Blog-Versary Author Post, Excerpt, Giveaway: Hayden Thorne, A Murder of Crows
Author Hayden Thorne stopped by to help us celebrate our 7th blog anniversary with an excerpt and e-book giveaway for A Murder of Crows.
Good luck in the giveaway and thank you to Hayden Thorne for stopping by! Also, check out another excerpt and giveaway for Hell-Knights here.
To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post and you’re entered. The giveaway will run from October 21st through October 29th. The winner will be contacted via email on October 30th and will have 48 hours to respond back or a new one will be chosen.
You can also check out Cindi’s review of A Murder of Crows on our sister site Dark Hints here.
Blessed with the unique talent of Inscriptive magic, twenty-year-old Mathieu Perrault leaves his old life in France and the orphanage that has been his home since his childhood for work as the new tutor to a five-year-old mute girl. His head filled with dreams and endless possibilities, Mathieu soon finds himself in a great house tucked away in the quiet wooded hills of the northern region of Luxembourg.
A house occupied by an ailing Dutch artist, one burdened with a terrible secret, and his charming family. A house shadowed by the sudden death of a well-loved servant. A servant, in fact, whose ghost stirs from its dusky world and seeks out Mathieu in terror. Through echoes of past events in unlit hallways, incoherent messages carved into walls, and the eerie vigilance of crows guarding the family, the ghost does what it can to warn Mathieu of a coming danger.
And in the midst of warmth, laughter, and family, of friendship and magic, of young love blooming against a backdrop of terrible heartache and tragedy, Mathieu searches for answers in a dreamer’s bid to give the ghost the peace long denied it. All the while, a twisted shadow from the past creeps forward, inching closer and closer to him, a vicious hunger that leaves ruin and death in its wake.
In that isolated great house among the silent trees and the watchful crows, Mathieu will soon learn that the restoration of balance in a world gone awry doesn’t always lie in the sphere of ordinary, mortal men.
From Chapter 6:
Mathieu woke up with a start, and he knew exactly what it was that had just roused him. He’d kept the curtains open because he wanted to flood his bedroom for comfort—an old habit of his from his days at the orphanage. A forced habit, at that, what with the dormitories barely lit with windows, the terrible darkness at night wreaking havoc in a frightened child’s mind whenever he couldn’t sleep.
For the adult Mathieu, the sight of moonbeams breaking up the unyielding blackness around him allowed him mute companionship in the dead of night—a different kind of comfort born of a need to be more sensitive to the world around him whenever something nudged it off its steady and logical course.
Moonlight poured into the room in silvery diagonal lines, which drew his attention to the door. He’d taken care to lock it whenever he retired for the night—this time a habit of his that was newer, a dreadful lesson learned while on his journey from France to Luxembourg. And he had the threat of nightly lust-filled visitors in flesh and blood to thank for forcing his hand and preventing irreparable injury to his person if not the loss of his virginity.
He could still remember, with a shudder of horror and disgust, a traveling count who claimed to be able to make Mathieu orgasm simply by burying his face between Mathieu’s cheeks and eating him to completion. They kept crossing paths for several miles as they traveled eastward, with Mathieu growing more and more desperate over how best to thwart the man’s lewd advances without causing too much trouble. There would have been no way, really, for him to win, for it had always been his word against his tormentor’s. In the end, he’d simply paid for a much earlier coach ride and miraculously managed to evade the count the rest of the way.
Mathieu had embarked on his journey trusting people; he arrived at Luxembourg a little less inclined to do so.
The silence around him was absolute, almost heavy as it pressed against his ears. It was a silence that made it all too easy for him to catch the softest sounds from without. This was yet another one of his purported waking dreams, he thought, his heart racing. But it was a silence that would be short-lived because from somewhere outside his window, crows suddenly cried out, their shrill and rough voices making him cringe. Those birds—they’d become the heralds of these episodes, calling out all of a sudden and momentarily shattering the death-like stillness of the night.
Then just as suddenly, they’d stop.
And that was when the visits began.
No footsteps disturbed the silence in the passageway, but the feeble and stealthy creaking of floorboards indicated movement. Slow and careful movement as though whoever it was crept around in the shadows barefoot for heaven only knew what purpose. The floorboards creaked and groaned at irregular intervals as well, but it was still quite clear whoever walked in the dead of night drew closer to Mathieu’s bedroom.
He held his breath when the floor outside his door softly groaned under someone’s weight. A handful of seconds of silence followed, then came the furtive turning of the doorknob. There was nothing firm or sure about it, and it gave Mathieu the impression of someone testing the door as quietly as possible and then finding their efforts thwarted by the lock.
And judging from the tentative and irregular turning of the knob, Mathieu couldn’t help but picture someone who had a grip on the doorknob that was too light and loose to be more successful in their testing.
But perhaps the most unsettling part of the whole thing was the fact that, after the doorknob went still, there were no sounds following that indicated someone walking away. No creaking floorboards marking a person’s creeping retreat—nothing. It was as though whoever had stood before Mathieu’s door simply vanished.
The entire episode only lasted a couple of minutes and no more, at least according to Mathieu’s reckoning. And yet it was always the most unsettling two minutes of his life. Or would it be more than that—more than the most unsettling, that is? Perhaps a more accurate take on it would be to say it was one of the most unsettling two minutes of his life. He’d been roused from sleep by those creaking and groaning floorboards more than once already, after all.
A waking dream.
And for a time during his convalescence, he’d believed it to be so. Like the ever-pragmatic physician-occultist, he’d thought those moments to be nothing more than an effect of a tired and fevered brain. But when something about those experiences went well past his ordinary and logical perceptions of the world and stirred doubt in his gut, he knew these night visits weren’t waking dreams by any stretch.
These incidents never followed a set, regular pattern of occurring every night. Mathieu had lain awake a few times before, and those night visits happened only once out of three. He’d slept without interruption a few more times, which probably meant the visit didn’t happen then.
He could always argue that he’d slept through those visits, but he remained unconvinced. When he was roused from sleep right before the floorboards began to creak, it was because it felt as though someone had called to him from some unknown place or distance. As though he were purposefully awakened for—for what, really?
To lie in bed in the dead of night, listening to someone creep up to his door and try to open it? Or was he roused so that he’d get up, unlock the door, and see who stood just outside, waiting to be acknowledged and welcomed into his room?
Mathieu turned on his side, shivering. Thank heaven he hadn’t been curious or bold enough to get up and open the door that night or any other night when he—well, when he was visited.
That same feeling that had planted doubts in him regarding the more unnatural quality of those so-called waking dreams had also ensured he stayed in bed and waited things out. It certainly paid to heed instinct, he reassured himself as he waited for sleep to return, which, he knew, would take a wretched while. He knew he needed to ask about odd disturbances like that from other staff, though he had no idea just how to go about broaching the subject.
In the harsher and more judgmental light of day, he always felt too sheepish and mortified to say a word. Perhaps soon, he told himself this time. Perhaps soon.
And when he finally fell asleep, his dreams were dark and confused and terrifying, but none of which stuck in his mind when he woke with the sun, and for that, he was grateful.
I’ve lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area though I wasn’t born there (or, indeed, the USA). I’m married with no kids and three cats. I started off as a writer of young adult fiction, specializing in contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, and historical genres. My books ranged from a superhero fantasy series to reworked and original folktales to Victorian ghost fiction. I’ve since expanded to New Adult fiction, which reflects similar themes as my YA books and varies considerably in terms of romantic and sexual content. While I’ve published with a small press in the past, I now self-publish my books.