Authors: David Niall Wilson
A Novel of Love, Loss, & Edgar Allan Poe
By David Niall Wilson
Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press
© 2012 David Niall Wilson
Kurt Criscione & Patricia Lee Macomber
Cover Design By:
Dave Lawson & Zane Wilson
Background Images provided by:
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his novel began its life as a flashback.
It was intended to be the introduction to the next novel in the DeChance Chronicles, but when I started to write it, it took on a life of its own.
As my friends Trish and Rob
would say, I was a victim of synchronicity.
Nothing went as expected.
What I ended up with was a blend of several stories I have always intended to write, and a few I discovered along the way.
The ending of the novel still segues into the next book – and thus – I call this a tie-in novel to The DeChance Chronicles – but it's a story all its own – a story of poetry and magic, ravens and The Great Dismal Swamp. I hope you'll enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.
Rather than include a lot of dedications, I'll just thank those responsible here.
First, foremost, and always, my love and thanks to Patricia Lee Macomber who was with me every inspiration of the way, and helped edit and prod it into shape when I was done.
She has helped me bring my writing to new levels.
To my kids, who have shared my adventures here near The Great Dismal Swamp and put up with my constant babbling.
A special thanks to the amazing kinetic art of Lisa Snellings, who signed on to help create the AMAZING sculpture that was photographed for the cover, perfectly capturing what I wanted and needed for this book.
Finally – thanks to Edgar Allan Poe – for the stories, and the poetry, and for making me wonder about his lost Lenore for so long that I had to discover the story for myself.
From somewhere near The Great Dismal Swamp
David Niall Wilson
A Story of Loss, Love, and Edgar Allan Poe
he Great Dismal swamp stretches miles and miles back from the long, man-made ditch known as the Intercoastal Waterway.
The original idea was that the swamp would be logged, and then drained a section at a time to clear the land.
While the logging was a great success, the draining of that ancient, primeval place was far more difficult than anyone had imagined.
Engineers and investors gave up, and took to shipping lumber up and down the length of the New World via the waterway, passing all manner of barges, sailboats, and passengers from Florida across the Virginia border.
In 1829, directly on the border of North Carolina and Virginia, The Lake Drummond Hotel was built.
This hotel was unique, resting half in one state, and half in the other, with a tavern in the very center.
It lay only a short distance from the banks of the waterway, and not far from the shoreline of Lake Drummond, which was already famous in local legend.
The lake is a dark, mystical place.
The poet Thomas Moore wrote a ballad about the ghost of a young Indian maiden who died near Lake Drummond, just before her wedding, and how her lover came to the lake, looking for her in vain.
Her ghost is still said to haunt the swamp, appearing now and then, paddling a canoe, or walking out into the water.
There is a tree there so closely shaped like a deer that legend has it a witch was fleeing pursuit and turned herself into a deer for greater speed. When she found herself trapped by the lake, she transformed a second time – into a tree.
This transformation trapped her and she remained by the side of the lake, her deer form captured in the warped cypress forever.
The Lake Drummond Hotel stood from 1829 until about 1840.
It was famous for advertising itself as a place appropriate for drinking, dueling, trysts, and a wide-variety of shady deals.
The marriage laws in North Carolina were a lot more lenient than those of Virginia.
A duel, held across the state lines, one duelist on either side, presented difficulties for those prosecuting from either side of the line.
Along with this, traffic up and down the waterway brought those fleeing, and those chasing, across multiple state lines.
Famous people found their way in and out of the Lake Drummond Hotel.
Edgar Allan Poe almost certainly wrote his poem, "The Lake," about Lake Drummond.
He traveled through after his somewhat storied military career came to an end, and before his writing really brought him the beginnings of the small fame and fortune he achieved during his lifetime.
Every story has roots in reality.
Lake Drummond, and the hotel, spawned thousands.
This is only one.
he room was low-ceilinged and deep.
Smoke wafted from table to table, cigars, pipes, and the pungent aroma of scented candles.
Laughter floated out from the bar, separated by a low half-wall from a small dining area, where the bartender regaled the crowd with a particularly bawdy story.
In the corners, more private conversations took place, and at the rear, facing the Intercoastal Waterway beyond, the door stood open to the night, letting the slightly cooler air of evening in and the sound and smoke free.
The smoke prevented the illumination from a series of gaslights and lanterns from cutting the gloom properly.
Smiles gleamed from shadows and the glint of silver and gunmetal winked like stars.
It was a rough crowd, into their drinks and stories, plans and schemes.
Along the back wall, facing a window that looked out over the waterway and the Great Dismal Swamp beyond, a lone figure sat with her back to the room.
Her hair was long and light brown, braided back and falling over her shoulder to the center of her back.
She was tall and slender with smooth, tanned skin.
She was dressed for travel, in a long, floor length dress that covered her legs, while allowing ease of motion.
The crowd swirled around her, but none paid her any attention.
She paid no attention to anything but the window.
Her gaze was fixed on the point where an intricate pattern of branches and leaves crossed the face of the moon.
There was a sheaf of paper on the table, and she held a bit of chalk loosely between the thumb and index finger of her right hand.
She formed the trees, the long strong lines of the trees, the fine mesh of branches and mist.
Her fingers moved quickly, etching outlines and shading onto her sketch with practiced ease.
A serving girl wandered over to glance down at the work in progress.
She stared at the paper intently, and then glanced up at the window, and the night beyond.
She reached down and plucked the empty wine glass from the table.
"What are they?" she asked.
The woman glanced up.
Her expression was startled, as if she'd been drawn back from some other place, or out of a trance.
She followed the serving girl's gaze to the paper.
Among the branches, formed of limbs and leaves, mist and reflected light, faces gazed out, some at the tavern, some at the swamp, others down along the waterway.
They mixed so subtly with the trees themselves that if you were not looking carefully, they seemed to disappear.
"I don't know," the woman said.
Spirits, I suppose.
"You are a crazy woman," the girl said.
There was no conviction in her words.
She continued to stare at the sketch.
Then, very suddenly, she stepped back.
She stumbled, and nearly dropped her tray.
The woman glanced up at her sharply.
"That…face." The girl stepped back to the table very slowly, and pointed to the center of the snarl of branches.
The tip of her finger brushed along the lines of a square-jawed face.
The eyes were dark and the expression was a scowl close to rage.
"I've seen him before," she said.
He…he was shot."
"Can you tell me?"
The girl shook her head. "Not now.
I have to work.
If I stand here longer there will be trouble.
I must serve until the tavern closes, a few hours…"
The artist held out her hand.
"My Name is Eleanor, Eleanor
, but friends call me Lenore.
I'll be here, finishing this drawing, until you close.
I know that it will be late, but I am something of a night person.
Can we talk then?
Maybe in my room?"
The girl nodded.
She glanced down at the drawing again and stepped back.
Then she stumbled off into the crowded tavern and disappeared.
Lenore stared after her for a long moment, brow furrowed, then turned back to the window.
The moon had shifted, and the image she'd been drawing was lost.
It didn't matter.
The faces were locked in her mind, and she turned her attention to her wine glass, and to the paper.
The basic design was complete, but there was a lot of shading and detail work remaining.
She had to get the faces just right – exactly as she remembered them.
Then the real work would begin.
Even as she worked, her mind drifted out toward the swamp, and toward her true destination.
She didn't know the exact location of the tree, but she knew it was there, and she knew that she would find it.
She didn't always see things in her dreams, but when she did, the visions were always true.