Read The Seat of Magic Online

Authors: J. Kathleen Cheney

The Seat of Magic

BOOK: The Seat of Magic
7.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


“Cheney's debut is a masterpiece of historical fantasy. . . . The fascinating mannerisms of the age and the extreme formality of two people growing fonder of each other add a charmingly fresh appeal that will cross over to romance fans as well as to period fantasy readers.”

Library Journal

“Pulls readers in right off the bat. . . . Oriana's ‘extra' abilities are thoroughly intriguing and readers will love the crackling banter and working relationship between Oriana and Duilio.”

Romantic Times

“An ambitious debut from Cheney: part fantasy, part romance, part police procedural, and part love letter. . . . [The author] does a lovely job connecting magical, historical, and romantic elements.”

Kirkus Reviews

J. K

The Golden City

The Seat of Magic


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

First Printing, July 2014

Copyright © Jeannette Kathleen Cheney, 2014

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.



Cheney, J. Kathleen.

The seat of magic: a novel of the Golden City/J. Kathleen Cheney.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-101-60690-2

1. Imaginary places—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 3. Selkies—Fiction. 4. Magic—Fiction. 5. Portugal—Fiction. I. Title. II. Title: Novel of the Golden City.

PS3603.H4574S43 2014

813´.6—dc23 2014001394


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.


In memory of Jennifer Schwabach


With thanks to my editor, Danielle Stockley, for working so hard to make my words presentable, to Christopher Kastensmidt for his endless patience with my Portuguese translation questions, to Sue Burke for her help with Spanish, and to the writers of Codex and Novelocity who soothed my nerves and reassured me that it will all work out in the end.

















































, 19 O

he library of the Ferreira home housed a collection of items Duilio's father had brought back to the Golden City from his travels on the sea. A large round table stood in the center of the room, the polished marquetry surface half hidden by a collection of sun-bleached giant clamshells. The chandelier of white coral above it had never been refitted for gas lighting and so held candles that Duilio rarely lit. He kept the thing for its beauty instead. The shelves were lined with books of varying antiquity and origin, purportedly filched from this or that hidden stockpile during his father's many adventures with the prince's father years and years ago.

Duilio didn't concern himself over the books' provenances; he was more interested in reading them. Neither his father nor his elder brother had been fond of books, and his mother preferred to read her newspapers in her sunny front sitting room, so he usually had the chillier library to himself.

He'd selected a volume in French, cheaply bound in dark blue fabric—
Les sirènes du Portugal
—that called itself a truthful account of life among the sea folk, the sereia. The gold lettering on the spine was nearly illegible, worn from the many times he'd read the book as
a young man. Duilio doubted its accuracy, but it served better than nothing. Even so, the cities of the sereia's islands were depicted therein as pale reflections of human cities like the Golden City and Lisboa. There had to be more to their civilization, Duilio reckoned, but the author—one Monsieur Mathieu Matelot, a pseudonym if he'd ever seen one—apparently hadn't had the access needed to make a decent study of their culture. Given how little most humans knew of sereia, the author wasn't bound by the truth. Duilio set the volume on the small table next to his chair, wondering what Oriana would think of it.

Almost two weeks now,
and he'd not heard a word. He leaned back in the leather chair and sighed, well aware that fretting did no good. Perhaps he should have gone to Mass with Joaquim this morning and prayed.

“Duilinho?” His mother had come into the library, a coffee cup and saucer in one hand, her newspaper in the other. Near fifty, she bore her age well—better than a human woman would. She wore a brown wool day dress that showed that despite having borne three sons, she'd retained her figure. Her dark hair, worn in a high bun this afternoon, likely didn't require any padding, an innate advantage of being a selkie. She regarded him with troubled brown eyes. “Hiding again?”

Yes, he was. He'd returned from a late lunch with his cousin Rafael Pinheiro only to learn his mother had a visitor, Genoveva Carvalho. He'd ducked into the library rather than face the girl. The eldest Carvalho daughter had recently shown an interest in him, an interest that wasn't reciprocated. True, she was a lovely girl from a good family. Her father
spoken to Duilio early that summer about arranging a marriage between them, but Duilio had declined the proposition. Unfortunately, the young lady appeared to believe persistence would wear him down. She'd visited five times over the last two weeks, an uncalled-for number of visits when it was obvious his mother didn't care for society.

Duilio rose, laying down his book. “I'm afraid so, Mother. Thank you for dealing with her.”

“What else am I to do? I know you haven't encouraged her.” She held out the paper. “I realize it's Sunday, but I'm surprised no one has come to tell you. Maraval is dead.”

Duilio took the newspaper. She'd folded it so one column showed, headed by an article proclaiming that the Marquis of Maraval, the Minister of Culture, had been killed. Duilio scanned the printed words, grimacing when the newsprint smeared onto his fingers.

In a misguided attempt to recapture the past glory of the Portuguese Empire, Maraval had conspired to create a Great Magic, one that would change history. But his grand spell had been fueled by the deaths of dozens of servants. They'd been placed in pairs inside a large work of art under the waters of the Douro River, left to drown when the river's water seeped into their prisons of cork and wood. The plot had only begun to unravel when the conspirators chose the wrong pair of girls to sacrifice—Lady Isabel Amaral and her hired companion, Oriana Paredes. Miss Paredes was one of the few servants on the Street of Flowers who, when placed under water, would survive. A sereia, or
as the French book called them, she had gills and could breathe water, which gave her time to escape. Unfortunately she hadn't been able to save her mistress. She'd done her best to bring Lady Isabel's killers to justice instead. The newspaper stated that the young lady's father had gone one step further. The usually indolent Lord Amaral had gained entrance to the prison the previous evening and delivered the marquis up to a higher court of justice. Given that Duilio had been instrumental in the capture of the marquis, the police should have sent him a note at the very least.

“This doesn't say what's been done to Lady Isabel's father,” he noted. “I'm relieved there's no mention of the man's motive.”

The Golden City's newspapers, elated over a scandal to report, had been surprisingly circumspect in one regard—they hadn't mentioned
the names of Lady Isabel or her companion in connection with Maraval's plot. Instead they'd published that Isabel had been murdered by bandits who grabbed her off the street for her jewelry. It was the only concession Duilio had asked of the Special Police handling the case, a request made to protect Oriana Paredes rather than Lady Isabel. Oriana would not have withstood the attention of the media. Nonhumans had been banned from the Golden City for almost two decades now, and the fact that she was a sereia would have been exposed as the reason she'd survived when Lady Isabel hadn't.

His mother took the paper when he handed it back. “I noted that as well. It will make things easier when Miss Paredes returns.”

Duilio frowned, wishing he knew when that return would occur. Oriana hadn't been certain what reception she would receive when she reached her people's islands. He hoped things hadn't gone badly.

His mother touched the polished table and then frowned when her fingers left inky streaks behind. Since much of the staff was off on Sunday mornings, the newspaper must not have been ironed to set the ink. “Duilinho, sitting here and fretting is not going to bring Miss Paredes back.”

He'd been thinking the same thing only a moment before. He drew a linen handkerchief from the inside pocket of his charcoal morning coat and handed it to her. “I know, Mother, but she told me she would try to return to us. It worries me that we've heard nothing.”

One arched brow rose. “To us?”

Duilio pressed his lips together, refusing to rise to his mother's bait.

She sighed, wiped the table with the handkerchief, and then inspected her fingers. “I cannot tell you what keeps her. I wish I could.”

Despite sharing the ocean, his mother's people rarely interacted with the sereia. He sighed. “I should have convinced her not to go.”

His mother looked up at him, her limpid brown eyes thoughtful. She had delicate features and a pointed jaw, neither of which he'd
inherited. He had his father's rectangular face, very human in appearance, with a wide brow and square jaw. He often wished he looked more like her, as his elder brother Alessio had.

“Do you believe you could have dissuaded her?” she asked.

“I had a bad feeling, Mother.” Like his father and brother before him, he was a witch—a seer. His gift was erratic and refused to answer the questions he most wanted answered, but when he
have an answer, it was reliable. “I wish I'd begged her to stay.”

“She would not have given in, Duilinho,” Lady Ferreira said as she handed back the smudged handkerchief. “Do not think her weaker merely because she is female.”

He'd never been one to believe women weak and helpless. His mother, with her soft voice and gentle ways, was far stronger than others guessed. “I will keep that in mind, Mother.”

“Good.” She took a deep breath, as if preparing to launch into a speech. “Now, I wish to ask a favor.”

She rarely asked anything for herself. “What is it?”

“I would like you to take me to see Erdano,” she said. “I think I am ready.”

Her eldest son, Erdano, lived north of the city at Braga Bay. A small bay, inaccessible to larger boats, it was a safe place for the selkie harem to call their own. But as it lay north of the river's mouth, the trip was safest made by boat. For all of her familiarity with the sea, his mother wasn't a sailor. One of the perquisites of being a gentleman, though, was that he was frequently at leisure to indulge his mother's whims. “When do you want to go?”

“Tomorrow morning, I think,” she said. “Before I lose my nerve. I . . .”

A discreet cough in the hallway heralded the approach of Cardenas, the family's elderly butler. A vigorous man in his seventies, he was the longtime guardian of the family's consequence—whether or not that was merited. Duilio stepped forward, since Cardenas looked to him first.

“A visitor,” he told Duilio, his voice tight with disapproval. “One of
. He didn't give his name.”

For the last two weeks Duilio had been facing down a string of Alessio's old lovers. They'd slipped cautiously up to the door of the Ferreira house, the ladies veiled and the gentlemen with their hats lowered to hide their faces. At the Carvalho ball a couple of weeks ago, Duilio had revealed to an acquaintance that Alessio had kept journals of his romantic exploits. He'd not realized then how much time he would have to spend smoothing ruffled feathers as a result. He touched his mother's elbow. “I'd better go take care of this, Mother. We'll go in the morning, after breakfast if you'd like.”

She nodded gracefully, and Duilio accompanied the butler down the hallway toward the front sitting room. “Would you inform João that I'll need the paddleboat in the morning?”

“Of course, Mr. Duilio,” the butler said. He withdrew a note from his waistcoat's pocket. “And this came from Mr. Joaquim while you were out.”

Duilio stashed the note in a pocket. Probably the news about Maraval's death that he should have seen earlier. He thanked the butler and stepped over the threshold into the sunny front sitting room. Like most of the rooms in the house, this showed the touch of his mother's taste, all soft browns and ivories. Before the unlit hearth a pale beige sofa in leather and a group of chairs upholstered in ivory brocade surrounded a low table that served to invite conversation. The windows on the far wall looked out toward the Queirós house, but from the right spot Duilio could catch the glittering of the sun on the Douro River.

His newest visitor rose from the armchair in which he'd been sitting. A tall gentleman near his own age, the visitor looked familiar, but Duilio couldn't quite place him. He was a striking man, with a handsome face and a marked widow's peak from which black hair swept back neatly. His fine frock coat, matching waistcoat, and pinstriped trousers marked him as a gentleman. He had a charismatic air,
which made Duilio wonder who he was. People like him usually attracted attention. But as Duilio had been abroad for a few years following his departure from the university at Coimbra, there were always people in society he didn't know—although he'd worked hard in the last year to overcome that. Knowing society was his specialty.

“I'm afraid I don't recall your name, sir,” Duilio began.

The visitor's lips twisted in amusement. “I've never told you my name.”

That implied they
met before. “Do we know each other?”

“I was a friend of your brother's.”

Duilio felt a sudden flare of recognition, placing where he'd seen that face before—years ago in Coimbra, where students from the same town would often rent a house together. On his arrival at the university, Duilio hadn't wanted to live in his brother's shadow so he'd found a different house to live in, but this man had been one of Alessio's housemates. His widow's peak and aquiline nose were a distinctive combination. “You and Alessio lived in the same
at Coimbra,” Duilio said. “I recall seeing you there when I visited him, but I don't believe he ever introduced us.”

“Very good.” The man nodded approvingly, as if Duilio had passed a test. “I was not, by the way, one of his lovers.”

Duilio turned toward the marble mantelpiece to hide his smile. He was always amused by the swiftness with which others felt they had to inform him of that. It usually came within a few sentences of admitting they'd known Alessio. He suspected many of those quick denials were false. “So is this visit concerning his journals? I have no intention of publishing them, nor are they for sale.”

“May we sit down?” the gentleman asked.

Duilio stared back at him expectantly. “May I ask your name?”

“You may call me Bastião,” his visitor said after a split-second hesitation.

That definitely wasn't the man's name. Duilio gestured toward the pale leather couch anyway. The man settled there, and Duilio sat
in the chair across from him. “Now, Bastião, what brings you to my house?”

“A number of things,” the man said, “but primarily to discover if you know why Alessio was murdered.”

Duilio did his best to keep his reaction from reaching his face. “My brother was killed during a duel. Why would you say he was murdered?”

“From what I understand,” the man said, “his opponent fired into the air, making one question how Alessio could have been shot in the chest. We know that the Marquis of Maraval had it done, fearing that Alessio would seduce the prince out from under his influence. That, however, was not the true reason behind Alessio's occasional visits to the palace. He was working as an agent of the infante.”

BOOK: The Seat of Magic
7.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Yesterday by Martin, C. K. Kelly
Sudden Death by Michael Balkind
Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch
Second Thoughts by Jade Winters
Basil Instinct by Shelley Costa