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  • Elyse Wheeler

Preview of Raven's Eye

Prologue

December 21, 1905

Gordon Matheson urged his roan gelding into a fast trot. He settled his black sloucher hat against the sleet. “Damn you, Ramhill! And this foul weather.” The horse swiveled his ears and plowed through the gloom. “What possessed Edward to drag me to his club tonight? The gelding snorted. Gordon shrugged deeper in his overcoat. His wife and their newly arrived babes safe at home spurred him on, kicking the gelding into a canter, disregarding the treacherous footing.


A high-pitched keen split the air. The hair rose on his neck, icy fear slipping down his back. The gelding shied sideways, slid in the mud and struggled to keep his feet. Gordon rose in the stirrups giving the horse his head to regain a footing. He leaned low over the withers and urged the gelding to greater speed.


The house lights appeared beyond the open wrought iron gate. The Christmas tree in the parlor window did not calm him. The gelding stumbled in a deep rut. Gordon flew over the horse’s head, rolling in the giant paw prints leading away from the house and into the woods.


“Where are you, you bloody beasts?” He yelled at the empty pedestals, the stone foxes missing. He leapt the steps and charged through the open oak door.


Harry sprawled, face down, in the foyer, his long red hair loose from its leather binding. Gordon leapt over him and careened into the parlor.

His wingback chair lay on its side, pushed against the wall, its legs splitting the wainscoting. Blood spread across the scorched floor, burn marks leading from the fireplace. Demon-magicks and sulfur fumes filled his mouth, burning and acrid.


“No!” he bellowed. Kneeling beside Harry, he rolled him onto his back, pulling at his collar to reach the carotid artery. Harry’s eyes flew open, unfocused, the deep mahogany orbs rolling back.


“Harry!” Gordon pulled his fingers away sticky with blood. He stripped off his coat and draped it over the older man. “Harry, where is Serena?”


Harry stared at the ceiling. “Master Gordon, she’s gone. They’ve taken her.” He closed his eyes.


“Harry, stay with me, man. Where are the babes?”


Harry pointed at the oak stairs, mumbling “den”. Gordon sprinted for the rooms behind the stairs.


Den? This is the library. Harry, what do you mean?” He stood just inside the darkened library, his senses prickling.


He put both hands on the wall. “For God’s sake, Foxie, help me. I know you don’t care for me but where the blazes is the den?”


Frustration rang in his voice. Pivoting, his muddy boots slipped on the oak floor, sending him skidding on his knees toward the opposite wall.


He slid through the wall into a narrow passage, a small round opening into the underground bowels. The air carried earthy odors and a sweet, familiar scent. On hands and knees, he forced his shoulders down the narrow passage.


He scrabbled into the inky darkness, his fingers digging into the cool earth. His outstretched hand felt soft fur. He clawed his way, his shoulders no longer rubbing against the tunnel walls. Swiping a wide arc in the darkness, his hand strafed a wool wrapping. He grabbed a fistful, pulling away the swaddling blanket. He stroked her cheek, her warm skin soft against his palm.


His held breath escaped in a rush. He laid his head down between his outstretched arms giving thanks to all the gods he could name. He reached to each side, seeking the second bundle, knowing in his heart, it was in vain.


He drew her to him, backing out inch by inch. She wiggled, waking from the deep sleep. He smelled Harry’s wild magick on her breath. To keep her quiet, he thought for once grateful for the retainer’s strange ways.


He edged backwards, able to move a few inches at a time. Hands grabbed his ankles pulling him from the close quarters. He twisted to kick stopping just in time, Harry’s pale face staring at him from beyond his boot.


“Is she all right, sir?” Harry croaked, the blood on his neck attesting to the heavy blow.


“She seems to be, Harry.” Gordon rolled to a sitting position and cradled his daughter in his arms. Her bright amber eyes stared up at him. She fought the confining blanket. “Tell me what happened.”


Harry sank back against the wall. “Four demons came down the chimney. Madam felt them coming and bade me hide the babe.” Harry rubbed his face, running shaking fingers through his hair.


Gordon noticed the single lock at Harry’s temple, gone white all at once.


“When I returned, they were dragging her out the door. I tried to stop them, Master Gordon. One hit me from behind. I am so sorry.” Harry collapsed in on himself.


“Harry, you did your best. And my son?” Gordon rocked back and forth, not certain if the movement was for Saminthea’s comfort or his own.


“With his mother.” Harry hung his head, “She fought them, sir. The foxes awoke, trying to stop them. I heard their cries before I lost my senses.” Harry struggled to his feet. “We have to go after them!” He staggered against the wall.


“Harry, we have to secure the baby and the house.”


Harry shook his head. “But…”


Gordon rolled to his knees and rose, clutching Saminthea to his shoulder. “I know. I don’t like it either but it is what Serena would want.” He patted her back to calm himself as much as the babe.


“Carleton. Carleton will help me.”


Pulling a small bronze top from his pocket, he tossed it to the floor. The top half spun clockwise. The bottom rotated the opposite. Soft whirring filled the room, growing in intensity.


“Work, damn you. He promised me it would work.” Copper-colored mist flowed from the edges until a cloud stood five feet in the still air.


A figure stooped, stepping through the opening. He ran his fingers through his salt and pepper hair and brushed the copper dust from his jean jacket. “I’ve got to work on this. It should be large enough to step through comfortably. And you didn’t believe it would work.” His laughter died in his throat. “Gordon…?” His face paled.


“Carleton, I fear I need to call in that favor sooner than I wished.” Saminthea mewled, fretting in her blanket. Gordon patted her. “Serena has been abducted. I need you to protect my daughter.” He looked around the room. “And the house.”


Before Carleton Fairmont could reply, Gordon dropped to his knees beside the drying blood and pressing Saminthea’s small palm into the middle. “Dearest, I do not know the ritual your Mother would have used to pass the keys to you but this will have to do.” He closed his eyes. “With your mother’s blood, I seal you to her and her to you.” He turned the baby and stared into her eyes. “These chambers are the chambers of her heart. Never forsake her. Her love will protect you.”


He kissed Saminthea on the forehead. Rising, he placed her in Carleton’s arms. “I have to go. Harry knows what to do. Take her away. Keep her safe.”


Carleton cradled the baby to his chest. “Gordon, do you think eighty years will be far enough?”


Gordon chuckled. “It will have to do.”


Carleton reached into his pocket, pulling out another brass device. “Then you’ll need this to come to us.”


“I never believed the first one would work.”


Carleton laughed, “Why am I always saddled with a doubting Thomas for a student? You have to believe … or it doesn’t work. That’s alchemy for you.” He clapped him on the shoulder. “Go. Find them. I’ll protect Sami and Foxie.”


Gordon grabbed Harry in a tight hug then lunged for the front door.


“Mr. Gordon, let me go with you.” Harry called.


Gordon leapt into the saddle. The gelding sidestepped, throwing mud.

“No, Harry, you need to keep her safe. They’ll be hunting her. You’re the only one I trust.” He wheeled the horse and kicked him into a gallop. Darkness swallowed him.


Carleton’s firm hand pulled Harry back into the house. “Harry, I’ve learned a little about babies from my own two. I wager she’ll be hungry soon. Shall we proceed?”


An open field bordered by tall pines and hardwood, windswept, breezes cold and damp filled Harry’s senses.


“That’s it, Harry. The right place for Foxie to wait.” Carleton bounced Sami on his shoulder, her face puckered into a cry.


Harry nodded, his words lost in his aching heart. He beckoned Carleton to follow. Standing in the fire-scorched parlor, he raised his eyes to the heavens. He grasped Sami’s bloody hand, his ululation splitting the air.


The house shook, the earth bucking around the foundation. Gordon braced himself, holding tightly to the baby, his ocean sailing experience lending him stability. All colors in the house swept toward them leaving a grey shell behind. The whirlwind circled them. Carleton stepped through the portal onto the open field, Harry followed close behind.


For a heartbeat, the spectral cloud hesitated, then slipped through the opening. It rose high into the air as if inspecting the clearing in the forest. Swooping down with tail flashing, all four paws pierced the ley lines. The house reformed, the foundation groaning, shifting stone and mortar to bind to the earth. She settled into her new home.


Carleton nodded. “Well done, Harry. Now let’s go home.”

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