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The Countess

Illustration of the Countess in a Random House book trailer for The Emerald Atlas

Biographical information
Full Name
Countess Tatiana Serena Alexandra Ruskin
Circa. 1015 AD (natural causes)
High City

Present-day (crushed by Willy)
Resides In
Cambridge Falls (formerly)
High City (formerly)
Physical Description
Hair Color
Eye Color
Personal Information
The Count (husband; deceased)
The Count (husband)
Captain Alexei Markov (affair)
Mr. Cavendish
Dire Magnus (formerly)
Michael Wibberly (former allies)
Emma Wibberly (allies)

The Countess Tatiana Serena Alexandra Ruskin[1] was a witch and an employee of the Dire Magnus and was the main antagonist of The Emerald Atlas, in which she held the citizens of Cambridge Falls, Vermont captive to help her get the Atlas. She also made an appearance in The Black Reckoning, in which she was brought back to life by Michael Wibberly, only to be immediately crushed by the giant Willy. Emma Wibberly also encountered her in the land of the dead and got her help in rescuing the Reckoning and setting both of them, among other deceased souls, free from the Dire Magnus's prison.


Early life

The Countess grew up in Russia and was regarded as one of the most beautiful people on earth there. She married the Count at sixteen years of age with the intention of usurping his estate, successfully murdering him after a year of marriage. When she was around seventeen, the Dire Magnus of the era found her there and enlisted her help in finding the Atlas hidden in Cambridge Falls, where she lived in the mansion that would later become the orphanage where Kate, Michael, and Emma would meet Dr. Pym. She, along with her secretary, Mr. Cavendish, captured the citizens of Cambridge Falls and used their children, also captured, as leverage to keep them working for her.

The Emerald Atlas

After the Wibberly siblings arrived in Cambridge Falls, they enlisted the help of the dwarves of Cambridge Falls and freed the captured citizens. During a fierce battle between the dwarves and the Countess's forces, the dam on the lake was broken, and the Countess's boat went over the waterfall. The children believed her to be dead, but the Countess had in reality escaped at the last moment. She went back to the mansion and hid for fifteen years waiting for the siblings to return to the present. When they did, Kate encountered her and, scared, took her into the past with the Atlas and left her there.[2]

Fall of Rhakotis

Abandoned by Kate in the year 332 BC, the Countess realized that she'd been taken to Rhakotis, Egypt during Alexander the Great's conquest of the city - the exact day marking the disappearance of the Books. The Countess hurriedly went to the vault where they were stored, and turned herself invisible. She followed two guards past several traps into the vault, where they intended to retrieve the Books; however, two of the books were already gone - the Atlas taken by Stanislaus Pym, and the Chronicle taken by Xanbertis and two other Guardians. The two guards attempted to take the last book - the Reckoning - but the Countess slit their throats and took the Reckoning for herself.

Massacre of the High City

The Countess then traveled to the High City of the giants in Mongolia with the Reckoning because of the portal there to the land of the dead. She proceeded to kill all of the city's people with the book. The account of the event is described by the giant Willy in The Black Reckoning as follows, depicting the Countess as the "stranger" and the Reckoning as simply "death":

...We had a king in those days too. King Davey the Extremely Tall. It was said that he'd go out for a walk and come back with the clouds wreathed about his hair like a crown from heaven. A golden time... Then one day, a troubling report reached the king. An entire community of giants, out at the edge of the kingdom, had perished suddenly. It was said that the buzzards circled about so thick that noon was like the deepest night. King Davey sent two scouts to find out what had happened, but the scouts never returned. Next, he sent a platoon of soldiers. Twelve giants, girded for battle. A week passed. One soldier returned. He told the king that death had entered the land. That it had been brought by a stranger. That the stranger had let him live so that he could bring a message to the king. "What message?" King Davey asked. "That the stranger is coming to take possession of your throne and your city. And anyone still within the walls in two days' time will die." ...Exactly two days later, the sentries saw the stranger approaching from the distance. A tiny little dark speck. King Davey marched out with fifty of his warriors, all armed to the teeth. ... King Davey led his soldiers forward, intending to crush the stranger underfoot and grind his bones into the earth. The stranger killed them. Faster than you can blink, King Davey and all his warriors were dead on the field.' [3]

With the citizens of the city dead, the Countess proceeded to the king's throne room. She went through the portal into a world-between-worlds, where both living and dead beings may be, and she gave the Reckoning to a spirit to hide in the land of the dead, knowing only the book's Keeper (Emma) would be able to retrieve it. She then got her secretary to prepare a dais in the throne room, where the Countess laid down and died. The secretary mummified her and put a note on the dais, saying "If you want the reckoning, you will have to bring me back."

The Black Reckoning

When Emma, Kate, Michael, Willy, and Gabriel arrived at the High City looking for the Black Reckoning (passing King Davey's bones on the way), they quickly found the Countess's corpse. They read the note and Michael used the Chronicle to bring the Countess back to life. The Countess hoped to use her knowledge of the Reckoning to barter with the siblings, but Willy stomped on her angrily, killing her, before she could disclose any information, much to the chagrin of Kate, Emma, and Gabriel. However, Michael, who had experienced the Countess's memories when using the Chronicle to heal her, knew where she had hidden it, and proceeded to explain to Emma- the book's Keeper- how to find it.

Later, in the land of the dead, Emma was captured by minions of the Dire Magnus, and was put in a prison cell with the Countess, whose spirit, having been sent to the underworld, was also captured. The Countess helped Emma free themselves and the other prisoners, as well as complete the Bonding between her and the Reckoning and restore the memories of all of the deceased spirits.


It is unknown what happened to the Countess after The Black Reckoning. Though she was not included in the group of spirits who Emma had restored memories to- people who had once loved- her previous connection to the Reckoning allowed her to retain her memories in the afterlife. As the books were destroyed, it seems that no one in either world can cross to the other, so it is assumed that she was not involved in the Wibberlys' lives after that.


The Countess is extremely vain and self-absorbed. When she was in Rhakotis during Alexander the Great's conquest, she hoped to claim the Chronicle for herself because of its healing powers, wishing for eternal beauty and youth. She is also confident and patronizing at times.


  1. Stephens, John. The Emerald Atlas. Yearling Books, 2011.
  2. Stephens, John. The Emerald Atlas. Yearling Books, 2011.
  3. Stephens, John. The Black Reckoning. Yearling Books, 2016.

See also