17 Apr, 2024 by in Uncategorized Leave a comment

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER by Justin Newland Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!


About The Book:


Author: Justin Newland

Pub. Date: September 28, 2023

Publisher: The Book Guild Ltd.

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 256

Find it: Goodreads 

1575: Nelan Michaels is a young Flemish man fleeing religious persecution in the Spanish Netherlands. Settling in Mortlake outside London, he studies under Queen Elizabeth’s court astrologer, conjuring a bright future – until he’s wrongly accused of murder. Forced into the life of a fugitive, Nelan is dramatically pressed into the crew of the Golden Hind.
Thrust into a strange new world on board Francis Drake’s vessel, Nelan sails the seas on a voyage to discover discovery itself. Encountering mutiny, ancient tribes and hoards of treasure, Nelan must explore and master his own mystical powers – including the Mark of the Salamander, the mysterious spirit of fire.
The Mark of the Salamander is the first in The Island of Angels series: a two-book saga that tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming of age during the Elizabethan era.


Book Trailer:



About Justin Newland:

JUSTIN NEWLAND’s novels represent an innovative blend of genres from historical adventure to  supernatural thriller and magical realism. His stories explore the themes of war and religion, and  speculate on the human’s spiritual place in the universe.  

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he  conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies.  

The historical thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), is set in Ming Dynasty China  in the shadows of the Great Wall.  

The Coronation (Matador, 2019) was another historical adventure and speculates on the genesis  of the most important event in the modern world – the Industrial Revolution.  The Abdication (Matador, 2021) is a mystery thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith  in a higher purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.  

The Mark of the Salamander (Book Guild, 2023) is the first in a two-book series, The Island of  Angels. Set in the Elizabethan era, it’s an epic tale of England’s coming of age.  His WIP is the second in the series, The Midnight of Eights, the charting of the uncanny  coincidences that led to the repulse of the Spanish Armada.  

Author, speaker and broadcaster, Justin appears on LitFest panels, gives talks to historical  associations and libraries and enjoys giving radio interviews and making podcasts.  Born three days before the end of 1953, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip  Hills in Somerset, England. 


Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER, US & UK Only.

Ends May 7th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:


Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt/IG Post





Comic Book Yeti

Excerpt/Twitter Post


Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post


#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt/IG Post

Week Two:


A Dream Within A Dream



YA Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post


Fire and Ice

Excerpt/IG Post


Country Mamas With Kids

Excerpt/IG Post




Week Three:


The Momma Spot




IG Review


The Book Critic

Review/IG Post



IG Review



Review/IG Post

Week Four:


Kim’s Book Reviews and Writing Aha’s

Review/IG Post



IG Review/TikTok Post


More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post



IG Review



IG Review



The Fire

The village of Mortlake, near London, England

31st March 1575

Nelan stepped carefully over the planks of the wooden jetty, moist  from an early morning shower. He boarded the wherry bobbing in  the flow of the spring tide. The wherry master grinned, showing  a tranche of rotting black teeth behind a ragged salt-and-pepper  beard. As far as Wenceslaus was concerned, this passed as a morning  salutation. 

Wenceslaus let go of the rope and kicked the jetty with the sole of his tattered boot, shoving the boat into the flow of the River Thames.  As usual, the wherry master’s breath stank of ale, and to enhance the  delights of the morning, he let out a huge fart. As with everyone else  in England, more vacant air than solid food filled the wherry master’s  guts. Well, it was Maundy Thursday, the last day of Lenten fasting.  Wenceslaus eased out the oars and bent his back to the task, and with  each pull he emitted a low grunt, like the wild boars that roamed the  woods near Nelan’s Mortlake home. 

“Tide’s on the full, little master,” said Wenceslaus. 

“’Tis that,” Nelan said. 

Reaching the middle of the flow, Nelan glanced back at his house.  

Next door and nestling on the bank was their neighbour’s place – a  large, rambling house just west of the church between it and the river.  The natural philosopher and celebrated astrologer to the court of Queen Elizabeth, Dr John Dee, lived there. Dr Dee was a great friend  of Nelan’s father Laurens, who had encouraged Nelan to visit Dee’s  house for private tuition in matters both sacred and secular. Just the  other week, Dee had agreed to cast Nelan’s horoscope, but before he  could reveal his findings, Dee’s second wife had died. And on the day  of her funeral, the Queen herself had paid him a surprise visit. How  Nelan mixed with such exalted company! 

Today was a special day: the last school day before Easter. Nelan  

pulled out a crumpled broadsheet that Dee had recently given him. It  was dated March 1575, and depicted an elegant city with tall spires  protruding into the heavens. One more term at school, and Nelan  would be off to university and strolling down Oxford’s alleys. The time  was ripe for him to make his own way in life. 

They passed wherries tacking upriver, and avoided ferries crossing from bank to bank. Wisps of mist rose from the glassy  swell. Wenceslaus stopped by the hamlet of Sneakenhall to pick  up two other boys from Nelan’s school. Dressed in doublets of  fine Spanish cloth, leggings, and leather shoes, they stood behind  their stepfather, St John of Southampton, or San Juan de Antón in  Spanish. They sniggered and pointed their fingers at Nelan, but that  wasn’t unusual. The brothers climbed into the wherry. Nelan had  been born in Sangatte, Picardy, Northern France, while Guillermo  and Pedro harked from Seville, Spain. They attended the same school  and were of a similar age. They had that in common. But Nelan  couldn’t stand the boys; nor they him. They had that in common  too. 

Wenceslaus disliked their rivalry. “Now, be civil to them both, young Nelan,” he warned. 

“I’ll try,” Nelan murmured. 

“You do just that.” 

Nelan said, “Good morrow, Guillermo, Pedro. The Lord be with you both.” 

“I want nothing to do with your Lord!” Guillermo snarled. “Now move over, you stupid!” He pushed Nelan off the seat. 

“Oi!” Wenceslaus intervened. “Stop it. Hell’s teeth. Every mornin’, every month, every year. Always the same. You two spar like a pair of  fightin’ cocks. An’ old Wenceslaus gotta keep yous apart.” 

He was right, Nelan thought. But what could he do? In Queen Bess’s England, the law compelled ordinary folks to follow the  new Protestant religion and forgo the old Catholic one. Nelan was  Protestant. The brothers were Catholic. He and they were like oil and  water. They fought in words on the wherry, just as their respective  armies warred in Europe and clashed all over the New World. 

A pall of silence shrouded the rest of the trip around the Barnes– 

Chiswick oxbow. As Wenceslaus grunted and groaned, passing more air  from his orifice, he rowed the wherry past Putney and then Battersea  Fields. Nelan stretched his legs. He was a shorty, and they barely  reached half the length of Guillermo’s, who sat, arms folded, avoiding  eye contact. Pedro mimicked his older brother, brooding beneath a  dark, forbidding frown. 

As the wherry moored by the Westminster jetty, Nelan and  

Guillermo stood up at the same time, rocking the boat. Wenceslaus  scowled at them, which annoyed Guillermo, who took a leap. The jetty  was still moist from the overnight rain, and he slipped and smashed  his knee. 

As Guillermo winced with pain, Wenceslaus passed comment and more air. “Silly boy. Serves you right; it does that.” 

Rubbing his knee, Guillermo snapped at the wherry master, “Me,  

I am Guillermo. You ferry me and my brother to school and back. You  speak to me like that again, I tell my stepfather. You know he is very  important man, ¿cierto?” 

“Beggin’ your pardon, young master,” Wenceslaus said, doffing his cap and clutching it to his chest. 

As far as Nelan was concerned, this was more respect than the boy deserved for his rudeness and arrogance. But Guillermo’s stepfather  was a senior figure with influence at Elizabeth’s court. A word in the  local constable’s ear, and Wenceslaus could easily have spent the day  battened down in the stocks at Putney market. 

Pedro jumped out of the wherry and helped his brother hobble along the landing quay. Passing the woodshed, they headed towards an imposing  brick building boasting tall, graceful spires and elegant stone etchings:  Westminster Abbey. Next to the abbey lay the entrance to the newly  formed Westminster School. There, the school’s steward, a burly man with  a black beard and black cap, stood by and greeted them one and all. 

Nelan joined the rest of the school for the church assembly.  

Pastor Christopher, the school’s minister, conducted the morning  service, which concluded with the singing of Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is  My Shepherd’. Nelan mouthed a silent prayer to the Lord. If only He  would shepherd him to the place where he could deal with Guillermo.  Because of late, the Spanish boy had grown increasingly hostile towards  Nelan, and it frightened him. 

After Mass, Nelan attended lessons in Greek, Latin and French.  

Then came rhetoric, astronomy, and classical studies touching on the  School of Athens and the philosophers Plato and Aristotle. 

On another day of fast, Nelan’s stomach rumbled like the eruption of Vesuvius. Dusk drew in its gentle wings. To celebrate the end of  term, all the boys ran out of class and jumped in the air with elation.  Nelan said a prayer of thanksgiving in the abbey, then headed towards  the river to find a wherry to take him home. He spotted Guillermo  talking to Pastor Christopher by the school entrance, and then the boy  turned and headed Nelan’s way. To avoid any confrontation, Nelan  darted into the woodshed. 

In the shed stood a solid oak table. Its numerous scratches and indents bore testament to a life of long and dedicated service. It was  as old as King Henry VIII, the father of Elizabeth, the present Queen.  In the middle of the table was a ceramic bowl, like the fruit bowl on  the cedar table in Nelan’s home, except that this one had no fruit in  it. Twists of straw and a scattering of dead leaves bedecked the top of  the table. The shed was crammed on both sides with logs, kindling and  twigs, various tools, saws and axes. 

Nelan’s right palm itched. He scratched the source of the irritation: three wavy vertical lines beneath his middle finger. His father had  scolded him when he was a child, saying that, because he never washed  his hands, the lines were like three wisps of smoke rising from his  smelly paws. Nelan was unconvinced. Either way, he scratched his  palm. He’d always wondered how he’d got the lines. Were they a kind  of birthmark? His father had never told him. And what did it mean  when they itched at certain times, like now? 

From outside the shed, he heard the distinctive sound of Guillermo’s limp. His heart sank. The door squeaked open. Nelan ducked beneath  the table. 

Too late, because he heard a voice crow, “Come out, muchacho!” 

Nelan crawled out from under the table. Guillermo lurked on the other side. 

“I’m not a baby. I’m a man!” 

“You not a man! A man, he stand up like a pole. He face the world.  

Insects, they creep along the ground!” Guillermo thundered, smashing  his fist on the table with so much force that it shuddered under the  impact. 

“What’s got into you? Are you possessed by a diablo?” 

Guillermo put his palms on the table and leaned towards Nelan, his eyes glaring like fire. “My stepfather says all Protestants are heretics,  and we must cleanse the world of their sin.” 

“You Spanish do that anyway. All around the world you spread torture and cruelty! Spain is pain.” 

“No! Spain is top, highest country in world. You, you’re a low  

country boy. You’re from the nether regions. Ha!” Guillermo laughed  at his pun. 

“Yes, I lived in the Netherlands… until you Spanish invaded, forcing my family to seek refuge here!” 

“Bah!” Guillermo gritted his teeth, rubbing his forefinger and thumb together. “You are a flea, a tiny flea, and I, Guillermo de Antón,  am going to squash you!” 

“I may be small, but I’m not that small,” Nelan said, trying to make light of the insult. 

“You’re – how you say? – seventeen years old. I meet you when you come here six years ago. But after that, you never grow. Not like me  and Pedro. We big, strong Spanish boys. For King Felipe, we build a  world empire.” 

The spite flowed thick and fast. As much as he wanted to fight, Nelan swallowed his bile and lurched around the table. 

“Ha! You cobarde!” Guillermo sniped, blocking his way. 

Nelan faced his nemesis. “Enough! I’m no coward!” 

Quick as a flash, Guillermo pulled out a small canvas bag from the pouch hanging from his belt. He emptied its contents,  a brownish powder, into the ceramic bowl. The powder whiffed of  sulphur. 

“What on earth are you doing?” 

“You’ll see, amigo,” Guillermo scowled. With both hands he scooped up the twists of straw and dried leaves and dropped them on  top of the brown powder. 

“Wait. You’re not going to…?” 

Guillermo pulled two strike-a-light irons and a flint from his pouch and brandished them in front of Nelan’s face. “, amigo. I am,”  he said with a mischievous grin. 

“Let me out!” Nelan cried, and tried to push past the Spanish boy again. 

With a demonic expression on his face, Guillermo shoved him aside, and Nelan fell against the log pile, but got up as quickly as he could. 

“It’s gunpowder! You’ll kill us both!” 

“No! I run out the door. You heretic, you die! It’s Easter. It’s the time to cleanse the world of sin!” Guillermo crushed an iron against the  flint. A solitary spark leapt from the flint, but didn’t catch the strands  of straw and leaves. He shoved one of the irons back into his pouch,  then crunched the other against the flint, squeezing out another spark. 

Thankfully, the gunpowder failed to ignite – or so Nelan thought.  

But he smelled burning. A spark had lit a piece of straw next to  the ceramic bowl. Again, he rushed at the madman. Flint in hand,  Guillermo raised his fist. Nelan ducked to avoid the blow. Guillermo  lost his balance and fell, dropping the iron and flint. He winced with  pain as he clutched his knee, then crawled along the floor. 

The door was flung open. Two men stood there: the school’s steward and Pastor Christopher. Nelan swept up the iron and flint. The  gunpowder was going to ignite. The men blocked the exit. A small blue  flame leapt from the straw across the open space and, as if drawn to the  bowl of gunpowder, dropped into it. The shed was about to explode.  Think. Quick. Nelan crawled across the floor and dived between the  men’s legs before scrambling through the open door. 

The world ground to a shuddering halt. Everything slowed, like the actor he’d seen at one of those new theatres in the city who moved  at a snail’s pace. A burst of flame followed a massive explosion. The  force of the blast threw him backwards. Winded and half blinded, he  crawled away from the scorching heat. Hungry flames devoured the  kindling, sending orange-yellow embers into the dusk. Had it not been so frightening, it would have been beautiful. The flames crackled and  spat as the logs caught fire. Nelan’s ears were ringing, but the sound  was muted. His head spun like a top. The burning seared into his  mind’s eye. 

As the flames engulfed the shed, it rained hot embers, covering the steward in soot. The pastor crouched on the ground, holding his  head. The explosion must have thrown them clear. The blast had also  ejected Guillermo, but only just. Smoke rose from his ruined clothes  into the dry, early evening air. The Spaniard lay on the ground near the  blazing shed, his mouth open as if he were shouting or crying. Nelan  could hear no sound coming from his mouth. Pedro hared across the  yard towards them. 

Dazed and confused, Nelan hugged his knees, rocking back and forth. It eased the pain. Because in his imagination, he saw painful,  destructive pictures from his past. In this vision, he was in an earlier  time, another town, a different country altogether. It felt strange,  unreal. It was as if he watched the scene unfold from a distance. He  stood at the edge of a crowd. They yelled and shook their fists. They  shouted, but not in English. He was young and small. Even on tiptoe,  he couldn’t see over the tops of the heads of those in front of him.  He climbed on top of a barrel to get a better view. Before the heaving  crowd, soldiers lashed two men and a woman to three wooden posts.  They tied the woman to the middle one. She wore a black headscarf  from which a loose strand of brown hair protruded. Nelan yearned to  tuck it into her scarf, but he couldn’t. Tears rolled down her cheeks.  Her chin trembled. She glanced towards him and then turned away.  She moved her shoulders, wrenched her arms, and twisted her legs, but  then fell as still as a scarecrow. Had she accepted her fate? No. She must  never do that. She must keep struggling to get free. Nelan desperately  wanted her to escape and take him with her. 

A wooden crucifix hung from the top of each post. Perhaps Jesus peered down from the cross at what was about to transpire. Did He  know that this was being done in His name? Why didn’t He stop it?  A crow glided over the heads of the crowd – once, twice – and then  squatted on top of the woman’s post. Black wings, black beak, black  squawk; an omen that the woman’s soul was about to fly off into the  beyond. She was going to surrender her soul. But was it to Jesus or to the black crow? No one answered that question. Nelan wished they  would. 

A military cohort appeared from behind him. Pikes pointing up and frowns pointing down, the soldiers pushed through the crowd.  Following them came a man wearing a black cloak. A pair of narrow  eyes looked out from two tiny slits in the hood. The cohort stopped by  the woman tied to the pole. Nelan stared at the pole and the woman.  It was no ordinary pole. She was no ordinary woman. Kindling, logs,  bits of rags, and curved struts from broken barrels nestled at the base  of the post. It was a fire in waiting. This was an auto-da-fé or an act of  faith, though he doubted there was much faith involved. 

The image of the woman and the pole shattered, and he was jolted out of his reverie. 

“Nelan! Nelan Michaels!” someone called. 

Nelan turned around. 

“Hell’s teeth,” the steward said. “What are you doing sitting there like a stone?” 

The huntsman accompanied him, along with a clutch of schoolmasters and a legion of boys drawn by the roar of the explosion  and the spectacle of the fire. The huntsman’s wife tended to Guillermo.  Pastor Christopher got down on his knees and prayed for the boy.  Pedro cradled his brother’s head in his hands. Wisps of smoke rose  from Guillermo’s jerkin as he shrieked in agony. 

“Quick. Move the boy to the infirmary. Get a hand cart,” the steward said to the huntsman, and then added, “Boys, get in a line.  We need water.” 

They passed buckets from hand to hand, scooping water from the river and dousing the fire, then sending the empty vessels back to be  refilled. The woodshed resembled the burning bush; an eternal flame,  a testament to the Lord’s fury and His power to cleanse the furious and  bring down the proud. From where he stood, at twelve paces, Nelan  felt the heat of the fire. He didn’t move as wave upon wave scorched his  face and arms. The flames were a marriage of reds, yellows and golds.  Deep within the inferno’s inner sanctum, they were coloured a lithe  violet blue. 

Pedro confronted him, his face a picture of anguish. “You. You let my brother burn!” 

“I did?” Nelan murmured. 

¡Sí! I saw it with my own eyes. My own brother. His clothes burn. And you. You did nothing to help him. You wanted to give pain to my  brother!” 

Guillermo screamed and writhed on the ground. The flames didn’t  care. They burned anything and everything. They were ravenous, with  neither mercy nor pity. 

Nelan shook himself and said, “I-I don’t know. I-I would’ve done.  

I didn’t mean it. I don’t know what happened to me.” 

“You always hate him,” Pedro said, jabbing a finger at him. “You want him to suffer. Happy now?” 

The huntsman approached with a rickety handcart and said, “You boys, help me get the lad onto the cart.” 

Nelan went to help. Pedro blocked him. 

“Let me help. I want to.” 

“Stay away from him!” Pedro said, staring him down. 

Carefully, the men lifted Guillermo. He yelled as they loaded him onto the cart. Nelan had heard screams like that before – from a fox  snared in a trap. 

“You will pay for this!” Pedro growled. 

Nelan shrank back. I defended myself. And that dreadful vision… Why doesn’t anyone understand that? 

The huntsman hauled the cart across the courtyard towards the infirmary, followed by his wife and Pedro. 

“How could you ignore the boy’s distress?” the steward said. 

“It… It wasn’t my fault,” Nelan stammered. “Guillermo’s mad. He wanted to blow me up. He lit the gunpowder and wanted to leave me  in there.” 

“Is that what you saw, Pastor?” the steward asked. But before  

Pastor Christopher could answer, the steward added, “Because that’s not what I saw.” 

“But… he started the fire. He wanted to kill me,” Nelan murmured. 

“No! When I arrived, you stood over Guillermo, who lay on the floor. You’d hit him!” 

“I didn’t. You must believe me.” 

“I saw you clutching the strike-a-light iron and flint. You must’ve started the fire.” 

Nelan bit his lip. A silent scream rose from the depths of his being.  

“No! It wasn’t like that!” 

“Go home, and don’t come back!” The steward shooed him away like a fly. 

“What d’you mean?” 

“You’re expelled.” 

“But I’ve only one more term before—” 

“We don’t want the likes of you at Westminster School.” 

Nelan slouched off towards the river, as low as he’d ever felt since arriving in England. He found Wenceslaus and slumped down on the  wherry seat. Plunging his hands into his purse, he fingered the iron  and the flint – a lot of good they’d do him now. 

By the time they pulled into the jetty at home, the cloak of sadness and misfortune weighed heavily on his shoulders. He hauled himself  out of the wherry. He felt like a creature dredged up from the ocean’s  depths, thick with sludge and bound with seaweed. Now he had to  gird himself to tell his father. With hard steps on grassy soil, he trudged  along the path from the jetty to his house. 

The maidservant told him that his father had gone to the city on business and would return early the next day. Nelan waited in his  room. His clothes stank of fire and smoke, evoking memories of the  explosion. Images of the woman tied to the stake flashed through his  mind. Her screams beat against his ears… or were they Guillermo’s  yells of pain? From his north-facing room, he could hear the swishing,  gurgling sounds of Old Father Thames as it raced towards its destiny in  the estuary. The river had ferried him to Westminster School and back  for nigh on seven years. And in this, his last school year, his dream to  attend university in the autumn had gone up in flames. His head sank  low. The Lord was pitted against him. For this to happen to him, he  must have committed some awful sin. Either way, he needed justice  and a pardon, and quick. Damn Guillermo. And once and for all, he  needed to know the identity of the woman tied to the Inquisition’s  stake, lest her image haunt him for the rest of his days. 

He must have dropped off to sleep, because when he awoke, the first  slithers of dawn slanted across the river, and he heard his father’s booming  voice echo around the rafters of the house and the front door slam shut. 

Nelan knocked on the door of his father’s study. Laurens Michaels was a bulk of a man; as tall as an oak tree and just as thickset. His  bald head showed his years. Dressed in his favourite dark green velvet  doublet, he dominated his desk. 

When Nelan had explained what had happened, his father got up and adjusted his flat, black Anglican hat. Pacing the floor, he asked,  “Nelan, what’s happened is terrible. But why did Guillermo threaten  your life? Tell the truth, as God is our witness.” 

“He said his father wanted him to cleanse the world of heretics.” 

“So, it concerned religion. I might have known,” Laurens said with a sigh. “I’ve always tried to be neighbourly to the St John family,  but to no avail. By coming to England, I hoped we’d escape Spanish  persecution. I was wrong.” 

“We left the Netherlands… what about…?” For a moment, Nelan’s  

head spun. He turned away from his father’s gaze and instead stared at  the painting behind his father’s head: the hamlet of Sangatte with its  white, sandy coastal dunes. It brought back memories of his mother;  her smell and her touch. He felt her staring at him from one of the  cottages in the painting. He jerked his head away and looked through  the study’s solitary window. On this cloudless day, he could see all the  way to the bank on the other side of the river. 

“What about what, Nelan?” his father repeated. 

Once and for all. Nelan’s voice broke in his throat. “Mother.” 

“What about your mother?” 

“What happened to her?” 

“I told you already. She was English. Her maiden name was Pickford. She fell into the arms of Our Lord before we left the Netherlands.” 

“Yes, I know, Father. But you’ve never told me how she died.” 

This time, his father averted his gaze and studied the wainscoting. 

“I’m seventeen; you don’t need to protect me anymore.” 

“I’m going to tell you—” 

There was a loud rapping on the front door. The door opened,  

squeaking on its hinges. Footsteps marched up to the study door. The  footman hauled it open. 


“Yes? Who is it?” Laurens asked. 

“Dr Dee.” 

“Dr John Dee?” 

“Yes, sir, the same. He’s on the porch.” 

“It must be important for him to call at this time of the morning.  

Well, don’t stand there, man. Show him in.” 


Dr Dee had a milk-white beard and was a tall, wiry man with the stare of a lighthouse. He wore a black cap and a long black gown with  hanging sleeves, crisp in the morning’s rays. “Good morrow to you  both,” he said in a husky voice. “May the Lord be with you.” 

“And with you, Dr Dee,” Laurens replied. 

“I cannot stay long; I must return to my experiments,” Dee said.  

He appeared to drift around the room, touching the spines of the books  on the shelves and then examining a portrait of Laurens attending a  Low Church Calvinist meeting. 

“Our condolences over the demise of your dear wife,” Nelan’s father said. 

“Thank you. I’ve been in mourning these last days.” 

“She’s resting in the arms of Our Lord,” Laurens said. 

“Have you been able to cast my horoscope, m’lord?” Nelan asked.  

“I’m so excited to hear your interpretation of it.” 

“Yes, I’ve just finished it, and that’s why I come bearing urgent news,” Dee said. Every word he spoke sounded like a Sunday sermon.  “I’m here to warn you that over these two days – yesterday and today  – the planets Mars and Saturn figure prominently in your chart. Has  anyone in the family recently died violently?” 

“That’s extraordinary! No, not in our family,” Nelan said, “but yesterday evening an explosion badly hurt one of the St John boys.” 

“I see.” Dee nodded. “There’s also an unfortunate opposition in  

Libra, the scales of justice.” 

“What does that mean?” Nelan asked. 

“I suspect it means that the law is now involved in this case, and that there’s a warrant out for your arrest.” 

“What? That’s not justice; that’s injustice,” Nelan yelled. 

“So, we’ll wait for the constables, then,” Laurens said. 

“Father, they can’t arrest me. Only the pastor and the steward witnessed the incident. On their evidence, they’ll hang me. I’m sorry,  but with the news Dr Dee has brought, I must leave.” 

“If you’ve not sinned, the Lord will protect you.” 

“The Lord might, Father, but the law might not. I must clear my name.” 

There was a loud knock at the front door. A cry rang out: “The Queen’s constables here. Open up in the name of the law.” 

“Well, that was prescient, Dr Dee,” Laurens said. “They’re here already.” 

There were voices at the front door, and then a knock at the study door. It was the footman. 

“What is it?” Laurens asked him. 

“The constables are here with a warrant to arrest Master Nelan for murder.” 

“Let them in,” Laurens said. 

“No, don’t!” Nelan cried. 

“Let. Them. In,” Laurens snapped. 

The footman left the study. 

“Then I must go,” Nelan said. 

“No,” his father replied. “We are visitors here. Refugees. England is renowned for its adherence to the law. You must surrender to the  constables.” 

“Quickly, Dr Dee, what do I do?” Nelan asked. 

“There are other significant elements in your horoscope that suggest you have a part to play in the future of this country. That’s why  I’m here to help you escape: because you can’t do that while confined  within a prison. So, you must run away and avoid capture for as long as  possible. Then you can absolve yourself of this unjust accusation. Now,  you must go,” Dee said, pointing to the window. 

Nelan opened it. 

“Do not go,” his father said. “You must defend yourself, and my honour.” 

“Father, I must. The constables—” 

Laurens squeezed himself between Nelan and the window. There he stood, legs astride, arms folded, glaring at him. At times, he had a  fearsome presence. This was one of them. “You are staying here,” he  said through gritted teeth. 

“But, Dr Dee, even if I run, they’ll catch me,” Nelan said. “It’s broad daylight outside.” 

“Not anymore,” Dee murmured, nodding his head. “Look out the window.” 

Outside, a mist as thick as pea soup hung over the river. Where’s that come from? Did it arise naturally, or did Dr Dee conjure it out of the  ether? 

“Where is he?” an unfamiliar voice boomed from the corridor. 

“Nelan, be a man,” his father said, “and account for your actions.  

If you flee, you will dishonour the Michaels’ family name.” 

Nelan clenched his fists. “Father, I have to find another way to clear my name. I’ll not end my days in Newgate or Marshalsea for a  crime I didn’t commit. Besides, if anyone’s guilty, it’s Guillermo. Now,  move, please!” 

“I will not!” 

“This time, I’ll not bow to your wishes. I’m innocent and disappointed that you don’t believe me. I beg you, get out of my way.” “No.” 

The study door burst open, and Laurens glanced towards the intruder. In one swift, agile movement Nelan darted between his  father’s legs and came out the other side. He scrambled onto the  windowsill and jumped down to the ground outside before his father  had time to stop him. Finally, he’d found an advantage to being small.  The ground was moist and soft from the mist. A light breeze swirled  vapour around him, adding a ghostly effect to the scene. From the  study he heard muffled voices: those of the constables, his father, and  Dr Dee. 

He knew the paths leading to and from the house like he knew the course of the river. He felt invisible to the world, and in a way, he was.  Leaving one life behind and taking the first frightened, tentative steps  into a new one, he concentrated on every footstep. He could barely see  the path, but he knew that the river flowed by some fifty paces in front  of his house. 

There he met an extraordinary sight. He stepped out of the swirling mist and into broad daylight. Apart from his house,  everywhere was clear: the north bank of the river in Chiswick, the  monastery of Syon Abbey to the west, and to the east the city of  London, where filaments of woodsmoke snaked into the dawn skies  on the horizon. The mist had settled around his house, but nowhere else. He’d never witnessed such a strange phenomenon in all the years  he’d lived there. 

He still didn’t know the identity of the woman in his vision. During  the fire, she had made him freeze at the crucial moment. Providence  had spoken. So had Dr Dee, and so had Nelan’s horoscope. Dee had  told him that he had a part to play in England’s future. What on earth  did that entail? If only he could have had more time with Dr Dee.  But time was the one thing he didn’t have, so, after one last Parthian  glance at his old home, he set off along the riverbank away from the  mysterious cloud of mist and into a new life. 

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