Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off the malevolent haunting of the geists…
Among the most powerful of the Order is Sorcha, now thrust into partnership with the novice Deacon, Merrick Chambers. They have been dispatched to the isolated village of Ulrich to aide the Priory with a surge of violent geist activity. With them is Raed Rossin, Pretender to the throne that Sorcha is sworn to protect, and bearer of a terrible curse.
But what greets them in the strange settlement is something far more predatory and more horrifying than any mere haunting. And as she uncovers a tradition of twisted rituals passed down through the dark reaches of history, Sorcha will be forced to reconsider everything she thinks she knows.
And if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in Hell is she returning to?
Sorcha’s First Day
Sorcha Faris stood at the entrance to the initiate building, her hands tucked behind her back, and the weight of her new wool cloak pressing down on her small frame. The cloak was long and dragged around her feet, but she would grow into it soon enough.
It was only yesterday she had been running through the gardens of the Mother Abbey with the other children too young for training, enjoying herself.
Now she heartily wished it was yesterday. Pareth, the Presbyter of the Young for the Order of the Eye and the Fist came trotting up the corridor towards Sorcha. Her golden hair gleamed in the light coming through the arched windows, but her face was not set in the usual smile. In fact, there was a distinct frown on her forehead.
“Sorcha!” she said, but did not sweep her up in a hug. The girl supposed she was too old for that now. “Haven’t you gone in yet?”
The girl dropped her eyes away from Pareth and kicked a small stone out from under her foot; it bounced against the smooth grey wall of the novitiate building. She finally shook her head and muttered, “No.”
Pareth crouched down next to her, laying her hand gently on the “Why ever not?”
If she told her the truth—that she was afraid—then there would have been more questions. In the end Pareth would have had it out of her, that her fear was not any usual childhood fear, it was about having the voices who whispered into her mind, taken away.
The other children had all filed in, and Sorcha had easily managed to slip out of line while no one was looking. However what she should do afterwards had eluded her. She’d ended up simply standing near the door, struck immobile.
“I don’t like the cloak,” Sorcha stumbled out, her voice cracking slightly on the lie.
Pareth leaned over and rubbed the fabric between her fingers. “The wool is thick and tough to protect you, child. You will get used to it.”
Then before Sorcha could protest further, the Presbyter pushed open the door, and guided her in with one kind but firm hand.
The room had a great arched ceiling that soared so high that Sorcha felt her neck might snap from looking at it. Perhaps that was merely a way of putting off the inevitable.
The ranks of the younger members of the novitiate were seated on wooden pews facing the front of the room, where a green robed Deacon stood. This one was a round faced man with black hair shot with silver. He smiled kindly as Pareth steered Sorcha towards the front rows.
“Brother Garil,” Pareth said, giving Sorcha just a little push, “I think you will find that your class is short one small person.”
The man checked his piece of parchment, but Sorcha was old enough to know that he was joking. “Is it?” He turned the paper over a few times. “Oh my, I think you are right.” He bent down to her level. “You must be the Sorcha Faris I’ve heard so much about.”
The girl frowned slightly, intrigued despite herself. “You’ve heard of me?”
Pareth and Garil shared a smile, but when he replied he had lost his joking tone. “Naturally. The Presbyter here has told me much about you, and…” His grey eyes narrowed on her, and Sorcha suddenly had the uncomfortable feeling he could see right down to her bones. He straightened up suddenly, and now his words were not for the girl. “I see what you mean, Pareth! Not a moment to soon to start training for this one.”
Pareth was the one person Sorcha wanted to please in her whole world, so as a look of great pain and fear flickered across her face when she looked down, Sorcha felt her stomach clench painfully.
“Indeed,” Pareth said softly, her fingertips lightly brushing Sorcha’s thick red hair, “I can do no more for her. I leave her in your capable hands, Garil.”
With that, Pareth spun and abandoned Sorcha to the novitiate. It was shear forced of will not to chase after her.
Sorcha swallowed hard and looked up at Garil. He seemed kind enough, and Pareth had never steered her wrong.
“Come now,” Garil said, gesturing to the front row, “take a seat next to Ernst here.”
The boy he indicated was blond, blue eyed and Sorcha’s heart sank when she saw him. It was indeed Ernst Rictun. Only two years older than her, he was the one boy who had never been anything but mean to her. Still she knew instinctively that he wouldn’t do anything with Brother Garil so close.
She settled herself down on the pew, and felt for the first time things might be alright. This was the first step to becoming a Deacon, to learning how to fight the unliving. She was going to become like Pareth, and help the world be a safer place.
That was until Ernst leaned across and whispered into her ear. “I don’t like you. Don’t look at me, and don’t get in my way!”
His breath was hot in her ear, but worse was the sentiment. Sorcha blinked back tears, and managed not to let out a sob.
As her tears dried though, the girl’s determination took their place. Maybe Ernst would make things hard for her, but she would not let him dissuade her from her chance to be a Deacon.
When Brother Garil began to write in chalk on the board, Sorcha’s blue eyes narrowed. One day she would fight the geists, and they better beware of her. She would make Pareth proud.
Meet Philippa Ballantine!
Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Philippa has always had her head in a book. For this she blames her father who thought Lord of the Rings was suitable bedtime reading for an eight year old. At the age of thirteen she began writing fantasy stories for herself.
Philippa is the author of the Books of the Order series with Ace; Geist, Spectyr and Wrayth with Harbinger coming in 2013. She is also the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series with Tee Morris. Phoenix Rising debuted in May 2011 and The Janus Affair came out in May 2012. Phoenix Rising won the Airship Award for best written steampunk in 2011. She also has the Shifted World series with Pyr Books, with the first book Hunter and Fox released in June 2012. Also includes digital short stories and a free award winning podcast series.
Want to purchase Philippa’s novels?
Book of the Order
- Geist at Amazon | Book Depository
- Spectyr at Amazon | Book Depository
- Wrayth at Amazon | Book Depository
- Harbringer (2013)
Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (with Tee Morris)
Please help spread the word: Tweet: Go back to school with 30 authors while #giveaways ensue during #SchoolsIn (Sept 1-30) http://tinyurl.com/LESchoolsIn – #paranormal #contests #UF
Thank you Philippa for taking part in Literary Escapism’s School’s in!
Philippa is giving away a signed set of Geist, Spectyr and Wrayth. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: What would you have done if Ernst and whispered that to you on your first day? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered.
Even though I’m not giving the additional entries any more, you can still help support the author by sharing their article, and this contest, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you can. After all, the more people who are aware of this fabulous author ensures we get more fabulous stories.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
All School’s In contests will remain open until October 7th at which time I’ll determine the winner with help from the snazzy new plug-in I have. Have you checked out the other School’s In contests yet? Check out the Master List to see all the School’s In giveaways
I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.