COUNTDOWN: “In the House of Souls” sneak peek


Today I’m sharing a sneak peek into the novella with one of my very favorite scenes! Enjoy:

By the time Hopper, with Emer in hand, reached the Great Hall the ceremony had already begun.
It was difficult to spot the Lady ahead of the rest of her faery host, but Hopper knew when she’d knelt before the Canneral and Cannersai of the Clan as the fae followed suit.
Unfortunately, this left the girl and alone standing.
“Hopper, what are you doing? You are so late!” a voice hissed from one of the long benches to the right.
It was Weaver, one of her aunts who always sat at the back of the Hall, regularly rolling her eyes at such pomp and circumstance. She waved the girl over.
“Your mother will not be pleased,” Aunt Weaver threatened lowly.
Hopper looked up at the head of the Hall. Her mother, Cannersai Dannoch, had risen from her ornate chair to offer it to the Lady. While the Lady held no real sway over the mortal Tuann, it represented that they were equal, ruling over their own domains. Cannersai Dannoch offered her hospitality in a way only befitting a faery noblewoman.
The Lady Gradum was a blaze of flame you had to look away from, a sun that shone too bright. Her hair was the radiance of the sunset somewhere between orange of gold. Her eyes glinted an intense yellow, flicking her gaze like hot sparks and burning like an iron brand when she held her stare steady.
While another lady, a mortal lady, may have chosen something more subtle or contrasting like a sky blue or emerald green, the Lady Gradum only wore brilliant crimson or fiery orange, vibrant yellow, or bright tulip pinks.
Today, it was the red with a golden brocade pattern of stars, lace of the same metallic color peeping from her cuffs and collar.
“And what are you doing with that toy? Aren’t you a little old for that?” Aunt Weaver demanded.
Hopper shrugged.
“There is many a great thing to announce,” the faery Lady Gradum began, her voice loud and clear, “I’m sure all of Dannoch has wondered why you remain here in Anamit House long after you would have liked to be.
“For that, I must apologize, it was my doing. It is my intention to meet with the Canneral and Cannersai before the weather turns and the Clan is once again on the move. I hope all will agree to remain in this House for the duration of the Seirlough to further cement our plans.
“Should any one object, now is the time to speak.”
No one moved.
“Cannersai Dannoch, where is your daughter?” the Lady asked.
Hopper whipped left and right, but at the center of the bench, she was trapped.
“You must forgive her, your Ladyship, you know how Hopper has always been,” the Cannersai supplied uneasily.
“Here, hang on to him,” Hopper insisted, shoving the pink-haired doll into Aunt Weaver’s hands.
“Wait- what?”
Hopper leapt up onto the bench.
Her mother still pressed on, “She probably got caught up working on one of her silly projects or lost in a book-”
“Here!” the girl shouted among gasps.
As she tried to jump over the high back of the seat, her foot caught the curved rim and she tumbled forward to the floor.
“Young lady!”
The sound of her mother’s heeled shoes grew closer and closer as Hopper picked herself up and brushed the light-colored dust from her her clothes.
“What ever has gotten into you?”
Cannersai Dannoch tugged Hopper further down the aisle by the elbow.
“Sorry, Mother. I didn’t want to interrupt the ceremony!”
“Your father and I are going to have a long talk with you,” the Cannersai threatened quietly, surely not loud enough for the Lady to hear.
Hopper ignored her and stepped up closer before bowing very lowly to the faery Lady.
She knew her mother certainly wouldn’t like that, she insisted on womanly curtsies, even when Hopper wore trousers like today. She liked anyone bowing before the faery host as if they were the true rulers even less.
“My Lady,” Hopper proclaimed, “What aid can I be to you?”
“As I will be spending quite a lot of time with your people, I think it would behoove me to employ a mortal handmaiden and would ask you to do me the honor.
“I would ask you to serve and wait on me as well as act as emissary between fae and mortal.
“In return I would offer you a Favor of your choosing at the closing of your service.”
Hopper gasped. A Favor! To the fae, that was a powerful currency and from a Lady? She could ask for absolutely anything! She could become a Royal Artificer to the Court!
Before she could come up with a single word, her father, Canneral Dannoch interrupted, “Begging your leave, your Ladyship, but how long would be the length of her service?”
“For the length of my stay, through the holiday.”
“Further, I must insist that while she may serve you, her loyalty still lies with her own people. She will continue to respect the authority of myself,” he turned to level his ice-blue gaze at Hopper, “And her mother above all other directives.”
The Lady grinned but the smile never quite reached her eyes.
“Of course, I would ask no less.”
Canneral Dannoch nodded and sat back down.
The Lady turned to Hopper, “Are you prepared to make your Vow?”
A Vow? Those were magically binding to the fae, a faery had to stay true to its wording or their magic would wane until they died.
A mortal could not be held in such a way, but Hopper was certain the Lady would find a way to punish her disobedience.
“I- I am, my Lady,” Hopper stammered, unable to peel her gaze from the wood floor.
“Then look at me and say these words.
“I am Hopper of Dannoch.”
“I am Hopper of Dannoch,” the girl repeated.
Magic began to spin and swirl at her ankles in clouds of buttery light.
“I Vow to offer my service to the best of my ability.”
Hopper couldn’t tear her eyes away from those of the Lady. They shone like bright stars, they refused to let her go.
“I Vow to offer my service to the best of my ability.”
The magic rose higher and higher.
“Through my service-”
Somehow, Hopper knew the words. Somehow her voice took over,
“I will honor my family, my Clan, and the fae,” the continued in unison, but the Lady’s voice dropped off.
Her eyes grew no less relentless.
“I will serve my Lady with all that I am be it not in violation of the custom and directive of my Clan. For this, the duration of the Lady Gradum’s visit, I am bound.”
Hopper gasped as the words left her, air taking their place. Her chest, her whole body felt as if it was lightly enclosed in a net of warm, shimmering light.
The Vow was completed.

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