The highly anticipated third title in the #1 New York Times Best Selling Serafina Book Series by Asheville author Robert Beatty, Serafina and the Splintered Heart is set for nationwide release on July 4. This month, exclusive to The Laurel, we publish Chapter 1 of Serafina and the Splintered Heart. Chapters 2 and 3 will be published in our June issue. The Disney-Hyperion mystery-thriller series follows the adventures of a brave and unusual 12-year-old, Serafina, who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate, amid the splendor of the Gilded Age and the rugged beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A mix of history, mystery and magic, the series is a runaway hit with readers of all ages. Stay tuned for details on Asheville-area events to celebrate the launch of Serafina and the Splintered Heart. For more about the Serafina Book Series, visit robert-beatty.com.
Serafina and the Splintered Heart ~ By Robert Beatty
Serafina opened her eyes and saw nothing but black. It was as if she hadn’t opened her eyes at all.
She had been deep in the darkened void of a swirling, half-dreaming world when she awoke to the sound of a muffled voice, but now there was no voice, no sound, no movement of any kind.
With her feline eyes she had always been able to see, even in the dimmest, most shadowed places, but here she was blind. She searched for the faintest glint of light in the gloom, but there was no moonlight coming in through a window, no faint flicker of a distant lantern down a corridor.
She closed her eyes and reopened them. But it made no difference. It was still pitch-dark.
Have I actually gone blind? she wondered.
Confused, she tried to listen out into the darkness as she had done when she hunted rats deep in the corridors of Biltmore’s sprawling basement. But there was no creak of the house, no servants working in distant rooms, no father snoring in a nearby cot, no machinery whirring, no clocks ticking or footsteps. It was cold, still, and quiet in a way she had never known. She was no longer at Biltmore.
Remembering the voice that had woken her, she listened for it again, but whether it had been real or part of a dream, it was gone now.
Where am I? she thought in bewilderment. How did I get here?
Then a sound finally came, as if in answer to her question.
For a moment that was all there was.
The beat of her heart and the pulse of her blood. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. As she slowly moved her tongue to moisten her cracked, dry lips, she sensed the faint taste of metal in her mouth.
But it wasn’t metal. It was blood—her own blood flowing through her veins into her tongue and her lips.
She tried to clear her throat, but then all at once she took in a sudden, violent, jerking breath and sucked in a great gasp of air, as if it were the very first breath she had ever taken. As her blood flowed, a tingling feeling flooded into her arms and legs and all through her body.
What is going on? she thought. What happened to me? Why am I waking up like this?
Thinking back through her life, she remembered living with her pa in the workshop, and battling the Black Cloak and the Twisted Staff with her best friend, Braeden. She’d finally come out into the grand rooms and daylight world of the fancy folk. But when she tried to remember what happened next, it was like trying to recall the fleeting details of a powerful dream that drifts away the moment you wake. It left her disoriented and confused, as if she was grasping for the tattered remnants of a previous life.
She had not yet moved her body, but she felt herself lying on her back on a long, flat surface. Her legs were straight, her hands neatly lying one over the other on her chest, like someone had laid her there with respect and care.
She slowly separated her and moved them down on either of her body to feel surface beneath her.
It felt hard, like rough wooden boards, but the boards felt strangely cold. The boards shouldn’t be cold, she thought. Not like this. Not cold.
Her heart began to pound in her chest. A wild panic rose inside her.
She tried to sit up, but immediately slammed her forehead into a hard surface a few inches above her, and she crashed down again, wincing in pain.
She pressed her hands against the boards above her. Her probing fingers were her only eyes. There were no breaks or openings in the boards. Her palms began to sweat. Her breaths got shorter. A desperate surge of fear her poured through her as she craned her body and pushed to the side, but there were just boards there too, just inches away. She kicked her feet. She pounded her fists. But the boards surrounded her, closing her in on all sides.
Serafina growled in in frustration, fear and anger. She scratched and she scurried, she twisted and she pried, but she could not escape. She had been enclosed in a long, flat wooden box. She pressed her face frantically into the corner of the box and sniffed, like a trapped little animal, hoping to catch a scent from the outside world through the thin cracks between the boards. She tried one corner, and then the next, but the smell was the same all around her.
Dirt, she thought. I’m surrounded by damp, rotting dirt. I’ve been buried alive!