Here’s the set-up:
Fourteen-year-old Emily Adams has special powers she doesn’t want, a spiteful aunt she can’t escape, and a primeval legacy she knows nothing about. But when an otherworldly being materializes, Emily discovers the true purpose of her magical blood and of the danger that threatens to annihilate her world.
Dormant for over a thousand years, an ancient evil has arisen. This time, it will destroy anyone – or anything – that stands in its way.
With her two best friends by her side, Emily risks everything and embarks on a dangerous journey to Ireland and beyond. As the hour of world annihilation draws near, the fate of her friends, her family and her world lies in her hands.
Can a teenage girl without hero credentials save the world? And will Emily find the courage to face her true self in Emily’s House?
Join the Journey . . .
* * *
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Book 1 of the Akasha Chronicles
By Natalie Wright
The whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of that infernal machine. Its bellows pump up and down as black, tarry sludge is sucked up the tube and into the holding tank.
She lies on the bed like a robot corpse, tubes and lines going in and out of her body. Her once rosy lips are pale, tinged slightly green. Her once vibrant emerald green eyes are closed, sunken into the eye sockets. Her once strong body lies still and shrunken. Only her hair looks the same, flowing like a red wave across the white shore of the pillow.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
I stand at the door and gingerly peek in. I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to see her like that. I don’t want the putrid odor of dying people stuck in my nostrils.
I don’t want to go in, but I’m sucked into the room anyway. My legs feel powerless against the invisible force that draws me in. I flail my arms and try to command my body to obey me and run from the horrid scene.
But I’m in the room anyway, drawing ever closer to the bed.
What is that tarry black stuff? Is it being sucked out of her body? Or put in?
I’m close enough to touch her, but I don’t want to. The last time I touched her I saw a vision of her taking her last breath. The last time I touched her, I saw her die. I don’t want that to come true. And I don’t want to see her die again. The first time I saw her die I ran and ran, trying to escape the vision. I don’t want to touch anyone ever again.
But my hand reaches anyway, a mind of its own. My mouth opens to scream, but nothing comes out. My lips are locked open in a soundless “O.”
My hand quivers as it reaches in slow motion toward the sleeping body that bears a resemblance to my mother. Is she still in there? Or has the cancer stolen the last of her?
My fingertips shake as they touch her hand. The skin on her hand is as thin as an onionskin and shows the blue-red blood vessels beneath.
As soon as my fingers touch her hand, her eyes pop open in a look of terror. Her mouth is open in a scream. But it’s not a human scream. It’s the loud whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of that tar-sucking machine.
She sits up. The long, wavy red hair flying about her head is the same, but the face is no longer my mother. It looks at me with large, solid black eyes, devoid of light or emotion, staring out of a bare skull. Her hand is no longer covered in thin flesh but is instead the hand of a skeleton. The hand of bones grips me hard.
I pull and pull to get free of the monster, but it has me. I’m caught in its grip.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
I finally wake, dripping in sweat. My mouth is still open in an “O,” the scream still caught in my throat.
I awake once again from the same ghastly dream I’ve had for the last seven years, only to find myself in a house of nightmares.
1 A Run-in with Muriel the Mean
It sucks to see your mom die twice.
That’s what I was thinking while I walked home that day. The second day in my life that everything changed.
The day started out normal enough. Getting a D on my math test. Trying not to trip over my own too-big-for-my-body flipper feet on my way to lunch. And getting handed a report card that felt like a bomb that was about to explode in my backpack.
“Muriel the Mean is going to kill me,” I said to my best friends, Fanny and Jake. We ambled ever closer to my house of doom. My stomach knotted itself up, and the all-too-familiar feeling of dread took over as we got closer to my house.
My house. Once it was filled with my mom’s laughter and singing. Her colorful paintings once decorated the walls.
It wasn’t really mine anymore. It was Muriel’s. And Aunt Muriel had filled the place with dove-grey walls and meanness and fear.
My mom died when I was seven, and she took her laughter and her singing and her colorful paintings with her.
She took something else too. Something that I’d kept secret, even from Fanny and Jake.
For as long as I can remember, I could read her thoughts. It was like a radio station playing in my head. All I had to do was tune in my receiver, and there she was. The ‘Mom Station’. She could read my thoughts too. It seemed like the most normal thing ever. Mom let me know that it wasn’t normal and that it was best to keep it between us, so I did.
The day she died, I held her hand as that horrible tar-sucking machine whooshed away. Then her station went off the air. I never heard it again.
Inside my head, it was so quiet and lonely. I was seven years old, and it was the first time in my life that the only thoughts rolling around in there were my own.
To make it all worse, my dad turned into a zombie and my Aunt Muriel came to live with us. Dad’s work at the university takes most of his time, so he thought my old widowed aunt (fourteen years older than my dad) could come live with us. “It’s a win-win,” he had said.
Only it wasn’t a win for me. Muriel is meaner than a dog chained in the hot sun with a choke collar on. I’m not sure why she’s such a heinous person, but she is, so I call her ‘Muriel the Mean’.
Seven years living with a zombie who used to be my father. Seven years of Muriel treating me like the bastard fourth cousin of a retarded rhino. I felt as if I was slipping away. I felt like if something didn’t change, I was going to disappear completely.
“Maybe I should just keep walking,” I said. We were a couple of houses away from the sidewalk leading up to my front door. “You know, run away.”
“You can’t do that,” said Jake. His voice sounded panicked. “I’d miss you too much. Besides, where would you go?”
“Then tell me how I can deliver this to Muriel the Mean and not end up dead.”
“Let me come in with you,” offered Fanny. “If she lays a hand on you, I’ll go banshee on her.”
“Fanny, we’ve been over this before. I’d love to let you go gorilla on my Aunt Muriel, but I can’t let you do that. You have too much to lose.”
She shut up about it. She knew I was right. Even though we were only freshmen, Fanny was a shoe-in for at least one sport scholarship, and we all knew it. Spending time in juvenile detention for beating up my aunt would waste that dream for her.
“I don’t know Em, maybe you should just go with the direct approach. That’s usually best,” said Jake.
“Best for what nub? Getting her butt kicked? No, I suggest the time proven method that has worked for generations of kids,” said Fanny.
“What’s that?” I asked.
Fanny’s suggestion had considerable merit. Problem was we were at my house, and I had no lie in my head. I had planned no strategy for how to hide the incriminating paper in my backpack from Muriel.
“I’ll see you guys later?” I asked.
“Yep, and I’ll help you with your algebra homework,” said Jake.
“And I’ll be over to keep Jake from boring you to death,” said Fanny. “We’ll meet at your tree later.”
“Wish me luck.”
“Good luck, Em,” said Jake.
“Hope you live to see me later,” Fanny joked as they both walked away.
Fanny’s joke, like most humor, had a core of truth. Aunt Muriel wouldn’t actually kill me, but when displeased with me, which she was just about all of the time, she’d make my life miserable.
I walked lightly across the creaky wooden porch of my house, trying not to make a sound. My hand hesitated on the door handle. Once I would have bounded in with laughter to a kaleidoscope of color. That day I crept with dread into a house of monochrome.
I finally opened the door. Muriel waited for me just inside. Not a good sign.
“Okay, let’s see it,” she said.
“Don’t be cute. You know what. Hand it over,” she snarled back.
I dug in my backpack and brought out a wrinkled piece of paper. Muriel snatched it from my hand and pored over it. When she finally looked up, I thought for sure her eyes would incinerate me on the spot.
“If you were smart you wouldn’t have come home with this. It appears that your grades do reflect the sum of your intelligence which, I’m sorry to say, is not a terribly large sum.”
“Then I must get my intelligence from your side of the family,” I replied. I know. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Sometimes it’s like my mouth has its own brain and just shoots stuff out. Stuff likely to get me killed.
I should have seen it coming. She hit me so hard I swear she made snot shoot out of my nose. My backpack fell, and stuff flew out all over the floor. Blood trickled from my nose over my upper lip. I didn’t want to cry in front of Muriel, but tears welled up in my eyes anyway.
“Pick up this stuff,” she hissed.
I bent down and shoved all my stuff back into my backpack. My nose bled so much that it dripped all over the wood floor in the entryway.
“Now look at what you did! You clean that up and go to your room. I don’t want to see you until morning. And for God’s sake, stop sniveling.” Muriel turned and stomped out of the room.
I wanted to run away. I wanted to run and run like I had that day back when I was seven. Run and run until I was far away from that house and Aunt Muriel and Zombie Man. Run until I fell over.
But I didn’t run. Instead, I pulled it together enough to clean up the blood, snot and tears off the floor. I ran upstairs to my room, shut the door, and shoved wads of toilet paper up my nostrils to stop up the blood. I flopped down on my bed and I kept crying.
It wasn’t the wailing or hiccupping to catch your breath kind of crying. That’s how it usually was for me. No, that day it was a long, slow, stream of hot tears kind of crying. And they weren’t all tears of sad. A lot of those tears were mad tears. Really mad tears.
You probably think I was mad at Muriel. And I was a little. But mostly I was mad at my mom, Bridget.
It had been seven years since she died, and I was furious at her. The more I cried the more I thought about how she had up and left me. And the more I thought about how she cut out on me, the madder I got. And the madder I got at her, the more I cried. I was starting to hate my mom as much as I hated Muriel.
“Mom, why did you leave me?” I whispered to the emptiness around me.
The silence of my room was suddenly filled with a low hissing sound.
No answer, just a low hiss that sounded like steam coming through an old radiator. What the heck is that? I opened my window and listened. The hiss came from my old tree house, still perched in the large oak outside my window.
I went to my bathroom and wiped the tear tracks from my face. My eyes were red and puffy and my face blotchy from crying. I pulled the wads of toilet paper out of my nose and put on a clean T-shirt. I went to my window, opened it up and eased out onto the large oak branch.
I didn’t know it then, but scooting myself across that branch was the beginning of a long journey.
2 emily’s visitor
Before my dad became a zombie, he built a large tree house in an old oak in our backyard. Neither he nor Muriel bothered to tear it down so it remained wedged amongst the large branches of the old tree.
My legs were still a little wobbly from my run in with Muriel, but I stayed low and climbed across the branches until I got to the tree house. The closer I got the louder the hissing noise.
I sat on the limb at the opening to the tree house and looked in to see what was making the noise. The inside of the tiny house was dark and dusty. The only light came from the small opening that my body was blocking. I couldn’t see anything in there. I crawled inside. My five feet six frame barely fit through the hole that had been made for a small child. Once inside, I couldn’t stand up but had plenty of room to sit. I sat to the side and waited for my eyes adjust to the darkness.
The hissing grew louder, and after a few minutes, I saw a faint light appear in the middle of the tree house. The light hovered in front of me. It started small like the light from a mini flashlight. It grew to the size of a softball and as it grew, it became brighter.
I thought Aunt Muriel had knocked my head around good and that I had a concussion. Great, now I’m losing my hearing and seeing weird lights.
I blinked my eyes, rubbed them and tipped my head and tapped the other side, like you do when you’re trying to get water out of your ears. Nope, didn’t work. I still heard the hissing sound and the light ball continued to grow. Soon it was about the size of a large dog. Then the hissing changed. It became a low, slow hum. The light got so bright I had to shade my eyes from it.
Suddenly, POP! The bright light disappeared, and the humming became low and soft, more of a droning background noise. I squinted my eyes to see through a misty, silvery fog. What’s there?
I saw the outline of something. As my eyes adjusted to the sudden darkness, the image became clearer. What I saw made me want to scream.
I wanted to scream, but I didn’t. If I screamed Aunt Muriel would find me and I’d have more trouble. I thought about shimmying back across the tree branch and into my room. But something about the thing drew me in.
Before me stood a small furry creature. It was about four feet tall but seemed fully-grown. Its head was doglike, with a dog nose and whiskers, but its ears were more like a wild boar. His eyes were the oddest thing about him. They were large and dark brown, almost black, but seemed to be stuck in a perpetually sad look, with bags and wrinkles underneath.
The creature’s body was hairy all over like a dog, but he had hands like a man and wore clothes. He wore a collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a brown tweed vest topped his dark brown wool flannel pants.
I should have been scared. I mean an alien creature had just landed in my tree house. But I figured I was hallucinating. Aunt Muriel had whacked me hard. Anyway, his eyes were so warm and with his cute little tweed vest, he didn’t frighten me.
“Can you see me, child of Brighid?” said the creature.
“Yes, I … I see you, whatever you are,” I said.
“I am Hindergog, Bard of the Order of Brighid, keeper of the tales of the High Priestess, servant to her majesty in the Netherworld,” he said.
“Well, I guess that answers it.” After I said it, I realized my sarcasm. I enjoyed being a smart aleck to my aunt, even though I’d pay for it. But I immediately regretted being so smirky to the strange creature.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to be sarcastic with you. My aunt always tells me that I have an awful mouth.”
“There is nothing awful about you, daughter of Brighid. It is your lack of training that is awful,” he said.
“You have reached the age of fourteen Beltane fires, have you not?”
“Well I don’t know anything about Beltane, but I’m fourteen years old.”
“Then you are four years late for the start of your preparation. But there is no time to waste. We must start now. You are the last in the lineage of the Order of Brighid. You are the only one with the powers to defeat Dughall the Dark One, but you require training,” Hindergog said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. And that is truly strange because you are a figment of my imagination and you’d think I’d know what my own imagination is talking about.”
“Daughter of Brighid, I am not of your imagination.”
“Then you are real?”
“Real? What is real? In your world, you are all about this ‘real’. That is quite the wrong question you know.”
“Now I’m getting really confused. Well, whether you’re real or not, you seem kind, and I could use a friend. So it’s nice to meet you Hindergog.” I reached my hand out to shake his.
But when I reached for his hand, my hand went right through him. He wasn’t flesh and blood after all.
“So you are a figment. Too bad,” I said.
“In my world, I am quite ‘real’ as you say. But I can only come to you in this form through the use of the Crystals of Alsted. I am, what in your world might be called a ‘hologram’,” said Hindergog. “A projection of sorts.”
“Where is your body then?”
“My body resides in another realm called the Netherworld. In your world, it is called another dimension. My body cannot travel to your realm without damage so I must meet with you this way.”
“Are you serious? So you’re using some sort of cosmic telephone?”
“I do not know this ‘telephone’ of which you speak. Please listen child of Brighid, as I do not have much time. It took what in your world would be several hundred years to collect the amount of crystals needed to project myself to you. I should have about one hour of your time, but no more. And I have much to tell you as you have had no prior education in these things.”
I heard Jake and Fanny talking to each other down below. They were at our meeting place, the tree, just like we’d planned.
“Wait a minute little dude,” I told Hindergog. I crawled on my knees over to the opening of the house. “Hey guys – up here,” I whispered to Jake and Fan. They both came over to the ladder that led up the tree.
“What ‘ya doin’ up there?” asked Fanny.
“You’ll find out in a minute. Get up here. But listen, when you get up here, don’t scream.”
Jake and Fanny looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders but were totally silent as they climbed up. Jake came first. I could see his spiky blond hair and coke-bottle glasses when he reached the top. As soon as his eyes cleared the top rung, he gasped. He didn’t say a word and he didn’t scream, but it looked like he had stopped breathing.
Fanny was right behind Jake, her dark curly hair contained under a ball cap. When she got to the top, she let out a soft cry of surprise but quickly caught herself and covered her mouth with her hand. She climbed in too and Jake was on one side of me and Fanny was on the other. All three of us sat silently and stared at the creature. When Hindergog broke the silence, all three of us jumped a little.
“Daughter of Brighid, who are these others? This will not do. My message is for you alone.”
“First of all, stop calling me Daughter of Brighid. My name is Emily, and if you want to talk to me, you can get my name right.”
“Yes, as you wish, daughter of, I mean, Emily.”
“Second, this is Jake, and this is Fanny. They are my two best friends and anything you want to say to me, you need to say to them, too.”
“Oh, Mistress Emily, I do not have time to argue the point. This is likely to cause severe problems. But my time grows ever shorter and with so much to tell … ” His voice trailed off. He looked like he was thinking and he looked plenty worried.
“So be it, they can stay. But listen well, all of you, as I have much to tell you.”
“What is this thing and why is it here?” asked Jake.
“His name is Hindergog,” I said. “And I have no idea what he is or why he’s here. He says he’s a holographic projection from another dimension.”
“Shut up!” said Fanny.
“Please hear me humans of fourteen Beltane fires,” Hindergog pled. “I will tell you all that you are required to know. And when I am done, the one who calls herself Emily must prepare for her journey to the Sacred Grove.”
“Emily, you’re leaving?” asked Jake.
“I wasn’t planning on it. I have no idea what the heck this little dude is talking about.”
“I beg for your patience, Younglings,” Hindergog pled. “It is most urgent for all of you, and all in your world, that Emily, descendant of my Saorla, last High Priestess of the Order of Brighid, learn of her heritage and of her destiny.”
“This sounds heavy, Em,” said Fanny.
“What are you talking about Hindergog? What destiny?” I asked.
“Miss Emily, you know of your unique abilities.”
“What’s he talking about?” asked Jake.
I felt squirmy. I didn’t say a word. Jake and Fanny stared at me, waiting for me to explain what the little alien guy was talking about.
“Spill it, Adams,” commanded Fanny.
“Look, it’s nothing spectacular or anything. It’s just that I have these visions. It’s like seeing the future.”
“GET OUT!” shouted Fanny.
“Shh, Muriel,” I warned as I put a finger to my lips.
“But there is more to it than that young one, much more,” Hindergog said.
“More? You can do more than see the future?” queried Jake.
“Crapballs! I so didn’t want anyone to know this stuff.” I’d tried to weasel out of talking about it. The three of them stared at me in silence, and it was clear that Jake and Fanny weren’t going to let me off the hook without explaining about my strange abilities.
“Alright, here’s the thing. When I was little I could hear what my mom was thinking, okay. It was like a radio station playing in my head. I only had that with her, and when she died, her radio station went off the air permanently. Now I don’t even get static.”
“And?” Fanny asked.
“You said you could see the future. What’s up with that?” asked Jake.
“I don’t know. Look, I hate talking about this.”
“Have you seen my future?” asked Fanny. “Am I like a famous sports figure?”
“No, Fanny, I haven’t seen your future. I haven’t seen anyone’s future, not since … ”
“Since what, Em?” asked Jake.
“Since my mom died.”
The crowded little house was silent. The only sound was the low drone of Hindergog’s cosmic telephone. Sometimes it seemed like it was more painful retelling the story of my mom’s death than it was going through it in the first place.
“You saw your mom die?” asked Jake.
“What do you think she saw nub, fluffy bunnies and flowers?” said Fanny.
“Yes Jake, I had a vision. I saw my mom die. I was holding her hand one day and there it was, just like a movie in my mind’s eye. I saw her hooked up to machines and saw her eyes sunken into her drawn, pale face, and I saw her take her last breath. And when she died for real, it was exactly like the vision I’d seen.”
“Good job Jake, making Emily go through that,” said Fanny. She rubbed my back as she glared at Jake.
“It’s okay Fanny, really.”
“Sorry Em, I didn’t mean to make you sad,” said Jake. “I’m thick I guess. You saw that one vision, and then it just stopped?”
“Well, sort of. I started to have another vision. With Greta.”
“Greta?” said Fanny. “What the heck?”
“Remember my first day back to school after my mom died?”
“Who could forget it? You ran out of the school like a maniac. I never did understand what that was about,” said Fanny.
“Well it was about Greta. She came up to me and was saying she was sorry about my mom. Blah, blah, blah. She put her hand on my shoulder all sincere like. But that turned on my receptor, and I started to see a vision of the future. Greta’s future. I screamed for her to get her hand off me and I ran. I didn’t want to see what that movie was about. Bought myself a trip to the guidance counselor.”
“That’s when Greta started calling you ‘Freak Girl’ and being mean to you,” said Fanny. The puzzle pieces were finally falling into place for her.
“I guess you don’t rebuff Greta-the-Charming without consequences,” said Jake. “Now I get why you don’t play sports and try to avoid … ”
“Being touched. Yeah, I don’t want to see anyone die.”
“There is more Miss Emily, so much more,” said Hindergog.
The little blabbermouth.
“More than seeing the future?” asked Jake.
I didn’t want to say anymore. I’d already had to spill enough. But Fanny wasn’t going to let it go.
“Out with it, Em,” demanded Fanny.
“I can move things with my mind too,” I said.
“You cannot!” said Jake.
“Yep, I can.”
“I don’t believe you,” he said.
“Show us, Em,” said Fanny excitedly.
“I’m not a show dog.”
“Oh, come on. Show us,” she whined.
I hadn’t seen visions for a long time, but I continued to use my telekinesis, at least in the privacy of my room. I knew better than to let Muriel know about these ‘special abilities’ as Hindergog called them. The cat was out of the bag with Fanny and Jake. Why not show them so they stop bugging me about it?
I stared at Jake’s backpack that he’d flung down. I concentrated on wanting the backpack, and it slowly raised then floated through the air right to me.
Silence filled the space between us. My heart raced, and my palms started to sweat. This is it, the moment I’ve dreaded. Once Fanny and Jake knew my secret, they’d know for certain what a colossal freak I was. Their stunned silence and gaping mouths said it all.
Finally, Jake broke the silence. “THAT WAS ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.”
“Coolest-thing-ever! Do it again.” Fanny squealed like a little girl.
“Younglings, we do not have time for Miss Emily to perform more demonstrations. My time is short, and I have much to tell. There is much for Miss Emily to learn before she begins the journey to her destiny.”
“Why do I have to go on a journey, and to where? What destiny are you talking about?” I asked.
“Miss Emily, there is an ancient evil set on a path that will lead to the destruction of your world. He lived in the time of your ancient ancestor, my mistress Saorla, the last High Priestess of the Order of Brighid. He is responsible for … ”
Hindergog paused. His face looked pinched, and a tear was in his eye.
“Go on, Hindergog. What was he responsible for?”
“This dark one, Dughall, was responsible for the end of the Order of Brighid. He is in human form once again and we fear that if he succeeds with his plan, it will likely destroy your world.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What are you talking about? Is he, like, reincarnated? And destroy our world? How?” asked Jake.
“I know you have many questions Younglings, and I will answer these questions by telling you a story. I am a bard and keeper of the sacred stories of the Order of Brighid. Please humans, rest easy as I tell you all that you need to know.”
“I gotta’ hear this,” said Fanny.
“We’ll listen Hindergog,” I said.
“Yeah, we got nothin’ better to do,” said Fanny.
“Except algebra,” said Jake.
“Shh,” Fanny and I both said at once.
Hindergog took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a moment then opened them slowly.
“Listen well Younglings as the tale I have to tell is an important one. The tale is of my most beloved mistress and of Miss Emily’s ancestor. Some of it will be difficult for me, as I must tell you of a terrific battle and of the tragedy that lead to the last days of the Order of Brighid. Please do not interrupt so that I may say all that must be said before my crystals run out.”
The three of us settled in. Our eyes were on the hologram Hindergog as he began his story.