Most magi bond with a familiar, but others have a familiar thrust upon them. Rae Fairclough’s is a demon, and she wants a refund. #PitProm
After twelve years of estrangement from her abusive father, August, teen witch Rae Fairclough is lured back to her childhood home under the pretense of inheriting her father’s grimoire. Instead of gaining the tome, Rae finds herself thrust into a bad fairytale as she finds herself on the receiving end of a generations-old demon deal. As the Fairclough firstborn, Rae is set to inherit August’s demon familiar upon his death. The demon Belfnir, brings with it immeasurable magical power, all for the low cost of her immortal soul.
Racing against the threat of damnation as August’s life slips away, Rae turns to unexpected allies for help in succeeding where every other Fairclough has failed. Among them is the sly sorcerer Cassius Vale, whose crooked smile and cabal of spirit-calling mages attempt to help Rae break the curse once and for all. As cracks start to appear in her friends’ façades she isn’t sure who exactly she can trust, though the demon isn’t shaping up to be such a bad choice.
THE GRIMOIRE’S HEIR is complete at 80,000 words and falls in the young adult contemporary fantasy genre. It will appeal to fans of THE HAZEL WOOD, TV’s Supernatural, and readers who love to place themselves in houses and factions and teams. At its heart, THE GRIMOIRE’S HEIR is a story about how mental illness and addiction affect families and those afflicted, viewed through the lens of the fantastical. It’s a novel about the ties that bind us to others, and how trust affects relationships.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
~ C. Ashwinne
First Ten Pages:
To my heir,
As my time of death draws closer the discussion of inheritance and the Fairclough grimoire becomes a necessity. I’m certain you can understand the implicit approval of the Council given their delivery of this letter. Above all else, their sanctions preserve my line of succession. I hope the past decade has beaten enough intelligence into you to realize this is mandatory…
Rae Fairclough crumpled her father’s letter and tossed it to the floor of her car, hands quivering as she watched it fall with the smallest tap. It had been twelve years since the last time that she spoke with her father, and yet just the thought made her stomach churn.
She opened the car door and stepped out, her black boots landing on a combination of dead leaves and ancient fast-food wrappers. The autumn wind whipped her black hair into her face and chilled her straight to the bone.
Her father’s house had been the backdrop for her childhood trauma, the place where she had earned the spiderwebbed scars on her back, where the trajectory of her life had been changed permanently.
Rae trudged her way through the yard, knee deep in damp leaves probably swimming with ticks, and paused in front of the porch. The wood was sagging and green in places, but she couldn’t turn back. After all, despite her father’s jeers, she was intelligent enough to know that this confrontation had been planned since childhood.
She put one foot on the step to test its weight and immediately the wood buckled beneath her weight. Rae stepped back on the grass and held her hand out over the stairs, a frown playing at her lips.
“Umbris fortifico.” Rae mumbled. Deep purple light enveloped her hand, a miasma of spiritual smoke which spread to the set of steps. She tested the step once more, then walked up to the front door.
Rae jammed the doorbell several times, half-expecting it to be as broken as the rest of the house. Her heart was racing near out of her chest, adrenaline pooling in her veins as old memories threatened to bubble forth, but she had been waiting years to spit on his legacy, to show him that she wasn’t someone he could push around.
“Hey old man!” she screamed as she punched the button some more. After a moment she turned to leave, but jumped straight out of her skin when the front door slammed against the side of the house.
“Is that any way to greet your father?” August Fairclough asked, a scowl on his face. The years had not been kind to her father, as he managed to look near-geriatric as opposed to his actual forty-nine. Greying hair, sagging skin, a glaze over his ice blue eyes.
“You didn’t answer.” Rae shrugged.
“There are other matters that pull my attention, Raven. Not everything is about you.” August sneered. She felt like she was a child again, helpless, vulnerable, unable to escape his clutches.
A loud yowl broke the silence as a lanky black cat stepped out of the shadows. It sat at its master’s feet and licked at its paw. Despite the fact that it was a cat, an ugly one at that, she felt like it was staring straight through her.
“You were the one that called me here.”
“The Council called you here,” August corrected, “anyway, there’s no use in dawdling. You came here for a reason.”
Rae nodded and followed her father into the house. She kept her eyes on her boots, watching her step as she navigated the narrow path through piles upon piles of garbage. She slipped her hand into her pocket and wrapped her fingers around a mana store, a cut of tanzanite that buzzed with residual magical energy.
“Custodiam animarum invoco.” Rae whispered. She felt a buzz in her hand, the feeling of pure magic slipping through her veins. Purple smoke oozed through her fingers and slipped out of her pocket, but before it could coalesce into a solid form her father’s voice broke through the air.
“Retexo.” he snapped. The sound reverberated through the room, despite the mountains of trash that should have muffled the sound, and the smoke that she had conjured dissipated into the air.
“A protection spell? Are you insinuating that I would harm you in my own home? During a Council-sanctioned meeting?” he said, voice dripping with mock hurt.
“Precedent states that you’re not above torturing me in your own home.” Rae spat. She shoved her hands deep into her pockets and kicked at a mound of trash, which let out a disconcerting yelp.
“Is that what your mother told you?” August asked, an eyebrow quirked at such an odd angle that it looked like it could just fall off.
“Mom didn’t tell me anything. I remember it all. I still have the scars you gave me!” Rae shouted, her voice cracking even though she tried her hardest to keep herself from breaking.
“Are you sure? Your mother is an Exterus mage. Memory alteration is child’s play to a caster of her skills. Consider the factor of your young, plastic mind and even a novice would have succeeded.” August said, his voice a flat monotone.
“M–mom wouldn’t do that.”
“Believe what you want, Raven. There are more important matters to discuss. Come.” he said as he waved her down the hall.
Her head started to pound, and her vision faded at the edges as she followed him down the tunnel-like hallway. The misery of the house, the old memories bubbling to the surface, it felt like her entire body had been sapped of energy. She couldn’t decide if it was a spell, or just the familiar feeling of being helpless.
Despite her years of magical studies, Rae could never understand what her father had done to her, the intent of the scars his spells carved into her flesh. As she grew and learned, she searched in her studies for reasons, explanations for what he had done and came up blank every time.
Rae studied under the school of Anima, just as her father had. Souls, spirits, the spooky stuff that lurked just beyond the veil all called to her in a way she couldn’t describe. She was largely self-taught; her brief stint with a tutor hadn’t stuck, but despite her natural talents, the gaps in her knowledge made it harder for her to pin down exactly what August’s angle was.
Her current theory was that he was just a sick bastard that got off on hurting her. It made enough sense, considering he’d have succeeded in whatever else he might have tried. August didn’t do half-assed. Particularly when it came to torturing his own daughter.
The house felt as if it was trying collapse on top of her, choking the air out of her lungs as she wandered deeper inside. The whole place smelled like the inside of a whiskey-drenched ashtray. It was the smell of her childhood, the smell of the years that she spent trying to escape from her father’s twisted clutches.
August’s footsteps echoed on the rotting wood floors as the cat darted in and around his legs as he walked; ugly, grotesque partners prowling down the hall. She felt like the house was breathing — rising and falling with some sort of invisible heartbeat. All the shadows shifted as she walked past hoping and telling herself that their uncanny shapes were distorted by the garbage littering the inside of the house.
Her knees were still shaking, her eyes darting to and from the basement door as they passed. He didn’t acknowledge it as they walked by, but her palms were starting to sweat, the sick nauseous feeling in her stomach back at full force. It was such an eerie thing to her, and yet it was barely a footnote in her father’s eyes.
He led her into the kitchen, a dank cave of a room. Piles of dishes toppled out of the sink, and Rae swore that she could see some sort of rodent dipping in and out of the stack. The cat let out a meow more like a deflating bicycle horn, then hopped up onto the counter next to where her father stood, its exaggerated purr vibrating in her ears.
“I’m here. Are you going to hand me the grimoire so I can get out?” Rae asked. She peered around the mess in the kitchen, her breath held to avoid having to breathe in the air’s stench. Everything in the house seemed to have some sort of pulse to it, like the whole thing was alive.
She was trying to make a point to keep from touching too much, partly because of how filthy everything was and partly because she was worried that the whole house was booby trapped.
August cleared his throat and glanced at the cat. Rae’s eyes were drawn to it as well. The poor animal looked wrong. The cat’s face looked like a goblin’s with thin amber eyes and the largest ears she had ever seen on an animal. The cat arched its back, and then hissed at her, as if it knew what she was thinking.
“Not yet, Raven,” August said, “I’m dying, not dead. Have some respect.” Rae could feel his gaze on her, but her eyes were glued to the greying linoleum tiles on the kitchen floor.
“Respect? You don’t deserve it. And, if you’re not giving me the grimoire now why call me here? Send the check and the book in the mail and I’ll see you next time when I spit on your grave.” Rae turned around to leave, but he reached out and grabbed her wrist.
His touch stopped her in her tracks, her entire body froze over, her stomach threatened to force its way out of her throat and leave her choking on the floor again. Even though he wasn’t using any magic on her, she still felt like the world was falling out from beneath her feet.
“I wasn’t finished, Raven Anne,” he said. Behind him a shadow grew, rising like thick black smoke until it solidified into a material being.
The thing that stood behind August was twisted and broken and wrong. Its body was black and lanky, the elbows and knees bent the wrong way, and its head tilted at a peculiar angle. Its face was composed of a stark white horse skull, the empty eye sockets stared out in opposite directions. Despite the being’s lack of eyes, its gaze still felt oppressive.
“What the hell?” Rae stepped back, breaking her own rule, and crashing against the rotting drywall. It stuck to her, keeping her trapped in place. A few more gemstones tumbled from her pockets, plinking against the ground one by one as scenes began to flash in front of her eyes — old memories that she had tried to keep pressed deep inside.
“Come here, Raven...”
“I’m just trying to help...”
“You’ll thank me one day...”
Rae opened her eyes just a crack, not realizing just how tightly they had been screwed shut. She could feel her scars prickle with phantom pain, a ghost of everything she had endured as a child.
“W–what is that thing?” Rae asked, closing her eyes again. The wall slowly relinquished its grip, letting her slump to the grime-covered linoleum.
“I don’t appreciate being called a thing, you know,” the creature said, its voice carrying an inky, slimy quality that made her skin crawl. It was unlike anything Rae had ever heard. The creature had an unplaceable accent. It was foreign but didn’t belong to any one country or region.
Mind your manners, Raven,” August said. She looked between her father and the figure from her spot on the ground. Even though the creature wasn’t moving, she could sense it was grinning. The entire scene sent shivers down her spine.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know I was hurting that abomination’s feelings. I’ll try to be more considerate in the future!” Rae shouted. The creature laughed, and the sound seemingly came from everywhere around her, like a warped echo.
“Frankly, I’m offended,” it said, dissolving back into shifting shadows. They eventually coalesced into the form of a man with dark hair and creamy tan skin. He was wearing a black business suit, hair slicked back with old Hollywood, Marlon Brando flair.
“I can be quite handsome if the situation calls for it.” He dissolved and reformed again, this time into the form of a dark-haired woman with sharp white teeth, lips painted blood red. “Or is this more your speed? I can’t tell. Maybe you should make up your mind.”
Rae’s face turned red as she turned away from the creature. She didn’t like being taunted or toyed with, especially in front of her father’s prying eyes. He didn’t need to know about her preferences. That was her business alone. Despite turning away, she felt the air thicken again as the creature reverted to the shadow-and-skull form.
“N–neat party trick,” she spat, even though she could feel her heart racing in her chest. She was born and raised in the world of magic, and yet she’d never seen nor heard of anything like this.
I like her, even if she called me an abomination,” the creature said, turning slightly to August. “She’ll do nicely.”
Rae swallowed the lump in her throat, and her lips curled into a snarl. She opened her mouth to shoot back another smart reply, but the words wouldn’t come out. She’ll do nicely?
So, what are you? Some kind of ghoul or wayward spirit? A genie dad found at the bottom of a bottle?” Her words were weak, a childish stammer as the creature leaned forward. The air around it seemed heavier, and she struggled to breathe. It almost felt like the smoke sublimating from it was choking her from the inside out.
Part of her knew that she should know. She studied to become a magus of Anima, the school of spirits and shadows and things that go bump in the night, and here she was face to face with said something going bump in the night and yet she was at a loss.
“My name is Belfnir,” the creature said, “and I’m a demon.”
“Not a very good one if I haven’t heard of you,” Rae said. She looked away from Belfnir, attempting to focus on her breathing to keep from choking on the demonic smoke. As she spoke, she could feel the smoke getting thicker. Her father tutted her and took another step closer as she tried to back away.
There was no way that she’d find any of her gem stores amidst the heaps of bottles and trash in the kitchen. Instead, she dug her left hand into the collar of her shirt and fished out a pendant. The stone was a smooth tablet of natural amethyst, hung on a long silver chain.
“Te expello!” Rae shouted as she grasped the stone in her hand. Even with her eyes screwed shut again, she could still see the light from the spell sear through her eyelids.
Three days’ worth of mana stored in that stone, all gone in a flash and a bang. Rae cracked one eye open as she waited for the ringing in her ears to cease. Most of the garbage had been scattered, violently thrown away from the epicenter of her spell. August and Belfnir remained where they had been, stuck in the same poses from before the spell. Her father shifted his gaze from the demon to his daughter, expression flat and unchanged.
“You’re a bigger idiot than your mother if you think that a banishing spell would work on a demon,” August scoffed as he looked down at his daughter, “I would have taught you better than that.”
“Would have. But, you didn’t teach me anything.” Rae said. If you had, maybe the spell would have worked. She slowly began to try to rise to her feet, but her legs were shaky—too much emotion, too much demonic energy, too much expenditure of mana. Her head was starting to pound, and she was starting to get that nauseated feeling from running out of magical energy.
“You’re right. If I had taught you, you wouldn’t have attempted such a foolish feat,” he said, “look at you. Spent and it’s barely even suppertime.”
“Now now, August,” Belfnir said, stepping forward on its backwards legs, “be nice to the girl. You’ve left out the most important part.”
Rae could feel the sinister smile once more, even though the skull didn’t move.
She’ll do nicely…
“Did you invite me here just so that you could sell me to a demon?” Rae shouted.
“No one’s selling anyone today,” August said. He then pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket and put one into his mouth. “There’s no exchange of goods or services here.”
“Thanks,” Rae said as she pulled herself up to her feet, “I’m being gifted to a demon? Happy birthday to me.”
“Stop being melodramatic,” August said, “your birthday isn’t for another month.”
“How touching,” Rae snapped, “you remembered.”
Now that she was standing, albeit shakily, Rae finally made eye contact with her father. Her spell might not have worked on the demon, but it did something to him.
She could see that he wasn’t wholly a person anymore. His eyes were white and clouded, his skin was sallow and sagging. He looked more like a walking corpse than a living man, parts of his tissue wearing away. He even walked like a corpse, stiff as if he were locked by rigor mortis. Is this what would happen to her? Rae turned on her heels and tried to run, but Belfnir blocked her path.
“Sorry little Sage,” Belfnir said, “but you’re not getting out of this that easily. Or at all.”
The demon’s body pulled and twisted until the skull was in her face, and she could feel its hot and rotten breath on her skin. Why was this happening to her? She thought she had escaped all of this, but she was stupid enough to come crawling back. A grimoire wasn’t worth this.
“See, your pop’s time is running out, after that your soul belongs to me,” Belfnir reached a long, shadowy finger out and poked Rae in the center of the forehead.
“I never consented to this!” Rae shouted, and both her father and the demon laughed.
“Demons don’t barter in consent, Raven. You’ve been promised to him since before you were born,” August said. Belfnir just laughed.
“I love firstborns. Their souls are so pure, full of unadulterated mana,” Belfnir’s hand pulled away, but Rae was left with a pounding headache.
“Don’t look so glum, chum. You’re a powerful magus. Being pals with me would only make you stronger.”
“Don’t flatter me,” she spat, even though she knew he was right. She did have several generations’ worth of magic in her veins, and who knows what kind of magic she could achieve with a demon’s backing… but she’d end up like her father. Sad, cruel, and falling apart from the inside out. Damned. He said it himself. He was dying.
“Flattery will get you everywhere. If you inflate someone’s ego enough, they’ll do anything for you,” Belfnir said.
“No. No! I’m not doing anything for you. You won’t have me!” Rae shouted, before stepping back from the two again. This time, neither tried to stop her.
“The stupid girl will learn soon enough,” August said as Rae ran off through the door, “as if generations before her hadn’t attempted the same feat.” The floor creaked and moaned and groaned behind her, and Belfnir’s laugh echoed behind her as she escaped.
Rae’s body felt ten times lighter once she made it past the threshold of the front door. No longer weighed down with demonic smoke, with memories and pain of the past, she could breathe a little easier. Still, nothing was sitting right now that she knew that her soul had been promised to a demon.
he slammed her car door as she slid inside, cranking the heat and the music while she tried to contemplate everything that had happened. Had her mother known about Belfnir? She had married August, if only for a short amount of time. Rae had been around him longer and had no clue — hadn’t even an inkling that the creature had been lurking in the shadows during her childhood. Choosing to believe that her mother had been ignorant was the easy choice, the one that absolved her parent of guilt, but she had no way of knowing if it was the truth.
Rae rested her head against her steering wheel for a moment. Why this? Why her? There must be a way to change her fate—to escape this dark cloud hanging over her. She gripped the wheel so hard that her hands shook, her head clouding over with thought upon thought.
She assumed that generations before her have tried to break free from Belfnir’s bond and failed, but, this couldn’t be the end. Rae sat up and pulled her hands off the wheel, taking a deep breath to try to center herself. This was it. Do or die. She owed it to herself to fight, to overcome what her father had only dreamed of, to escape the Hellfire that loomed in the distance.
“This can’t be real,” Rae mumbled to herself as she twiddled with one of the rings in her ear. She swiped at her nose, careful to avoid the stud in her left nostril, and put her head in her hands.
She wasn’t fated to become her father, another horrible blight to society, a cancer to everyone around her. That had always been her worst fear, turning into him, and now it was closer than ever. Maybe there was a way she could change it, to shatter the contract and change her fate.
Maybe she could be more than what they wanted her to be.
Knock, knock, knock.
Rae lifted her head from her desk. She must have fallen asleep while reading again.
Knock, knock, knock.
“Rae? Still in there?” Her mother’s voice called from outside of the door. Rae peeled her face off the desk and shook her head a few times. Definitely fell asleep in the study again.
“Yeah, Mom,” she said as she got to her feet. There were still a few books on the desk, but most had fallen to the floor. She must have been dead asleep if she hadn’t noticed them crash to the ground.
“There are some muffins in the kitchen,” Mom said, “I could throw a pot of coffee on if you’d like?”
“Please,” she said, head starting to pound. There was already a massive crick forming in her neck from falling asleep on the stacks. She leaned down to start to pick up the books and heard the slow creak of the door opening behind her. Her mother stepped into the room, her silver bracelets clinking together as she moved.
“Are you okay, Rae?” she asked, walking over to her daughter. Alvena wrapped her arms around the girl’s shoulders and pressed a small kiss to the top of her head. Her gray-streaked black hair fell in Rae’s face, which tickled her nose. She held back a sneeze and shrugged her mother off her.
“I’m fine,” Rae said as she placed the books back on the desk, all volumes she got from the local library’s basement. Things that she thought would help her get out of being some demon’s puppet.
Demonology, A Complex Guide to Banishing, The Encyclopedia of Souls… Alvena could see the titles, and immediately she shook her head.
You’re researching some dark stuff, Rae,” she said, “I’m worried.”
“Yeah, well,” Rae put the books down and sat back down in the desk chair, “it’s not exactly by choice. How else am I supposed to break this?”
Alvena opened her mouth, then closed it once more. Instead of speaking, she placed a hand on Rae’s shoulder and sighed. Alvena’s warm tan skin was a stark contrast to her daughter’s cool-toned beige, one of the few traits she had gotten from her father.
Welcome to the final round of pitches!
Agents and Publishers,