Annabel Horton and the Black Witch of Pau

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Fantasy
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2019
Publisher: Chattercreek

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Annabel’s husband, who has been missing for years, is finally discovered among the bowels of White Chapel England during the horror of Jack the Ripper. His discovery brings Annabel and her family to the turn of nineteenth-century England hoping to rescue Michele from the Black Witch’s cage. What they discover is that the Black Witch has been forced into an insidious pact with the devil and the devil, with malicious intent, is luring them all into a web of death. Can they escape his grasp?

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Excerpt

Whitechapel, London
1888

Geneviève Têtu, the Black Witch of Pau

     The moon floated past my window like a round, celestial ship; it seemed detached from the sky as it beckoned me, this segregated, white, globular light. Clouds that looked like smoke nearly covered it, but it was still bright and full. I stood in the shadow it threw across my floor and whispered the incantations of conquest as I stared at it. Only when the moon is full could I do this. It kept me potent, this incantation. I have been whispering it many years, mostly for others, but tonight, it was for me.   
  Urbain has beckoned me, the great and most obnoxious Urbain. I was surprised to be his chosen one, but then again, I am the most wanting. He has given me a command and I must obey if I know what’s good for me. But I must admit, this command he has given me fills me with excitement, this command from the devil’s disciple is most miraculous.  I was titillated and beyond containment though I must also admit to feelings of weariness and discontent.
I reached for the windowsill and held fast to steady my nerves. For all the miracles I could manifest, there is still magic I cannot perform. The great Urbain was a far greater witch than me, but what would I owe him for doing his bidding?
I turned from the window to stare at the massive man clothed in a Catholic priest’s robe. What a joke that is! His cross was the color of blackberry jam and marred by scratches, and the starched white collar around his neck was so stiff I wondered if it irritated him. I closed my eyes and mumbled a prayer of gratitude.
“What are you mumbling about?” he asked.
     The irritation in his voice surprised me. I am a witch. I do a lot of mumbling—incantations, curses, and dark prayers. I wanted to tell him that, but I held my tongue and met his eyes. I was impressed he had been patient, but I had become leery. But it is my nature to be leery.
“I was calling upon my goddess,” I said.
“You have no need of goddesses. You have only need of me. Will you honor my command, or do I have to strike you down?”
“No need for violence, Urbain.”
“You say that Annabel has come to your window. How do you know this? How do you know the face of Annabel?”
“I don’t, but the old man called her by name and she was beautiful, so I surmised it. You told me that the old man was her husband, Michele Guyon.”
“Yes, but all the time travel he does has made him a blithering idiot.”
“So you said, and now he is in my dungeon as you commanded.”
“Yes, good move. Well, I imagine Annabel might have come to your window, though she certainly knows not whose window she stood before. I’m sure she thinks, from the bowels of her limited brain, that it is her love of music that beckoned her to you. I did not really think she would obey me, but I am pleased to see that I have power over her still.”
“I’m sure your power is greater than hers. She must be putty in your hands.” I kept my sarcasm buried behind my veiled smile.
“Of course, she is,” he said. “I wanted you to rest your eyes upon her and fall in love with her great beauty. But I had no idea she succumbed to my will.”
“How did you trick her then?” I asked. “How did you get the old man to my window?”
I had heard that the great Urbain was no match for Annabel Horton, but I would never tell him that. Annabel had the power of several of her wretched family members, quite competent witches, to ward off any threats from Urbain. Together, they could probably crush him the way Annabel’s magic had crushed our daughter, Jeanne Elemont, beneath the cross.
He looked away for a moment, but I saw the twitch in his cheek. He needed me for revenge. How cunning he was. Whose need for beauty was greater than mine?
“As I have always tricked her,” he said. “But that is not important. I wanted you to see what possibilities there are. Your doubt and hesitation surprise me.”
“I do not doubt you. I am merely thanking the Goddess Hecate for the magic you bring me. I am . . . how do you say it . . . Joie. I am with delight, Urbain.”
“I bring you no magic. It is power, the power of evil intent. I wish to destroy Annabel Horton, the way she destroyed our daughter, Jeanne.”
“Why choose me?” I asked, though I knew the answer. “There are so many you might have called upon.”
He shrugged. “And why shouldn’t I choose you? You have the most to gain.” He laughed wickedly, as if he were crushing a small dog under the weight of his hand.
“I am about to give you a great gift, Geneviève. You will be beautiful once again, the way you were when we first made love under the light of the moon,” he said, standing in the shadow by my parlor window. “Do you remember?”
I nodded, though it was a memory I would have preferred to keep buried. He called it making love; I called it something else, violence against me, perhaps.
As he walked out of the darkness and took my face in his hand, I could see his blue eyes, shining like two icicles hanging from a rotting roof in the starlit night sky.
“What greater power is there than beauty?” he said.
“I am to be a pawn in your revenge,” I whispered.
His great height overwhelmed me as he released my face. I could still feel his touch, like heat from the sun.
“I can take my exit,” he said, “and leave you to your misfortune for all eternity.”
I knew instinctively I should have let him go, but his offer was too prodigious. “No!”
He smiled again, benevolently. The cross he wore hung low, nearly to his stomach. His priest robes dusted the floor like drapes, falling in gracious folds. One could easily trust him, and how foolish that would be.
“I will do your bidding and take the risk,” I said, “for there must be risk.”
“There is, but if I succeed, it will be worth it.”
“I will need a powerful, cogent potion to bring Annabel to me. But of course, I will do it. Annabel Horton will come to me of her own free will, and I will have her eating out of my hand.” I showed him my imperfect teeth, and he returned a smile. His smirk was like a long road into hell. And if I defied him, that’s exactly where he would banish me.
He handed me a music box. “Your bait. Sometimes potions are not enough.”
I took the box and stared at it. “What is this? A box?”
“I have sent her music boxes over the years. She thinks they’re from her husband. Women can be such docile fools when in love. She’ll know you have her precious Michele if you give her this.”
“Fine, where is she?”
“She lives in Brooklyn.”
“Where’s that?”
“It is in America.”
I stared at him in disbelief. “I cannot go there,” I said. “How in the Devil’s name will I get to America?”
“In the Devil’s name? Ha! You are funny.
“But I cannot go to her. I cannot cross time.” I began to panic. “I’ll need someone else to give her the potion and your . . . uh . . . box.”
“Well, then send that fool of a priest,” he said. “He can go anywhere. She will follow him. Imprison her immediately or she will get away. Then summon me at the Church of the Holy Ghost at Nightingale Square. We will take her to Julian’s church for the exorcism, and I will be forever in your debt, Geneviève.”
“And I in yours,” I whispered. I faced him on my settee, staring stoically. “What if she does not come?” My fear of him was far more obvious than I wished it to be. “Why should she go where Julian tells her to go?”
He let out a deep bellowing sound that hurt my sensitive ears. “She will think he comes with God’s intent. She trusts him.”
“I see.”
“Would you prefer to live as you are with the face of an ass? A chimpanzee? Or would you prefer to have men falling at your feet as they used to?”
I had no answer. It was obvious I ached to be beautiful, as any ugly woman would.
“I thought as much,” he said. “We can accomplish anything if we want it badly enough.”
And with one brief, perturbing glance over his shoulder, he was gone, leaving me to the impossible task of ensnaring a witch that could crush my soul. I stared at the dust he left behind and a shiver ran through my bones.
I was to trick the notorious Annabel Horton. For that I would need more than the fingernails of a beggar for my brew.
*

About the Author

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Olivia Hardy Ray is the pen name for Vera Jane Cook. The Author has published Three fantasy novels as Olivia Hardy Ray and five women’s fiction titles as Vera Jane Cook. The Author is writing a sequel to Pharaoh’s Star called Fox Hollow Road. The author’s women fiction title, Kismet, is due out this winter.



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