Leanna Renee Hieber's gaslamp fantasy series continues and the action ramps up in Eterna and Omega.
In New York City, fearing the dangers of the Eterna Compound--supposedly the key to immortality--Clara Templeton buries information vital to its creation. The ghost of her clandestine lover is desperate to tell her she is wrong, but though she is a clairvoyant, she cannot hear him.
In London, Harold Spire plans to send his team of assassins, magicians, mediums, and other rogue talents to New York City, in an attempt to obtain Eterna for Her Royal Majesty, Queen Victoria. He stays behind to help Scotland Yard track down a network of body snatchers and occultists, but he'll miss his second-in-command, Rose Everhart, whose gentle exterior masks a steel spine.
Rose's skepticism about the supernatural has been shattered since she joined Spire's Omega Branch. Meeting Clara is like looking into a strange mirror: both women are orphans, each is concealing a paranormal ability, and each has a powerful and attractive guardian who has secrets of his own.
The hidden occult power that menaces both England and America continues to grow. Far from being dangerous, Eterna may hold the key to humanity's salvation.
The Eterna Files series
The Eterna Files
Eterna and Omega
The Eterna Solution
About the Author
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Eterna and Omega
By Leanna Renee Hieber
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 Leanna Renee Hieber
All rights reserved.
New York City, 1882
The scene inside the Trinity Church graveyard in downtown Manhattan Island on this witching hour was dire, no matter if one could see the myriad ghosts gathered therein or not. A living woman shook on the ground, surrounded by a dead horde.
Louis Dupris, his phantom form floating beside the shaking body of his lover, Clara Templeton, was screaming at her, alongside the spectral spectrum of Manhattan. Not because she'd done anything wrong, but because she was unwittingly drawn into a far more dangerous situation than she could possibly have known. The ghosts were unable to impress this idea upon her, certainly not in her state.
An unkindness of ravens had gathered to add to the cacophony from the tops of a nearby tree that arched over Trinity's brownstone Gothic eaves and overlooked the graves. Everything dead and living lifted keening protest; wailing and squawking, these ravens as much harbingers as they were scavengers.
A dread power was about to unleash itself over England and America. This was dawning on those in the spirit world who remained attuned to the living. The two countries were woefully unprepared for the black tide that would rise like a biblical plague. Only in this case, the surge would be sent from devils, not from God.
But Clara, a Sensitive — a gifted, empathic medium — wasn't in any state to help the spirits or herself, seeing as her ability came with the unfortunate side effect of seizures. Her dark blond waves of hair had shaken free of their pins, the cloak she'd worn over her black linen dress seemed to catch most of the dirt her limbs would be battering against, her high cheekbones and distinct angles were tense and taut, her chattering teeth had bitten the inside of her cheek during the seizing, and blood dribbled down her fair chin.
Thankfully, a friend who had been told to mind her business didn't. Lavinia Kent, one of Clara's coworkers at the Eterna Commission, launched herself into the Trinity Church graveyard and, not seeing Louis or the ghostly retinue around her, rushed to Clara. She turned her on her side, taking her head in her hands and carefully slipping a fold of fabric from her skirt into Clara's chattering teeth, never minding the blood on her black gown.
Louis Dupris and the other spectral compatriots attempting to alert Clara were suddenly attuned to a new distraction.
Down Pearl Street, from the site of the Edison company's vast electricity-producing dynamos, came a terrible whine, a buzzing, terrifying roar. This electrical disturbance disrupted the plane of the dead; the subtle currents upon which they flowed and the various modern conveniences they could interrupt were trumped in a way they'd never experienced. The mild spark of a spirit was nothing compared to the surge of a great turbine.
Louis had noticed, in his fascinating new existence as a ghost, that sometimes he and his fellows could generate electricity — and that sometimes a current could put them out instead.
Clara roused to explosions of lightbulbs along one of Manhattan's most influential, wealthy streets. Coming to, she slowly focused on Lavinia. Louis, ever attentive to Clara's eyes from their various amorous encounters during his life, could see her senses returning. He knew they always came back in pieces.
"Vin ... what ... I ..." Clara's tongue seemed thick and unwieldy.
"You're all right," her friend said gently. "I assume this place is too haunted for you to be in here for too long. Come, let's get you back home. I don't suppose you'll actually tell me what you were doing in here?"
"Official business," she mumbled and said no more, allowing Lavinia to help her up and gingerly walk with her as her body slowly began to respond normally to her mind's instructions. Louis knew, from having seen her through more than one of these episodes, that her mind would remain hazy and she'd collapse into a deep and deathlike sleep until morning.
But as he watched Lavinia supporting Clara's drooping weight and clumsy steps, Louis felt comforted that she would indeed be all right. Both women shuddered as he reached out to try to touch Clara's hair. At this, he was saddened, as it was likely from his own chill.
He floated away, feeling as lonely as a sentience could. If the loneliness of life was unbearable at times, the isolation of death was the stuff that drove specters to haunt the living for centuries. It was the sharpest of pains, impossible for his theorist's mind to quantify.
"I have to get through ..." the ghost murmured to the night, wafting up a side street speckled with the occasional gas lamp. The constraints of the spirit world were chafing against his desire for clarity and forward motion, lulling him toward the stasis of a mere haunt. He was between worlds, a dangerous place for a man to be recalled to a mission.
"I know leaving her be, that's for the best, considering her condition, but I need to talk to her," Louis said anxiously, darting his translucent form back up Broadway. "The files, my work, is a safeguard. Not a danger, but a help, a breakthrough in localized magic. It wasn't the creation of the compound that was the killer, but the presences that came in after. Clara must understand. Surely something personal can connect us. Clara, love, I need you, and you need me more dead than alive to sort this all out...." A gruesome but brilliant solution presented itself. "Something tactile. A tactile remembrance where I died ... Her hair ... Beautiful hair ... To connect us ..."
In his ghostly state, a helpful idea literally illuminated his grayscale form, and he blazed like a candle for a moment before returning to a ghostly default of eisengrau, the color behind one's eyes, a gray the epitome of that purgatorial space between awake and asleep.
"The medium!" he gasped, and thought hard about where he could find the specific woman who had communicated with him before. Unfortunately for them both, the moment in question had happened by force. Mediums and spirits were best met by welcoming relations.
He doubted she'd be happy to see him. He wasn't sure he'd be able to get through. But he had to try. Using a strange new sense that had come to him only in death, he tried reaching out a tendril of association, knowledge, and remembrance. Once a medium and a spirit spoke, an indelible channel connected them, a sluice one could slip through again if given the chance.
Floating amid the wind, time was as amorphous as his body in this state, a serious danger when time was of the essence and he was only essence at all....
Fifth Avenue, finally. A fine stone town house with the most modern of Tiffany glass panels on either side of the carved wooden front door. There she was. He could sense the medium's radiance even from outside. He floated through beautifully leaded wisteria.
She was in the parlor having an evening cordial, but hardly relaxed as one would hope at such a late hour, though Louis was relieved he wouldn't have to wake her. Sitting stiffly in plum-colored satin and starched lace, she remained alert and wary, as gifted as she was mysterious and elegant. He read her posture like a line of dialogue in a play.
With such chaos downtown, if she truly was as talented as those who had kidnapped her and forced that unfortunate séance had indicated, she likely knew the air was off, that New York was an unsettled creature awaking to find itself under threat of being caged ...
Tall with dark brown–blond hair streaked with distinct swaths of gray, a woman in her mid-forties as striking as if she were in the bloom of youth, so did she command a space with imperious presence matched only by a glimmering vivacity. She outshone all the crystal in her home and the glass-beaded folds of her double-skirted Parisian gown, the rich plum color doing her fair skin fair service. While she commanded attention like a colonel an army, what Louis needed was hers.
That Louis's twin brother Andre had fled New York yet again was most inconvenient, the coward. While Andre had sworn he would tend to unsettled matters in New Orleans, the city of their birth, Louis knew all too well that Andre's reputation was for trouble, not reconciliation, so it may have been ill-advised. If he had remained in the city, Louis could make use of him, for his twin could hear and see him, even in his current state. The ability of both, due to their twin blood tie, proved a rare and useful talent.
"Hello ..." Louis said feebly before chiding himself; this was no time for hesitancy. "Good Madame Medium. I know this is hardly custom in regard to communication, but it is an emergency," Louis stated.
The medium turned toward him, though she did not look in his eyes or at his person, but past and through him. While she could perhaps sense his presence, she did not fix upon him. All he needed was for her to hear him, and to help.
* * *
Mrs. Evelyn Northe-Stewart was relaxing after a late dinner with her husband in their mahogany-paneled parlor filled with exotic, mystical souvenirs from around the world when the ghost first came to call. They were night people, she and Gareth, Mr. Stewart having to keep the hours of artists and the leisure classes, associated as he was with the new Metropolitan Museum of Art. For Evelyn's part, when one often convened with the dead — whether invited or not — one was relegated to the clock of an owl.
She wasn't one to "see" ghosts, and not always hear them either. But she never failed to feel them, and she felt this one first as a gust of cool breezes. Then came a strange twisting in her abdomen and an odd radiating vibration outward. The strength of it meant she had encountered this particular spirit before, that she was a previously established channel.
"Gareth, darling," she said to the mild-mannered man staring at her appreciatively, as he often did. She knew he still marveled that he had convinced her to marry him.
In a world that chided — if not hated — her for being a powerful woman and gifted Sensitive, finding a man like Gareth, who wanted her to be nothing more or less than her whole self, was a treasure worth more than the fortune her dear — similarly awestruck — late husband had left her. She had been lucky enough to procure one forward-minded husband, let alone a second, and she was as grateful of this as she was desirous for her sex to be afforded equality.
"Yes, dear," he replied, responding warmly to a broken reverie. Gareth was a peaceful soul; however, spirits unsettled his quietude.
"Don't you think you'd love a cigar in your study? I'm getting a ... premonition. And it doesn't seem to want company."
Gareth Stewart rose slowly, his fair face paling against his auburn beard. "Indeed ..." He never knew what to say in cases such as this, so he simply left a room when it cooled degrees and the day turned from normal to paranormal. To each their worlds.
Once he exited, Evelyn gestured impatiently as she spoke. "I know you're here. Out with it!"
The ghost must have floated closer to her, for the feathers of the fascinator pinned into her coiffure wafted in the breeze of his spectral presence, tendrils kissing her forehead. The flames of the crystal-globed gas lamps on a small mahogany table beside her velvet settee flickered subtly.
"I need your help," the ghost said.
While pleading and desperate, after all she'd seen and weathered, she was a wisely wary woman, and suppliant tones alone were not enough to enlist her.
"You need help," she repeated, staring in his direction, changing the focus of her eyes in an attempt to see any differentiation in the line of flocked wallpaper, anything that might give an indication of his form. "Spirits always do."
"It's a matter of grave importance," he insisted. "I wouldn't bother you with trivialities, not after all we've been through. You might remember me ..."
"Ah. Yes." She set her jaw and turned away from the spectral voice. "The twin. No wonder I can hear you so clearly, Mr. Dupris. You maintained the channel."
"Yes," he admitted ruefully. "I had to."
Her shoulder twitched beneath tailored layers of satin. "You know, that is hardly comfortable for us," she said through clenched teeth. "When you keep the channel open, it's like a cut on our skin never healed and is continuously exposed to the elements."
"No. I didn't know. I'm sorry. Truly." The spirit did seem contrite. At least this one was eloquent enough to comprehend in more than sentence fragments. Either she was gaining greater talents, or the ever mysterious spirit world was empowering this individual above all previous. "But I need any access I can afford," the ghost insisted. "You, Madame Medium, are at the core of all those who are important and critical in the times to come."
At this, the medium's eyes flashed a fierce warning. "If you want something of Clara —"
"I do," the ghost she knew to be Louis Dupris, Clara's secret lover, exclaimed, wafting before her face in a chill gust, and she turned, unwilling to truly face him, whether he was visible to her or not. Extended ghostly exposure was exhausting and made Evelyn feel plucked at as if she were a series of string instruments being played all at once.
The ghost would not be deterred. "You need to help me contact her."
"I will do nothing to upset her," Evelyn declared.
"This is beyond her," Louis countered. "You and she must understand what happened at the Eterna site on the terrible day I died. I am beginning to unravel what sabotaged us in that house. We were not alone when the disaster happened. I need someone to listen."
"I'm here now," Evelyn declared, exasperated. "We've a strong channel, don't squander it —"
"Our laboratory was invaded, Madame, by multiple presences. As my chemist partner Barnard and I combined the Eterna materials on that fateful day, our material must have been threatening to outside forces. One of our colleagues was courting something terrible. We didn't know ..."
There was a long and terrible pause. Evelyn felt queasy. Such prolonged contact, with such clarity, was unprecedented. She now understood Clara's overwhelmed nature when it came to contact with the dead. Whatever she could take and save Clara from the brunt, she had to do. "More," she said quietly, gesturing toward the sound of his voice. "Tell me as much as you can."
Louis continued, his haunting voice deepening in sadness. "I didn't notice it until I returned to the brownstone after death, to find clues, trying to remember. The site had been a home, once, but Goldberg had gone mad, emptied the place of everything but our work. He was so odd, muttering things we could not understand ..."
"Such as?" Evelyn closed her eyes. Perhaps she could focus on him better if she didn't try to look at the place she thought he occupied, just felt his draft.
"It was a language I didn't understand," Louis replied, frustration underpinning his every word. "We thought it was Yiddish, but now I'm not sure. I remembered having seen something very odd, right before everything went wrong. In the wall, carved in, was the outline of a door. And it sort of became one — a blank space, a void where there should have been substance. Dark entities stepped through. Shadow-like, devoid of light, the opposite ... As if summoned. It happened right as the Eterna Compound turned into a noxious gas. I remember nothing after that."
"Entities. From a door. Carved in a wall ..." Evelyn murmured. The room spun, and she could feel all the color drain from her cheeks. "My God ..."
"What?" Louis countered in wary concern.
"It never really ended, did it?!" the medium said, her words a rasp, as if scrabbling for purchase in her throat. "The Society just went deeper underground ... The network broader ... Good God, we could've nipped it in the bud then, but now ..."
She jumped to her feet and began to pace, looking down at the dark whorl of her plum skirts around the rich mahogany furnishings, the sumptuous deep tones of Tiffany sconces casting mottled, bruise-like patches of colored light onto her pale skin as she passed beneath them. For all her love of deep colors and magnetic shadows, at the moment she longed for blinding brightness to cast off any hint of darkness.
"You have ... experience in such dealings?" Louis asked cautiously.
"Two years ago a demon tried to kill my friends," the medium replied gravely. "Part of an insane plot, something hellish and mad, and surely too similar to what you've described to be coincidence. And if so ... then it would have made that whole dread business mere child's play. An exercise. A drill. A test for a coming apocalypse ..."
Excerpted from Eterna and Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber. Copyright © 2016 Leanna Renee Hieber. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ms. Hieber's latest saga was impossible to put down and, as a sequel to 2015's The Eterna Files, did not disappoint. Featuring delightful cameos from across her various series, Eterna and Omega is a hurtling, espionage-and-action filled journey lit by gas lanterns and undaunted, inimitable souls. Her trademark immersive scene creation is at its peak, and her characters are as endearing and human as ever before. While this story can stand alone, it is recommended that the reader first read The Eterna Files, if nothing else. The experience is further enriched by prior reading of the Darker Still saga most especially, but also the three existing Strangely Beautiful books. Strongly recommended for lovers of Gothic fiction, Poe, Lovecraft, and Shakespeare.