About Eleanora Olexina
"Don't you ever worry about what I might be doing in there, sweet sister?"
"Never. I infinitely prefer you locked in there to being out here."
Eleanora grew up not far from Ardis, the only legitimate child of Andruss Olexina, the last of a decaying line of gentleman farmers. Although she had a happy childhood, it was slightly marred by the existence of her bastard half-brother, Edmund, Andruss's son from an affair he had in the last days of Eleanora's mother. That woman, who was accounted quite a beauty, died shortly after giving birth to Eleanora. Ella (as her father called her) had a solitary and quiet childhood, preferring to read, visit Ardis, or take quiet walks in the countryside near their estate rather than play with other children. Edmund was the only one she took with her on many of these journeys, partly out of a sense of duty. While at first Edmund was a perfectly agreeable playmate, as they grew older Eleanora started to detect strange looks and disturbing behavior from him. He seemed overly fond of causing pain to small and helpless things, and though he claimed repeatedly that he would never really hurt anyone--at least not anyone he cared about--his presence sometimes made her skin crawl. As they reached their teenage years, she spent less and less time with him, until eventually he was nearly a stranger to her--albeit one that kept trying to spend time with her, and one whom she heard disturbing rumors about when she visited town.
When she was 19, and Edmund 18, their father passed away from pneumonia. Upon his death, the children discovered that their father had been deeply in debt, and that the farm was due to be seized by his creditors in a matter of months. With winter coming on, Eleanora convinced her estranged brother to set aside their distance so they could try to find a solution. As the months passed, though, it proved impossible: Edmund cared nothing for his sister's financial woes, spending most of his time visiting brothels in Ardis and returning reeking of alcohol and cheap perfume, and bearing wholly unwanted "gifts" for his sister, to whom he professed an undying devotion. Eleanora grew more and more concerned for her safety, but their desperate financial straits prevented her from taking action.
Finally, the night before their home was to be foreclosed on, Edmund came home even more drunk than usual, and enraged by something that had happened in town. Though Ella tried to avoid and ignore his drunken stumbling, eventually he found her in the library, and he attacked her in a drunken rage, screaming that neither she nor their father had ever really seen him, seen his devotion to them or his talent. When she fought back, he got his hands around her neck and began to squeeze. Her vision began to fade. In an act of sheer desperation, she seized a letter opener that was lying on a nearby table and stabbed him…again and again and again.
The creditors, arriving the next day, found the house securely locked, with all the shutters pulled to. Since they saw no lights and heard nothing, they assumed that the owners had quit the place and left again, quite pleased with themselves. Inside, Ella lay, catatonic, feet away from her half-brother's body, watching his blood dry on the carpet. It wasn't until later that day that she moved, and another three days before she slept--and then only fitfully. She buried Edmund's body under a dying sycamore in their backyard during the darkest night she thought likely to come, and then she tried to go back to a life as normal as it could be while squatting in what was once her house.
Seven days after his death, she sat bolt upright in bed, sweating, as she heard her brother humming tunelessly to himself as he made his way to bed. Worse, just when she'd convinced herself that it was all a dream, she heard his voice whispering to her inside her own head. "Well now, sister. Rather a tight fit in here, no?"
Over the next few months, Ella slowly discovered that she was not mad--even more impressively, the Edmund that was in her head did not manage to drive her mad. She learned that she could control him, to some extent--even push him out of her head. When she did this, though, he took semi-solid form, and so it was something she avoided. No matter what, though, he never attacked her physically as a spirit: he might taunt, howl, and curse at her, but he never even tried to lay a hand on her.
It was Petros Lorrimor who finally helped her fully understand what had happened to her. Intrigued by the stories he'd heard of the "haunted house" in Ardeal, he showed up at the door one day and broke in…surprised, though not alarmed, to find a single young woman living there. Eventually he was able to hypothesize as to what had happened, and why Ella's repeated prayers to Pharasma had gone unanswered: in the moment of Edmund's death, when Ella's own spirit had been in the process of leaving her body, their ethereal souls had become entwined in what he dubbed an "ectopsychic entanglement." When she begged him to help her exorcise the ghost, he cautioned her: with their souls so heavily enmeshed, it was entirely possible that permanently exorcising Edmund's spirit would rip her own soul from her body. Instead, with the help of a local wise woman named Mama Graymews, Lorrimor was able to devise a "suppressant" necklace, which Ella always wears around her neck. The three of them tested it, and Ella was shocked: Edmund's voice receded from an overwhelming mental presence to simply an annoying chatter inside her mind. When Ella shame-facedly admitted to Mama Graymews that she had no money to pay for this treasure, the old crone surprised her by informing her that Petros had already paid for the thing in full. Ella feels desperately grateful to Petros, and has been living in a sort of paranoid dread ever since of what he might ask her to do in return.
The letter announcing that she was a beneficiary of Petros's will came, therefore, as a surprise that seemed to Ella to bode ill. What's more worrisome, however, is the fact that ever since Petros's death, Edmund's voice inside her head has been slowly growing louder…