The Cabinet of Curiosities
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When Lukas Declercq is orphaned, his uncle summons him to Prague, a refuge for Europe's greatest alchemists and natural philosophers. Uncle Anselmus is court physician to Rudolph II, the reclusive and unstable emperor. He is also curator of Rudolph's bizarre Cabinet of Curiosities, a series of vast rooms stuffed with wonders and scientific marvels. As Rudolph retreats further into his fantasy world, the threat of rebellion hangs in the air. Dorantes, a diplomat from Spain, comes with his daughter, Celestina, on a mission from Philip II to persuade Rudolph to give up his heretical ways. Soon Lukas discovers the terrible truth behind Dorantes's mission. But sinister forces have plans for Lukas too, and before he can thwart the plot against the emperor, Lukas must gamble on Celestina's loyalty in order to save his own life.
desperation, ‘I tell the truth.’ ‘To the torture,’ thundered the old man, and waved a hand dismissively. Out into the evening air they went and back down the narrow road to the tower. Just as they came to the staircase that led to the northern wall, a group of people came in through the Eastern Gate. Lukas searched their faces, seeking a likeness he might recognise as family. He had never met his uncle, but he supposed he might look a bit like his father. It was difficult to see in
purpose. If you wish to win men’s minds, you must persuade them by reason and example.’ ‘You know what happened to my father, don’t you?’ said Lukas. ‘Your mother wrote and told me the worst,’ said Anselmus. ‘See how the Devil takes on many forms – even claiming to do God’s work. But what I really want to know about concerns the New World, so I shall not let intercourse with our Spanish guests degenerate into sullen reproaches.’ . That afternoon they bathed, then dressed in
word will arrive of two youths dressed as monks, wanted for the vile crime of murder back in Momalle. Here, if we keep to the stable, only the landlord will know we are travelling this way. Tomorrow we shall need another disguise.’ Lukas understood. He thought at once of the wheel. He had seen robbers and murderers executed in this manner – their limbs tied and tangled to the spokes of a large wagon wheel and broken with an iron bar. The wheel was hoisted into the air on an axle, like a
written in Latin. Anselmus read quickly. He understood enough to know that the apparatus was some sort of temporal device. It claimed to be able to ‘stop time’ – something Anselmus immediately rejected as impossible. But he was still interested. It was a beautiful machine made in glittering gold and silver with gemstones, and inlaid with ivory embellished with alchemical symbols. He was sure the Emperor would be delighted to have it in his collection. To look at, he could see it was a
nervousness about him and he was undoubtedly not a merchant, especially with the facial tattoos he could see peeping out from either side of the hood he had wrapped tightly around his head. Neither had he found such a device in a monastery. ‘Sir,’ said Anselmus, ‘this machine is clearly not able to do what it claims . . . but it is still very beautiful. I should like to buy it for that reason alone, although I can offer you only two hundred ducats.’ He was expecting the fellow to haggle