Persevering with our serial of GeekMom Corrina Lawson’s steampunk journey/thriller novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract:
In a Victorian London the place magic fuels steam know-how…
Joan Krieger goals of revolutionizing style for this new, modernized world however a hidden enemy stalks her household’s clothes enterprise, turning her dream right into a nightmare.
When Joan is a witness to a shopper being murdered by magic, she turns to the one man who might help: Gregor Sherringford, consulting detective. Collectively, they turn out to be a formidable group however their investigation pulls apart a curtain of sorrow and secrets and techniques that threaten every part in Joan’s life. Solely by risking her very soul can she uncover the reality, a fact that Gregor fears she might not survive.
On this chapter, household secrets and techniques begin to come out, revealing many risks near house.
All earlier chapters might be discovered right here.
All the ebook is accessible at Amazon and different digital bookstores.
When Joan pleaded exhaustion and requested to go away shortly after the contractor had departed, Sir August despatched her house in a sedate steam-powered carriage pushed by considered one of his servants. He additionally despatched her residence together with his mom’s wedding ceremony gown for alterations.
He was not a delicate man.
She closed her eyes within the backseat of the enclosed carriage, ignoring the field that contained the gown, and shut out the sights of the town. However the barren park space haunted her. Magic had triggered the destruction. Somebody in her house could be able to doing one thing like that…as a lot she needed to disclaim the likelihood.
She fingered the gloves in her sleeve and opened her eyes to examine them. They have been nonetheless in good situation and offered no clue as to why Sherringford had needed them.
Sir August had answered some questions however evaded others. Her father had attacked her for questioning him. And Sherringford, whom she had introduced into this mess, prevented explanations.
I’ve had sufficient of this.
The driving force helped her out after they parked in entrance of Krieger & Sims. She thanked him and he tipped his cap to her earlier than she walked inside.
She nodded to her mom and Emily on the entrance of the store however didn’t converse to them. Neither did they strategy her. She trudged again as much as her rooms and set to work on the pile of garments that wanted mending. She positioned the field containing the marriage gown beneath her mattress.
She didn’t look inside.
Joan waited in her rooms for the promised go to till the store had closed for the night time, the seamstresses had gone residence, and she or he lastly heard somebody arising the steps.
Not Sherringford. It was her mom’s assistant, Emily. Joan sighed and opened the door.
“Your mom needs to talk with you tonight.” Emily flexed her palms as she spoke, as she typically did. So a few years of seamstress work had taken their toll on her fingers.
“I had thought to relaxation.”
“She’s apprehensive about you, lass, particularly the best way you shut your self up in right here after coming back from Sir August Milverton’s house.” Emily sighed. “Go and reassure her, Joan. She solely needs to make sure that you’re properly.”
Joan smiled. “I’m positive. It’s merely been a making an attempt few days.”
“Then go reassure your mum. She’ll sleep higher for it. Perhaps you each will.”
Emily clearly wouldn’t take a refusal. “I’ll see to her, Emily. Thanks.”
Emily patted her arm. “Good. Now I can sleep tonight.”
She heard the older lady head down the steps to the aspect exit. Every of Emily’s steps was sluggish, deliberate, and from time to time Emily’s muffled moans echoed up the staircase. A era older than her mom, Emily wanted to retire, particularly with these stiff knees. Joan doubted Emily might afford to cease working, nevertheless, any greater than her household might afford to lose Krieger & Sims.
Taking a deep breath, Joan traversed the hallway to her mother and father’ door.
She knocked and her mom urged her to return inside. Joan obeyed. Her mom was seated on the sofa, engrossed in a needlepoint venture. Joan pointed towards the bed room on the left, silently asking if her father was awake. Her mom shook her head. “No, thank God, he’s quick asleep.”
“Emily stated you have been apprehensive about me.”
“Very a lot so.”
Joan settled on the sofa subsequent to her mom and peered on the needlepoint. Her mom had began within the middle with a brand new floral design. The picture had begun with a vibrant purple, had moved to a extra muted pink and had now begun to resemble petals. A rose, Joan guessed. Because the needle reduce by means of the perforated paper beneath that held the unfinished work collectively, it made a particular crinkle, so in contrast to the sound of a stitching machine. Quieter and extra soothing, Joan determined.
Needlepoint was the interest her mom used to loosen up, a lot as Joan had used the mending earlier to calm her nerves. To Joan’s thoughts, although, the needlepoint was much more exacting and fewer forgiving of errors.
“After the best way you shut your self in your room, I fearful Sir August Milverton had been unkind to you,” her mom stated. “Please inform me I’m in error.”
“He was not indecent to me.” Joan answered the query her mom hadn’t been capable of voice.
“Will he make you an excellent husband?”
“He definitely thinks so.”
“And you don’t?”
Joan let the silence construct as she tried to reply. She needed to open up to her mom, however Sherringford had urged warning, and her mom typically didn’t perceive her.
“I feel Sir August’s concepts of a superb husband and mine might diverge.”
“That occurs typically.”
“Did it occur to you?”
Her mom stopped her undertaking and seemed throughout the room. “It’s arduous to recollect the great when the dangerous has occupied a lot of my current life.”
“That’s not a solution, Mom.”
“It’s the one one I’ve, Joan.”
“I do know life has been troublesome.”
“And you’re afraid it will be troublesome with Sir August? Not in the identical means, I hope.”
“No, his thoughts is sharp and he has some honor.” Else he would have pressured the wedding whereas she had been underneath his roof. “However I don’t belief him, not absolutely.”
If Sir August knew, it ought to be protected to inform her mom. “Sir August stated I had a mage present and that’s why he selected me to be the mom of his youngsters. Are you able to think about? Me, a mage?”
Her mom’s needle went by means of paper, and the sharp sound of a rip made Joan wince. Her mom closed her eyes, sighed and put the needlepoint apart.
There was an extended silence that grew uncomfortable. Had she shocked her mom into insensibility?
“I’m sorry. I didn’t imply to upset you.” I needed your assist.
“No apologies wanted. I ought to’ve recognized higher than to do needlepoint tonight when my wits are so scattered.” Her mom set her palms in her lap. “A mage present. Actually, Joan.”
Joan knew that tone. The I-think-you-are-stretching-the-truth tone.
“Sir August is for certain that I’ve an untrained mage present.” Joan drew out her grandmother’s pendant. “He stated somebody within the household should have recognized for this piece of knickknack to be handed right down to me.”
Her mom’s eyes widened. “My mom’s pendant!” She reached for it, then stopped midway and let her hand fall to her lap. “I want you had informed me you have got it, Joan. It was all the time a favourite of mine. I assumed it was misplaced.”
“Nana gave it to me earlier than she died. It’s so effective and clearly historic, so I made a decision to reserve it somewhat than put on it.” Joan cleared her throat. “I assumed Nana had informed you. She wasn’t clear in her thoughts earlier than she died. Maybe she meant to offer it to you?”
Her mom leaned again towards the cushions. “I doubt that. I properly know you have been my mom’s favourite.”
Joan had all the time felt responsible about that. However there hadn’t been something she might do when her grandmother was alive and fewer she might do about it now.
“She liked you. You have been her daughter.”
“As I really like you, even when we appear to all the time be at cross-purposes.” Her mom leaned over and peered on the necklace. “Nicely, it’s as fairly as I keep in mind. And Milverton stated it proves you have got a mage present? How?”
“He referred to as it a spotlight. He stated the pendant was possible used to guard the wearer from hurt.”
“Think about that.” Mom sat again, shaking her head. “I had no concept.”
“It does clarify why Sir August insisted that I ought to be his bride, even given our apparent variations. He covets the mage present for his youngsters.”
“Nicely. No less than that exhibits his intentions towards you’re honorable.”
“In his means.” Joan nodded. “What have you learnt of the pendant, Mom?”
“I do know it’s silver plate, not true silver, however it has been within the Cohen aspect of the household for a lot of generations. I used to be drawn to it each time my mom wore it, however she was fairly possessive with it. She wore it at her mom’s—my grandmother’s—funeral. My grandmother stated the pendant might forestall catastrophe. A legend, she stated, however she additionally stated it was not good to dismiss tales.” Mom sighed. “But when it gives you safety resulting from some odd mage present within the Cohen blood, nicely, good. It’s too dangerous that its safety doesn’t cowl Krieger & Sims.”
“Do you keep in mind anything about it?”
“No.” Her mom stood and walked over to the fireside mantel. “And also you’ve distracted me with the pendant, Joan. What about this mage present? What does that imply? What are you able to do with it?”
“Nothing, apparently, save that Sir August stated my instinct can be higher than most.” Sherringford had stated that, however Joan was decided to maintain him a secret. Even when he had failed to point out tonight.
For an extended second, her mom was silent. “Will you marry Sir August, then, now that you already know why he needs you?”
“I appear to have little selection,” Joan stated, “even if it’ll sever me from our heritage.”
Her mom set her jaw. “My mother and father fought arduous to return to London from Germany. They poured their life’s blood into creating Sims. They might not wish to see their granddaughter abandon it. I definitely hate the thought.” Her mom started pacing. “We’re at your father’s whim and pleasure as a result of he’s the top of the family, regardless of his instability. If catastrophe does overtake us, I lay all of the blame on him”
“I understand how you hate his sickness,” Joan stated quietly. “Was it ever good for you, Mom? Was he your bashert?”
Her mom confronted away from her. “Bashert. Soul mate. I’m unsure I do know what meaning. Our mother and father have been in favor of the match. Alexander had a superb head for the enterprise. Our union ought to have labored.”
Joan knew that was as a lot of a solution as she would get. She stood. “As my marriage to Sir August ought to work? Are you able to cease it, Mom?”
“If I had months, maybe I might have the rabbi or the elders of our group speak to your father, however…there isn’t a time.”
“I purchased every week’s delay,” Joan stated.
“Not sufficient.” Her mom’s voice caught. “And I’ll by no means see you afterward.”
“Certainly Sir August would let me see my mother and father.”
“No matter guarantees he makes, Sir August can do something he needs regarding you as soon as you’re his spouse. Males are the authorized head of the household. In our regulation as properly, although at the very least I used to be allowed to maintain operating Sims.”
Bitterness laced the phrases. Joan couldn’t blame her. Her mom needed to work and reside beneath unimaginable circumstances. If her father had been lifeless, it may need been simpler to run the enterprise, as an alternative of spending time dealing with him. Joan didn’t want her father lifeless. It occurred to her for the primary time that her mom may certainly want for that.
It appeared an impending marriage, even a dreaded one, introduced out many revelations.
Her mom hugged her. Joan returned the embrace, however she was heartsick. It appeared neither mum or dad would rise up for her.
“I’m sorry.” Her mom held her tight.
Tears got here to Joan’s eyes. Apologies didn’t change her destiny.
Joan closed her hand across the pendant. “It doesn’t matter what occurs, I’ll all the time keep in mind my household.” Milverton might by no means take her reminiscences. She sighed and cleared her throat. “Is there something written in our data concerning the pendant or perhaps a custom of a mage present? A minimum of I’ll know that a lot of our historical past to move on to my youngsters, whoever their father may be.”
Her mom wiped tears from her eyes. “If my mom gave you the pendant, it’s previous time so that you can learn the diaries and data from her and my grandmother. I hold which means to offer them to you however it appears there’s all the time one thing to be achieved and I might say, ‘Nicely, tomorrow is time sufficient.’ Then one other day would move.”
She walked over to a locked cupboard in a darkish nook of the room, pulled out a number of yellowed, leather-bound volumes and brushed mud off the highest guide.
“The others are uninteresting and boring issues of how the shop was run at first. However you’ll be able to have this one. Not since my mom died have I learn it. Too near me, little question. Hold it protected, Joan.”
Joan accepted the quantity with a lump in her throat. Her mom excused herself to go to mattress, and Joan went again to her room.
Palms shaking, she lit her fuel lantern, which forged shadows round her room. Her stitching machine mirrored the sunshine and threw a very vicious shadow on the window, because it all the time did. Joan appreciated to assume it scared off anybody who thought to interrupt in.
There was no signal of Sherringford, not that she actually needed him skulking round in her bed room. However his absence meant she was on her personal. And much from wanting sleep.
She set the quantity on the mattress, cleaned up in her washroom and stripped right down to her nightshirt. She left on the pendant and settled into mattress together with her newfound treasure. Joan shook her head, darkly amused that the lifeless may show extra enlightening than any of the dwelling souls she had spoken to in the present day.
The start of the quantity was disappointing and lifeless boring. An in depth household tree was good nevertheless it was simply names, with no descriptions. There was additionally an inventory of varied properties in Germany that her ancestors had held through the years. It was spectacular that the data had been stored for 300 years, however hardly fascinating for her functions.
Joan flipped by means of over twenty pages, sneezing because the mud entered her nostril, earlier than she stumbled throughout some narrative passages in a particular, daring handwriting.
The language was Hebrew, not German, which stunned her. Hebrew was an informed man’s language and her great-grandmother had come from a rural space of Germany the place schooling was not prized.
1835—Being the Historical past of the Schroeder (now Sims) Household
Now that the right household ancestry and properties have been written down for posterity, I can inform the story behind these uninteresting years and property values. I write this after my daughter’s marriage to the previous Hans Schroeder, who modified his identify to Hans Sims. He’s decided to be a hit in London, even at the price of his true identify. However my daughter will keep in mind the true names in these books, and move them on to her daughter and so forth to her daughter. Our councils give ladies little voice, however it can’t be denied that it is just by way of ladies that the true heritage is stored. I’m Ruth, as my grandmother was, and Cohen is our true household identify, handed down from earlier generations to me, although publicly the identify has develop into Katz.
London appears to me a foul metropolis after the great thing about the German forests, however there have been occasions in these forests when the stomach pinched and needed from starvation. That isn’t the case right here. Hans is an effective supplier and despatched for me after my husband’s accident. He is an appropriate son-in-law. He and my daughter intend to have youngsters. I’ll like seeing them develop. And I’ll be sure that even beneath these London fogs, the previous shall be preserved.
Many will say these tales are filled with superstitious nonsense, however oral historical past is historical past, nonetheless. Unusual issues are actual and amongst us, and it is going to be solely a matter of time earlier than the world discovers the reality of all of it. I do know, as my mom did earlier than me, that soul stealers are actual and that true religion is the one method to cease them, else why would my mom have handed to me her heart-shaped pendant, as her mom and all of the moms earlier than she handed it down?
It’s legitimate safety, not solely from these outdoors however from any of these inside corrupted by the black wishes that may rule males.
Joan blinked her eyes. She wished she had learn this a few years in the past.
The household story is that the pendant was created within the far previous, again to the times of the Japanese Roman Empire, when it was stated males who might management the actions of others stalked these with no energy or those that wouldn’t be missed. However our traditions are as historic and highly effective as theirs, and so my long-ago ancestor created the heart-shaped pendant for his spouse. The pendant warned them of an impending plot towards the Jews of that point, and so the Cohens fled out of imperial attain, to what has turn into Germany.
I can’t understand how a lot is true and the way a lot is legend. That our household got here from there’s claimed by custom, that a lot is obvious. The remaining? Who is aware of? It makes fairly a romantic story, and people are all the time extra interesting and memorable than unvarnished fact. Take a look at how the legend of the golem persists, although it’s clearly false and meant solely to be a parable.
But, I’ve felt one thing from the pendant, a way of well-being or, typically, a way of dread when dangerous issues are about to occur. It’s why I got here to be with my daughter and her husband. One thing very fallacious was gathering across the house I had beloved for years. The morning my Kurt died, I used to be filled with dread, regardless of the clear skies and the gorgeous climate and the promise of a brand new season.
We’re all protected now so maybe the dread was merely lacking my daughter, and my husband’s dying was solely misadventure. Maybe not. However it’s by no means good to easily dismiss one thing that you don’t perceive. And there are nonetheless many days the place I want I had stayed in my house to seek out no matter killed him. I valued survival over solutions. Possible my husband would have had it so. Nonetheless, it’s a grief I carry.
Joan shook her head, her eyes misting unexpectedly on the cautious phrases of devotion for her long-dead great-grandfather. She dabbed the moisture from her eyes as she went again over the textual content.
She smiled, amused that in a single breath her great-grandmother dismissed as nonsense the legend of the golem. The golem was a monster created to avenge the deaths of these pricey to his grasp. As an alternative, the golem broke from these controlling it and have become a soulless factor of dread and destruction.
But, within the subsequent paragraph, her great-grandmother clearly appeared to consider there was one thing totally different and fantastic concerning the pendant. And she or he gave credence to a legend of why the pendant had been created. Not precisely constant.
Nonetheless, Nice-Grandmother Ruth had been forward of her time. Magic was certainly on the earth. It was too dangerous that this entry didn’t separate reality from legend.
Till Sherringford’s temporary phrases, Joan had solely a obscure concept of how magic labored, which was that a mage would launch power and create mage coal. That mage coal powered what the newspapers termed “the steam revolution”. She nicely remembered the day that they had arrange the stitching room boiler and steam pipes. Instantly, they went from with the ability to produce ten petticoats per day to at least one hundred, if wanted.
However different mage powers? Clearly, they might trigger nice destruction. Witness the brown scar within the park. Sir August needed to marry her to guard her from any accusations of utilizing unlawful magic.
Maybe if Sherringford educated her, as an alternative of Joan fearing for her personal security, those that threatened her would worry for theirs.
Which begged the query: if the pendant was a magical totem, why had her grandmother given it to her as an alternative of her mom?
Clearly, Nice-Grandmother Ruth had given it to her daughter. But Joan’s grandmother had skipped a era and given it on to her granddaughter. That could possibly be as a result of Joan had the mage present and her mom didn’t. That appeared the only rationalization. However as Joan was discovering out, only a few issues in her life have been easy.
Joan frowned, making an attempt to recollect Nana ever speaking about magic. It’s meant to be yours, Nana had stated when giving her the pendant. However that would imply so many issues. Joan flipped forward within the journal to learn how Nice-Grandmother Ruth had handed on the pendant. Many pages handled every day household life. She might discover nothing of curiosity in a fast perusal. There was a brief notice in a shaky hand on the finish.
It appears solely yesterday that I wrote the start of this and now I write the top, or, extra precisely, the top of my very own story. So it’s finished. I spent the day placing my affairs, reminiscent of they’re, so as. I really feel I can go peacefully as Hans has made good on his boasts and Sims is flourishing as he and my daughter Rebecca work in live performance. I fear concerning the far future, as they’ve solely had one baby, and I worry that baby is a bit spoiled.
Joan stifled a giggle as she realized that it was her mom—almost a full grownup on the time of the writing—being known as a spoiled youngster.
However I’ve accomplished my obligation. The historical past of the Cohens is right here. And I used to be proper about some legends being actual as properly, as a result of the information carries hints of individuals referred to as mages who’ve found a brand new sort of stone that burns so a lot better than coal. I hear the whispers that this can change the world, that it’ll convey a greater life. I’m unsure, as until individuals change, the instruments they use to harm one another would be the solely distinction on this courageous new world.
As for me, I’ve already modified my life twice, as soon as when my husband died, as soon as once I moved to this metropolis. It’s nicely this new change will occur after I’m gone. I’m finished with change. I want the subsequent era nicely. I hope Rebecca retains the pendant near her. I can sense that it could be wanted within the coming years. With these rumors of mages, maybe the legends surrounding our household heirloom might have some fact to them in any case. It’s a most comforting thought. And a most scary thought.
Ah, Kurt, my love, I miss you continue to. If this can be a simply existence, I’ll see you quickly. Both means, the top is inescapable, and at the least my phrases will reside on for Rebecca and her daughter and the era after that. I hope there can be extra daughters. That might please me.
With a lump in her throat, Joan closed the e-book. She had discovered solely extra questions however felt oddly comforted nonetheless. She wished the complete historical past that Ruth referred to had been on this quantity. It have to be within the others. Tomorrow, she would ask her mom about wanting by way of the remaining.
She extinguished the gaslight in her room and settled right down to sleep, her hand curled across the pendant. As she was falling into slumber, she heard a noise, only a whisper of sound. It was so slight that she would by no means have paid any consideration if she had not been listening so intently.
There was somebody in her room.
Picture copyright Corrina Lawson