Chapter One- For Whom the Teller Tolls
Lady Grace Abingdon hadn’t even been dead for one hour when the Teller arrived.
She stood in the open doorway. An old woman dressed in long, flowing robes and a shawl covering her head to protect her from the rain. A bracelet sat on her bare wrist, colourful charms and jewels clinking against each other as she raised her hand, and drew a sigil in the air.
It grew cold, and then warm and everything became still, like time itself had paused. Then she took a step forward into the atrium, rain blowing in and onto the wooden floor. She said no words as she walked to the stairs, a cold whisper following her as she made her way up. She didn’t need any directions. Tellers could sense death when it was near. If you were unlucky enough, one would follow you around as a warning that your time was near. Or so the stories said.
There were two other people in the house that night, both in the room when it happened. They were huddled together at the side of the stairs, their voices hushed as the Teller disappeared.
‘This isn’t going to stay a secret for long,’ the young one said, hands fighting for something to do. ‘The other Houses will find out sooner rather than later.’
‘I know.’ The older one sighed, pulling at the beanie on their head. The rain showered down, the puddle by the front door growing, but neither of them made a move to close it. Thunder boomed in the sky, but there were no clouds.
The older one rested a hand against the wall beneath the stairs. ‘Just, give me a moment to think.’
‘We don’t have a moment. What are we supposed to do, we can’t lie to them.’
‘I know that. But we can’t let the house stay empty. One hour is already too long.’
There was a huff as the younger one crossed her arms, heel kicking against the floor. ‘We should have done this weeks ago.’
‘We weren’t allowed. We would have risked everything, Grace knew that.’ A moment of silence, and then, ‘I thought we’d have more time.’
The wind whistled outside, sounding almost like a song as the front door shuddered and banged against the frame. Then gentle footsteps and a creak on the stairs as the Teller appeared. She glanced down at them, interrupting their whispers, tapping her fingers against the bannister. ‘Are you ready to hear her final words?’