Updated: Oct 12, 2020
Thrice the Pain
Thrice the Dead
It Began with Three
Continue the story of Brenna Whit as she continues to fight against the Gatekeepers and uncovers the mysteries of the Fade in this, the third installment of Sarah Lampkin's Dead Dreamer trilogy.
To Reap the Spirit opens with a bang as Brenna encounters a malicious fae that kills an innocent man somehow has the ability to harm her. Take a glimpse into this harrowing encounter with this exclusive preview into the first two chapters below. To Reap the Spirit by Sarah Lampkin is out TUESDAY!
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We found you
-Guardians of the Keepers
The words echoed every day and every night. The Guardians were very specific in their message to me. They had found me. Only the Gatekeeper faction in Nephesburg had been searching for me, and
not for very long.
With questions lingering, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I had been discovered. I traced my fingers along the pentagram tattooed on my neck as my tongue ring clicked against my teeth. Last year I was reckless. I didn’t even hesitate to reveal myself. I wanted them to know it was me who was fighting back. Now what?
I theorized the letter had to have come from Lara’s father. Although she did her best to remain cryptic in her threats to me, she did reveal that her father was the leader of the entire cultic society. It was possible that her twin brother, Leon, had divulged the information. But considering his mental capacity, it didn’t seem likely—not to mention his inability to see clearly into the Fade. Leon could sense spirits and know their location, but he could not identify us individually.
My instincts told me it would have been smart to lay low and not reveal my presence to the world. But my gut told me it was impossible to fix their mistakes and stay hidden simultaneously. No matter what, they would have discovered who I was. It was only a matter of time.
When the letter fell into my lap that day, I immediately reached for the four-leaf clover in my pocket. To my dismay, it didn’t give me the comfort I was searching for. So, I glanced over to see Marie’s letter, waiting for me to open it. Wanting to get it over with, I tore the envelope open.
To my surprise, Marie’s letter was her explanation. Her reason for being a part of the Gatekeepers...everything. I was shocked to learn her mother was part of the faction. Not only that, but Marie admitted that she was sensitive to the Fade. Although she was unable to actually see spirits, she could still feel them. And she always felt me when I was around—outside of my body.
Marie wanted to know what being a Dead Dreamer meant. She wanted to get my perspective of the Fade and everything within it. Although her gift terrified her, she needed to know. So her idea was to request an on-campus apartment for our junior year, listing myself and Aeria as potential roommates. She listed one other girl whose name I recognized: Gwen. I was curious if it were the same girl I had seen around campus last year.
Having Marie in close proximity could work for my benefit. If she were telling the truth, it sounded as though she was uncomfortable with what the Gatekeepers were doing. But because her family was involved, she was involved. However, if she were still a member, I could squeeze information out of her.
“Are you sure you want to live in an apartment?” Dad asked, pulling me from my thoughts.
Dropping my hand from the tattoo, I forced a smile. “I think so. I know all of these girls, so at least it’s not with some random strangers.”
His eyebrow rose as he glanced quickly at Mom before looking at me. “That’s true. It’s just surprising. You went from trying to apply for a single dorm room to an apartment with three other girls.”
Since Sam was home for the weekend, she jumped to my defense at the dinner table. “Maybe she made some more friends. Shocking as that may be, it can happen.”
Ignoring her insult, I pushed the green beans on my plate with my fork. Sighing, I said, “It’ll be fine. Besides, with this apartment, we get our own bedrooms. And I’ll only be sharing a bathroom with four girls instead of an entire hall of them. That’s a huge plus.”
Mom nodded. “Those are nice things to have while in college, but are you sure you’ll get along fine with your roommates?”
I gently chewed on my tongue ring at the question. From my high school days, Mom knew I had a hard time making friends, let alone keeping them. “Even if we don’t get along, it’ll probably be fine.”
Taking a bit of his grease-soaked green beans, Dad nodded.
“She’ll be fine. Besides, with all of those animal attacks near your campus, I’d prefer it if you lived with as many people as possible.”
“Don’t walk around campus by yourself. It’s too dangerous. Even if it sounds ridiculous, drive to class. It’s not a long walk from the apartments, but it just isn’t safe,” Mom said in agreement.
Internally, I rolled my eyes. But it made sense for them to be worried.
Because I knew it wasn’t animals that were attacking people. What was interesting was that the attacks were now on the outskirts of town. They weren’t as close to campus as they used to be. That only meant one thing: there were sealed demon doors farther out than I had anticipated.
Before the silence at the table could linger any longer, my phone dinged with a new message. Sam noticed it immediately. “Who is it?”
I peered at my phone, then looked away as if I didn’t care. “Just Aeria. I’ll answer her later.” Constantly lying wasn’t something I wanted to get used to. Still, I was improving.
James’s name flashed across the phone’s screen, and the memory of his sudden kiss flashed across my mind. All summer, he was persistent in his texts—wanting to talk from dawn till dusk. My responses were usually short and to the point, not necessarily wanting to talk to him all the time. Especially since he usually wanted to talk about the Fade.
Though James had promised to keep my identity a secret, he continued to press with numerous questions. Considering how the year had gone, I just wanted the summer to breathe. The thought of the Guardians of the Keepers watching my every move was enough to set my anxiety on edge. The constant reminder never helped.
I couldn’t get too upset with this text, however. He was simply asking when I would be moving back to campus. I wasn’t working at the restaurant for the summer anymore, so I’d decided to leave the day after tomorrow. My parents assumed it was to set up the apartment before anyone else arrived. In truth, I wanted to return before Marie and inspect the campus within the Fade.
Damon tried his best to keep me informed with what was happening, but he could only do so much. He was never included on trips to create seals for the demon doors. But one thing he did mention was the visitors. The Guardians of the Keepers were sending another Dead Dreamer to campus to assist in training Ashley.
On campus, the Gatekeepers had done their best to keep Ashley happy in order to make her obedient. But when Lara and Leon arrived, everything changed. Lara constantly berated her, shaming the cult for giving into Ashley’s every whim. Her words were something along the lines of “a Dead Dreamer is a tool.” Lara chose threats and mental violence to get her Dreamers to do what they were supposed to.
In her mind, we were foul creatures who had broken God’s plan by returning from the dead. That was the public story at least. I wondered if she simply hated us out of jealousy. With her golden eye always peering into the Fade, she was only half-Dreamer. She couldn’t leave her body the same way I could, nor could she see everything as clearly as Damon—a Watcher—could. She had to rely on her brother for complete access.
I was curious to see who they were going to send from overseas to train her. Were they just as frightened to disobey as Ashley was? Or were they confident like the Dreamer from President Julian Spire’s journals? Whether or not I liked it, the answer was going to be revealed soon.
What made it all interesting was Damon’s mother’s reaction to it all. Professor Kalon was the leader of the Nephesburg faction—a role even above the school’s president. And although she agreed a firm
hand was needed, she hated Lara’s behavior. While confiding in Damon, she revealed, despite Lara’s words ringing true, her methods would only cause more problems. She was afraid of what the new Dead Dreamer would do once they were here.
There were a few times she pleaded with her son to discover who the rogue Dead Dreamer was on campus. But he continually played stupid, which was something he was good at. What I didn’t understand was why she didn’t know. How could her leading faction know and send me a threatening letter, yet send her nothing? No name, no information about who I was.
Perhaps Lara still hoped I would join on my own.
For once, I agreed with my soul’s words.
Biting down on my tongue ring, I picked up my plate to excuse myself. Unconsciously, I began scrubbing away the remnants of food from my plate. I could feel Maura from where she resided in the back of my head. Although I released all of the seals I had been around, her consciousness still lingered in the forefront—more than usual.
It irritated me. Had Leon not shattered Wilson’s spirit, this extra energy wouldn’t have fused with me. Wilson. He was foolish and reckless—even after his death—and I was su$ering the consequences.
I still remembered his confusion when he realized he wasn’t moving on after death. He had performed his Dead Dreamer duties perfectly, and yet his spirit lingered after his final death. The anger and betrayal he felt turned him into a poltergeist as he tried to take out his hatred on me. To him, it was my fault. He was stuck because I was undoing all of his work.
Personally, I wondered if he didn’t move on because his spirit was attached to so many seals. How could the dead move on when part of them was trapped within the seal of ancient runes? Sure, the orbs the Gatekeepers used to collect spirits boosted the energy required to seal a demon door, but a Dreamer had to sacri!ce something to create it. Those seals and orbs did nothing but pull in excess energy, creating connections all across the Fade.
Not wanting to continue the conversation of safety on campus, I climbed the stairs to my room, shutting the door behind me. With a sigh, I sat on my bed, reaching to pull the hair from my face. On instinct, I reached for the four-leaf clover again. This time, it did seem to calm my anxiety.
The source of the clover was still a mystery. Whoever sent it never wrote back to me. During the summer, the school forwarded student mail to their home address until the beginning of the semester. This only resulted in piles of junk mail. Yet Ireland was silent.
My only conclusion was that whoever it was must have known about the Gatekeepers and the Guardians. Whether or not it was a member, I wasn’t sure. All I knew was their letters gave me proof of my belief: the demons shouldn’t be sealed away.
The cult didn’t seem to understand one dynamic fact; the demons were not biblical demons. Yet, when the demons flew free from their doorways against the trees on the nights of the full moon, the Gatekeepers screamed evil. Though the demons weren’t beautiful to behold, they weren’t evil, either. Every demon I had ever met was kind to me—if not shy. They were peaceful, only wanting their one night a month within the Fade to be free.
But it did not matter. The Guardians and Gatekeepers made it their life’s work to seal them away, creating an entirely new problem.
The demons weren’t the only creatures residing behind doorways within the Fade. Although more elusive, the fairies were merciless creatures to behold. During the nights of the quarter or new moon, they would hide in the shadows of the Fade.
When the seals were no longer present and things were normal, the fairies and demons seemed to exist peacefully alongside the living. There were no mysterious deaths, accidents, or even disasters to speak of. Humans carried on with their lives, as did the creatures hidden from sight. Yet, when the demons were sealed away—essentially trapped behind their doors—the fairies would become frenzied and bloodthirsty, slaying anyone who crossed their path.
The Nephesburg police department was baffled when it came to the body count around supposed accidents. Many times, animals were used as explanations to the mangled bodies left behind in the fairies’ wake.
A small amount of guilt tickled the back of my mind each time I read the news, discussing a case they were working on, believing it to be foul play. Though it was possible that not all of the deaths were related to the Fade, I still hadn’t released enough seals to quench the fairies’ thirst for blood. And the body count was rising—a constant weight on my mind.
The spine-chilling part of it all was the souls. Having witnessed the work of the fairies last year, the truth of the extent of the damage they do was finally revealed. Last year, while in the Fade, I witnessed a fairy come from nowhere, completely decapitating a bird, cutting it off before it could finish its final song.
Each time I returned to the body, it was strange to see it decompose, but the head stayed fresh: no maggots, ants... anything. Nothing would touch it, but something told me to reach for it, and I did. The moment my finger touched the head, I watched in horror as the white eyes opened and suddenly sank. Though small, I felt an energy shift, not realizing what had happened.
Only during my confrontation with Lara did I realize the truth. With two corpses on stone slabs standing between us, both victims of the lethal fairies, we stood across from one another. She held her empty orb, showing her strength as she pulled the soul of one of the girls out, trapping it within another hollow shell. Enraged, I made a gut move and touched the other head just as I had the bird.
The impact was strong. A wave of energy struck us both as the girl’s eyes shot open and her mouth widened, a silent scream escaping her dead flesh. Her soul released from her head, transferring into my spirit. Lara was thrown back from the pressure, dropping the orb, shattering it to pieces, and freeing the trapped soul within.
Now, both Wilson and that girl were within me. Their energy, although weak, melded with my own, giving me a permanent power boost.
Maura cackled in the back of my mind, tracing her fingers along the circular scar on my stomach. The eerie sensation caused goosebumps to rise along my arms and back. Sensing my thoughts, she quickly reminded me that I wasn’t the only one with a power boost. Shaking my head, I fell onto my bed, unwilling to deal with her.
Quietly, I waited in my room for the rest of the house to join me in my slumber. Even unseen, the last thing I needed was to walk into one of my family members by accident and be rushed by their emotions. I could barely contain my own.
The house felt lonely as I stood in my room. The Civil War soldiers, who had haunted my home my entire life, were nowhere to be seen. Despite one of them coming to me at school last year, and forcing me into myself to talk to Maura, they now stayed away. Happy, nicknamed by me, had come out of nowhere, and with one touch, nearly killed me. That conformation with Maura had left the scar on my stomach that she loved to play with now.
The soldiers had made it their mission to hide from me ever since. Interestingly, they didn’t conceal their presence when I was awake. During the day, I could feel them nearby, but never too close. So, they hadn’t left for good, that much I knew. But without them randomly talking or laughing in the distance, the house felt empty.
In just a few hours, the house was completely silent as my parents and Sam went to bed. From the hallway, I could hear Sam turning on her portable DVD player to watch a television show in her room. Gliding downstairs, I drifted through the front door.
The sky was dark, a new moon, and the stars were beginning to illuminate. A plane crossed their path as it flew overhead. Glancing ahead, a herd of deer stood in the !eld, chewing away at the beans. As the crops had grown surprisingly tall this year, I could only see them from their necks up.
A few turned their heads towards me as I glided away. The forest behind my house seemed lively with animal activity, a couple of raccoons attempted to climb the bird feeder and a possum waddled by. Grinning, I rolled my eyes and let them continue their fruitless climb. They’d never win with the precautions my Dad had taken to prevent them from getting to the seeds.
Deep into the forest, a flicker of movement caught my eye. Shifting my path, I peered around an old rotten tree trunk and saw something unexpected—a spirit, but someone new. A woman with short brunette hair, a nineties style green sweater, and blue “mom” jeans; it was apparent she had died sometime in the nineties or early two-thousands. Slowly I approached her. “Are you lost?”
The woman turned, her eyes were curious. “Why? Are you?”
“No. This is my family’s land. How did you !nd your way here?” I asked.
Her lips rose into a kind smile, but her eyes were glazed by sadness. “I came to see how much you’ve grown. It seems that you’re still the same as ever.”
Taken aback, I failed to conceal the confusion that crossed my face. “What are you talking about?”
Tilting her head, she walked closer to me and placed her thin hands to my cheeks. She stared into my eyes for a moment, as if searching for something. Finally, she said, “I see. That’s what they meant.” Releasing me, her smile faded, and she backed away, pointing past the farm next door. “If you’re looking for a seal, go a few miles that way. You’ll find what you want there.”
Like every spirit I had encountered, the woman faded before I could ask any more questions. The cryptic messages and disappearing acts from everyone around me were beginning to grate on my nerves. Still, I was curious.
“Damn it,” I muttered, changing direction.
Crossing through the fence, two horses lifted their heads and whinnied at me. Two white Pyrenees dogs awakened from their sleep to glance in our direction. One stood, and began to stretch, the other simply fell back to sleep. When I approached, her tail wagged as she barked to greet me. Giving her a grin, I let my hand drift over her head before flying past.
Considering it was the night of the new moon, I knew the fairies were out there, hiding in the shadows. With each house I passed, the sensation of being watched grew. They knew I was here. The hairs on the back of my neck stood as I stayed alert.
Only a few miles from my house, I found it. In the center of a cornfield, there was a single oak tree. With the width that wide, the tree was old. Each step forward included a new voice that entered my head. Soon I could hear the wailing of many spirits that were trapped within the glowing runes of the sealed door.
Let them come, Maura whispered through them.
“What?” I whispered.
Without warning, a loud crash boomed from the road behind me.
“Shit,” I spat, quickly leaving the tree to return to the road.
Smoke billowed up from the remains of a white truck. The front end was completely totaled, smashed into a power line post. A tall man with short blond hair, possibly a little older than me, groaned from the driver’s side with the door open. He slowly sat up, blood falling down his face from a cut above his eyebrow and a broken nose. His wide back hunched over as he reached to touch the blood sinking into his eye. The airbag was covered in it.
Holding his head, he stumbled onto the pavement. “Damn.”
At first, it appeared to be nothing more than your average vehicular accident. The man took the curve too fast and couldn’t slow down in time before hitting the post. Overall, he seemed fine, just beat up, allowing me to breathe a slight sigh in relief.
But the moment quickly vanished, from the corner of my eye, something shifted in the shadows. At nearly an impossible speed, a fairy flew past me, slicing its claws into my neck as it went. Crying out, I reached for the cuts, shocked the creature was able to harm me.
It was on purpose. Everything happened so fast. One minute the man was standing, looking at his car as he cursed. The next, the fairy flew into his body through his chest, and he collapsed onto the ground. The man convulsed, spitting out blood before finally growing silent. His head fell to the side, cold blue eyes staring at me.
The fairy slowly emerged from his stomach. Though there were no eyes, I felt it watch me as it floated upwards. Darting to hover in front of my face, the creature hissed violently, before reaching out to thrash at me again. The sharp claws dug into my face, nearly slicing into my left eye. Raising my hand, my power shot out, throwing the fairy into the sky and far from me.
“Son of a bitch!” I screeched as Maura cackled.
As I looked back down at the man, I realized he was still trapped. The fairy had killed him, probably causing this accident as well. But the soul was still trapped within his head. Bending down, I took a
deep breath before lightly touching his forehead with my fingertips.
The man’s eyes widened as his mouth opened to release one last silent wail. Instantly, I felt his soul release, grasping onto mine for freedom. But it didn’t meld like the others. He joined the other voices that echoed as they cried.
Angrily, I turned and rushed back to the lone tree of the cornfield. Without any hesitation, my arm dropped, releasing my built-up rage with my power. The seal instantly shattered, destroying all evidence of the Gatekeepers’ influence.
The voices quietly whispered their thanks as they were finally free. But one voice remained. The man wailed and cried, alone and trapped within me.
Something cawed from the branches above, and I glanced up. My left eye winced as I noticed a raven was staring at me. It cawed again, before flapping its wings violently, yet staying in place.
“Give it to me,” a voice demanded.
Before me stood a spirit. No, something else. Her energy radiated a power that felt familiar yet foreign. The energy almost matched the soldiers from the graveyard before. Her black hair was pulled back in intricate braids. And her ebony skin seemed to glow with markings unfamiliar to me. Her beauty was breathtaking, and so was her power.
“Give. It. To. Me,” she demanded once again.
Snapping out of my trance, I took a step back. “Give you what?” The woman held her hand out, waiting.
Biting my lip with narrowed eyes, I took a step forward, reaching for her outstretched hand.
Immediately she snatched my hand, holding tightly before vanishing. The raven cawed loudly once more before everything went silent. I was alone again. The man’s voice no longer cried, and the woman was gone.
“What is going on,” I murmured.
Slowly regaining consciousness in my physical form, my eyebrows scrunched together, and I felt something tugging at the skin just underneath. I reached for the irritation, picking off the dried blood that had settled where the fairy sliced into my eyebrow. Sighing, I climbed out of bed, moving to the mirror to assess the damage.
Three new pink scars were resting on my neck where the fairy had sliced into my spirit. Picking off the last of the dried blood, I could see another fresh scar sitting in my eyebrow, the hair now gone. It would probably never grow back.
My hands rose in frustration, shaking as I closed them into fists, before exhaling. The scars on my neck would be easy to hide, but the one on my face would be impossible to explain. Quietly, I creeped
out of my room and slipped into the bathroom, closing the door behind me.
Opening my mother’s make-up drawer, I pulled out her concealer. Thankfully, we shared the same skin tone. Using as little as possible, the make-up covered the redness in my cheeks, and the new scar above my eyebrow. Only when I used her brow pencil to fill in the now empty space did I look somewhat normal again.
As I walked down the stairs, my Dad was already in a conversation with my Mom.
“Can you believe it? The news said he took the curve too fast and crashed into the power line. It’s why we lost power for a couple of hours last night,” he said, reading from his laptop at the dining room table.
She sighed, “Is he okay, at least?”