After rightfully inheriting her ancestral home, Pyrmont Castle, Rune settles into a quiet life taking care of two orphans left in the wake of the terrible witch hunt that claimed dozens of lives in the nearby village. As the days grow colder, the castle’s secrets beckon and Rune finds herself roaming where no one has set foot in a long time. In the bowels of the fortress is a locked room full of memories that hang like cobwebs—shelves stacked with jars, strange specimens, putrid liquids, and scrolls of spells. Rune is undeniably drawn to what she finds there, and she begins to dabble in the possibilities of magic, hoping to find a cure for the strangeness overwhelming the castle.
As secrets unspool, the delicate thread of Rune’s world is threatened when she realizes the key may lie in the dark forest she once called home and the boy she thought she knew.
I raise the lantern high and hold my breath, and then I see it.
Distorted in the dimming light, the bone juts out from the snow at an odd,
twisted angle, its color resembling a pale animal hide, alabaster and cream now
grayed and foreboding in the dark. I edge closer, the light bouncing off of it,
accentuating the thin onion-like layers where the elements have chipped and
picked it clean.
Shadows are heavy and thick at my back. The stretch between the forest’s
gloom and the comfort of the kitchen, an impossible length, yet I kneel beside
the protruding appendage—curious, disgusted, cautious. I see why Niclaus had
been so captivated, for I, too, am suddenly intrigued. Settling the basket
beside me, I swipe at the snow, shifting it away from the bone to fully unearth
it. I am careful not to touch it, but continue to clear away, until shoots of
yellowed grass kiss my fingers. The length of the larger bone tapers to what
appears to be the slender slope of a wrist. I follow it with my eye, and then,
I pull back. Breathless and cold, I let my body grow numb as I stare at the
ground. It is hauntingly beautiful, yet terrifying, and I take all of it in.
The snow-covered bone. The color of what truly lies beneath our skin. The
broken limb that elongates into the remains of a hand. With upmost care I pull
one of Niclaus’s finds from the basket and hold it against the skeletal stump,
matching the delicate finger to the eroded joint. It is a perfect fit. So
slight are the digits. So simple are the knuckles. With rapt, studious
attention, I compare it to my own hand, and then, I remember what I am holding
and drop the thing to the ground, wiping my hands upon my snow-soaked skirt.
Jennifer Murgia writes moody fiction for teens—from paranormal fantasy (ANGEL STAR, LEMNISCATE, THE BLISS), to contemporary gut-punchers (BETWEEN THESE LINES). Her latest, FOREST OF WHISPERS, a 17th century historical mystery (about witches!) was a School Library Journal Fall 2014 HOT TITLE, and a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Literature Award Winner. The sequel, CASTLE OF SIGHS, releases October 27, 2015 from Spencer Hill Press. She is the co-founder and coordinator of YA FEST and currently resides in Pennsylvania.