Home > Through the Veil (Aisling Chronicles #1)

Through the Veil (Aisling Chronicles #1)
Author: Colleen Halverson



Chapter One

I slammed the last of my contraband vanilla latte and threw it in the bin. Flexing my fingers, I narrowed my eyes like Clint Eastwood, staring hard at the archival box holding The Book of Arranmore inside.

Go ahead master’s thesis. Make my day.

Not that shooting at the ancient Irish manuscript would have solved any of my problems. In hindsight, I probably should have doused it in holy water, burned it, and buried its ashes beneath hallowed ground, but, you know, English major. Every book is sacred.

Not this one.

The slide of cardboard broke the silence in the reading room, and I closed my eyes tight for a moment, taking a deep breath before lifting the book from its nest. It sprawled open, thin October light catching the brilliant gold leaf illuminations. Tucking a loose curl behind my ear, I pressed my nose close to the pages.

A Fae woman danced across the vellum and her brown hair rippled over her shoulders, her emerald eyes sparkling.

“She looks a lot like you,” my advisor had joked back in September.

I snorted. “I’m no Tinker Bell, Dr. F.”

But that was when he still laughed. Before his wife Moiré died. Before everything changed.

Before the book started changing.

At first it was little things: a green tunic turned inky black, the snarling wolf on one page jumped to the next, a Cyclops’s eye closed and then opened again.

But then things got grim. The writing started morphing. Little snippets of text would bleed through the pages, describing something like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but with Faeries. Then the creepy little golem creatures started crawling around in the margins, and, well. Yeah.

Burning it would have been a good idea.

Blinking hard, I refocused my eyes on the manuscript and breathed in a sigh of relief. Everything looked the same. Not one hair out of place with Faerie girl, not one misplaced word, no creepy devil people floating to the surface. Just a normal, medieval manuscript. Nothing to see here.

Taking a deep breath, I reached over to the computer and sifted through some tunes I had, perhaps, illegally downloaded. Time to lock the chattering psycho monkeys back into their respective cages. Only one cure for the transcription blues.

Oh, yes, I thought with a click of the mouse.

In seconds, an AC/DC guitar riff blared from the speakers, announcing Angus Young was “Back in Black.” Buried far back in the archives of the Institute, not many faculty or students hung around the reading room late on a Friday. I cranked up the volume, drowning out the chorus of worry in my mind. Time to get to work. The clock to graduation was ticking, and I could almost hear the interest compounding on my student loans.

“Ranger up, Lizzie,” I said, mimicking my dad’s deep baritone.

But Dad, this book might be possessed by demonic entities!

I imagined Dad towering over me, his deep-set eyes glittering black just as they always did when he was about to make military analogies.

Patton was also haunted by demonic entities. They were called Nazis! Focus on the mission, Lizzie!

“Yes, sir!” I gave a fake salute to the air.

I glanced over at my copy of Thurneysen’s Grammar of Old Irish and thumbed through the pages, my fingers smoothing over the pastel rainbow of sticky notes. Thurneysen and I had become quite chummy since Moiré passed away. She had been the Irish language professor at the Celtic Studies Institute at St. Brendan’s, and the cancer that had taken her shocked us all. She would have listened to me about the changing book, chin in hand, nodding calmly at my crazed ramblings. I didn’t dare approach Dr. F about it.

Hey, that book you got in Ireland last summer? I’m having some issues transcribing it because the pictures keep moving around.

Yeah, that would land me a one-way ticket out of my master’s program and into the nuthouse. Besides, it wasn’t as if the old man was in any condition to worry about me and my mental issues. When he first noticed some discrepancy between my notes and the text, he scolded me about my carelessness and waved me away with a series of corrections sprawled on scratch paper. Since Moiré died, it’s enough if he makes it to work before noon. If at all.

With a deep sigh, I reached for my pencil. The space between my fingers and the pencil snapped with a crack of energy. It flew as if on invisible strings and landed smack into my palm.

“Jesus!” Tumbling from the stool, I landed on my ass with a hard thud. I gaped at the pencil as if I expected it to speak to me at any moment, but it was just an ordinary yellow number two, the nub slightly worn from use. Heart pounding, I threw it across the room, and it clattered to the floor.

A chill washed over me, and I blinked, staring down at my hands, a slight tingle like fizzing soda pop pulsing through my lifeline and down into the tips of my fingers. I clenched my fists, and the feeling disappeared.

“Elizabeth?” Candace, our sunny undergraduate intern, tapped my shoulder with her small, manicured finger. The heavy perfumed smell of violets radiated from her. She called to me again over the music.

“Guh…”

“Why are you sitting on the floor?”

I swallowed hard. “I…uh…lost my pencil.”

More like lost your marbles.

I scrambled up to the desk and turned down the music a click. Taking a deep breath, I turned to Candace. “Sorry, what’s up?”

“There’s a man up front who’s asking a lot of questions, and I…um…”

All the blood drained from my face. “Oh, shit. What’s today?”

“The thirteenth.”

“Oh, shit.” A cold sweat beaded on my forehead.

“What’s wrong? What is it?”

“It’s the Trinity Foundation. I totally forgot they were coming this afternoon!”

Apparently Dr. Forrester had, too, or else he would have been there to greet them. I scrambled over to my desk seeking out my proposal, papers blowing across the wooden surface in my frantic search.

“Have you seen my proposal? I swear it was just here!”

Candace shook her head, picking up stray note cards scattered on the floor.

I rummaged through my backpack, forgotten Altoids and discarded pennies sticking to my fingers. Pulling out a stack of papers from the bottom, my heart sank as I took in the title “Pagan Influences on Illuminations of Early Monastic Manuscripts of Northern Uí Néill” covered in a dark, splattering Rorschach coffee stain.

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