Halloween is over, and 1 November has arrived, which can mean only one thing – it’s time for National Novel Writing Month!
I’m going to be taking part with a brand new Sentinel project that should hopefully tide you all over until book three comes out. I’ll spend the next month writing the first draft of Splinters, a Sentinel spin-off that delves into the history of Jessica Bell and Isabel Hallow, two of my favourite characters.
And because I’m terrible at keeping secrets, I thought you might like to take a peek at what I’ve written on the first day of NaNoWriMo. I’m really, really excited about this story, and I can’t wait to share it with you all, so here’s a little snippet to whet the appetite…
Discover the secrets of the Sentinels…
1579. A sickness steals through the village of Orville. Young women are dying. After losing her mother to the blight, Jessica Bell is recruited by the cantankerous Isabel Hallow, who believes a cure can be found. When witch hunter Matthew Bone arrives in the village, though, Jessica’s investigation is disrupted with chilling consequences…
“What do the villagers say about me, Ms Bell?”
Jessica felt a blush creep up her neck.
“Imagine what they would say about somebody who worked for me. That person would become an outcast, subject to more gossip than a single individual could ever bear. Her reputation would be destroyed.”
Her mother had kept her work here a secret for five years? Jessica couldn’t believe it. Her mother was a housekeeper in the village and all that time she had secretly been coming up here to tend to Miss Hallow’s home?
Even if it were true, Jessica didn’t understand what Miss Hallow had to gain from revealing the secret. Why now? Why five years after her mother’s death?
She peered around the lounge. “You wish to hire a new housekeeper?”
Miss Hallow’s eyes flashed at her. “How shrewd you are.”
“I have no experience–”
“That is not the task I have in mind for you.”
Miss Hallow rested the knitting in her lap. “You know of the sickness, perhaps better than any.”
“You will aid me in discovering a cure.”
“If it can be done, and I believe it can be, but I am little use here. I require somebody in the village. Somebody who sees and hears what I cannot. Somebody I can trust.”
Jessica couldn’t breathe. Miss Hallow trusted her? The old woman’s gaze was penetrating, the fire’s heat smothering.
“Your mother helped me when she was alive. She investigated the sickness even as she succumbed to it. She was the last to die, five years ago, but the sickness has returned. We must extinguish it before it claims us all.”
Jessica’s stomach turned inside out. “But… the sickness. It is God’s Judgement. There is no cure–”
“I will not have such idiocy tarring the air in this house!”
Calming, Miss Hallow rose from the chair. At the mantlepiece, she opened a long, thin box and drew something out. Holding the object delicately before her, she turned so Jessica could see. It looked like a large, rusted nail, but it was as long as Miss Hallow’s forearm.
“A witch pin,” Jessica murmured, squeezing her hands together in her lap to stop them shaking.
Miss Hallow sniffed. “A barbaric device, but there are times when barbarism is the only option.”
Jessica recalled the girls at school singing about witch pins. They were used to determine if a woman was in league with the Devil. Drive the pin into the flesh and if it causes no pain or bleeding, the woman is a witch.
“Black magic is to blame for the sickness,” Miss Hallow said. “And black magic shall undo it. When the time comes, we shall sink this pin into the heart of the culprit and end this senseless suffering for good.”