Read The Eterna Files Online

Authors: Leanna Renee Hieber

The Eterna Files (39 page)

She upended the bag, tumbling all the papers she had of the late Eterna work into the pit. The sheets glowed white in the dim light as they shifted and fell, order and organization disappearing.

Clara had raided her own office safe before going home that evening. Thus, she would be able to completely rid herself of anything related to Eterna, including her last reminder of Louis Dupris, whose soaring ideas should have seized the world by the throat and left it as breathless as he'd been able to make her. Clara plucked the cravat from where it had lain warm against her bosom and set the silk in her lap. She thought about removing the protective amulet but couldn't bring herself to part with it.

Rummaging in an interior pocket of her cloak, her shaking fingers managed to find the small rattling box of matches she'd stowed there. Striking a match on the ornately decorated box, a flame flared to life. As the fire blossomed, her eye caught a phrase on the topmost sheet.

The Power of Protection.

She grimaced. What good had magic done the team, after all their diligent work?

A night wind rustled the few trees above her, at least, a breeze was what it seemed at first, but the fabric of her cloak did not buffet in the air. As she paused, listening, the sound seemed more like the murmuring of voices. The match went out.

Clara muttered a curse and lit another. It, too, was blown out. Then another, and another. Four matches, all extinguished, as if by a precisely aimed breath. The air around her had grown noticeably chill.

Before she could wonder if she was not alone among the graves, sparks soared into the sky in a wide and impressive arc above Pearl Street. Whatever electric lights had been on in that block, street lamps or indoor lighting alike, went dark.

“Charge,” Clara said thoughtfully, realizing that she could no longer ignore or forget this word. There were shouts and running feet and suddenly she did not feel so confident about her business in the graveyard. She also could feel a flickering at the corner of her eye, and a bitter taste in her mouth.

She needed to work quickly. As her vision shifted slightly at the edges, she knew an episode was on its way. So that's why she was so cold. Damned ghosts. And damn the effect they had. They must be trying, all of them, to get at her.…

She did not strike another match. Instead, she buried the bag, the papers, and Louis's saffron cravat, which she carefully placed on top of the rest. At first she shoveled dirt into the hole with her hands, wanting to cry and retch, wishing she could give him more ceremony. But she was already testing her luck. She had a minute at best.

Clumsily with the trowel, her limbs already growing numb, she scattered the soil, then tried to set the grassy patches back in place as if assembling a puzzle. Her gloves were thin enough that touch guided her in trying to make the ground even; without the electric lights from down the block it was almost too dim to see and she didn't dare light a lantern.

Her body failed her. She fell, began seizing, and everything went dark.

*   *   *

Louis Dupris floated above the graves, breathing heavily, for the moment relieved. She couldn't hear him crying. “No, Clara, no! Our magic is a ward! You'll need it in the days ahead, the house was compromised but the ward is necessary!” He had begged her, willing her to understand the full scope of what he was only beginning to comprehend, to no avail.

But he'd managed to muster enough power to blow out each of those matches.

The compound was indeed a type of cure, but not in the ways they thought. There was more than one force trying to control this game. Louis, from his precarious spirit-world vantage point, could see great forces shifting like volcanic land masses at cross purposes.

Somehow he had to let Clara know that while he didn't want anyone else to know about his work, it couldn't be destroyed. She was the
only
person in the whole living world he could trust, the only one he dared tell his realizations. And he couldn't communicate with her.

Andre had fled. Louis was on his own. But not alone.

It would seem the rest of New York's spirit realm felt threatened, too.

In Trinity Church Yard, at the mouth of Wall Street, if one were inclined to see spirits, one would have seen a massive horde of them, from the Colonial eras and the early years of the city's century. Floating, nearly substanceless, like feathers in the breeze, they were drawn, more than a hundred, to that small plot at the base of Manhattan Island. They hovered, transparent, staring down at a slightly uneven patch of earth, and at a woman scrabbling over a grave, a woman at the center of a great storm.

“Get back,” he warned them. “Don't overwhelm her. Leave her be, it isn't good for you all to be here.” They floated in a swarm, not paying any attention to him.

They were staring at Clara, begging for her intercession, begging her to listen to them, all concerned that their own spiritual apocalypse was at hand. Half of the specters pointed at the harbor, shrieking that the devil was nigh. Louis was beginning to understand that what had happened to him was the beginning of an invasion. That nothing and no one, living or dead, was safe from what was coming, bubbling up from under the surface like blood seeping out from under the edges of a cracking scab.

Clara tried to steady herself on the ground, her breath coming in ugly gasps.

“Stop, don't you see what you're doing to her?” Louis screamed. “Get away!”

He watched in horror as Clara, his vibrant love, fainted dead away at his floating feet, shivering and shuddering, and though his spectral form bent over her, he could not touch or help her.

“Clara!” Louis cried. “Someone help my darling Clara!”

If one could hear spirits, what a horrible racket.

Louis Dupris wasn't the only one with his spectral mouth in a wail around Clara's unconscious, shuddering form. All of New York's ghosts were screaming bloody murder.

 

Tor Books by

LEANNA RENEE HIEBER

The Eterna Files

Strangely Beautiful
(forthcoming)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leanna Renee Hieber's first novel,
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker,
is a foundation work of gaslamp fantasy. The novel won two Prism Awards and is being developed for the stage as a work of musical theater. A talented actor and singer, Hieber has appeared on stage and screen, including episodes of
Boardwalk Empire,
and regularly leads ghost tours in New York City.

Hieber has often said that she feels she was born in the wrong time, and she is rarely seen out of Victorian garb. Her lyrical, atmospheric prose made her a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for historical fiction and has earned her numerous awards, including the Ancient City Romance Authors Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Award. An energetic self-promoter, Hieber is one of the cofounders of the Lady Jane's Salon reading series and often appears at conventions, bookstores, and library events.

Leanna Renee Hieber lives in New York City with her husband and their beloved rescue rabbit.

Find her at
Leannareneehieber.com
.

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

THE ETERNA FILES

Copyright © 2015 by Leanna Renee Hieber

All rights reserved.

Cover art by Trevillion Images
Cover design by FORT

A Tor Book

Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

175 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10010

www.tor-forge.com

Tor
®
is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

eBooks may be purchased for business or promotional use. For information on bulk purchases, please contact Macmillan Corporate and Premium Sales Department by writing to [email protected]

The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.

ISBN 978-0-7653-3674-3 (hardcover)

ISBN 978-1-4668-2925-1 (e-book)

e-ISBN 9781466829251

First Edition: February 2015

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