In London in 1664, an orange tabby cat named Imelza encounters a black cat she comes to call Master Midnight. When asked his real name, he identifies himself only as Imp. Imelza is seduced by him and he impregnates her that night.
Shortly after his entire family dies of smallpox, young Will Godwin of Adcombe is invited to London by an uncle he has never met. He asks his neighbour, John Balker the miller, to accompany him there. Despite the older man's misgivings and concerns for Will's safety, he agrees to do so.
Will's first night in London is disastrous. He and Mr. Balker are told that Will's uncle will meet them at a seedy tavern called the Sickle Moon, but he fails to show up. The miller becomes drunk and as Will is leading him from the establishment, the two are attacked by a pair of ruffians. They murder Mr. Balker, but before they can turn their attention to Will, a man appears and scares them away by a show of what seems to be magic.
The man introduces himself to Will as an apothecary named Elias Theophrastus Spittle. He hides Will in his shop before convincing the gathering crowd outside that it was the lad who killed Mr. Balker. Will tries to protest, but Spittle says that it would be wiser for him to remain silent, lest he incur the wrath of the mob.
Now a fugitive, Will has no choice but to become the apothecary's servant to ensure his silence. Partly for disguise and partly to demean him, Spittle cuts the boy's hair short. When Will attempts to climb the stairs to the apothecary's private quarters, he is immediately shooed away and told never to go there again. Still he is intrigued by the crimson-painted door.
While Spittle is away, Will takes the opportunity to explore the upper floor, and finds a room filled with the paraphernalia of a wizard. The apothecary catches him and is about to severely punish him when Will offers his assistance in gathering whatever magical ingredients the man might need. Spittle is pacified, and when Will asks if he is a wizard, he says that though he has studied the black arts, he is an alchemist rather than any sort of magician. It is his goal to find the Philosopher's Stone.
One night, Spittle sends Will out to fetch the hair of a hanged man. He is successful, but gets the attention of the night watchman. Forced to flee, he takes refuge in the graveyard of the church of St. Anne. Suddenly, a series of howls pierce the night, frightening off the pursuing night watchman. Will follows the source of the sound and finds Imelza, having given birth to a litter of kittens. She and her small family are half-dead with cold and starvation. Taking pity on them, Will carries them back to Spittle's apothecary shop.
And there unfolds a tale of sorcery, villainy and murder. . . which eventually leads to the beginning of Jupiter.
- The Beginning
- Childhood Forsaken
- "Where Dreams and Nightmares Mingle"
- The Apothecary
- A Hideous Task
- A Dragon in the Rags
- Playing with Fire
- "Lord Have Mercy on Us"
- The Plague Doctor
- At the Southwarke Mission
- The Fall of Adonis
- The Depths of His Black Heart
- Of Reckoning and Destiny
- The Blackened Beast