In Honor of Halloween — An Excerpt From Book Three

Here, in honor of Halloween, is an excerpt from Book Three: Rachel and the Technicolor Dreamland.

The scene is that Rachel Griffin and her boyfriend, Gaius Valiant, are flying on her steeplechaser to crash the Dead Men's Ball, a gathering of the restless dead (mainly sailors who drowned in the most dangerous part of the Hudson River.)


They passed marshes and then a length of forest. In the silvery moonlight, the hemlocks along the shore swayed in the dark like shaggy specters. The shoreline moved east, and Rachel flew over the rocky island with a single lone fir tree that she knew was located close to the northmost edge of the wards of the school. Then the shoreline moved west again, and more hemlocks swayed.

When the trees changed to marsh again, and she caught sight of cattails, Rachel knew that they were now along side Bannerman’s house. Looking up the hill, she could see the silhouette of the mansion’s turrets against the moon-bright sky. As she navigated her steeplechaser eastward and inland, she caught sight of an eerie light gliding through the darkness of the marsh—a large and florescent white glow accompanied by small florescent green ones.

A tingle ran down the back of Rachel’s spine. The shadow-strewn night suddenly seemed spooky and dangerous. The haunting strains of violins, horns, and bells played in her mind in three-fourth’s time. Behind her, Gaius began to hum the tune she had been imagining.

Rachel halted and backed up her broom.

“What?” asked Gaius.

“That was eerie. I was just imagining that same waltz.”

She felt Gaius shiver. He said, “I can ‘hear’ it perfectly, but I can’t hear any music…with my ears, I mean.”

Together, they hummed a few bars of what they were imagining. They both hummed the same tune in unison. Rachel shivered, too, and leaned against him.

“You know, we don’t have to keep going,” Gaius murmured softly. “You are still astonishingly brave for having made it this far.”

“No! I want to go on. It’s just…”

“Spooky? Unnerving? Terrifying beyond the capacity for rational thought?”

“I wouldn’t go that far.” Rachel smiled into the darkness. “Unnerving is a good word.”

“Why do you want to go forward? Not that I am saying your shouldn’t,” Gaius amended quickly. “It’s just that I am rather curious as to your reasoning. At least eighty-nine percent of the girls at school would pay not to see a ghost, and we go to a school of sorcerers.”

“Why?” The question caught Rachel off guard. She had to think about it for a time. “I guess it’s part of wanting to know things. I’ve realized recently that I say ‘I want to know everything,’ but what I really want to know is secrets. Forbidden things. Forgotten things. Especially forgotten things. I feel so sorry for the things that no one remembers.

“And that’s what ghosts represent, isn’t it? All ghosts have a forgotten thing—something no one knows about that is holding them to the mortal world. If we could find it, we might be able to help them pass on to…wherever it is that the dead are supposed to go. It is as if each ghost is its own mystery.

As Rachel spoke, it occurred to her that now that Azrael was bound up again, Myrddin might feel his business on earth was finished. The idea that she might never see Thunderfrost’s Boy again made her feel both hopeful for him and slightly sad.

Gaius nodded. “That makes sense.”

“Does it?”

“Yes, I can understand that,” Gaius said. “I know that ever since the princess told me about her vision of my past, I’ve been obsessed with who I might have been and how I came to be here. I can’t stop thinking about that space station that blew up. I…think I had something to do with that. I’m seventy-nine and a half percent certain.”

Rachel thought of Dream Gaius, staring at the star-faring galleons. “You have no way of knowing that for sure, Gaius.”

“Rachel, I have this persistent feeling that I was…not good person.”

“But you are now,” Rachel said firmly.

Gaius swallowed and nodded. She waited a moment, but he said no more.

“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 flew 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.


“Which are?”

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

“Which is?”

“Don’t you watch classical ballet?”

“Not on a regular basis. No.” Gaius’s voice sounded tight, as if he were 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 Willies?”

“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 Willies 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.