The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Brother Dismas, a lay brother in an unidentified order during the early Tudor period in England, has never taken priestly vows. His abbot has given him a dispensation to pursue the magical arts and alchemy in the hope that he can find an elixir to restore the abbot’s youth and good health. Dismas plans, with his abbot’s blessing, to locate magi who claimed in their writings to have found the elixir and to ask their help in reproducing it.

One of the magi, Lucius Germanicus, was last known to be living in Germany, and Brother Dismas travels there via London. In London, Dismas gains two companions: Gabriel, a youth of twenty, and Thomas Brackenridge, an English healer. Gabriel seeks his father, Ralph Terven, who traveled abroad several years earlier and has never returned, and Thomas is fleeing England after inflicting on a powerful nobleman a cure more painful than his illness. Ibrahim bin Judah, a Jewish magician, helps the trio escape across the English Channel. They travel by boat up the Rhine to Dachsenberg, where Germanicus is said to have lived, and rest in a tavern below the castle.

During the night, Gabriel is spirited away. Thomas explains that Ralph Terven had but one child, a daughter named Radegonde, and that the local baron has a predilection for innocent young girls. Dismas, innocent though he is, realizes that Gabriel had been Radegonde in disguise and that the girl is now in peril. He decides to rescue her, if he can. He achieves entry into the castle and is confronted by Albrecht, the son of Germanicus. Dismas is dismayed to learn that Germanicus died at the age of 119. Albrecht, however, claims to have found the secret of life. It lies, he says, in the last three drops of a virgin’s blood. Fortunately, the...

(The entire section is 717 words.)