An excerpt from my Gothic novella – Nevermore!
Believe it or not, Horror is one of my very favorite genres. But not the gore and blood – the ghostly kind of horror. The horror where you can see a wandering wraith and you just KNOW something scary is about to happen. Yeah, that kind. Back in the 1980s, I made it my life’s work to rent (Blockbuster was my friend) every horror video I could and HECK YES there were some good ones! With names like Mortuary or The Gate, you just KNEW you were going to be screaming and covering your eyes. Hehehe….
It’s little wonder that I love writing ghostly stories and I’ve got a whopper for the coming collection, UPON A MIDNIGHT DREARY. That line comes from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, and my story is called ‘Nevermore’. The story is kind of a cross between The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Premature Burial. All of that crazy, Gothic, deliciously creepy stuff. I’ve got a little excerpt here for you, but here’s the setting – Whitby Abbey in Yorkshire, a wicked Mother Abbess, and a postulate in love with a knight – who happens to be none other than Paris de Norville’s grandson, Atreus de Norville. Atreus’ brother, Hermes, is a secondary character in my coming novel, WOLFELORD.
Before you read the excerpt, click to pre order!
Amazon – https://bit.ly/UponAMidnightDreary
Now… read on!
Year Of Our Lord 1295
The winds off the North Sea were fierce this night.
Howling demons shrieked as they encircled the abbey, screaming their heinous threats of fear and pain for all to hear. It was the heart of a nasty storm that had blown in earlier in the evening, now pounding the sand-colored stones of the abbey at full force.
The occupants inside shivered in fear.
It wasn’t a night fit for man nor beast.
Unfortunately, it was also a night of terror.
For one frightened nun, the howling winds and beating storm meant more than a simple tempest. Her life, her career as a nun, was coming to an end and there was naught she could do to stop it.
Her time was coming.
But first, she had a man to see.
She’d managed to make her way out of the cloister, now on the north side of the abbey and its walls that stretched to the sky. The north Yorkshire moors were dark and treacherous in any weather, but on a night like tonight, it was like running through the pits of hell, with hands reaching up to grab her, trying to stop her from completing her journey.
She could feel the fingers.
But they were merely branches, clinging to her rough woolen garments. Perhaps they were really the hands of Fate, trying to stop her from doing this dastardly thing. Trying to save her from herself.
But she wouldn’t listen.
The rain pounded. The lightning flashed. The wool she was wearing became heavy with water, dragging her down, smelling like a sewer. By the time she crossed the slick, stone footbridge and reached the small village of Whitby, she was drenched and shivering.
She was supposed to meet him in the livery behind a tavern called The Duchess and The Angel, one of the rowdier establishments in a seaside fishing town that had its share of rowdy places. Odd that the village also contained one of the more prestigious abbeys in Northern England, a place of veneration and worship, regarded country-wide. But only the occupants knew that the abbey was more than that, a hellscape from which there was no return once committed. This mixture of fishing village and ominous abbey was only the beginning of Whitby.
Where it ended, no one knew.
But she intended to see it end for her. She’d been planning it for over two years, ever since she had met the strong young knight who had come to Whitby with his mother, as they’d been traveling north and paused for mass during a feast day. She didn’t even remember what feast day it had been now; all of that seemed lost in the jumble of memories she’d had since then.
All she knew was that it was the first time she’d every seen Atreus de Norville’s face.
These clandestine meetings had been taking place over the course of the past two years. Atreus had been the one to instigate them in secret, but she had gone right along with him. In truth, the entire reason that Mariana Prendwick de Allerston had been committed to the hollow, shadowed halls of Whitby Abbey was because her family, the prestigious de Allerston family from Yorkshire, had been trying to keep her from a stable servant that she’d fallen in love with. The Mother Abbess, the former Gunilda Dunsley, had sworn that she could break their wild daughter from the cravings of the flesh.
But she hadn’t.
Now, Mariana found herself sneaking into town where Atreus await.
He’d sent her a note the usual way – through a farmer who brought his wares to the abbey twice a week. There was usually a note nailed underneath his cart by the right wheel and Mariana had found that note yesterday, asking her to meet him in the livery behind the tavern. It wasn’t their usual place, but she didn’t care.
She was going to see him again and that was all that mattered.
There were several fishing boats that were moored in the mouth of the River Esk, so the taverns were full on this night. The rain was still pounding as a tempest blew in from the sea as Mariana made her way towards the tavern, staying to the shadows as much as she could. Dashing across the muddy avenue, she slipped into the livery yard behind the tavern.
Once inside the stable, she tried to shake off the rain, but she was soaked to the skin. Teeth chattering, she found an empty stall and curled up in the corner, freezing and uncomfortable. The livery entry was in her line of sight, so she tried to stay low and unobtrusive, out of the way of any servants who might be entering the stable.
She didn’t want to be thrown out into that rain.
And then, she saw him.
Tall, long-limbed, sinewy but muscular, Atreus entered the stable. She’d know that form anywhere. She’d know that form for the past two years, a form that belonged only to her. Though the night was cold, she could already feel the warmth of his arms around her. It was what she lived for, what kept her going. The stable servant at her family home had been the fleeting infatuation of a girl.
Atreus was the deep love of a woman.
She loved him with all her heart.
“Atreus!” she hissed.
His head snapped in her direction. She was in the very last stall, hidden from view of anyone entering the stable, so he had to go hunting for her, following her voice until he found her hunkered down in the stall.
Entering the stall, he fell to his knees beside her and drew her into his powerful embrace.
“My love,” he whispered into her hair. “You made it.”
“Are you unscathed?”
She pulled back, nodding fearfully. “I am,” she said. “But I know she has sent women to follow me. I kept seeing shadows behind me, in the trees, against the grass… I know they were following me.”
Atreus sighed heavily, looking into her terrified face before pulling her into another crushing embrace. He had to think.
Think quickly, man!
“Mayhap they are,” he said calmly. “But they have not followed you to this place. I looked all around before I entered and there is no one nearby. I would have seen them.”
Mariana was trembling in his arms. “What do we do?” she said. “If they saw me come to town, undoubtedly, Mother Abbess will want to know why.”
Mother Abbess. The very words struck fear into the hearts of those who knew her. A woman entrusted with the care of her charges, but a woman who did not understand the meaning of the word care.
She didn’t care for them at all.
Mariana was a perfect example. Atreus looked at the trembling young woman in his arms; she was dressed in rags, really. She was from one of the finest homes in Yorkshire, now wearing rags and doing tasks that the lowliest servant would consider filthy, all because the Mother Abbess had decreed it so.
Pretty, sweet Mariana…
Relegated to the clothes of a pauper.
He clutched her more tightly against him, remembering the first time he ever saw her. Enormous brown eyes, curly brown hair, and a bright smile. She was so tiny and precious, something he desperately wanted to love and protect, but her family and Whitby stood in his way.
It had been a difficult road that had brought them to this moment.
“I will send you back with some soap and food,” he said. “You can tell her that you were begging for such things, since she hardly feeds you and doesn’t see fit to provide you with the very basic necessities of life. Tell her you were begging.”
“But she will be angry!”
His jaw flexed. “The proud bitch,” he growled. “She eats like a king but allows her nuns and postulates to live in poverty.”
Mariana clung to him, nodding. “I cannot bring anything back with me.”
“At least bring the soap. Tell her you stole it.”
“She would accept that more than begging.”
Atreus rolled his eyes. He’d been witness to Mariana’s dire circumstances for too long now, watching her struggle to survive, but no longer. He’d come to tell her that he was going to do something about it.
He had to get her out of there.
I hope you love it, because I loved writing it! Pre-order the collection to see how it ends!!