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Chapter Twenty Six (Part Four)
There was smoke curling up in wisps from her bodice. Something had ignited upon her, perhaps within her... I struggled with my bindings, lifting the chair up behind me, managing a heavy step nearer to Maggie, but she shoved my shoulder with preternatural strength and I nearly hit my head on one of the table's sturdy candelabrum, a wisp of my hair catching in a candle flame.
It was a cross that burst into fire right at her sternum. A large crucifix had been hidden beneath her bodice, and it burned free of the layers, a solid metal pendant the size of my palm. As the cross ignited and sizzled her flesh so did it seem the demons burned within her, broiling from the holy water.
Jonathon jumped to his feet in the chaos. He hadn't been tied to the chair, only bound with wrists behind his back. He turned his back to the table and lifted his wrists over the candles on his side of the table, burning his hands and his cuffs. I could smell these terrible separate stenches of burning flesh and fabric. But in doing so, he burned his bindings too. Brave man, he suffered melting flesh on the side of his palm but snapped his wrists free. He too bounded toward Maggie, but she tossed him off as if he were a rag doll and his body came perilously close to the still-open portal where forces hung suspended in this precarious battleground.
Jonathon reeled to regain his balance and rushed back over to me. As the side of his palm wept blood and peeling skin, he undid my bindings.
It was not only Maggie's scream that filled the room but a magnified and horrible sound, many screams, burning from the inside out as the blessed liquid doused the demons within. Demons who were surely killing her from inside, as blood began pouring from her ears, dribbling from her lips, tears of blood rolling down her cheeks.
Her still-standing body went rigid, shuddering and shaking, the blood pouring faster. It was the most horrible sight I could have imagined. This was after having witnessed the sallow flesh of the dead come to life. But to see the living tortured so...
"Maggie!" I screamed amid the screams. She staggered to the side, to me, into my arms, and I sunk with her to the floor. I held her tight. And because I spoke now for someone else's life, somehow my disability was no match for this fight. My tongue and speech were free.
"Maggie, listen, say with me, say to the devils," I cried in a choking, desperate gasp, tears streaming from my eyes as the blood wept from hers. "I renounce thee... I renounce thee..." Her body shuddered and shook, her blood seeped all over my skirts and sleeves.
Margaret Hathorn looked up at me and smiled weakly, causing another river of blood to pour forth from her lips, and there was an aura of great white light about her, an angelic halo that took my breath away with heavenly beauty. She seemed as though she wanted to say something.
But then she died in my arms.
I screamed a wailing sob. I closed her eyelids immediately. Her dead, open stare would undo my mind. I held her close, her body and blood still warm.
But there was no time to mourn. For then, another cascade of events happened all at once. It was everything I could do to keep up.
The other two Majesties started up with the counting and the chanting again, which made the demonic threshold active, rippling open once more, but their incantation was stopped by Brinkman cocking the pistols. Nathaniel had managed somehow to wrestle one of the throwing knifes into his palm and was cutting loose his bindings and Lavinia's in turn.
Jonathon picked up a pitcher of water and threw them at the portal, directly toward the lintel and sides, trying to wash away the blood and ash that had activated it. Nathaniel did the same with a second pitcher. Lavinia took up a tureen of soup and poured it over the floor, falling to her knees and scrubbing free all the terrible things that had made this room such a magnet for the demons. All this action against the portal caused the rectangle to flicker. The heavy dread of the room lifted slightly. A scale sliding more toward our victory.
But the corpse of Jonathon's mother started screaming again. Items lifted off the table again and all of us winced, clapping our hands to our ears. I lunged for the terrible ledger book of the Master's Society, searching for clues in its terrible pages. We had to calm the spirits tied to the effigy of Lady Denbury. The names of the "parts" had to be addressed and sent to rest.
I dimly heard running footsteps in the hall coming closer. Was it the police officers at last? But Brinkman hadn't blown the whistle… Who else…
Yet more familiar faces ran into the room, one dark and one fair, both looking alarmed. Reverend Blessing and Mrs. Northe! Blessing dressed in his clerical suit and collar, Evelyn Northe in an elegant but unadorned riding habit.
Exactly where they'd come from, I couldn't know. They likely had traveled as soon as they could. Mrs. Northe wielded a pistol, the reverend, a cross. My heart soared, but as Brinkman trained a gun toward them, Jonathon, Lavinia, and I all lurched forward and shouted some variant of:
"No, they're on our side!"
Moriel, who had roused again from the punch, was aghast at the sight of the reverend's dark skin, for he snorted: "Oh, and you dare bring a blackamoor into my sight to soil the very air around us? Your species really is—"
Another punch from Brinkman sent Moriel back into the pudding again, causing Blessing almost to smile, but his gaze was soon focused directly on the more pressing matter of the reanimate corpse, and he moved near it, knowing exactly what to do as he had done in Doctor Preston's hospital wing. Mrs. Northe took a moment to consider the wavering, open portal but swept the room to meet our gazes first.
"My friends," Mrs. Northe cried. "Are you all—" That's when she saw that Maggie was in my arms. Alongside the siren-like wail of the reanimate body, she shrieked, falling to her knees at my side. I stared at her helplessly.
"She took them into her," I cried. "Demons. From the portal. Five of them. We couldn't stop her, we didn't know—"
"It should have been me," Mrs. Northe insisted, tears splashing onto Maggie's scorched bodice. "It should always have been me, bearing the brunt, my poor girl, no, it should have been me—"
"Right before Maggie acted," I explained, "she looked at me, with stern resolution, as if this was the only thing she could do." I spoke as if somehow an explanation could ease the pain. It didn't.
In the background I heard Blessing begin an exorcism rite to untie and set to rest the collective of unseen spirits that by our experience we knew were attached to the embodiment of Lady Denbury. The other two Majesties were laughing and taunting the black man, calling him derogatory names, the Society clearly based on the falsehood of racial superiority along specific bloodlines.
But Blessing was unruffled by the racist slurs. He remained focused on spiritual matters at hand. The Denbury body was one thing, but the retinue of spirits, they were further unwanted company. We could all feel the chill the ghosts carried in their wake.
"Reverend Blessing, the names of the dead are writ here," I declared, sliding the ledger book across the dining room table toward him, fighting to be heard against the din of spiritual unrest.
He nodded and began addressing the spirits the Society used in their methods to power reanimate bodies. He called them by the names listed in the book. He bid them leave the dead flesh and promised that their remains would be put in sacred ground. The poltergeist effects the spirits were wreaking in the room began to settle a bit. Mrs. Northe echoed all of Blessings words, acting as his assisting minister in the exorcism rite, though she reiterated and enforced his scripture while still rooted to the ground near Maggie's cooling body.
The two conscious Majesties started up with insidious chanting again, in a tongue indiscernible to me, and as they did, the open portal wavered, dark shadows drew closer to the threshold, as if another wave of monsters were about to seep over. Brinkman nodded at Nathaniel and spat in one of the Majesty's faces. Sansalme just sneered up at him. Nathaniel moved to gag both the men on either side of the still unconscious Moriel.
"This is just the beginning," Sansalme said in a slight accent I thought might be French. "You've really no idea." He dabbed Brinkman's spit out of his eye with a silk handkerchief.
"Well, I'm sure you'll be telling us all about it in a court of law," Brinkman growled.
"No…" Sansalme replied, seemingly unconcerned. This terrified me as much as the portal. What could threaten these wretches? I shook myself away from staring at them in disgust.
"We need to get the 'help,' the family, together," I cried to Jonathon, to Mrs. Northe, to Nathaniel and Lavinia, who were still trying to repair and erase the various dark magic effects upon the room. "That's the cue for the arrests!"
We had to settle the room, lest the police turn against the unwitting victims, as the officers could hardly be sure who or what was doing the damage. This was the type of horrific chaos the Society wished to wreak, where no one could effect change and keep faith, where no one knew who was friend or foe. Where everyone turned against one another. But the Society couldn't know what a wonderful team we had among us.
I stared down at Maggie's corpse. My despair would not help the dead woman in my arms who had been so brave. It was my turn to show that kind of strength and willingness of sacrifice. I had the knowledge to wield a countercurse, and I needed to wield it now. I shifted Maggie off my lap, and Mrs. Northe took her into her arms instead. Her blood had soaked through my dress, was all over my hands. I couldn't worry about that.
I darted to the elaborate screen that traditionally hid the staff during the meal and closed off the door that led to the kitchen stairs. And there the family stood, dazed, just behind the wooden panels. Glassy eyed, they stood slightly swaying, waiting to be summoned. The sight of all four of them triggered my immediate shout as I dragged the children forward first. As soon as I moved, Jonathon was with me in the instant, following with the wife and Nathaniel with the husband.
"Ego transporto animus ren per ianua, Beelzebub the Devil!" I cried, and Jonathon echoed me.
The adults struggled against us, the demons within sensing that we were at war. Jonathon dodged a punch; I nearly had my hands bitten by the red-eyed children. Lavinia, Blessing, and Mrs. Northe all rushed to lend hands while still spouting scripture. The forces which sought to harm us recoiled. Together we took up the same shout, shoving the disoriented, confused bodies toward their respective paintings.
We said the countercurse again and again: '"sending the soul through the door…" This had been Jonathon and my puzzle to sort through together when we met. The words were roughly translated from Latin, but with an Egyptian word for "soul-door" put in for an extra complication, as the portrait frames were literally a door for the soul to be deposited into. It had been a hard-fought mystery to solve but the countercurse had worked for restoring Jonathon.
Jonathon, Nathaniel, and Lavinia, all of us took up the countercurse together, utilizing variants on the Devil, Satan, the damned, any possible name for what was supposed to be the penultimate of evil, the prince of darkness itself. We tried to encompass all that these foul energies wished to be, and in doing so, trap them by the title they aspired to. The power of the name, we'd learned, was one of the eldest powers of all, and it was one the Society seemed to take very seriously. We had our faith. They had theirs. And now we had to play ours against theirs with everything we had.
(End of Chapter 26.4 - 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.
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