Great news! Because of terrific interest in A Thousand Perfect Things, my publisher has decided to release it now in paper! Copies at Amazon and your favorite bookseller.
FULL RELEASE eBOOK DISTRIBUTION ON AUGUST 27.
Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting excepts from my new novel. I’ve chosen scenes that will minimize spoilers while still giving a flavor of the story. Hope you enjoy!
A special e-book price of $3.99 will be offered on August 27 for a limited time.
January 18, 1857
Lord Nelson’s statue perched on its granite column in the square, but to Edwina Banning it appeared that his shoulders stooped, as though he were weary of the heroic pose. It might have been a trick of the light.
Presently satisfied that the great naval hero was not drooping–and how, indeed, could a statue droop–Edwina tipped her parasol back into place and turned to watch six-year old Anna who was feeding pigeons with her father. The day darkened as a sudden high cloud tented the sky wintry gray. A horse pulling a coach shied in its traces, for a moment disrupting the decorous progression of carriages. Anna’s father pulled her close.
But the grand square with its flags and well-dressed gentlemen–all these lent Londinium a reassuring presence, an everyday glory, well-earned. Scotland was long subdued, the famous naval victory at the Firth of Clyde having united the island after centuries of war. And as to the mystic continent with its troubling ways, it was now possible for traders to reach it in ninety days and never worry about winds or kraken–thanks to that wonder of engineering, the Great Bridge.
“Papa,” Anna said, pointing at Lord Nelson on his column, “the statue is bleeding.”
Mr. Banning held his top hat on as he craned his neck to see. “Pigeons do make rather a mess,” he said.
“But the mess is red.”
Edwina Banning turned to look, noting with alarm a red slime oozing down the column. Just as she was trying to imagine how this could be, she stared hard at one of the lions anchoring a corner of the plinth. The metal sculpture opened its mouth in a cavernous yawn. It was said that the iron lions had been cast from Scottish cannons. She had always found satisfaction in that story, and therefore it took her a moment before she entirely grasped that the animals were awake.
As Mr. and Mrs. Banning gaped in stunned denial, blood oozed from under Nelson’s coat and dribbled down the granite column.
Edwina’s lips parted for a scream just as one of the lions–the one facing the church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields–leapt through the air and landed on a peanut vendor, crushing him to the ground. Then the second lion found its prey: a top-hatted gentleman with a cane. The cane crashed down on the beast’s head, but as the lion was made of iron, it had no effect. The square erupted with shouts and screams. Pigeons flew up in a clatter of wings and demented cooing.
Lord Nelson sagged and fell to one knee, clutching his chest.
The rampage began. The lions rushed to the slaughter, breaking necks with mighty paws and tearing at throats. They did not linger to feed, but turned from one victim to the next, finding their quarry closely packed in the square, though trying to flee. The fastest among them got as far as the steps of the National Gallery before falling.
Mr. Banning yanked open the door of a carriage, and surprised the lady inside by throwing his daughter into her lap and shoving his wife in as far as he could. He jumped inside and slammed the door closed. As terrified horses charged away, their careening carriages in tow, people in the square threw themselves on top of the conveyances, or clung to riding boards.
From the floor of the carriage where she huddled with her mother little Anna whispered, “They’re not real lions, though.”
Edwina clutched her daughter tightly. They weren’t, they weren’t at all.
But they killed.
# # #
“It’s terrorism, and straight from Bharata.” Lord Palmerston said. “They grow stronger, your majesty.”
King Albert nodded at the Prime Minister. Bharata and its damned mysticism. He turned to face Arthur Helps, Clerk of the Privy Council. “We have traded with the continent for 200 years. Why should their priests of magic decide to turn against us now?”
Helps said, “It’s the Bridge. We were fine before the Bridge.”
“And the lions are all . . . dead?” The Prime Minister asked.
“Yes,” Helps answered. “It took a full company of Grenadiers, but they prevailed. Threw them into the estuary for good measure.”
The king shook his head, muttering, “Good God. Forty people torn limb from limb.” Nor had it been a proper military attack. It was a damnable convulsion, an intrusion of magic from a land devoid of science, religion or decency.
Helps piped up. “It began with the Bridge.”
The king sighed. “So you have said, sir. On numerous occasions.”
“Please pardon me, Your Majesty. I only meant–“
“Yes,” the Prime Minister said, crossing a leg and assuming that bland look he had perfected over his long government career. “That the Great Bridge causes the realms to mix. But the Bridge also smoothes the way for imports upon which our nation utterly depends. Need I remind you? Lumber, cotton, diamonds, tea . . .”
“And blood,” Helps added.
“Blood is always the price of prosperity.”
The king flicked his wrist in dismissal. “Gentlemen. The Bridge is here. It has been accomplished. Spilt milk to lament it now.”
He went on, “We must convert them to our way of thinking, and then we shall have peace.” He moved to the window of his audience room, hands clasped behind his back, gazing out on St. James Park. “My speech to Parliament must be along those lines.” Magic would only give way to scientific rationalism when the people of Bharata enjoyed the benefits of education and civilization.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” came Helps’ tepid response.
King Albert rounded on the man. “Well? Out with it. You are our advisor. Let us be advised.”
“We could sink the Bridge.”
The Prime Minister rolled his eyes and crossed his legs in the other direction.
The king stared at Helps in high distaste. Sink the Bridge? But it had only just opened!