For Heather, Christian, and Michael. Our childhood was nothing if not imaginative. And to Justin. Thanks for not choosing the Japanese cooking class—love you.
… GOD SPARED NOT THE ANGELS THAT SINNED, BUT CAST THEM DOWN TO HELL, AND DELIVERED THEM INTO CHAINS OF DARKNESS, TO BE RESERVED UNTO JUDGMENT … —2 PETER 2:4
LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE NOVEMBER 1565
CHAUNCEY WAS WITH A FARMER’S DAUGHTER ON the grassy banks of the Loire River when the storm rolled in, and having let his gelding wander in the meadow, was left to his own two feet to carry him back to the château. He tore a silver buckle off his shoe, placed it in the girl’s palm, and watched her scurry away, mud slinging on her skirts. Then he tugged on his boots and started for home. Rain sheeted down on the darkening countryside surrounding the Château de Langeais. Chauncey stepped easily over the sunken graves and humus of the cemetery; even in the thickest fog he could find his way home from here and not fear getting lost. There was no fog tonight, but the darkness and onslaught of rain were deceiving enough. There was movement along the fringe of Chauncey’s vision, and he snapped his head to the left. At first glance what appeared to be a large angel topping a nearby monument rose to full height. Neither stone nor marble, the boy had arms and legs. His torso was naked, his feet were bare, and peasant trousers hung low on his waist. He hopped down from the monument, the ends of his black hair dripping rain. It slid down his face, which was dark as a Spaniard’s. Chauncey’s hand crept to the hilt of his sword. “Who goes there?” The boy’s mouth hinted at a smile. “Do not play games with the Duc de Langeais,” Chauncey warned. “I asked for your name. Give it.” “Duc?” The boy leaned against a twisted willow tree. “Or bastard?” Chauncey unsheathed his sword. “Take it back! My father was the Duc de Langeais. I’m the Duc de ...