Chapter 6 (For previous chapters, please see column at right side of the blog or visit http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com and keep scrolling down for previous posts)
A hallway again. Of course. The general palette of my nightmares, the backdrop against which terrible things would be painted. In this shadowy realm, I often saw things that would come to fruition. I didn't know that at first, suffering riotous nightmares during Jonathon's ordeal within the painting, but I'd soon found out as murders corresponded with names and terrible images I'd foreseen.
My subconscious had inextricably become riddled with clues, and rather than merely being assaulted with them, I was determined, this time, to utilize them as information that might keep us just one step ahead of the enemy. At least, that’s what I told myself when I woke. While dreaming, I was merely terrified, and the idea that this foresight was some kind of gift to fight our enemies was difficult to take comfort in.
The hallway wasn’t like that of a house; it was more like an alley, bricks and archways to either side of me, the shadows deep and shifting, the second life of a city once the sun descends. The myriad sounds of a thriving metropolis filtered through to my ear but as if from far away or as though I were hearing them through glass.
And then a horse nearly ran me down. I only heard the galloping at the last minute.
There was a flash of light, a seizure of fear, so many things collided in that moment as I felt a hand shove me against the hard brick wall at my back and a stern voice saying my name. My mother. Saying my name. Pushing me out of the way, just like she did to save my life at age four… Would I always need her to rescue me? Waking, dreaming, always rescuing me.
There were tears in my eyes, for the idea that Helen Stewart was strong enough in life and in death to continuously come to my aid, as her spirit had been forceful enough to do even outside my dream realm, made me feel as though she were not dead at all, really, just in a different place than my corporeal reality. But still, in her way, she was very much alive. We knew so little, really, of divine mystery and the Undiscovered Country. Those two worlds were closer in distance, perhaps, in dreams. But my mother's whisper crossing the boundaries of life and death to be with me was the stuff of happiness, not nightmare.
But then I heard screaming.
My nightmares liked to remind me what they were, lest I ever be lulled into something pleasant.
As the riderless, unbridled, unsaddled horse ran free, tearing ahead, clattering down cobblestones and its white form faded into the darkness ahead, I found myself walking inexorably forward, toward a building from whence the noise and commotion were coming.
A lantern swung in the wind of the horse's wake outside a wide-paneled glass window. Within, I saw a figure struggling, wild haired and wide-eyed as if his body were battling with itself, his black-clad form writhing against the wooden bar of what I assumed was a tavern. There were ledges where gentlemen stood with glasses around the perimeter of the bar, and tables of people, all of them looking on in horror.
Two young women, also in elegant mourning-wear, stood at the entrance to the tavern, looking on and screaming. I recognized them from the swaying, enchanted crowd thronging the orchestra pit of Nathaniel Veil's shows; they were members of his Association. I scanned the crowd; all were staring at the struggling gentleman, now a second one beside him in similar throes, a fine-looking man of business, not a youth of the Association. The patrons of the tavern were looking around wildly, as if anyone around them could be suspect. Across the room, leaning against a wall, was a somber-looking fellow, the only one who didn't seem surprised. He was in a long beige coat, the pale color standing out against all the dark din. He stood with a doctor's bag. Stevens. This was another instance of "The Cure" going horribly wrong.
And then the man turned to look at me. With dark, reflective eyes, shining like an animal's in the night. He smiled a sharp-toothed smile, and his visage flickered as if it were in a flip-book where static images simulate movement if turned in quick succession. In this dizzy shift, I no longer saw a man's face but the gargoyle-like, horrid, twisted features of the demon's pure form, the ungodly picture my mind had attached to the raw, dark energy that had twice physically attacked me. In terms of the demonic possession we had encountered in our ordeals thus far, the senses were not always to be trusted. The man, or creature, reached out a hand, staring at me through the glass, his still and static form so eerie in comparison to all the tumult around him...
A pressure around my throat, all too familiar, had me gasping and choking and bolting up straight into the blinding moonlight as white as the horse that nearly ran me down.
Puzzling over these things as I woke, I jotted down everything I could remember in the beautiful leather-bound diary that had been a gift from Mrs. Northe. I must have slept in past breakfast. Considering I was known to be a fitful sleeper, Father generally didn't wake me and simply let me sleep my fill. We'd not stood on much ceremony over meals through the years; my inability to speak had always made that time somewhat strained, and now, what was there to talk about but the pall cast over us until the evils of the Society were put to rest?
Still, Father and I had gained so much ground in love and trust, and I was determined not to lose it. I was also determined to carve out my niche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, having been "apprenticed" to the Acquisitions department—which really wasn't an appointment so much as an appeasement of my stubborn spirit, which wanted something to do. Still, even though I'd not been given any real responsibility, I would show up as if I had .
But I arrived to find my father kept in a private meeting where it was obvious that a young woman's presence was not welcome. So I then wandered the museum itself, which had always been, since its recent opening, one of my very favorite places, very nearly as sacred to me as the park in which it was ensconced. I was determined not to let the horror that had happened within the building's basement rooms in the dead of night mar the whole of that beautiful institution. I strolled the halls, lost in the beautiful art, drinking in every corner, crevice, and open space of the grandeur of this building founded by all kinds of wealthy New Yorkers dying for this city to rival the great European metropolises. I steered clear of the basement vault rooms where memories lurked like spiders hanging from webs in dark spaces.
Once Father was free, he searched out my restless spirit until he found me in the exquisite company of the sculpture wing. Bidding us take tea in one of the meeting rooms, he excitedly shared the latest plans for funding and expansions at the museum and mentioned a horde of upcoming galas he would need to facilitate and attend. I nodded eagerly at the mention of his various events.
Father busy at the Metropolitan meant fewer eyes upon me and all that I may be called upon to do that he'd hardly approve of. He was sure to add that Mrs. Northe would see to my chaperoning, which he said with some trepidation. He probably realized at this point that the woman he was painstakingly courting—though he and I both faced the daunting class and wealth differential between our respective prospects—was as much an enabler as anything. Still, as long as we went through all the motions of propriety, in this there was some consolation for a man who had always struggled to know what to do with the headstrong girl so much like his late wife. A man who found himself again in the thrall of someone as imperious as Mrs. Northe. My father the mouse, my mother the hawk, Evelyn Northe the eagle... Perhaps the species could get along, like in the visions of God's kingdom...
"Evelyn has invited us for dinner this evening," Father added. "She might be out when we arrive, but she's instructed us to make ourselves comfortable in our various spheres."
My father did enjoy a fine cigar, and there were no shortage of those in the late Peter Northe's study, which was kept lively by the comings and goings through her home. I'd have no problem entertaining myself in her massive library, wondering if I could pick the locks on some of her glass cabinets of the rarer and potentially scandalous kinds of books a good girl was not supposed to read, like advanced physics and mechanical engineering and maybe the odd book on the occult. I would, of course, hope Jonathon would be there. He had yet to report on his scouting of the addresses. I had a great deal to share with him in turn. I would have to do my very best to make sure there was no awkwardness, to assure him that I wanted us to move forward as a team, a couple, betrothed...
I smiled and took Father's proffered arm, hoping warmth could offset the dark circles beneath my eyes from a sleep full of harrowing dreams. My quiet demeanor and pleasant expression seemed to placate him. I would do what I could to maintain that facade for the man who only wanted my happiness. Truly, I knew that was his foremost concern, hoping for a less paranormally augmented life for his daughter than had been granted by fate. He didn't ask about any news, evidence, or anything about Jonathon at all. I was sure he'd pressure the proposal still, but perhaps he was giving us a bit of breathing room, and for that I was grateful.
No one seemed to be home at the Northe residence but a new maid I didn't recognize—perhaps with all the entourages of various guests in her home, she'd hired more staff. The Irish woman, Sally, (who was surprised that I asked to address her by name) said she'd likely be home soon so I could wait for her in the parlor, as there were always "people that Mistress would be expecting," and I was one of them.
And so I did. At first I just sat, taking in all the fine things of the room, the brocades, the flocked wallpaper, and richly paneled wood, the fine curtains with tassel and trim, the marble fireplace with a mantel topped with stained-glass lamps and two dancing bronze sculptures, the fine curio full of delicate china and figurines, a lacquered harpsichord in the corner I wondered if she knew how to play, and of course, a lavish writing suite.
There was a letter laying out upon on her desk. I stood. I knew I shouldn’t spy or pry. But knowing you shouldn’t and actually stopping yourself from reading what’s lying out in the open… But the first sentence caught my eye:
“My dear niece Maggie,
It’s up to you whether the devils will have you or not…
And then I was absorbed in all that Mrs. Northe hadn’t wanted to tell me, but what she'd clearly left out for me to see…(End of Chapter 6 -- 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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