Tuesday, July 23, 2013
THE DOUBLE LIFE OF INCORPORATE THINGS: Chapter 16
Lavinia and I had agreed upon a time. We had packed what we could.
In each of our respective rooms, the bedclothes molded under the covers of each bed looked convincingly like a sleeping body.
We thought we were very clever.
We met in the hall at the appointed time, using the soft chime of the grandfather clock at the end of our corridor to mask the sound of the opening doors, the jostle of bags and the hatbox that served to carry far more than a hat, and our careful tread. Sneaking down the staircase as the bell continued to softly toll, we were painfully aware of every creak and slight murmur of the house, wincing at any and every sound.
We reached the downstairs landing. Turning to one another, I could feel the tension thick in the air. This was it. The point of no return. We were going forth unto an unknown world, an uncertain destiny, a future from which there might not be any coming back… And yet neither of us felt we had any other option. That was what the demons had done, propelled us forward on a terrible course that we could not begin to fathom the end of.
And then there was a movement from the shadows, blocking our path.
"Oh, no, you don't!" Mrs. Northe scowled, turning the gas-lamp key of a front door sconce and throwing us into illumination.
So much for clever.
She placed one arm on either side of the doorframe to block us; the lavish bell sleeves of her thick satin dressing gown trimmed in fine lace spread and unfurled like formidable wings.
Lavinia shrank back, her shoulders falling, and she stammered in an effort to defend us, though her tone was one of distinct guilt. "Mrs. Northe, forgive me, you misunderstand—"
"No, she doesn't misunderstand," I murmured gently, ruefully. "She knows exactly what's going on. Clairvoyance, and all…" I set down the hatbox before I went to her. I took one of her hands in mine, moved by the fierce quality upon her face, the face of a mother protecting her brood from leaving the safety of a den to run directly toward predators. "What? What is it that you see that has you so concerned when you know that avoiding the inevitable does us no good?"
"Death," she choked.
I swallowed hard. "Death if I go, or death if I stay?"
"I...don't know," she said, looking at me helplessly. A helpless Mrs. Northe was one of the more terrifying things I'd encountered. Lavinia just looked from one of us to the other worriedly.
"I can't take the risk of staying behind," I said finally.
"How can I bear the risk of letting you go? I can't let you. When I went Chicago to help my Amelia pass onto the next plane, she warned me that death lay ahead. I can't allow you to doom yourself—"
"But the doom will find me if I am marked for it, you know that. It will find a way, but so will I. You know me—"
She closed her eyes as if the threat that next came out of her mouth was as intolerable to her as it was to me. "I could have you sent to an asylum—"
"You wouldn't dare," I said.
"I'd dare anything to protect you—"
"You have." I fought to keep my words gentle. "You always have protected me. You always will. Just...let us choose our paths."
"Your father will—"
"Never know, because you'll make up something brilliantly creative—"
"Natalie, I sense death," she cried. "You're not prepared—"
"Do you see my death? Or simply death?"
"Not precisely, no, I can't forsee a specific fate, but danger and death is a certainty, I cannot risk you—"
I sighed heavily. Lavinia was ashen pale at my side and yet still resolute. "I've faced death awake, I've faced it dreaming. I don't like the idea, but I've a strong notion it will come for me regardless. I'd just rather it not be expecting me."
There was a very long time where Evelyn Northe and I simply stared at one another.
"You realize you're the bravest girl I've ever known," she said finally.
I felt tears threaten to sting my eyes, but I fought them back. "I learned bravery from the mother who pushed me out of the way of a carriage and was run down instead. I learned bravery from a stepmother who doesn't flinch at dark magic."
She blinked a moment. Then she realized that "stepmother" meant her, and it was then her turn to blink back tears.
But the moment of deep sentiment was short lived. Mrs. Northe's expressive hazel eyes rolled back entirely, and her tall, slight form began to shake uncontrollably. A voice came from her that was not entirely her own, it was singsong and eerie. "They've gone to the house and it is ashes…ashes…"
"What…what's going on…" Lavinia said, looking at Mrs. Northe and then to me, terrified.
"I think… She's channeling something," I said slowly. "I hope it's a spirit…"
"Let's go," Lavinia said and stormed to the door, blowing past our suddenly incapacitated hostess. "Natalie, come on. This is our chance—"
"But we can't leave her—"
Lavinia rushed back into the base of the landing to emphatically ring the maid's bell, picked up my hatbox from where I'd dropped it and shoved it at me, grabbed my hand, hoisting her satchel over her shoulder, and we flew out the door.
Out the front door, I heard Mrs. Northe cry out: "Beware…all ye who journey there..."
It was hardly the parting words I wanted to hear. I wanted benedictions, not warnings. But then came a telling, shrieking addition:
"Heed the sequence," Mrs. Northe cried, from whatever forces were utilizing her. "The order. The book."
And that, I knew, was a clue. This was too chilling of a note to leave my mentor and spiritual warrior upon, but as Lavinia was physically dragging me away, I'd take whatever help I could get.
I paused outside just a moment, to see if there was anything else to be gleaned, but the maids had descended about her then; I heard fussing, and I could see the grouped shadow inside the beveled glass of the door. I was confident she'd be taken care of. Hopefully her staff would call Blessing, or maybe that senator, one of her powerful friends—if she didn't come to after some time entranced.
At least the spirits were trying to help us.
At least I hoped it was the spirits speaking through her and not something else…
(End of Chapter 16-- 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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