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FROM THE DESK OF

Jonathan Whitby, Lord Denbury


June 1880 - FROM WITHIN A PAINTED HELL.

Dear God tell me she's an omen of good fortune. Tell me this madness might end with her. I've been trapped inside this portrait prison, my soul and consciousness pressed in a frame now for only God knows how long. I've no sense of time. I cannot rest for restlessness. But she. I've been taking down my account on papers in my study. And at least I have this limited tangible reality. In this room I cannot leave, with everything at an odd angle and a dead Greenwich England scene outside this false window, I do know everything in this world is a lie. My faltering senses and some part of me, whatever is left alive in me, fights to keep my sanity and remember the truths of a real world. I fight for my soul.

What's beyond my frame remains dark and dim, I see through a glass darkly, like a storm or deep water stands between me and that other side. If the demon that tricked me comes near, I see his sulfuric hues. As I was banished into this hollow shell, an aura of flame crackled around the black-eyed demon, searing red and yellow; the fires of hell itself. Since then I've seen other vague lights around human forms, some glow a faint, soothing white though I don't know what it means. I've noted a tall woman my mother's age, elegant and poised, who studies my portrait closely. I've been moved someplace new and I vaguely make out other frames, so have I been put into a museum? An auction house? I've tried to shout to the woman who glows white, I've tried to throw things in this room, to make her see something struggles within. But to no avail. But if the girl I saw today; colours vibrant like the halo of an angel, is not just a mere passerby, I might stand a chance. Her colours were opposite my foe. Instead of the devil's fiery hues, this girl- this lovely girl- was all calm violets and greens: opposite in the colour

spectrum. In my studies of medicine, I find the human eye most fascinating. How we see colors and light seems magical, but beautifully crafted science. As a man of science I'm doubly cursed; banished into this torment by forces I can't possibly believe; magical, dark, and terrible. It's enough to make a man mad ten times over, these things that have no intelligent design but torment; fearfully genius in their own right. I'll not have the wits to subvert them on my own. I need a partner. I think I need her. The moment I saw this girl I was seized by her, compelled to her and her halo. She looks to be near to my age of eighteen, with auburn hair that caught the light of her own field of colour in a breathtaking manner, one I doubt she could see or know. In these strange circumstances, I don't usually see faces so clearly but her own light illuminated alabaster skin and bright green eyes, all the more green for the hues about her. It is said in folk tales that those who are of reddish hair and green eyes can see the magical, the fey, the paranormal. Would that she can see my curse.

I rushed to make something move and shift in her vision, to make her see I'm not paint and canvass but rather bound by it. Her pretty face was engaged with fierce concentration- I doubt I flatter myself in thinking she found me handsome, her mouth dropped open upon sight of me. Errant dark reddish curls framed a daring look; the gamesome, intelligent gaze of a seeker, of a girl born curious, a refreshing change to the boring vapidity of many of her peers. Desperate to maintain her attention, I moved a book from a shelf, searching spines for might send a signal. As I peeled out a volume, the gilt letters of the title "The Girl" caught my eye. The full title is "The Girl Without Hands", an old fairy tale, let's hope it doesn't get that morbid. But it is about The Girl. This girl. Y , girl, whoever you are, help me. ou I beg you, lovely auburn girl with green eyes that can pierce a man's soul and see magic all at once. Find me. All fairy-tale may indeed be true; we are under a spell, you and I, we must be. Y our colours declare you as opposite this

magic's terrible toll. Why else would I see you so illuminated? Come, illuminate me now. See my sign for you. Get me out of here before this prison slowly kills whatever I've left of this compromised life. Y ou're all I have to hope for, beautiful girl, and I've no idea who you are.
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About Lord Denbury's authoress:
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright and the award winning, nationally best-selling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels including the Strangely Beautiful and Magic Most Foul sagas. The Magic Most Foul saga, starring Lord Denbury and Natalie Stewart, begins with DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul (available wherever books are sold), which has been a Nook bestseller, an Indie Next list recommended title by the American Booksellers Association, a Scholastic Book Fair "Highly Recommended" title, a finalist in the 2012 Daphne du Maurier Awards for excellence in Mystery / Romantic Suspense (Historical Category), received praise from Booklist, Kirkus, the Chicago Tribune, Seventeen.com and many more. She is a three time Prism Award winner for excellence in Fantasy Romance. Her books have been translated into several languages and selected for several different national book club editions. THE TWISTED TRAGEDY OF MISS NATALIE STEW ART releases this November from Sourcebooks Fire. She'll be playing Deputy Kellion in the Auror's Tale web-series, lives in NYC with her real-life hero and their beloved rescued lab rabbit and she loves nothing more than a finely-tailored corset, a well-told ghost story and a good Goth club.
More about Leanna and her books, short stories, plays, anthologies, Strangely Beautiful the Musical and other works at: http://leannareneehieber.com T witter: http://twitter.com/leannarenee FB: http://facebook.com/lrhieber