BOOK DETAILS

The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak

The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak

by Wendelin Gray

ISBN: 9781514742051

Publisher CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Book Description

Trouble is brewing in the province of Ling-xiu when the murder of an elderly queen sends young Princess Bingsong into exile at a forgotten mountain villa. When a series of hauntings begin and she finds her father’s old diary, Bingsong is drawn into a 400 year old murder mystery hinted at by a string of small nightingale paintings. Bingsong’s struggle against an arranged marriage merges with the sinister history of the villa, the site of a massacre spurred by the rivalry between two temple acolytes.

Sample Chapter

The Vulpecula Constellation, the planet of Ting-duo, Ling-xiu Province

The time of the fateful battle for Zu-dang began with the rise of the necromancer.  The province of Ling-xiu had long been peaceful, and the red stone palace which dominated the plains of the capital city, also called Ling-xiu, was the seat of its power.  King Chiningmeng and his queen, Smadar, justly presided over the court, yet trouble stirred in the shadows.  Of Chiningmeng’s sixteen children, thirteen girls and three boys, first prince Kuozhang was heir to the throne and had been preparing for his role as crown prince.  But unknown to King Chiningmeng and Kuozhang, the head of their magical security forces, a man known as Kimon, had a plan to become the new king himself.  Already his magical talents had created a formidable defense against outsiders with a fleet of gigantic manul cats fifteen feet long that could be used as mounts and messengers, and rumors flew around the royal court that Kimon had taken the fifth princess Ningla as his mistress.  Still, King Chiningmeng turned a blind eye toward this situation with his trusted aide.

But when his beloved second wife Queen Smadar suddenly died by poisoning, he seemed to lose all of his reason.  Kimon brought him men who could testify Prince Kuozhang was plotting against him and was guilty of his stepmother’s death, which Chiningmeng believed completely.  Prince Kuozhang was thrown into the dungeons of the palace without a trial and forgotten as the king turned his sights on to his remaining children.  He dealt with the rest of the princesses and princes with equally ruthless fury, goaded on by the ambitious Kimon.  As a pall set over the palace and Kimon took over, the subdued children of the king prepared for their mother’s funeral with great fear.  When at Kimon’s suggestion King Chiningmeng decided that the thirteenth princess Bingsong should marry Kimon’s most talented protégée among the magicians, Yaoming, the princess threw herself on the mercy of the royal court and her father, desperate to avoid such a marriage. 

When her father’s answer to her petition finally came, Princess Bingsong was horrified to learn that she would not be granted mercy and excused from the marriage as she had hoped but that she would be sent into exile at the old family villa, forgotten in a forbidding mountain range to the south.  At Ice Pine Peak, she was to live as dead to the royal court and her family.  In the morning, Princess Bingsong and her small entourage of attendants were to be taken by manul to the farthest end of the province of Ling-xiu, to the foot of the mountain, then she would ride by palanquin for the rest of the journey.  The court was shocked at King Chiningmeng’s pronouncement on his young daughter, but none dared intervene while he sat under the shadow of Kimon.  This is the story of how Ice Pine Peak became her home.

This entry in the parchment book was signed, LimTamm, X Year, Ice Pine Peak.

 

As most of the palace was winding down for the evening, King Chiningmeng felt he needed to be alone. Dismissing his servants and walking through the palace in the opposite direction from Kimon’s quarters, he was drawn to where the body of his late wife now rested. Her death had thrown the palace into turmoil, and with the swirling accusations and changes in the royal court since crown prince Kuozhang’s arrest, Chiningmeng hadn’t had time to mourn her properly.  When he finally reached the palace garden where the entrance to the royal tomb stood, he paused to catch his breath.

At 78, he couldn’t expect many more years on the throne and would one day join Smadar there in the royal tombs.  It was with anxiety over this in mind that he allowed Kimon to persuade him to deal so harshly with his children, especially his youngest daughter Bingsong.  Only twenty and with so many brothers and sisters, Bingsong had grown up under her older brother Kuozhang’s wing, and Chiningmeng had not known her as well as his other children.  Now that Kuozhang was implicated in his stepmother’s death, her close association with him would put her in danger among certain factions of the royal court, and Chiningmeng wondered if perhaps she had known about Kuozhang’s plot.  Even if his suspicions of her collusion came to nothing, Chiningmeng would not be around long enough to protect her from the manipulations of court factions, and Kuozhang’s fate was uncertain as Kimon and his men investigated Smadar’s death.   Kimon’s suggestion that she marry Yaoming seemed to be a better compromise than leaving her to fall with her brother or be exposed as another of Chiningmeng’s enemies.

For this reason, Chiningmeng would not take her disobedience lightly.  Since she was refusing to marry Yaoming, she gave him no choice but to remove her from court, though even he didn’t know exactly why he should send her to that place. 

As he made it through the winding corridors and lit the torches leading to Smadar’s tomb, he found a small bench at the foot of her stone coffin and sat there, closing his eyes.  How odd he should think of Ice Pine Peak at a time like this.  He was here to mourn his dead wife, but now all he could think of was the dead of another time and place.  Perhaps he was wrong to send Bingsong there.  After all, the villa had been shut to visitors for a very long time and was now only inhabited by a small staff of servants and a garrison of troops.   

Ah, but the mountain was beautiful, and even after nearly sixty years, he couldn’t forget it. The whole region was full of rugged mountains wreathed in smoky clouds.  Sheer faced rock outcroppings were weathered and rounded by the rainy season and were covered with sprouting greenery of various kinds.  Peaks and slopes were topped with thickets of tall, majestic pine trees, their blackened and twisted trunks and boughs holding out tufts of slender green needles and blue buds like an offering.  It was for this proliferation of trees and the blustery winters of the most inhabitable mountain among the peaks that the villa was named.  Chiningmeng even fondly remembered the rushing waterfall not far from the bottom of the broad, snaking staircase that meandered far up the mountainside to the thick gate barring unwanted visitors from entering the villa’s grounds.  Even the sight of it would be moving enough.  It was a place worthy of his daughter’s house arrest.  He had forgotten how much he had longed to go back to that forbidden place after all of these years.  In some strange way, he would now live that wish vicariously through Bingsong, though she would not appreciate the meaning behind his command.

But then a darker memory came to him.  When he left Ice Pine Peak as a boy, he had brought very little back in the way of mementos, but his mother had taken at least one heirloom with her, a silver ring with a black stone.  Upon his mother’s death, the ring had gone to Princess Ningla, Kimon’s fiancée.  The thought of it now made him uneasy.  He had kept the origin of that ring secret for all of these years, and even now he wouldn’t tell Kimon about it, though he wondered if he should insist Ningla give it to Bingsong before she was sent to the villa.  Somehow it seemed to fit the villa’s atmosphere better than the palace here in the capital city. 

Irritated with himself for his woolgathering, he pushed thoughts of ghosts, mountains and women’s finery out of his mind.  Chiningmeng turned his attention back to Smadar and his loss.  He would allow himself one night to mourn for her before plunging into Kimon’s list of tasks that he needed to take care of.  Leaning back to lie on the bench, his eyes filling with tears, he thought of old times with his wife and soon fell into an uneasy, dreamless sleep.


 

Excerpted from "The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak" by Wendelin Gray. Copyright © 0 by Wendelin Gray. 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

Wendelin Gray

Wendelin Gray

Wendelin Gray is a linguist, writer, dancer and long-time volunteer with the Silk Screen Asian Arts Organization in Pittsburgh, PA. She has also written the novella The Weary City and the novels The Vulpecula Cycle and The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak. She blogs about East Asian language and literature at http://icepinepalace.wordpress.com and https://sunrisesintheeast.wordpress.com/.

View full Profile of Wendelin Gray

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