Added: Johnpatrick Dewoody - Date: 01.03.2022 11:25 - Views: 23172 - Clicks: 1149
I originally made this set of stories available as a preorder reward for The House of Shattered Wings. Now you can read them for free! Book 1. The House of Shattered Wings Book 2. The House of Binding Thorns Book 3.
The House of Sundering Flames Book 3. Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders. The House of Shattered Wings 1. Paid Debts Houseless areas near Galeries Lafayette, 3. Liked this? Want more? Read Chapter One! Read excerpt from Chapter Three! Read excerpt from Chapter Four! Cover art: Tade Thompson.
Cover layout: Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein. Elisabeth had remained in her small attic for more than three years—sitting under the wooden rafters with the dust of things that were no longer used; stretching down to lie at night between two towering heaps of boxes, enclosed Whiteshadows nasty stories reassured by their solidity.
Footmen brought her meals and took them away; and sometimes dependents of the House came, to make small talk, though most got uncomfortable and left, running out of words as if some spring within them had been exhausted. They seldom came back a second time. Out there was nothing. Out there was death and dust; the distant sound of battle, the turmoil of spells hurled between dwindling armies; the war that was tearing Paris apart, pulling down buildings, covering everything in ash and dust until Whiteshadows nasty stories sun was a distant memory.
Out there was—no, Elisabeth would not think of the bones and decaying flesh—not of sightless eyes in the gravel of the Jardins du Luxembourg—of lifeless flesh, cooling down past any ability to heal—. She would not.
She rose and went to the telescope, pulling open the window. Elisabeth—who had stood on the gravel with her hands bloodied and torn, and watched her old life vanish— knew it was a lie. Above her, the sky was dark—no moon, no stars anymore, the pall of spell-residue drowning out everything.
Elisabeth knew otherwise. She stood, for a moment—sated and brittle, and feeling as though the least of her gestures would irretrievably shatter the world—and then bent down again, to look through the eyepiece. She watched the lights now; tried to discern a pattern to their rhythms; something that would unlock their secrets; that would tell her when one would fall towards Earth—that fiery descent when an angel became a Fallen: still ageless, still immortal and effortlessly graceful; but forever exiled, their wings torn away, their magic turning dark and angry and bitter.
She came to with a start. She looked through the telescope, and saw nothing but darkness spread across the sky; and no light or stars that she could follow. But it would have been churlish to refuse the meal. Shivering, nauseous, Elisabeth caught herself halfway to the floor, and turned her collapse into a formal bow. In front of her, Morningstar smiled. I wondered how you were faring, up here with only the birds for company. Morningstar smiled again; and she fought the urge to smile in return; to let a flood of unadulterated joy take her until she could barely think or move on her own volition.
First Fallen—the oldest; the most thoughtlessly, carelessly powerful. They were also incapable of using such a power; young and naive and bewildered, infants in a place which had no place for helplessness—which was why Houses fought to be able to reach them, to save them before they were lost either to death; or worse, to other Houses. It was said that, alone of all Fallen, he remembered the City of Heaven; remembered what had brought him down to Earth—the source of his undiminished power, they said; though it might simply be that he was beyond most Fallen as a Fallen was beyond mortals.
He moved past her, to stand before the telescope; bent, the wings scraping the boxes, leaving deep gouges in the dust-covered wood. And patience. He was head of her House; and though Silverspires stood by its own, he could still take her apart if he so chose.
Morningstar laughed; something low and primal that seemed to vibrate in her ribs—wrapping itself around her like a blazing fist around her heart. There was…. There was a high-pitched, keening sound; and she realised it was coming out of her own lungs, that she was struggling to remain upright, to gather muscles that seemed to have been turned to jelly….
Except that—except that they still pulled at her, with a longing that was bitter, almost angry—a deep-seated, inexorable knowledge that, for her, there would be no return. Was this what Morningstar felt about Heaven? Was this his knowledge—his own fall from grace, the irrevocable loss of faith that had hurled him downwards? And, on the edge of the lights, one flickered and darkened; and its flight slowed down, no longer as effortlessly graceful—a surge of something then, within her, a mixture of satisfaction and sadness; and a sorrow so great it finally broke her, and she was on her knees with tears running down her cheeks; and then darkness rose, and swallowed her whole, just as that one light started to bank downwards….
When she came to, Elisabeth was lying on the floor. Morningstar lounged, like a sated cat, against one of the boxes—his wings had torn a hole through it, and she could see mothballed clothes, fine silk with elaborate patterns, cut through by the blades.
Fallen were immortal, ageless; and sterile. She slowly pulled herself upright. Around nine, or ten in the evening. Probably near the House of Hawthorn. What had happened? They could—they could tell where the Fallen would be born. They could find them—help them—even in the middle of the war. He rose, dragging his wings behind him. My apologies. Good night, Elisabeth. Because she had to help newborn Fallen; because the House needed them for its own survival. And because, one day, she would see what Morningstar had seen; would gaze upon the City of Heaven, and all her cares and sorrows would be lifted from her until it would feel as though she, too, were flying among the stars, in a world where neither death nor war held sway.
He knew the rules and the strictures of post-war Paris; he knew all the dangers that should be avoided. Never approach the Seine, never linger on a bridge or bend over a parapet—avoid the ruined areas like The Halles or The Grands Magasins, where the accumulation of spells had turned mindless and deadly—and, above all, never ever be caught alone, after dark, in the streets. How did the proverb go, again? And yet… and yet, here he was, a long way from the safety of House Silverspires—watching the dust-covered sky turn dark red with sunset, and wondering how he had come there.
There was no real choice: Hawhtorn was enemy territory. Even though he was a dependent of Silverspires, and his murder would have required an ing—there were ways and means to damage someone without killing; or to cast spells that would compel obedience. He called up magic—held up, just a scrap of it, a fraction strong enough to see the silhouettes in the growing darkness; and the glint of reflected starlight on the blades. There was nothing much about nightfall; no lessening of his magic, or granting of powers to the Houseless—merely deserted streets without witnesses or hope of help; and of course, the cover of darkness under which to move.
Imadan held on to his spell; and moved slowly, smoothly. Close by was House Lazarus, but, if it was a choice between Lazarus and the Houseless gangs he would take his chances with the gangs, any day. Better be killed and taken apart for the magic in his flesh and bones, than captured alive and used against his House. Watch over mehe thought. For a while, there was nothing but the sound of his own breath; and the shadows, easily keeping up with him—getting closer and closer, a Whiteshadows nasty stories of hounds harrying a wounded deer. The patter of feet on all side—people, Whiteshadows nasty stories themselves from the darkness, thin silhouettes with dark, shining eyes, the Houseless, the angry—too many of them for him to take on.
Nevertheless… he sent a spell towards the nearest silhouette: its clothes burst into flames, and it screamed, a thin, wailing sound like the cry of a dying. Imadan had no pity; it was him or them. He simply released spells as he ran; people stumbled and fell and screamed, and the acrid smell of charred flesh filled the night. Too many. Too many, and they were not deterred by the sight of their comrades dying. That was… not good. On and on and on; running running, the breath burning in his lungs, his calves seizing up with cramps; casting spells that now did nothing more than make them stumble and curse.
On and on and on—there had to be some shelter, some safety he could reach—something, anything…. Something caught him at ankle level, and sent him sprawling on the debris-strewn ground—struggling to rise—struggling to breathe against air that Whiteshadows nasty stories to have turned to tar.
Footsteps, getting closer and closer; and Imadan was on his knees, and then pulling himself upright, just as a punch sent him sprawling again, with the sharp taste of blood in his mouth. The others were gathering too—turning from faceless shadows into thin, malnourished youths with the smiles of predators. Imadan pulled himself upright. The flow of blood had stopped; the pain in his cheek sinking to a bearable whisper. Anger, Imadan realised. He would kill Imadan without blinking—what was he waiting for?
Orders from his leader? Imadan tested the magic within him—the distant connection to the House in Silverspires; to the broken throne of Morningstar in Notre-Dame; and the even more distant one, to a City in Heaven he had no memory of—it was a hard stone within him, with no trace of warmth; a dying ember. He was weak, and trembling; and could barely summon enough strength to stand; his legs felt light under him, fragile bones, built for flight and held together by magic. But he had to—. The girl cuffed him—sending him, again, to the ground. As they pulled in towards him, Imadan gathered magic; all he had within him, every ounce of power he Whiteshadows nasty stories scrounge—from taxed muscles to burning lungs, from aching, fragile bones to quivering fingers—and sent it all upwards, in one brilliant flash of radiance that tore at the night sky like fingers of lightning—sent them reeling, screaming at the pain in their eyes.
No, not the large streets. But they would run faster than him, when their vision came back in a few minutes. He needed…. He forced himself forward—expecting, at any moment, to hear the Whiteshadows nasty stories of pursuit, the screams of rage and the calls for revenge. Something, there had to be something. He needed—he needed—. Ahead of him, like salvation, the square light of a half-open door; and the pinched face of a woman staring back at him.
The woman stared at Imadan: a youth with short-cropped hair, already hardened and appearing older than she was.Whiteshadows nasty stories
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