In the chair opposite me sits a slight girl with bright red hair and vivid blue-green eyes, wearing a maroon colored cloak. I recognize her immediately from the cover of The Flame in the Mist: the book’s main character, Jemma. This is a little odd. I’ve been expecting her, but she seems to have appeared out of nowhere.
Jemma: Hi? Oh, you mean “hello”. Hello! Sorry, I forgot. My guides told me some words are different in your country.
IceyBooks: Um… your guides?
Jemma: You know. Spirit guides. The ones that talk to you from the other side.
IceyBooks: Do they? I mean, of course they do! Listen, before we get started, I have to just say: your hair—it’s amazing! I knew it was red, but seeing it in person, it really is like flames. And it looks so healthy. Do you mind me asking what you wash it with? I must get some!
Jemma: (shrugs.) I use what most people use. Goose fat and ashes.
IceyBooks: Are you serious? That sounds awful!
Jemma: Not really. You just heat the fat till it’s soft enough to mash in a few handfuls of ashes from the fire. It’s a bit messy, though, so it’s a good thing hair only needs washing twice a year.
IceyBooks: Twice a year…? Right. So, changing the subject. As it’s now the end of October, and you’re from a spooky book, I thought we could talk about Halloween.
Jemma : Hallow- what?
IceyBooks: Halloween. October 31st. People dress up in scary clothes and pretend to be ghosts and ghouls and other things like that, to celebrate it. Supposedly it’s the day when spirits can wander freely from the Spirit world into ours.
Jemma: Really? They can only come to your world on one day a year? I like the sound of that! In Anglavia, ghosts can come any time they want. I wish it was just once a year; they can be a such a nuisance. And you’re saying you actually celebrate them coming over? Sprites!
IceyBooks: Well, it’s just make believe. They don’t actually come.
Jemma: They do in Anglavia. They woke me up every morning for years. I used to think I was just hearing them in my dreams, but then they they turned out to be real.
IceyBooks: I read about that in the book. Was it scary?
Jemma: It was at first. But when you get over their wails, and how cold it gets when they’re around, you realize it’s more sad than anything. Ghosts don’t really come from the other side, you see; they’re trapped in a sort of in-between world and can’t move on, or are afraid to. Some don’t even realize they’re dead. Can you imagine? Not to know you’ve died, and wonder what’s happened to your body, and keep searching for people you love? I would hate that!
IceyBooks: It does sound kind of miserable. So, on the theme of creepy, what’s the creepiest thing at Agromond Castle? Is it those dungeons, with their damp, moldy walls? Or is it maybe an event, like the Ceremonies?
Jemma: The Ceremonies are definitely more creepy than the dungeons. The dungeons are just a place, even if they are full of strange echoes. But the Ceremonies—well, they used to be fun; we’d do things like making the fire turn into a face that would fly around the room, or make ourselves look like skeletons. That sounds a bit like your Halloween, doesn’t it? But then, a few years ago, the Ceremonies changed, and got really vicious. Shade and Feo – they’re the twins, in case anyone doesn’t know – started doing things like killing all the flies in the room by just looking at them, or hurting small animals, or calling up Mordsprites. Mordsprites are really creepy, don’t you think?
IceyBooks: Luckily, I’ve never run across one. What are they like?
Jemma: Are there no Mordsprites in your country? Vile things! You should see them. Or rather, you shouldn’t. They’re terrifying. All dark and wispy, like a combination of black smoke and see-through bat wings—only that’s an insult to bats. I love bats. They eat mosquitoes, for one thing. But Mordsprites…Ugh! They always catch you when you least expect, then spin around you really fast to squeeze the breath out of you. It happened to me once.
Jemma shivers. Then two rats climb out of the hood of her cloak and nuzzle her face. I stifle the urge to yelp.
IceyBooks: Um…Noodle and Pie, right?
Jemma: You’ve heard of them, all the way in America? Noodle, Pie, did you hear that? You’re—What is it, Noodle? (She picks one of them up.) Oh. He wants to know if you have any cheese. Or dead bugs. He and Pie are hungry.
IceyBooks: Sorry, no. I don’t keep food around here. Or dead bugs.
Jemma: Pity. No, wait—there! Under your chair!
IceyBooks: What? Oh, ew! There’s, like, ten dead stinkbugs! Or are they beetles?
Noodle and Pie scamper from Jemma’s neck and scurry around near my feet. I stifle another urge to yelp, then one of the rats brushes by my ankle. Something shimmers through me, and I feel full of light. Suddenly I don’t need that coffee any more.
Jemma: You can feel their energy, I can tell! You must have healing powers. If you didn’t, they wouldn’t affect you like that—No, Pie, I don’t want any bugs, thank you. And I don’t think the nice lady does, either.
IceyBooks: (I try to ignore the crunching of beetle shells coming from under my chair.) Really? You think I have healing powers?
Jemma: I can see that you do! (She narrows her eyes.) Yes…pinkish aura, with streaks of gold…and silver. If you like, I could show you how to—Oh!
IceyBooks: What’s the matter?
Jemma: There’s…an emergency. Yes, it’s…oh no! Rattusses, quickly! We must leave. Now!
IceyBooks: An emergency? I hope everything’s Ok. Maybe you can find a way to let me know?
Jemma closes her eyes and frowns, as if listening to something. The rats clamber up to her hood again. She seems to fade slightly. I feel dizzy. Blink. Shake head. Blink again.
IceyBooks: Jemma? Noodle, Pie….Hey! Where did you go?
She’s gone. I begin to wonder if she was here at all, except for the strange energy still buzzing under my skin. And I’m pretty sure it’s not the coffee.
Then I see the evidence: Shredded bug shells under my chair. And there’s a strange, luminous glow in the air. Maybe a ghost is about to visit me—it is That time of year, after all. But I prefer to think it’s the after-effect of a magical girl who just shimmered in for a few moments from a far off place and time.
About the Author
Kit Grindstaff was born near London, and grew up in the rolling countryside of England. After a brush with pop stardom (under her maiden name, Hain) she moved to New York and embarked on her career as a pop song writer.
Kit now lives with her husband in the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the SCBWI. The Flame In The Mist is her first novel.
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About the Author
Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma’s past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.