After long moment, the gentleman clapped his hands on Master Legard's shoulders.

"You came to see me." There was a note in his voice that Margaret couldn't understand. Was he about to start screaming? If he started hitting, she would stop him. She was the slayer, she could certainly subdue one old man.

Master Legard was still looking only at his feet. "Yes, sir."

"You came to see me, boy." Lord Goring looked at his son until last Master Legard looked up, blushing. Blushing? He was capable of blushing? "I never meant for you to stay away, Kit," said Lord Goring, and wrapped his arms around Master Legard's body.

Margaret looked away in embarrassment as her tutor sank to his knees in front of his father, kneeling at the older man's feet with his father's hand resting in his hair. The men spoke quietly, but she couldn't help overhearing. "I thought you were asking me to choose between loyalty to my father and loyalty to the Crown. And when the new slayer awakened..."

Lord Goring made a harsh sound. "Kit, oh my Kit. I would never have asked you to make such a choice. I just wanted you to remember the Holy Mother Church in your heart, even if you couldn't in your public worship."

Margaret tried earnestly not hear anything the two men said to one another. It did not make her comfortable to hear her mentor and a lord of the realm discussing -- well -- heresy. She quietly approached the anteroom's book-laden mantelpiece. Goriolus' Tracticus Demonus she recognized, and she'd actually been studying DeLeon's Les Sauvages, but she didn't even recognize the script on the third volume. The woodcut on the frontespiece resembled the illustration she'd seen in Master Legard's rare translation of Munawwirtum's The Sorcerors and their Ilk. Could this possibly be a copy of the original? In Akkadian? And these were just the books Lord Goring left in his anteroom, where anyone could see them. And touch them. Most of the books Margaret learned from were cheap copies, many of them copied by her as assigned classwork from an original which Master Legard kept just out of her reach. These books did not look like cheap copies.

"Comfit," Master Legard said behind her. She hurredly put down the book she was holding and spun around with her hands clasped innocently behind her back. "Father, I'd like you to meet my charge, Mistress Margaret Mott, the Slayer. Peg, my Lord Goring." Margaret sunk into a deep curtsy. She might never treat Master Legard with the courtesies due to his rank, but Lord Goring did not seem like a man one teased.

"My Lord," she murmured, hoping she was correct. It wasn't everyday that a merchant's daughter was introduced directly to a member of the nobility, and her education had focused more on obscure magics and demon slaying that them the polite ways to speak to gentleman of high rank. She was startled when she felt an unfamiliar hand lift her out of her obeisance. She raised her eyes to meet Lord Goring's.

He smiled at her. "It's an honor to meet you, Mistress Slayer. I hope you were not too distressed by our old family arguments." He laughed shortly. "If I were not such a stubborn mule, or if things were different, you'd have spent the last year in my home where you belong. I hope you can think of me as like unto a father."

"I would be most honored, my Lord," she said, and curtsied once again. Over his shoulder she saw her tutor's troubled face, but she kept her face downcast as she modestly -- she hoped -- greeted the Papist lord.

Lord Goring's expression was kind. "Excellent. Let's begin working on your problem, lass." He turned to face his son. "Kit, you go down to the Collegium offices on Fleet Street and make a full report of what you have seen. Mistress Slayer, I'll take you down to our training rooms where you can work with our combat specialists. I'll get started on gathering together the resources we'll need to fight this new evil." He took his son's hand and raised him off the floor, that fatherly smile of pride glowing on his face. "And can I say, boy, how glad I am that you came to your senses."

Margaret waited for Master Legard to explain to his father that all they needed was a translation of the Rantapharian Codex. She was still waiting when Lord Goring took her arm and made as if to lead her out of the room. Master Legard merely watched them, looking confused, or maybe worried. She didn't understand what was going on, but she'd not be led down to some heretic's combat training session. "My Lord," she said, shaking off Lord Goring's hand. "I think you misunderstand. Master Legard is my mentor, and he has the situation well in hand. We came here to asked you would allow us to see a translation of the Rantapharian Codex, not to ask your honored self to trouble yourself with our little investigation." She dimpled at him, hoping for flirtatious.

"It's no trouble, my dear," he said. His tone was still avuncular, but the smile seemed a bit more fixed.

Still Master Legard didn't interfere. "Oh, but of course," she said, fluttering her eyelashes in a way that she hoped was coy. "Your son is so remarkably clever, surely due to your excellent training, my Lord, that there's no need to trouble you."

"Again, Mistress Slayer, I assure you that the pleasure is mine." There was steel in Lord Goring's voice, now, and steel in the hand he laid back on her arm. She could shake him off, of course, but she would rather not, if only for her tutor's sake.

She smiled at him, with venom, this time. "Oh, but my Lord. I hope you understand my hesitation. As a loyal servant of the Crown and the Church, a man of your stature is above reproach. I am only a lowly merchant's daughter, however, and want no harm to come to my loved ones through evil association. Your organization calls itself the Collegium Spectatorum. Of course you are loyal to the Queen. But as you and I, and the Star Chamber, know the heretics in Spain use the same name for their branch of the Inquisition." She bared her teeth. "And neither of us would like harm to come to our families from an association with the Inquisition, now, would we, my Lord?"

Master Legard finally broke out of his seeming trance. "Margaret," he said, sounding appalled.

Lord Goring ignored his son's outburst to glare at Margaret. "Clever lass. You've trained your little slayer well, Christopher. I wish you joy of her." He walked to the door, ignoring Master Legard's outstretched hand. "I'll get you your prophecy."

Slayer and mentor stood frozen in the empty in the room for what seemed like hours, but was probably less than a minute. Finally Margaret ventured an apology. "Master Legard? I'm --"

He held up one hand and she stopped. "Later, Peglet. Walls have ears. For now, let's just solve our mystery."

"'And the one whom she trusts will betray her, and the Legions of Eyes shall rise, and a mighty nation shall fall whilst another rises in its place. All hail Legairn, Lord of Blindness.' Ick." Margaret stuck out her tongue.

"The one whom she trusts, the one whom she trusts. Huh. If 'she' is the Queen..." He drummed his fingers on the tabletop.

"Who does she trust? Advisors, lords, courtiers."

"Not Essex; he's one of us. Walsingham? Cecil? Doctor Dee?" They looked at each other.

"'The Doctor will take you,'" she breathed.

"The Queen's magus?"

As they walked through the churchyard of St. Mary Magdalene's in the village of Mortlake, Margaret worried about her tutor. He had been willing to give charge of a treason plot into the care of papist lords, even if one of them was his father. She ran her fingers along a gravestone (hadn't she staked the resident of this plot sometime last fall?), and tried apologizing again. "About the way I spoke to your father, sir. You know I meant no disrespect."

He laughed, a harsh sound. "You meant every disrespect, Peg. And he deserved it, for treating you like an imbecile. It's I who should be apologizing." Protesting, she tried to interrupt him, but he forestall her. "No, it's true. I would have let my desire... I'm sorry. Thank you for regaining control of the situation."

Margaret could think of nothing to say to fill the awkward lull. They continued in unaccustomed silence until they reached a newly built house near the village green. "Black John," said Master Legard. "He was once a teacher of mine, and he scared the daylights out of me. This should be a joy; accusing the Queen's magus of attempted treason. Into the breach, my comfit." He lifted one hand to knock on the door, but it opened before he could. A cheerful-looking elderly man in scholars' robes stood before them.

"Come in, come in! I've been expecting you." He stepped back and waved Margaret in along with her tutor. Dazed, they complied. "Kit, I haven't seen you in years. And now you've brought me your slayer! I'm Doctor Dee, dear Mistress Slayer. Let me get you some cakes." He bustled around a crowded room chock-full of mystical bits and pieces. Margaret noticed a homunculus in a jar, a poster with Kabbalistic symbols, and a central dais that held a rosy glass orb, before Master Legard drew her attention once again.

"My apologies, sir," said Master Legard, looking confused. "You knew we were coming?"

Doctor Dee laughed. "Of course, my boy. The angel told me. You think I'm conspiring to take down Gloriana, though why I would do that when I practically crowned her myself I'm not sure. The angel didn't see fit to explain your reasoning to me." He brought over a plate which he had filled from a chest beside the skeleton of some seven-legged creature. "Here, have a seed cake."

Margaret took a cake and bit into it. "Tasty," she said with her mouth full, then paused to swallow. "Thank you, Doctor. Um. Angel?"

"Oh, yes. The angels tell me things. Usually they're not so direct but they were quite adamant I be home for this visit. You should have a cake, Kit; they're really quite good."

"They are, sir," said Margaret, taking a second one. Master Legard looked bemused as he took a cake. "If the angels tell you things," she asked. "Do they tell you who's plotting to kill Her Majesty? The prophecy did rather imply it was you."

"Did it, now?" He cleared some papers of a pair of stools and gestured. "Sit, sit. Which prophecy would this be? Mad rantings, most of them. What did it accuse me of, now?"

"'And the one whom she trusts will betray her,' for a start," said Master Legard as he took a seat. He handed the amulet to Doctor Dee. "Recognize this?"

Doctor Dee took the amulet over to a pair of lenses mounted on a frame. "Oh, my, a talisman with Enochian text. I've not seen one of these before. Fascinating structure. See, the right-angled Cross -- that is to say, the twenty-first letter of the Roman alphabet, which was considered as being formed by four straight lines -- and taken by the most ancient of the Roman Philosophers to represent the Decad..."

Since Master Legard appeared to be comprehending Doctor Dee's confusing speech, Margaret felt free to examine her surroundings. She was sure there was important information here, but she wanted something to kill. It must be in a slayer's nature somewhere to get antsy after a bit if there was nothing to kill. Maybe Doctor Dee knew the answer to a slayer's nature, or he could ask the angels, or perform an experiment, or something. She flipped idly through the papers the magus had moved to the worktables. There were Kabbalistic symbols on the first one. Humming softly, she turned to the second. Some kind of mystical witchery: Amabosar! Amabosar! Amabosar! Pharynthos Egayroth Melustaton Castotis Mugos Nachrim Amabosar! Amabosar! Amabosar! And then, on another page, Take any point, as A for example, draw a straight line through it in both directions, as CAK. Divide the line CK at A by a line at right angles, which we will call DAE.

"Oh, how wonderful!" Margaret jumped when Doctor Dee clapped his hands right behind her. "You know the tune." He turned to Master Legard. "You're teaching her Kabbala and Hebraic spell-tunes, Kit? Good for you; the slayer can use extra knowledge in troubled times." Margaret looked puzzled, since she hadn't been humming anything particular, just an old childhood melody she remembered. But now Doctor Dee sang strange words to the same tune. "'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Omnipotent, who was, is and is to come,' or," he flipped back to the paper she'd just been viewing, "'Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.'"

Master Legard took the papers out of her hands and put them on a high shelf. "Oh, Doctor," he said. "You were going to perform tests on the amulet? Shall we? Margaret!" She jumped at his tone. "Attend us, mistress, and stop fidgeting."

Two hours passed and they were no closer to discovering who threatened the Queen. Doctor Dee had immersed the talisman in strange salts, surrounded it with mystic symbols, sung to it, and in the end could only agree that a doctor, was trusted by the Queen, was the villain of the piece. "But I assure you, my boy, it's not me."

Margaret was bored, and still wanted to be a-killing things. "Maybe it's not doctor as in magus, but doctor as in leech," she suggested absently. "Is it time to go, yet?"

Master Legard let out a whoop. "Peggy, you're brilliant! Her Majesty's physician is a Portugee. He might well be in on such a plot."

Doctor Dee looked thoughtful. "The Marrano doctor?" Master Legard shot him a sharp look, but the magus ignored him. "Yes, Kit, that makes sense."

"Our most heartfelt thanks for your aid, sir," Master Legard said, bundling Margaret toward the door. "I hate to be rude, but we must run to investigate this plot."

Doctor Dee waved dismissively. "Of course, of course. Let me know how it comes out," he called after them.

"I'm taking you home, Peg," said Master Legard, when they reached the street. "Her Majesty's own physician will be a diplomacy problem to approach, and I'd best not do it with you. I'm off to find Essex; he can best approach the Queen with this if need be."

Margaret was fine with that plan. It was Thursday evening, now, anyway, and she needed to be home tomorrow afternoon and the day after, and then was Sunday and church. "That will give me time to visit with my uncles."

"Your uncles?"

"Pietro and Rodrigo, vistiting from Venice. Remember, I told you about them? Mother's brothers, the merchants? I haven't seen them since I was little, and they're here for a month."

"A month, eh?" Margaret couldn't tell what Master Legard was thinking. "Let's get you home, poppet."

Friday night, Margaret was in the solar playing tables with Barba Pietro when Master Legard burst in. Her parents looked up in surprise. "Master Mott, Mistress Mott, I beg your pardon for bursting in on you, but I must steal Mistress Margaret for the nonce."

Margaret's mother put her hand on her husband's arm. "John," she said, looking pained.

Before she could continue, Master Legard went on. "I beg your pardon, particularly for disturbing you... when family's visiting. But please, trust me. This is a matter of life and death, and I'll explain later."

Margaret, stir-crazy now for days, was ready to leave at once, even though she didn't know what the danger was. She turned a pleading face to her father. "Please, sir?"

Her father looked helplessly at her mother, who shrugged. "I'll have your word that this is important, sir," he said to Master Legard, "and that you'll explain as soon as possible." Margaret ran toward her room for a change of clothes, but Master Legard stopped her with a hand on her arm. "No time, marchpane," he said. "Grab weapons, and we'll go."

"In a farthingale?" she protested, but at his grim look, she headed for her bedroom where she stored her weapons chest.

She heard Master Legard speaking urgently to her parents and uncles. "Sirs, I'm honored to meet you. And I'm sorry to hear that you'll have to cut your visit short and leave tomorrow."

Barba Rodrigo protested. "We're staying here for another month, sir. What you mean?"

Master Legard continued as if he had not heard. "Yes, I'm sorry to hear you'll have to leave tomorrow. With your sister. For a short visit, to Venice, maybe. On which you will happily and publically leave on Saturday morning."

A pause. Then, from her mother, "I see. And how long did you hear this trip was going to be?"

What was Master Legard doing? "Not very long. A month, perhaps."

When Margaret ran back in, swinging an ax and with two stakes in her girdle, her father was clasping Master Legard's shoulder. "Our thanks for the warning, good sir." He turned and saw Margaret enter the room, and his eyes goggled. "What the --?"

"What warning?" Master Legard winked. "Come, Peg."

"What was that all about?" she asked, as they ran down the street.

"Later. No time," he said, his breath growing short as he hurried her down the city street.

Even hooped and corseted, she could run faster than he. "Should we get horses? Where are we going?"

He kept running. "Nearby. Faster this way. You were," pant, "right about Lopez," gasp. "There are people taking of him, now, and keeping the Queen safe." He paused at the street corner, doubled over, breathing. "But his Spanish paymasters are raising a demon horde. If they can't bring down Her Majesty they'll just ravage London in revenge."

"Sweet Jesu," Margaret breathed. "Where are they? I'll run ahead."

He pointed down the street. "Behind Mary-Le-Bow." She was halfway down the block before he continued. "Peg -- be careful." She flashed him a smile, then ran. Her usual routes didn't work as well tonight, as it was hard to squeeze through narrow alleyways with her dress scraping down both sides. She wondered if more girls would be warriors if they didn't have to where such ridiculous clothes. Not that she didn't like looking pretty, but the had to be a way to look stylish without being quite so crippled. Maybe she should sit down with her dressmaker and try to come up with designs for --


So that was the Legions of Eyes, these creatures congregating in the courtyard behind Mary-Le-Bow. She didn't rush immediately into combat, first trying to determine exactly what the writhing, gibbering, screaming figures were. The eyes weren't on tentacles, were they? She supposed she should have been warned by the name "Legions of Eyes", but there were just so many eyes, and did that one large male demon actually have an eye at the end of his...? Ugh. Then something in the horde saw her, and shrieked. From what mouth, she mused, even as her body began fighting automatically, kicking and punching and swinging her ax. Her mobility was limited by her stays, but she should be able to... there. She swung out with one leg and whacked a lesser demon with the bottom ring of her hoops. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Master Legard arrive and engage three cloaked and hooded figures who were chanting on the edge of the horde of demons. The large and extra-grotesque demon charged Master Legard from behind. Margaret screamed a warning, but she knew she couldn't be heard above the squishy sounds of dying demons. With one slice, she took her ax to her farthingale and cut off the bottom ring of her hoops. Stepping out of it, she grabbed the hoop, reached over the heads of the demons with whom she was engaged herself, and flung it like a discus through the air. Dread weapons that her stays were, they apparently worked against demons as well as against doorways and narrow alleys. The hoop embedded itself in the throat of the large creature, and killed it only a few steps away from Master Legard. At the same moment, he dispatched his own foes, and the chanting stopped.

After that, it was short work for Margaret and Master Legard to mop up the remaining demons. Deprived of both their magical support and their most intimidating compatriot, the demoralized creatures were easily slain. The demon corpses started to bubble and ooze away, which was handy, and would save them the cleanup time. The three cloaked figures, on the other hand, would need to be dealt with. Margaret poked at their cloaks with her ax blade, revealing normal looking man wearing elaborate foreign clothing.

"Spanish courtiers," Master Legard explained, hefting the jewel-encrusted crucifix around one corpse's neck.

Margaret sneered and kicked at the corpses. These fiends would have killed good Queen Bess or desecrated all London with their demons. Their remains deserved no respect. "These were the men who were in league with the Marrano doctor? Filthy Jew-lovers."

Master Legard sighed and wrapped in the cloaks around the bodies. "Actually, Dr. Lopez' conversion to Catholicism was probably sincere, or he wouldn't have been helping the Spaniards in a plot against the Queen. He wasn't even Spanish. Not that his current faith will prevent the backlash and violence in the coming days." His voice was bitter. "Come, Peglet, help me with the bodies."

With the ease of long practice, Margaret bundled up the two corpses Master Legard had left behind and walked with him toward a deserted road which led to the river. Like thieves, murderers, and graverobbers, the slayer and her tutor had to know all the secret locations to dispose of illicit nasties. "Hah. As if one could have a sincere conversion to papist idolatry. Besides, once a Jew dog, always a Jew dog." When Master Legard stopped suddenly in front of her, she almost banged into him. As it was, she lost her grip on one of her corpses and had to reshuffle. "What's wrong, sir?"

Master Legard put down his own bundle and turned to face her. "God's cock, you honestly don't know, Peg?"

She was disconcerted by his worried expression. "Know what?"

"Marchpane," he said, and then paused. "Margaret. You're Jewish."

She laughed, relieved. She didn't know what kind of joke this was, but she'd been afraid that something serious was wrong. "Indeed, sir? Since when are Jews loyal servants of the Queen and faithful attendants at mass?"

He didn't smile. "Nothing prevents a Jew from being a loyal servant of the Queen, sweeting, except the illegality of being a Jew in England at all. And as for attending mass, I'm sure that your parents brought you up to be a faithful Christian. But your mother is a converso. Did you really not know?" She looked at him blankly, and he seemed to read an answer in her face. "No, apparently you didn't know. I don't know when they were planning on telling you, mistress, but it's readily apparent."

This joke wasn't funny anymore. "Readily apparent? Pray, sir, explain. And walk with me, if you would; these corpses aren't getting any lighter or less incriminating." She started back down the empty street, and heard him follow.

"Did you never wonder why you bathe every Friday afternoon and spend Saturday at home?"

"Because my parents want us to spend time as a family getting in the right frame of mind for the Sabbath." He said nothing, and she added, hurriedly, "on Sunday. We spend Saturday preparing for Sunday."

"And you rarely eat pork because...?"

"Mother doesn't like it. There's no crime in that. Not liking wine doesn't make you a Lutheran."

It didn't sound like he was enjoying this, but neither was she. "And the reason and you recognized some Hebrew characters on a manuscript in Dr. Dee's office and knew the appropriate liturgical tune?"

"Because --" Oh. Is that what that was? Oh my. "I thought they were sorcerers." In an odd way, this was almost a relief.

"You thought who were sorcerers?"

"Barba Pietro and Barba Rodrigo. My uncles. When I was little, they used to teach me fun little games. Songs, and funny letters. My parents were furious when they found out. I was just a tiny thing, and they found me in my uncles' room following along a page of something they'd taught me to read, and singing along with them." They'd reached the river now, and Margaret slid her Spanish corpses into the sludge without really paying attention. "I just assumed it was some deviltry, and I never mentioned it began, because I didn't want them to get in trouble. They're Venetian, after all." She laughed humorlessly. "I thought they were Catholic sorcerers and I was afraid for them."

He dumped his own bundle, and took her arm to escort her away at from the stench of the river. "There's no reason they can't be Jewish and good men, comfit."

She said nothing for a while. Then, "What does this mean for me? As the slayer, I mean?"

Master Legard shrugged. "Nothing, really. As long as you don't run up and down the street calling yourself Miriam and eating the Passover bread, the authorities won't really care that your mother was born a Jew in Venice."

"No," she said, exasperated at his denseness. "I mean, what does this mean for my slayer abilities? Do they come from the devil?"

His faced cleared as her meaning came through. "Didn't we already have this conversation, mistress? Different ways of worshipping God, etcetera, etcetera?"

She scrunched her face up in disgust. "Well, yes, for members of the Reformed Church and Papists, yes. But Jews? Ugh."

"That's a discussion you need to have with your mother, lass. There's going to be enough anti-Jew lies and verbal sewage about over the next weeks if we can't deal with the Lopez matter privately, and you'd best believe none of it. We all fight for God, here. The follower of the English church, his Romanized father, and the half-Jew slayer." He stopped, then, for they were at her street. "How are you coping, baggage?"

She looked at her house, lit inside. She could see figures through the windows bustling around, unusual for a Friday night at her house. "I'll survive. That's what we do, isn't it?" She knocked on her parents' front door.

"Margaret," he called, as the door opened. "You saved the realm again tonight. Don't forget that."

Her father, looking frazzled, opened the door. "Thank goodness you're back," he said. "We need to talk."

"Yes," said Margaret, stepping in. "We do." She shut the door behind her.