Friday 30 September 2022

October - the Halloween Month. Magic. Ghosts. Demons. Witchcraft

October is the Halloween month! For October, I am sharing details and excerpts from my romance stories that feature magic, witchcraft , ghosts, ghost-finders, and halloween.

#DiverseRomance #Romance DARK MAIDEN



Ghosts, revenants, incubi , vampires and demons haunt medieval England, as Yolande and Geraint must use their love to survive.

To begin my own personal celebration of the month of Halloween, here is an excerpt that features magic and witchcraft.

In the Middles Ages, belief in magic was strong. Many practised magic in the forms of good-luck charms, and in the wearing of certain plants to ward off bad luck. Witches were both feared and revered.

From "The Snow Bride"

She is Beauty, but is he the Beast?






“Are you a witch?”

Elfrida, sewing on the sleeves to her younger sister’s best dress as they sat together on the bench outside her hut, felt fear coil in her belly like hunger pangs. Keeping her eyes fixed on her needle, she answered steadily, between stitches, “I am my own master, ’tis all, without a husband. Have any in the village been troubling you?”

“Oh no, Elfrida, but I was thinking.”

Elfrida tugged another stitch tight, her needle flashing like a small sword in the bright evening light. “Does your Walter call me so?” she asked carefully.

She glanced up. Christina was blushing very prettily, her light-blue eyes brighter than cornflowers when set against her pale-blue veil, white skin, and primrose hair. Lost in admiration, and quite still for a moment, she heard Christina admit, “We do not talk much. Well, I do not. Walter calls me kitten and we kiss.”

Christina and her betrothed could be found kissing all over the village, so that was no surprise.

“Yet still.” Christina pressed a well-bitten fingernail to her rose-petal lips. “Our dam was a witch.”

“She was a wisewoman, Christina.”

“Our father was a wizard.”

“A healer and dowser,” Elfrida patiently corrected.

“And you are all of that, of those things, I mean.”

Elfrida fastened the final stitch and knelt beside her sister, crouching back on her heels in the snow. Christina was not usually so fretful.

“Walter loves you very much,” she said after a space, “and you have a good dowry.”

A good dowry it was, of cloth she had spun and ale she had brewed, cheeses she had made, and silver pennies she had earned by her healing and dowsing. Since her earliest childhood, Christina had longed to be married, with a hearth and children of her own, and Elfrida had striven to keep her safe and happy. She was the eldest, so it was her duty, and she had promised their parents, on their deathbeds, that she would do so.

“But will the priest marry us?” Christina was biting another fingernail.

“Today is the very eve of your wedding, little one.” Elfrida tugged gently on her sister’s dress. “This is your wedding gown.”

“He has preached against redheads.”

“You are no redhead, and Father John’s sermon was on modesty for women,” Elfrida replied. Her sister was not a redhead, but she was, and redheads were rumored to be witches. “He said that for a girl to be unveiled was to be as brazen as a redhead. He took my healing ointment, too.” She tugged gently a second time on Christina’s dress. “Walter will be here to see you after sunset. Would you have him see you in your gown?”

Her sister ignored her question and pouted. “He will be late. He is coming here only after a meeting with his old men, and you know how they go on!”

“Did he say what the council was about?”

Christina shrugged. “He may have done, but I was not listening then.” She colored prettily. “Will you comb my hair again?”

Elfrida silently rose, kicking the snow from her faded, red gown—one that had belonged to their mother—and eased the wooden combs from Christina’s pale, shimmering hair. As she gently teased and tugged and Christina’s breathing slowed, Elfrida thought of the council.


Excerpt of Elfrida working her witch-craft.


“She is the third!” Walter had cried out, beating his fists against the walls of their empty hut. “The third in her wedding garb, and the most beautiful: one black-haired, one brown, and my Christina!”

He had refused to say more, even when Elfrida had threatened to curse him, but his outburst told her what he and the elders had been hiding from the village women. The brute who had carried off Christina had kidnapped other pretty young girls, also dressed in their wedding gowns. He stole brides.

I will dress myself as a bride and return here with my own wedding feast, with food and drink in abundance. Let him think me a bridal sacrifice, his red-haired bride, left for him by the village. And, by Christ and all his saints, this time I will be ready for him!

It is a blessing I am a healer and have so many potions ready prepared. If I put sleeping draughts in the wine, food, and sweets, surely I can tempt the beast to take some? I can smear tinctures of poppy on my skin and clothes, so any taste will induce sleep.

Sleep, not death, for she had to know where he had taken Christina.

I will coax the truth from the groggy monster, and then the village men can have him.

Part of her knew she was being wild, unreasonable, that she should talk to Walter, tell the villagers, but she did not care. Talk would waste more precious hours, and they might even try to stop her. For her sister she would do anything, risk anything. But she must hurry, she must do something, and she had little time.

It was full dark before Elfrida was finished, midnight on the day after the start of Advent, two days after Christina should have been married. She shivered in the glinting snow, her breath suspended between the frosted, white ground and the black, star-clad sky.

She glanced over the long boulder she had used as an offering table for her wine and food, not allowing herself to think too closely about what she had done. She had lit a small fire and banked it so that it would burn until morning, to stop her freezing and to keep wolves at bay, and now by its tumbling flames she saw her own small, tethered shadow writhing on the forest floor.

She would not dwell on what could go wrong, and she fought down her night terrors over Christina, lest they become real through her thoughts. She lifted up her head and stared above the webbing of treetops to the bright stars beyond, reciting a praise chant to herself. She was a warrior of magic, ready to ensnare and defeat the beast.

“I have loosened my hair as a virgin. I am dressed in a green gown, unworn before today. My shoes are made of the softest fur, my veil and sleeves are edged with gold, and my waist is belted in silver. There is mutton for my feast, and dates and ginger, wine and mead and honey. I am a willing sacrifice. I am the forest bride, waiting for my lord—”

Her voice broke. Advent was meant to be a time of fasting, and she had no lord. None of the menfolk of Yarr would dare to take Elfrida the wisewoman and witch to be his wife. She knew the rumors—men always gossiped more than women—and all were depressing in their petty spitefulness. They called her a scold because she answered back.

“I need no man,” she said aloud, but the hurt remained. Was she not young enough, fertile enough, pretty enough?

Keep to your task, Elfrida reminded herself. You are the forest bride, a willing virgin sacrifice.

She had tied herself between two tall lime trees, sometimes struggling against her loose bonds as if she could not break free. She could, of course, but any approaching monster would not know that, and she wanted to bait the creature to come close—close enough to drink her drugged flask of wine and eat her drugged “wedding” cakes. Let him come near so she could prick him with her knife and tell him, in exquisite detail, how she could bewitch him. He would fear her, oh yes, he would...

She heard a blackbird caroling alarms and knew that something was coming, closing steadily, with the stealth of a hunter. She strained on her false bonds, peering into the semidarkness, aware that the fire would keep wild creatures away. Her back chilled as she sensed an approach from downwind, behind her, and as she listened to a tumble of snow from a nearby birch tree, she heard a second fall of snow from a pine closer by. Whoever, whatever, was creeping up was somehow shaking the trees, using the snowfalls as cover to disguise its own movement.

A cunning brute, then, but she was bold. In one hand she clutched her small dagger, ready. In her other, she had the tiny packet of inflammables that she now hurled into the fire.

“Come, husband!” she challenged, as the fire erupted into white-hot dragon tongues of leaping flame, illuminating half the clearing like a noonday sun. “Come now!”

She thrust her breasts and then her hips forward, aping the actions that wives had sometimes described to her when they visited her to ask for a love philter. She shook her long, red hair and kissed the sooty, icy air. “Come to me!”

She saw it at the very edge of her sight—black, huge, a shadow against the flames, off to her side, and now a real form, swooping around from the tree line to her left to face her directly. She stared across the crackling fire at the shape and bit down on the shriek rising up her throat.

The beast stepped through the fire, and she saw its claw reaching for her. She heard a click, off to her right, but still kept watching the claw, even as the fire was suddenly gutted and dead, all light extinguished.

Darkness, absolute and terrifying, smothered her, and she was lost.


No comments: