Authors: Bernadette Walsh
She held me up. “They wanted your powers, dear girl. That is all they wanted.”
My stomach roiled in revulsion at the thought of my degradation at the hands of Simon and those bitches. I steadied myself and then stepped back. “I thought you said I was powerful. The most powerful Devlin witch in generations.”
“You are, or rather, you were. But you trusted outsiders with your powers.”
“Still, how could they do this to me? How did they bewitch me so?”
“You were willing, my love. You must admit you were willing. Look closer.” With a wave of her fingers, the tape rewound to a day from last week. She stopped the screen. Simon was above me, his face twisted in orgasm. “Look close at your witch lover. What do you see?”
Simon’s short black hair was longer, curlier, his smooth skin covered with whorls of black hair. And his eyes, his black eyes, glowed green.
“Is it Him, Granny?
“Yes. He helped them drain you of your powers.”
“But how did Simon find out about
“He didn’t. Simon doesn’t know
is using him. Simon and those girls think this is all their doing.”
I grabbed hold of her arm, the ice of her dead flesh so cold it almost burnt my hand. “What do I do now, Granny? What do I do?”
“Go home immediately. Get the Book.”
“Go down to your cellar, lift the loose tile beside your washing machine. You’ll find it there.”
“Through the portal. Claire is on her way here. Leave before she gets here. I’ll take care of this.”
Roisin waved her hand across the screen and smoke rose from the keyboard.
I raced back home and tore down to the cellar. As Roisin had instructed, I removed the loose tile and found the Book. It hummed in my hands and a slight buzz of magic connected with my flesh. I brought it to the kitchen and laid it on the table. I tried to open it. It wouldn’t budge.
I ran my hands over the raised emblem of a ring of thorns. Still nothing.
“Roisin,” I called. “Roisin, I need you!”
Roisin appeared beside me, but unlike her earlier apparitions, this time she was faint, almost transparent.
“Something’s wrong, Granny. I can’t open it.”
“You don’t have enough power,” she said, her voice so low it sounded like she was speaking through a tunnel.
“Can you open it?”
She shook her head.
“Then, what?” I asked, unable to keep my rising sense of hysteria from my voice. “What do I do now?”
Roisin shimmered like a flickering TV screen.
“Stay with me, Roisin. What do I do now?”
Her lips moved but no sound came forth. But I could make out a few of her words. “Go to Caroline...shared blood...”
I nodded. “All right, Granny. I’ll go to her now.”
* * * *
I had picked up my three lads and they now sat strapped in the car outside Caroline’s with strict instructions not to move. Caroline’s house was bedlam when I arrived. The twin boys, barely two, were covered in macaroni and cheese. Her eldest, Aidan, bounced a big red ball on the kitchen floor and Kathy stared at a TV in the living room, the volume blasting, her eyes as big as saucers.
And through the glass front door I could see Caroline cooing at the twins. No sharp words from her, no quick smack. She was patience personified.
I knocked on the door for several minutes before she heard me.
She gestured at Aidan to finish feeding the twins and then hurried to the door.
“Orla! This is a surprise,” she said as she opened it. “Please come in. Don’t mind the mess.”
“Caro, I hate to do this to you, but I have an emergency and need you to come to my house. Now. Is there any way you could get away?” I looked over at Kathy, who stroked a kitten in her lap. “I can’t tell you here, but please, can you help me? I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”
She noticed me looking at Kathy, and nodded. “Conor is out back in his workshop. I’ll have him watch the kids.”
“Good. Meet me in my car. And Caroline, thanks.”
She nodded in two nervous jerky movements and then ran around to the back of the house.
Not fifteen minutes later, my three lads were installed with ham sandwiches in front of the TV in my bedroom upstairs and Caroline and I sat at the kitchen table.
I lit a cigarette and inhaled. Caroline’s nose twitched in protest to the second hand smoke. Despite our shared Mountain blood, Caroline was a Yank through and through. Well, let’s hope she has enough Irish blood in her to help. I stubbed out the cigarette. “I don’t know where to start. Did your mother ever tell you about
? About the Devlin women?”
Caroline’s face went white. “Not my mother. My aunt Dorothy.”
“Do you believe in the stories? In
She twisted her dishwater hair in her fingers, and I stifled a wave of irritation. Her blue eyes filled with tears. “I didn’t. For a long time I didn’t. But now, with Kathy being the way she is... I don’t know. Your mother may have been right.”
“I’ve discovered that my mother was right about a lot of things. What’s wrong with Kathy?”
“The doctors don’t know. Some say she’s autistic, some say nonverbal.” Tears streamed down Caroline’s cheeks. “Retarded, even. But I’ve heard her, Orla, alone in her room with that blasted kitten. She laughs, she speaks perfectly. Like an adult, like a grown woman rather than a four-year-old child.”
“Where did you get the cat?”
“We didn’t. He was waiting for us when we arrived from Ireland and moved in. He doesn’t go near anyone other than Kathy. At first, I was happy she had something to amuse her, what with the move and being pregnant with the twins. But then I noticed that she smiled only at the kitten, never at her brothers, never at me. Then one day Conor asked if I noticed anything strange about the kitten. I was exhausted, caring for the children, so I told him I hadn’t noticed anything, why? And he said, ‘We’ve had the kitten for a year, and it’s never eaten, never drunk a saucer of milk.’ And it never grew older. It still remained a kitten. That was three years ago, Orla. You saw it yourself. It is still a kitten.”
“Why don’t you get rid of it?”
“Don’t you think we’ve tried? We threw it out, locked all the doors and windows and yet we’d find it curled on Kathy’s pillow in the morning. Conor drove it out to Montauk and released it in a state park. The next morning we found it on Kathy’s pillow. And every time I look it straight in the eye, my head– God, my head explodes in pain. Just like...”
“Like it did on the Mountain. Whenever I got near that goat.”
“Do you think it’s Him?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s my punishment from God. For marrying your cousin so soon after Bobby died.”
“Isn’t He back on the Mountain?”
“We are here, so He is here. He is tied to His children.”
“But the Five Families’ descendants must number in the thousands by now. Why Kathy? Why us?”
“Because she is a direct descendant of my mother’s. A direct descendant of the Devlin witches.”
“Look, Caroline, I don’t have time to explain everything to you, but I need to read what is in this Book and I can’t open it by myself. Since you are a descendant of the Five Families and share the blood, I might be able to open it with your help. Will you help me?”
Her eyes narrowed. “I know you don’t like me. You and your mother never did.” I opened my mouth to protest, but she held up her hand. “No, don’t deny it. It’s true and too much has happened to us, to our families, to be anything but honest. I’ll help you. I’ll do anything you ask, but you must do something for me in return.”
“What do you want?”
She started to cry. “You have to help Kathy. Banish it or kill it, I don’t care. Get it out of my house and away from my family. Will you do that?”
“I don’t know if I can, Caroline, but I promise you this, if I have to die trying, I will get this thing out of our lives. For good. Now give me your left hand.”
I took her left hand in mine and placed it in the center of the book’s cover, in the middle of the ring of thorns. The embossed thorns glowed and a faint hum of magic traveled up my arm. Caroline felt it too, and her eyes widened. Without a word, I slid her hand to the corner of the Book, said a small prayer, and then together the two of us opened it. We opened the Book.
A cold wind blew through my small kitchen and the pages flipped until they stopped midway through the Book. The top of the page said simply
. Return to me.
Caroline, her voice rough from tears, asked, “What now?”
“Now we take back the Devlin power.”
It was easy enough to lure Simon, Claire and Shari to the beach. I didn’t dare call them in case Simon somehow sensed the lie from my voice, so I texted them.
I’ve found a book of spells written by my grandmother among my cousin’s belongings. There is a special Samhain levitation spell I’d like to practice with you. I’m afraid Declan might find it in my house so I want to give the book to Simon for safekeeping.
I knew those thieving bastards, Simon especially, couldn’t resist such a tempting source of familial witchcraft.
Caroline and I arrived early. Being American, I expected her to stumble over the Irish words of the spells, but she was an apt pupil. The thin strain of the shared blood must have awakened within her, for while she didn’t understand what it was she said, her pronunciation was pitch perfect, with the unique intonation of the Five Families.
I tried to warn her about Simon’s power, about how I couldn’t assure her of her safety. With a courage I didn’t expect from my meek sister-in-law, Caroline stopped me mid-sentence. “I don’t need to know, Orla. I’m here for you. I’m ready for whatever comes.”
The three of them arrived together in Simon’s Mercedes. Claire’s face was flushed and Shari’s hair curled in wet tendrils as if she’d just got out of the shower. Her heavy lidded eyes belied what I suspected was another session in Simon’s marble shower. I plastered a bright smile on my lips and forced it to reach my eyes.
“Hiya! I’m so excited. You’re not going to believe what my cousin found!”
Simon’s mouth was grim. “Why is she here? We don’t allow outsiders to observe.”
I flipped my hair and made my voice light. “Oh, we can trust Caroline. Besides, I read through the book and it requires two women to say the spells, in Irish. None of you can speak Irish, can you?”
“No. We cannot.” Simon stared into Caroline’s face, and she affected her meekest, mildest expression. He nodded. “Fine, she can stay.” His black eyes locked onto mine. “Show us what you’ve got.”
“Okay, the three of you join hands while I draw a circle in the sand around you.” I forced myself to squeeze Claire’s arm. “This is going to be fun!”
Claire smiled into my eyes and I felt a small pang as I returned her smile. I drew a circle around them with a scarred oak branch that had appeared in the basement portal. The circle they thought would protect them. The circle I knew would imprison them.
“Yes,” Simon said. Sudden unease flickered in his eyes. I decided to dial down the bubbly routine. I returned to Caroline and the two of us held the Book in our hands.
Mna dorcha. Raven-haired Women of the Mountain, we call you. Your children call you to this circle,
” we chanted.
A cold wind ripped down from the dunes, the air infused with the smells of the earth. The wind was followed by a line of five women, their black locks trailing behind them in the powerful breeze, their scarlet cloaks glowing with their energy. But Caroline did not appear to see them, neither did Claire or Shari. Simon felt something. He dropped Claire and Shari’s hands. “I want you to stop now.”
But Caroline and I continued our chant. Caroline did not allow her gaze to leave the pages of the Book.
The Devlin women formed a single line and moved counter-clockwise along the circle I’d drawn in the sand. Their bare feet left prints that even Claire and Shari could see. Simon tried to walk but his feet appeared cemented to the sand.
I turned the page and Caroline and I began our second chant: “
What ye have stole, return to me. Times three. Times three. Times three. The powers of Mna Dorcha, dark women, return to your child.
Caroline and I repeated our request three times. The wind ripped from the dunes behind us and lifted me from my feet into the air. Caroline’s voice didn’t waver as she continued her chant. I continued chanting as well as I floated over the head of my sister-in-law, over the ghostly forms of my raven-haired predecessors and into the center of the circle.
I turned first to Shari, and my hands lifted of their own accord and hovered above the center of Shari’s chest. Caroline’s words drifted over the roar of the surf and the whipping wind. I called out “
.” Return to me.