The Serial Book Series will begin this Summer.
We will be featuring “The Sea and the Sky Waged War”
by Sophia Barbour
Also introducing “The Sea and the Sky Waged War” Podcast series coming soon.
Here’s a sneak preview:
The Sea and the Sky Waged War
“Come! All you who are brave!”
The fortuneteller called out to the people walking on the cobblestone streets. Kohl rimmed her hazel green eyes like the Iberian witches of the south. She had twisted her red hair in a haphazard knot on her head, bright strands hanging around her face. A sign leaning against one of the poles of her tent read ‘Esmée the Seer.’
“Come, all you who have the courage to gaze into the waters of the future! You sir!” she called out to a man passing by. His bright blue, well-kept jacket, and clean knee-length breeches marked him an aristocrat. They were always easy to engage and read for. But this man only looked at her, taking in her mud streaked hem and strange red hair. With a superior sniff, he ignored her. Esmée moved on to the next potential customer. She was a harried woman looking at vegetables in the booth across from Esmée’s.
“You, Madame, care to know your future?” she called, a desperate edge in her voice.
The woman pretended not to hear and moved on to the next vendor as though Esmée didn’t exist. Esmée sighed and blew a strand of hair out of her eyes, her brows knit in frustration. She offered her services to a few other people, but none answered her.
A few hours later, the cool evening air left the street deserted. Fog had rolled into the coastal town and skimmed the rooftops around her. Late the evening before, she read for a young man in love with a girl above his station. She had borne him bad news, and now Esmée wondered if he had spread lies about her ability.
Esmée pulled her shawl around her and sat on the stool in her tent, bored and frustrated. She had a gift; Madame Marion had told her that the gods had blessed her with true sight. Esmée knew she could be a great sorcière, like any of the great sorcières of Orleans. If someone could just gave her a chance. Maybe she should make the move to the eternal city, Esmée had friends in Orleans—
Let me in, love.
The whisper was right next to her ear. Esmée gasped and stepped out of her tent, looking around wide-eyed. There was no one else in the alley. Not again, she thought.
“Leave me alone,” she whispered, her voice cracking. She backed up against the wall she had pitched her tent against. “Please, go away,” she begged, unable to stop tears from running down her face.
This was the third time in a month she’d heard the voice. It was why Esmée had left the orphanage for the coast. The other children all thought she’d gone insane. They thought the divination she’d thrown herself into had brought dark spirits to her.
Esmée. Let me in. You are weak. I am so strong now.
Esmée felt it before she saw it. A cold, heavy dread that settled in her skin and pricked at it like needles. Out of the corner of her eye, Esmée saw a dark figure at the end of the alley. Motionless as stone, it looked like a tall hooded monk. Something like smoke or black steam floated from its entire body. It had its back to her, because it turned and gazed at her for a long moment with two white lights for eyes.
Esmée stared back like a terrorized rabbit. She tried to move her legs, but all her energy was gone, sapped by the shadow thing in the alley. It made a step toward her, legs forming out of the smoke. The step thudded, as though the cobblestones were as flimsy as a wooden floor.
“Please,” Esmée croaked. It was all she could get out of her throat. She clutched at the building behind her, scraping her fingertips raw on the bricks.
The shadow thing regarded her with a blank expression, but Esmée felt it was laughing at her. She must have looked pathetic, cowering against the wall of the building. She wondered if anyone heard how she begged, how her breaths came as ragged gulps for air. She knew none would come to save her.
The shadow stilled for a moment. Then it pulsed and rushed at Esmée. The shadow thing engulfed her and cut off her scream. She felt like she was underwater and couldn’t breathe. The shadow felt like fine, river bottom silt as it filled her mouth. She coughed and clawed at her throat as it slid into her lungs. She felt it slip into her ears and deafen her. It was thick fabric smothering the inside of her skull. Esmée felt the shadow settle around her bones.
Esmée staggered against the wall and shuddered with a strangled gasp. She opened her eyes and saw the fog above skimming the rooftops. After a bewildered moment, Esmée realized the shadow had possessed her. Her bones ached at the weight of it taking over. She felt it pushing at them. She felt herself jerk her like a marionette.
Ah, there we are. Thank you for your sacrifice, love.
And then the shadow snapped Esmée’s neck.