Raven (A Creepy Hollow Story Book 2)Rachel Morgan
A Creepy Hollow Story
By Rachel Morgan
Copyright © 2016 Rachel Morgan
She’s the daughter of high society fae. He’s a guard. Her parents would never approve, but when Raven’s life is threatened and she and Flint are thrown together, they can’t help growing close to one another.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information please contact the author.
This story takes place approximately twenty years before The Faerie Guardian (Creepy Hollow, Book One).
The magically enhanced spotlight burned Raven’s eyes as she crossed the stage and stopped at its center to face the vast auditorium. With her heart thumping in her chest, she placed one hand on her hip and sashayed the length of the runway. Her starlight blue dress hugged her body all the way down to her knees, where it flared out in a train made of thousands of tiny jewels glittering with enchanted light. As she neared the end of the runway, the wings that hugged her shoulders and upper arms slowly began to unfurl.
She stopped and struck a pose—and in that instant, the lower edge of her dress caught alight. The flames blazed blue, exactly as she’d planned, encircling her in a ring of brilliant light. What she hadn’t planned, however, were the flames that leaped up and ignited the tips of her silver gloves. Nor the whoosh of heat and light at her back that most likely meant her delicate spider-thread wings had caught fire. A flare of heat near her neck alerted her to the fact that the spherical latticework around her head was next. Considering the spells she’d already placed upon the headpiece, adding flames to the mix was not a good idea.
Having extinguished her burning gloves with a quick water spell, Raven grabbed the cage-like structure, tugged it open, and pulled it off her head. It has already caught alight, and as she tossed it away, the entire thing exploded. She shrieked and ducked down, shielding her face from the glare and falling debris.
The flames flickered away.
Silence settled over the auditorium.
The enchanted spotlight dimmed.
Raven lowered her arms, straightened, and looked out across the empty rows of chairs until her eyes fell upon the lone figure in the back row. Vera Drizwold, director of the Delphinium College of Fashion and Design, sat with her arms folded tightly across her chest. Slowly, she lifted the clipboard from her lap and stood. “I’m afraid I can’t approve this one, Raven. As lovely as the design is, it’s far too dangerous. I like your incorporation of star-fire, but it’s extremely unstable. You won’t stand a chance of winning the show if you wind up killing the poor model wearing your creation, blowing up half the audience, and damaging the building.” Her gaze fell upon the rubble that had fallen to the floor just in front of the runway. “You’ll need to clean that up. Make sure it’s done before the weekend. We’re using this hall on Saturday.”
She left the room, her ever-present clipboard soaring obediently through the air behind her.
Refusing to curse out loud with frustration, Raven pulled the sprite wings back down over her shoulders before climbing carefully off the runway. She might not be allowed to use this dress, but she didn’t want to ruin what was left of it. She’d worked too hard to give it up completely. She bent to retrieve the few remaining bits of the headpiece, strands of dark brown and magenta hair falling in her face. As she straightened, footsteps echoed through the auditorium.
“I’m so sorry.” Daisy, her oldest friend, walked up to her. “I know how badly you wanted it to work.”
“You saw what happened?”
“Yes. I was peeking through the door back there.” Daisy nodded her blonde and blue head toward the door Director Drizwold had left through. “Why didn’t it work this time?”
“I don’t know,” Raven muttered. “You’ve seen me practicing in this outfit. All the flame spells worked perfectly together. Nothing blew up. But of course, when the director was here, everything went wrong.”
“At least you hadn’t finished all the detailing on the dress yet. Imagine how much more time you would have lost.”
“Still a number of hours of wasted work. And I so badly wanted this dress to be the one. The outfit that beats everyone’s expectations. How am I going to impress Mella Cascata if I don’t produce something spectacular? I need to wow her.” She frowned down at the pieces of metal in her hands. “It must have been the flame retardant spell that didn’t work. I can fix that. Maybe I should just go ahead with this design anyway. I know I can make it work.”
“And if you don’t?” Daisy said carefully. “Is it worth landing yourself a reputation as a pyromaniac?”
Raven let out a long sigh that was almost a groan. “I don’t know. Sometimes you have to take risks if you want to get anywhere. And if I don’t do something amazing, I’ll never win the show.”
Daisy patted Raven’s arm. “Have I told you before that I’m so glad I don’t have to compete against you?”
“Yes. And I agree. It would suck having to try to beat my best friend.”
“And there’s the fact that I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with clothes,” Daisy added. “Give me furniture and curtains any day.”
Raven managed a chuckle at that. “Absolutely thrilling stuff.”
“It totally is. Anyway, I need to get going, and you need to change.”
“Yeah. I’ll clean up the rest of this mess tomorrow.”
Backstage, Raven changed out of her disaster of a dress and back into her three-quarter pants, billowing white shirt with a bright pink belt cinching her waist, and the heels she’d spent an hour this morning morphing into lightning bolt shapes. She placed the sprite-wing dress carefully inside a garment bag so she could take it home. She wouldn’t be needing it at college anymore.
Despite her failure, Raven held her head high as she tugged open the auditorium door. No one else needed to know how badly she’d messed up her demo with the director. Her spirits lifted a little as she left the dim hall behind and walked into the bright afternoon light of the hallways. Even after five years, she still felt a bit of a thrill walking through the illustrious Delphinium College of Fashion and Design. Started by top fashion designer Mella Cascata before she stepped back and handed the reigns to someone else, it was a small, prestigious college, open only to the most talented of students—and those whose parents could afford a hefty donation. Raven hoped she fell into the first category, though she’d never had the guts to ask her parents.
She descended the polished marble stairway outside and waited in the front garden, just inside the main gate. On any other day, she would have headed home on her own through the faerie paths, but on Thursdays her mother finished lunch with the ladies twenty minutes before Delph classes ended, so she always stopped by to pick Raven up. Raven had never wanted to be one of those students who was transported home in an ostentatious carriage pulled by pegasi, but she’d managed not to tell her mother that. She figured she could handle it once a week.
As students all around her wrote faerie paths spells with their styluses onto any available surface—the pillars by the gate, the ground, the oversized statue of Mella Cascata at the center of the garden—she crossed her arms and watched them. The surfaces seemed to pull away wh
erever a spell was written, revealing the utter darkness of the faerie paths beyond. Students walked in and vanished, along with the temporary doorways. With her feet beginning to hurt in the lightning bolt shoes—she’d probably made them a little too high—Raven sat on the edge of the statue’s pedestal and looked around. The college rose behind her, grand and beautiful in its design, with tall, slender trees surrounding the property for miles. It was a beautiful setting to work in every day.
She removed her amber from her bag and checked its smooth surface for messages. Nothing from her mother, so she dropped the rectangular slab back into her bag. Just then, her parents’ carriage rolled to a stop outside the main gate. Raven stood and walked toward it, her pink tote bag over her shoulder and her sprite-wing dress trailing through the air behind her. She handed the garment bag to the driver.
“How did it go?” her mother asked as Raven climbed into the carriage. Zalea always greeted Raven this way, with a question about her latest project or assessment. Never ‘hello’ or ‘how was your day?’.
“Not that well,” Raven replied, sitting on the cushioned seat across from her mother and lowering her tote bag to the floor. The cloying scent of perfume made her want to cough. She shifted closer to the window, pushed the curtain aside, and touched her fingertips to the clear surface. It vanished a moment later, and as the carriage began to move, fresh air slipped inside.
“What do you mean? Didn’t the director like your piece?”
“She did, but I had a bit of a problem with the pyrotechnic spells. She decided this outfit is too dangerous.”
“Too dangerous?” Zalea repeated, her tone suggesting this was an absurd concept.
“There may have been a small explosion.”
“Oh.” Zalea sighed and leaned back, folding her hands in her lap. “This isn’t like you, Raven. You know we expect the very best of you.”
“Yes, thank you, Mom.” Raven tucked one leg beneath her, which was quite an accomplishment considering the size and shape of her heel. “I’m aware of all the things you expect of me.”
“Please don’t use that tone with me. And take your foot off the seat. You’ll make it dirty.”
“Jeez, Mom, my shoes are clean. I made them this morning.”
“There’s no such thing as clean shoes.”
Making a show of rolling her eyes—because she knew how much Zalea loved that—Raven returned her foot to the floor. “I’m going to invent a spell that makes shoes perpetually clean.”
“I doubt that will win the show for you, Raven, so you’d better come up with something equally as dazzling as the sprite dress.” She waved her hand at the door, and the glass reappeared in the window. “And not something that’s going to explode all over everyone. We don’t want the family name brought down by an embarrassment like that.”
“I know, I know.” Raven turned her attention to the view outside as the carriage rose into the air. She’d heard her mother’s concerns about The Family Name far too many times for it to bother her anymore. Personally, she didn’t give a pixie’s ass about The Family Name. All she cared about was making a successful career in fashion, and that meant winning the final show and landing herself an internship at the House of Cascata.
Darkness gathered around the carriage, blotting out the view as the faerie paths surrounded them. Raven always wondered how the driver managed to open such a large doorway to the paths while simultaneously directing the pegasi, but she’d never had the opportunity to ask him. Seconds later, light appeared once more, and the carriage sailed into the air near Raven’s home.
“Oh, that other showcase I was invited to be part of is next week,” she said, turning to her mother as she remembered the Von Milta Madness event. “Will you and Dad come?”
Zalea frowned. “What showcase? Have you mentioned it before?”
“Yes, more than once. Von Milta Madness. It happens every year.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with Delphinium or your final show, does it?”
Raven fidgeted with the edge of the curtain. “No.”
“Are you sure you should be taking part? All your time should now be dedicated to—”
“The work is already done, Mom. I’ve sent in my pieces. I just thought you and Dad might want to come along.”
“Oh. Well if it doesn’t have anything to do with the final show, I’m not sure your father will have time. I think he has meetings lined up every night next week. Oh, and you and I are hosting the annual flower casters’ party next Friday, remember?”
Raven nodded, her expression remaining neutral. She would have been surprised if Zalea’s answer to the showcase invitation had been yes. Still, Raven always asked. Just in case.
The carriage wheels struck the ground, rocking her forward and then back again as it continued smoothly forward. “How was lunch with the ladies?” she asked politely as her fingers rubbed the creases of fabric in her shirt.
Zalea patted her short, well-styled hair, making sure not a single black or orange strand was out of place. “It was nice enough. That ill-behaved waitress has been fired, so Marigold was happy. And Lucida said she loves the dress design you drew for her. She’s thinking about having it made up for Crispin’s first century birthday party next month, so that will be wonderful exposure for you. Oh, and her son Orson has returned from his year of traveling. You remember him, don’t you?”
Raven’s hands stilled in her lap. Unease curled in her stomach. “Yes, I remember him.”
“He joined us for lunch. Told us all about his adventures. Fascinating, really.”
Raven picked her pink bag up and hugged it to her chest. Why was the carriage taking so long to come to a stop? Surely their driveway wasn’t normally this long. She cleared her throat. “Um, is that allowed? I thought ladies’ lunches were for ladies.”
“Yes, but we can make an exception for a nice young man like Orson Willowstack,” her mother said with a smile. “And,” she added with a half-smile, “he’s just the right age for you.”
“Of course I’m serious. He’s the perfect match for you, Raven, and very handsome. You told me so yourself when you first met him.”
He most certainly was not the perfect match for Raven. “And how old was I back then? Twelve? I might have a very different opinion now.”
“You won’t,” Zalea assured her. “He’s just as charming as ever, and he’s joining his father’s stylus manufacturing business soon. He would be able to provide wonderfully well for you while you indulge your creative side.”
“Thanks, Mom. I haven’t even left school and you’re already planning my union.”
“Well someone has to take care of you when it’s no longer your father’s job.”
There were so many things wrong with that statement that Raven didn’t bother responding.
“Anyway, he’ll be at the Harlington Home fundraiser on Monday night. The two of you can catch up.”
“Wonderful,” Raven said, knowing her sarcasm would go right over Zalea’s head.
The carriage finally, finally circled the teardrop shape at the end of the driveway and came to a halt. Raven climbed out quickly. Unlike most middle-class faerie homes, which were concealed by glamour magic within trees, her parents’ home was built out in the open. Apparently, when you lived in a building large enough to house a small village, the glamour spells became a bit too complex to easily hide the building within something as small and simple as a tree. While that was probably true, Raven suspected it had more to do with the upper class’s desire to show off their ostentatious homes than anything else.
After collecting her garment bag, Raven walked up to the front door with Zalea at her side. A young man stood guard at the door next to an exotic arrangement of flowers in a tall pot. Raven smiled at him as she passed, and he returned her greeting with a nod before looking out across the grounds again.
Zalea waited for the door to close behind them before speaking. “Raven,” she
said, her disapproving tone hinting at the warning beneath.
“I’m just being polite, Mom.”
“It isn’t appropriate.”
“It isn’t appropriate to be polite?” Raven repeated, though she knew that wasn’t what Zalea meant.
“It has nothing to do with manners, and you know it. It isn’t appropriate because he’s here to guard our home, not to interact with us.”
“He’s a person, Mom. And I’m not so superior that I can walk past him and pretend he doesn’t exist.”
“But you are superior, darling.” Zalea removed her scarf and draped it over her arm. “He’s just a guard. You’re practically royalty.”
Raven choked out a laugh. “Oh my hat, Mom. There is no world in which we are even close to being royalty. Wealth does not equal nobility.”
“Perhaps not, but it’s essentially the same thing to a person like him. It sets you so far above him that you may as well be a princess.”
With a groan of exasperation, Raven headed for the stairs. “I can’t believe I’m related to someone so narrow-minded and snobby.”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you being so rude,” Zalea called back to Raven as she crossed the entrance hall.
Raven reached her bedroom, a large semicircular space near the top of a small tower, and dumped her pink bag just inside the door. She sent her dress soaring toward the walk-in closet while stepping out of her shoes. Instead of aiming for the bed or the overly curvy couch or the desk above which an enchanted number fifteen floated, Raven sat down in the middle of her floor. Aside from the soft carpet she enjoyed running her fingers over, there was something about sitting cross-legged on the floor that helped her think. Things just seemed easier down here.
A wave of her hand brought her college bag closer, along with a pile of notebooks from her desk. She spread the books around her, picked one at random, and began paging through past sketches. She read the scribbles of ideas other students had written down during group brainstorming sessions, and the occasional note of feedback from one of the teachers. There must be something in here she could work with.