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Popes and Phantoms

John Whitbourn

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Fiction, Science fiction

Admiral Slovo was a man of his time, but of more than one dimension..In his sixteenth century, a pirate might be followed by the corpse of his victim, walking across the ocean, until putrescence claimed it. Or an interview with the Pope might be mirrored, exactly, by one with the Devil. Reality shifts could cause a King to see his capital city shimmer into another Realm entirely.

Through such scenes of macabre hallucination, mayhem and murder, Slovo is a man alone, set apart by his stoic beliefs from the rigours of human fears and passions. As such, he was a valuable find for the Vehme, a clandestine, subversive society that ensnared its members from an early age, securing loyalties by the expedient methods of blackmail, bribery and barbarism.

But Slovo is more than a Vehmist puppet, and whether as a brigand on the high seas, or emissary to the Borgias, or as the Pope's Machiavellian Mr Fix-it, he plots a course that suits his own ends as much as those of his paymasters. He knows that, in the words of his mentor Marcus Aurelius, "in a brief while you will be ashes of bare bones; a name, or perhaps not even a name". And there are few things that cannot be solved by a stiletto in the eye.

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