not even need to breathe. He moved with perfect silence, one with the night. He looked up at the stately Manor and remembered the ruby knob cutting the air. He felt angry and invincible.

He heard a growl and stopped.

One of the hounds crouched on the gravel drive between Yorik and the Manor, in the shadow of a weeping spruce.

Yorik knelt and lowered his balled fist. “Here, Hatch,” he said calmly. “What are you doing out of your kennel at night?” His first instinct was to return this escapee to the Kennelmaster. But why should he? He no longer served Lord Ravenby. He served the Princess, and he was certain she would not care if a few of the hounds ran loose.

Hatch did not heel. He growled a rumbling threat and showed his white teeth.

“Heel!” ordered Yorik, clicking his tongue.

Another growl, from the left. Two more hounds, Oke and Dye, padded closer on the short grass. There appeared to have been a mass break from the kennels.

Yorik rose slowly. He knew better than to show fear. He remembered what his father had taught him. Never show fear to hounds. And never run from a pack. This lesson had been meant for the hunting packs they sometimes encountered in the common forest, not for the hounds of Ravenby. These dogs were Yorik’s friends.

But now he could see dark forms darting from the shadow of the Manor. Growls and woofs surrounded him. He heard hot, panting breaths. A whiff of burning phosphorus floated on the air.

He fixed on Hatch, the pack leader. “Hatch, boy,” he called. “It’s Yorik. Heel!”

Hatch ignored him. The hunting pack tightened on Yorik like a noose.

Well, thought Yorik. Let them come. What can they do to a ghost?

Then Hatch slid from the shadow into soft moonlight. Yorik saw the familiar shape of the hunting hound—and something more. Hatch was enclosed in a green shine. No, not a shine, Yorik realized. An outline, an encompassing likeness of a larger Hatch, its fire eyes glowing like embers in a pit, its pale green teeth reflecting the moon. Hatch the hound was enveloped by this shape, this demon-hound, which moved with him as one. The other hounds, also bound in demon forms, crept onto the path.

Yorik fled for the gates.

The hounds did not bay as they did when they chased game. But Yorik heard the smack and hiss of flying gravel and knew they pursued. He felt as he imagined the fox feels as death closes in.

In seconds Yorik was through the gates. He turned. There was no hope in running farther. If the gate did not stop the hounds, then—he didn’t know what.

The pack had stopped short of the gates. They paced and prowled behind the iron bars, watching hungrily with fiery demon eyes and growls that sent tremors through the earth.

“Come!” thundered a voice. Yorik knew that voice. It was the Kennelmaster. The hounds retreated from the gates as their master emerged from the shadows, bundled deeply in scarves, his breath puffing in clouds.

“Mr. Lucian!” called Yorik. He stepped closer to the gate, eyeing the green shapes circling ominously.

The Kennelmaster clenched the iron bars with gloved hands. He thrust his sharp nose between the bars, eyes crinkling as he peered into the dark. He did not look at Yorik.

“Mr. Lucian …” Yorik brought up a hand in greeting.

“D’you hear that, boys?” called Mr. Lucian softly. He relaxed his grip and turned to the hounds. “That moaning there in the shadows? ’Tis not a Dark One. ’Tis only a wee ghost. We need not fear. I’ll soon drive it off.”

One by one, the green glows winked out. Then all Yorik could see were the hounds, his former friends, gathered behind Mr. Lucian.

The Kennelmaster opened his battered coat. He withdrew a candle and match. He lit the candle.

The candlelight cut into Yorik. He winced and flinched back from the gates.

Hatch whimpered.

Mr. Lucian, reaching into another pocket, paused at the sound. He closed his eyes and cocked an ear. “Speak, spirit,” he ordered.

“Mr. Lucian,” pleaded Yorik. “It’s only me, Yorik. I don’t mean any harm.” Even as he said it, he realized it was not true. He had meant harm indeed.

The old Kennelmaster opened one eye. “Ah,” he said thoughtfully. “I cannot understand ye. Yer speech comes from the land of the dead, a far-off land, though not so far for me as for some. A man must have a foot in the worlds of both living and dead to master hounds such as these. But I ken who ye must be. Ye were my friend, were ye not? Young Yorik, who died a bad death, an unjust death.”

“Yes, Mr. Lucian,” said Yorik sadly. “It’s me.” But he understood now that his words were nothing but moans to the ears of the living.

The Kennelmaster spat on the ground. “ ’Tis an ugly thing, boy. Ye deserved better, and now ye seek revenge. But ye cannot be allowed inside the Manor, not in life, not in death. Know ye that yer sister is safe, given work in the kitchens by Lord Ravenby. Yer body rests in the servants’ cemetery in the far field. Now ye must go and rest with it. Ye have no place here any longer.”

From another pocket Mr. Lucian withdrew a small brass bell. He held the bell next to the candle.

There was something about this arrangement that Yorik did not like. “Mr. Lucian,” he said desperately. “Hatch.”

The Kennelmaster rang the bell.

The peal of the tiny bell was like an ax splitting Yorik’s head in two. He screamed. Through a haze of pain he heard the hounds barking.

Chapter Four

Yorik ran. The Estate blurred by. He soon found himself in the water garden, halfway across the Estate from the Manor. Only here did the pealing of the little bell fade from a skull-splitting scream to a faraway whine.

He lay on his back on the mossy earth next to a decrepit stone bench, listening to the mild, eternal gurgle of the tumbling fountains, and the gentle splash of frogs and their conversational croaks. Water flowed over worn stone, and fish swam quietly in the pools.

Haunting had turned out to be much harder than the Princess had implied. He could not see how to take revenge on Master Thomas or anyone inside Ravenby Manor. And he could certainly be no help to Susan, who was trapped deep in the kitchens.

Above, the stars wheeled and revolved. Yorik’s father had taught him the stars and constellations so Yorik could navigate if he were ever in a ship at sea. Naming these heavenly figures always soothed him. He spied two planets, Mercury and Vulcan, low in the east. And though Pale Moon Luna had set hours ago, he found the black disk of Dark Moon Lilith. There seemed to be more stars sprinkled about than there had been when he was alive. Orion’s Belt had not had four stars in it before, Yorik was certain of that.

As he pondered that fourth star, something startling happened. The world reversed itself, and suddenly he was no longer looking up at the stars. Instead, the whole night was spread out below him, and he was viewing the stars from above.

Yorik clutched the ground as the weight of the earth pressed down on his back and the Milky Way beckoned like an infinite river. He sensed that his tenuous grip was the only thing connecting him to the world—and that if he let go, he would fall into the universe.

I should fall, he thought. I should let go.

His thoughts drifted. Yes, I should fall. He imagined peace and ease. His grip loosened.

Yes, fall.

The stars pulled.

I am not needed here.

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