Bartlemy Goodman is approximately 1500 years old. An albino of Greek parentage, he was born in Byzantium during the decline of the Roman Empire - and now resides at Thornyhill house in England, with his dog, Hoover. Bartlemy is one of the Gifted. But experience has taught him the perils of the power of the witch-kind, and so through the ages he has channeled his considerable talents into cooking, his culinary prowess becoming the stuff of legend: Rumor has it, he was among the first to discover chocolate.
On a warm evening in 1991, a young homeless woman holding a baby turns up on Bartlemy's doorstep and he senses destiny at work. The woman's name is Annie Ward and her son, Nathan, is an exceptional child in that Annie cannot account for his conception. Her husband Daniel died in a car accident so Nathan cannot be his. Soon Bartlemy comes to believe that the boy was created beyond the Gate of Death by a superior being for a special purpose, one that may threaten all of witch-kind. Whilst Nathan grows and Bartlemy continues to watch over the small family, strange occurrences begin to plague the village.
The Thorn family, who gave their name to the village and have lived close by since pre-Christian times, were once the guardians of a strange cup of greenish stone set with jewels. When it was lost - sold to a collector in Austria by the black sheep of the family - the family's fortune soon followed suit. Rumored to have been stolen by the Nazis during the war it has now turned up at Sotheby's and the last of the Thorns is determined to get it back by proving the original sale false. Bartlemy joins his friend Rowena Thorn in her campaign. But the matter becomes complicated and sinister when Nathan discovers the body of the Austrian owner in the wood nearby and begins to experience disturbing visions involving the cup itself.
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- S. Wells