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Swept And Garnished
A Royal Academy At Osyth Novel: Book 3
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-198-6
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 420 Pages
Published: September 2014



From inside the flap

After barely surviving the semester at the Royal Academy, Hiram Rho heads home for the summer and his department chair, Warren Oldham, departs on a well-deserved vacation. While Rho tries to get his powers back, Warren's vacation takes an unexpected turn that leaves him battling a demon from inside it. Back in Osyth Russell Cinea, the senior demonologist, is finally in charge - for a week full of demons, exorcists, and unexpected temptations.

Swept And Garnished (Excerpt)


Prologue

The sun was just out of bed and still red-eyed, stretching his rays to right and left between the hills, when Mama Simone stepped out of her barnyard onto the path by the hedgerow. Two dozy chickens got in her way and squawked out of it again. Mama Simone walked fast because she had long legs. She stepped hard because she had big feet and wooden shoes, the kind people kick off beside the back door.

Mama Simone walked through the wet grass faster than the sun rose. By and by she reached the shadow side of the hills, and when the sun couldn't see her any longer she felt as if she'd beaten something. She sat down on a log and shook a pebble out of one of her wooden shoes, as if she'd won back the last hour of the night and had it to spare.

On the shady side of the hill it was still spring. The trees on the other side were leafed out, but these still had catkins and flowers. Held back like country girls, thought Mama Simone, whose parents had dressed her like a little girl through her teens. "And not in anything as nice as these," she said to the nearest tree. It quivered its pleated leaves at her and shook a tassel of catkins like spiky green caterpillars. "Sex, sex, sex," was all it would say.

Mama Simone walked toward the hill's edge, where sunrays made a haze up in the trees. The closer she got to the next valley, the further into summer she went. Trees pushed out their leaves, shoved their caterpillar catkins off to curl up on the forest floor, and then stretched their branches out and sighed. "Sun, sun, summer" was what they said then.

Down the valley she went, into a glade that the sun was just peeping into. She made a dark trail across dew-covered grasses to where a big old oak tree stood at the edge of the glade, looking back at the sun. "Hello there, old tree," said Mama Simone.

The tree didn't pay any attention to her, because it was looking at the sun. It sang to itself, long and slow. While she waited for the old tree Mama Simone sat down on one of its roots and pulled her feet up under her skirt. She looked around the glade, then behind the tree into the open space its shade made. She leaned from side to side to look around spindly young trees until a feeling of opening her eyes came over her and she saw four baby oaks with shade-pale leaves standing in what she had thought open space. Here their parent had dropped them, under its sheltering arms; here they had sprouted, and here they would die in its shade.

Mama Simone had the eyes-opening feeling again, as if a question had been answered without being asked. Her nose and the back of her throat hurt as she looked at the little trees that would never grow tall unless the big tree fell. She pressed her face against the old tree, hearing it sing to itself from far up in the sunlight, to far down in the earth, and tears filled her up until she shook with weeping, holding onto the tree as if it might turn and put warm arms around her.

There were six cars and a hearse in Mama Simone's farmyard when she got back to it. People everywhere and none of them feeding the chickens or digging the garden; useless, all of them. People did like that, after a death. They made it an excuse to dress up and do nothing. Her daughter Gretyl was worst of the lot, poking across chicken-mud in her high heels. She was stout, shrill, and important, like a hen with a big worm.

"Mama, where were you? You can't run off in the woods and leave the stove lighted, you could have burned the house down. You knew we were coming! I told you not to do anything till I got here. How do you think I felt, coming here and Daddy dead and you off God knows where -"

Of course I knew, thought Mama Simone. Why else would I run away into the woods? But she thought about the little oak trees. "I knew you'd see to things," she said then. Gretyl got more important and less chickeny.

"I was worried about you," she said. She had a heavy upper lip like her da's, with beads of sweat already standing out on it. The sun dried up grass and made people come out in dew, thought Mama Simone. "People do queer things after a death," said Gretyl.

"Well, why shouldn't they? I couldn't do queer things when your father was alive," said Mama Simone. She washed her face at the pump and kicked her wooden shoes off at the back door, but she didn't want to go inside. She sat down on the bench under the kitchen window and heard the kettle and frypan twittering inside. "Did you make breakfast? I'd like to eat out here. Bread and jam would do."

"You never ate out here before."

"That's because your father wanted meat at every meal. You can only cut meat at a table. When you were a little girl, we used to eat apples in the orchard."

"Well, you need more than apples," said Gretyl. She went inside and Mama Simone could smell eggs, coffee, bread. "Who's going to take care of you?" Gretyl said when she brought them out.

"I'll take care of myself," said Mama Simone. "I was taking care of your father until an hour ago, why would myself be any more trouble?"

"Somebody has to be here with you. We've all talked it over."

"Not now," said Mama Simone. "After the funeral."

"Oh my land, I have to go talk to the funeral director," said Gretyl. "Eat up now. I ironed your black dress."