A Discovery of Witches Read online





  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Acknowledgements

  VIKING

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,

  Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R oRL, England

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland

  (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

  Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell,

  Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

  Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,

  Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,

  New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,

  Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, Lonon WC2R oRL, England

  First published in 2011 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  Copyright © Deborah Harkness, 2011

  All rights reserved

  Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-47569-0

  1. Vampires—Fiction. 2. Witches—Fiction. 3. Alchemy—Manuscripts—Fiction. 4. Science and magic—Fiction.

  I. Title

  PS3608.A7436D57 2011

  813’.6—dc22 2010030425

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrightable materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  For Lexie and Jake, and their bright futures

  It begins with absence and desire.

  It begins with blood and fear.

  It begins with a discovery of witches.

  Chapter 1

  The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable. To an ordinary historian, it would have looked no different from hundreds of other manuscripts in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, ancient and worn. But I knew there was something odd about it from the moment I collected it.

  Duke Humfrey’s Reading Room was deserted on this late-September afternoon, and requests for library materials were filled quickly now that the summer crush of visiting scholars was over and the madness of the fall term had not yet begun. Even so, I was surprised when Sean stopped me at the call desk.

  “Dr. Bishop, your manuscripts are up,” he whispered, voice tinged with a touch of mischief. The front of his argyle sweater was streaked with the rusty traces of old leather bindings, and he brushed at it self-consciously. A lock of sandy hair tumbled over his forehead when he did.

  “Thanks,” I said, flashing him a grateful smile. I was flagrantly disregarding the rules limiting the number of books a scholar could call in a single day. Sean, who’d shared many a drink with me in the pink-stuccoed pub across the street in our graduate-student days, had been filling my requests without complaint for more than a week. “And stop calling me Dr. Bishop. I always think you’re talking to someone else.”

  He grinned back and slid the manuscripts—all containing fine examples of alchemical illustrations from the Bodleian’s collections—over his battered oak desk, each one tucked into a protective gray cardboard box. “Oh, there’s one more.” Sean disappeared into the cage for a moment and returned with a thick, quarto-size manuscript bound simply in mottled calfskin. He laid it on top of the pile and stooped to inspect it. The thin gold rims of his glasses sparked in the dim light provided by the old bronze reading lamp that was attached to a shelf. “This one’s not been called up for a while. I’ll make a note that it needs to be boxed after you return it.”

  “Do you want me to remind you?”

  “No. Already made a note here.” Sean tapped his head with his fingertips.

  “Your mind must be better organized than mine.” My smile widened.

  Sean looked at me shyly and tugged on the call slip, but it remained where it was, lodged between the cover and the first pages. “This one doesn’t want to let go,” he commented.

  Muffled voices chattered in my ear, intruding on the familiar hush of the room.

  “Did you hear that?” I looked around, puzzled by the strange sounds.

  “What?” Sean replied, looking up from the manuscript.

  Traces of gilt shone along its edges and caught my eye. But those faded touches of gold could not account for a faint, iridescent shimmer that seemed to be escaping from between the pages. I blinked.

  “Nothing.” I hastily drew the manuscript toward me, my skin prickling when it made contact with the leather. Sean’s fingers were still holding the call slip, and now it slid easily out of the binding’s grasp. I hoisted the volumes into my arms and tucked them under my chin, assailed by a whiff of the uncanny that drove away the library’s familiar smell of pencil shavings and floor wax.

  “Diana? Are you okay?” Sean asked with a concerned frown.

  “Fine. Just a bit tired,” I replied, lowering the books away from my nose.

  I walked quickly through the original, fifteenth-century part of the library, past the rows of Elizabethan reading desks with their three ascending bookshelves and scarred writing surfaces. Between them, Gothic windows directed the reader’s attention up to the coffered ceilings, where bright paint and gilding picked out the details of the university’s crest of three crowns and open book and where its motto, “God is my illumination,” was proclaimed repeatedly from on high.

  Another American academic, Gil