Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: New Fiction Excerpt: Meet Clara Templeton

Hello Dear Readers! Today I introduce you to Clara Templeton. For those of you who have read to the end of The Double Life of Incorporate Things, you will have met Clara and seen her in action. She appears at the end of Double Life in hopes you'll continue with Clara and a whole new cast of characters (as well as cameos from other favourite characters in my series novels) as she is one of two heroines starring in The Eterna Files (Tor, February 2015).

This excerpt is from a work in progress, a novella set in the Eterna Files universe. Please note work in progress status, all work subject to change upon further editorial input and in publication.

New York City, 1880

Clara Templeton sat surrounded by precarious towers of paperwork and random items. This was unwise in her gas-lit office where she liked to keep all her prized, brand new Tiffany gas lamp fixtures trimmed very high to marvel at the bright, exquisite colors and stunning textures and effects the new genius artist wrought on lamp-shades and sconces. But never minding the fact that the whole place could burst into flames with the least tip of a paperwork pile, Clara never felt happier than when she was entirely surrounded by interesting things.

Curiouser and curiouser were Clara’s general states of mind. This hadn't wavered much since childhood, and now at the age of twenty seven, working in a career that was entirely unheard of (especially for one of her sex) she felt now it was her most vital asset.  

Franklin, her partner in the Eterna Commission office, would have thrown a fit at how she was keeping the place, but he wasn’t there and so she had taken the liberty of spending the entire day giddily abandoning his fastidious principles of organization.

Clara was infamous for collecting everything, for throwing nothing away, and making an ornate mess of things. To her credit, she knew where every single thing within the mess was located and could find it in impressive time, if asked. And despite her eccentric flair, she had an eye for décor, so even though the place looked like the attic of a mad collector and archivist, it had some semblance of style. Her taste in art, at least, was thoroughly cutting-edge. Her golden-framed Pre-Raphaelite sensibility lit by Tiffany glass made the place a treasure of rich colors and bold, iconic sentiment that offset the dark mahoganies of the office paneling quite spectacularly.

Talismans of good luck were kept in an overflowing curio cabinet that she liked to periodically empty and examine the contents of. She often hung the pendants and icons up around her, tacked to her window behind her desk, if she felt in particular need of protection. This was one of those days. She felt that something was ‘in the air’. And when she felt that sense, she guarded her delicate sensitive’s sensibilities with care. Whenever she was alone in the office, she took caution deathly seriously.

Early in working together, the impeccably neat Franklin had burst out, having yet again knocked over one of Clara’s carefully stacked piles in a maze of notebooks and papers; “May I ask, Miss Templeton, why you insist upon keeping everything that comes into your hands? I try very hard for our office not to fall into the state of an unmanageable hoarder’s den, but it’s rather impossible to keep up the pretense, let alone some kind of cataloguing system.”

Franklin was so polite and reserved, and generally deferential to Clara to the point of irritation, it had been odd to see him so fraught, but just as her habits frayed his only delicate nerve, so had he struck upon hers. 

She remembered blinking up at him from behind a precarious stack of ledgers where a small stone gargoyle procured from a recent investigation looked out in scowling protest of his surroundings. In a painfully earnest, childlike voice that didn’t even sound like it belonged to her, she replied; “because all of this means something to one of them. I… don’t know how to let go of any of it.”

Franklin had come to learn just what she meant by that. It meant something to one of her previous lives. Clara had an uncanny sense of how many times her particular soul had made its rounds in various trajectories about the world and through time. And while she tried not to let this life get too busy with all her other ones, sometimes they were terribly sentimental and she simply had to honor the things that reminded them, variously, of home. She was her own living graveyard. While others might find that morbid, Clara found it rather endearing.
(End of Excerpt)

I hope this piques your interest in Clara and in The Eterna Files. Stay tuned for future word about how this piece fits into the grand scheme of things and in the meantime, meet Clara and others you'll run into again in future novels in The Double Life of Incorporate Things.

Cheers and as always, Happy Haunting...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Spotlight on Reader Art

For today's Teaser Tuesday, it's an ART SPOTLIGHT!

I love it when my books inspire the artistic imaginations of my readers and they feel compelled to put various mediums to paper and visualize my characters, who are all like children to me. Through the years since the Strangely Beautiful saga was first published, I've received some amazing, truly jaw-dropping art from my readership. What a delight!

Today's featured artist is Nancy Lee. She is immensely talented and I had the pleasure to meet her in person during a writing workshop in Portland, it's so lovely when talented people also have wonderful energies to commend them as delightful souls too. Here's Nancy's DeviantArt profile, if you're on DeviantArt, follow her promptly: http://deepkimchee.deviantart.com/

Here's Nancy's amazing take on my heroine, the ghostly and ethereal Miss Percy Parker, and the hero of the Strangely Beautiful saga, the enigmatic and imperious Professor Alexi Rychman. I happen to think they're spot on, they took my breath away.


As I discussed in my first Teaser Tuesday, my Strangely Beautiful saga has been out of print due to the collapse of Dorchester Publishing. BUT, it will rise again. If you're interested in this series, you can check your local library for a copy. Don't spend money on an overpriced used copy, instead, my editor at Tor and I hope you'll wait for the re-issued editions, available for pre-order next year. They'll be freshly reformatted and edited, with the glorious art department of Tor/Forge behind them - we've been in cover art discussions and I am SO EXCITED. If you want to make sure you know the moment Strangely Beautiful is back and better than ever in its revised editions, please either sign up to get this blog's updates, follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/leannarenee , on FB: http://facebook.com/lrhieber and / or sign up for my newsletter on my website: http://leannareneehieber.com

In the meantime, listen to the music of Strangely Beautiful THE MUSICAL! Yes, there is a musical adaptation of the novel currently in development! http://strangelybeautifulthemusical.com

If you're a visual artist and feel like taking a crack at one of my characters, let me know and I'll be happy to spotlight you too!

Cheers and as always, happy haunting! We'll see you next Teaser Tuesday for a snippet of my latest work-in-progress!

Merry Christmas to all! - "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." - John 1:5

Leanna Renee

The Double Life of Incorporate Things (The Magic Most Foul Finale) - Now Available! - Amazon - Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: A new, free short starring Nathaniel Veil and Lavinia Kent! In which our Gothic friends take Black Friday literally...


As you know, Dear Readers, we spent most of the year serializing most of The Double Life of Incorporate Things via this blog, and now the full novel is excitingly available via Kindle and paperback via Amazon, and also, via Barnes & Noble: paperback AND at last, NOOK, huzzah!

Last week ushered in the new Teaser Tuesday feature of fresh new content for your reading pleasure.

Today I'm directing you over to the fabulous Literary Escapism to be sure you don't miss a new little piece I did in honor of their annual Black Friday feature. H.M.A.M.B. style...

Since you know our infamously Gothic duo, Nathaniel Veil and Lavinia Kent from their Double Life adventures here, join them at Lord & Taylor circa 1881 for a literal "Black Friday" the denizens of New York aren't likely to forget....

Leave a comment there at the bottom of the post per the prompted question and you could win a signed copy of The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart!

Read, enjoy, share, and we'll see you next Tuesday for a new feature on the latest in the Hieber Gothic Victorian Fantasy matrix!

Cheers and as always, Happy Haunting!

Monday, December 16, 2013

DOUBLE LIFE now available for NOOK! And A Goodreads Giveaway!

Happy Monday, folks!

For my dear Barnes & Noble loyal readers, many of whom have been waiting and asking, bless you, despite a slight delay, Barnes & Noble editions are at last up and running!

The Double Life of Incorporate Things is now available for Nook as well as in paperback via Barnes & Noble.

Please Note: This title is not being shelved within Barnes & Noble physical stores. B&N can order it into store for you if you order it, but it won't be sitting there on shelves.

Goodreads users! DOUBLE LIFE has a Goodreads Giveaway happening right now! Put it on your to-read shelf and enter to win a signed copy!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Double Life of Incorporate Things by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Double Life of Incorporate Things

by Leanna Renee Hieber

Giveaway ends January 10, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

As always, the more you can spread the word about a new work, the better chance at a full life it will have, and as this novel sets the stage for my upcoming Eterna Files, your help in it taking wing will make it fly all the higher! So Tweet, share, + and "like" away!

Cheers, thank you for reading and as always, Happy Haunting!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Strangely Beautiful: a rare, raw window.

Today's post is about my beloved, award-winning, bestselling Strangely Beautiful saga. As many of you know, my first three novels are out-of-print, due to the collapse of Dorchester Publishing. One can find used copies of Dorchester print books online, but none of the proceeds of second-hand books go to authors. If you're looking to dive into that series, please see if your local library has the series rather than paying overpriced prices for an out-of-print copy, OR wait until the NEW editions, freshly revised, with new scenes(!) and new content, entirely repackaged, release April 2016 from Tor/Forge, my new publisher, available for pre-order now. The series being out of print, in addition to a huge financial loss that I took in unpaid royalties and such, has been devastating for me, something I haven't really talked about publicly. It was like having children taken away along with paychecks. But now that Tor has picked up the series and it will officially back out legitimately in the world again, including the fourth and final book at last, I can relax a bit and hopefully what was a career and financial setback and general turn of bad luck will turn itself back around. I hope.

I posted the following a while ago within a contained circle. Here, nervously, now brazenly public, I let you all in on a little window into my mind, written at a time when Miss Percy's resurrection wasn't certain. She has always lived so vibrantly in my mind since she first waltzed into it nearly thirteen years ago, never had she simply 'quit'. Through all the turmoil, she'd remained gentle, stoic, resolute. Until she simply couldn't any more. And she faltered. Faded. I panicked. Now that I know she is safe once more, I can share this with you, so that you can see and know just how important she is as a character, and the series as a whole is, to me, and, I hope she can be so to you when it comes time for her to shine again in the future.
February 2013
To my most beloved girl, as you lie upon the hospital bed of my mind, fading of a broken heart as your tale lies in purgatory...
My Dearest Percy,
Thirteen years ago you burst into my mind and changed everything. You were eighteen. I was twenty-one. With your ghostly visage, your entirely colourless flesh, your pearl-white hair, timid smile, wide ice-blue eyes, trembling hands and a heart so big I could feel it beat across one hundred and twelve years of time, you struck me to the core. You utterly possessed me, obsessed me, and I had to know absolutely anything and everything about you. Your days consumed mine. I came to know the sweetest soul I've ever had the honour to imagine, the purest heart, the most radiant spirit, an Angel come to a ghostly Victorian earth of my dreamy imagining. You, fragile, dear and unique thing, you so unlike anything I'd ever known in this life and yet so utterly familiar to me, you were immediately my best friend, my child, my great love, my pride and joy. You became my favourite thing. 
I knew that my life would never be the same for needing, desperately, to tell your tale. Through you I understood my purpose in life like I'd never understood it before: I was a storyteller for your sake. I was here on this earth to tell many tales, but yours most of all. Through you I understood my strange childhood obsession with the years of the 1880s, all my intense, maddeningly certain feelings that I didn't belong in this century, the shadows of my mind, being misunderstood suddenly made sense. All this was so that I could belong with you, translate you, serve you. It was so I could be your voice.
It took a long time until you met the world. Sometimes you and I were all we had in the winters of our discontent, in the long dark nights of our soul, two lonely wanderers. We traveled together to many different cities, you saw me through love and loss and heartbreak and drama. You kept me alive in my darkest hours. You were a reason to live. Nearly nine years, countless revisions of your tale, endless hours of work-shopping, networking and all the harsh business that makes art so frustrating. And then, through sheer force of will, very hard work, a lucky break, all the things that it takes, you landed your contract that would put you out into the world. That was in the fall of 2009.
You broke onto the scene in a blaze of your special brand of light and garnered notice. Some of the world fell in love with you, some did not. You made your mark, did well, and I was so blindingly proud of you. You were always yourself; sweet, dear, timid, radiant, with a heart so huge the world could so easily break it, and sometimes it tried with harsh words. But nothing broke you. You were stronger than anyone ever imagined. There are many types of strength. Loving with your whole being, loving as a force of nature, that takes more strength than most can comprehend. As you wove your way into the world, so did you weave impossibly deeper into my mind and heart, you continued to be my bedtime story as you had been for over a decade. You and The Guard ushered me into sleep for as many nights as I'd known you, guardians of my psyche and subconscious.
And then every author's worst nightmare happened. Your publisher folded, taking your stories, the rights surrounding them, and a great deal of money owed, down into the underworld, tangled up in difficulties. Much like your mythological namesake. And there you've wandered in purgatory, out of print, difficult to find, with no restitution for you or for me, for nearly three years now. The legacy of your family remains unfinished as other jobs and tales had to be undertaken so I could survive... The situation in which we found ourselves was complicated and there was no easy answer. I've sought to place you where my other novels will be placed, I think you'll be safest there, I await word. But you haven't just been lost revenue during all this. You've been my lost soul. My lost heart. For anyone who think this sounds overdramatic, then frankly that person doesn't know anything about me. I did not go out and publicly make rants about the situation, close friends knew the trauma but I maintained a public face of good humour and hard work. I penned other characters and dramas, trying not to act like my heart was breaking, trying not to seem like one of the most vital parts of my soul was dying in an effort to live and be seen. Those who don't think you're real never got to know you.
And you, dear girl, so vibrant in my mind, so alive and with me; my alter ego and best self, you were so brave and strong through all this mess; quietly stepping aside, patient, allowing me to work on other tales. I love all the children I create, but sometimes a mother does have a favourite child.  I hope you saw how many tears I shed for you. I have cried for your triumphs and your bitter disappointments more than the world could ever know. Still, you remained strong. Until you just couldn't any longer.
You broke down in my mind, swift and sudden, in a fit that shocked me. Weary of being ignored, you were agonized that your tales were held captive and you lashed out. Righteously angry. You burst into tears and tore around Athens Academy in a sobbing rage until you collapsed, clinging onto me as you fell. I sunk with you onto the marble floor and beloved Alexi and I, the both of us weeping, carried you to the infirmary. 
You are so tired, you are so heartbroken that you've just fallen into a deep, deep sleep, a porcelain, ghostly sleeping beauty, and I'm the heartbroken mother sitting at your side, stroking your pearlescent locks as I don't know when I can rouse you again and bring you back unto the world. The promise of your re-publication remains uncertain, and that is partly my fault. I know I could have already put your tales back out for publication myself in this digital age, but I've lacked the funds, time, resources and knowledge to do it properly in order to give you everything you deserve. You warrant a resurrection via the traditional manner with an entire team behind you, before publishing changes to an unrecognizable point. We are old fashioned, you and I. And so it is for this that I hold out hope and prayer as I sit at your bedside in my mind and hold your hand. Now it's my hand that's trembling. Now I'm the one feeling timid and overwhelmed. Where is my radiant heart to light the way without you, dear girl?
I miss you so much. I love you more than I have loved any creation. You are still my favourite thing. You always will be. And when I can finally wake you with the promise of your resurrected life, oh how you will rise. Like the phoenix I gave you to love, you will rise just like him, my strangely beautiful girl, and you will shine so, so bright.
But in the meantime, hang on, for me, my love, my pride and my joy, my sweetest creature, my greatest treasure, my luminous gift. I don't know if the world needs you, but you need to be in the world, and I need you most of all. Please hang on, for me. There's so much more of this life we need to see together and I don't want to see it without you.

Your grieving author,

Whew. Well, there you have it.

Now that dear Percy's future is, in fact, assured and she'll be reissued in shiny new editions with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance I feel she deserves thanks to the fine folks at Tor /Forge, I felt I could open up the most raw truth I've possibly ever shared, now that the worst is behind us. Fellow writers, if I can survive an author's worst nightmare, you can face all your demons. I promise you.

You can support STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL and it's bright new future here at Barnes & Noble and also at Amazon. Please do. 

Cheers and as always, happy haunting...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


(For previous chapters, see right side bar. If viewing by mobile, scroll down from http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com for other chapters)

Dear Readers, as we've crossed into December, today marks the last installment of the serialization to be posted on the blog, however it is not the end of the story! Free serialization has been happening weekly since March, but now that the full novel is available, the Double Life team is letting the rest of the full novel speak for itself in entire completion, in its intended form. For those who haven't already donated, we all hope you'll pick up a copy of the novel. It is now available in print and Kindle formats (Nook / Barnes & Noble links we're told will go live by the end of the week)! (To the Double Life donors who donated $20 or more to the project, your signed books and donor rewards will be shipped/arrive Mid-December). The Double Life team thanks everyone for being a part of this journey. Please enjoy this installment and then the rest, as there's still more story to tell.

Still stay tuned every Tuesday! Because Tuesdays will now become "Teaser Tuesdays" as I release a segment from a forthcoming book or novella, musings on the latest works, insight into the current creative process, or a selection from a work-in-progress. So fresh fiction will still wing its way to you every Tuesday, whatever the current project or teasers for upcoming releases, you'll have exclusive sneak peeks right here, just as you've been the first to read this novel as it's happened! Now I'm expanding the material to a greater range of work. Considering all my series have crossover characters, just think of it as spending time every week with different members of an extended family. An utterly mad and ridiculously colourful extended family...

Now, without any further delay, here is chapter twenty-seven of The Double Life of Incorporate Things' twenty-nine full chapters.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Jonathon and I jogged up the earthen corridor, coughing. The increasing smoke would present a problem indeed if we didn't keep moving.

My whole body ached as we finally climbed the stairs into the cottage. The rest of our compatriots had all found places to collapse ahead of us, draped on the edges of the bed or leaning bent against fine furniture that our sooty, bloody, bedraggled forms looked so at odds with.

Someone had opened the front door to the night, to the forest. Everything outside was still, save for the night sounds of insects and birds. So quiet. Peaceful. We did not turn on more than the one lamp at the entrance. We did not want to see the sharp details of what the night had done to any of us. What it had taken from us.

Jonathon brought a wet towel moistened from an outside water basin over to me and washed the inked cross from my forehead and then his own.

Reverend Blessing had laid out Maggie's body upon the bay window where the moonlight upon her face made her lovely face even lovelier and turned the garish pools of blood all over her dress into grayscale. Mrs. Northe had Maggie's head in her lap, at work in the moonlight, removing the blood from her face, neck, arms, and hands with silken kerchiefs.

I knelt upon the divan, and Jonathon drew close. As he sat I collapsed onto his lap, resting my head in his gentle hands that were shaking so hard. But he stroked my hair anyway. Wherever we landed, we wept. Silently. For a long time.

Finally, Mrs. Northe stirred, gesturing Reverend Blessing over to her side. "Reverend, I'd like to pray with you here, over my niece, if you would be so kind." I'd never heard her speech so gentle, so tired, so grieved.

I rose and moved with him; kneeling before the bay window bier, we prayed over her, said thanks for her, her bravery, and sacrifice. We asked for forgiveness of all of our sins that led to her death, Mrs. Northe having a most difficult time with the guilt of it.

I simply took Evelyn's hand, and she held it. I was well aware it could have easily been me upon those cushions with hands folded over my still breast. I might have done the same, trying to buy us time, but I'd never have thought to do what she did, not so boldly. With great sadness I realized she probably hadn't gotten my letter. I was a fool not to have sent it sooner.

Death brings such guilt to the living, illuminating all the things undone and unsaid. It wasn't fair. She didn't deserve such a death. And yet we didn't deserve such a sacrifice. But if she hadn't done what she did, likely casualties would have been higher. She may have had no choice.

I wondered what had happened in Chicago right before Maggie left. I wondered if she had dreams like I did. She'd shared with me, once, that the demon had visited her dreams. What if she knew it was all as inevitable as I had known? Somehow that gave me comfort, as her actions seemed far too calculated to have been inspiration in the moment.

Mrs. Northe had promised there would be death. But even the most clairvoyant, if too close to the truth, couldn't see it. Not precisely.

"I should have known, I should have seen. It should have been me." Those words she kept repeating numbly in different variations. I shook my head at her.

"That does no good, Evelyn," Blessing murmured. "Accept the facts as they lie. As you live, give thanks for her life. Pray for her undying soul, that will be rewarded in heaven for such selfless acts."

Mrs. Northe nodded and just kept stroking Maggie's hair. That was a comfort, the idea of her reward. I hoped in heaven, for Maggie, there would be lots of balls and pretty dresses and exquisite company, that she'd have no need for gossip or intrigue, merely be loved and cherished by heavenly hosts until I'd see her again in some future day and thank her soul myself. I moved back to rest in Jonathon's arms.

After some time, Brinkman banged upon the iron door from the other side, making us all jump. He called out to us to let him in.

"Most of the wing was saved," Brinkman said as he entered, mopping a sweaty brow. "Thank goodness for stone frames between wings. But you'll need a new dining room, Lord Denbury. I'm off to Scotland Yard, friends," Brinkman said, crossing the cottage in a few stern strides. "I'll fill out the reports and keep your further involvement to a minimum. I'll push for an immediate trial."

"Shouldn't you rest, Mister Brinkman?" I asked.

"Not until I have my satisfaction," he said gravely. "Those wicked bastards have my son. My child. My only joy in this goddamn world. I'd rip out all their throats with my bare hands if I thought I could still find him without their knowledge."

There was a terrible silence in the room at this still unfinished business.

"Let us know how we can help," Mrs. Northe said gently.

"Thank you," Brinkman said, burying his pain. He glanced at Maggie's body. "I take it you knew her. I'm sorry for your loss."

"We'll be praying for your son," I offered. Brinkman managed a slight smile.

"Thank you. Ladies, you were very brave. I doubt the men hidden in those walls waiting for the signal could've done all you did. If it were up to me, I'd have the queen award you a medal, but I doubt we'll be allowed to talk much about this, if any of it, ever again," he said with bitterness. "I'll follow up with Knowles about the properties to make sure any lands and assets seized by the Society are returned to proper owners. This is your estate. You've a grateful family who have been ferried off to the station that would like to return Rosecrest to you."

Jonathon nodded. Brinkman bowed slightly and stormed off. I heard a cry urging on a fast horse. Hoofbeats pounded off and faded into silence. For poor Brinkman, this was just one ongoing nightmare. Suddenly I felt very lucky. I had my joy in this room with me. Maggie's body notwithstanding.

I glanced from Mrs. Northe to Jonathon, to the tall form across the room of Reverend Blessing, dark skin gleaming in the moonlight as he remained in prayerful watch over Maggie's eternal rest, to the brave entwined couple of Nathaniel and Lavinia who had risen to the ultimate challenge. Lavinia was already fast asleep on Nathaniel's shoulder.

I had everyone I needed right here, except Father. Mother lived on in my heart, having always shown herself when I needed her most. Love was like that, taking the form of angels when faced with devils.

As the cottage had neither amenities nor staff, it was not a place we could weather the night. The appetite we'd all lost during the battle returned with painful awareness. But we couldn't be seen like we were. Nathaniel gently roused Lavinia, and we each did as best we could to put ourselves together. We hid our bloodstained clothes under cloaks and rode into Greenwich proper in Nathaniel's fine carriage. All of us were able to fit as Lavinia chose to ride up above with Nathaniel driving. At the back of the carriage, laid out upon clean boards and swathed in thick layers of black fabric, Margaret Hathorn's corpse made the journey back with us.

We went to the nearest inn, a modest establishment, and took over a shadowed corner of the public rooms and ate everything they could lay out for us. Something about the looks on our faces did not invite any comment. It was late, after all. And we were a bedraggled, strange set of compatriots that thankfully no one took exception to. Surely we looked as haunted and as at the precipice of death as we felt.

The gentlemen took turns driving back to London, all of us dozing in and out. That night, in Jonathon's flat, the whole motley crew remained gathered. None of us could bear to be alone or separated because our collective trauma made us stronger.

I cried myself nearly sick. Nothing else would do. The anguish I felt was only matched by a wave of hatred for myself, guilt threatening to drag me under into a mental state that I wondered if I could recover from after the progressive stages of grief. I'd been stronger when I had been trying to soothe Mrs. Northe. Now that reality was truly setting in, I was coming undone.

Someone dying in your arms is something no one can prepare you for.

It is the most terrible thing in the world.

It is the most incredible thing in the world.

Because never are you so aware of your own fragility, of that precarious moment between life and death. One moment here. The next, gone. A fleeting, breathless moment gives over to no breath ever again.         

It was eerie, it didn't feel real, it felt like a thousand knives in my heart and in my eyes, replaying her final moment. Her fine, amazing, brave, incredible final moments. Here I thought I was brave and she was weak. I was a fool, and she was a savior.

I threw up everything that was in my stomach and cried every tear that could be cried and still they came. Jonathon  just continued to bring me water and hold me tighter. But he couldn't hold this away. Sometimes we cried together, for my tears granted permission for his.

Seeing his reanimate mother had to have been one of the worst possible sights a person could ever see. The fact he retained his sanity was a miracle. I was grateful I'd encountered my dead mother again as a ghost, a beautiful spirit helping me from the beyond. Poor Jonathon had been first confronted with his mother's desecration, and I would do anything to have taken that sight away. At least her spirit had won out and helped us, managing to redeem that dreadful blasphemy into a transcendent truth.

Our pain was so severe and so specific, we just held on to each other, knowing we were all we had, companions who had been through every level of personal hell, together, miraculously still alive to speak of it. Though I wondered if we'd ever speak of it again. I wanted to forget everything but the feel of his arms holding me as the sensation made life bearable.

Jonathon just held me until it was inappropriate for him to be in the same room with me any longer. It was only a mere hour or so before dawn. Lavinia and Nathaniel were curled up somewhere, recovering on their own time and terms.

At some point sleep claimed me until I was roused by something bright and cold hovering at the foot of the guest room bed.

Maggie floated before me.

I couldn't be sure if it was real or a dream, but I was very glad to see her spirit, in whatever way it wished to see me.

"Hello, my friend," I whispered. The tears came again. "I don't deserve you."

"Me?" Maggie scoffed. "The friend that almost had you killed back in New York? Of course you did. You do. This was my penance, Natalie."

"No, Maggie—"

"It was, Natalie. It was foretold. Your mother has been very kind to me. She's been showing me the ways of this place, this in-between area where I'm still watching the world but above it. The Angel Walk, she calls it, as she fancies herself your guardian angel."

"She is," I stammered through my tears.

"There are two walks," Maggie's ghost said excitedly. "The angels walk a path. And so do the devils. That's the path the Society was trying to carve open. From here you can see where things have come and where things may go. One life to the next, one body, one soul to the next… So many possibilities." Her voice was filled with a beautiful wonderment. "When you and I meet again someday, I'd like to think we will be better friends."

"We will be," I said through renewed tears. She was staring at me with such calm, such care, such love, the sort of warmth I always imagined an angel or Jesus might look upon me with, a look that knew of terrible suffering, temptation, and pain but chose to stare lovingly instead. "I promise you. If whatever or whoever I am is too blind to see the woman you're capable of being, shake me out of it."

"I think you'll know, next time," Maggie said. "If there's such a thing as past lives, well, we will have learned in the next one."

"We are imperfect creatures down here, Maggie. I'm sure things look so much different up there."

"Perspective." She said, bobbing slightly in the air. "Don't lose yours. There may be storms yet ahead, who knows. You have people who need you."

"We all needed you."

Her grayscale form smiled. "It was nice to be needed for once."

"You were never not needed, we—"

Maggie held up a ghostly hand to shut me up. "Stay safe, Natalie Stewart. Take care of that lord of yours."

"I promise I will. If you can visit again... I hope you will."

Maggie shrugged. "I don't know... I've a lot of exploring to do."

"Evelyn will want to see you. Your aunt is devastated."

"In time." Maggie shrugged. "When she's ready, she'll see me. We see what we need to see when we can best handle it, whether it feels like it or not. I've a letter for you, back in New York. It will explain everything."

"Thank you." I reached out to the chill air before me. "Truly. I owe you so much more than that, but—"

"You're welcome," Maggie said, waving a ghostly hand as if it were nothing. When it had been everything. "Truly."

And she vanished.
(End of Chapter 27 - Copyright 2013 Leanna Renee Hieber, The Magic Most Foul saga. For chapters 28 and 29, The Double Life of Incorporate Things is now available on Kindle and in paperback! (Nook / Barnes and Noble editions forthcoming). If you're not caught up on the series, pick up a copy of Magic Most Foul books 1 and 2: Darker Still and the sequel: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart

Join us next Tuesday for Leanna's Teaser Tuesdays! Cheers and happy haunting!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Book Birthday DOUBLE LIFE!

Dear Readers!
Happy Release Day!

Celebrate Cyber Monday by picking up The Double Life of Incorporate Things, the Magic Most Foul finale, complete, all 29 chapters in novel form as intended- not all of which have serialized here- so come join Natalie and Jonathon as their storyline resolves! Now available on Kindle and Trade Paperback!

(Nook and Barnes & Noble editions to come, there was a delay, but should be up by the end of this week.)

To my Double Life donors of $20 or more, your signed books and donor prizes will arrive by mid-December, so just sit tight!

From the back cover:

"Just when we think our nightmares are over, the Society has invented a new horror. Around every corner a shadow, behind every whisper a demon. If we don't end what the devils began, we will die haunted..."

The finale in the acclaimed Magic Most Foul trilogy: The trauma and the terror of the Master's Society has only escalated for the dashing Lord Denbury and brave, feisty Miss Natalie Stewart, and a new terror has been unleashed in Manhattan. Together with their stalwart friends and unlikely heroes, they take the fight directly to the Denbury estate, where new evils have awakened. But are they prepared for all the sacrifices that shall be asked of them? With their very lives and the sanctity of their mortal souls at stake, Natalie and Jonathon are past the point of no return...

Please help Natalie and Jonathon reach the stars! Your tweets, shares, reviews, it all helps so much! Once a book hits 40 reviews on Amazon, the book receives better promotion and access, so those of you who have enjoyed the serial up to its climax, I'd love whatever thoughts you'd like to leave in an Amazon review!

I'm SO excited to share this full novel with you, I've loved every minute of this Magic Most Foul journey, these characters are so very precious to me, which is why many of them will continue on into my next Eterna Files saga, so be sure to pick up this novel so you can meet the amazing heroine, Clara Templeton, who appears in the very end of Double Life.

Stay tuned this week as I'll be revealing new blog features! Tomorrow marks the last Double Life installment with Chapter 27 out of the novel's 29 Chapters, from then on we'll keep Tuesdays fresh with new Teaser Tuesdays; musings on the latest works, on the artistic process, with excerpts from forthcoming work or works-in-progress. Since all my novels are part of parallel worlds, its like visiting an extended family every week!

Thank you for being a part of my worlds, and for loving the families I've created there as much as I love writing them. You, dear reader, are why I do what I do, to bring my families to yours.

Cheers, blessings, and thank you!

Double Life for Kindle here: http://tinyurl.com/tdloitkin Paperback: http://tinyurl.com/tdloitaz
Barnes & Noble editions to come.

Happy Haunting!

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Here it is! The amazing cover for The Double Life of Incorporate Things, the 3rd and final Magic Most Foul novel!

Releasing the week of December 2nd in Digital and Trade Paperback!  (Dec. 1 update: the novel is currently available to order in print & Kindle. Barnes and Noble outlets available in coming days).

I'm so impressed with what the designer, Stephen H. Segal, did, and I think that it's a perfect image to draw this saga to a close. What do you think, dear readers?

In fitting timing with the December 2nd release of Double Life, Sourcebooks is currently running a limited-time $1.99 sale of Darker Still (Book 1) and The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart (Book 2)! So if you haven't caught up on the saga, NOW IS THE TIME! Here are the links:
Darker Still for Nook
Twisted Tragedy for Nook
Darker Still for Kindle
Twisted Tragedy for Kindle

Stay tuned for the release announcement as soon as it's available for sale! Thanks, dear readers, for coming along for the journey of the serialization for these many months, I will release one more free segment on the blog this week, but the story will not be completed within that segment, there's still more story to tell! Get the full novel to see how everything resolves!

Those who were donors of $20 or more along the Double Life journey, your signed book and/or various donor gifts will be shipped to you and should arrive by mid-December.

Cheers and happy haunting!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


(For previous chapters, see right side bar. If viewing by mobile, scroll down from http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com for all chapters)

Chapter Twenty Six (Part 5)

Mrs. Northe, seeing that we had the family well in hand, turned her attention to the wavering wall portal, staring at it with concern. She began murmuring another iteration of numbers, but this time, from what I could guess, it was a sequence in the proper golden ratio, as high as she could think of and starting back again at a low number. Reclaiming the divine patterns, wresting a semblance of peace from the grip of malevolence. The edges of the carved wall, now cleansed of the blood tokens, flickered back into becoming a wall once more.

I stayed focused on the shifting paintings and the struggling possessed bodies, though I wanted to see the look of surprise on the faces of the two conscious leaders. None of them could have possibly known we could directly reverse one of their most consistent magics. I deserved a self-congratulatory moment of pride, but I didn't dare take my eyes off my targets.

Nathaniel rose to grab the little girl, even as a shot rang out. There was a scream and a clatter of a gun. One of the Majesties was clutching a bleeding forearm, blood all over the white tablecloth. It would seem Vincenzi had tried to fire a weapon, trying to take advantage of the chaos of wind, still-hovering objects, and the maddening whispers that summoning demons produced in the air, but Brinkman got to him before he could fire, a wisp of smoke floating up from Brinkman's own pistol.

Vincenzi was too late. The countercurse worked its magic.

There was a crackle of fire, and a fresh new screaming in the air added to the ongoing wail of Lady Denbury's ghostly retinue. In a huge, roaring pop, the paintings all came off their hinges and slid to the floor, leaving tracks of greasy, bloody paint along the wall as they descended; the canvasses were wet with indeterminate moisture. Trapped now in the frames leaning at odd angles against the wall were horrid forms, twisted and nearly gargoyle-like. Indistinct, demonic heads topped the fine clothes that were warped and dripping. Only the most ugly ephemera remained; an evil imprint, oily and greasy, a sheen of bloody perspiration bubbled up on sulfuric canvases.

So too did the bodies fall, slumping to the floor as if marionette strings had been cut. We knelt with the families as they began to rouse, terrified, but as Jonathon did, having some sense.

Brinkman took one look at the horrid exhibition against the wall and blew his whistle loud and several times, until the room crawled with officers. He instructed them to get the Winsome family to safety and explained in no uncertain terms who was friend and who was foe. The family was all too happy to exit the premises. The little girl threw her arms around me. The husband scooped up his son in his arms and seemed too ashamed to look at any of us who had helped him. The mother collected her daughter and murmured to me as an officer ushered her out: "I don't understand, but thank you…"

Above the din of the police, Reverend Blessing continued the exorcism rite, and this seemed to give comfort to the pallid officers, coming into the scene with no idea what to expect, but seemingly glad for some kind of spiritual offset. If the officers were uncomfortable taking blessings from a man of color, they didn't show it. I think they knew, seeing this scene, what was right to fear and who was a mere brother in humankind.

Blessing clutched the Society's insidious '"book of death,'" and between scriptural declamations he continued to read off names within, bidding that the souls mauled by the claws of the Society find their deserved rest.

"Spirits who weep here, heed me," Blessing bellowed into the foul air, his deep, rich voice captivating and compelling. "These men seek to gain power through methods of torturous unrest. Be their downfall by granting your own souls the peace God wants for you."

There was still a wavering line where the portal had gaped wide. Mrs. Northe was facing it, her arms out, her body fierce and taut, proclaiming scripture at the portal to try to shut it at last. Wrestling against the closing of the door, a black form darted out from the portal and careened into the hall. A demon on the loose.

"No!" Jonathon cried and ran after the wretched thing in the instant.

"No!" I cried and ran after him. I didn't think twice any more than he did. I just pursued.

Dimly, I realized the force was headed for the study, snuffing the lights out down the hall as it passed. Light by light, the vile force plunged our surroundings into darkness. We pursued it into the study where one gas-lamp chandelier remained dimly lit, casting the room into an eerie glow.

But the moment we both crossed the threshold, the door slammed shut behind us of its own accord and the gas lamp guttered into a pale, sickly blue pilot. Now it was just us in the dark. And a raw, untethered demon.

Jonathon went to the desk and turned a lamp, which illuminated for us that the black form stood in front of the window where beyond, the night was cool and dark, but the demon was blacker than the black night, its form not richly beautiful in night shadow, but empty and void of all life.

Jonathon and I stared at one another helplessly, and in the instant we both started crying scripture at its chasm-like form. Jonathon threw himself in front of me as the form floated closer. I struggled to put myself in front of him instead, but he kept me behind him. If such a thing inhabited Jonathon again, my mind would crack under the strain.

I withdrew the sharp scissor point from my bodice. But what a blade would do against an incorporeal force was laughable.

A wave of anger and despair washed over me, perhaps the effect the presence had upon us. Suddenly I wanted to shove Jonathon away from me. To be anywhere but near him. Ugly sounds gurgled in both of our throats. Snarling, animalistic noises. It would turn us against each other. In a locked room. While chaos still reigned in the rest of the house.

Down the hall I could hear that the wailing had resumed. This time, it had more voices.

The siren that was dead Lady Denbury had all the officers screaming too. It was, in the end, too much for us.

The spirits animating the corpse, the open portal, the lingering dark magic, all the amassed horrors the Society had brought upon this house, down into the floorboards and mortar, it was in the end too much for a few stalwart souls to close up and shut down. We needed an army of those as experienced as Blessing and Mrs. Northe. The rest of us were too beaten down, our reserves tapped by so many facets of this unexpected war. We'd fought a good fight. But now…

Our shoulders sagged as Jonathon and I both choked and shook. We were paralyzed by the dread and horror that was the core of the demonic presence. I felt a hand clamp around my neck. It wasn't Jonathon's. It was my own, the terrible force eating us inward, turning our own tired selves against us. We sunk to our knees, both of us gasping and snarling. I tried to rally, to reject the presence. A choking "I renounce thee..." afforded me one deep breath before the suffocating darkness threatened to overwhelm me once more.

I clutched the small scissors in my hand. Whispers careened around my ears. They urged me to drive the blade into my own flesh. To just give up. To let them in. To give them room. The point of the very sharp scissor point pierced my wrist, by my own doing. A drop of blood welled up. I remembered the runes that the magic had carved into my flesh, and I found myself making a line up my wrist, searing, burning pain sharpening every sensation.

"Natalie," Jonathon choked. A tendril of black shadow sweeping out from the demon's wake was wound around his neck, manifest evil taking shape and wielding violence.

I stared at the line of blood seeping from my wrist, my heart racing from the burning pain of it. I couldn't give up like this. This incorporeal beast before me was just that: incorporeal. It needed to be shot down with a bullet of light, faith, hope, and determination.

I pulled upon everything that had brought me to this point in one final shrugging off. I thought of all the sacrifices, Maggie's lovely, bloodstained face flashing before my eyes as if I were praying to a saint. She was a saint here today, and I was stronger than this. If she could take in five of the beasts, I could take on one. The worst wretches of the corporeal and incorporeal world always underestimated determined young women.

I remembered the cross that burned upon her, and with one even slice of the open scissor blade, I intersected the bleeding line up my wrist with another one, to make a cross. I lifted up my wrist, blood pooling in the lace at my cuffs. "I renounce thee!" I cried as the black silhouette of the demon advanced upon me, hovering.

I flung myself back, giving myself space from the beast as I plucked the cross I wore beneath my layers out into the open. It was a small, elegant cross my mother had given me after I'd gone through my confirmation classes at Immanuel Lutheran. I thought of Mother, of Father, of the beautiful fiancé before me, and suddenly I felt like Joan of Arc must have felt before going off to war, surrounded by saints.

But like Joan, I needed more armor. I looked around wildly for something else. I picked up the inkwell on Jonathon's desk, and I plunged my finger into it, making the sign of the cross upon my forehead as if it were Ash Wednesday. From dust we were made and unto dust we would return. But not today.

"I renounce thee!" I shrieked again. Jonathon was trying to close the distance between us, and I fell to my knees before him, using the inkwell to paint a messy cross over his brow. "We renounce thee!" Our rejection caused a tremor in the room. Books rattled on their shelves. The expensive trinkets from around the world shuddered on the marble fireplace mantel. The window panes shivered.

Jonathon shook his head, as if tossing off a terrible dream. He narrowed his eyes at the hesitating, pulsing dark form. "Upon the graves of our beloved mothers," Jonathon bellowed, "we renounce thee!"

A sudden burst of light had us blinking and wincing, and suddenly between us and the horrid, silhouetted form of congealed evil, floated the bright white forms of two beautiful women. Angels called down to the fight. I recognized one of the angels as my own. And the second one looked a great deal more like Jonathon than that thing wailing down the hall did.

"You leave our children alone," the spirit of my mother said to the vacuous silhouette in a venomous tone. "This is the end. Your kind has failed. You cannot win against such wondrous love as this." She turned her beaming, beautiful face upon us, and tears of amazement rolled down my cheeks.

"Did you hear that?" said the second spirit, a beautiful woman in a lavish gown, in a vicious hiss In the name of God the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Ghost. In the name of all the saints, the host of angels, and everything that is holy, get out of my house!" shrieked the spirit of Lady Denbury.

Lady Denbury was not tied to that body in the dining room at all but instead tied to her beloved son. Her spirit was resilient and made new again in the fight. The bright, transparent form of Lady Denbury lifted an elegant hand into the air and sharply backhanded the inelegant, tar-black form before her, and it splintered into a spattering mess, wet ashes upon the fine rug, nothing but ugly residue.

Jonathon seized me and stepped back so that none of the demonic muck could land upon me, all the while staring up at the ghost of the mother he'd never had time to grieve. The two ghostly women looked down at their embracing children.

"Don't go, Mother," Jonathon gasped, his tears flowing as freely as mine. "I never got to say good-bye, I—"

"I love you too, my darling, perfect boy," Lady Denbury said with a dazzling smile. "And you needn't say good-bye. I'll always be with you."

"I am so sorry, Mum," Jonathon said in gasping breaths. "I should've done more, I should've saved you—" He tried to reach out and touch her, hold her.

"You've done everything you can," Lady Denbury replied. "Look at all you've done. You've done more than you even know, my darling. I am so proud of you."

"Both of you," my mother added. "Don't they make a perfect couple, Lady Denbury?"

"Indeed. She's Lady Denbury now." Jonathon's mother smiled at me. "And I couldn't rest happier."

"Be well, darlings," my mother said as she and her friend in heaven began to fade. "We're never far, we live within you, and in any darknesses, we are with you. Never forget. Live in the light."

"I love you," both Jonathon and I blurted to our mothers simultaneously before they faded entirely. We swayed on our feet, breathing heavily. The study door swung open again of its own accord. There was no more screaming anywhere. Just the murmur of activity. Of cleanup. Of a battlefield victorious.

Somewhere I could hear Moriel raving as he was being led away, leveling threats and decrying the undeserving underclass. There was another loud smacking thud, and I suspected Brinkman had knocked him out again. It was admirable Brinkman hadn't killed Moriel, really. I'm sure the government would have given him leave to do so; however, whatever secret Moriel held had something to do with someone Brinkman loved. Human beings could do amazing, nearly inhuman things for love. This was something the Society seemed keen on subverting though they seemed unable to understand it. It was not something they could overpower. That was their ultimate hubris.

I heard Mrs. Northe calling for us.

"In here," I called into the hall with the last of my energy, allowing Jonathon to gather me up into his arms, sinking with me again onto the floor, our backs against his beautiful bookcase.

We were bloody and drenched in sweat, ink, and water, our clothes torn and besmirched. Bruised, battered, alive. Grieving. Joyous. Relieved. Exhausted. Alive. Jonathon tore his black silk cravat and made a bandage for my wrist.

Suddenly there were shouts and screams once more. Did I rejoice too soon? I smelled smoke. And burning flesh.

The dining room was on fire.

Brinkman popped a sweaty, smeared face into the study, standing wide-eyed at the threshold. "The corpse. The corpse of Lady Denbury… It..."

"Went up in flames," I finished. "The spirits will have their revenge. Let them combust the body. It's part of resolution…"

"My men are instituting a bucket brigade from your rear well, Lord Denbury," Brinkman said. "We'll do what we can to save the building. You've a haven at a safe distance, yes? We should evacuate you and your friends from the estate at last."

Jonathon nodded. "Up the earthen corridor behind the library. A cottage."

"Go on then, quickly." Brinkman shooed all of us into the hall and toward the library. I saw my four friends going on ahead, with Reverend Blessing carrying Maggie's corpse in his strong arms. The sight made tears spring forth again. Nathaniel and Lavinia directed them toward the library, and they disappeared into the next rooms.

"Do hurry," Brinkman insisted. "After all we've been through, I'd hate for a lowly fire to take you down. I'll join you once I see to it the men are at work with the well."

"Thank you, Mister Brinkman, for everything," Jonathon called. Brinkman batted a hand in the air and ran off.

Jonathon Whitby, Lord Denbury, III, paused in the middle of his corridor, watching flames licking out into the hall from Rosecrest's lovely dining room. Jonathon stared at the flames of destruction. "Sometimes," he murmured in a haunted, sad voice that was elder than his years, "some things are best left to burn."

He grabbed me by the arm, and we darted toward safety.

(End of Chapter 26.5 - 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.

Cheers! Happy haunting! See you next Tuesday!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


(For previous chapters, see right side bar. If viewing by mobile, scroll down from http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com for all chapters)

Chapter Twenty Six (Part Four)

There was smoke curling up in wisps from her bodice. Something had ignited upon her, perhaps within her... I struggled with my bindings, lifting the chair up behind me, managing a heavy step nearer to Maggie, but she shoved my shoulder with preternatural strength and I nearly hit my head on one of the table's sturdy candelabrum, a wisp of my hair catching in a candle flame.

It was a cross that burst into fire right at her sternum. A large crucifix had been hidden beneath her bodice, and it burned free of the layers, a solid metal pendant the size of my palm. As the cross ignited and sizzled her flesh so did it seem the demons burned within her, broiling from the holy water.

Jonathon jumped to his feet in the chaos. He hadn't been tied to the chair, only bound with wrists behind his back. He turned his back to the table and lifted his wrists over the candles on his side of the table, burning his hands and his cuffs. I could smell these terrible separate stenches of burning flesh and fabric. But in doing so, he burned his bindings too. Brave man, he suffered melting flesh on the side of his palm but snapped his wrists free. He too bounded toward Maggie, but she tossed him off as if he were a rag doll and his body came perilously close to the still-open portal where forces hung suspended in this precarious battleground.

Jonathon reeled to regain his balance and rushed back over to me. As the side of his palm wept blood and peeling skin, he undid my bindings.

It was not only Maggie's scream that filled the room but a magnified and horrible sound, many screams, burning from the inside out as the blessed liquid doused the demons within. Demons who were surely killing her from inside, as blood began pouring from her ears, dribbling from her lips, tears of blood rolling down her cheeks.

Her still-standing body went rigid, shuddering and shaking, the blood pouring faster. It was the most horrible sight I could have imagined. This was after having witnessed the sallow flesh of the dead come to life. But to see the living tortured so...

"Maggie!" I screamed amid the screams. She staggered to the side, to me, into my arms, and I sunk with her to the floor. I held her tight. And because I spoke now for someone else's life, somehow my disability was no match for this fight. My tongue and speech were free.

"Maggie, listen, say with me, say to the devils," I cried in a choking, desperate gasp, tears streaming from my eyes as the blood wept from hers. "I renounce thee... I renounce thee..." Her body shuddered and shook, her blood seeped all over my skirts and sleeves.

Margaret Hathorn looked up at me and smiled weakly, causing another river of blood to pour forth from her lips, and there was an aura of great white light about her, an angelic halo that took my breath away with heavenly beauty. She seemed as though she wanted to say something.

But then she died in my arms.

I screamed a wailing sob. I closed her eyelids immediately. Her dead, open stare would undo my mind. I held her close, her body and blood still warm.

But there was no time to mourn. For then, another cascade of events happened all at once. It was everything I could do to keep up.

The other two Majesties started up with the counting and the chanting again, which made the demonic threshold active, rippling open once more, but their incantation was stopped by Brinkman cocking the pistols. Nathaniel had managed somehow to wrestle one of the throwing knifes into his palm and was cutting loose his bindings and Lavinia's in turn.

Jonathon picked up a pitcher of water and threw them at the portal, directly toward the lintel and sides, trying to wash away the blood and ash that had activated it. Nathaniel did the same with a second pitcher. Lavinia took up a tureen of soup and poured it over the floor, falling to her knees and scrubbing free all the terrible things that had made this room such a magnet for the demons. All this action against the portal caused the rectangle to flicker. The heavy dread of the room lifted slightly. A scale sliding more toward our victory.

But the corpse of Jonathon's mother started screaming again. Items lifted off the table again and all of us winced, clapping our hands to our ears. I lunged for the terrible ledger book of the Master's Society, searching for clues in its terrible pages. We had to calm the spirits tied to the effigy of Lady Denbury. The names of the "parts" had to be addressed and sent to rest.

I dimly heard running footsteps in the hall coming closer. Was it the police officers at last? But Brinkman hadn't blown the whistle… Who else…

Yet more familiar faces ran into the room, one dark and one fair, both looking alarmed. Reverend Blessing and Mrs. Northe! Blessing dressed in his clerical suit and collar, Evelyn Northe in an elegant but unadorned riding habit.

Exactly where they'd come from, I couldn't know. They likely had traveled as soon as they could. Mrs. Northe wielded a pistol, the reverend, a cross. My heart soared, but as Brinkman trained a gun toward them, Jonathon, Lavinia, and I all lurched forward and shouted some variant of:

"No, they're on our side!"

Moriel, who had roused again from the punch, was aghast at the sight of the reverend's dark skin, for he snorted: "Oh, and you dare bring a blackamoor into my sight to soil the very air around us? Your species really is—"

Another punch from Brinkman sent Moriel back into the pudding again, causing Blessing almost to smile, but his gaze was soon focused directly on the more pressing matter of the reanimate corpse, and he moved near it, knowing exactly what to do as he had done in Doctor Preston's hospital wing. Mrs. Northe took a moment to consider the wavering, open portal but swept the room to meet our gazes first.

"My friends," Mrs. Northe cried. "Are you all—" That's when she saw that Maggie was in my arms. Alongside the siren-like wail of the reanimate body, she shrieked, falling to her knees at my side. I stared at her helplessly.

"She took them into her," I cried. "Demons. From the portal. Five of them. We couldn't stop her, we didn't know—"

"It should have been me," Mrs. Northe insisted, tears splashing onto Maggie's scorched bodice. "It should always have been me, bearing the brunt, my poor girl, no, it should have been me—"

"Right before Maggie acted," I explained, "she looked at me, with stern resolution, as if this was the only thing she could do." I spoke as if somehow an explanation could ease the pain. It didn't.

In the background I heard Blessing begin an exorcism rite to untie and set to rest the collective of unseen spirits that by our experience we knew were attached to the embodiment of Lady Denbury. The other two Majesties were laughing and taunting the black man, calling him derogatory names, the Society clearly based on the falsehood of racial superiority along specific bloodlines.

But Blessing was unruffled by the racist slurs. He remained focused on spiritual matters at hand. The Denbury body was one thing, but the retinue of spirits, they were further unwanted company. We could all feel the chill the ghosts carried in their wake.

"Reverend Blessing, the names of the dead are writ here," I declared, sliding the ledger book across the dining room table toward him, fighting to be heard against the din of spiritual unrest.

He nodded and began addressing the spirits the Society used in their methods to power reanimate bodies. He called them by the names listed in the book. He bid them leave the dead flesh and promised that their remains would be put in sacred ground. The poltergeist effects the spirits were wreaking in the room began to settle a bit. Mrs. Northe echoed all of Blessings words, acting as his assisting minister in the exorcism rite, though she reiterated and enforced his scripture while still rooted to the ground near Maggie's cooling body.

The two conscious Majesties started up with insidious chanting again, in a tongue indiscernible to me, and as they did, the open portal wavered, dark shadows drew closer to the threshold, as if another wave of monsters were about to seep over. Brinkman nodded at Nathaniel and spat in one of the Majesty's faces. Sansalme just sneered up at him. Nathaniel moved to gag both the men on either side of the still unconscious Moriel.

"This is just the beginning," Sansalme said in a slight accent I thought might be French. "You've really no idea." He dabbed Brinkman's spit out of his eye with a silk handkerchief.

"Well, I'm sure you'll be telling us all about it in a court of law," Brinkman growled.

"No…" Sansalme replied, seemingly unconcerned. This terrified me as much as the portal. What could threaten these wretches? I shook myself away from staring at them in disgust.

"We need to get the 'help,' the family, together," I cried to Jonathon, to Mrs. Northe, to Nathaniel and Lavinia, who were still trying to repair and erase the various dark magic effects upon the room. "That's the cue for the arrests!"

We had to settle the room, lest the police turn against the unwitting victims, as the officers could hardly be sure who or what was doing the damage. This was the type of horrific chaos the Society wished to wreak, where no one could effect change and keep faith, where no one knew who was friend or foe. Where everyone turned against one another. But the Society couldn't know what a wonderful team we had among us.

I stared down at Maggie's corpse. My despair would not help the dead woman in my arms who had been so brave. It was my turn to show that kind of strength and willingness of sacrifice. I had the knowledge to wield a countercurse, and I needed to wield it now. I shifted Maggie off my lap, and Mrs. Northe took her into her arms instead. Her blood had soaked through my dress, was all over my hands. I couldn't worry about that.

I darted to the elaborate screen that traditionally hid the staff during the meal and closed off the door that led to the kitchen stairs. And there the family stood, dazed, just behind the wooden panels. Glassy eyed, they stood slightly swaying, waiting to be summoned. The sight of all four of them triggered my immediate shout as I dragged the children forward first. As soon as I moved, Jonathon was with me in the instant, following with the wife and Nathaniel with the husband.

"Ego transporto animus ren per ianua, Beelzebub the Devil!" I cried, and Jonathon echoed me.

The adults struggled against us, the demons within sensing that we were at war. Jonathon dodged a punch; I nearly had my hands bitten by the red-eyed children. Lavinia, Blessing, and Mrs. Northe all rushed to lend hands while still spouting scripture. The forces which sought to harm us recoiled. Together we took up the same shout, shoving the disoriented, confused bodies toward their respective paintings.

We said the countercurse again and again: '"sending the soul through the door…" This had been Jonathon and my puzzle to sort through together when we met. The words were roughly translated from Latin, but with an Egyptian word for "soul-door" put in for an extra complication, as the portrait frames were literally a door for the soul to be deposited into. It had been a hard-fought mystery to solve but the countercurse had worked for restoring Jonathon.

Jonathon, Nathaniel, and Lavinia, all of us took up the countercurse together, utilizing variants on the Devil, Satan, the damned, any possible name for what was supposed to be the penultimate of evil, the prince of darkness itself. We tried to encompass all that these foul energies wished to be, and in doing so, trap them by the title they aspired to. The power of the name, we'd learned, was one of the eldest powers of all, and it was one the Society seemed to take very seriously. We had our faith. They had theirs. And now we had to play ours against theirs with everything we had.

(End of Chapter 26.4 - 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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