Today I'm delighted to welcome back my friend and fellow-author Jennifer C Wilson, whose latest novel in the acclaimed Kindred Spirits series was released a couple of weeks ago. I had the pleasure of working with Jen as editor of this book (not that it needed very much editing), and believe me, it's an absolute cracker.
Across London, ghosts are being targeted, haunted – not an easy thing to reconcile, being a spirit. Because spirits can be faded: forcibly moved on to, frankly, nobody knows where. And nobody wants to find out. Here, what starts as a perfectly pleasant day in the Tower of London suddenly turns sour for Katherine Howard.
With so many incidents happening around the capital, the soldiers who haunted the city’s palaces, stately homes and other residences had been pressed into guard duty more than ever. They had always taken a security role of sorts, keeping an eye on the monarchs who inhabited their mini-realms, but with attacks increasing in frequency, most had upped their game even before they were asked.
Now, every building of historical significance had a guard either permanently positioned outside, or had a rota of regular patrols keeping watch. The majority of their efforts still centred around the queens, together with others who had a strong link to Henry VIII, but nobody wanted to take a risk. The ghosts’ council of Westminster Abbey had taken a lead role in the main coordination, with Richard [III] and the Georges [Boleyn and Clarence] taking charge in the Tower, refusing to give anyone else power in what they saw as their domain. Nobody bothered to challenge them, in view of the mood Boleyn and Clarence had been in since word of Henry’s activities had got out.
The pair had been so determined not to be blamed for either the main attacks, or any of the copycat efforts, that neither Boleyn nor Clarence had taken part in a single haunting for weeks. Not even their usual ‘rising from the fake barrel of malmsey’ trick had been spotted, by the living or the dead. Frankly, the spirits of the Tower were finding the new, serious attitude of their usually jovial neighbours almost as disturbing as the ghost-on-ghost hauntings.
“Please, brother, Clarence, it’s been weeks, we are all glum; we urgently need some cheer in our lives.” Anne [Boleyn] begged Boleyn and his partner-in-crime to do something, anything, to entertain her, as the trio stood at the top of the White Tower looking down on their home. They weren’t officially keeping watch, but more often than not the days would find at least two spirits up on the rooftop, keeping a vague eye on what was happening below. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but if anything happened in the Tower’s confines, it was one of the better spots to be amongst the first to hear of it.
As it happened, they got a much closer view of things than they’d anticipated. Katherine Howard practically bounced out of the entrance to the roof, a smile on her face and a spring in her step.
“Morning! Isn’t it a lovely day!” she exclaimed, moving over to join them at the balustrade.
“You’re in a good mood,” Boleyn said, knocking his shoulder against hers.
“I am indeed. The sun is shining, there’s a steel band setting up out on the riverside, and even Richard smiled at me earlier.”
“Richard smiled? A positive change for sure,” said Clarence, leaning over the edge. “Where is he?”
Only Anne narrowed her eyes. “I wonder what’s put him in a good mood. He’d have told us, surely?”
“Oh, sister, are you jealous for not knowing our mighty leader’s inner thoughts first?” joked Boleyn, sticking his tongue between his teeth and wiggling his eyebrows at her.
Anne opened her mouth to reply, but Katherine’s cry froze the words on her tongue.
“Clarence! Stop it!”
Three pairs of eyes were suddenly focused on the young former queen – including, Anne noticed, Clarence’s. He was nowhere near close enough to have been doing anything to her cousin.
“Katherine?” Anne looked around the rooftop, still seemingly empty other than the four of them. “Katherine, what is it?”
“Th-there was a hand on my neck. I swear there was,” Katherine replied, looking around wildly, her eyes wide with terror. “No!” she shrieked, batting away an invisible attacker. “No, please, leave me alone!”
To their credit, in a heartbeat, both Georges reached for where their swords would have been, moving forward in unison to try and help their friend and cousin. They were halted only for a moment by Anne putting her hands out in front of them.
“Wait, how can you attack what we cannot even see?”
“We have to try,” called Boleyn, as he rushed to Katherine’s side, trying to move his own body in between her and the direction the attack appeared to be coming from. Clarence appeared to take the hint and covered her other side, the two men effectively forming a human cage around Katherine.
It worked for a moment, until a flash of green materialised, at knee-height, and barrelled at the small group. The Georges were steady enough on their feet to remain standing, but Katherine, unnerved and anxious, stumbled backwards out of the protective ring and fell hard against the floor, unable to prevent herself vanishing through into the space below.
“Katherine!” cried Anne, following downward in a more controlled manner, hoping whoever was attacking would remain on the roof, distracted by the Georges.
No such luck.
Distracted by the fall, and still in a state of shock, Katherine had slipped into full visibility for a moment. This also made her fully tangible – which put her at risk.
Too late, Anne saw the great bulk of their ex-husband at Katherine’s side, knife drawn. There was a flash of silver, followed by two screams, then he was gone as quickly as he’d appeared.
It took a moment for Anne to realise one of the screams had been her own. She dashed to her cousin’s side, pulling her into a tight hug as the younger woman simply stared down at her hand.
“Kat, Kat, come on, you have to vanish. Now, before somebody comes. Katherine!”
The use of her full name seemed to pull Katherine back into herself, and in a moment, both women were once again visible only to other spirits. Or at least, most of them were.
“My hand… Look at my hand,” whispered Katherine, her voice shaking with fear.
Anne looked down. To her horror, Katherine’s hand was flickering, the pattern of her gown visible as it flashed briefly into transparency.
Katherine was fading.
Kindred Spirits: Regal Retribution
A visit to London’s West End sends an already angry ghost into a fury, vowing revenge on those he believes have wronged him in life (and in death).
Soon, the attacks begin – across the city and beyond – revealing that rarest of beings: haunted ghosts!
When a pattern starts to emerge, a council is established to formulate a plan, but can they work out who is behind the hauntings? As the severity escalates, can the combined force stop the avenging spirit, before the worst happens?
Bringing together the ghostly communities of the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and other places, discover friendships and feuding in the race to retaliation…
MORE ABOUT JEN:
She won North Tyneside Libraries' Story Tyne short story competition in 2014 (no dead monarchs, but still not a cheerful read), and has been filling notebooks and hard-drives ever since. Her Kindred Spirits series, following the 'lives' of some very interesting ghostly communities, is published by Darkstroke, and her historical romances by Ocelot Press.
Jennifer is currently exploring some new ideas for historical romance, and hoping to visit Kindred Spirit friends old and new, north of the border...
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