Lot, Bran, and Josef go looking for Marly and find a mystery they weren’t expecting.

Hastings – 1844

‘I thought my ears might explode,’ I said, rubbing my ears as we walked. In the absence of a ram’s horn, or a rabbi, the children decided they should spend the morning blowing their whistles.

‘Children need noisy toys.’ Josef paused and sniffed the air.

‘Maybe not ones that are so high-pitched.’ Bran frowned at the map he was holding.

Josef cleared his throat. ‘They didn’t sound so high-pitched when I tested them.’

I sighed and cast my gaze about. It was drab, and wet, and it looked like the cows in the next field were contemplating squashing us. I never liked cows, they always looked like they were plotting. ‘The magic of children,’ I said, Josef probably hadn’t put the same welly into blowing the whistles the children did.

Bran stopped walking to press the folded map to his thigh and marked the last mine exit we’d passed. ‘It’s only a guess but, looking at the entrances we’ve found so far, I think the mines might reach the wood.’

I took the map, damp from the water hanging in the air, and scowled at it as if it might reveal a secret to me. ‘If they do it might explain why The Rider manifested in the woods rather than nearer Hastings.’

Josef gave me a questioning look.

‘Summoning something is like putting an address on a letter, it goes to the address. If Rache summoned The Rider while in Hastings it doesn’t make sense they would appear so far away.’

‘How do you know that?’ Josef asked.

‘I’ve been working on summoning objects from across a room.’ I touched my forehead. ‘And getting hit on the head a lot.’

Josef hid a laugh with a cough, which might’ve been more convincing if vampires were more prone to coughing.

I slapped his chest and shook my head. ‘The point is, this place is rich in magic and the divide is thin, it’s a good place to cast a spell.’ I straightened his cravat. ‘If you cast it in the mines people are less likely to find your magic.’

Bran nodded, ever diplomatic.

‘If they do extend that far we might never find Marly, or Rache. After the rain I can barely pick up the scent of our blood.’ Josef stabbed his cane into the damp earth. ‘All I can smell is bloody cows.’

I wrapped my arm around his waist and squeezed him as we walked. ‘Don’t worry, I’m sure Rache will turn up to try and get rid of me eventually.’

They both looked at me.

‘Uncomfortable truths still need to be acknowledged.’ I shrugged and climbed over the field gate into the lane. ‘Do you ever have a feeling something is pulling at you?’

‘Pulling at you?’ Josef asked.

To my left the rutted lane twisted away and disappeared behind the hedges. ‘I have a feeling I should go that way, but that way leads to Field House.’

Josef caught my wrist. I slid him a look and he let go. I appreciated the sentiment but I wasn’t about to wander off by myself, with mysterious riders and murderous vampires about it wasn’t the best way to keep pretending to breathe.

‘It’s not far away,’ Bran said, leaning against the gate to examine the map. ‘It’s on the other side of the trees.’ He traced the marks on the map with one of his deliciously long fingers. ‘We’ve been circling closer. I didn’t even notice.’

I looked at Josef. ‘Maybe grabbing my wrist wasn’t unwarranted.’

He made an exasperated sound and I arched my eyebrows at him.

‘It feels like everything is out to get you,’ he muttered.

‘In fairness, The Rider is out to get you.’ I smoothed his waistcoat. ‘But I am a very aggravating person.’

‘Aggravating is harsh.’ Josef tucked an escaped strand of hair behind my ear. ‘Moderately annoying, perhaps.’

I pulled a mock aw face. ‘So romantic.’

Bran climbed over the gate and it groaned under his weight. ‘Why can’t you two flirt like normal people?’

I stepped close and traced my thumb down the buttons of his trousers. ‘It wouldn’t be so fun.’

He smiled sheepishly and blushed.

Josef propped himself against the gate with his cane dangling from his arm. ‘This from the man who considers arse slaps affectionate.’

I caressed my hand over Bran’s rear, eyes on Josef. ‘I’ve never heard you complain.’

Josef grinned and shrugged. ‘We’ve already acknowledged I’m strange.’

‘Very.’ I walked ahead. ‘Shall we take a peek at what’s going on?’

‘Are you sure that’s a good idea?’ Bran asked.

I swung round and carried on walking backwards. ‘I love it when you challenge me.’

Josef straightened. ‘That’s not an answer.’

I spread my arms. ‘I’m rarely sure of anything.’

‘That’s not reassuring,’ Josef said.

‘That’s why I have you two to cover my back.’

Josef sighed. ‘Nicely played.’

‘Playing you is always nice.’

Josef threw his cane up and caught it in the middle. ‘It’s nice to have my efforts appreciated.’

I laughed. Bran shook his head, folded the map, and tucked it into his coat pocket.

I swung back round and carried on walking. ‘Once more unto the breach and all that.’

‘I don’t see how this gets me anywhere near your breach,’ Josef called.

I stuck my middle finger up over my shoulder without looking back then picked up the pace. They caught me easily, it would’ve been less fun if they didn’t.

Read Part Two of Today’s Double Bill Here

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Published by Jesse

I'm a writer and academic specialising in fantasy fiction and creative writing theory. I'm allergic to pretentiously talking about fiction and aim to be unashamedly ‘commercial’. Surely all fiction is commercial anyway, or what’s the point in publishing it?

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