Yes… there is a theme here. Aaron Rosenberg’s Gone to Ground (Systema Paradoxa Vol. 2) released three days ago and we are so excited we have to share it with you. Today we have a brief excerpt for your enjoyment.
Everyone always agreed that, whatever else you might say about him, Trevor Kinkaid threw an excellent party. His house was of the larger variety, being done in the old style with high, vaulted ceilings, handsome inlaid floors, and a wide, sweeping staircase. It sat by the edge of the woods on one side and the sea on the other, thus taking advantage of both soothing sea air and welcoming shade. There were always plenty of spare bedrooms for those who imbibed too heavily and needed to be put up for the night. It was also a mark of distinction that it was even possible to imbibe, for Trevor was one of those who did not hold with Prohibition. He had no compunctions about acquiring whiskey and other potables from Canada and then making them freely available to his friends, or at least to those who chose to accept his frequent weekend invitations. He also stocked a good deal of food and nonalcoholic beverages, all of it of the highest quality, and as a result, his parties were the highlight of the season, and everyone made a point to attend.
This particular evening was no exception. The house was nearly full of people, or at least there were some in every room, so that while one could certainly still move around freely, it was also a bit of a challenge to find more than a moment of privacy. The women, mostly young and pretty, wore the latest fashions, with fringes and beads aplenty. Fascinators and feathers bobbed in time to their conversation, while cigarette holders dangled from their gloved fingers as they gestured. Their other hands cradled martini glasses, which they occasionally raised to brightly painted lips, hints of jasmine and rose and sandalwood and vanilla drifting about them. The men were either young and dashing or older and distinguished, dressed smartly in ascots and brightly polished shoes. Pipes or cigars outnumbered cigarettes, while martini glasses were as prevalent as heavy cut-glass tumblers. Laughter and conversation rose everywhere, while music played from radios and record players, a different tune in every space but somehow not at all discordant, as if all the songs together melded into a single larger melody like flowers in a bouquet forming a harmonious whole.
Always the gracious host, Trevor drifted from room to room, carrying his habitual coffee mug rather than any actual glassware, pipe clamped firmly between his teeth, perhaps a touch paunchy now, his hair beginning to thin from its former thick waves, but his whiskers still neatly trimmed, his jaw still mostly firm, still a striking presence in his traditional red velvet smoking jacket. He knew most of his guests by name and always stopped to speak to each one, inquiring after their health, their recent pastimes—most of his guests were not so gauche as to have anything like an actual job!—their travels, and so forth before moving on with a smile and an encouragement to avail themselves fully of his hospitality.
It did not go unnoticed, of course, that for many of these perambulations, Trevor was not unaccompanied. This was nothing new, for he was still a handsome man and a charming one, if a trifle overbearing, and possessed of a fortune well in keeping with his grand home. Women were always eager to win his attention, and Trevor himself was more than happy to grant them such notice, for as long as it—and they—continued to amuse him.
At most parties, however, he played more of the gadfly, moving from lady to lady as easily as he went from room to room. Thus, the fact that one particular lady wandered with him for much of this evening drew some attention and a good deal of gossip. All of which seemed to entertain Trevor himself, while the lady appeared alternately flustered and determined to act as if oblivious of the whispers that trailed behind her like ribbons fluttering on the breeze.
Her name, it was gathered, was Lisette Barnes. She was from somewhere in the region, which is to say New England, and her manner and posture spoke of good breeding even if her robin’s egg-hued dress was only barely still in fashion, her scent more clean soap than expensive perfume, and her beads of polished stone rather than pearl. Still, she was striking with her bright blue eyes, pert nose, petaled lips, and feathered blonde hair, and she did appear to enjoy Trevor’s attentions, although there were those who wondered after they had disappeared from view whether indeed the pair were walking together or whether Lisette preceded their host, much like a scout before a patrol—or a lamb fleeing a wolf.
Still, no one heard her say a word to rebuff his advances, nor did anyone think that Trevor could be anything but gracious, even in defeat. Thus, when the couple failed to turn up in the next room after a time, those whose presence they had just vacated smirked amongst themselves, giggling and whispering and glancing furtively toward the upstairs, in the direction of Trevor’s grand master bedroom.
When Trevor did reappear, however, it was not by descending the stairs, nor did he look triumphant. Indeed, he wandered into the sitting room in something of a daze, his face red and beaded with sweat, mud spattering his trouser cuffs. He went straight to the sideboard and poured himself a stiff drink, adding it directly to his mug and downing the lot in a single go.
Of the young lady, there was no sign.
After a few moments, he seemed to collect himself again and began to glance around, smiling and engaging in small talk with those guests nearby, his voice slowly returning to its customary volume and cheer, the furrows in his brow and by his eyes steadily easing.
He was his usual self again, all geniality and consideration, by the time they heard the screams.
Aaron Rosenberg is the author of the best-selling DuckBob SF comedy series, the Relicant Chronicles epic fantasy series, the Dread Remora space-opera series, and—with David Niall Wilson—the O.C.L.T. occult thriller series. Aaron’s tie-in work contains novels for Star Trek, Warhammer, World of WarCraft, Stargate: Atlantis, Shadowrun, Eureka, Mutants & Masterminds, and more. He has written children’s books (including the original series STEM Squad and Pete and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles, the award-winning Bandslam: The Junior Novel, and the #1 best-selling 42: The Jackie Robinson Story), educational books on a variety of topics, and over seventy roleplaying games (such as the original games Asylum, Spookshow, and Chosen, work for White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight, Pinnacle, and many others, and both the Origins Award-winning Gamemastering Secrets and the Gold ENnie-winning Lure of the Lich Lord). He is the co-creator of the ReDeus series, and a founding member of Crazy 8 Press. Aaron lives in New York with his family. You can follow him online at gryphonrose.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/gryphonrose, and on Twitter @gryphonrose.