The Roses of the Moon: The Curse
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…
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.