Title: THE ROSE MASTER
Author: Valentina Cano
The day Anne Tinning turns seventeen, birds fall from the sky. But that's hardly the most upsetting news She's being dismissed from the home she's served at since she was a child, and shipped off to become the newly hired parlor maid for a place she's never heard of. And when she sees the run-down, isolated house, she instantly knows why:
There's something wrong with Rosewood Manor.
Staffed with only three other servants, all gripped by icy silence and inexplicable bruises, and inhabited by a young master who is as cold as the place itself, the house is shrouded in neglect and thick with fear. Her questions are met with hushed whispers, and she soon finds herself alone in the empty halls, left to tidy and clean rooms no one visits.
As the feeling of being watched grows, she begins to realize there is something else in the house with them--some creature that stalks the frozen halls and claws at her door. A creature that seems intent on harming her.
When a fire leaves Anne trapped in the manor with its Master, she finally demands to know why. But as she forces the truth about what haunts the grounds from Lord Grey, she learns secrets she isn't prepared for. The creature is very real, and she's the only one who can help him stop it.
Now, Anne must either risk her life for the young man she's grown to admire, or abandon her post while she still can.
The day I turned seventeen, birds fell from the sky. A flock of them seemed to cross an invisible line in the air, a boundary of packed winter breezes that wrapped them up in a coat of ice, freezing whatever kernel of magic allowed them power over the air. In great chunks like collapsing hair, they let out feathery sighs and gave in to the fall.
I was out in the courtyard, clearing a pathway through the new snow, huffing at the chill picking away at my bones. I was distracted by strange thoughts and did not see what was happening in the early dawn. Only when I began to hear the soft thuds did I turn.
Mounds of black down spotted the white courtyard. My hands flew to my mouth to cover a yelp of surprise. There were so many birds!
I hiked up my skirt, ignoring the wet hem flapping against my calves, and ran to the nearest bird to see if I could help. My footsteps crunched in the snow that piled around the indentation made by the black feathers.
A crow. A large one, with wings like melted coal, and a satin sheen to its beak that tempted my fingertips.
“Oh, you poor thing. What happened? What happened to all of you?” I looked around at the other bodies scattered in the snow. I’d never seen this before; nothing remotely like it.
I knelt beside the still figure and reached out a hand steadied by hours spent plucking larger creatures. I knew what a bird’s blood looked like, smelled like, felt like under my hands. The twist of their necks, like a cracking piece of chalk, was a familiar one.
I stretched out a finger and stroked one feather. The bird let out a grey cry and scurried up, allowing its talons to grip the packed cold beneath them. It shook its head and turned its eyes toward me. I was too stunned to be frightened; all I could do was stare into its orbs—pits that shone with the knowledge of flight and wind currents, that knew rain and ice intimately.
I don’t know how much time passed before the bird looked away, breaking the connection. I turned my head and saw the rest of the fallen creatures waking from their sudden slumber. One by one, they dipped their wings, seeming to churn the air around them, and lifted off once again into the London morning.
About The Author
Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. She also watches over a veritable army of pets, including her five, very spoiled, snakes. Her works have appeared in numerous publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. She lives in Miami, Florida.