“You can,” Thalanes agreed, and he lay down on the roof of the cabin. “It gives me great comfort to know that I’m traveling with such a powerful visionary. So much comfort that I’m not afraid of a couple of old English men, just because they have a bit of grave-mold on them.”
“I thought that Lucky John’s men killed them in Putney,” Sarah said. “Wasn’t that the whole point of the Silver Lancers, John Churchill’s special squad with silver bullets and silver-headed pikes? I read that equipping those men sucked the coffers of William of Orange dry. All that, and they failed?”
“All that and they won,” the monk reminded her. “They drove the Necromancer out of England, along with Black Tom and the sorcerer Hooke.”
“And sent ’em on over here to the New World so’s they could chase after me. I jest git luckier by the day.”
Thalanes waited a moment. “Are you frightened?” he asked.
“Hell yes,” Sarah shot back. She could feel her pulse racing and her breath was short.
“Would it help you to think of them as tragic figures?” Thalanes asked.
“I don’t reckon it would,” she guessed.
“Tom Fairfax was a rebel,” Thalanes said. “He rebelled against his king, and then when he realized Cromwell was worse than what he’d replaced, he rebelled against Cromwell, too. Cromwell crushed the Rising of York, and his punishment for poor Black Tom was cruel.”
“Black Tom killed a lot of people with his knife, before and after he was dead. I reckon that was cruel, too.”
“Yes,” Thalanes agreed. “And then his old friend Cromwell killed him with his own knife, and bound Tom into Cromwell’s service, forcing him to wield that same knife in the service of the man he hated, eternally.”
“Cry me a river,” Sarah sniffed. She gestured beyong the boat. “Cry me the damn Mississippi.”
“And Hooke asked to become what Cromwell made him.”
“What?” Sarah was startled. “Why in Hell would anybody ever want to become a walking corpse?”
“To live forever,” Thalanes explained. “Hooke was a great wizard, practical and theoretical, just like Sir Isaac. When the only thing that drives you is curiosity, the thing you want most is time.”
“And then what? They all jest came to the New World and hid for a hundred years, waitin’ to jump out and grab me?”
“No one knows quite what happened to Cromwell,” Thalanes said. “There are persistent rumors that William Penn sheltered him in Pennsland.”
“My grandfather?” Sarah was shocked at the revelation, but in context it was almost a minor surprise. She was beginning to regain control of herself, and her accent. “Why would he have done anything so stupid?”
“Great-great-grandfather, actually. Cromwell gave him his original land grant. That’s where your great family estates come from, Sarah… they were bestowed by the Necromancer. And after he’d been driven out, the Penns were established and King John had his hands full of other matters and no one was in any position to do much about it. Besides, people liked William Penn. He was a good man.”
“Who made a deal with Hell.”
“Maybe. Or maybe he didn’t shelter Cromwell, and those rumors are just the baseless gossip of your family’s enemies.”
“Dammit,” Sarah complained, “life is complicated.”