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Tilly Wallace

Hessians and Hellhounds

Hessians and Hellhounds

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Fire erases all… even the undead….

One of London’s most recognisable Afflicted has been incinerated in a horrifying way. Whispers spread that a hellhound prowls the streets, snatching the lost souls who have escaped the underworld. Except Wycliff is doing no such thing—could there possibly be another such creature in London?

While Hannah and Wycliff investigate the unnatural flames, unrest grows on the streets as someone seeks to reveal the carefully kept secret of how the undead women stave off rot. Someone is agitating for all Afflicted to be eradicated, in a conspiracy that will set the common Englishman against the nobles.

To save the Afflicted and stop the uprising, Wycliff must face the void that whispers his name from an inky darkness. While in the afterlife, can he also wrest Hannah free of the curse waiting to stop her heart? Assuming they can get out alive…

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Love wrought a magical change in Mireworth, and the old house came to life—rather like a corpse hooked up to a galvanism device and hit by a lightning bolt. Conversation filled her rooms, and the echoes of footsteps raced along her halls. The very air seemed to warm, and the atmosphere became less gloomy.
The outward physical appearance of the house had not altered, and every day Hannah added two tasks to her list for every one she completed. But the soul of the house revived. The old lady shook herself free of a deep slumber and welcomed her new lord and lady. Or so it seemed to Hannah. Perhaps it was as simple as her good mood spreading to every corner, as she refused to let obstacles dampen her optimistic perception of the world around her.
One change, however, saddened Hannah—with her parents’ arrival they lost the easy camaraderie of mealtimes. While they embraced a more casual dining environment at Mireworth, Seraphina’s presence at the table proved too much for Mary. The maid’s bravery didn’t quite extend to meals with the dead mage. Even the robust and short-sighted Helga blanched at the idea of sitting at the same table as her employer’s noble mother-in-law.
In search of an alternative, Hannah peeked into the long forgotten formal dining room and promptly shut the door again. The dark space was far too crypt-like, with evidence of its Tudor origins in the low ceiling, dark panelling, and small windows with thick glass. She also didn’t want to disturb a colony of rather gigantic spiders that spun webs over the stags’ antlers hung on the walls. Even if they lit a fire in the enormous hearth that could roast an entire cow, the room still couldn’t compete with the warmth or charm of the kitchen.
Next, Hannah ventured into the servants’ hall, where once the butler would have presided over the table at mealtimes. She tried to imagine lively conversations between the maids and footmen, but the long table spoke of all the silenced voices and staff let go as the estate fell on hard times. The two large dining rooms of Mireworth seemed sad and dim compared to the good cheer spreading elsewhere.
In the end, she decided that restoring formality could wait. The family continued to eat at the worn oak table in the kitchen, and the men found a square table and chairs to set up in the conservatory. Drenched in sunlight and warmth, the staff had a cosy spot to take their meals away from their employers. Outside of mealtimes, it also made a comfortable spot for Hannah to study the journals she found in the library.
The morning after her parents arrived at Mireworth, Hannah sat in the kitchen with her breakfast as her father wheeled her mother to the table.
“Good morning, Mother, Papa. Did you sleep well?” Hannah reached for the coffeepot and poured for her father.
“Like a babe,” Sir Hugh Miles replied as he took a seat.
Mrs Rossett took a plate and dished up an enormous breakfast from the pots warming on the range, and placed it on the table in front of him. Then she took her cup of tea and a plate of toast and adjourned to the conservatory, Barnes trotting behind her on three fingers and dragging the latest edition of a housekeeping magazine with his thumb and forefinger. The odd couple made Hannah smile. Barnes had taken a shine to Mrs Rossett and took every opportunity to prove himself handy to the no-nonsense woman.
“Being here reminds me of the early days of my marriage to Seraphina, when we travelled all around England. We slept in many a different place, always on an adventure. I had quite forgotten how much fun it was.” Hugh winked at his wife before picking up his cutlery.
“I apologise for the unusual accommodation. The workmen will begin repairing the roof this week. I am grateful to Hannah that Mireworth will be watertight once more before winter, and we will be able to reclaim the upstairs rooms.” Wycliff glanced at Hannah with a mix of gratitude and love simmering in his eyes.
“There is no need to apologise. In fact, you may need to keep a stretcher for Hugh in the parlour—he rather enjoys playing forts like a boy draping a blanket over a table.” Seraphina reached out and touched her husband’s hand.
“There is something about this place that is invigorating and invites one to strike off and explore the nooks and crannies.” Hannah’s father waggled his eyebrows at her mother.
Hannah grinned into her hot chocolate. Neither time nor death could diminish the affection between her parents. How blessed she was to have found such a love with Wycliff.
“There is an energy about this house. I think Mireworth harbours many secrets—some running deeper than the mysterious tower. I believe they have constructed it over ley lines.” Seraphina picked up an empty teacup with a silver rim, decorated with purple pansies and a blue butterfly.
Mimicking her father, Wycliff attempted to waggle his eyebrows at Hannah—a comical action that nearly made her choke on her drink.
“I will bow to your knowledge of ley lines, Lady Miles. Regarding the tower, Hannah is intent on uncovering those secrets, but she will have to wait until Frank finishes knocking down the wall and carting away the rubble,” he said.
Hannah blew out a sigh. “He won’t even let me peek! Honestly, ever since I nearly drowned, Frank and Wycliff have fussed over me like mother hens. I am quite recovered, and capable of stepping over some rubble.”
“I believe he wishes it to be a surprise, Hannah, to repay the kindness you have shown him and Mary. There are plenty of other areas we can explore while you wait.” Wycliff’s lips twitched in humour.
“Why don’t we have a closer look at the entrance foyer today, Hannah?” her mother suggested. “I am rather fascinated by the griffin newel posts. Or they might be sphinx, depending on other clues we may find.”
“Very well. Then I would like your counsel about what to grow in the conservatory, and I shall show you the grave indignity that Wycliff’s grandfather committed against the library.” Hannah would appreciate her mother’s opinion on how to go about restoring not only the library’s physical form, but also its contents. It would take years before the shelves were filled again. The next time she went shopping in London, she intended to find rousing tales of pirates to appeal to the boy hiding inside Wycliff.

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