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Chapter Seventeen (part 1)
Chapter Seventeen (part 1)
What happened to get me onto this steamer was an elaborate process that I undertook without pausing for reflection or consideration. Lavinia and I agreed to banish sentiment and second-guessing, like discarding excess ballast from a ship, in order to make ourselves light, efficient, dynamic, and quick. Uninterrupted by fears or beset by counterproductive worry.
She had planned this out on her own, and I was not a hindrance to that plan. Rather, I think my presence emboldened her. Having spent a life without speaking, I was quite used to doing things on my own, and where Lavinia faltered, I stepped up with confidence. Where I was out of my league in the business and details of international travel, Lavinia filled the breach.
We passed the few hours until the next boat out with one of Lavinia's Association friends down near
Pearl Street, a convenient walk from
Cunard offices for the tickets. From there, it was a brief jaunt to the pier
and then out on the first express steamer possible. I kept looking around for
Mrs. Northe, or my father, fully expecting either of them to try to intercept
us there—it wasn't like steamers to kept their schedules
Part of me wanted them to stop me. But the rest of me knew this, just like everything else the dark magic had wrapped us up in, was inevitable. Mrs. Northe was likely still recovering from what had been a somewhat violent-looking channeling, and my father was still asleep. I promised myself I would write and wire him whenever possible. I owed him that much and so much more than my circumstances allowed me to give.
I moved, acted, and reacted as if I were a horse with blinders, staring straight ahead at my next immediate objective, unable to heed my mind's various cries, denying the sense memory of what it was like to have that dark magic breathing down my neck and prickling upon my skin. Though those discomfiting sensations threatened to overtake me one by one, I beat them back with sheer will. I drove myself like a draft horse pulling weight, moving onward toward a specific task.
It was the second or the third day in—the days began to blur immediately—that I allowed myself to truly pause for breath, staring out over the vast and unfathomable Atlantic Ocean under a brilliantly moonlit sky that I hadn't seen quite so unhindered in some time, due to
's constant gaslight. I permitted a
moment to take stock of myself and my state. My anxiety kept pace at a dull
thrum to match the steam engines decks below my boots. I had hoped against hope
the steamer would make a bit better headway and arrive to port a bit ahead of
This large, impressive boat made me nervous. While the view above me and around me remained spectacular in theory, the truth of it was terrifying. I had never been this far out on the ocean, and I didn't realize how much it would unsettle me until it was far too late to turn back. The steamboat was indeed a wonder, but its behemoth engines were also like strange monsters of this modern world that seemed at any moment able to turn into dragons that could eat us all alive. My father was right. My imagination was far too fertile.
Every now and then I felt tears itching at the very back of my eyes like small pixies, emotional imps demanding I pay attention to all the things I refuse to face. All the potential realities. All the potential finalities. But I bit everything back. Perhaps the rolling crest of seasick nausea was its own blessing, for it was quite a distraction.
In the pocket of my modest linen pinafore, I palmed my notebook in a trembling hand. That simple action allowed for my tensed shoulders to fall just a fraction. Each of my notebooks through the years always proved such a comfort as they were the infallible way I communicated with the world. On a page, I could converse and present arguments with my inner self that needed to externalize its thoughts. The written word had proved in my life to be far more reliable than speech ever was. I'd had far more years writing and communicating in Standard Sign than I'd had actually speaking. The written word held a power that the ephemeral spoken word did not, and I valued the written word like I would a vow.
I flipped through to the latter pages of the notebook, where I'd managed to write down Mrs. Northe's final warnings. I knew better than to ignore or disregard anything out of that woman's mouth, especially if she were in contact with the spirit realm.
A book. A sequence. Whatever had overtaken Mrs. Northe zeroed in on those items. I wondered if any of what had come before, the counter-curses we'd learned, the ways of a split soul, beating the Society at their own games and particular experiments would serve us anymore, or if we were instead dealing with another layer of puzzles. The aforementioned clues would crop up, surely, and I hoped I would know them when I saw them and have an instinct as to how to solve their mysteries.
But first, the only sight I was desperate to see was Jonathon Whitby's beautiful face. I wondered if he missed me. If he'd propose again. I'd not hesitate. I'd say yes. Every moment away from him, every circumstance keeping us apart, proved that I simply didn't want to live a life without him. Here I was placing myself in danger just like I'd always done for him, because I simply couldn't take a reactive stance. I had to do something, and it was for his sake, because he was such a good soul. And I'd seen it, held it, cherished that soul. I'd never met another quite like his. Never would. Never needed to.
Everything around Jonathon had been targeted, as the powers of evil always gravitated toward the brightest lights. And we now sought to control the epicenter of that outbreak. I wondered if there was yet a reason to be revealed as to why Jonathon and his family had been chosen as an initial point of entry for the Master's Society, besides Jonathon's inherent goodness. What of his family? The Denbury lineage? Was it as noble and good as its heir?
The fleeting thought crossed my mind that Jonathon might be dead. I swiftly blocked that from even being a possible reality. Not only did I pray for God's help but I demanded of God's will that Jonathon lived. I needed to dream of him again, to keep me going, to remind me why. I needed him to be there when I landed. I needed something solid.
And then, at the corner of my ear, came a whisper; a tiny kiss of sound upon the wind, a flicker of white at the edges of my vision. Mother. Mother's whisper, that had haunted me so beautifully since I lost her so early in my life.
She was there to remind me why too. From her perspective, she didn't want any more demons walking the earth than I did. She was protecting not only her daughter, but the whole fabric and web of life around me. While I might need something solid, so too did I need a shade.
There was so much of the spirit world to cherish and appreciate. It was not all a world to fear. It was a world that had helped me against the demons as much as the living had. Somehow my close contact with the spirit of my mother made death's sting less terrifying. The demons counted on fear, fear of them, fear of chaos, fear of death. My mother vastly mitigated my risk, and the demons had vastly underestimated us.
In that moment I truly understood the lesson my soul being split from my body had taught me. There were two worlds at work every moment of our lives: the tactile and the spiritual. Each and every one of us lived a double life. Body and spirit. Solid and shade. And there was, of course, a constant battle over them. We needed to make friends in both worlds, because there were enemies in each.
And just because Mrs. Northe saw death, it didn't mean it was mine. She specifically couldn't pinpoint the future. And that was for the best. I needed to believe in the power of free will as much as I needed to believe in God. Being a puppet of a divine puppeteer never suited me; it would be with God's help and my own will that we would conquer the problems laid before us. I didn't overestimate myself. But I was damned sure of my calling.
I'd not risk anything before finding Jonathon. We were a good team, and we couldn't dare be separated further. 'That's when the demons had leverage. But the demons hadn't accounted for my guardian angels that had passed on. I was reminded I was not alone. I had friends in both worlds.
The wind took a stronger turn, and I felt the need to retire, and I ducked down the narrow stairwell and down two levels toward our room. Lavinia had procured us distinctly middle-class comportments. She denounced first-class passengers as a nosy lot that would ask too many questions, but that steerage would simply be too miserable. Middle class was all I'd ever known so I simply tried to move as invisibly through this trip as I'd moved all my life as a mute female. I'd been cast out of '"proper society'" so long ago, frankly it afforded me far more freedoms than the scrutiny Lavinia had to seek actively to avoid.
It unsettled me that at dusk the dimly lit corridor leading unto our bunks resembled the constant corridors of my nightmares. As I opened the narrow door to our tiny room, Lavinia was laying on her stomach on the top bunk in a pool of sumptuous black fabrics, writing. She nodded to me as I entered and kept writing.
The realization about the familiar corridor must have affected me on a conscious and unconscious level for sure enough, that night a nightmare came in all its resplendent horror.
Why couldn’t I simply have a pleasant dream about nothing at all. That might be the greatest gift my mind could give, an entirely mundane dreamscape. What a lovely interlude. Maybe, some night, I would be granted that simple pleasure. Tonight was not that night...
(End of Chapter 17.1 - Copyright 2013 Leanna Renee Hieber, The Magic Most Foul saga - If you like what you see, please share this link with friends! Tweet it, FB, + it! The Magic Most Foul team really hopes the audience will continue to grow and it can only do so with YOUR help! If you haven't already, do pick up a copy of Magic Most Foul books 1 and 2: Darker Still and the sequel: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart and/or donate to the cause! Donations directly support the editorial staff.
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