Sojourn’s End by Mikala Ash #steampunk #darkfantasy @ash_mikala @changelingpress

London, 1861. In the fog shrouded streets, powerful magic stirs, and three tortured souls collide.

More than ten years have passed since newlywed Lady Carlyle used magic to save her unborn children, and every day she dreads the return of her demonic husband.

Linked by death, the gallant Captain Justin Quin and his troubled lover, Lady Julia Molyneux, are on the hunt for a killer. When their paths come together malignant forces of undreamt power are unleashed — forces that will shake an empire.

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Copyright ©2022 Mikala Ash

A sensible man would have been lying between the luscious thighs of Lady Julia Molyneux, enveloped by her sensuous aura, breathing in her intoxicating scent, kissing her red pouting lips, and drowning in her unconditional love, not chasing revenge through the cold soulless streets of London.

Thick cloying tendrils of yellow fog, the city’s renowned “particular,” clung to my legs and followed me into Mistress Keene’s Fashion Boutique on Curzon Street. Euphemistically called an Introduction House in the latest edition of The Adventurous Swell’s Night Companion, the three-story building wedged between a respectable haberdasher and a reputable stationer was simply one of the thousands of discreet bawdy houses boasted by the heart of the world’s greatest empire. Like many other establishments of this type, Keene’s masqueraded as a successful business by day, a modiste in her case, to be transformed after the streetlights flared into an even more successful house of debauchery. It had the added attraction of an upstairs gaming room which supplemented its fleshly appeal with the fickle charms of chance.

The odious miasma, the unwanted and seemingly permanent feature of the city for the past few years, lingered billowing about like platform steam as the colossus of a doorman, a Cumberland automaton, slammed the oaken door shut behind me. Dressed as a liveried footman he was at least six inches taller than I, and broad across the shoulders. The men of iron were becoming more common despite the riots following the attempt on the queen’s life only the year before. Rumours of their involvement in the attack which left Prince Albert severely wounded and on his deathbed had inflamed the patriotic fervour of the mob against artificial men. Personally I didn’t like them. They had no aura, no colours pulsing around them reflecting their emotions for they had no feelings, nor a soul for that matter.

He turned to face me with his dead fisheyes staring right through me. I wondered what he actually saw. “Welcome, sir,” he said. His voice was deep and resonant, a recording of a famous actor’s voice playing on some sort of reel. I could hear the squeaking of the mechanism behind the mask that was its face.

As if by magic an artfully rouged hostess, thankfully human and wearing a silken nightgown that clung possessively to her natural hourglass form, appeared before me. Now here was life! Her aura was jumping from her skin, a roiling rainbow of colours that danced merrily about her, vibrating with mischievous energy. To her outstretched hands I divested myself of cape, overcoat, gloves and hat. I retained my ebony stick which housed within its stout shaft a silver-tipped blade.

The hostess deftly passed my trappings over to a pair of pale disembodied mechanical hands which reached out from between heavy crimson curtains. With a courteous smile, she appraised me with practiced eyes. “Welcome, my lord,” she said after assessing the quality of my attire. She offered a deep curtsey, providing a full view of her deep bosom.

“Not a lord,” I corrected. “Captain will do.”

She dipped her head. “Forgive me, sir. It is an easy error to make, for you have the manner and elegant bearing of the aristocracy.” The syrupy compliment rolled sweetly from her tongue. Her voice was unexpectedly cultured. I briefly wondered what chain of ill-fated events had led her to this place.

“May I fetch you a glass of champagne before introducing you to my friends?”

I let my gaze sweep across the richly decorated parlour taking in the dozen or so young gallants smoking and drinking beside the pianoforte. Several laughing girls in various states of dishabille cavorted about while singing The Tomcat’s Dance, a bawdy ditty currently popular in the music halls. My quarry was not among the group, and I returned my gaze to my attentive hostess. “Thank you, no.”

My response was met with an expansion of her aura, a slight purse of the seductively curved lips and a flash of anticipation in her bright grey eyes. “Perhaps you have more pressing needs?”

“My friend,” I said, dropping a sovereign into her palm. “He entered some minutes before me. A gentleman. Short, slim build, well dressed.”

Feigned disappointment was followed by a small nod of recognition. “Cards your fancy then, Captain?”

Cards. Of course. “Aye.”

“Upstairs, second door on the left.” Her aura quivered with an urgent pulse, and she gave me an encouraging smile. “May I serve you there, my lord?”


Aussie Mikala Ash used to be a mild-mannered training & development consultant by day, and a wild sci-fi and paranormal adventure writer by night. Now she is a brazen full-time writer and nature photographer who is concentrating on having among other things, “… bags, and bags of fun!” Mikala can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.