Map of Rowan Cottage’s garden of rooms
The Lady in the Moon Moth Mask is the fourth and penultimate book in The Secret of the Tirthas. The cover is currently being designed, and I’m aiming to publish it early next month. In the meantime, here’s the (slightly edited) Prologue as a taster.
Suddenly, she was awake.
For a while Lizzie stared up, her nose still tucked under the duvet, watching the strip of moonlight that slanted across the ceiling. Then she reached a hand out into the cold and checked her phone wondering whether, with the clocks yet to go back, it might be nearly time to get up.
2.44. Back to sleep, Jones.
She shut her eyes and lifted the duvet over the top of her head. She could sleep forever. It was half-term after all.
But instead of falling asleep again, her mind began to wander. She found herself thinking of that first night she’d slept in this bed, almost a year ago, when she’d sat up and looked out of the window and seen the full extent of her great-uncle’s garden for the first time. His magical, rambling garden of rooms, with its neatly-clipped hedges criss-crossing in the moonlight, the narrow rill in the distance with the yellow folly, the Tower, at its end.
Why did she wake up?
Oh no, why had that question popped into her head? She wished her mind was a bit more rational and orderly. Why did it have to… why did she wake up?
She hadn’t heard anything in her sleep, had she?
She listened carefully, keeping as still as she could. She held her breath.
Nothing, no wind, not the hoot of an owl. Nothing.
So why did she wake up?
A little knot formed in her stomach. Suddenly everything felt strangely familiar, like she had already been in this time and place, experiencing this exact same sense of weird… apprehension… before.
Deja-vu. It was deja-vu.
She looked at the curtains, pale grey in the moonlight.
Look out the window? Don’t think so, not this time…
The feeling passed, and she relaxed slightly. She turned over and closed her eyes.
5, 4, 3, 2…1! It was no good. She pushed back the covers, sat up in her pyjamas, and pushed the curtain out of the way.
She didn’t even need to look around the hedges and rooms, her gaze fell straight on to the gleaming vision in white halfway down the garden, standing near the silver brook.
‘Oh my God!’ Lizzie sucked in breath.
Who was that? What was she doing out in the cold?
Squinting her eyes, Lizzie tried to make out more details of the woman. Yes, she was wearing a dress, a long white dress, that was what was so bright, reflecting the moonlight. But her face was… turned away. She was looking at the back of the woman’s head, at her short, or possibly tied-up, hair.
She felt a burst of panic. What was someone doing in the garden? She knew, her whole being knew from her hard-won experience, that nothing good, and almost certainly only something absolutely terrible, could come of this. What was she going to do?
And then her alarm ratcheted up to a whole new level as the woman began to turn around.
Lizzie’s eyes widened. There was something strange about the woman’s appearance, her face seemed large, somehow rigid, growing in brightness as it turned towards the moon hanging somewhere above Rowan Cottage, as it turned towards… Lizzie.
‘No!’ Lizzie whispered, as the woman fixed her shining face on her.
Moments passed, as they stared across the garden of rooms at each other.
After a while, Lizzie realized why the woman’s face seemed so stiff, almost mechanical – she was wearing a mask!
She couldn’t make out what type of mask, but it was both dark and shiny at once, with splayed out edges bigger than the woman’s face. Although, with all she’d experienced, who knew? Perhaps she was looking at some strange beast, why not an ogre with a gigantic head?
Why was the woman staring at her like this?
‘Don’t just stand there,’ Lizzie muttered. ‘Do something, won’t you?’
As if in response, the woman vanished.