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01:06 am: ON SALE for Halloween: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland

For anyone who picked up the first or second Book of Unexpected Enlightenment during the sale and liked them, this is a great time to pick up the third book, Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland.

It is on sale for 99 cents Halloween Only.

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Two brief excerpts from the third Book of Unexpected Enlightenment. Rachel Griffin has persuaded her boyfriend, Gaius Valiant, to accompany her on her quest to crash the Dead Men’s Ball—a gathering of the unquiet dead along the Hudson River. To do this, they have snuck off campus after dark on Halloween night and flown by bristleless up the coast of Roanoke Island to Bannerman’s Mansion:

“I want to see what those lights are.” Rachel gazed down the shoreline at the eerie luminescence coming their way. “Shall we proceed?”

“No time like the present.”

Rachel flew her broom over the marshes. She could smell the boggy water. They moved cautiously toward the eerie gliding glow. Once closer, they saw that the iridescent white came from the gowns of a procession of young women with long flowing hair, who glided barefoot over the marshes toward the mansion. The green glow came from wild will-o-wisps—the kind that would lure a mortal to a soggy, boggy doom—hovering above the outstretched palms of the young women. The sight of the dead maidens with their ropey locks, bearing the pale light of fey wisps, sent shivers dancing up and down Rachel’s body.

“What are they?” Gaius whispered.

“Wilis.”

“Which are?”

“The spirits of maidens who died from a broken heart. Like in Giselle.”

“Which is?”

“Don’t you watch classical ballet?”

“Not on a regular basis. No.” Gaius’s voice sounded tight, as if he was trying to contain his mirth.

“Aren’t you an upper school senior?” Rachel turned at the waist and frowned at him. “We’re learning about them in Freshman Music. How could you not have studied Wilis?”

“I know. I know. Shameful. But, frankly, if it doesn’t give me magical powers when I summon it up, I haven’t really paid a whole lot of attention. Unless it’s dangerous. Are Wilis deadly?”

“Only to handsome young men, whom they dance to death,” Rachel replied dryly.

Gaius’s mouth formed a silent “O”. “I will make a point to avoid those particular beauties. Luckily, I brought my own.”

Rachel blushed in the darkness and quickly turned the broom up the slope toward where the mansion stood at the top of the hill.

            *                                              *                                                     *

A little later, upon having reached the mansion where the Dead Men’s Ball is being held:

The hairs on the back of Rachel’s neck rose. She trusted in her inside-out garments. Yet, she was aware of the unnatural, potentially dangerous nature of their ghostly companions. Gaius gazed around alertly, his wand in his hand. Without being intrusive, he made certain he stayed close to Rachel, where he could protect her. Surreptitiously, he tugged on the chain around his neck that held his amulet containing a twig of broom, slipping it onto the outside of his robes.

Several ghoulish entities backed away from him.

The music had fallen quiet. The band began tuning their instruments, an eerie sound even in the best of times. Rachel shivered and stepped even closer to her boyfriend. He squeezed her hand.

A blood curdling shriek caused the two of them to clutch each other. Again, she considered bolting. Had she not seen enough?

But if she ran, she would never know what had caused that screech, and that might be worse than staying. It was a sound that could haunt a person’s nightmares for a lifetime. It was partially to keep at bay the encroaching darkness at the edges of her mind that Rachel did bold things, such as stride into a party full of the shades of the restless dead. She did not need to give the darkness any more fuel.

Refusing to give in to her fear, she looked around. The screeching came from a feminine figure in white, ghostly and pale. The moment the shade was done uttering her horrible wail, she returned to wandered listlessly through the chamber. Rachel breathed a sigh of relief. Beside her, she felt Gaius’s tense body relax slightly.

Half a dozen other women stood wringing their hands and weeping. Most wore simple pale shifts. One crying figure, however, wore ancient native garb of leather, feathers, and beads. Another glided along in a homespun wedding gown. Yet another had no form of her own but was merely a collection of mist and dried leaves blowing in the shape of a woman.

Beyond the circular chamber was the main room, which was currently serving as a ballroom, though nobody was dancing at the moment. Eerie blue-violet fire flickered in the hearth, casting all those haunting the old mansion in its indigo glow. Even the white bridal gown of the shade who drifted noiselessly across the chamber appeared a violet-blue.

At the far end of the ballroom, a ghostly dais had been erected upon which played a merry group of musicians. These shades seemed quite different from their moribund companions. They looked like perfectly ordinary Edwardian gentlemen, except that they glowed slightly, and Rachel could see through them. They laughed and chatted as they tuned their instruments, three violins, three cellos, a bass fiddle, and a piano. Rachel wondered idly how difficult it was to move a ghostly piano.

Near the door where Rachel stood was a group of specters who wore manacles or even long chains that they dragged with them. These chains made no noise, and yet Rachel heard them rattling in her head. Beside her, Gaius was singing under his breath: “We’re Marley and Marley. Whoooooo. We’re Marley and Marley. Whoooooo.”

When he noticed Rachel watching him, he said, “From the Muppet Yule Carol.”

“The what?” asked Rachel.

He tapped her on the nose affectionately. “Don’t you watch classic Muppets?”

“Not on a regular basis. No,” replied Rachel, with almost exactly the same mirth-suppressing tone of voice Gaius had used earlier.

To read more, including Rachel and Gaius's wild ride home after they stay too late: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland.

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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