Publication date: April 18, 2023
There are places where the borders between the worlds are thin.
Such places are beautiful. Such places are perilous.
The borders are blurred in the woods around Eilegate House. The nearby town has borne witness to the centuries of bloodshed and upheaval that crafted modern Scotland and . . . retains vestiges of an old and dangerous magic.
In 1934, the threat of war lingers just beyond the horizon. When Great War veteran Albert Lerrant and his new bride Victoria move into the stately home of Eilegate, the couple realize the house is not quite as abandoned as it first appeared. Tensions take a turn for the dire when Albert wakes up one midsummer morning to find his wife vanished without a trace. The police are summoned and evidence quickly begins to point to foul play.But the case is far more perilous than even the police can predict. Victoria has fallen through the thin border between our reality and another.
As Albert charges into the forest deep on a mad bid to save his wife, and Victoria finds herself entangled in a losing war against the tyrannical lord of misrule for the soul of two worlds, the only help for them both lies on the shoulders of the sharp-witted Constable Màiri McNeil, and in a hidden history that will shake the foundations of both worlds.
Eilegate is a fantasy-laced mystery adventure steeped in the traditions of epic romance and Celtic legend, grounded in the love that binds people to place and to each other and the hope that allows them to push into the dark woods towards the unknown.
About the Author
Originally from Birmingham Alabama, Elizabeth Fields Perry (she/her) spent three years studying at the University of St. Andrews where she spent many long summer days hiking the coastal paths and cliffs down the North Sea and many short winter days learning to ceilidh dance and reading old wild tales. She is currently working on her doctorate in Medieval Literature in Texas and teaching academic writing. Eilegate is her first novel.
She hadn’t been herself that day, she knew that. She was less and less herself the more her mind trailed to the abbey, the land, the increasing hauntings up at Eilegate. She was slipping into her fogs so often that she was terrified she was losing track of significant periods of time. Once she had found herself on the path in Straithaven wood with no memory of having left the house. She almost heard cries of battle just beyond where she could see. She wanted to flee the violence, but she was certain that if she turned, she would be surrounded by apparitions on horseback.
For his part, Albert was now in great spirits. He had been writing so much, yes, but he was also singing again, helping her in the library, reading aloud to them at night. They napped in the afternoons together, holding hands nearly every day that week. He tacked poems to her vanity mirror and left coffee on the nightstand on the Tuesday when she slept in. He was nearly underfoot in his exuberance, and so she thought there was no danger that morning when he asked her why she had rescheduled her talk.
“From what I hear, you’re getting superb reception from them. Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m fine,” Victoria said. “I should start them back up again, and my work at the abbey. Poor Mr. Sutton must think I’ve been avoiding him. Serves him right really.”
“Does Mr. Sutton need punishment?” Albert asked. Victoria wished she hadn’t brought him up. Bertie had no patience for the curate, thought him ridiculous, even questioned his credentials for the small position he had. She tried to keep her tone light, even laughed a little at the question.
“No, he just gets overexcited, the poor man. You know, the last time I was working at the rectory, he got so overwhelmed that for a second I thought he might try and kiss me.”
That, as it turned out, was a terrible way to tell Albert about her last encounter with Sutton. He wasn’t jealous. Victoria almost wished he had been. Instead, Albert thought Victoria’s passing remark proved his theory on how beneath contempt the curate was. She found herself in the ridiculous position of having to defend the man.
That morning they came closer to shouting than they ever had. Albert egged her on, past the point where she could dismiss his tone as teasing. She said things she wished she could take back: about his self-absorption, his lack of kindness in approaching the world. They finally stormed back to their respective work at an impasse to avoid saying things they’d later regret.
They decided not to talk about the situation anymore, but then, with her evening bath, she sparked a revival of their continuing argument about Dante.
Victoria had been trying to rectify matters. She had wanted to understand her husband’s work, his obsessions on a level that she could be some help to him. She had been taking notes on Alighieri, trying to parse out more than Renaissance philosophy and commentary on the state of Florentine politics, trying to find the core of her husband’s obsession with the lost, the insane, the sense of hope and hopelessness that consumed his reading of the text. Eliot had urged his readers to turn to the original language of the text, so she had. It had been mere happenstance that she’d taken Albert’s old university copy with her to the bath.
She might have known one of her fogs would come over her the moment she was alone. Her fogs—that’s what her friends at school and later some of the older pupils had named these moments. They fell at odd times for no reason, and Victoria had been on a campaign against them for her whole life. She filled idle moments with music and painting and hearty walks through the most wretched of weather, made lists and calendars, brewed endless pots of tea for people who needed to be heard.
Albert stood as a direct rival to these fogs for her attention, but at Eilegate, her fogs had been putting up a fight to match the strangeness of the land and house itself.
The overhead lights dimmed ever so slightly, and Victoria leaned forward in the bathtub to look at the Italian glossary. But as a drop of water slid down her hair to splash onto the dictionary, her eyes no longer could hold focus on the page. Instead, they were transfixed on the window.
She saw the view before her like a stage cleared of actors, but the backdrop, the props were all laid out from a performance she’d seen before. A swan flew low over the treetops and then there were flashes of blue, green, and golden light moving below the dark trees. She sat up in the bath to follow the lights and heard laughter from hundreds of voices. A hundred golden hawks were glowing in the moonlight as they circled over a crowd on horseback riding just beyond where she could see them clearly. She could hear though, the clang of bells, the ting of silver horseshoes on stone.
All at once, the laughter sounded again, and Victoria knew whoever was laughing, riding steeds with golden bridles, had come inside the house. She sank low in the water, unsure what to do. She slipped her face into the bath and tried in the stillness to gain mastery over herself again.
But in the water was singing. I know that voice. The bottom of the bath disappeared. She floated upon a lake deep and dark yet welcoming to her weary body. She blew bubbles out of her nose, allowing herself to sink even deeper. She felt sure she could get to the source of that singing if she just . . .All at once, the fog was gone.
Victoria gasped, taking in a noseful of bathwater. She sat up in the bath, thrashing, flinging Albert’s Divine Comedy into the tub beside her. She tried to gather it up and get to her knees at the same time and managed to fall face forward over the book back into soapsuds.
She sloshed Albert’s book to safety by flinging it from the water, but unfortunately it ended up taking a great splash of water alongside it. She slid naked out of the bath just as Albert forced his way into the room. He helped her to her feet and into her dressing gown.
Victoria was shocked to find she was trembling as Albert helped her to sit down.
“Vic, are you all right? I’ve been shouting for—What in God’s name have you done to my Dante?”
She cried a little as she worked to dry out the soaked book. She couldn’t put her finger on exactly what she was crying about. She supposed in a way it was her inability to make herself understood. She couldn’t tell Albert about the things that kept finding her in quiet moments. He had called her ridiculous. And now she worried she was approaching the designation of insane.
She grabbed an armload of her clothes from off the clothesline before slipping into the downstairs spare bedroom. She sank onto the lumpy mattress, elbows on knees. She listened a bit for Albert, but he seemed to have gone to bed. She felt a strong urge to break things, to slam the doors of the painted armoire until they cracked. She buried her head in the knees of her dressing gown and took several deep breaths holding her ribs in as tightly as she could in her arms.
How welcoming, how homely this house had felt to Victoria only weeks before. It was almost like she’d been lured there, that they had found a place in the world that cast every normal interaction they had in the darkest light it could be cast. Not that Albert was making it any better.
She needed answers, and the wedge that had been growing between her and her husband meant that she had to seek out those answers by herself. Something about that bath could not be dismissed as the result of nerves. She had dangled her feet into the depths of a lake beneath, close to something unseen.
She stripped herself down, even pulling off her wedding ring and letting her hair hang loose out of the two pins she usually used to keep it off her face. She opened the window and let the cool evening mist kiss her bare skin. She offered up another silent prayer as she stared into the black night and let the thought rise inside her as she sat waiting for reassurance to her prayers.
It’s not the house, not really. It’s me. It’s the other half . . . of me.
The thrum of beating wings and musical cry of a night bird pulled her out of her thoughts.