The carvings on the druid stone read: “When the stone breaks, a flower will rise.”
Amaranthe’s been dreaming, caught between past and present. When you’re a teenager living in a French village so small they turn the streetlights out at midnight and the nearest cinema is ten kilometres away, there isn’t much else to do—but these dreams are odd. They feel too real, and they’re all set in her tiny village, at a time when the time-worn stones of the old church were sharp and pale and new.
Amaranthe dreams as Pierre, when Petromantalum, the place where the roads meet, was the largest settlement in the area. The small church built by holy men twenty years ago has attracted the attention of the old gods, awoken by the Christian bells and the smell of blasphemy, and from the mountains and the forest, the rivers and the standing stones, the ancient magic is rising.
Old and young, healthy and sick are dying between one breath and the next, and the echoes of their passing murmur in men’s minds, driving those left to the ragged edge of sanity. The men of the Eastern cult do nothing but pray to their singular god and call the deaths His punishment for sin.
The son of a legionary and local woman, Pierre is a misfit, caught between two worlds. A generation ago, he would have joined the Legions. Now, with the might of Rome fading back into the East, there is only one way he can fight; with his mother’s weapons, and the magic bequeathed to him as her son. No man is a match for the power of a god, but Pierre’s sacrifice buys sanctuary for the village at the crossroads for nearly two thousand years.
When the first death strikes, a week into the autumn term, Amaranthe surrounds herself with her friends, goes shopping in the city, and convinces herself that it’s poor timing. At the second, she tells herself that it’s coincidence. By the third, she realises that she’s the only one who knows Pierre’s secret – and the only one who can stop the deaths.