ABOUT THE BOOK
Dara Roux, abandoned when she was 7 years old by her mother. Exceptionally gifted in foreign languages. Orphan.
Mackenzie Yarborough, no record of her parents or where she was born. Exceptionally gifted in math and problem-solving. Orphan.
Jennifer Torres, both parents killed in an automobile accident when she was 16. Exceptionally gifted in music and art. Orphan.
Three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina's purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus located in Raleigh, North Carolina, so they can't cause any more problems ("expressions of creativity") for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted – a search, more dangerous than she could have imagined, that will fill in all of the missing pieces of her past and help each of her students to discover something meaningful within themselves.
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It was always the older ones who felt the need to challenge the ancient gypsy traditions. The children who weren't yet adults, but who felt they were old enough to thwart authority and desire independence.
"I want lots of gold," said Milosh who had recently turned 17 years old--a man in his opinion. The oldest in the group, soon he would join the adults. "Teach me the spell to make me wealthy."
"You must be careful for what you wish, Milosh." As always, the choovihni was patient with her young pupils. "But I shall teach you the spell for attracting material goods." She sat in the shade of the tall elm with her full skirt spread out around her and waited until everyone was quiet and settled before continuing. "First, write down whatever it is you desire on a clean sheet of paper, then place the paper on a small square of green cloth. You must concentrate on it for a few minutes. That might be hard for you, Milosh," she teased. The other students laughed. They liked for Milosh to be put in his place. Just because he was the son of the Bandoleer, it didn't make him better than everyone else--even though he acted like it. And he played mean tricks on the younger ones who were too timid and afraid to say anything. "Try to visualize the object before you--the shape, texture, color. Feel pride in owning it, the pleasure you hope it will bring, what you will do with it." She looked at each of her students, making sure they understood. "Then hold the paper to your forehead and say three times: 'I have you, I hold you, I keep you.'
"Fold the paper into the green cloth and tie it with a length of red wool. Tie seven knots into the wool and as you tie each knot, say, 'You are mine, I own you.' Put the green cloth with the paper in a small box, and each day, for seven days, hold the box to your forehead and say three times, 'You are mine, I own you.' After you have done this, put the box away in the back of a drawer."
"Will I have lots of gold if I do that?" Milosh asked.
"It will bring success to those who are patient and deserving," Lyuba answered.
For the next several hours, Lyuba taught the children other spells: the spell using the power of trees, a ritual to cleanse the aura of their individual spaces, the spell for strength. When they got older, she would teach them the spells for attracting romance and for keeping a loyal lover. For now, however, she would teach only those things that were appropriate and what they could understand.
When the day's lessons were complete, and the elm's shadow once again lengthened, the parents came for their children. Concerned, Lyuba watched Milosh return to his hut alone. His chakra, that point of light indicating the heart, was dark and brown rather than green as it should be. Much was expected of the only son of the Bandoleer. He held promise, but he had much to learn. Unlike his father, he was impatient and quick to judge others. His focus was on material things, and he ignored what was important. There was also a darkness in his spirit; something that could be dangerous if not corrected.
He would go and prepare the paper, wrapped in green cloth and tied with a thread of red wool, and wish for much gold. He had not understood.