Chapter Twenty Six (Part Two)
Instead of drinking the blood, Moriel gestured for Sansalme to rise.
Brandishing the knife, the associate moved to the wall behind the Majesty's chair and drove the blade into the fine paper and the plaster behind it. He serrated the blade down the wall in a line, continuing unto the wood-paneled lower wall. He shifted a few paces, the length of a door threshold, and struck another line into the wall from above his head down to the floor.
He then took one glass and tipped it at the top of one of the lines, blood pouring downward in a messy rivulet to pool at the baseboard. Next, he lifted the second glass and poured another bloody line. I heard him murmuring something unintelligible at the wall. The hairs on my arm nearest to that wall began to slowly stand on end.
"One should never waste blood," murmured Moriel in a hungry tone. "It is too precious of a resource. But that is what your kind thrives upon, does it not,
Forgive me if I do not call you by a more ancient name. You have taken a body
in this time, and that is how I shall refer to you, everything and everyone in
their place." Whitby
"Call me what you wish, but I hesitate at your making assumptions of me. What do you presume I thrive upon?"
"Waste, wantonness, disregard for life." Moriel gestured to the spilled blood behind him. "See how we honor the desires of creatures such as you?"
"Ah. Yes. You have honored my kind perfectly, Majesties."
"And it is how we reach out and call to you," Moriel said with a deadly little smile. He rose. With a scuff of his boot, he kicked back a length of fine Persian carpeting beneath the dinner table, revealing the wooden floor. "Now you see how we built bridges unto you in the first place."
I glanced down to see that the floor beneath the long, thick rug was covered in symbols of varying kinds, runes and numbers, a mess of different religions and traditions, symbols of faith inverted and perverted, some of the floor carved, some covered with chalky powder, some drippings of wax, some patches painted in tar-like substances and burn marks, some washed in an iron-red stain that was surely blood... A deal of it I recognized as being similar to what Maggie had hellishly fashioned inside her empty closet when she was recreating the demon's likeness out of the scraps of Jonathon's damaged portrait.
It was a mess of ritualistic offerings and evocations to bring terrible things to life... The pooling blood behind Moriel's throne of a dining room chair began to dribble toward those grooves and carvings, soaking deeper into the damaged wood as if it were parched earth.
I shuddered. Why didn't we think to look under the surface of things?
Jonathon pretended not to notice, as if everything was perfectly normal, if not boring. Whatever he had done to steel himself to such revelations was the most impressive thing I could imagine.
Brinkman was a statue at Moriel's side. I wondered what was going through both of their minds. Whatever was carved, painted, and bled onto those floorboards was yet another spell to break, and I tried not to panic, as I only knew one countercurse, and that had to do with the poor prisoners on the wall who had, thankfully, remained in their painted positions.
"Before we get to our meal, let's talk a little business, shall we, Majesty Moriel?" Jonathon posited. "Your plans. I need to know what all is unfolding both here and in
. You've courted us here, to walk
the earth, summoned by your dark dealings, lured by your promises. My kind
seeks our utopia. I do hope you're getting closer to providing it. I want to
know how you'll be doing so, beyond your various tenuous experiments that have
suffered as many failures as successes." New York
Moriel and Sansalme looked like beady-eyed vultures, staring at Jonathon with a strange, collective expression that shifted discomfortingly between starvation and caution. Moriel smiled again, revealing more of his jagged, yellowing teeth. Sansalme reached into the briefcase he'd set to the side of his chair and threw something heavy upon the table with a resounding thud. It was a ledger.
"Before we do that,
," Moriel replied in a singsong
tone. "I'd like to summon more of your kind to the dinner table." His
eyes swept to Lavinia, then me. "Since you've provided such fare..."
He checked his pocket-watch. "And Vincenzi should be here any moment to
provide the lintel." Whitby
I turned away so that he could not see my fear at being called "fare." The blood offering was not enough, clearly. I did not wish to appear complicit, as that would be too convenient, but I would not let him have the pleasure of my discomfort. Lavinia did the same, and I could feel her eyes boring into me for strength like pulling water from a well.
Lintel, Moriel said. The top part of a door... That's what the two carved and now bloodied lines were upon the wall. The sides of a door... No... I could feel my bruised and punctured hand begin to shake. We had to move forward, quicker, before they opened something to only God could know what...
Moriel gestured for Sansalme to bring the ledger forward, toward me.
"If God writes your name in the book of life," Moriel began in a grand tone, curling his hand in a slow flourish, "so shall your names herein be written in the book of death. The power of the name is vast, as we know. And the more names rent asunder in our cause, the more powerful our book of death."
The long, leather rectangular ledger was black, tipped in red. The lackey flipped it open and shoved it under my nose. The ledger bore names inked down one column.
Lord and Lady Denbury
There was an underline beneath their name that carried over to the X like a smear.
Jonathon Whitby, Lord Denbury III
Another X crossed out Jonathon, as his soul was still presumed dead...
Mister CrenfallDoctor Neuman
The Winsome Family
The top three names were blotted with an X. Crenfall was useless.
Preston was dead. Was Samuel, Doctor
Neuman, Jonathon's friend in ,
dead too then? Likely presumed so. The last doctor, the one who had been
working on the chemicals in Minnesota ,
did not have his name crossed off. For now. The Winsomes I assumed were in the
portraits, though I couldn't be sure. New York
There was another host of names listed under "parts." All the names were smeared. Parts. I swallowed back bile. Perhaps whatever corpse had been built in the Denbury cellars, these were the names of the poor souls who could never find rest, not while a part of their bodies were sewn up into such unnatural horror. Wondering where that corpse was threatened to undo any false calm I managed. I was frightened it would turn up at any moment, around any corner…
Each name in the book was written in a dark red substance that was surely blood. Whose, only the devil could know. But there was an X and several blank lines...
"Go on, write yourself down, girl," Moriel said to me with a brilliant, nauseating smile. "Just...sign on the line..." Moriel looked toward the ornate screen for the servants to stand behind. "Come here, little Barty Winsome, come when I call you," Moriel cooed.
The little Winsome boy, who looked like such a cherubic little gentleman in his portrait, such a contrast from the hollowed, sickly child before me, shuffled out from behind the staff screen and toward me. Moriel slid his ceremonial knife down the silk runner and with a preternatural motion, Barty stopped it.
I felt rough hands that were not those of a child fumble and pull at the bindings of the hand that hadn't been "cut." Fingers chafing and bruising me with clumsy force, a knife sliced through the fabric around my wrists. Once my right hand was free the possessed boy seized it, brought it around over the book, and punctured my index finger with the tip. I cried out. He forced my finger onto the line of the ledger. "Sign," the boy said in a gravelly voice that was incongruous with his body. I made a feeble, wavy line that in my mind was not putting down my name but instead a scream. In my mind I declared, with that blood: I renounce thee...
There was a slight breeze in response, ruffling the pages of the book. Moriel sneered, as if my blood were in his power. I liked to think it was the direct opposite.
Curiosity seized me, and I rifled through the book before me. The child made a move to stop me, but the Majesty clucked his tongue.
"No, no, let her look..."
The page numbers were not in order but in that reverse of the golden ratio, and each page bore names and plans, some sketches, chemistry, and theory, all madness. The Society's disparate wings of experimentation, horrible upon horrible. A deal of it matched the wretched sprawling scrawls upon the estate floor.
"Are our plans not beautiful, little girl?" the Majesty cooed, drinking in my disgusted expression. "We will rebuild the natural world with unnatural evolution. In doing so, restore natural order, with infernal lineage."
I stared at the ugly man in horror. All of their work was in defiance of divine patterns, of the laws of life. The Society wished to rewrite the very building blocks of all that was good and beautiful upon this earth, withering the sacred, making heaven's natural order unnatural chaos. The theorists and doctors of the day may argue that God could come down to numbers and mathematics. If that were true, then maybe so too could hell be summed up in equations. It was a mad book of possibility, but all of it was most certainly quantifiable.
There was a rustle of noise in the hall, and a figure appeared in the doorway of the dining room. One that caused my heart to tumble deep into my chest.
Oh, God... Maggie...
Margaret Hathorn stood framed by shadow in a lovely pale blue dress the color of a bright
A hulking, awkward, bug-eyed man loomed behind her, surely the third "Majesty." They all looked as though they were the worst of what blue-blooded inbreeding had done to elder generations. And then there was beautiful petite Maggie among us, a jewel, a wide-eyed lost lamb offsetting such ugliness.
Maggie's gaze swept the room blankly. As if she didn't know any of us. Her gaze lingered on Jonathon. "Hello, Lord Denbury..." she said slowly, as if she were determining something. I doubted there was anything left of her mind, by the look of her.
I managed to hold back tears. If she would not acknowledge us, I could not act like we knew her. For all the Majesties knew, we were all strangers. That might play to our advantage. A flicker of confusion passed across Brinkman's eyes, but it was soon lost again inside the walls of his cool facade.
Jonathon only stared at Maggie and offered one of the trademark leers the demon had been so good at, and he purred: "Hello, pretty..."
I could not hold back a revolted shudder at that. At those exact words the demon had once used upon me. Jonathon had heard and seen it all from his painted prison, and for a moment I feared that whatever magic was in this house was reverting him back into what his body had become... No... I had to trust him. Even though everything felt like it was sliding against us... There were officers in these very walls... We couldn't lose, surely...
"Majesty Vincenzi," Moriel said, gesturing to the lumbering, black-and-gray-haired man with sallow olive skin. "How good of you to come." Vincenzi moved forward to kiss Moriel's hand before pulling out a seat for Maggie, two seats away from me, each of us spaced out around the table with a chair between us.
"Before you clutter this home with more of my ilk," Jonathon demanded with a stern tone, "answer my questions." In the end, the demons seemed quite sure that the humans who wished to use them, in fact, answered to them. The Majesties were playing with the most terrible kind of fire, one they couldn't safely control. "Tell me your plans going forward, so that I may approve of them or set you on a new course."
Moriel furrowed his thick, graying brows. "Why, we play for the hearts and minds of the nations that have turned from our power. We seek to take our magic right to the core. The very crux of the matter." Moriel smiled eerily, his milky eyes lit. "You know, Whibty, this isn't a casual association, our being in the Denbury estate today. We're not just here because it's a lovely property we got hold of. One could call my being here a vendetta. Though my perspective was one of a slow-burning flame rather than a constant war. I wanted to be sure that when I went after what I'd always wanted, it would be unquestionably mine. When you resurrect the dead, they are unquestionably yours."
Jonathon, in playing his part, bowed his head as if he understood. But I knew this was a new and unexpected wrinkle. Something flashed in his eyes. Perhaps his father was right and there had been something to be paranoid about after all, something in the
past to be concerned about. Moriel gestured
Brinkman over toward Jonathon. Whitby
"Mister Bank, do take up my knife there and use it to keep an eye on
I'm interested in putting his body to the test." Moriel's sick little
smile curved his thin lips. He gestured to Sansalme to his right, who withdrew
his dagger again and held it very obviously in front of Nathaniel. Perhaps our
valiant gentlemen were not trusted as Society associates after all. Whitby
"Majesty Vincenzi," Moriel said sweetly. "Did you bring my lady along as I bid you?"
"Of course, Your Highness," Vincenzi replied in a thickly accented voice I assumed was Italian.
Moriel reached again into his pocket, and this time withdrew a small silver bell. He rang it long and hard, a sharp, high-pitched ringing that went reverberate through the house.
"We've still one more guest to seat," Moriel explained grandly, winking at Jonathon. There was a tense silence. Then a thud from the foyer. And another thud. And a scrape.
Inelegant, clumsy footsteps. Outside in the hall, the gas lamps that lit the corridor were dimming. One by one. Shuffle by shuffle. Lumbering footstep by lumbering step...
Whatever was coming was taking all the light with it...
"Say hello to Mummy, Johnny..."
Oh, God. Horror of horrors.
Dead Lady Denbury.
Standing at the threshold.
(End of Chapter 26.2 - Copyright 2013 Leanna Renee Hieber, The Magic Most Foul saga - If you like what you see, please share this link with friends! Tweet it, FB, + it! The Magic Most Foul team really hopes the audience will continue to grow and it can only do so with YOUR help! If you haven't already, do pick up a copy of Magic Most Foul books 1 and 2: Darker Still and the sequel: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart and/or donate to the cause! Donations directly support the editorial staff.
Cheers! Happy haunting! See you next Tuesday!)