Those of you who have the digital edition of THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST had a few special pieces of extra content written exclusively for you. Since it’s been a few years since the book came out (!) I thought I’d share with print readers a letter Theodora Lestrange, the intrepid heroine, has written to her sister back in Scotland…
From the Castle Dragulescu, Transylvania
My dearest Anna,
I hope this letter finds you and William well. As you can see from the heading, I have arrived! My trip was blessedly uneventful, although I think you would have remarked upon the oddness of the food and the unsavoury linen in some of the accommodations. But the scenery, Anna! How you would have marvelled at it, for it is quite indescribable, like something out of a child’s book of faery tales. The mountains do not rise gracefully as our gentler Scottish mountains do; these peaks are sharp and craggy, pushing like living things toward the sky. They are grey and often enshrouded in mist and fogs, and there is a wonderful atmosphere when the wolves begin to howl.
Have I chilled your blood? Good! For I mean to write a fearful novel, full of dangerous things that will make young maidens cower under their bedclothes at night, too afraid even to strike a light against the dark. It is wicked, I know, but what fun it will be to craft my monsters! And it seems that I shall have all the time I require to write without the distractions of helping to plan a wedding. Cosmina does not mean to marry after all. Her fiancé—although I suppose I should not call him so—the master of this place, has refused to marry her. On what grounds, she has not said. She only related to me that the marriage would not happen and that she herself is glad of it! I cannot imagine why. Marriage would have settled her here in the land that she loves so well, and I do not understand why there should be any objection to the gentleman himself. He welcomed me to his home in a uniquely Transylvanian fashion, and has been a most engaging host. Perhaps I shall use him as a model for my hero…oh, Anna, picture me now, nibbling on the end of my pen and canting my head to the side as I consider if he will suit my purposes. He is tall, as a hero should be, and handsome as well. But these things are trifles. Any fellow may be tall or handsome, these are accidents of birth. This particular gentleman has something entirely more diverting, Anna. He has secrets. What they might be, I cannot yet guess, but I can smell them, sharp as the smell of rain upon the wind. He has a great dog that shambles about after him, and a creature more like a wolf you have never seen! I could easily believe it his familiar, sent out to do his bidding upon moonlight nights…
How fanciful I become! Can you understand now how powerful a force one’s setting is? I have come to this place and instantly I am beset by plots and characters, plucking at my sleeve for attention. I want only peace and quiet and a pot of ink to spin masterpieces from my pen.
But enough of my trifles. I am eagerly awaiting news of the autumn fête. Have you finally secured the funds to make the repairs to the east wall of the rectory? I do hope so. It was very kind of Mrs. Muldoon to send half a dozen jars of her damson plum preserves for the auction, although I lament that she did not see fit to send any with me. I should have liked it upon my mămăligă at breakfast each morning! What is mămăligă, I hear you ask? It is a sort of porridge, but made with corn rather than oats, very hearty and nourishing, a type of peasant food that even the gentry are happy to have, for it is bracing here in the mountains and one wants filling food. There are all sorts of warming dishes and things spiced with peppers to heat the blood. You might enjoy them, although I suspect they would irritate William’s dyspepsia. I am sorry to hear it troubles him again. Has he tried a ginger tonic?
Do give my love to my nieces and nephews, and tell them if they are very good indeed, I will write them each a faery story for Christmas. And tell Edmund I will write one for him even though I know he shall be naughty.
Kiss them once and yourself twice and know that I am well and I remain as ever,
Your devoted sister,