The Roses of the Moon excerpt: The Curse

The Roses of the Moon: The Curse

by

Alyne deWinter

At this point in the novel Marcsa Virag has discovered her mother, Countess Orzsebet’s diabolical secret. The Countess is arrested and walled up in her bloody tower while her accomplice, the old woman Atia, curses Marcsa Virag from the stake. Marcsa Virag is stoned by the angry villagers and rescued by Sandor. That night she has this terrible dream…

XXVII

Wormwood
Absinthe
Old Woman
Crown for a King
*
Protects against bewitchment
and the bite of sea serpents.
If burned in a graveyard
the spirits of the dead will rise and speak
according to the old grimoires.
*

I tried to sleep, but my bed was as hard as a slab.  My head ached, and my joints burned.
Something was pressing down on my chest. I couldn’t move; could not catch my breath. When I managed to capture a small gulp of air, a sickening odor came with it that stuck to the inside of my nostrils. I wanted to scream but the sound just flew back into the hollow of my skull.

I saw, as in a mirror, the black, evil eyes of Atia gazing through dim tarnished light. They were large eyes, streaming with a sparkling darkness that sickened me. I was pulled deeper into those eyes, down to an inferno. Black smoke billowed up. A raven lifted its wings and flew out of the smoke and up into the sky, circling the pyre. Fire swept through Castle Szeppasszony, filling its three ring walls, burning everything down. The wall-without-a-door crumbled but the liliu tree stood untouched in the center, with its firebird rising from the flames.

“Go away, go away,” I said. “Go away!”

Black smoke seeped in under the door and under the wall, smelling of fire and sulfur and dung. The smoke poured in. My body stiffened. A large, black raven with the face of a woman was walking backwards along the circumference of a white chalk circle littered with bones. She was fumigating a pentacle with smoky blue incense while she muttered, in hundreds of weaving voices, incantatory curses upon Castle Szeppasszony.

Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn…
Let the sun fall down upon it…
Fire, set the fire…let it fall.
Let the wicked castle sink below the earth,
Let the smoke of its destruction feed the Gods of Old.
Let the Black Mothers wail for the dead,
Let the blood flow into the Serpent River,
Going round and round forever,
Let the wall around the Tree be torn away .
Listen to the shriek of the firebird…

My heart drummed hard. I felt as if my life was draining out of me.

The raven lifted its wings into the smoky air and twisted in the wind as she rose.  Once out of the window, she became a black angel, with six flapping wings that flew up, cursing, into the sky.

I passed out and floated down a black river, senseless and alone. Then the night was pierced by two points of blue light. The knife flash of a smile. My mind reeled up a spiral stair, back into a bloody chamber where the stained glass window was on fire with a vision of the liliu tree dripping with flowers and blood. There she was in her royal bath, up to her neck in ichor, singing a joyful song as she splashed and rubbed her skin until it glowed. Liliu flowers blossomed in her gore-soaked her hair. Their petals bore the same translucent clarity as her skin. Orzsebet gazed into a gilded hand mirror, and smiled at the beauty that would never tire of itself.

She rose from the curling steam of the bath, watching her reflection in the mirrors on all sides. She smiled at the lovely image in the glass. Not even the finest artist could carve a figure as perfect as she. One dainty foot followed the other to the floor. She stood for a moment rubbing the blood into her skin until she was red all over, then she floated across the tiles, dragging her scarlet tresses behind her. As she glided down the stairs, her long hair followed, uncoiling from the tub like a streak of blood. The tower door was open. The rocks that had sealed the bottom door were gone. She was free to enter the cloister walk and come down the corridor to the side of my bed.

Her hair billowed out around her like a nimbus. She pressed down on my chest with her hands, her face close to my face, her teeth snapping.

“You cannot win…Though I die, you will never take Castle Szeppasszony.”

She commanded me, fixed my gaze to hers so that all I saw were her eyes. Then I remembered the roses on my balcony, and how the power to petrify them had drained her. She could not summon that power when it took everything she had to appear to me outside of her physical form. I closed my eyes tight, shutting down inside until I saw nothing but black. The floor fell away, and my bed was loosed upon an inner sea. I dove deeper within, summoning up the power to strike. My will suddenly freed me. I flailed my arms. My hand flew up and scratched that her face.

She lunged back with an earsplitting shriek! I covered my ears, shut my eyes, and screamed. When I opened my eyes, she was gone.

Something jumped off the bed and scampered away. I sat up, wide awake and nauseated. A thin shadow of white light at the window was too bright for me. My eyes felt like stones as I gazed at it, dawn or dusk, I knew not.

The Roses of the Moon, excerpt: Saint Lucy’s Day


The Roses of the Moon, excerpt: Saint Lucy’s Day

by Aline deWinter

In my Gothic fantasy, The Roses of the Moon, the thin veneer of Christianity cracks under the pressure of ancient rites of demonic magic practiced by the Countess of Castle Szeppasszony, Orzsebet. In this very early scene, nine year old Marcsa Virag goes with her nurse, Katalin, to the procession of Saint Lucy to pray that the evil secrets of her mother, Countess Orzsebet, be left hidden in the darkness for all of their sakes.

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We came out of the gloomy castle into sunshine and snow so bright that I had to pull my large, soft hood low to shade my eyes and keep them from weeping. Katalin pulled her hood up as well, though I knew it was to hide her face. Over the stately tolling of the bells the most beautiful singing swelled, reverberating around the mountains to the heavens above.

We hurried north along the icy lane to the Chapel of the Angels. It was all the way over on the other side of the River Kigyo at the base of the Mountain of the Moon. In ancient times the chapel had been carved out of the living rock. It was faced with a deep portico of stone spires that rose through the air before the cliff like ladders, encrusted over with mystic carvings. Souls of the blessed and damned, devils, angels, and saints floated, bending around the majestic figure of Christ at the Last Judgment. Gothic niches housing statues of angels climbed the sheer face of the cliff above the chapel to a ruin at the top. Lights sparkled at the feet of these angels lit by the monks who climbed a thousand stairs to reach them. A paved courtyard went around this majestic façade and out over a ledge to the edge of the river chasm. A wide bridge spanned the gap to  the gate in the northern curtain wall. It was quite splendid to see the horses flying over that broad viaduct during my father’s rituals of war, or the processions of monks coming across in the twilight carrying lighted candles as they wound through the castle on their way to the cathedral in the village.

On Saint Lucy’s Day, the gates on both sides of the river were open to the throng. When we arrived at the bridge, the procession was already making its way around the courtyard. Many of our courtiers stood along the inner walls wearing their best fur hats, long cloaks and jewels that sparkled in the mystic light of the lamps they carried in honor of Saint Lucy. We found a place in the back of the crowd, but I could not resist squeezing through the farthingales and cloaks to get a closer look.

Smoke of frankincense and myrrh poured out of golden censers that were swung by three priests in rich, glittering robes at the head of the stately pageant. Our sublime choir followed the priests. The deep voices of the older men thundered forth mixing with the soaring high tones of the boys’ voices in such celestial harmony that I shivered with emotion. The singers carried a white, flaring candles that cast damp halos around their faces. Frost streamed from their mouths, and their cheeks burned bright red. The dragging hems of their cassocks grew dark with wet snow. Painted icons of the saints and martyrs in golden frames bristling above them on long, golden stems came towards us like an advancing army. The censers swayed, the voices boomed and rose as if moved by the breath of God.

In their midst, altar boys rang musical hand bells to herald the arrival of Saint Lucy. Her holy relics were carried high above the crowd on the shoulders of six stout clerics. As they passed, I saw Saint Lucy sitting on a tall chair inside a litter of golden filigree. Struck by a ray of sunlight, her ivory face gleamed, her hair streamed like a river of gold, but the sockets of her eyes were the empty holes of a mask. The eyes that lay in her golden dish were pale blue sapphires.

I prayed to Saint Lucy to forgive me for seeing wrong things, and asked that all the bad luck I had caused be buried deep in the earth with my doll. I prayed that the magical link to my doll be broken, and that my moon baths have the power to wash all evil away.

Katalin was weeping. I went back to hold her hand, but just before I did, I saw my mother following the procession in a long blue cloak that dragged behind her in the mud and snow. Her ladies came after, watching their steps, carrying their Saint Lucy’s lanterns in one hand and daintily pinching their skirts up above their ankles with the other. My mother’s hooded head was bowed as if she was in deep prayer, fingering her beads like a nun.  But I was not sure she really was praying, for she walked in the shadow of the bier and the darkness clung to her like soot. When she passed I did not think she saw me, or if she did, she paid me no mind.

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The Roses of the Moon: A Tale of Gothic Fantasy by Alyne deWinter

I thought it would be fun to share some bits and pieces of my forthcoming novel, The Roses of the Moon and find out what people think. It has many faery tale elements woven int the narrative.

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The Roses of the Moon

Book One
Royal Hungary
1599
Winter

I
Dragon’s Blood
Blood

Increases potency and power

*

“Marcsa Virag, get away from the door!”

The voice struck like a blast of cold wind, blowing me into the shadows below the torchlight. The toes of my pointed shoes caught in the swirling hem of my shirts, tripping me to the floor. I broke my fall with my hands and lay winded for a moment. As I struggled to catch my breath I glanced around for my doll. She was gone. I turned to look back the way I had come and, through a blur of tears, saw my doll’s small, dark shape lying in a wand of firelight between the wall and the door that was cracked open upon the private chambers of the Countess Orzsebet.

>

There was a flicker of silence. I crept forward thinking that I might have time slip back and rescue my doll before anybody noticed, when suddenly the door opened wide, and in that shaft of light, the profile of a long-nosed mask appeared, surrounded by an elaborate circular neck ruff. A glimmer of bright fabric rained down from the mask to the floor and a single hand curled there around the handle of a long whip. The mask slowly turned to face me, its eyeholes stared in my direction, and the frill fanned out around it like the neck feathers of a great bird of prey. When the Countess saw me, she drew swiftly back into the room and out of sight, only to reappear and gaze at me again.

>

Captured in the beams of the Countess’s eyes, I was unable to move, frozen like a mouse crouching in the witch grass waiting for the descending claws. Suddenly she was walking towards me with a smooth, gliding step that reminded me of the small serpents that slithered into my chamber in the night and hid beneath my bed to escape the winter cold. The eyes behind the holes of the mask bore down upon me, baleful and fiery blue.

>

The corridor was colder and darker than ever now. The Countess Orzsebet, my mother, had sucked away all of the heat and light and taken it away into
her personal domain. My doll lay face down like a fragment of torn shadow. Her black hair was tangled. Her dress was draggled and ripped. With my
eyes still fixated upon my mother’s door, I leaned over slowly and picked her up. When I looked at her face I almost dropped her again. Someone had
burned out her eyes!

>

“Marcsa Virag, you have not seen what you think you have seen. Mark me! You do not remember a thing.”

>

Wheeling around, she threw my doll at my feet, floated back to her chamber and shut me out.

>
The corridor was colder and darker than ever now. The Countess Orzsebet, my mother, had sucked away all of the heat and light and taken it away into her personal domain. My doll lay face down like a fragment of torn shadow. Her black hair was tangled. Her dress was draggled and ripped. With my eyes still fixated upon my mother’s door, I leaned over slowly and picked her up. When I looked at her face I almost dropped her again. Someone had burned out her eyes!

>

I held my poor doll to my heart and ran as fast as I could down the rest of the corridor, almost tripping down a flight of wide sloping steps. I sped across the wintry cobbled courtyard where the ice-cold waters in the unicorn fountain were frozen in the air like silver ribbons. I plunged into a shadowy, smoky maze of arches and out again into the dim winter light of the Castle Courtyard that stretched behind the Main Gate to the steps of the Reception Hall. My steps echoed as I raced across the flagstones, scattering a flock of pigeons that flew around me like a storm. Finally I arrived at the tall, heavy doors to my wing of the castle and the guard let me inside. I slowed my pace down the wide corridor to the grand staircase that swept up to the galleries. My legs were heavy as I climbed into the gloom. I had to sit down to catch my breath. One look at my doll told me, more than words, that my mother hated me. I pressed the tip of my tongue against my teeth to calm myself. Above the top step, the landing stretched spaciously to the foot of an enormous tapestry of a beautiful walled garden where ladies danced with hares around a tree in the moonlight.

>

I fixed my gaze on the rich colors of the tapestry and finished my climb up the stairs. One either side of that weaving were two stained glass windows that shone hot for a moment and then dimmed, telling me that the sun had just fallen below the rim of the Carpathian Mountains.