The Bloodshade Encounters & The Songspinner (Shadeborn Book 2) (18 page)

BOOK: The Bloodshade Encounters & The Songspinner (Shadeborn Book 2)
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Finality

 

It took Salem a long time to find the supermarket where Sienna had been working. After dropping her off on the corner of the Pritchard residence, Salem knew full well that the potioneers would quickly be putting all sorts of measures in force to ensure that magical beings would no longer be welcome on their street. He walked the length of London several times over, asking for information about the perky Australian everywhere he went.

He had thought things over and over, and it wasn’t really his fault that the Mayberry clan had taken them both. He had been on the verge of turning down Fen’s offer every minute that he and Sienna had been waiting for that taxi. The shade reasoned that, with the proper amount of begging and apology, he might be able to scrape back some of the brief happiness he had felt with that girl in his arms. He had lost many women before, but there was something about Sienna that made him want to try and win her back.

It was a tiny little convenience store that had finally heard of an Australian called Sienna. A portly woman sat behind a customer service desk, row upon row of cigarettes stacked behind her as she surveyed Salem with shifting eyes. She chewed a piece of gum and curled her finger around a ringlet of hair coming loose from her bun.

“Yeah,” she concluded, “there was a Sienna here. You must be that bastard who broke her heart.”

“That’s me,” Salem said, feeling every ounce of his own shame as it burned into his cheeks. “I’m trying to get her back. You don’t know where she’s working now, do you?”

“Last I heard? She was off to Paris,” the woman replied. “No notice left or anything. Just a note to say she wasn’t coming back. But that’s bloody Australians for you.”

“Thanks anyway,” Salem replied.

The spells that Salem would have had to use to find her required the skills of a potioneer. It was a twisted irony that stabbed at him as the shade realised he was probably blacklisted from those kind of services for life now. However many centuries he stuck around for, it would never be enough to lift the ban for his particular variety of betrayal. Sienna, no matter how much he loathed admitting it, was just another woman who had run gladly out of his life.

There was little to do but move on again, and go back to his empty little apartment and the endless nights of glazed-over faces that would watch his show in total wonder. Sometimes there was little to be said for a centuries-long existence. Salem Cross felt the coldness of his heavy, silver tongue, reassured at least that it would bring him some small comfort in the times to come.

 

PIKETON, the present day

 

The Decision

 

There was one thing left to do. Salem had been putting it off, reasoning to himself that there was no need to test the skill that was begging to be used, but now his despair had reached a depth so hazardous that it felt like his only option. He rose from his chair as the August sun set and stormed out of the sitting room. There was a bustle in the corridor at that time of day as the scent of Lady Eva’s cooking filled every pocket of air. Salem breezed through it all without so much as a sniff, heading for the auditorium.

The theatre space was half-set for the summer performance, and a singed limbo bar took pride of place where the Sewards must have been rehearsing an act. Salem pushed it aside with the strength of his biological muscles which, it turned out, weren’t as weak as he might have imagined. A tiny tingle of hope sparked in his chest as he heaved the bar back into the dark recesses behind him. He stood still then, looking out into the empty arena where his talents had amazed the oblivious masses of Piketon only a few weeks ago. Would they ever be captivated by Salem Cross again?

He held his chest, surprised by the wild humming of his own heart, settling into the spot where he stood and breathing a few deep breaths. Slowly, deliberately, he let the cold underside of his silver tongue sneak out over his bottom lip. Its chill spurred him on, for the gift he’d been given was prominent as ever in his biology. As for its magic, there was only one way to be sure.

Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low

And the flickering shadows softly come and go

Though the heart be weary, sad the day and long,

Still to us at twilight comes love’s old song

Comes love’s own sweet song

It was an old song, one that he hadn’t sung since his days with Jane, but it was the first one that came to Salem’s mind as he stood in the echoing space. The words came like flower-buds ready to bloom, each one expounding from his lips and reverberating into the cavernous hall. His lyrics and melody bounced off every surface and, with each note that he sang, Salem found himself inclined to sing a little louder. He felt a massive rush of joy, so much that he could hardly believe he had been so despondent a few minutes ago. The magic of his songspinning was different to that of his blood. He should have known that his greatest talent had not been sucked away by his sacrificial act.

The song was working. The first to put their head around the theatre’s double doors was Lady Eva, who had come with a sticky spoon in her hand to hear the song. Baptiste Du Nord followed, a curious little grin on his face, then the Sewards were behind him, their faces agog with shock. Soon Dharma came and called in Zita, who was already on her way and flanked by the Slovak Twins. Lemarick and Lily were the last to join the crowd at the door. Salem let his song ring out until the last of its notes was done. The echoes of its final melody clashed with the sound of applause.

“It seems you’ve found a new talent for the stage, Salem,” Eva said, beaming at him like he was a God among men.

“I didn’t know you could sing,” Dharma added, grinning.

Salem puffed out his chest with pride and elation.

“I didn’t care for it,” Baptiste said with a grimace.

“Nor me,” Lawrence added, “Bit old fashioned. You’re going to have to liven it up for our usual crowd.”

Salem flinched, his chest feeling suddenly empty.

“Ha,” Lemarick said, exchanging a look with Baptiste past the voodoo boy’s head, “You think I’m going to put
him
on my stage crooning in sweatpants? The man needs a comb through his hair and seven baths before I’d even consider that an audition.”

“You,” Lily said sharply, smacking her boyfriend’s arm, “be nice to your father. It’s wonderful to see you up and about again, Salem.”

She must have thought she sounded supportive, but all Salem felt was patronised. Though some of the crowd were entertained and some were mocking, not one of them wore the glazed look that would have meant that they were under the songspinner’s total control. The crowd began to dissolve as Eva remembered the dinner and Salem crept off in the opposite direction to the dark recesses of the backstage area. He slumped onto a crate and leaned forward, his head in his hands as blood rushed into his face.

It hadn’t worked. His final hope for some sort of power was gone. Even djinn magic, borrowed from another, was no longer a friend to him. He puzzled out the situation, his mind running circles as it tried to catch thoughts of Gifter and the conditions under which he had received his silver prize. She had taken his true name in exchange for the gift. On that day, Alexander Cross was no more and the charming, songspinning Salem Cross was born. He had become a new man under Evangeline’s tutelage, and everything was different from the moment they’d met.

Salem racked his brains for the ancient memory, grief and loss and hopelessness swelling in his heart as the words finally came. They were clear as a bell, as though magic itself had inscribed them into the far recesses of his mind:

“Alexander is the name of a hero, and we both know that isn’t really your path. I would advise you not to seek such things in the future. You might find that living up to this old name ends rather badly for you.”

Heroism. Making the sacrifice that turned him into a lightsider had done more than just drain him of the power in his blood. It was all so unfair, for the shade had never once intended to be a hero. Salem, in truth, had banished Evangeline out of spite, and out of a desire to see his son be on his side for once in their whole twisted history. He hadn’t felt selfless or righteous in that moment. He hadn’t even really known what he was doing, until the light sphere arrived and the deed was already done. He had let Lily die without knowing whether Lemarick was there to save her or not. He had been far too interested in besting the woman who had always succeeded in making him less of a man.

And Evangeline had succeeded again, sabotaging Salem from afar like she always did. Her bitterness had cursed him to fail in every relationship since their split, and there had been a considerable number of those in the centuries that followed. He had seen too much of her in Jane that night when she spat at his feet. Even the memory of his happiness with Evangeline had brought about the awful decision that had ruined things between him and Sienna. She had ruined him now, even though she was no longer of this world. With or without Gifter and the silver tongue, meeting Evangeline Novel had been Salem’s true curse. She had named him after a town famed for persecution, as though that had been her plan all along for the course of his life.

Salem shivered in the cold, empty blackness of the backstage hall, hot tears brimming in the corners of his eyes. The shade wiped them fiercely as his face stung, trying desperately to rid his mind of the grief-stricken memories of the life he had led. In the past there had always been magic. With magic came hope of a new situation, and a new life ahead. Now, for as long as he could tell, Salem would have nothing. His tears turned to hatred in the darkness. Undiluted frustration emptied his soul of all fear, all hope and all pity.

This was no way to live a life. Something would have to be done. Salem looked up at the thick ropes hanging from the ceiling of the dark cavern. They reminded him of the nooses in that little Massachusetts town, where he ought to have paid for his wanton ways a long time ago.

Salem Cross took a deep, shuddering breath, hoping that the afterlife would hold more promise, when he contrived a way to reach it.

 

End Of Story Two

 

There now follows a preview from:

The Potioneer

Volume Three of the Shadeborn series takes readers back to Lily Coltrane in the present day:

When humans break a mirror, the idea of seven years of bad luck is little more than superstition. But, when it happens to a magical being like a shade, that quaint old saying takes on a terrifying new reality. As Lily Coltrane looks down at the smashed remains of Lemarick Novel’s mirror, she can already feel that her luck is about to run dry, even though her illusionist boyfriend is certain that he can protect her. With a suicidal Salem Cross on red alert and newly-disabled best friend Jazzy to look after, Lily’s not so sure that Novel is right.

Lily’s suspicions will be confirmed in this, her second year of university, as the quiet English town of Piketon is flooded with a new array of supernatural beings, including Jeronomie Parnell, a gifted potioneer who seems to have solutions for Salem and Jazzy’s conditions. Suspicion fills the air at the old Theatre Imaginique, as Lily uncovers yet more secrets about the people she thought she knew. The question of who to really trust will bombard Lily’s mind, especially after she is introduced to the horror that is the House of Novel, and is forced to question the bloodline that her new true love comes from.

It seems like having a soul mate isn’t quite the ideal that Lily dreamed it would be, and she can only hope that The Book Of Shade will give her the power to get through the trials that she’s about to face. And as for the even greater darkness, slowly rising in the depths of that ruined mirror? Well, that’s quite another story for Lily to unfold.

Prologue

 

Before The Storm

 

It had been many weeks since Lily Coltrane had dreamed of earth. That all-encasing earth, grounder of all elements, now surrounded her weakened form as she tried to dig her way out of it. She saw her fingers bleeding from the strain of the dig, though she felt none of their pain, and her head grew heavier with each passing moment, her mind fading in and out of blackness. Lily knew it was a dream by the rise and rumble of the earthquake beneath her, and the way the obsidian soil shifted in waves, like a great ocean simply waiting for her to drown in its depths.

She willed herself to wake, but Lily was trapped in the state that minds often find themselves wandering to, that place somewhere between waking and never waking. The earth was clouding her vision, thundering in on all sides from some great unseen dump-truck in the nightless sky. No stars could be found in the blackness above Lily’s head, nothing to draw her shadepowers from, to make magic that could blast the earth away. She felt as though she ought to give in to the dream’s wishes, her bleeding hands and fingers curling into fists as she resisted the temptation of defeat for just a moment longer.

That was when she saw her saviour. Lemarick Novel stood in the near distance, resplendent in his usual Victorian garb. He seemed to shine out of the darkness despite his black suit, for his face shone whiter than white in the vivid make-up he wore on the stage. Lily found a new strength in her dreamstruck heart, and pressed on in the earth as it moulded to a path beneath her feet. She was escaping, and Novel was there to pull her from the nightmare and protect her, as he’d promised he would.

Something was wrong. Lily knew it from the moment Novel opened his mouth, for she could see his painted black lips moving, but they made no sound. She rushed to Novel on that dark hilltop of nothingness, her arms flying out widely to envelop him in an embrace. Whatever spell held him in silence, she was certain she could break it with her touch.

The touch never came, for an impact so fierce hit Lily that she reasoned that she could hardly be dreaming any more. Novel was still there, his handsome face watching her only a foot away, but there was a sadness in his pale blue eyes that she could not fathom. Lily reached out with one blood-soaked hand, feeling the surface that she had smashed into. It was an invisible wall, put in place by some unknown power to obstruct her, and however hard she pounded upon it, it showed no signs of breaking.

Novel approached from the wall’s other side, his palms resting upon it to line up with her own. She saw his bright white hair cast astray, and in her dream-addled state, her hero seemed to be growing darker before her eyes. His pale face grew ashen and withered as his muscles drew in, looking gaunt and meagre. Novel was wasting away right in front of Lily, and she could do nothing to break down the barrier that stood between them. She was losing him, minute by minute, in the torture of a nightmare.

Lily was losing Novel forever.

“NO!”

Lily awoke with such a start that she almost knocked Novel clean off his perch. He had come to sit beside her on the piano bench, and as her mind awakened more fully, she saw him wobbling precariously to prevent a fall to the ground. Memories of reality flooded back to Lily’s mind as the darkness of the impenetrable dream faded away. She had been using the piano bench as a stool in the attic, to sit at an old desk filled with books.

To her horror, she saw a trail of drool on a glossy page that was titled:
Punishment for Beggars in the 14
th
Century
. With the swiftness of pure embarrassment, Lily tried to wipe away the mess with her sleeve before Novel could spot it. As she made her hasty motions, she felt Novel’s warm hand coming to rest in the centre of her back, and some belated memory told her that he must have touched her before, waking her when she had fallen asleep on her books. She turned to him, viewing the concern in his once-frosty eyes, and all memory of the wasting, unreachable Novel in the dream disappeared.

“Sorry,” she mumbled sheepishly, “have I been up here long?”

“All evening,” Novel answered with his usual deep, well-spoken voice. “It’s nearly midnight now.”

Lily gave a profound and desperate sigh. She had promised herself that she would spend the month of August reading up, in preparation for her new year at Piketon University, but all the commotion of moving in and living at the Theatre Imaginique had gotten in the way of that plan tremendously. This was the night of August 31
st
, and it was her last chance to make good on her promise to be studious. She had taken herself up to the rehearsal space in the attic of the old, gothic theatre to get some quiet study time under her belt. The last time she remembered checking her watch was at eight that evening, and now she was certain she’d been fast asleep for most of the time thereafter.

Novel was peering over her shoulder at her books, and his arm continued to slide until it found a good place to rest around her middle. Lily leaned into his touch, looking down into the pile of history text books, sources and study guides that she had been neglecting for the last thirty days.

“Are you studying crime and punishment?” Novel asked, his voice coming to life a little more, perhaps at the prospect of the grisly topic.

“From medieval to present day,” Lily replied, “but it’s
so
boring.”

She slammed the drool-stained book shut to emphasise her frustration.

“This topic is a fate worse than death,” she added glumly, “and, having been dead, I feel I’m qualified to say that.”

Novel’s grip on her tightened when she said the ‘d’ word, and she reached to soothe him by stroking the back of his hand. He had witnessed the very death that she was talking about, and though the memory was still fresh in both their minds, they seemed to be dealing with it in very different ways. Novel didn’t want that moment mentioned, and he’d made that very clear, but Lily was compelled to talk her way out of her grief every time she thought of almost leaving this world behind. This incompatibility left the couple in an eerie silence, which was only broken by a sudden thumping sound, that came directly from the centre of the book pile.

“We’re not alone up here, are we?” Novel asked, one pale brow quirking as he looked at the now-animated books.

All of Lily’s textbooks were slowly behind shunted one way or the other, as an enormous tome with a cracked leather cover forced itself to the top of the heap. This crimson volume, with its ancient brown pages, belonged both to Novel and Lily now. It was their shared knowledge of all the magic that people of their supernatural nature could learn to conjure. It was the Book Of Shade.

“It hasn’t bothered me all night, until you came up here,” Lily mused with interest.

The Book Of Shade opened its own cover with a thump, as it was wont to do whenever something magically relevant was occurring. Lily and Novel watched with rapt curiosity as its ancient pages turned, flapping wildly like an impatient bird, until it had found what it was looking for. Curling black script appeared on the open pages, detailing an air-powered spell that required diagrams to illustrate. Novel frowned at the book, reading the title of the spell aloud.

“Cushioning spell,” he said. “Why on earth is it showing us how to produce a massive air cushion?”

Before Lily could even suppose an answer, the door to the attic room burst open with a creak and a bang. Novel was on his feet in seconds, and was already approaching the new intruder before Lily could swing her half-dead legs into action. Even as she turned, she felt a cold shiver that made the tiny hairs on her neck stand to attention, and she was not surprised by the figure that she beheld when she finally made the rotation on the piano stool.

Baptiste Du Nord made a terrible habit of bursting into rooms without knocking. It was as though he felt he had permission to trespass anywhere in Novel’s theatre, even when the illusionist and Lily were alone together. Where some months ago, Lily might have dismissed this behaviour as impetuousness, now she knew the truth of Monsieur Baptiste. The theatre’s elegant Master of Ceremonies was a bloodshade, a creature who relied on Novel’s blood to sustain his own survival. From the moment Baptiste had first supped a drop of the magically-enhanced blood of a shade, he and Novel had been bonded together.

It was a bond that Lily resented, because she didn’t understand the way that the two men reacted to one another. No words had passed in the few seconds that Baptiste had been in the room, but already Novel was racing for the door, as though the very atmosphere surrounding the elegant MC had told him all he needed to know about the situation. Lily could only stumble after the men as they stormed from the attic, trying – and failing – to quash the tingle of jealousy that was rising in her chest.

“What is it?” she asked as she followed them down the labyrinthine corridors of the theatre’s top level. “What’s happened?”

“It’s Salem,” Baptiste answered, without daring to look back and meet Lily’s eye.

“He’s on the roof,” Novel said, looking up at the ceiling as though he could see right through it.

Suddenly, the Book Of Shade’s instructions on creating a colossal air cushion made sense, and Lily didn’t need to hear the end of Novel’s words to know what Salem Cross was doing on the theatre’s roof.

“He’s going to jump.”

BOOK: The Bloodshade Encounters & The Songspinner (Shadeborn Book 2)
10.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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