Previous: Tormented Love

 

Holly jolted awake as a scream seared through her sleep-addled mind. Had she dreamt it? She must have, because everything now was so quiet except for the crackling of a fire in a nearby hearth, and the gentle snoring of Hawthorn as he sat slumped in an armchair. She herself lay on a sofa. How had she gotten there?

She sat up and looked around the well furnished room that she now found herself in. There were no windows in the stone walls, but the lavish curtains seemed to make up for it somehow. Plush carpets padded the stone floor, and the warm tones of the intricately carved wooden furniture added almost as much warmth as the fire that crackled so close to hand.


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Previous: Of Mushrooms and Men

 

Hazel awoke on a cold stone floor with a pounding headache. She pushed herself upright and looked around, surprised to see she was still in her father’s workshop. She must have fainted, probably from all the smoke. Had something gone wrong with her spell?

No, the spell had worked. There had been a bright light close to Ash’s chest. That had meant something.

She got to her feet and started across the room, but it was like shadows had solidified around her, clinging like tar that made her movements heavy and strained. When she stopped, the shadows receded, but as soon as she tried to walk again, the shadows returned like night-tempered chains. Her father had done this. He had trapped her here.


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Previous: A Star Enshrined Heart

 

Holly gave silent thanks that they never found a corpse on the road. She had spent a fair amount of time holding her breath in anticipation, but nothing ever arose—either in the air or on the road ahead of them.

“Ravens aren’t always a sign of death,” Norman said, perhaps noticing her relief. “They are the world’s oldest messengers, before pigeons and owls and other such birds became more fashionable. They are the eyes of the gods, keepers of gateways and of memories.”


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Previous: Crossroads Conundrum

 

Hazel woke up and stared at the ceiling. A jagged crack seared across the stone surface to a corner where moss began to grow. She lay still a moment, savoring the softness of the bed before she realized a lamp had been lit in the room. Someone had been in her quarters. Again.

Annoyed, she got up from the bed and went into the main room. A fire had been lit in the hearth, and the poker that had been lying on the floor had been returned to its proper place. The basin, ewer, and mirror were all still on the table, along with a cloche-covered tray and lit beeswax candles. Hazel continued to eye the room, but nothing else looked out of place, and the warmth from the fire helped ease her tension.


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Previous: Roadside Meeting

 

Holly and Hemlock rode atop one of the horses, while Hawthorn and the necromancer rode on the other. The necromancer had refused to give his name, so Holly had taken to calling him Norman. Norman had tried to run for it before they could lift him up onto a horse, and Hawthorn had re-summoned his goose to terrorize the man for a solid ten minutes. Holly knew it had been ten minutes from Hemlock’s watch that the fairy held as it fluttered about. The whole scene might have gone on longer if Hemlock hadn’t said that time was running out—a funny choice of words, really, considering his watch had just swung past his head. After that whole incident, though, Norman became wary around Hawthorn. So they shared a horse hoping it would keep necromancer quiet.


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Previous: Cold, Quintessential Comfort

 

Holly hopped off the back of the wagon and dusted off her hands. “Right, then.” She peered out into the nighttime gloom, looking for the runaway horses or Tum, but she didn’t see either.

“Could we hurry this up?” Hawthorn said as he pulled off his necromancer’s robe and dropped it on the ground. “There’s a chill out, and I’m not dressed for cold weather.”

Holly eyed him. “Well, you could start with keeping your robe on if you’re so cold.”


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