Blood & Curses

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Chapter 12: Dark Memories

Victoria rubbed her eyes as she leaned back in her computer chair, sighing deeply. She had decided to set up an office space in her room to help her stay focused on the task at hand. The moon hung low in the sky as the early morning hours started to creep in. She uncorked the bottle of Lust she had on her desk and poured herself another glass as she continued to scour the web searching for anything that would help the Ashford family.

She was determined to redeem herself. The proposal that Eleanor had suggested completely severed the relationship the Elderidge family was building with them. They didn’t trust them anymore and she couldn’t blame them. They were strangers that had just appeared in their lives, the very creatures they were trying to keep away from their beautiful home.

“You should get some rest,” a voice said from behind her. She was used to them popping up all over the house by now and was growing accustomed to their presence. She had started tuning herself to sense them.

Spinning around in her chair with her glass of wine in hand, she raised the glass towards Henry in the air. Taking a long drag of the intoxicating drink, she licked her lips. “Here to check up on me?”

Henry pulled up a chair from the vanity table against the wall and parked it near her in front of her desk and computer. “I’m here to help you.”

She spun back around and rested her elbow over the table while cradling her head. Her hair fell in waves across her face which Henry took as an invitation to brush back behind her ear. She smiled weakly as he took his hand away.

“Sorry,” he said. “I forgot we’re not doing that anymore.”

Victoria bit her bottom lip as she fought the urge to capture his lips between her teeth. The drink was enhancing her desire but she needed it. She hadn’t been feeding properly and it was the only thing holding the edge off. Eleanor was right about the miraculous effects on staving off the hunger.

“So you want to help?” she asked as she started typing on her computer once again. “Have any ideas on how to locate a magical object to break an ancient curse?”

“Uh, well,” he started.

“Yeah, me either,” she said with a chuckle. “I’ve searched the web and the dark web. I’ve called all my contacts from all over the world, some of them dating back centuries. I’ve found magical objects, sure, but the kind of thing that would be needed for your curse. Yeah, that’s a little different.”

“Ebele said that it was derived from Voodoo…or Hoodoo. Something like that,” Henry added.

“That doesn’t really help me much. Ebele is kind of tight lipped on what exactly she did and that doesn’t exactly help our plight here,” Victoria stated.

“She’s tight lipped because she has trouble remembering things,” Henry admitted. “Since she was the person who conducted the bulk of the curse, it affected her mind. She won’t admit it, but the reason she can’t tell you much is because it partially erased her memory.”

“What about you?” Victoria asked, leaning back in her chair. “You were there. Do you remember anything? Maybe we can fill in the gaps.”

“I don’t know the first thing about witchcraft,” he replied. “I’m not sure whatever I told you would be helpful.”

“Please, try,” Victoria pleaded. “I’m drowning here.”

Henry sighed. “We conducted it in the old family mausoleum. Ebele had said something about performing the ritual over the dead to keep out the dead. I couldn’t really tell you if that meant anything or not. We were all standing in a circle and held hands while Ebele stood in front of this small table about a foot off the ground. I remember seeing these markings drawn upon the ground in some kind of red herb or chalk like substance…”

“Cinnabar,” Victoria interrupted. “It sounds like cinnabar which has been used in occult practices all over the world.”

“Oh, well, that’s nice to know,” Henry commented.

“The table you saw was probably an altar or shrine to hold ritual tools. Do you remember what was on it?” Victoria questioned.

“I remember candles all around us and on the table…I’m sorry. This happened so long ago and I’m not sure I’m remembering everything correctly,” he said, slightly frustrated.

“Just relax. Here. Let me try something,” Victoria said as she stood up from her chair and walked around behind Henry. She put her hands on the side of his head. “Just lean back and relax for a moment. Close your eyes.”

He hesitated for a moment but finally let her guide his head back and relaxed his muscles. She knew that some of that tenseness was coming from her touch down the side of his face. He leaned into her hands and rested his eyes, taking a deep breath.

“Not all vampires can do this, and I haven’t done it for some time,” she admitted. “I just want you to think about that night for me. You don’t have to talk. Just picture it in your mind.”

Henry reached up suddenly and grabbed her hands. “What are you going to do? Is this going to hurt?”

“No,” she smiled above him as she shook her head. Her hair silhouetted her face as she looked into his eyes from above. “I’m going to reach into your mind to see your memory. I would do this with Ebele but since the curse destroyed that part of her mind, I don’t think I could do it with her.”

He nodded and let her hands go as he returned to his previous state. She waited for his breathing to steady as she closed her own eyes. The only way this would work if he trusted her.

It only took a moment for her to enter his mind as the image of the memory formed. She stood in a small darkened chamber as candles glowed by the tombs adorning the walls. A small stained glass window was at the far end of the room over a mantle covered in dying flowers.

She walked around the backs of Henry’s family and watched from behind them as they held hands in a circle. They were dressed in the clothes of their period, all facing Ebele as she worked on top of the small altar close to the ground. She was kneeling before it, placing herbs and liquids into a small cauldron over candle flames. The concoction simmered as steam drifted into the air.

Victoria glanced down at the floor, seeing the cinnabar outlining some sort of sigil she didn’t recognize. Her gaze snapped back to Ebele as she took a crow and quickly cut off his head, tossing it to the side. Mary grimaced and turned away as Ebele held the bird’s broken body over the cauldron letting the blood drip from its neck.

“Don’t break the circle!” Ebele warned as Mary tried to run away. “We must finish what we start, otherwise the spirits will become restless.”

Henry and Thomas held tightly to their sister as she slowly turned back. Thomas whispered to her but it was apparent Henry hadn’t heard the words for they weren’t comprehensible in the memory.

Victoria listened as Ebele started chanting within the circle in the language of her ancestors and then returning to English.

“We offer these gifts humbly to appease the spirits and encourage the balance between the worlds of the living and the dead. We are plagued by the beast of burden upon the Ashford Estate and implore aid from the other side to protect us!” Ebele shouted as she pointed to each participant in the circle to give their offering.

Thomas approached first and offered an embroidered handkerchief to the flames before placing it within the cauldron. Henry offered a pocket watch, placing it within the simmering liquid. Mary took out a picture from her breast. She kissed it as she offered it to the dark abyss while Martha dropped a coin within the depths of the cauldron.

Ebele took a knife from the altar and sliced it into her hand as she offered her blood, binding the objects together. She began chanting in an old language as the others watched. Mary had tears rolling down her face as the others shared faces of stone. Ebele’s words grew louder and louder as the others began to take on the chant.

The flames of the candles flickered furiously as a mysterious breeze picked up within the chamber. As the gust grew stronger, Ebele’s movements became more and more sporadic and she circled around the altar and the others, twirling into a frenzy as the chanting grew to a crescendo of sound.

Victoria watched as the dark liquid of the cauldron began to rise from its depths, slowly forming a fountain within the air. It appeared to be flowing upward as it branched out towards each of the others.

Ebele ceased her twirling as she stopped in front of the altar, extending her arms out beside her and leaning her head back. The black liquid shot out towards everyone and Victoria released Henry, staggering backward.

Henry sat up and blinked before turned around in the chair. Victoria had her hand over her mouth as she tried to understand what she had just witnessed. He stood up from the chair and approached her as she took a step back. She held out her hand.

“Don’t,” Victoria said. “I just need a moment. It’s not you.”

“Are you okay?” Henry asked, genuinely worried.

She nodded vigorously. “That was insane, Henry. That was something else entirely. What the fuck did you do?”

“I know what you must think—”

“No. You have no idea what I’m thinking. That was some dark shit that you guys did,” she replied. “I thought it was a protection spell. That…that was something way more than that.”

“It was a curse, Victoria,” Henry said. “It was for protection but the essence of it was a curse. If we had known the consequences, we would’ve found another way.”

“Did Ebele know?” Victoria asked suddenly as her stomach began to roll from the waves of emotions coursing through her from the memory.

Henry paused, contemplating the question. “I…I don’t know. I remember she used to ramble on about it whenever another murder would turn up on the grounds. She would say that our estates was a kalfou or something, the crossroads between good and evil.”

“Kalfou…that’s the term she used?” Victoria inquired as she jumped onto her computer and opened her bookmarks tab.

“Yeah. Does that mean something?” Henry asked as he peered over Victoria’s shoulder.

“There,” she pointed out on the screen. “That store. I found it a while ago when I was searching local shops online. That name. Maybe they know what we need to break this curse.”

“I can’t leave the grounds so you’ll have to go on your own,” Henry replied. “Be careful when you do. If that place is real, they’ll know exactly what you are.”

“Your bodies are still there, aren’t they? On that cold stone ground of the mausoleum? I bet if we opened it up the altar and everything would still be the same, right?” Victoria asked.

“I know where this is going—”

“Hear me out,” Victoria said as she rushed to Henry’s side in the middle of the room. “I know Ebele doesn’t want us to know where they are exactly, but this could help me find out what she did and how to undo it. I’m not going to drain your bodies while I’m down there. You trust me, don’t you?”

“That sounds like a loaded question if I ever heard one,” Henry teased.

“Come on. Answer the question,” she implored.

“I do trust you, but I can’t say the same for the others. If they knew I was showing you around, they would murder me themselves,” Henry explained.

“Then we won’t get caught. Can’t you all sense each other around here?” Victoria asked.

“Who told you that?” Henry inquired, puzzled.

“No one, but is it true? Shouldn’t spirits be able to sense each other?” she asked again.

“Yes, we can. So can animals,” he remarked. “I know we’re alone right now.”

“Henry, I can’t help you or your family if I don’t see it. I’m not a priestess or whatever they call it. I don’t know what I’m doing here or what’s important to note about the curse to even begin to ask the questions needed. Just let me take some pictures of the ritual space,” Victoria pleaded.

“If pictures are all you need then I can do that for you. That way, I don’t break my promise to the rest of my family,” Henry confirmed.

Victoria sighed and nodded realizing that was about as close as she was going to get. While she wanted to honor their secrets, she worried about not knowing the exact location of their bodies. Anything could happen to them before she uncovered the truth to reversing the curse they placed upon themselves.

“Those objects each of you placed within the cauldron. What were they?” she asked.

“Ebele told us we had to offer the things dearest to us. Thomas kept a handkerchief from his late wife, Mary had a picture she took with her deceased lover at a fair, Martha kept the first coin her husband made after the estate was built, and the pocket watch belonged to my father. He gave it to me just before he left for the war. It was to link us all together,” he answered.

“It must have been hard giving those things up,” Victoria mused.

“Mary took it the hardest,” he confirmed.

“Why does she hate me so much?” Victoria questioned.

Henry wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead. “I know that probably wasn’t allowed but she doesn’t hate you, personally. She hates vampires in general. Our stable boy, her lover, was one of those that were murdered.”

“What?” Victoria asked, surprised. “She told me he fell ill.”

“He was,” Henry said. “His throat had been torn open and when I found him by the stables during one of my riding days, I carried him here to the main house. He was barely alive. He laid for three days in her bed, a fever higher than I had ever seen before, even after the bleeding had stopped. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it.”

“Was he buried in the cemetery in the back?” Victoria wanted to know.

“No, his mother came to claim his body and buried him in their family plot in the local cemetery,” he said. “Mary was devastated. She wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t talk to anybody. She just stayed in this room and cried mostly. I tried to comfort her but without going through a loss like that myself, I wasn’t the kind of company she wanted.”

“Henry…” Victoria started. “I don’t think he’s dead. I think…I think he turned.”

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