Acquainted With the Night centers on a quest for an ancient illustrated manuscript that was written in the blood of the undead. Many theologians believe that Historia Immortalis was penned in 200 A.D. by an odd sect of Greek monks who stayed hidden during daylight hours and emerged at dusk. These “night walkers” or νυχτοπερπατητής, mapped the night sky. They were also plagued by rumors of hypersexual behavior and human sacrifice.
Historia Immortalis was partly a celebration of the night—nocturnal animals, phases of the moon, and the evening sky. It was also a treatise of death, resurrection, and eternal life.
Other scholars believed that Historia Immortalis was written by the Carpocratians, a Gnostic sect; yet other academicians believe that Lazareth of Bethany penned the manuscript. The book had a way of attracting death to its owner; it also had a knack for vanishing. In the 4th century, papyrus scrolls were unearthed in an Egyptian cave, but before the artifacts could be moved to St. Catherine’s Monastery, the scrolls went missing.
Time has no meaning to a tome like Historia Immortalis. A Coptic version was pilfered from the Alexandria Library right before the great fire. Centuries later, Bedouins found Gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi, but the 12th volume was used for kindling. Fragments of the charred codices were identical to pages from Historia Immortalis.
In the 8th century, during the Charlemagne period, a Coptic version of Historia Immortalis was translated by monks in Marmoutier, France. The lavish illustrations featured gilt and semi precious stones and depicted people rising from the dead. Numerous copies were distributed in France. One copy was owned by a wealthy Cathar, Etienne Grimaldi. The Grimaldis were noblemen, richer than the Pope—and immortal. They reputedly served wine and blood at soirees.
Grimaldi’s version of the book featured erotic illustrations, along with an introduction into the secret world of the immortals. When Grimaldi began having odd dreams about the immortal race, he commissioned a Greek craftsman from the Iviron Monastery on Athos to paint three icons—a triptych.
A copy of Historia Immortalis found its way to the Vatican, and the Albigensian Crusade was launched. Etienne Grimaldi’s copy was never found. In 1982, ten pages of the book were auctioned at Sotheby’s for 1.5 million pounds, along with the center panel of the triptych. The artifacts were bought by a London businessman, Harry Wilkerson. Weeks after the auction, the pages—and Wilkerson’s wife—disappeared.
Fast forward to the present.
Caro Clifford, a London tour guide, learns that her uncle has been murdered at a Bulgarian dig site. As she packs her duffel bag, she adds an ancient piece of art: an icon.
Caro stood on her toes and reached for the Byzantine icon that hung over her desk. It had belonged to her parents. She traced the delicate art. A saint stood at the center, her dark hair streaming down the front of the burgundy robe; she held an ostrich egg in one hand, a gilt-edge book in the other. A bleeding man lay at her feet while the night sky stretched over a vineyard, a castle, and a monk. Uncle Nigel had attached rules to this relic. If she traveled outside the U.K., the icon went with her. “Keep it with you at all times,” he’d said. “No matter how inconvenient. You don’t want a hotel maid to nick it, do you?”Caro hadn’t questioned him It was as if she were protecting her parents, keeping them with her.
Later, Caro discovers that her icon is part of a triptych and it depicts a prophecy, one that pits the forces of light and darkness in a showdown that could destroy humans and immortals.
Image Sources: Dreamstime, Fotolia, Shutterstock