So, I’m warming to the idea to keep publishing the chapters for the story on my blog as a bit of a thank you for my supportive readers.
That way you get to read the book for free as I’m getting it ready for publication.
Feel free to drop me a line about the story, if you like, or anything else.
I hope you’re staying safe and well during these challenging times.
Here’s the next chapter. Happy reading.
Skeletons know how to dance
“May I help you up?” says a velvet voice above my head. If I weren’t stuck face first in the mud, I’d probably turn around to look at the stranger. “And may I thank you for releasing me from years in the dark. It’s such an enlightening experience.” There’s the sound of a raspy laugh followed by, “get it? An enlightening experience after years under ground…” he trails off.
Now there’s an odd sentiment, I think, forcing my limbs into action.
Scrambling to my hands and knees, before getting to my feet, I notice my stockings are now nothing more than shredded bits of material around my ankle.
I can’t help but think there’s strange magic at work here.
Looking up now, I finally find myself nearly nose to nose with a skeleton. He’s wearing pants held up by suspenders, a straw hat, and a bandana around his neck.
“Who’re you?” I ask, doing my best to hide my fear. Where the heck’s Allegra?
“How rude of me,” says the skeleton, extending bony fingers toward me. “Let me introduce myself. Victor Von Furhausen the third. And you are?”
“Ehr,” is all I manage to blurt out.
“Enchante Erh,” he bows his head a little, popping his lower jaw open to reveal teeth.
“Fraya, Fraya Farbenfroh,” I correct the skeleton, trying to work out what’s going on. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of Allegra. She’s dancing with a skeleton.
“You know here?” Victor’s looking in the same direction as me.
“She’s my friend,” I explain, glancing down my legs, wondering about the ivy I felt before.
“Ah,” is Victor’s response. And then, “care to dance?”
Before I can process the question, I’m being held by the skeleton and propelled around the graveyard.
To my shock, more and more skeletons make an appearance. Some looking confused, others walking with purpose out into the dark night.
Butterflies multiply in the pit of my stomach as the place starts to crawl with the dead. This isn’t good.
“You did it,” cries Allegra as she swirls past me in the arms of a skeleton dressed in a black suit with top hat.
Open mouthed I stare after her.
“What do you mean I did it?” my words are no louder than a whisper.
“You pulled on the poisoned ivy, opening the lock to the invisible door keeping the dead under ground.”
“I…no…what…” I splutter, trying to remember what had happened seconds before I’d fallen.
Being a witch, my senses are sharpened, and I had felt the ivy. Instead of carefully removing it from my leg, I’d taken a step forward, tugging at the plan material before falling.
And, while falling, my arms had flailed windmilled like, reaching for something. A dim memory of finding a lever, it moving as I was desperate to stop my speedy acceleration toward the ground.
Then, I don’t know. I’d thought nothing had happened. Had the lever been what opened the locked door for the skeletons?
I doubt it.
Anyway, why are they locked up? How much harm can the dead do?
“Quite a lot actually,” says a faceless voice to my right. Shrieking, I stumble. A black bird with beady yellow eyes is perched in a tree branch staring down at me. “In fact,” the bird swoops toward me in a flurry of feathers, landing on his feet.
Instead of yellow beady eyes, I’m now looking into dark, intense coffee eyes. My knees wobble, unable to withstand all that’s happened in the last, I don’t know hour, day, weeks.
“Sorry to arrive so unexpectedly, but when I’d heard the dead had been released, I got going straight away.”
“How…who…” the rest of the question doesn’t make it out of my mouth. Instead, I feel my knees buckle, and the world turn black.
When I open my eyes, nothing’s changed. Except for the fact I’m now in the arms of the bird, man I mean. He’s supporting me, as I’m lying on the ground.
“Are you alright dear?” those coffee eyes are peering at me, as if trying to see inside my head.
“What happened?” I croak, desperate to get back to my feet. The way my body’s reacting to being held by this man is unnerving to say the least.
There’s tingling as if I’ve stuck my fingers into a light socket. My nerve cells are quivering in anticipation, and there are other things going on I don’t care to examine right now.
I mean, I’m just getting over my bitter divorce. Jumping into bed with another man, is not on what I plan to do.
Rolling my eyes, I can’t believe I’v just jumped the gun like that? Have you ever heard anything as ridiculous as me leaping ahead from being held as a result of a near fall, to having sex with a man you’ve not even met properly?
Perhaps I’m going mad?
The dickhead ex kept telling me how mad I was acting.
“You’ve turned mad,” he’d said during one of the mediations we had to attend. “You did always act strange during our marriage. You witch.”
He could not have known how hard his attempted insult hit its mark.
Like a kick in the guts, it took my breath away. Not so much because I find the term offensive, but because I was offended by him hurling it at me to make me sound nasty.
Truth be told, I’ve known for a long time about my true heritage.
For too long I tried to be someone I’m not.
No more. Well, that’s the theory. But you know how life goes, don’t you? We rarely end up doing what we plan to do.
“Who are you?” I decide to ask the obvious.
“Oh my,” the man, who’s eyes have not left mine, finally helps me to my feet. “How rude of me not to introduce myself. I’m Rector Tradar Obin, the head of the Magic Academy for the Middle Age, which by the way, I find a rather unfortunate name with a lot of our students not identifying as middle aged.”
“I guess, how do you identify as middle aged?”
Tradar shrugs. “Age is but a number we assign too much importance to. I mean there are witches, wizards, and some humans, who are say fifty, but feel more like thirty, and vice versa. Perhaps in time we’ll put in for a name change. But just like humans, there are many magical folk set in their ways, I’m afraid, which will make changing the name of the school difficult.”
I nod, even though I’m not following.
“I’m Fraya Farbenfroh,” I say to fill the sudden silence.
The Rector nods. “I know,”
Perplexed I stare at him. “It’s a bit complicated, and there are few more skeletons we have to try and re-capture to put behind the safety of the barrier that’s come down tonight. Are you up to coming with me, or would you rather wait here, with,” he peers past me at the gravestone. “With Marge Myrtleford?”
“I’m coming,” I say without hesitation. With no sign of Allegra, I’m not hanging out at the cemetery a minute longer, on my own.
“Good,” Tradar turns and invites me to walk past him.
“What exactly is wrong with the skeletons roaming the streets?” I ask not really able to see the problem.
Again, my ex would have a field day. “That’s just like you isn’t it? Unable to see the obvious. Too wrapped up in your own world to get it.”
Sighing, I do my best to push thoughts of the bastard out of my head. I didn’t come here to constantly think about the man who broke my heart. I mean, I really thought we were going to grow old together.
He obviously didn’t.
In fact, he’s already replace me with a younger model, and rumor has it she’s pregnant. So much for telling me he didn’t want to have children.
“Sorry?” I turn to the head of the school, feeling foolish for having missed his question.
“I was just wondering if you’re looking forward to studying with us.”
Am I? “A bit. It’s also frightening to be going back to school to learn new things. I mean, you know, how to use our powers. Part of me worries that my powers have left me since I’ve spent so many years suppressing them.”
“It’s a natural emotions. I wouldn’t’ worry too much about it. Once a witch always a witch.”
“Thank you, I hope you’re right.”
“I am, he replies with confidence.
“So, why can’t the skeletons be out?” I ask, as the Rector makes a beeline for a whole bunch of them huddled around a tree on the outside of the cemetery.
“The chaos that would cause would take years to repair, not to mention so many minds to befuddle to make sure they forgot what they’d seen.”
“Why befuddle them?” I’m not following.
“Can you imagine the outcry if skeletons suddenly walked around the streets? It would test the very core believes humans have about life and death. Not something I want to try and fix. No. We need to make sure we get everything single skeleton back to the cemetery where they belong.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice movement. Was it a dead person making a run for it? I’m not one hundred percent sure. If it was, they’re long gone by now, so I decide against telling Rector Tradar about.
How much harm can one wayward skeleton cause?