Authors: E. E. Holmes
Lily Faire Publishing
Copyright © 2015 by E.E. Holmes
All rights reserved
ISBN 978-0-9895080-6-3 (Paperback edition)
ISBN 978-0-9895080-7-0 (Digital edition)
Publisher’s note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover design by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design LLC
Book design by Joseph Holmes
Author photography by Cydney Scott Photography
For Myles, who lights every dark place, and scatters joy like rain.
“Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The scepter, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.
No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownèd be thy grave!”
Cymbeline, Act IV Scene ii
I STOOD ON THE ROLLING LAWNS of Fairhaven Hall. A warm, muggy breeze whipped my hair around my face. Ribbons of smoke rode the current of the air, stinging my eyes. Before me, flames billowed around the castle, blackening the stone. Figures darted around it, thrown into sharp relief by the inferno’s pulsing golden glow. Shrieks echoed up to my ears, and I shivered even in the ashy warmth.
A small cold hand slipped into mine and squeezed it tightly. I looked down. Mary stood beside me, gazing out over the destruction.
“What have we done?” I asked.
“This was always going to be. It was etched in the pages before they were bound into the book. Like all those who try to run from a prophecy, the Durupinen have run right into its welcoming arms. It was always waiting right here for them to arrive.” Her voice was calm and sure, the voice of the prophecy itself.
I looked away from her again and back at the flames. “So much destruction,” I whispered.
“So much more to come,” she said.
I snapped my gaze back to her. “What did you say?”
“Wake up, Jess.”
“What did you say?” I repeated. “What do you mean?”
She turned an empty stare on me, flames smoldering in the places where her eyes should have been. “It’s time to wake up, Jess,” she said, in a voice very unlike her own. I knew that voice.
I pulled my hand away as it gave a pulsing throb of pain. I looked down at it in time to see my fingers crumble to ashes and float away on a gust of hot, smoky wind.
“Jess! Wake up!”
I opened my eyes and tried to focus my blurry vision. The dim interior of a car. The hum of an engine. Terrible pain in my hands and forearms. A figure beside me, shaking my shoulder gently.
“Jess, it’s me. It’s Finn. I let you sleep as long as I could, but you need to wake up now.”
I found his haggard expression and everything came crashing on top of me again, more terrible than the nightmare I’d just left behind. Fairhaven
burning, but it was burning fifty miles from here, engulfed in the flames that we had caused when Hannah Called every spirit she could bring within her power to attack the Durupinen Council. She had only done it to enable our escape, an escape we desperately needed to make because of a prophecy that seemed to point to us as the ones who would bring about the rise of our mortal enemies, the Necromancers, and thereby the total annihilation of the Durupinen. We had barely managed to flee in a stolen car that Savvy and Lucida had hotwired, and now we were…
“Where are we?” I asked. My voice came out in a hoarse croak.
“Is she awake?” came another voice, much softer, and I turned my head to see Hannah’s anxious face mere inches from my own. “How are you feeling?” she asked me.
“Like I stuck my arms in a blazing fireplace,” I said. I lifted my heavily bandaged appendages gingerly from my lap and let my mouth fall open in mock horror. “Oh, right. I did.”
Hannah attempted a weak smile, but I knew she was only doing it to humor me.
“Okay, but seriously, how do you feel?” she asked again.
“Seriously? Like I would gladly consume every painkiller on God’s green earth,” I said. “How do I look?”
“Awful, but a quick trip to the hairdresser and a wardrobe intervention would cure that real quick,” said Milo, popping through the seat beside me.
“Didn’t we leave you in the roaring inferno? Shucks, I meant to,” I said.
“Shut your face, you love me,” Milo said.
“Well, if we met on the playground I’d probably punch you, so yeah, it must be love,” I said. Then I turned to Hannah again. “Where are we?”
“Just outside of London,” Finn said.
I looked more carefully around me. The car had stopped, though it was still running. We were pulled into a cobble-stoned alley beside a grubby-looking pub. The front passenger side door hung wide open, and I could see Savvy lounging against a brick wall, savoring a cigarette with almost indecent relish. Lucida was pacing back and forth in front of the car, talking animatedly on her cell phone.
“What’s going on? Why have we stopped?” I asked.
“Lucida said we need to switch vehicles. She’s on the phone with someone who can help us do that, I guess,” Hannah said.
“Normally, the Caomhnóir would be able to track their own vehicles,” Finn said. “But Lucida’s disabled the system, so they shouldn’t have been able to follow us. Still, they’ll only need to report it stolen and we’ll have the cops after us as well, so we’ve got to get rid of it quickly.”
I glanced out at Lucida again, to make sure she was out of earshot, and said, “Can we really trust her to do this? I know she’s your mentor, Hannah, but there were an awful lot of people back there at Fairhaven that we should have been able to trust, and they turned on us in a heartbeat.”
Hannah was shaking her head before I’d even finished speaking. “I know you don’t like her, Jess, but just because you don’t get along with her doesn’t mean we can’t trust her. Think about it. Why would she have gotten us out of there only to turn us back in? It wouldn’t make any sense. And anyway, what choice do we have now?”
I shrugged. “None, I guess.” I swallowed the rest of my argument, which wasn’t much of an argument at all. Hannah was right. I didn’t like Lucida, but we didn’t have the luxury of picking and choosing our allies right now. I watched Lucida finish her conversation, pull the back off the phone and remove what looked like a SIM card, which she dropped on the ground and crushed beneath her heel. She then tossed the phone into a nearby trash barrel, and walked back toward the car.
“Did you just throw away your cell phone?” Hannah asked, wide-eyed, as Lucida opened the door.
“Indeed, I did,” Lucida said, sliding back into the driver’s seat and twisting around to look at us. “Disposable mobiles—they can’t be traced. Okay, my lovelies, new wheels are on the way, but we aren’t going far. The best bet is to get you lost in the big city. It’ll be far more difficult for them to find you there.”
“Isn’t that where they’ll expect us to go?” I asked.
“Of course. But it will be much easier to hide you, even if this is where they’re looking,” she said.
“If you say so.” I didn’t have any strength to argue; the pain coursing through my arms was making it difficult to concentrate.
“Don’t forget who you’re talking to, love,” Lucida said. “I’m the best Tracker Finvarra’s got.”
“Tracker?” I asked.
“That’s right. I don’t just sit around looking smashing, you know. Ain’t no one in the Northern Clans who can hold a candle to me for detection and investigative work. That’s why she put me on the case to find our girl here,” she said, punching Hannah lightly on the arm. Hannah grinned, though I did not. “Point is,” she went on, “I know every method we use to find people, and so there’s no one better to hide you from the Durupinen until we get this all sorted out.”
Savannah, noticing the conversation, flicked her cigarette onto the sidewalk and hopped back into the car. “Right, what’s the deal?” she asked.
“Car’s on the way,” Lucida said. “First point of order, though, is to decide where to bring you.”
“Oh, I got any number of mates we can crash with,” Savannah said. “If you can get us over into East London, round about Tottenham or Hackney, I can just ring up—”
“Don’t be thick,” Lucida said. “Rule number one: we can’t go anywhere that any of you have ties. Savannah, the Durupinen know you’re from London, so those are the first places they’ll look. So that means no looking up any of your mates or your family while we’re here, got it? As far as any of them know, you aren’t in the city at all.”
Savvy’s confident smile crumpled, and she nodded. She’d obviously expected to be of some use, now that we were back on her turf, and I could tell she was disappointed to be rendered useless. If anything, she was a liability. We’d have to be careful not to run into anyone she knew.
“Right, then,” Lucida said, and she turned away from us, running her hands through her hair. “Right, let me think here a minute.”
“I have an idea!” Hannah said, lighting up. “Jess knows someone in London, don’t you, Jess?”
That pulled me out of my pain-induced silence. “What?”
“Jess knows someone here we could stay with!” Hannah said.
Lucida waved her off dismissively. “Haven’t I just said, we can’t use any connections here, in case the Durupinen—”
“But the Durupinen don’t know about this connection. At least, they have no idea she’s in London! No one does!” Hannah went on.
“No!” I cried, and Hannah looked startled. “I’m not dragging her into this! She’s been put in enough danger already, and I’m not going to—”
“Who are we talking about, now?” Lucida asked.
“No one,” I said shortly. I shot a furious look at Hannah, who had the decency to look contrite, but plowed on regardless.
“Her name is Annabelle Rabinski,” she said before I could stop her. “She was on that ghost hunting team Jess worked with back home.”
“I’m familiar with the name,” Lucida said. “And she’s here? Why?”
“Because… well, because of what happened to Dr. Pierce,” Hannah said quietly.
Just the mention of his name caused a pain nearly as severe as that in my hands to shoot through my chest.
“Yeah, Siobhán mentioned he’d snuffed it,” Lucida said, with her usual lack of tact. “But why does that mean she’s got to come to London?”
Hannah hesitated and looked at me, clearly unsure of how to proceed. I sighed deeply as everyone in the car turned toward me. Lucida and Savannah hadn’t been in the Grand Council Room. Even Finn only knew part of the story. We couldn’t proceed until everyone knew everything. It was time to lay all the cards on the table, whatever that meant for the outcome.
“It’s because of the Necromancers,” I said. “Everyone needs to know about this before we do anything else, especially you, Lucida, because if you are going to try to hide and protect us, then you need to be aware that the Durupinen aren’t the only ones who are going to be looking for us. This situation is much more dangerous than anyone realizes.”
No one spoke. No one moved. It was as though the very name of that ancient enemy had sucked all the air from the car, suspended us all in time.
“They’ve been looking for Hannah and me. They must have been onto me even before I knew about the Durupinen, because one of them joined Dr. Pierce’s investigative team last spring. His name is Neil Caddigan. Publically, he presents the face of an academic and a paranormal researcher, but he and the other Necromancers have been reorganizing in secret. He kidnapped Pierce and tortured him for information about me, and he’s the one who followed us into the city last month and ran us off the road. Milo saw him, and recognized the symbol of the Necromancers on the collar of his shirt.”
“The Necromancers are back?” Savannah whispered.
“But what would they want with you?”
“At first, I had no idea why they would have singled us out. But now I think it must have been because of the prophecy. They knew about it. Somehow, they knew the contents of the prophecy, and that Hannah and I might be the ones it spoke of. They’ve been after us ever since. And you,” I said, locking eyes with Lucida, “don’t look at all surprised by this news.”
Lucida returned my gaze steadily. Though she had remained as silent as anyone, her face was far too grim and understanding. Hannah tore her eyes from me to stare accusatorily at Lucida.
“Lucida, did you know about this? About the Necromancers?”
Lucida shook her cloud of hair back and let out a bitter bark of a laugh. “Those fools. Those bloody ignorant fools. I suppose you tried to tell the Council this, did you? And Finvarra, too?”
“And I suppose they just laughed in your face, did they? Told you that the Necromancers were finished, and to shove off?”
“Something like that, yeah,” I said.
“So bloody typical,” Lucida said, and then sighed deeply. She turned all the way around in her seat and gave me a long, hard look. “Don’t leap to the wrong conclusion here. I don’t know who this Caddigan bloke is and I had no idea he was after your teacher, but I was the one Tracking you for months, and there was… evidence that someone else was looking for you, too.”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Like when we’d arrive at a location with a lead, right, it would sometimes be obvious that someone else had already been there. Twice we thought we had a trail for Hannah, and then the records we were looking to borrow would turn up missing; someone else had already gotten to them. The first few times, I thought it was your mum covering her tracks, but even after she died, it kept happening. I alerted the Council to the problem, but they just ignored me. Marion actually implied that I just wasn’t trying hard enough.” Lucida laughed again. “Please. Like that woman could Track her own arse without signposts and a map.”
“But you never thought it was the Necromancers?” I asked.
“I can’t pretend the thought didn’t cross my mind,” Lucida said. “But I never really considered it as a serious possibility. I knew someone was looking for you, and that whoever they were, they were damn good at it, if they could beat me to the punch. I knew it had to be someone with deep pockets and excellent Tracking skills, but the Necromancers?” She shook her head with a low whistle. “We’ve all grown up thinking of them as much more myth than reality, ancient history. But what’s that they say about forgetting history?”
“I don’t remember the exact wording, but I’m pretty sure it ends with us all being doomed,” I said.
“Right then,” Lucida said, and for the first time since I’d known her, her cool demeanor revealed an undercurrent of anxiousness. “Well, I’ve taken on quite the task, trying to keep you hidden, haven’t I? Not sure I would have bothered if I knew I’d have the Necromancers on my tail as well.” She reached across to Hannah and punched her playfully on the arm. “What a pain of a mentee you’ve turned out to be, eh?”
Hannah smiled sadly but didn’t respond.
“So this Annabelle is in the city? You think you can find the flat she’s staying in?” Lucida asked, returning to her businesslike tone.