Today I'm feeling strangely optimistic.
I'm also feeling compelled to post a Songbird of Souls teaser for #TeaserTuesday. So... yeah that's what's going on here.
A little background info if you haven't read anything about my new steampunk series yet:
Songbird of Souls takes place in the walled island city of Kenmor.
There's strange mechanical devices that can drive a man violently insane, musical mayhem, political intrigue, smart-ass prostitutes and cannibals with a sweet tooth.
There are the obligatory airships, creepy bone-filled catacombs, lavish concert halls, and an isolated observatory (filled with macabre experiments and overly-chatty automatons.)
That's Book One.
Today's teaser is one that is long overdue:
The newly revised intro to Chapter One.
Songbird of Souls -
Masks and Machinations: Book I
Her eyes were a dark, abysmal nothingness staring back at him.
Linus crumpled the newspaper in his fist, the coal-black ink smudging like a dark stain across his palms. The image wasn’t a true likeness. Her eyes had been a vibrant hue - luminous and full of life - in a shade that shifted mesmerizingly between gray and deepest blue. He remembered how they would light up, radiant as the midday sky when she laughed, and how her cheeks would flush with excitement in the moments right before the curtain rose high over the stage - but Linus hadn’t seen that look in quite a few years.
The wadded newspaper made an anguished splosh! as he tossed it over his shoulder onto the damp and murky cobblestones behind him. The paper was little more than their daily dose of Fair-leaning propaganda. Linus had only bothered wasting his coin for a chance to see her face up close.
That day, the Kenmor Daily had held two headlines of equal importance.
The first confirmed what everyone in the city already knew; The Veritor’s heir, his nephew the Honorable Fair Trevi Lalin, had died in a tragic riding accident, leaving the aristocratic Fair in a chaotic and desperate scramble, bidding and bribing to become next in line. There was a strange sense of unease that spread through the walled city of Kenmor at his passing. The feeling was palpable. You could almost taste its sour tang upon your tongue, and hear its name shakily whispered in the darkest alleyways.
A fear of the unknowable future.
While the Fair were politically posturing, the people living down in The Gray Quarter were in desolate mourning. As Linus stalked through the foul and twisted streets of the Lower District he silently counted all the shops that bore the Honorable Fair Lalin’s patron seal conspicuously above their door-frame. There were dozens of them, one on almost every thoroughfare. Fair Lalin had been a generous man - a man not affected by the stigma of the city’s castes. He was known to patron schools in all the Lower Districts, and was a frequent visitor to The Veridian Theatre and other artistic Gray establishments.
The Plain had genuinely loved him. In the dark, sooty under-streets, every arm was banded in black - a sign of their utmost reverence and sorrow. Yet, as much as the people of Kenmor had adored their kind and generous future leader, they also worshiped his adopted charge with an almost fanatical zeal.
The second headline of the Kenmor Daily was even more prominent. An entire half of the front page had been emblazoned with her face, distorted by the heavy blackness of the newspaper ink. Beneath her picture, large print announced: “Syrene - The Songbird of Kenmor!” She would be returning from an extended tour of the islands for the funeral, and was expected to sing for the sadness of the entire city, to heal their souls after Fair Lalin’s unexpected death.
That wasn’t even her real name - not the name Linus had known her by. Back when they were younger she’d still just been Silvanni, the eighth daughter of a washerwoman from The Gray. At six years old, her mother had decided Silvanni’s only worth was to be sold to The Veridian Theatre Troop. Ruma Lahoul offered coin for rare talent, and she was known to treat her crew more kindly than others.
The first time Linus laid eyes upon Silvanni, she’d peeked out from behind her mother’s woolen skirts with a decidedly terrified scowl. Barefoot, and barely clad in a frayed purple dress, her dark auburn locks had been matted down her back like a crazed wildling from beyond the city walls. But, it was the eyes that had captivated Linus. Those orbs of bluish-gray stared wide-eyed at the two women waiting on the steps outside the theatre as if she were confronting a pack of feral dogs.
The washerwoman, her own equally blue-gray eyes bloodshot and weary, nodded to Linus’ mother, Ruma, as she grabbed Silvanni by her dainty wrist and yanked her forwards towards the grand entrance of the infamous Gray establishment. Linus could still clearly recall the way the young girl shook, like her bones would rattle right out of her pale, ashen skin, standing exposed and alone at the foot of those imposing steps.
Most of the Troop were already busy preparing for that night’s performance, so only Ruma, and the old woman they called Na-Ne, came to greet the new addition. Linus had gleefully shirked his chores that morning. He’d been curious about the new girl, and had slipped out well before sunrise, ambling up onto one of the old marble statues that lined the theatre’s stone steps so he could get a good look at her before anyone else.
Ruma knelt down in front of Silvanni, her hands gentle and unassuming. They floated to the girl’s cheek with practiced flair, wiping away a tear with a dramatic flip of her wrist before it dripped off the girl’s delicate chin between them.
“It’ll be all right, love. No one will lay a hand on you. You are safe with us. I promise.”
The girl didn’t move when Na-Ne beckoned for her to follow, turning her head to peer desperately at her mother over her shoulder instead.
“Mama, no!” She moaned, shaking her head vehemently in denial. The washerwoman sucked her breath in exasperation. She smiled apologetically to Ruma, exposing several gaps between her yellowing teeth.
“This is Silvanni.” She said. The young girl took a hesitant step back upon hearing her name, shaking her head more insistently. Her mother clenched her jaw, addressing the child for the first time since they’d arrived, “Stop being a twit! There are so many worse places I could send your worthless hide. At least here you’ll be fed, clothed and have work that doesn’t wear your body into the ground. Be thankful and go on!” She placed her hand flat against the girl’s back and gave her a firm yet gentle shove.
Silvanni stumbled forward into Na-Ne’s open arms before twisting around and shooting her mother with a dangerously dark look of betrayal.
The little imp has a temper. She’s braver than she looks.
Linus leaned further over the head of the enormous stone creature, half panther - half eagle. His curiosity was a vast abyss, and now it was focused on the raggedy little brunette who had fire in her eyes and anger in her blood. He wasn’t sure why, but he couldn’t stop looking at her.
Well, there you have it! If you've enjoyed this snippet, please spread the word on my new series, check out the first few scenes on Wattpad and let me know what you think!
As always, thanks for reading.
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