VI. Curses and Hexes
David was heading towards his own chamber, loosening his tie and content to let Charles and his parents continue entertaining the Weatherbys, when he heard Michael call to him from the dimly lit study. He turned down the hall and found his brother sitting at their mother’s desk, his bound journal open and a few books stacked to his right.
“Shut the door,” Michael said. David obeyed and pulled a chair up to the large oak desk. A lamp illuminated Michael’s writing.
“What do you have there?” David said.
“I took some notes from a few books I’ve been trying to find some time to peruse.”
David glanced at the heavy tomes. “Are you becoming an academic? I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“I’ve the devil in me, mostly,” Michael said. “Which motivates a man, to be sure.”
David picked up one of the tomes. “Folklore in Ancient Wales: Witches, Cauldrons, and Curses by Lord Reginald Percival Marton, esquire. Hell of a title.”
“It was one of Uncle William’s books that father ended up with. I don’t think it’s been cracked in twenty years.” Michael smiled. “Mother thinks it’s full of real witchcraft, which of course made it one of the only books I ever wanted to read.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t throw it out.”
“You know how Pa is. He’s like a dragon, guarding treasures he never bothers to enjoy.”
David chuckled. “So why this stuff?”
“Trying to find something about witches and, since you mentioned it, curses.”
“Who would want to curse you?” David said.
Michael cracked his old smile. “Not a serious question, right?”
David shrugged. “Did you find anything of interest?”
“Lots of interest. Of use? Who knows. I did find a bit about witchcraft in the old world. Most of it is rubbish, but there are apparently histories of hauntings.”
“And how they broke them, I hope,” David said.
“The witches or the hauntings?”
David chuckled. “Either, I suppose.”
“There’s a lot more about the witchy-types when they were alive. Supposed to live for centuries.”
“Witch of the Woods didn’t.”
“Who knows?” Michael said again. “If she’s dead, she’s not doing the standard dead thing.” He pushed another tome over to David. “Can you read this one for me?”
“Why?” David said, picking up the book. It read Black Sabbat.
“Because you read better than me,” Michael said. “And that one’s damn hard to read.”
David turned the book over in his hands. He opened it up and looked inside. It was filled with hand-written passages beside bleeding print of an ancient typeface. Lithograph diagrams of strange shapes and figures filled some of the pages, and grim death scenes in smeared charcoal filled others. David stared at a block of text, unable to read it, before realizing it was printed backward. He shuddered. “This looks like a real magic book. Not just something that talks about witches.”
“Probably all nonsense. You know Uncle William.”
“I did know him, but I thought he wasn’t a damn heretic,” David said.
“It’s probably just fancy. He used to by crates of old books,” Michael said. “But there could be something in there.”
David sighed. “Fine, I suppose I’ll take a look. Might as well burn it to cinders though.”
“Try not to,” Michael said. “You think we could sneak these out?”
“You’re the one who likened Pa to a dragon.”
“True enough. He’s got a temper like one,” Michael said.
“Maybe we’ll get plenty of time in here the next few days with all the hubbub,” David said. He looked at Michael. “Forgot to tell you. Charles is engaged to…”
“Yes, Marjorie. And he volunteered for the war.”
“Christ almighty, he’s looking to gut all his fun twice over,” Michael said.
“Marjorie’s not so bad,” David said.
Michael chuckled. “You couldn’t even remember her name. But she looks alright, I’ll give you that. I’d be willing to be she’s frigid as a glacier though.”
“Shouldn’t talk about your brother’s bride that way.”
“Ain’t no-one listening goody. And you should get to reading. I assume neither one of us wants to end up in bed with… her.”
“The witch you mean, not Marjorie.”
David cracked the book and starting reading. “Not sure how you con me into this stuff.”
“I have many years of experience conning you into things,” Michael said. “It comes with the job of big brother, eh?”