Tuesday, October 29, 2013


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Chapter Twenty-Six (Part One)

The morning was spent in whatever preparations we could. Lavinia dressed herself, then me, in frilly white and cream lace gowns that she'd chosen, making us look as though we were either dressed for our weddings or our funerals. Which I supposed was sort of the point. Part of the theater of ritual. The gentlemen donned plain black frock coats and waistcoats with matching dark crimson undershirts with wide cuffs.

To Nathaniel and Lavinia, I explained the countercurse and the general properties of the magic as we knew it to be. Jonathon made sure the surveillance properties accessible from behind the library bookcase were in working order.

We tried knots and bindings that looked tighter and more restrictive than they were and set them in place. Jonathon explained any secret passages and their accesses. He and Nathaniel braved the cellar. It was still empty.

Time passed. We swallowed back dread. Jonathon ensconced Lavinia and me in a top servant room where a mirrored trap door offered a view of the downstairs foyer.
At noon the family arrived; the four possessed bodies whose souls languished in the dining room paintings. The wife was a brown-haired woman who would have been pretty if she weren't so vacant and dark-eyed. The husband had prominent jowls and bushy eyebrows that accented the sunken quality of his own eyes, reflecting strangely as he and the wife gazed about, sniffing like animals, behaviors signatory of the possession. The children, a boy in breeches and a girl in a white pinafore stained on the edge with a red substance I shuddered to imagine, trailed behind them like animate dolls, and behind them, additional staff.

A few frightened-looking underclass women completed their entourage. I assumed the lot was there to help with the cooking and preparation. When the paths were clear enough to do so, Jonathon moved Lavinia and me into a secret dining room passage behind the walls that connected in a confining path down the great hall and into the library landing. We watched the staff prepare, moving in and out of the dining room to set place settings and down the servants' stairs to the kitchens, the pathway blocked by a large ornate screen the help would stand behind during dinner so as to be out of sight.

The possessed family that had inherited not an estate but a nightmare moved with a slight unnatural pattern that was impossible to look away from.

Just as Lavinia and I were about to be set into our places, thirteen officers filed silently into the passages, and as they passed I tried to bolster myself with the knowledge that the walls themselves were filled with support.

At five, Lavinia and I emerged in the library and were taken to our positions with a bit of a show and mock struggle. The gentlemen said nothing to us, other than the occasional order that we were to mind our place, lest the possessed bodies of the family tell tales of us that would not suit our plan.

We were placed across from one another at the midpoint of the grand dinner table, and our hands were gently bound behind our backs by our respective gentlemen.

"I am sorry to have to do this, beloved," Jonathon murmured in my ear. "Forgive me."

"I will," I whispered. He stared at me achingly and left the room.

The dining room table before us was set with white bone china and soft linen, a red runner bisecting the wooden length where three golden candelabras glittered with tall tapers that set off the crystals of the chandeliers dipping down from above, making the whole room glow and glitter. While  places were set before us, we would not be able to partake unless someone saw fit to unbind us. Lavinia and I stared across the lit tapers at each other. I felt like I was a part of the upcoming courses, there as an appetizer for the demons. I kept reminding myself that the arrests would happen before any malevolent forces were summoned or allowed to wreak any havoc upon us.

The gentlemen took to the front foyer. In time, the summoners of hell arrived. Brinkman was with them. Whatever the Society had over Brinkman was evidently enough to make Moriel feel confident Brinkman was on his side. This leverage hardly bolstered my trust in Brinkman, but I had no choice. I heard voices engaged in a bit of pleasantries, the weather and such, all of it absurd considering the circumstances.

Jonathon, playing as though he remained possessed, a role he had done so well before, led the "Majesties" in, and I quelled my shudder.

A short, thin-haired, bulbous-nosed man I assumed was Moriel entered first.  He was too ugly to be so terrifying, and yet there was an air about him of power and privilege that was as undeniable as he was unattractive. His eyes were small, dark and beady. His gaze flitted about and pinpointing his attention like a fastidious but jittery hawk. Everything about him reeked of unpredictable danger, like a pervasive cologne gone putrid.

Another man followed close behind. Together, they made two specimens that had awoken on the wrong side of the genealogical bed. The other Society operative was a taller, thinner, jaundiced-looking man with similarly limp hair. Both men were dressed in ostentatious suit coats and trousers of a loud red and gold, looking like a bizarre graft of king and a court jester from another century that had long since passed them by.

Brinkman and Nathaniel flanked behind. The Society heads immediately stared at Lavinia and me with an odd, unsettling hunger and smiled sharp, crooked-toothed smiles. Jonathon pulled out the Master's chair and then the second-in-command with a bit of exaggerated flourish. They sat.

"Welcome to what was once this body's home," Jonathon said with a little sick chuckle, taking the head of the table opposite Moriel. The vast dining room fireplace behind Jonathon yawned like a great marble mouth, a dark, unlit maw.

"Ah, these morsels will do nicely, Whitby," Moriel said, appraising Lavinia and me up and down. "Majesty Vincenzi is en route with a third course, a little fly that wandered right unto his web at the office this morning. Three does make a more magical number for sacrificial flow. I do hope you've drugged them, boy. Women can be feisty. Not worth all the trouble, if you leave them unadulterated."

"Ah, no, I've never had a trouble overcoming them, Majesty," Jonathon said, raising the stakes of the Majesty's perversion with an even uglier undercurrent.

"Nor I." Nathaniel matched Jonathon's tone as he moved to take a seat next to Lavinia, leering at her impressively.

"Ah, to be young and virile, then," the Majesty said with a chortle.

I slowly breathed in through my nostrils at this to keep calm. I knew I'd be offended when face-to-face with the "Majesty," and yet I remained impressed—and disturbed—by Jonathon's aptitude for playing the part. Nathaniel's theatrics had clearly rubbed off on his best friend.

I wondered what other poor girl would throw off our number and plan. This was not welcome information in the least. Brinkman surely felt it too, the frustration of another variable in our equation, but he remained visibly unruffled, simply standing to the side of Moriel as if he were a bodyguard, expressionless. Lavinia and I played our worried, scared-looking parts, which was truly not difficult. I tamped down upon my rage for the proper time.

"Come now, gentlemen," the second Majesty said, his voice gravely as if a vocal chord had been cut, reaching into a breast pocket to flourish a small, sharp knife. "Fresh and sweet, give us something to use." He made a piercing gesture that I tried not to jump at.

Jonathon nodded, snapping at Nathaniel. "Of course, Majesty Sansalme."

Both Jonathon and Nathaniel rose, plucking knifes out of their pockets, tucking at their coat sleeves, and came over to us, Jonathon to me, Nathaniel to Lavinia. They bent over us, loosening the bindings of the hands respectively nearest to the Majesties.

"The blood of the martyrs," Jonathon said, admirably trying on the demon's tone. My eyes fluttered shut at the memories of the terror that had breathed down my neck in his visage once before. With a sharp and sudden move, Jonathon drove the knife toward my hand, clutching it between both of his, and I screamed. Lavinia cried out in tandem.

The knife punctured something up Jonathon's sleeve and blood spurted onto my empty plate, and Jonathon moved our entwined hands over the glass goblet before me, filling a few ounces with dark red fluid. He dropped the bloody-tipped knife on the table, and Nathaniel did the same, with a flourish over another goblet. Their bodies slightly blocked us from the Majesty view. Jonathon was the first to rip the lace of my cuff, and he used it to bind up my hand as if stopping a wound. The choice of the gentlemen's crimson cuffs smartly hid whatever telltale droplets sourced the blood. It had to be blood—it looked and smelled of it—I was just wondering whose it was.

I'd been prepared to offer mine in part, within reason and safety. We'd have to see if that was yet further called for. Hoping this was the last of our '"sacrificial'" role, I couldn't help wondering at this impressive sleight of hand but doubted Nathaniel would give up his secrets were I to ask. Blood had been drawn from somewhere, perhaps pre-drawn, as neither of the gentlemen continued bleeding themselves, and though the source had come from them, they disguised it by tying off our hands, letting enough blood to drip around to make the whole thing seem more spontaneous and messy than it was. Jonathon and Nathaniel presented their glasses to the Majesties like an offering.

I thought at first Moriel—and his counterpart Sansalme—were going to drink the glasses and the blood therein.
But neither did.
What they did do instead was just as odd and disturbing...

(End of Chapter 26.1 - 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.

Cheers! Happy haunting! See you next Tuesday!)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


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

Chapter Twenty-Five

Evidently, the British agent Mister Brinkman was just across the street, awaiting a signal. I suddenly felt that, at any minute, any number of persons could descend upon us from unseen corners. The intimate, singular horrors that the Society had perpetrated upon Jonathon and me were now becoming a crowd sport.

Knowles palmed a small, hand-held lantern that had been sitting as a lit globe upon his desk. He moved to stand before the narrow, tall window to the side of his bookcases, putting a hand to block the orb's light and then removing it three times. A minute later, I heard a key turn down the hall, then the front door open and close quietly and then not a sound until an uncanny apparition was seen in the doorway: a distinct form in a black cape. The man set his hood back upon entering the room. Brinkman.

I wondered how intently the spy had been watching us. Reading lips through binoculars, perhaps, poised and on sharp alert to all tells and ticks? When he crossed the room in a few measured strides, his eyes went right to us as if he'd known our positions. He made me feel as nervous as he did safe. I watched Jonathon's face as he stared at the man, I assumed gauging his aura. As Jonathon remained cool and composed, the man's aura must have remained positive…or at least neutral to us. I took a moment to thank whatever magical offsets had granted Jonathon that ability, as it was one of the more useful supernatural traits our situation could have afforded.

Brinkman could see me examining his oddly handsome face, trying to get a read on him. So many years of mutism had made me uncannily adept at reading moods, bodies, intentions, and more, just by look and physicality. This man was a compelling, blank slate. He simply smiled enigmatically at me, giving nothing away but that he was a man not to be trifled with. A consummate spy. I was no less nervous. But I was just a little bit impressed.

"Miss Stewart," he said, bowing his head to me. I inclined mine in turn.

Knowles busied himself at a vast cherrywood credenza, making sure all the gentlemen had snifters of bourbon.

Brinkman turned to Jonathon. "From what you said upon our return ride from the Society office, it seems you laid the groundwork well, Lord Denbury. I'm hoping this little party will allow me to collar Moriel and his two top cronies. I'd like to cuff his whole cabal of six, but it would seem all the 'Majesties' are hardly ever in the same country, let alone the same room. Hopefully, the Society will fall out from under the top tier once we topple them."

"What brought the Society operatives together in the first place?" I asked.

"The only consistent factor is that they are very old aristocracy from three different country's traditions. Each of their line was at one point disgraced and remains relatively forgotten, with little money. However, they've gained traction in property."

"Making a deal with the devil for a return rise to importance?" Knowles asked, taking his place at his desk.

Brinkman shrugged. "That's the only thing I can figure about their aims."

I heard a key in the lock down the hall and then Lavinia's voice speaking in a pouting tone.

At the sound of movement at the door, Jonathon stalked out of the room and met them, lingering there at the mouth of the hall while Lavinia's voice continued, getting closer as she said: "You do realize how much I've given up, Nathaniel, back and forth with you across the pond. I truly needed just one normal evening with my lady friends. Must we strategize at this hour?"

"We'll address your sacrifices in time, dear," Nathaniel murmured as they neared Knowles's office door. "But that isn't for here and now, with lives on the line. Everyone is here. Please appear as sensible as I know you are capable of being."

Whatever Lavinia was feeling, she put on a calm and brave face when she entered Knowles's now-overcrowded office.

The solicitor gestured to a decanter of some sort of rose-colored cordial and raised an eyebrow at Lavinia and me. Lavinia set her jaw and pointed to the bourbon instead. Knowles grinned and despite the departure in custom, included us both in the gentleman's drink without question, a small courtesy that made us feel involved and respected. These were not times of common propriety. No one was looking to drown their sorrows in any substance; such behavior would not help our cause. But having something to hold and busy one's hands with was a tiny comfort to take the edge off the tension in the room.

"I never thought I'd be grateful for anything that has befallen me," Jonathon said as he reentered the room, stalking over to my chair and standing behind it to voice what I'd been thinking when he examined Brinkman. "However, the ability to see the lit aura, the incorporeal traces of any of my potential enemies is very useful. It would seem no one followed you here. I see no spark in the shadows outside."

"I told you I'd be careful," Nathaniel replied. Jonathon nodded at his friend.

"Friends," Jonathon began, addressing all of us. "Let's get to our points. The Society shall arrive at the estate at six tomorrow. I explained to Moriel that I would leave the proverbial 'bait,' the tokens, bound in the dining room." He squeezed my shoulder over the back of the chair. "Do forgive me, my love, for referring to you as such—"

"I understand, Jonathon. That's how they might refer to me. Not you. You will both have to play the part," I reassured, even while I shuddered at the thought.

"They seem to be interested in blood tokens," Jonathon said, clenching his jaw. "If you are bound at the table, my brave ladies, don't worry what will befall you. Nathaniel schooled me in some sleight of hand. I don't want you dreading anything that will be mere show, but please do react accordingly as though you've been affected."

Lavinia nodded. She was used to this sort of thing more than I; surely, one of Nathaniel's vampire bits on stage had her prepared for necessary theatrics. I swallowed hard and tried not to look ill.

Jonathon continued: "Nathaniel and I will meet the company at the door and lead them in, as it would be best they not find us all fraternizing in the dining room when they arrive. Tomorrow morning the Society said they'd return the staff to the premises to prepare the meal." Jonathon turned to Brinkman to explain in a bitter tone: "Moriel confirmed, laughingly, that the staff they retain are possessed bodies. The family that overtook the estate per the Society's coaxing is now enslaved to it. Moriel has taken those poor wretches on as his personal cook, footman, and the children as veritable slaves."

"And their poor souls are trapped in the dining room portraits," I added. "Before any arrests are made, we'll need to invoke a countercurse to return souls into bodies and trap the demons. It's not something I'd trust to leave to the average police officer. With all due respect."

Brinkman nodded and tried to act as if the directives were commonplace, but his halting speech revealed his discomfort. "If you say so. I trust, then, that... you'll handle the...countercurse?"

"We will, you must leave that to us," Jonathon replied. "Natalie, I'll trust you to later explain the principles of the countercurse to Nathaniel and Lavinia."

I nodded again. I sipped the bourbon, and its sting was a nice offset against nerves.

"I'll need a cue for my men to pounce," Brinkman stated. "I don't want it to come too early, but also not too late. I don't want these bastards to try anything."

"Or to let their magic build," I added. "We can't know just how many demonic forces they have, truly, at their disposal. Those we've seen have been embodied, but what about those awaiting a host?"

"We can't allow anything in," Jonathon murmured. "We don't know exactly where these demons come from. How they summon them. If you've ever had a faith, now is the time to hold to it. We must not give those wretched, soul-sucking entities any room for entry."

I nodded and thought of Maggie. I wondered what on earth could have happened to her. "Maggie's gone missing, Jonathon," I murmured. "No one knows where she's gone. Mrs. Northe wired Mr. Knowles here to tell us. If she or Karen has any clairvoyant indications about what went on, we don't know."

"Well, she let the beasts in, Natalie," he replied with a harshness I understood but didn't expect, "and allowed the forces that tried to kill us to grow stronger by her reverence and favor. We can't help her any more than we did. I can't worry what's become of her now. Not right now."

I looked at the edge of Mr. Knowles's fine desk and clenched my jaw, knowing Jonathon was right but still wishing there was something I could have done months ago to prevent her disappearance now. I said a prayer for her soul.

A slight movement of Nathaniel's hand caught my eye, and I saw him clutching a beaded length with a crucifix in his palm, something he'd wound around his wrist, perhaps a rosary. Anglican England still utilized Catholic-associated tokens as they were very similar in structure, just as Reverend Blessing owed a great deal to the Catholic Rite of Exorcism. Every denomination, at its root, directed back to the same governing principles. Symbols of faith were the touchstones of our own retaliatory magic. Ours was a different color and weight, but no less powerful than the breed the Society perpetuated. I had to believe we were as powerful as demons, so long as we stood up to them.

Brinkman's face was pinched; a slight crack in his facade indicated his own trepidation. I could empathize that a man like Brinkman didn't appreciate supernatural variables in a carefully calculated plan. "My men will be instructed to wait for my whistle," he stated, "but I can't cue immediately. Not until there's a bit of dirt under Moriel and company's nails, otherwise we may not have as flush and solid of a case as we need to ensure their downfall."

"If we're drawing out their plan," Jonathon piped in, "someone must be stationed to record what is said for evidence. If we place your men in my secret passages as we discussed, there is a pipe that's perfect for listening in."

"I'll be sure one of my best court recorders takes notes," Brinkman said eagerly. "If the paranormal aims of the Society are to be believed, we'll need as much in the form of a confessional as possible, the madness and desire for chaos expressly stated so that the threat to queen and country cannot possibly be denied."

"Jonathon," I murmured, a dreadful detail resurfacing. "What about the cellar?"

He swallowed hard.

"What about the cellar?" Brinkman queried, looking from one of us to the other. "I thought you said the estate was empty?"

Jonathon took a deep breath and spoke slowly. "There's also the possibility of a reanimate corpse as evidence. Be advised that the infernal magic the Society uses to reanimate the corpse makes the creatures very difficult to endure. There's a terrible mental strain, an inner sound of screaming, as if they creatures are built to rip apart the very fabric of sanity. A horde of ghosts is tethered to a body to make it come to life. The ghosts are the animate spark."

Brinkman's lips curled in disgust. "How horrid. Ghosts as Doctor Frankenstein's lightning?"

"I suppose. I've never seen anything like it before Doctor Preston's work in New York. I discovered all the same equipment we saw in New York down in my wine cellar. So I don't know what to expect."

"The unexpected is all we can count on, it would seem," Brinkman replied bitterly. "We'll all have to play it very safe, moment to moment, and very close to the vest." He bowed to us all and moved to the door, his tone allowing for a slight weariness. "Until morning, my motley battalion."

We stayed the night in London, one of Jonathon's finer carriages escorting the two couples to the Denbury flat, an exquisite set of gas-lit rooms in Knightsbridge. The place had a warm glow about it in all the golden flocked wallpapers, lighter woods, and gilt-accented furniture, a contrast to Rosecrest's deep, dark Gothic charm. The flat was that of more modern romantics, more fanciful in color and lush fabrics.

Nathaniel, being familiar with the flat, led Lavinia off somewhere. I wondered if they'd separate as propriety would dictate or if Lavinia would indeed come away from this a fallen woman. It wasn't my place to judge, she could make her own choices, and I hoped Nathaniel was man enough not to pressure her either way. Women were given little leverage in our world, and a girl's modesty was not something to be given or taken lightly, and men would do best to always keep that in mind.

As I sat upon one of the lavish divans in the main room, I had no idea how in the world I was going to sleep, but Jonathon seemed prepared for that, having stoked a small stove in a rear kitchen and returning to me with teacups in hand.

"Have some tea. It's... powerful tea," he said, handing me a warm cup and saucer.

"What's in it?" I asked, catching a whiff of a foreign scent.

"Some opiates and sedatives. I just took a draught myself. Else I'll never sleep. You and Lavinia can take the far room. Nathaniel is taking my room."

"You may have to untangle them—"

"I'm counting on Miss Kent to make an honest man out of Nat." Jonathon chuckled. "I don't let him play Don Juan in my home. I never have. He knows better."

"Where will you rest, darling?"

"On this very divan, dear. While the draught calmed my nerves, if I need to pace in the middle of the night, I'd best do it away from those I hold dear. You need your rest to be sharp."

"As do you..." I set down the cup and ran my fingers down the sleeve of his magnificent frock coat.

"When I was saving lives in my London clinic, sometimes my clearest decisions as a doctor came when I was truly exhausted and the drive of panic kicked in. Trust me, Natalie. I've faced many life and death battles. Just not necessarily my own. Not those most precious to me," he said, trailing a finger down my cheek, resting a fingertip upon my lips. I kissed his fingertip delicately, slowly, and he closed his eyes and let me see the shudder of sensual delight that coursed down his body.

"You're very brave," I murmured as he trailed the fingertip down my neck.

He set his own teacup beside mine before moving closer to press his lips to where his fingertip had been. After a slow, languorous kiss he murmured, "Didn't I tell you I learned bravery from the best?"

"You were brave long before me."

"But together..." He kissed me again.

Together is how our fates were determined. The course of my life, since the Denbury portrait had entered into it and I was granted a peculiar magic and agency to save this dear soul, was inextricable with his. Whether brilliant or doomed.

That night, in a lovely guest room done up in a soothing pale blue, grateful for a fresh dressing gown in which to sleep thanks to stores Lavinia brought for us, I tucked a bible under my pillow.

Lavinia, to my chagrin, had no trouble falling asleep across the room, not even bothering to change. She just curled up like a black-winged bird upon a lush velvet chaise and drifted off to some uncharted inner waters. I wonder if she'd been drugged harder. Or if Nathaniel had managed to distract her into bliss that powerfully.

I lay back and murmured what had been my mother's favorite psalm, number twenty-three, over and over again until the opiates finally took hold, first of my body, and then my racing mind.


(End of Chapter 25 - 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, October 15, 2013


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

Chapter Twenty-Four

I didn't demand to go with the gentlemen to the Majesty's office, but I did demand to go to London. What else would they have done with me? Lavinia had a dear friend she wished to visit, desperate to have something of normalcy. I had no plans, but I didn't dare miss London.

During our carriage ride, the gentlemen took turns driving. Jonathon was quiet and introspective when he rode with us, his hand entwined in mine, Lavinia stared at the new engagement ring with a wistful envy that she did not voice. As we'd readied in the morning, she noticed the piece, and I told her what had happened, my initial rejection of him, and the second chance in the study. She had embraced me and congratulated me. But I could feel the pang then and saw it now as she turned away from the garnet treasure upon my finger.

Nathaniel entertained us ladies with new material, blatantly overjoyed to have a captive audience. Thankfully, in this case, it was no trouble to be captive, as he was exquisite in his rendition of Shelley's Ozymandias. It was an interesting narrative, the epic poem, as epic London grew before us, beginning in modest outlying villages to clusters of greater population in a radius around the heart of the matter and unto the great, gargantuan golem of a city that was London...

Ah, London. What a beautiful mess. What a terrifying wonder and mystery. Did newcomers look at New York this way? Utterly overwhelmed?

Nothing could quite have prepared me for the scope of what I was seeing out the carriage windows. Manhattan, while vast, was an island, so simply its space had limits. London seemed an endless sprawl that was utterly confusing. There was no grid. No numbered streets. Everything was at twists and turns. And nearly all of it covered in soot. Though I wasn't sure what of that lens was made a shade darker by the gray, overcast sky.

The city grew narrower in brick alleys and confining arches over our carriage head and then expanded to grand lanes in dizzying instants, devastation like I'd seen in records of Manhattan's Lower East Side, but then palatial stretches much like our Fifth Avenue. They were sister cities in their own right, I supposed, centers of the world in many ways. But I was left with no idea where I was or how I could ever orient in such a tangle of streets and masses of people. It was vibrant and dark, grand and guttered. Impressive and terrifying. And it seemed without end.

The carriage made its rounds, Nathaniel first escorting Lavinia to a mutual friend, leaving me alone in the cab while Jonathon stayed with the horses. Next, I was taken to a friend of Mrs. Northe, Mr. Knowles, who would keep me until the gentlemen came back with news of their plans. We were in a business district; I could tell from the pristine streets and the lack of human bustle. If there were residents in the area, they kept their lamps trimmed low or were not yet home from being out and about on what had turned out to be a fine day with a brightly setting sun.

Nathaniel stayed with the horses, and Jonathon led me through an iron gate and up a stoop of a well-appointed building that had several names etched in gold upon the glass door. He plucked a key from his pocket and opened the office door.

"You've keys?" I asked, incredulous, as if all of London might be at Jonathon's disposal.

"Knowles and Brinkman have availed many resources to me," he explained. "As the Society is a sincere threat to crown and country, I've secret allies and places to hide."

"And yet you're confronting the Society directly, tomorrow," I said ruefully. "Why can't all those secret allies and those threatened take over instead of us running blindly forward at this point?"

"Hiding in plain sight is often the best strategy," Jonathon replied with an impressive nonchalance. "Besides, prosecuting the Society's aims needs as much evidence as possible. So much of it is paranormal circumstance you and I could not prove in a court."

I nodded acquiescence as he led me into the first floor foyer and then moved ahead to a frosted-glass window that was lit from within. He knocked, was bid enter, and there was a conversation I couldn't hear for a moment before he poked his head back into the hall to gesture me into the room. I walked into a warmly lit office well appointed in leather and books. A vast desk with matching mahogany chairs faced a wing-backed leather chair prominent before a grand fireplace. The trappings were similar to the finery of the Denbury study, but in a business setting, not residential.

At the door stood an elegant, patrician fellow in a well-tailored suit, the splash of a russet ascot offsetting the grey of his entire person: silver hair, eyes, frock coat, waistcoat, and trousers all the color of the English sky.

"Mister Knowles, this is my fiancée, Miss Natalie Stewart," Jonathon said. As Knowles inclined his head to me, I smiled, for the first time hearing the word fiancée. The newness of it must have been evident in my blush, for Mr. Knowles's wise-looking eyes sparkled in a way that was quite familiar.

"You know Mrs. Northe," I said eagerly.

"That I do," he replied. He turned to Jonathon. "I know you must be off, feel free to leave the girl in my care. She is under careful protection here. An officer has been assigned to this building with the precinct on watch."

"Thank you, sir. I'll return with news." He reached out and grabbed my hands in his and kissed them, one then the other. "I won't be long, my brave girl."

I smiled at him with a look that spoke of trust and care and stood at the threshold of the office to watch him go, my heartstrings tugging along after him. He looked back at me at the front door and pursed his lips in a kiss. I blew one back. He caught it and reached into his coat, placing it in his breast pocket, close to his heart. "For safekeeping," he said. "I'll need it."

And with that he vanished to go confront his enemy. "Be careful," I called as the door shut behind him. I clenched my fists and tried to set fierce worry aside, as it would do me no good. I took my place in Knowles office, sitting in one of the fine wooden chairs he proffered to me.

Knowles looked at me with a wistful smile as he set tea before me, gesturing me to a seat across his desk. "She was Evelyn Rutherford when I met her," Knowles began, "in her first 'season' in London, full of New York wit and vivacity, catching the eye of every available bachelor and married man alike. Who knew that quiet, unassuming Peter Northe would catch her in the end? Baffled everyone. But then again, aside from the man's money, he was simply kind. She always said a man's kindness was worth as much as his pocketbook. Thankfully, she earned double, then, while the lucky man lived."

I smiled back. I thought of my father. That's why she cared about him. A tear came to my eye.

Knowles pretended not to notice and instead leveled a gaze at me. "She's not happy you're gone, I'll have you know."

I chuckled and shook my head. "Oh, I'm sure she isn't."

"Not surprised, mind you, as not much surprises a woman as gifted as she. But she said if I ran into you, that there will be quite a talking-to that awaits you. Also"—his expression grew grave—"as you're not a child, I'll not treat you with kid gloves. But you should know that your friend Miss Hathorn has gone missing from Chicago."

I blinked at him. "When? Why?"

"Neither Mrs. Northe or Miss Hathorn's caretaker have any idea. But, obviously, if you in any way hear from her, do let Mrs. Northe know, she's sick to death about it. About the both of you."

I suddenly felt so guilty I hadn't written to Maggie sooner. Had she run away? Was she homesick and simply decided to make a run for it? Had something called to her and lured her back to the erring paths? She probably didn't even get my letter. A profound sadness hit me like a slap to my face. I was selfish. I wasn't the only one going through troubled times. She needed a peer, someone with whom to commiserate. I vowed to be that more strongly and presently for her if I possibly could.

"Don't keep Mrs. Northe in the dark," I replied. "I'm sure she knows where we went. She tried to stop us. But she went into a medium's trance, and we eluded her. The spirit she channeled guided us, warned us, Miss Kent and I. Feel free to write her about any of our goings-on if you feel they will arrive safe to her and not place her in any danger. Not having her at my side for this battle doesn't feel right, but I'd not dare try to involve her. I feel this is Jonathon and my fight to see through on our own."

"She told me you were a brave, dear girl. But no hero does his or her entire quest on their own."

I nodded, allowing myself to take that in as comfort. We shared more tea. He told me of his late wife who had died in childbirth, and of her ghost that haunted him still. Evidently, 'that was how he and Mrs. Northe had become close. Séances. He asked if I'd met Senator Bishop, and I promised I'd give the man my best whenever I saw him again at Mrs. Northe's house. If I ever returned to her house…

No. I couldn't think like that. Act like that. I couldn't possibly manifest that even as a possibility.

"I've my mother with me," I stated, invoking her as a ward and guardian to refuse thoughts of failure. "Much like your wife, I know she watches over me. I do know I'm not alone. And for that I rejoice. Loving souls are never truly alone, for those who have loved us are always connected. Even the death of a body cannot stop that tether."

"Spoken like a true spiritualist," Knowles said with a fond smile.

"I've learned from the best," I replied, sharing the smile.

Jonathon returned within the hour. Nathaniel was with him. They entered the office, elegant black-coated figures shifting the quiet energy Mr. Knowles had cultivated into something alive and on edge. I jumped up, impetuously embracing him. I was his fiancée. I was allowed to do such things in the presence of others. His tensed shoulders eased a bit as I snaked my hands around them and clasped my lace-gloved hands about his neck. "Well?" I murmured, noting that the look on his face was tired and haunted, but not defeated.

"I think the "Majesty" continues to believe me," Jonathon said. "Nathaniel, too, but I believe the next step will be a test. Moriel is his name. He said he'd be delighted by a dinner party and would be sure a few of his ministers attend. We'll have our quarry. Let's make sure our trap is well set and in place. We must be able to draw out their strategy and once they’ve confessed their plans to listening ears, we’ll strike to the roots of their insidious tree and uproot it as best we possibly can."

"We have to take care in regards to the trapped souls in the dining room," I cautioned, turning to Mr. Knowles. "The family that took over the estate, their souls are separated from their bodies in a painted prison, likely the bodies possessed by demonic energies, as Jonathon's was. I do not know where the bodies are, I assume in the service of the Society, but the paintings, and the persons, cannot be harmed until body and soul are reunited. I cannot trust police to be delicate in those matters. That family will be collateral damage if we are not careful. We need to ensure the countercurse is landed before the police make the arrests."

"Very wise," Jonathon agreed, squeezing my hand. "See how sensible my lady is, Mr. Knowles? I am a blessed man."

"You have been a cursed man," Knowles said gently. "And so you deserve such blessings as she. It is only right and just."

I simply smiled, squeezing his hand back, tightly.

"Let's fetch Miss Kent and Mister Brinkman and ready the plan," Knowles said.

And we were off to the proverbial nightmarish races…


(End of Chapter 24 - 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!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fun at New York Comic Con: Panels, Entertainment Weekly, A Daft Punk music video...

Leanna & Bruce Boxleitner
As my readers know, I do a lot of conventioning and costuming. For me, it really isn't costuming. It's just me. Who I am, what I do. This year has been no exception to enjoying conventioning in full regalia. As I'm very active in the Harry Potter fandom, you should also know by now I answer to Lady Malfoy or Narcissa at any given convention. This year's New York Comic Con brought so many amazing opportunities. Day 1, I was lucky enough to be on Diana Pho's Welcome to the Brass Screen: Steampunk in TV and Film panel, along with Babylon 5's charming and charismatic Bruce Boxleitner who was there to present the amazing Lantern City project with his talented fellow co-creator and executive producer Trevor Crafts. Joined by Thom Truelove of the fabulous Crypto-Historians, I was there, as both an author in the genre and an actress, to discuss my involvement with the fascinating and high-concept short film Obolos currently in pre-production. Our panelist rapport was stellar and a clip of Bruce beside yours truly in full Neo-Victorian regalia even made the NYCC Day 1 recap! (Seen at 1:26):

And THEN, while dressed as Narcissa Malfoy, alongside fellow writer and critique partner Cas Johnstone as Bellatrix Lestrange of Harry Potter, Entertainment Weekly featured us in their Costumed Women of NY Comic Con 13 feature!

Earlier that day we'd taken part in New York Comic Con's official 2013 Daft Punk cosplay music video, you can see my Narcissa in full runway mode, alongside many core members of The Group That Shall Not Be Named, the largest Harry Potter group in the world. Check out our video, which is quite amusing if I do say so myself. Thanks NYCC staff for making it so much fun to be a part of.

And now back to work on the next novels... Thankfully all my work and play are so gloriously entwined!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


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

Chapter Twenty-Three

It would seem that my nightmares waited to strike. At least, during the course of our time within the estate, which was drawing to a close for the evening.

However, I refused to get too comfortable. My nightmares weren't to be dismissed so easily. The worst kind of terrors were those that lay in wait.

Jonathon and I returned to the dining room. With determination, I went up to the paintings and examined them. They did not change for me this time, but they were still beseeching in the same pose as before. That was problematic, as it indicated a presence had been in the house. The Society would realize some sort of unknown variable. They might not trust Jonathon's invitation. I glanced behind each frame.

"Runes?" Jonathon asked. "Carved into the frames?"

"Indeed." I replied. "It's all looking just the same as it was done for you, to you. I imagine that once the devils realize what worked in your case, they would not have deviated in others. It seems like the same pattern, perhaps the same poem driving the spell, I'm not sure. I can only hope the countercurse will still drive to the heart of the matter, no matter what the runes truly say. I wish I'd brought the translation book—"

"We'd not have the time even if you did. We'd best not stay here any longer and should not be caught here sleeping. Back to the cottage we go, and on to London in the morning."

I stared back at the paintings. I couldn't leave them like that. Jonathon watched me, sensed my thoughts or emotions, and took my hand.

"You can't help them right now," he murmured gently. "Not tonight."

Something occurred to me. "I know. But I think I can give them hope. And you know better than anyone how desperately their trapped souls need it. Paper and pencil. Can you get that for me, quickly?"

Jonathon didn't question me; he just darted off. And for that, that simple respect of my agency, for his trust in me and my wits, I was grateful.

When he returned with page and pencil, I wrote a note and held it up for interminable moments before each portrait. The note said: Return to your positions. Help is on the way. Patience.

Due to Jonathon's internment and my experience within his painted prison, I understood the basic principles of what the suspended lives of these subjects were like. Sight beyond the frame was somewhat hazy but possible. I patiently waited before each portrait until the bodies returned to their poses as originally painted. The children were the last to return to their stasis.

When they did, I scribbled. Thank you. Keep patience and faith.

And then I walked out without a second glance behind me, as I could not bear their pained eyes. Neither could Jonathon, even though they were the unwitting souls who had usurped his property. They had been duped. We'd all been victims. But I didn't want to relegate myself to that and neither did Jonathon. Neither did any of us fighting the good fight.

We found Lavinia and Nathaniel sitting on the wide window ledge of the downstairs foyer, bathed in a shaft of moonlight that made them look like they were in a stage photograph, all in grayscale and silver light. Their hands were clasped together. All I heard was Lavinia respond simply.

"You didn't drag me into this. Our Association was sought out."

"I dragged you into this,” Jonathon declared. “All of you. Though I certainly didn't do so wittingly. I promise I will repay you however I can for all we've endured. Come, let us return to the cottage. A night here is…" He looked about. "Unwise. But, give me a moment. I've something by which to cheer us."

He darted off past the dining room, and I heard a door open, heard feet down stone stairs, and there was silence in the house for long, interminable moments before a slow tread up again, a door closing, and footsteps upon the wooden hall led Jonathon back to us once more.

He appeared in the moonlight of the foyer with a bottle in his hand. But he was ashen faced, changed in the silver shadows, a haunted look on his face I knew all too well. In his other hand, he'd drawn his pistol.

"What… What did you see, Jonathon?" I asked, dread in my tone. He gestured to keep voices down.

"We need to leave," he whispered. "Come on. Keep quiet." He gestured Nathaniel and Lavinia back in the direction of the library, and they quickly moved on ahead, impressively keeping the noise of footfalls at a minimum. I rushed with them, Jonathon at my side, back past the dining room once more where I refused to look even past the threshold.

"What is wrong?" I whispered again as he grabbed my hand and we darted back to the library. The maw of the door that was a bookcase opened on its side to reveal the secret passage stood before us; the dim golden torchlight of the underground corridor beckoned eerily from below. Jonathon shut the door behind all of us, gesturing for us to go on ahead, Nathaniel in the lead. We were many paces into the earthen and stone corridor before Jonathon answered.

"What we saw in Preston's office," he replied gravely. "That's what was down there."

"Oh God…" I swallowed hard. "They've a corpse below? One they're trying to reanimate?"

"No corpse. But everything else was there. The table. All the wiring and equipment. And small, suspicious boxes. Bottles of fluids, medical and funereal. The scent of decay. All in my bloody wine cellar," he said, spitting out the words like venom as we darted up the long corridor.

The scenes of Preston's basement hospital wing, yet another dread corridor, came back to me in the forceful way terrible memories resurfaced. Either they were preparing to reanimate a corpse and tether numerous spirits to its form to power the animate force of the thing, or they had already done so. And if they'd done so, the whereabouts of the creature were cause for great concern.

Finally, we resurfaced in the cottage. Jonathon bolted the iron door behind us. Next he checked the whole of the cottage, pistol drawn, then surveyed outside. Nathaniel joined him outside, going to check on his horses.

I sat down upon the dusty but plush velvet window seat of the bay window and looked through the glass, trying to appreciate just how beautiful the moon was.

Lavinia went searching about for something. I wasn't sure what, until I heard a "pop." And then the clink of glasses. She returned to me, two wineglasses filled with deep, dark red in her hands. She handed me one.

I had never been one for alcohol, save in communion at church, but this seemed the thing to do right now. One glass to calm the nerves. Some distraction. Some reminder that we were with friends and lovers. I was in a new country, something I'd never done before. I wanted to feel like there was some excitement. I was engaged to the man I loved. I smiled at Lavinia, feeling some of my tension ease before I'd even begun to sip the glass.

The gentlemen soon returned to us. Lavinia had poured for them, and they glided, as if magnetized, to two more crystaline goblets she filled upon the golden lacquered center table that she'd cleaned of its layer of dust, leaving the surface to glimmer in the candlelight.

"To sending devils back to hell," Jonathon said, lifting his glass and looking each of us in the eyes, mine last. We all toasted gladly to that. His eyes burned into me, and I felt the pledge of our engagement swell in my heart. I thought about telling Lavinia and Nathaniel about it in the moment but thought better of it. Somehow I knew it would sting Lavinia, and I couldn't have her feeling insecure when she was called upon to do something so brave.

"It's a good thing this bed is enormous," Jonathon stated nearly draining the glass in a few long drinks. "Because I'm not sleeping on the floor." He grabbed me around the waist and dragged me to the grand alcove where the vast four-poster bed was visible behind its open red curtains. I let him. He spoke over his shoulder to Nathaniel. "Come on, you two, there's room for all on here. And that will force us to behave ourselves."

"Normally I'd object and find some dark corner to drag this one off to," Nathaniel replied, grinning at Lavinia. "But I'm deathly tired. I'm sure we all are."

It was true. I was utterly exhausted, and I allowed myself to acknowledge it, finally, as I felt a modicum of security. The cottage did feel safe, an unused place the Society clearly hadn't gotten its hooks into, a piece of lost history, a secret put to good use as an encampment before an upcoming battle rather than a clandestine affair.

The temperature was nearly perfect, and so I didn't need to crawl under the velvet duvet. I simply allowed Jonathon to drag me onto one side of the bed, and I lay back in his arms. Sleep overtook me almost immediately. The ability to breathe deeply in a setting that didn't have all my hairs on edge, coupled with the glorious protection that was being in his arms, was enough to sweep me into much-needed rest.

-- (End of Chapter 23 - 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, October 1, 2013


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

Chapter Twenty-Two (Part Two)

The four of us, collectively, shuddered in that quiet, lavishly appointed dining room with those four tragic portraits.

"Is it...just me..." Lavinia began hesitantly, "or did the paintings..."

"Change," I replied. "Yes. They are alive. In a way. The souls of those persons are trapped inside the canvass. Perhaps that's the family that took over the estate?"

I asked Jonathon, but he had turned away, as if he couldn't bear to look.

"It's what happened to me," he murmured bitterly. "My soul was trapped within while my body was overtaken by a demon. The family that the Society sold this place to were mere vessels. Cursed into servitude to the Society's ungodly bidding."

"But, Jonathon, my love, we know the countercurse," I murmured, going to him, finding that looking away from the paintings was much better than looking at them. "Hope is not lost. The Society can't know the basic weapons we have."

"But we need their bodies," Jonathon said mournfully. "To throw the demons into the frame and rip the souls back where they belong..."

"Then let's be sure their demon-ridden selves are invited to our little dinner party," Nathaniel replied.

"I suppose that's the only option we have," Jonathon muttered. "To throw the countercurses before the police make arrests. I just hope the spy Brinkman and my solicitor contact, Mr. Knowles, have evidence enough no matter what the devils may try."

Jonathon stalked away. I gestured with a look to Lavinia and Nathaniel that it might be best if I went after him alone.

"We'll be in the foyer," Lavinia whispered. "As being here is just too..." She stared up again at the imprisoned family with an expression of horrified pity and shuddered once more, darting out in an opposite direction from Jonathon, Nathaniel behind her.

I took the route Jonathon took, listening to his footfalls, ignoring how much the corridors of his estate reminded me of my dreams. Dreams where something was always coming after us or keeping us apart. But unlike my dreams, here I could move. Here I could be active. Bold. Cross distances, be they physical or emotional.

I finally found him at the end of the next hall, as the door was open and I could see his silhouette near the doorway, a lamp lit in a small but grand little room...a study...

The study.

This was the room that Jonathon had been painted in. The study whose likeness had been his prison.

I recognized every detail of the finely appointed room; the stately furniture, expensive Persian rugs, the desk with gold-plated implements, leather chair, towering bookcases, the mantel with fascinating instruments and treasures, the grand window looking out to the darkened lands beyond, I recognized every detail. He turned a lamp, and everything took on the hues I'd been accustomed to. So much... So much had happened in this place. In the likeness of this place... It was surreal to see it real...

He must have heard me approach as I hadn't tried to quiet my footfalls and spoke quietly: "I wasn't sure I wanted to see it again. But now that I do, it's all right."

He turned to me, his beautiful face increasingly haunted the more time he spent in this house, and I moved to his side, reaching up as if magnetized to caress his cheek with my fingertips, to try and erase those wearying lines and darkening circles below those arresting eyes. "It is all right, Natalie," he insisted. "Because you're here and we're on the other side. I am reminded of what was always real. The demons can't take my love of this place away from me. I won't let them. Nothing can take my love away, be it this place or you..."

He dragged me into the room, to the center of it, the axis of where our love had blossomed.

And there he seized me and kissed me ravenously, hungrily, and I gave over to him, giving him my weight, letting him hold me, responsive to him in my sighs and in the way I let my mouth tease his, a conversation of the flesh.

This was so much better than my dream, in the throes of that storm. Here- he was right- I was reminded of what was real, and our passion was the most real thing I knew; it burned in me with a flame that could rival the fires of every fireplace in this grand estate. This desperate embrace was so much more vibrant and raw than when our souls had kissed, and I had been pressed up against the very bookshelf near us.

The situation we were in was so intense that it needed release, it needed love. Declarations of it. Displays of it. I understood what had driven Nathaniel and Lavinia to just such an explosion; it was far better than the alternative of fear and loneliness. I suddenly felt invincible, as there was nothing in the world but him and he wanted me as achingly as I did him.

And then suddenly he withdrew and I wobbled on my feet, having given over so wholly to his hold. He dropped to his knee, staring up at me, his previously haunted face now flushed with desire, given new life.

"Here. Now," Jonathon said, his breath between words coming in hitches. "You can't deny me, Natalie. I need to know that we face the horrors ahead together. Till death do us part. Marry me. Please."

He fished in his breast pocket and plucked out a beautiful rose-gold band set with a deep garnet in it, a gorgeous and elegant piece. I stared at it, at him, frozen in a sudden and overwhelming bliss, drinking in his glorious words as he continued: "I've kept this in my pocket every day, undaunted. Waiting for the right moment to make this right, to make us right. Heaven sent you to me, and I must have you. We'll be stronger for our union. On this day and for what lies ahead. I need you now to make a pact, together, here our love takes a stand against our enemies. Here in this haunted house, I need you to become my Lady Denbury—"

"Yes," I gasped. "I will." I dropped to my knees beside him, taking his trembling fingers up in mine and helping him slide the ring onto my finger where it fit perfectly as if he'd had it made for me. Perhaps he had. I stared into those beautiful eyes, and for the first time in a while, I smiled with sheer joy. "I do. My lord. My love. I must be your Lady Denbury..."

I kissed him with the kind of passion I'd only dreamed about, allowing everything within me to channel through my kiss. This kiss was a medium to call forth all the spirits of my adoration, hopes, dreams, desires, and needs.

We sunk from our knees onto the floor together, wrapped up in layers of fabric and tangling sleeves and locks of hair that caught on buttons and ribbons and latches and laces as our caresses and kisses travelled. This time I didn't need to dream the storm. We were the storm.

Eventually, he drew back, as there was a line we did not dare cross though our bodies betrayed our intentions in a way that was unmistakable. Not yet. Not here. Not on the floor of a study.

In the instant we both pulled away, knowing that if we didn't we'd pull away clothing instead, the rush of cold air in contrast to our built up heat sobered us. The slow, creeping dread of what we both knew lay ahead, and the roles we had to play, was like a ghost haunting us out of the corners of our eyes. I could see my own sentiments reflected upon

Jonathon's lovely face. My poor heart had swung in sickening pendulum swoops, careening from frightened to exhilarated, lovesick to impassioned, panicked to joyous. My life as presented to me was one of extremes.

I glanced to the side, out the door of the study. That was the corridor of my nightmares. Precisely. I stood, attempting to smooth my dress, my hair, all my undone strings and clasps. As I did and Jonathon rose to stand beside me to do the same to his own rumpled layers and undone buttons, I stared down at my new treasure.

"Should I hide the ring?" I asked, biting my lip. I blushed with pride and excitement to see it there.

"No, it'll keep me strong, seeing it there, as I have to play the part of the wretch. It will remind me that you trust me. It will remind me why we've taken the fight to this house. Because you will be Lady Denbury. Because Mother would approve..." His voice cracked as he said it, but he stared at me with adoration that pierced through his still-fresh pain.

I dived in again to press my lips to his before stepping back once more to smile, radiant, no threat could take the purity of this love away from me. I would be Lady Denbury. I would fight for this love. This house. For what God had brought together, let no demon sunder.

Still, there were details to consider.

"What if one of the "Majesties" sees or asks about the ring? How attune to detail are they? Will an affianced woman affect their 'ritual'...'" I shuddered.

"I'll say it was a pretty bauble I gave to you in order to toy with you," he replied. I shuddered again.

"Do you have any idea what will be asked of me? As "'bait"'?"

"Nathaniel and I will be theatrical, make suggestions to appease the Majesty and any who might come with him, but Brinkman will send in the brigade before anything is actually done. We'll keep things vague, I promise. It's your presence that I think he'll assume is done in good 'faith' as it were." He sounded very confident, but I wasn't sure if that was for my benefit or his own reassurance.

He continued: "Tonight we'll stay at the cottage. Tomorrow, I go into London, meet with the Majesty, and set a time for a party," he said with false cheer. "There we encourage others within his Society to attend, as the scope of the organization and its possible members has been impossible to track down or ascertain. Then, I meet with Brinkman and the helpful solicitor Mister Knowles to update them. Together we'll see if we've enough straight evidence to arrest more than one person. We're trying to drive as many roaches out with light as possible, but the stage theatrics might be necessary for the results to be more damning."

I nodded. It was as sound a plan as I could hope for. We would have friends on our side. And hopefully the police. But in matters such as this, where every belief was wholly tried, I wasn't sure I could count on traditional law enforcement to quite be the security force it should be. For an age so obsessed with death, with mourning and spirits and the sciences of the unexplained, when something actually defied what was known about the natural world, a majority of people turned interest into frightened rejection and clung to the normal over the paranormal. But true believers knew the truth because the truth had happened to them. Undeniably. But the truth was oft stranger than fiction in cases such as ours.

I lamented that Mrs. Northe wasn't here. I always felt safer when I knew she was with us, on our side, my mentor and spiritual guardian. I no longer worshipped her as a god like I'd once done. I knew now that she couldn't solve every problem and that she wasn't perfect. But we'd truly abandoned her. And I felt certain that she actually wanted to be here. Surely she knew we were here, she knew us too well...

But at the same time I didn't know what she could have done to help, other than to be another frightened heart watching, wondering, waiting... She needed to remain in New York, keeping an eye out on that front line of the Society's unnatural warfare. Jonathon left her with addresses to inspect. I was sure she was up to something productive. Father, on the other hand...

I couldn't think about Father. I just couldn't. I embraced Jonathon so he could not see the pain on my face. When I got through all this, because I had to get through all this, I'd never again scare my father like this. We all deserved better than we'd been dealt, and him as much as any. Though he never faced the horrors we did directly, I knew his pain and anguish over me was as rife as any, and his confusion far greater. Being left out was the worst thing in the world, I knew it, and I hated having done that to him. But he was not to be involved. He was never a part of the equation on the supernatural side. However, his love was a force to be reckoned with, yet another reason to fight for love to win over evil.

Jonathon hugged me back, fiercely, and it was as if he read my mind. "We will get through this, Natalie. My Lady Denbury. And then I promise you a life so full of light and so far from all this haunted pain..."

"Yes, my love. My lord. We shall see that day together, until then we fight, stronger for our union."

We kissed once more and reclaimed that study, the place that had been used as a prison, for the freedom of our love. I ignored the corridor of my nightmares that awaited just outside.

(End of Chapter 22.2 - 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!)