BOOK DETAILS

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland

by L. Jagi Lamplighter

ASIN: B01ILF5Q18

Publisher Wisecraft Publishing

Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Teens/Science Fiction & Fantasy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Children & Teens (Young Adult), Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

It’s Halloween at the Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts, and Rachel Griffin is stirring up the dead!

Rachel has always wanted to visit Beaumont Castle in Transylvania. Only falling out of the land of dreams onto her face was not how she had expected to arrive.

And who was that mysterious figure she glimpsed hanging by the neck? Could the Dead Men’s Ball, where the spooks and ghosts of the Hudson Highland gather once a year on Halloween to dance to the music of some very unexpected musicians, be the key to discovering the hanged man’s identity?

SUPERNATURAL meets Narnia at Hogwarts.

Sample Chapter

Wild Hunted

The clock struck midnight. Rachel and Gaius raced southward, flying on her bristleless broom along the shore of Roanoke Island toward the docks.

Storm winds blew violently up from the south. Trees swayed back and forth like frenzied temple dancers. The remaining autumn leaves were ripped from their branches and sent swirling up in great spirals. There was no rain yet, but powerful gusts buffeted the broom, knocking the riders this way and that.

Twice, they were tossed into a loop, flipping end over end. Each time, Rachel rapidly maneuvered the levers to bring them upright again. She had flown through blustery winds, but nothing like this. The air was swirling, gusts coming from unexpected directions. If she hit the airflow incorrectly, it struck the blades of the tail fan sideways, collapsing them or altering their arrangement. This set the entire device spinning, something Rachel had never experienced before. These conditions would have been much easier to negotiate had she been on her stomach, with her feet directly controlling the tail fan. With Gaius behind her, that was impossible.

These was the most difficult flying conditions Rachel had ever encountered. She loved it. She ploughed into the gusting winds, shrieking with sheer exhilaration.

It was not until she began to have trouble breathing that she realized that her boyfriend was clinging to her with all his strength. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw that his face was as pale as the shifts of the white ladies they had left behind at the mansion. His expression was stoic, but his body, pressed against hers, was trembling.

Oh.

Oops.

Rachel reached over and jiggled the levers. The air around the steeplechaser became calm and quiet. She righted the device and flew slowly and evenly.

“What just happened?” Gaius croaked hoarsely.

“I turned on the becalming enchantments.”

“What? Magical air stabilizers?”

“Enchantments to make the air still around us. All high-quality bristlelesses have them.”

“Why did they take so long to come on?”

Rachel bit her lip. “I…only just turned them on.”

“You forgot you had them?”

“Not at all.”

“Then why…”

“You seemed a bit discomforted by the flying conditions.”

“You turned them on…for me?”

“Yes,” she finally admitted.

“But you were screaming in fear.”

“What?” Rachel’s voice rose, sounding very English. “Certainly not! That was joy.”

“Oh.” Gaius cleared his throat. “That’s embarrassing. I’d hate for my girlfriend to come to the conclusion that I’m a big coward.”

“Not to worry,” Rachel replied primly. “I understand that someone who does not fly might have a hard time distinguishing between what’s dangerous and what’s…oh, my!”

Ahead, a storm front rushed upriver on a collision course with the two students. Lightning arced beneath the enormous thunderheads, illuminating torrents of driving rain. In the glow of the electric brightness, Rachel thought she could make out grimacing, howling faces in the dark gray clouds.

“Um,” Gaius swallowed, “I gather that’s dangerous.”

Rachel was too busy gauging speeds and calculating distances to answer right away. Finally, she said abstractedly, “I think I can make it to the docks.”

Leaning forward, she coaxed the broom to greater speed. To her dismay, its response was sluggish, not at all what she was expecting. Terror gripped her chest, choking her. Was something wrong with her beloved Vroomie? It had never…

Ooohhh.

“Gaius,” she called, “the becalming enchantments are producing drag. I have to turn them off.”

“Do what you must,” he replied gamely. “I promise not to embarrass you.”

With a brisk nod, Rachel released the becalming enchantments. The violent gale winds struck them, flipping them end over end. Driving rain hit them in bursts. Rachel could feel it washing make-up from her face. She gripped the handlebars with extreme determination, fighting to steady the device.

“Hold on!” she shouted.

Gaius’s arms held her firmly around her waist, but not so tightly as to interfere with her breathing. He had his wand in his hand, the back sticking up his sleeve, so as to be certain that he did not lose it. In the brief glimpse she had of him as they flipped head over heels, he was keeping watch intently, his face determined, if a bit green.

Rachel righted Vroomie and zoomed forward, driving against the winds. She urged the steeplechaser to greater and greater speeds, but it was like pushing through rushing water. Half of the time she went backward more than forward. She felt like one of those logs Old Thom had mentioned, the ones that tried to make it from Albany to New York by floating down the River That Runs Both Ways.

“I don’t think we can make it before the storm reaches us!” she yelled over the winds.

“We’ll have to land!” Gaius shouted back. “What about the walled orchard? Where we saw Romanov and his friends?”

Rachel gauged the distance, adjusting for the winds. “I think we can make it!”

She pressed forward. The wind resistance grew stronger. She pushed the broom, bringing it to even higher speeds. Never before had she reached the steeplechaser’s top speed, but perhaps she was nearing it now because the bristleless began to tremble. Rachel pressed hard.

The steeplechaser stalled.

Down plummeted Rachel, Gaius, and all. Rachel screamed.

“Should I panic now?” her boyfriend called calmly in her ear, his wand in his hand.

“Yes. Definitely panic,” she shouted back, but his calmness stiffened her resolve. She had deliberately stalled her broom out many times and then engaged it again. Unless she had actually damaged it somehow, this time should be no different. She urged the broom forward.

Nothing happened.

Refusing to squander her time on fear, Rachel stayed focused. From the library of her mind, she withdrew all at once every reference to “broom” and “stall” she had previously encountered, searching for something that might help. Immediately, a possible cause leapt out: jammed tail fan. She glanced back but could not see around her boyfriend.

“Gaius,” she shouted, “kick the tail blades for me.”

“What?” he yelled back over the roaring winds.

“The tail blades.”

“What?”

“Tail fan! Move the blades toward each other.” She tried to pantomime what she meant with one hand.

“Like this.” He pointed his wand behind him.

The steeplechaser caught and shot upward. They cheered. Then their voices died in their throats.

The Horseman bore down on them. He galloped in the midst of the thunderhead, gale-force winds whipping the night around him. He rode on a black charger, a headless man in a Hessian uniform and a billowing mantle. Under his arm, he carried a Jack-O’-Lantern. Light flickered from the sharply triangular eyes and leering, angry mouth. It was not a cheery candle flame, however, but the blue-violet glow that had illuminated the ballroom of the dead. In its light, the storm clouds seemed to be filled with phantoms and specters, all circling the Horseman like hurricane winds around the eye of the storm.

The spooks were not the only things accompanying the headless rider. A pack of blind, eyeless hounds, as pale as corpses except for their blood red ears, loped through the night air. Their baying cries echoed up and down the Hudson Valley.

The Wild Hunt approached.

“Go down!” Gaius screamed.

Rachel tried to dive, but the winds buffeted them backwards, spinning them first left and then right. Without direct control over the fan blades, she had to gauge how far their spin would take them and compensate with the levers, which often led to overcompensation and sent them spinning in the opposite direction.

The Horseman and his Hunt grew ever closer. The hoof beats of his horse smote the air like thunderclaps. The headless body raised its false head on high. The eyes of his Jack-O’-Lantern flamed with malice.

They were not going to make it.

“I love you, Gaius,” Rachel shouted out as her last words, but the wind tore the syllables from her lips before they reached his ears.

Caw!

Silence fell.

The winds grew still.

The spinning steeplechaser slowed, coming to a stop in mid-air with Vroomie facing the other way, northward up the river. Enormous feathered wings of black stretched out before them. To either side of the wings, the winds raged and whirled. Between the thirty foot wingspan, however, all was calm and motionless. At the center of the two arching wings, a eight-foot-tall man stood in mid-air. He was shirtless with black pants and bare feet. His face was as calm and solemn, as an ageless mountain range. His eyes were red as blood. In his hand, he held a hoop of gold.

Behind them, the Horseman thundered closer. The eyes in the Jack-O’-Lantern glared with wrath. The winged figure gazed back, his wings curved ever so slightly around the little oasis of calm.

Then the hounds parted, and the Hunt thundered to either side, leaving the tiny island of tranquility untouched. The Horseman veered to the left. He passed so close to them that Rachel swore she could feel the breath of his enormous coal black steed. The Wild Hunt raced onward, upriver toward Bannerman’s mansion, with the Horseman cantering behind them.

Rachel watched them go. Then she looked back at the winged figure. His eyes were gray now. Steady and serene, they rested upon her face. He nodded once.

Rachel nodded back, smiling very slightly.

Then, his eyes returned to scarlet. He cupped his great wings with their huge black pinions. As if pulled by a string, he suddenly moved upward and away, dwindling and transforming as he sped backwards, until he was but a black speck of a bird that flew untroubled by the raging storm.

The driving rain and sleet struck Rachel and Gaius, soaking their hair and garments. Rachel ducked her head, to protect her eyes, and pressed forward. Two tendrils of icy-cold wetness slipped around her collar and ran down the back of her neck, causing her whole body to twitch. Shivering in the October cold, she dived.

“What, in the name of everything that is sacred, was that?” Gaius’s voice sounded uncharacteristically high.

Rachel called back, “That was the Raven.”

“You mean that was the thing I promised to protect you against? Good grief!” There was a pause, then, grimly, “I’ll do my best.”

Warmed by his devotion, Rachel seized control of the broom once more and dived down, until they reached the safety of the walled orchard. Dismounting on shaky legs, they huddled together on the leeward side of the wall. Gaius wrapped his arms around her and stood over her, doing his best to protect her from the brunt of the icy storm.

“I must say,” Gaius said, when they had stopped trembling quite so violently, “I’m not sure I am going to have to. Protect you, that is. I had the distinct impression that this Raven likes you. He did just save our lives.”

“I like him, too,” whispered Rachel, whose heart was too full to yet speak of it.

“Wait. What happened to evil Doom of Worlds and all that?”

“Remember the thing I can only tell one person?”

“Yes! I’ve been thinking about that! Just haven’t had a chance to ask you about it.”

“It’s too long to tell now.” Her teeth were chattering violently.

“Tomorrow, then.” He pulled her more tightly against him, trying futilely to protect her from the elements. She leaned on him and took comfort in the warmth of his strong arms.

“Definitely!” she replied firmly.

They huddled together in the cold and wet until the winds died down. Then, they hopped aboard the steeplechaser and quickly flew back to campus.

Rachel forced her near-frozen jaws to move. “I’ll drop you off at Drake.”

“You certainly will not!”

“I beg your pardon?”

“No girlfriend of mine is going to have to go home alone on All-Hallows-Eve. Even an amazing, super-brave girlfriend. You fly to Dare. I’ll walk from there.”

Despite the bitter cold and wetness of the night, a warm, buoyant feeling rose inside Rachel. She flew to her dorm and landed. Climbing from the steeplechaser again, Gaius gave her another hug. Then, he took a step back.

“Thank you, Miss Griffin,” he stated, “for a most entertaining night.”

Leaning forward, he gave her the sweetest of goodnight kisses.

Continues...

Excerpted from "Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland" by L. Jagi Lamplighter. Copyright © 2016 by L. Jagi Lamplighter. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

L. Jagi Lamplighter

L. Jagi Lamplighter

L. Jagi Lamplighter is the author of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, as well as the Prospero's Daughter Trilogy (Prospero Lost, Prospero In Hell, and Prospero Regained).She has also written a number of short stories, articles on anime, and is an author/assistant editor in the BaddAss Faeries series.

View full Profile of L. Jagi Lamplighter

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