=========Snippet from Letters of the Dead, a work-in-progress fantasy novel, by Jodi Ralston:
We had arrived, the butler showing me into the mourning room.
I almost believed one of us were mistaken until I saw the open casket near the wall. By it stood a Corvish gentleman of black hair. He was dressed in even more somber black, arms folded behind his back. I hadn't time to ask of his identity; the butler was already gone. The casket and a griever might be here, but seeing the state of this room, I didn't believe a psychopomp miracle or my help would be welcome here.
Gaslights blazed about the room instead of grey candles. Not a pinch of funerary incense burned to soften the scent of preservative magic in this room. Uncovered furniture crowded the space. And not a single picture paid vigil over the deceased much less the room; in fact, if any of the lady of the house once graced this room, they had found a new place. However, the worst lack lived on here as it did elsewhere: the absence of grey. Nothing on the door, window, curtains, furniture, casket, anywhere--
No, wait, there were specks of grey on the gentleman. On the scant trimmings of his dress coat's sleeves, on the waistcoat, and on the knee breeches. I had overlooked it at first, the almost Colonial style mourning in the Motherland.
Who was he? A more congenial survivor of the dead? Colonial? But really, his clothing's style didn't wash as my home country's, too many details out of place. So I pushed that distraction from mind, and focused on other details. Such as, he didn't appear interested in me, hadn't even looked up. Was he one of the body's escorts? One of the baron's guards? Last I heard, he had one for every corner of every room and matched them to the decor. But even baron wouldn't dress them this well, would he? Or like . . . this? Surely, he still remembered his homeland's mourning colors.
Either way, this gentleman could mourn albeit subtly.
He must be involved. And in view of the statement of this room, this denial of a man's last rites, where hate colored the walls instead of grief, I believed I knew why the letter had sent me here: I needed to make sure the Honorable Miss Beatris Poole received the message the deceased most wanted to impart: regret and love. Simple as a delivery and just as hard. The gentleman's presence hinted that it wasn't impossible. Whoever he was, he was important to Miss Poole and trusted by the baron. He was likely this Mr. Mal'a'nye from the letter.
A bit reality from a scribbled mess of confusion.
Someone to bridge the chasm between parent and child, or to bandage the wound. A welcome hand of help, either way.
Time to accept it and do what I came here for. I moved toward the gentleman and coffin. But after a few steps, I smelled the preservative magic, and although my lungs did not try to close, my mouth and stomach burned. If anyone knew what that magicum tasted like on the return. . . . I dabbed with my sleeve at my mouth, but didn't leave it pressed there. Not a good idea to give offense.
At least . . . at least Miss Poole had done that much, probably more for her own nose rather than for her father's benefit. Without a doubt, she had not ingested the magic opiates and cast that spell herself.
Good for her. Bad for the ready-makers she purchased it from.
I cleared my throat, but the gentleman didn't even look at me. Maybe he wouldn't, not until he heard what I had to say, us being strangers and, obviously, of different circles.
Though no one else waited in this room, I edged as close as I dared to the gentleman, moving past the slight swim of the head until a heaviness threatened my lungs. At the center of the room, I could move no more. Too much magic and too much powdered magic opium added to fuel the preservative.
No further. I had to trust I was close enough that my words would move him. "E-excuse me, sir--" I coughed and rubbed my head. "Sir, I--that is, you are . . . Mr. Mal . . a . . .nye?"
His head turned at that. "Yes, I am, Owner."
I stared. Owner? He had called me--no--I must have--I misheard. Possessions, they weren't real.
In case you were wondering, a Possession is an enslaved being with great magical power that is different than the magic most humans use.
Links to some SampleSundays I found interesting, in no particular order: