Saturday, November 30, 2013


Here it is! The amazing cover for The Double Life of Incorporate Things, the 3rd and final Magic Most Foul novel!

Releasing the week of December 2nd in Digital and Trade Paperback!  (Dec. 1 update: the novel is currently available to order in print & Kindle. Barnes and Noble outlets available in coming days).

I'm so impressed with what the designer, Stephen H. Segal, did, and I think that it's a perfect image to draw this saga to a close. What do you think, dear readers?

In fitting timing with the December 2nd release of Double Life, Sourcebooks is currently running a limited-time $1.99 sale of Darker Still (Book 1) and The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart (Book 2)! So if you haven't caught up on the saga, NOW IS THE TIME! Here are the links:
Darker Still for Nook
Twisted Tragedy for Nook
Darker Still for Kindle
Twisted Tragedy for Kindle

Stay tuned for the release announcement as soon as it's available for sale! Thanks, dear readers, for coming along for the journey of the serialization for these many months, I will release one more free segment on the blog this week, but the story will not be completed within that segment, there's still more story to tell! Get the full novel to see how everything resolves!

Those who were donors of $20 or more along the Double Life journey, your signed book and/or various donor gifts will be shipped to you and should arrive by mid-December.

Cheers and happy haunting!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


(For previous chapters, see right side bar. If viewing by mobile, scroll down from for all chapters)

Chapter Twenty Six (Part 5)

Mrs. Northe, seeing that we had the family well in hand, turned her attention to the wavering wall portal, staring at it with concern. She began murmuring another iteration of numbers, but this time, from what I could guess, it was a sequence in the proper golden ratio, as high as she could think of and starting back again at a low number. Reclaiming the divine patterns, wresting a semblance of peace from the grip of malevolence. The edges of the carved wall, now cleansed of the blood tokens, flickered back into becoming a wall once more.

I stayed focused on the shifting paintings and the struggling possessed bodies, though I wanted to see the look of surprise on the faces of the two conscious leaders. None of them could have possibly known we could directly reverse one of their most consistent magics. I deserved a self-congratulatory moment of pride, but I didn't dare take my eyes off my targets.

Nathaniel rose to grab the little girl, even as a shot rang out. There was a scream and a clatter of a gun. One of the Majesties was clutching a bleeding forearm, blood all over the white tablecloth. It would seem Vincenzi had tried to fire a weapon, trying to take advantage of the chaos of wind, still-hovering objects, and the maddening whispers that summoning demons produced in the air, but Brinkman got to him before he could fire, a wisp of smoke floating up from Brinkman's own pistol.

Vincenzi was too late. The countercurse worked its magic.

There was a crackle of fire, and a fresh new screaming in the air added to the ongoing wail of Lady Denbury's ghostly retinue. In a huge, roaring pop, the paintings all came off their hinges and slid to the floor, leaving tracks of greasy, bloody paint along the wall as they descended; the canvasses were wet with indeterminate moisture. Trapped now in the frames leaning at odd angles against the wall were horrid forms, twisted and nearly gargoyle-like. Indistinct, demonic heads topped the fine clothes that were warped and dripping. Only the most ugly ephemera remained; an evil imprint, oily and greasy, a sheen of bloody perspiration bubbled up on sulfuric canvases.

So too did the bodies fall, slumping to the floor as if marionette strings had been cut. We knelt with the families as they began to rouse, terrified, but as Jonathon did, having some sense.

Brinkman took one look at the horrid exhibition against the wall and blew his whistle loud and several times, until the room crawled with officers. He instructed them to get the Winsome family to safety and explained in no uncertain terms who was friend and who was foe. The family was all too happy to exit the premises. The little girl threw her arms around me. The husband scooped up his son in his arms and seemed too ashamed to look at any of us who had helped him. The mother collected her daughter and murmured to me as an officer ushered her out: "I don't understand, but thank you…"

Above the din of the police, Reverend Blessing continued the exorcism rite, and this seemed to give comfort to the pallid officers, coming into the scene with no idea what to expect, but seemingly glad for some kind of spiritual offset. If the officers were uncomfortable taking blessings from a man of color, they didn't show it. I think they knew, seeing this scene, what was right to fear and who was a mere brother in humankind.

Blessing clutched the Society's insidious '"book of death,'" and between scriptural declamations he continued to read off names within, bidding that the souls mauled by the claws of the Society find their deserved rest.

"Spirits who weep here, heed me," Blessing bellowed into the foul air, his deep, rich voice captivating and compelling. "These men seek to gain power through methods of torturous unrest. Be their downfall by granting your own souls the peace God wants for you."

There was still a wavering line where the portal had gaped wide. Mrs. Northe was facing it, her arms out, her body fierce and taut, proclaiming scripture at the portal to try to shut it at last. Wrestling against the closing of the door, a black form darted out from the portal and careened into the hall. A demon on the loose.

"No!" Jonathon cried and ran after the wretched thing in the instant.

"No!" I cried and ran after him. I didn't think twice any more than he did. I just pursued.

Dimly, I realized the force was headed for the study, snuffing the lights out down the hall as it passed. Light by light, the vile force plunged our surroundings into darkness. We pursued it into the study where one gas-lamp chandelier remained dimly lit, casting the room into an eerie glow.

But the moment we both crossed the threshold, the door slammed shut behind us of its own accord and the gas lamp guttered into a pale, sickly blue pilot. Now it was just us in the dark. And a raw, untethered demon.

Jonathon went to the desk and turned a lamp, which illuminated for us that the black form stood in front of the window where beyond, the night was cool and dark, but the demon was blacker than the black night, its form not richly beautiful in night shadow, but empty and void of all life.

Jonathon and I stared at one another helplessly, and in the instant we both started crying scripture at its chasm-like form. Jonathon threw himself in front of me as the form floated closer. I struggled to put myself in front of him instead, but he kept me behind him. If such a thing inhabited Jonathon again, my mind would crack under the strain.

I withdrew the sharp scissor point from my bodice. But what a blade would do against an incorporeal force was laughable.

A wave of anger and despair washed over me, perhaps the effect the presence had upon us. Suddenly I wanted to shove Jonathon away from me. To be anywhere but near him. Ugly sounds gurgled in both of our throats. Snarling, animalistic noises. It would turn us against each other. In a locked room. While chaos still reigned in the rest of the house.

Down the hall I could hear that the wailing had resumed. This time, it had more voices.

The siren that was dead Lady Denbury had all the officers screaming too. It was, in the end, too much for us.

The spirits animating the corpse, the open portal, the lingering dark magic, all the amassed horrors the Society had brought upon this house, down into the floorboards and mortar, it was in the end too much for a few stalwart souls to close up and shut down. We needed an army of those as experienced as Blessing and Mrs. Northe. The rest of us were too beaten down, our reserves tapped by so many facets of this unexpected war. We'd fought a good fight. But now…

Our shoulders sagged as Jonathon and I both choked and shook. We were paralyzed by the dread and horror that was the core of the demonic presence. I felt a hand clamp around my neck. It wasn't Jonathon's. It was my own, the terrible force eating us inward, turning our own tired selves against us. We sunk to our knees, both of us gasping and snarling. I tried to rally, to reject the presence. A choking "I renounce thee..." afforded me one deep breath before the suffocating darkness threatened to overwhelm me once more.

I clutched the small scissors in my hand. Whispers careened around my ears. They urged me to drive the blade into my own flesh. To just give up. To let them in. To give them room. The point of the very sharp scissor point pierced my wrist, by my own doing. A drop of blood welled up. I remembered the runes that the magic had carved into my flesh, and I found myself making a line up my wrist, searing, burning pain sharpening every sensation.

"Natalie," Jonathon choked. A tendril of black shadow sweeping out from the demon's wake was wound around his neck, manifest evil taking shape and wielding violence.

I stared at the line of blood seeping from my wrist, my heart racing from the burning pain of it. I couldn't give up like this. This incorporeal beast before me was just that: incorporeal. It needed to be shot down with a bullet of light, faith, hope, and determination.

I pulled upon everything that had brought me to this point in one final shrugging off. I thought of all the sacrifices, Maggie's lovely, bloodstained face flashing before my eyes as if I were praying to a saint. She was a saint here today, and I was stronger than this. If she could take in five of the beasts, I could take on one. The worst wretches of the corporeal and incorporeal world always underestimated determined young women.

I remembered the cross that burned upon her, and with one even slice of the open scissor blade, I intersected the bleeding line up my wrist with another one, to make a cross. I lifted up my wrist, blood pooling in the lace at my cuffs. "I renounce thee!" I cried as the black silhouette of the demon advanced upon me, hovering.

I flung myself back, giving myself space from the beast as I plucked the cross I wore beneath my layers out into the open. It was a small, elegant cross my mother had given me after I'd gone through my confirmation classes at Immanuel Lutheran. I thought of Mother, of Father, of the beautiful fiancé before me, and suddenly I felt like Joan of Arc must have felt before going off to war, surrounded by saints.

But like Joan, I needed more armor. I looked around wildly for something else. I picked up the inkwell on Jonathon's desk, and I plunged my finger into it, making the sign of the cross upon my forehead as if it were Ash Wednesday. From dust we were made and unto dust we would return. But not today.

"I renounce thee!" I shrieked again. Jonathon was trying to close the distance between us, and I fell to my knees before him, using the inkwell to paint a messy cross over his brow. "We renounce thee!" Our rejection caused a tremor in the room. Books rattled on their shelves. The expensive trinkets from around the world shuddered on the marble fireplace mantel. The window panes shivered.

Jonathon shook his head, as if tossing off a terrible dream. He narrowed his eyes at the hesitating, pulsing dark form. "Upon the graves of our beloved mothers," Jonathon bellowed, "we renounce thee!"

A sudden burst of light had us blinking and wincing, and suddenly between us and the horrid, silhouetted form of congealed evil, floated the bright white forms of two beautiful women. Angels called down to the fight. I recognized one of the angels as my own. And the second one looked a great deal more like Jonathon than that thing wailing down the hall did.

"You leave our children alone," the spirit of my mother said to the vacuous silhouette in a venomous tone. "This is the end. Your kind has failed. You cannot win against such wondrous love as this." She turned her beaming, beautiful face upon us, and tears of amazement rolled down my cheeks.

"Did you hear that?" said the second spirit, a beautiful woman in a lavish gown, in a vicious hiss In the name of God the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Ghost. In the name of all the saints, the host of angels, and everything that is holy, get out of my house!" shrieked the spirit of Lady Denbury.

Lady Denbury was not tied to that body in the dining room at all but instead tied to her beloved son. Her spirit was resilient and made new again in the fight. The bright, transparent form of Lady Denbury lifted an elegant hand into the air and sharply backhanded the inelegant, tar-black form before her, and it splintered into a spattering mess, wet ashes upon the fine rug, nothing but ugly residue.

Jonathon seized me and stepped back so that none of the demonic muck could land upon me, all the while staring up at the ghost of the mother he'd never had time to grieve. The two ghostly women looked down at their embracing children.

"Don't go, Mother," Jonathon gasped, his tears flowing as freely as mine. "I never got to say good-bye, I—"

"I love you too, my darling, perfect boy," Lady Denbury said with a dazzling smile. "And you needn't say good-bye. I'll always be with you."

"I am so sorry, Mum," Jonathon said in gasping breaths. "I should've done more, I should've saved you—" He tried to reach out and touch her, hold her.

"You've done everything you can," Lady Denbury replied. "Look at all you've done. You've done more than you even know, my darling. I am so proud of you."

"Both of you," my mother added. "Don't they make a perfect couple, Lady Denbury?"

"Indeed. She's Lady Denbury now." Jonathon's mother smiled at me. "And I couldn't rest happier."

"Be well, darlings," my mother said as she and her friend in heaven began to fade. "We're never far, we live within you, and in any darknesses, we are with you. Never forget. Live in the light."

"I love you," both Jonathon and I blurted to our mothers simultaneously before they faded entirely. We swayed on our feet, breathing heavily. The study door swung open again of its own accord. There was no more screaming anywhere. Just the murmur of activity. Of cleanup. Of a battlefield victorious.

Somewhere I could hear Moriel raving as he was being led away, leveling threats and decrying the undeserving underclass. There was another loud smacking thud, and I suspected Brinkman had knocked him out again. It was admirable Brinkman hadn't killed Moriel, really. I'm sure the government would have given him leave to do so; however, whatever secret Moriel held had something to do with someone Brinkman loved. Human beings could do amazing, nearly inhuman things for love. This was something the Society seemed keen on subverting though they seemed unable to understand it. It was not something they could overpower. That was their ultimate hubris.

I heard Mrs. Northe calling for us.

"In here," I called into the hall with the last of my energy, allowing Jonathon to gather me up into his arms, sinking with me again onto the floor, our backs against his beautiful bookcase.

We were bloody and drenched in sweat, ink, and water, our clothes torn and besmirched. Bruised, battered, alive. Grieving. Joyous. Relieved. Exhausted. Alive. Jonathon tore his black silk cravat and made a bandage for my wrist.

Suddenly there were shouts and screams once more. Did I rejoice too soon? I smelled smoke. And burning flesh.

The dining room was on fire.

Brinkman popped a sweaty, smeared face into the study, standing wide-eyed at the threshold. "The corpse. The corpse of Lady Denbury… It..."

"Went up in flames," I finished. "The spirits will have their revenge. Let them combust the body. It's part of resolution…"

"My men are instituting a bucket brigade from your rear well, Lord Denbury," Brinkman said. "We'll do what we can to save the building. You've a haven at a safe distance, yes? We should evacuate you and your friends from the estate at last."

Jonathon nodded. "Up the earthen corridor behind the library. A cottage."

"Go on then, quickly." Brinkman shooed all of us into the hall and toward the library. I saw my four friends going on ahead, with Reverend Blessing carrying Maggie's corpse in his strong arms. The sight made tears spring forth again. Nathaniel and Lavinia directed them toward the library, and they disappeared into the next rooms.

"Do hurry," Brinkman insisted. "After all we've been through, I'd hate for a lowly fire to take you down. I'll join you once I see to it the men are at work with the well."

"Thank you, Mister Brinkman, for everything," Jonathon called. Brinkman batted a hand in the air and ran off.

Jonathon Whitby, Lord Denbury, III, paused in the middle of his corridor, watching flames licking out into the hall from Rosecrest's lovely dining room. Jonathon stared at the flames of destruction. "Sometimes," he murmured in a haunted, sad voice that was elder than his years, "some things are best left to burn."

He grabbed me by the arm, and we darted toward safety.

(End of Chapter 26.5 - 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!)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


(For previous chapters, see right side bar. If viewing by mobile, scroll down from for all chapters)

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.

Cheers! Happy haunting! See you next Tuesday!)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Haunted Night in the Morris-Jumel Mansion

As you've noticed, the blog has been overtaken by the serialization of The Double Life of Incorporate Things, which has been such a wonderful, fascinating ongoing experiment. But recent experiences ought not go unmentioned.

Fittingly on November 2nd, dia de los muertos, and All Saints' weekend, I spent the evening in the haunted and incredibly historic Morris-Jumel Mansion in Manhattan for a ghost investigation, thanks to dear friend Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, author of Scandalous Women, who found out about it in the first place and invited us along (on her birthday, no less!).
This mansion saw the likes of George Washington, Aaron Burr, Bonapartes, and least of all, the indomitable lady of the house, Eliza Jumel.

Paranormal is my normal. I believe in ghosts because I have seen, heard and felt them, all in various ways and capacities through my life. If you've read my work you know that spirits and spirituality factor in as the major themes.
So I don't NEED proof. I know what I know. I am suspicious of and generally dislike the idea of ghost hunting. I write about ghost-busters, I don't need to patrol them myself, because often if you go looking for things the wrong kinds of things are looking for you.
But in this case, the mansion itself was putting on the evening, billing it in a relaxed manner in which it would be a historical sleepover with tour guides availing themselves to our questions and giving us a whole night in the house to ourselves, what a neat way to live in that house for a day and get a chance to immerse myself in the history of it. If there was a haunting along the way, so be it.

What I wasn't prepared for was the amount of spectral activity that availed itself to us in the house as if it were another tour guide. The lady of the house was certainly active for her guests. Known to actively and unabashedly haunt the house, Eliza Jumel was a fascinating woman who led a fascinating if not oft controversial life. (For more about this amazing lady, please visit Elizabeth's fabulous blog post about her.)

The evening began with the group of about twenty participants interested in history and the spectral (my kind of folk), listening in the small ballroom to gentlemen from Acoustic Archives. They spoke with us about some of the amazing spectral activity captured and recorded in the house, showcased video and audio, and explained a little about what they'd be doing with equipment in the house that night. We continued with a tour of the outside and full inside of the mansion by very talented, knowledgeable guides.

Then we all gathered in the kitchen, the basement of the house and the official "ghost hunting" began. With this, I was skeptical. Ghosts don't necessarily like to perform on command. The questions to "show yourself" and "give a sign" as bidden by the gentlemen with the equipment weren't really garnering a response. But they were amenable to all of us asking questions and participating and the group got an interesting discussion going in the dark, talking about history and positing things the spirits might be feeling or hanging onto. It was a large sort of seance, in a way, but there was just too much activity, too large of a group, I thought, to get a specific response. However there were significant cold spots near me and my friends, and I saw that someone had taken a photo and there were a lot of orbs. I sensed we were not alone, but I knew it would take time before something responded, if anything would. I don't like to test the spirits, and had this not been a welcoming energy in the building, I would not have stayed there. I certainly don't tempt malevolence. A fascinating development began when we decided to split up the group by gender. Men went upstairs with equipment, we ladies remained downstairs and for the next hour. And we communed. Without any real need for communication with spirits (I can sense people's desperation about these things, proof of the paranormal drove a lot of very intelligent persons from Conan Doyle to Houdini a bit batty, so I try to steer clear of ever having expectations of the spirit world, for in expectations therein sets up disappointments), we talked to them anyway.

We all, taking turns, told them of what all had happened for women in the intervening time since women had been there in that basement as slaves or servants, young or old, all of them living a life of great toil and struggle and limited freedoms. We told them of laws, of suffrage, of rights, of careers they likely couldn't have imagined in their day. We thanked them. Profusely. For being our foremothers. For having visions that grew into our modern world. For having stories no one would ever know. We honored them. We tried to imagine what their lives would have been like. We all realized how lucky we are now. How much there is to be thankful for. How much there is still left to be done, in terms of equality. And then, when we wondered if the lady of the house had much hand in the kitchen, all the track lighting flickered on in a wave and then off. (No one was near the switch and it was not on a dimmer so the effect would have been impossible to create by hand). There were certainly spiritually charged feelings about house and housework.

When we rejoined others upstairs, they were taking our questions and comments further, with incredible results. With a small flashlight with its cap unscrewed so that any connective presence from a ghostly response would make it flicker on or turn it back off, the lady of the manor was answering questions.

With a directive to turn the flashlight on to full or off depending on a yes, no, or 'flicker if maybe' question, the lady told us she liked our presence there, was fond of men but never really loved one, had complex feelings about children, was very proud of her home, would like to have a ball in the ballroom (she was hesitant about this until I clarified for her if she would like it if it were a ball done in the style and dance of her day, and this was a resounding flashlight "yes"). And she really liked being spoken to in French. (Thanks to fellow writer and bookseller Stacey Agdern for helping provide insights and some French).

Perhaps the most striking answer to a question was the flashlight blazing in full when asked if she might linger on haunting her own home because of fear. Fear of what was next. Fear of the beyond. Fear of passing onwards...

It's something I muse on in every one of my books. The veil between our world and the spirit world is always very thin in my work. As I feel it is very thin in general if one but focuses upon it. Ghosts play prominent roles; are heroes, antagonists, love interests, plot twists, problems, saviours, complications. What I try never to do is answer those questions beyond what I feel the characters can safely say. What the strictures of my worlds dictate.

I was moved by our night in the mansion, both from a human level of what we accomplished as people, strangers drawn together merely by a very respectful interest in history and what might haunt it. And then from a spirit level as there was no trickery to the flashlight, (I'm enough of a skeptic to have queried the item but there was no incentive for the light to be rigged, no one was filming this, no programs were watching, and no obvious way it could have been rigged, so I simply took the item for what it was) and Lady Jumel's responses matched what we know of history, of her nature, with some surprises and nuance. She deigned to bring herself to life for us and entertain in her home once more. What an honour.

I don't come away from a night like that with any answers, or any different notions about ghosts or about an afterlife. I believe what I believe; that the spirit world is always there for us, but that we shouldn't rush desperately into its arms. As for the Great Beyond, that's the divine mystery. And we'll all find out when we do. I don't go looking for proof of the supernatural, in this case, I went looking to spend time in a historic mansion. I let instances happen to me and then I enjoy and respect them for the isolated incidents they are. Life and the spirit is an unfolding journey. I can be a very impatient person, but when I just trust in process, I'm happier and more likely to be presented with all that I need, moment by moment, experience by experience. For more poetic and lyrical musings of that nature, please read my books.

Soon I'll post another musing of visiting a building that helped define me and my mission in life and art.

Happy Haunting...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


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Chapter Twenty-Six (Part Three)

The late Lady Denbury was the body. She was the amalgam of "parts." She was the reanimate terror. The final, desecrating insult to the Denbury legacy…

A yellowed corpse with matted, dark hair that was tousled in what had once surely been a very lovely funereal coiffure now stood as the next parading terror at the dining room door. She was swathed in black robes synched by a golden belt, the flowing fabric hiding the somewhat disjointed and uneven height of her, as her body would have been pieced together from myriad bodies. This was done so that the unnatural creation would tether as many ghosts to the reanimate body as possible, one ghost per harvested body part, harnessing the most amount of life force possible to make the corpse active.

And then the corpse opened its mouth. Everything in the air screamed in response. This was just like it had been for us in Doctor Preston's hospital before; the unnatural tie of spirits that powered the body, the tenor of the dark magic carved into dead flesh, made the very fabric of the air shriek in a pitch specifically designed to undo the sanity of anyone within earshot. As the unseen ghosts that made the room drastically chill by their presence were worked up into spiritual frenzy in the hellish siren wail, plates and silverware lifted off the fine linen upon which they'd been laid. The poltergeist phenomena of the attendant spirits was now made active. One reanimate form created myriad paranormal problems in its wake.

Lavinia and I winced, shrinking from the noise; Nathaniel clapped hands over his ears, unprepared for this turn. Brinkman closed his eyes and remained calm.

Jonathon stared in horror at the openmouthed creature that bore some slight resemblance to his face. This time, this was not something Jonathon could endure without reaction. He stood and pounded his fists upon the marble-topped table, causing all silverware airborne by spirits' affectation to clatter back down onto the marble. "Enough!" he shouted.

Moriel rose and went to the standing, swaying corpse, taking its yellowed hands in his. "That's enough, dear. You heard him." The corpse shut its mouth and turned to Jonathon expectantly. It just stood there like a terrible statue as Jonathon's knuckles went white when he clutched the back of his chair.

"You will not dishonor the late Lady Denbury so," Jonathon growled. "It is an insult to this house!"

"Well played, Lord Denbury III," Moriel laughed, applauding Jonathon. "You did originally have me convinced. You'll have to tell me how you managed to get yourself out of the painting, I simply must know!" he said eagerly. "And also, what you did, then, to one of my demons! If he is not within you, whatever happened to him? He'd have wanted a new place to stay…"

Maggie piped up with a distant, airy voice. Amid the latest horror, I'd almost forgotten about her sitting a seat away from me. "The demon left Lord Denbury because he wanted to be with me. I kept him… I loved him! He became mine!" She swiveled her head to Moriel, her eyes glassy, her lips dry and cracked. I wondered if they'd sedated her with something, or if her mind had simply gone, all the work in Chicago for nothing.

"Ah, did he then?" Moriel asked Maggie gamesomely.

"He did!" she insisted.

"Then you do have your uses, little poppet." Moriel laughed. "Delightful, all of this! What discoveries we make! Sansalme, make a note of all this in the book!" The second-in-command pulled out a fountain pen from his pocket and loomed over me, flipping to a blank ledger page and taking notes in deep, iron-red ink…

Maggie swiveled her head back and looked directly into my eyes. Something hardened there. She pursed her lips. She knew me. A fire flickered there. What was she up to...?

Majesty Moriel looked at the dead Lady Denbury and back to Jonathon with a sick smile. "I knew resurrecting Mumsy would put you to the true test, son. I assume your friend here and your baits, then, are plants." Moriel leered at me, then Lavinia. "But good that you brought them. They're pretty, they'll do." Then he whipped his gaze back to Maggie with an altogether darker intent. "Don't you think, Miss Hathorn? You're very pretty, you've done nicely thus far, to trap a demon for your very own?"

Maggie just nodded primly and regained that airy voice that did not sound inhabited as her own. "Thank you, Your Majesty. All for the greater purpose."

"You see," Moriel said to all of us. "You'll all come around to Miss Hathorn's way of thinking. You'll see it is the only way." He looked over his shoulder. "Isn't that right, Mister Brinkman?" Brinkman nodded. I gritted my teeth.

"Do secure Mister Veil there," Moriel instructed of Brinkman before turning to Jonathon. "It was good you tied up your girls, Denbury. Less we have to do." Brinkman pulled a leather strap from his pocket and secured Nathaniel's hands behind his back. Nathaniel started to struggle, but Moriel whipped out a second knife from another pocket, cautioning: "Careful, Mister Veil. I spend my spare hours testing throwing knives on peasant flesh. I doubt your redhead there would look improved with a blade jutting from her gullet, now would she? Let Mister Brinkman do his work."

As Nathaniel quieted and Brinkman obeyed, I questioned the operative's loyalty. I felt everything begin to spin out of control. We weren't going to make it out alive. The fear I'd kept in check threatened to undo me. I tried to hold back tears, but one escaped.

The Majesty turned to the yellowed corpse hovering beside him and instructed: "Go and tie up your son, my love. I don't want him getting rowdy, but I'd like him to see all this. If he's a good boy, I might even deign to adopt him as my own. He should've been mine all along."

Jonathon spit at the wretched man. If looks could kill, Jonathon's expression would have ripped the Majesty limb from limb, slowly and agonizingly.

The hideous form of what was supposed to represent Lady Denbury lurched over and bound Jonathon's hands behind the back of the beautifully carved chair. He would not look up at the thing as it tied him. I did not blame him. I stared at Jonathon, willing him strength and if he could read minds, telling him how much I loved him. Suddenly, for him, I felt invincible, despite these harrowing turns. God had to be on our side. Heaven had to be watching and waiting for us to make our move... For no one should be meant to endure such hell.

Once finished, the effigy of Lady Denbury shuffled back to stand against the wall, leaning against the marble of the mantel, slightly in shadow, as if it needed the corner to prop itself up. Its milky, cataract eyes were unfocused as it stood awaiting its next orders and purpose.

I wanted to look at Brinkman, to demand, with one glance alone, why he wasn't saying or doing anything. Surely, this was all punishable to the death. The Majesties had damned themselves enough, hadn't they? But no, our rule still stood. We hadn't yet done the countercurse and that had to be done to restore the Winsome souls to their bodies, lest that hapless family be caught up in collateral damage. We had to limit the circumference of this ever-expanding circle of woe.

"Now, dinner! Sit and watch your betters eat," Moriel said to the gathered company gleefully. "That's how it should be. How it should always have been. Always should be!"

The family came in to serve the three Majesties dinner, moving in a daze, their possessed bodies less animate and more unwieldy than when the demon had overtaken Jonathon. Aprons were slung over their fine clothes that had begun to tear and fray. I found I couldn't look at the two children. It was too painful. But I couldn't look at the representation of Lady Denbury, either; she was too horrid. So I stared at my empty plate and prayed for our lives. I struggled to keep focused and not give over to panic and futility.

Food was laid before us. Not that I had any appetite. Not that we were free to eat. The laying out of food seemed symbolic, a representative trapping. The Majesties didn't eat, either; they merely drank a dark wine—if even wine at all, something thick and pitch black like tar—in crystal goblets. I didn't want to know what it was. It seemed too viscous and dark to be blood. It left a black stain upon their yellowing teeth. I imagined all this lavish food going uneaten spoke to the Majesty's desire for wastefulness, greed, for lavish loss at the expense of others. I could see them just leaving this whole table to rot. But not while I had breath in my lungs would I be that passive.

I had been given a second chance at my voice. I was not about to lose that power now.

Bound or no, we all still had our voices. Leveling the countercurse would set things in motion as planned. We couldn't have figured the equation changing so horridly with the corpse of Lady Denbury, but we couldn't let that derail us. It was up to the rest of us to stay strong when Jonathon was doing everything in his power to maintain his sanity. He couldn't look at the creature, either. I didn't blame him. He'd never properly mourned. I longed for the moment he could and put all these nightmares at last to bed, with my help.

"The lintel, please, Vincenzi," Moriel said, some of the dark substance dribbling down the side of his paunchy face.

Vincenzi leaned over toward Maggie, and I saw the flash of a silver knife and blood spurted onto the marble table as Maggie shrieked, her finger dripping scarlet in the instant. He grabbed her hand and squeezed it into the goblet before him. "You could have warned me," she pouted to the large man. He sneered at her. She didn't fight him as he clamped her hand tighter, swirling the blood in the glass. I had to remind myself she had somehow come here of her own volition.

The third Majesty rose with the last offering. With the bloody-tipped knife, he carved a horizontal line meeting the two vertical lines in a tall rectangle. He poured the contents of the glass across the line, scarlet blood dripping down the fine wallpaper in dark, garish streaks. I felt the ground tremble a bit. Vincenzi was murmuring to the wall like his counterpart had done. As I blinked my eyes, it seemed the wall itself rippled. Moriel and Sansalme took up murmuring too. Numbers, in a sequence. It was what Crenfall had been murmuring in his madhouse cell. The golden ratio, but the divine pattern uttered in reverse. It was writ on the floor in tar and blood and now murmured actively on their lips.

The first course was being cleared around us. Soon the possessed bodies of the wretched Winsome family would either be downstairs or hidden again. I tried to catch Jonathon's eye. We couldn't delay. We needed to level the countercurse now, while all four of them were in the room. Even though Jonathon hadn't managed to lure out the Society plan for the recorder in the wings as Brinkman had demanded, if what that carving of the wall meant what I thought it might, we couldn't afford a portal... Whatever was being called or loosed in this room... The police couldn't arrest that... A mouth to hell…

But I couldn't do the countercurse on my own, not with four souls and bodies to reunite. We all needed to do our part and all in one concerted effort. I kept trying to get Jonathon to look at me, but he was transfixed at what was becoming manifest behind Moriel.

A dark rectangular shadow opened up, like a door swinging open. Where there was a wall, there was now a corridor. Inside, just like the girding behind the walls of a home, was the framework between life and death. It was an awesome and terrible sight that was impossible to truly comprehend, even when staring into its abyss.

I recognized this from one of my dreams, a corridor between life and death, between forces for light and those for the dark. Wavering threads hovered inside, weaving and moving like a busy New York street. The fabric of the very universe was laid bare before us, something we shouldn't be privy to, but as the Society was tampering with the very tapestry of the world and tearing at its threads, sticking wrenches into gears, the divine skeleton was visible beneath the flesh.

Five black, vaguely human forms peeled out from the ether and into our world, crossing the threshold with horrible murmurs rising in the air like the cresting of a storm. They were like shadows without bodies, and they whipped about the dining room like careening ghosts.

They were visible, black holes, obliterating chandelier light, firelight, and candlelight as they passed by it. Fomented misery, they made the air not only frigid, but bitter and malevolent. The taste of unadulterated evil. As Moriel laughed the forms flew faster, dizzying in their movement. These were what possessed bodies. These were the host demons. The sweat of panic dripped down my temples.

The corpse of Lady Denbury began to groan again; at any moment I expected another full-fledged wail. The silverware rattled and lifted, hovering a few inches above the table once more. I wished I could, through force of will, like I had seen spirits do once before, shift all the knives and forks and any pointed object. I wished I could drive everything straight into Moriel's chest.

"Come, come," Moriel cried to the shadowy forms. "I am here to give you life. Soon we'll outnumber our enemies. Life by life, blood by blood. Come! Take..."

"Yes, come!" Maggie cried suddenly, pushing back her chair, rising to her feet. "Come unto me, demons! Fill me! All of you!" Maggie cried. "I want you..."

The shadows pacing the room suddenly turned as if dogs catching a scent.

"No..." I murmured, wresting in my chair. My words fumbled in my throat, my old disability threatening to halt my words as anxiety tended to do. "No...don't…do that..."

"I want you," Maggie continued. There was a horrific and unnatural shudder of her body as the shadows all pounced at once, disappearing into her. The Majesties gazed on with a sick, eroticized hunger.

"I want you"—a sudden, fierce fire leaped into her eyes as she retaliated with a scream—"to go to hell!"

From the pocket of the prim pinafore she'd worn, she withdrew a glass bottle with an ornate cross upon it, clear liquid inside.

I realized dimly she was not cursing us to hell. She meant the demons. The demons that had overtaken her. Or, maybe…that she had just entrapped…

Seizing the bottle of what I realized must be holy water—why else would there be the cross upon it?—she drank it down swiftly, emptying the whole bottle, choking but drinking still. Her face contorted in agony. She crumpled forward in a jerking movement. A wretched gurgle sounded in her throat.

"No!" Majesty Moriel cried, his look of ecstasy suddenly turning to rage. "Traitorous little bitch, what do you think you—"

Brinkman suddenly punched Moriel in the face, and he slumped face first into a bowl of pudding. As the other Majesties on either side rose to fight, Brinkman whipped two pistols from his pocket, one trained on either of the Majesties. My heart buoyed. The man was our side after all. Thank God. He waited long enough to prove it. No. Brinkman was smart, the souls weren't yet back in the painting, and him playing their side had bought him more leverage, to be standing so close to the wretches, able to escape being bound like the rest of us.

Just as I swelled with hope, Maggie started screaming.
(End of Chapter 26.3 - 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!)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


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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, Whitby? 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."

"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 New York. 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."

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, Whitby," 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."

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 Crenfall
Doctor Neuman
Doctor Preston
Doctor Stevens
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 Minnesota, dead too then? Likely presumed so. The last doctor, the one who had been working on the chemicals in New York, did not have his name crossed off. For now. The Winsomes I assumed were in the portraits, though I couldn't be sure.

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 New York sky...

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 Whitby past to be concerned about. Moriel gestured Brinkman over toward Jonathon.

"Mister Bank, do take up my knife there and use it to keep an eye on Whitby. 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.

"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.

"Very good."

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.

Lady Denbury.

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.

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