Read An Excerpt

A STUDY IN SILKS
by Emma Jane Holloway

Genre: Steampunk, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

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Evelina swiveled in the chair and unlocked the hasps of the train case. The cover swung up smoothly, showing a lining of watered pink silk. Nestled in the spaces made for glass jars and bottles were what looked like small brass toys: miniature birds, mice, and even a tiny dog. Under the lift-out tray containing these little marvels was a neatly organized supply of gears and springs, watchmakers’ tools, and special magnifying eyeglasses to see their miniscule parts. They were expensive supplies, hard to come by and most of them salvaged wherever Evelina could find them.

There was also a collection of magical tools that Gran Cooper had given Evelina along with a promise to teach her their use once she grew into her power. One looked like a bracelet of twisted copper, another a wand no bigger than a pencil. There was a painted stone with a hole in it and a triangle of silver etched with tiny runes. Such objects were used only for the most powerful magic, and a student had to learn all the other spells first. Evelina had left Ploughman’s Circus before that had ever happened. Someday, somehow, she would learn how they worked.

But she didn’t need them tonight. She dipped into the box, picking up the little bird. It nestled in the palm of her hand, barely four inches long. They were all experimental designs, but this was the one she had labored over the longest. She’d given it eyes of paste emeralds and a beak that opened and closed to reveal a ruby-red tongue. A row of crystal chips tipped its wings. A useless bit of frippery, but the sparkle pleased her eye.

She raised the hand holding the bird and studied it, visualizing a real bird and imagining the wind and sun in its feathers. Slowly, she fell into the image, losing herself in a fantasy of the bird’s darting flight. Her vision broadened to take in a stream below, sparkling with white shards of light where the water tumbled over stones. Above, puffy white clouds seemed to snag in the leafy verdure of willow trees. She circled, sailing up into the green like another leaf caught in an upward draft.

With that strong, concrete image in her mind, she reached out, seeking the half-conscious essence of a deva. It would have been easier in a garden. The only one nearby was slumbering beneath the flowers on her dressing table. It was small, even for a deva. When she reached out with her mind, she tasted the rich tang of earth and wood. Excellent. Earth devas were the easiest for her bloodline to work with. She hoped the little creature would be strong enough. With barely an effort, Evelina gently caught it in her Will.

She blew into the tiny beak, urging the deva into the tiny brass bird. The sleeping spirit drifted in, unawares. She sent her Vision of the flight along with it, giving it the dream of all a bird could do. A flare of light shone briefly in the emerald eyes, a spark of heat touched her palm. The metal began to warm as she held it.

The deva woke. Now she could feel it panic and struggle against her Will.

Help! The whisper came low and urgent, but the voice was in her head. Her heart tugged, a little sorry for the bewildered spirit. No one liked waking up in a strange place.

“Sh!” she whispered in return. “It’s all right. You’re safe.”

What is this place? What is this prison? It’s hard and cold!

“I gave you a body.”

What for? The voice was indignant now. I was asleep. Minding my own business. Then, bam, I’m stuck in a brass duck! What the blazes is this about?

“Lark,” Evelina said automatically. “I made you a lark.”

There was a stony silence. Not much of an artist, are you?