Morgaine and Melody [The Chronicles of Morgaine the Witch #2] [MultiFormat]
Click on image to enlarge.
eBook by Joe Vadalma
eBook Category: Fantasy/Romance
eBook Description: WHAT PRICE LOVE - FOR A WITCH? When Melody falls in love with Michael, a psychic, he gives her an ancient manuscript to read that seems to suggest he is a centuries old former-knight who sold his soul to the demon Asmodeus for immortality. But when she asks, "Are you really a thousand-year-old sorcerer?" he evades the question, and tells her a plausible story which cannot be verified. Then, Michael implores Melody to marry him, and despite her doubts, she cannot resist his hypnotic eyes, and agrees to become his bride. For the first time Melody knows what passion can be. On Halloween night, Michel wakes Melody to go out in the woods where a second pagan marriage is performed, and they dance naked in the moonlight. A few days later, when Michael is out of town, his friend Morgaine, whose name also appeared in the manuscript, tells Melody's with Tarot cards - and sees something that sends her screaming from the room. When Melody presses Michael for answers, he finally admits that he is the knight described in the ancient manuscript, and that the demon Asmodeus is coming to claim his soul on Halloween night (the witch's New Year). He renounces his allegiance to evil and the pair decides to face the demon with their newfound love for each other. But, unknown to both, Morgaine, who was Michael's lover in ancient times, and is still in love with him, has conceived a diabolical plan to trick Asmodeus into taking Melody's soul instead. Cover art: Sami Hursey
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner Editions
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2012
* * * *
CHAPTER 1. MEPHISTOPHELES
On a late summer evening of the year 1525 in Budapest, Hungary, Michael, who now called himself Johann Faust, was seated on a tall stool, chin in hand, brooding. His tiny study with its dark paneled walls and ceiling-high bookshelves was but dimly lit by flickering candles and a dying fire. Although a fierce thunderstorm raged outdoors, Faust was oblivious to its booming and crackling, the rat-tat-tat of the rain on the tin roof and the flashes that at odd moments lit up the chamber as bright as day. When the ornate wooden clock on the mantel struck eleven, he glanced up for a moment from the ancient manuscript that he was studying but quickly returned to his research.
Five hundred years had passed since the demon Asmodeus had cursed him with a long, unhappy life. He studiously poured over script that he had deciphered from the book that Asmodeus had given him. He wanted to ensure that he had memorized every word of the dreadful ceremony that the ancient manuscript described and which he was about to perform. One mistake would be disastrous. He was about to perform that most dangerous of all sorcery -- the summoning of a demon out of the bowels of hell.
He wanted to carry out this necromantic conjuring because five hundred years of life had left him bored and melancholy. Lately he had become tired of living and decided to leave this "vale of tears." Half a thousand years had given him several lifetimes of grief and misery with only brief moments of joy. He had watched friends, mates, lovers and children lowered into the cold, damp earth. It seemed as though he was always in mourning. Yet he lived on.
In addition to the deaths of loved ones, he had endured a thousand other sorrows and pain. On and off he had spent many years in filthy dank dungeons and suffered excruciating torture because of his addiction to sorcery and the ensuing arrests when his vocation was discovered.
It seemed to him that he had experienced everything. To live on further would be nothing but a burden and a terrible ordeal. Several times he tried suicide but inevitably failed. Only last week he had taken poison. The only result was excruciating pain and hours of awful vomiting and retching.
His only hope was to summon Asmodeus, the demon who had given him the curse of immortality, and beg him for release and the peace of the grave.
When the clock hands edged toward the witching hour of midnight, he closed the book, donned his sorcerer's garb, retrieved a wand with mystic symbols upon it and headed down the narrow winding stairs to his cellar laboratory. As he placed the great iron key in the lock, almost as if it were a warning against the terrible experiment he was about to perform, a great crack of simultaneous thunder and lightning shook the house. Startled, he shuddered with fear and loathing for the thing he was about. Nonetheless, he mustered up his courage. He was determined to go through with the necromancy.
His cellar laboratory was a dim, damp place of moldy stone walls that threw off an awful stench of decay, sulfur and other evils. The raw earth floor, muddy from seepage through dripping stone walls, sucked at his every step as he wound his way through the cramped chamber. The dim light from the lamp he carried sent dark ominous shadows looming against the walls like phantoms and monsters as it fell on bottles, retorts and other alchemy paraphernalia.
He squeezed past workbenches stained darkly from spillage, puddles of animal blood and overflows of boiling fluids and made his way to a cleared spot where lay a great circle of iron inscribed with the same mystical symbols as on his wand. Three chains attached by nails formed a triangle in the center of the circle. Faust had some difficulty obtaining these; the chains were from a gibbet, and the nails had been driven through the forehead of a condemned criminal. The professional grave robbers he had hired to obtain them had charged an exorbitant fee. He had gone hungry for a week to meet their price.
He lit three black candles, placed one at each point of the triangle, blew out the light of his lamp, stepped within the triangle, took a deep breath and paused to perform a bit of calming meditation to stop the thunderous beating of his heart. Although the chamber was cold as the root cellar where he preserved such items as fetuses, parts of human remains and preserved reptiles, perspiration dripped down his back and forehead.
He raised his arms until his fingers grazed the low ceiling. In one hand he held the wand with the mystic symbols. "Yn ge tu y ge sy San min tu chu," he intoned several times in a loud voice.
A spot on the floor about six feet from where he stood began to glow with a strange phosphorescence and a strong sulfurous stench permeated the cellar.
Michael shouted, "Hound of hell, Spirit, precipitated in the abyss of eternal damnation; see me standing courageously amidst the hordes of eternal damnation." He cursed Satan three times, each time becoming more profane and obscene. "Appear to me denizen of the lower regions that I may command you."
A great thunder clap as loud as the roar of a volcanic eruption blasted Michael's ears and an enormous puff of acrid smoke appeared at the spot where the eerie had light had been. The stench of sulfur was overpowering. Michael covered his mouth and nose with a handkerchief to keep from fainting.
After a few moments the smoke cleared and a man appeared. He seemed ordinary by outward appearance, a small professorial type in his fifties, going bald and with wire-rimmed spectacles perched on the end of his nose. He wore the gown of a university master.
Startled, since he was expecting the horrid demon Asmodeus to appear, Michael asked, "Who are you?"
The little man bowed and said, "My name is Mephistopheles, Doctor Faust. I believe that is what you call yourself now. Pleased to make your acquaintance." He held out his hand.
Michael knew better than to touch any part of a demon. The consequences would be the instant loss of his soul. "The evil one, God's opponent, sent you?"
"Of course." Mephistopheles bowed. "At your service."
"I command you to grant me the peace of the grave. Five hundred years ago when I asked Asmodeus for eternal life, I was a foolish youth and had no idea what a burden the years could be."
Mephistopheles shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, but I cannot undo what Asmodeus has decreed. He is much higher in the hierarchy of Hell than I am. But come Doctor Faust, you really don't want to die. You're just going through a bad period. I can help you get over your current melancholy."
Disappointed, Michael sighed. "How?"
"One of your problems, as I understand it, is loneliness. I can give you a mate who will live as long as you will -- provided she is not killed by a human hand."
"You are saying that you will provide me with a human woman who will be my lover and wife and that she will not be subject to death by disease, old age and other calamities with the single exception of death by murder?"
"More or less correct. She would only die because a human being wills it. Of course, you must protect her from that fate."
"Would she age?"
"Very slowly. As you are aging. One year every half century."
Michael had noticed that his appearance did seem a few years older than it had when he was first granted immortality. He had been twenty-eight when the demon had worked the sorcery; now the face in the mirror seemed to be a man in his late thirties. "Do I get to choose this person or have you chosen someone?"
"I'm afraid the choice is ours."
"Who is she? What does she look like?"
"Oh I'm sure you will like her. She is quite a beauty. Look." Mephistopheles held up a small hand mirror.
Faust gazed into it. A lovely, desirable woman stared back at him. She was brushing her long, luxurious hair as though in her own boudoir staring at her reflection. He made up his mind at once. To his eyes she seemed infinitely desirable. Up to this point in his life he had never experienced the emotion known as "love at first sight," but suddenly knew that such a thing was possible. It had just happened to him. He desired this woman with an obsessive passion that drove all other thoughts from his mind. "That is her?"
"Yes. Her name is Margarete. She lives in this city, not far from here."
"Will she love me?"
"With a love that burns like fire, an unquenchable passion. She will practically worship you."
Faust's heart leaped with joy. To have such a treasure, such a beauty forever and to have her passionately in love with him. Companionship, love, the pleasures he had missed all these centuries. How could he refuse? Perhaps living the next five hundred years would be not only tolerable but actually happy.
"Yes, I want her. Give her to me."
"Not so fast. There is a price."
"Whatever it is, I will pay it."
"It is a deal then. Just sign this paper." Mephistopheles handed him a parchment and a quill pen. "Also, we require that you use your own blood rather than ordinary ink. I might add that the deal includes, in addition to the love of this woman, myself as your servant. I will provide you with many pleasures and powers that I can command as a fallen angel."
Michael snatched the paper and pen from Mephistopheles quickly before the demon could touch him in any way. He scanned the ornate writing on the parchment. It read, "To whom it may concern, I, Johann Faust, the name which I go by in the year 1525 anno Domini, being of sound mind and in full realization of the consequences of my action, in consideration of the services to be rendered by the fallen angel, Mephistopheles, as he stated them to me, agree by affixing my signature below these words to renounce God and forfeit my soul."
Michael narrowed his eyes. "What does this 'forfeit my soul' mean? When I die, must I give up my soul to you? "
"You will certainly live a thousand years and perhaps much longer if Asmodeus grants you more time. You could live until the day of the final judgment. As for your soul, I require that you give that up immediately."
"Give up my soul while I still live? I don't understand."
"It's very simple. The moment you sign that document, we will take your soul. Don't worry you won't miss it. You'll be better off without it. You'll no longer have those guilty feelings when you have an impulse to do something evil, not one twinge. Also, you'll lose those urges to give to filthy beggars on the street or get your hands dirty helping someone who is in need. You know, that sort of thing."
"I don't know. Isn't my soul my real essence? "
"Hardly. You will still be in possession of your body and your mind." Mephistopheles shrugged. "I think people make too much of the thing. It will be no worse than losing your pinkie finger. Look at what you will gain by giving it up." He caused the image of Margarete to appear. She was in the nude, about to step into her bath. Faust had never before seen anyone so absolutely gorgeous.
He pricked his finger with the quill and signed the document. At the moment he completed the final flourish on his signature, he felt an emptiness as though the part of him that felt moments of absolute joy and spiritual upliftment had suddenly died. All the evil thoughts he had ever had came to the surface of his mind, and he laughed and laughed as though rape, violence and greed were terribly funny. After several minutes of this mad laughter, he felt an almost unbearable sorrow. This too left him and all that remained in his heart was cold, logical calculation.
He handed the signed parchment to Mephistopheles. "It is done. You have my soul."
"Thank you. Margarete will be yours tonight."
CHAPTER 2. THE FAMILIAR
Mephistopheles rubbed against my leg, and I put Michael's manuscript down to stroke his fur. Mephistopheles was Morgaine's pet or as one person here told me, her "familiar." The chapter on Faust disturbed me greatly, after what I had witnessed this morning at the "Tantra exercises." Although Michael claimed that the manuscript was not his autobiography, could it be? And if it was, was he the Faust of opera fame? Had he really sold his soul to the devil? Was I in love with a man whose soul belonged to Satan?
This idea on top of everything else that had happened to me in the last couple of days set my mind whirling again. Mephistopheles jumped up into my lap and gazed at me. He also seemed to need comforting. If what I had guessed was true, that Morgaine was being committed to an insane asylum, his mistress would not be returning -- maybe not for a long time. Who would take care of the poor thing? I wouldn't mind adopting him. I decided to ask Michael when he returned.
I gazed into the cat's eyes, one of which was blue and the other yellow, as I stroked his long white fur, and asked, "Are you really a familiar? Or just a cat?"
A thought came to me as though from outside my mind, I'm a magic cat.
Startled, I gaped at him for a moment and smiled. A telepathic cat. Or was I still under the spell of the stuff I ingested earlier today? Well, a telepathic cat was no weirder than anything else in this place. Again I spoke to the cat. "Has Michael a soul?"
I swore it shrugged. Otherwise I received no reply. This business of Michael's soul worried me. I could tolerate the strangeness and paranormal happenings that surrounded him. After all, I lived with someone who was involved in the paranormal throughout my teen years and have always believed in certain aspects of it. But a man without a soul, a purveyor of black magic, went against my Catholic upbringing. An idea came to me. Perhaps there was a way I could test him.
My woolgathering returned to the morning I first met Mephistopheles. I had run out of the house and kept running after my experience with the ladies and their "Tantra exercises." I wanted to clear my mind of the "mead" and marihuana fumes. Michael's estate is huge. There are paths everywhere, so I followed as many as I could until I ran along one that ended at steep ravine. By that time I was breathing heavy and was ready for a rest.
I sat on a rock and gazed out at a lovely panoramic scene. I was gazing at woods and a small stream. In the distance, peeking over the horizon across the Hudson river, were low purple mountains. It was warm for September, high seventies, near eighty. A light breeze cooled the perspiration on my brow. To my right, the stream flowing down from the rocks produced a beautiful double waterfall, which split, joined again on a flat spot and finally cascaded down another fifty feet. The only sound was a light wind blowing through a stand of trees. The sky was clear and light blue with dragon-shaped puffs of clouds gliding by.
The beauty of the spot calmed me. I decided that I had imagined the floating business. It was probably a hallucination caused by the Mary Jane fumes, "mead" and the sexual tension of the "Tantric exercises." Well, I told myself, it has been quite an experience coming here. The Tarot cards had it right. I had let myself in for an adventure.
I leaned back with my eyes closed and let the sun warm my face. Something brushed against my leg. I looked down. There was Mephistopheles. Of course, at the time I did not know his name. "My, aren't you a pretty one," I said as I reached down to pet him. "I wonder who you belong to." The cat purred, and I thought about Morgaine. "Now what is about you that reminds me of her? "
After a few moments, Mephistopheles wandered away. He headed down a path that I recognized as ending up at the mansion. By this time I was rested and felt better, although somewhat embarrassed about my behavior earlier. What would I tell those women about why I left so suddenly? Perhaps I could say that I felt ill. Yes, that's it. I'll say I was suddenly nauseous and needed to get some air. That settled, I followed the cat. Nonetheless, I soon lost sight of him as he scampered ahead.
However, when I entered the mansion through the front door, he was sitting in the middle of Michael's foyer facing the door as though waiting for me. Also strolling through the foyer was Sylvan Marcrome.
"Hi Melody. Out for a walk on this fine day? "
"A run. And now I'm starved for lunch."
"Great, that's where I was headed -- to the kitchen. Join me?"
"Sure. Say, do you know who owns that cat?"
"Mephistopheles?" He jerked his thumb disdainfully at the feline. I nodded. "He's Morgaine's familiar. I wouldn't go near him if I were you. He's liable to scratch you. Personally, I'm frightened of him."
"Oh." I raised my eyebrows, hoping he would explain why he feared the cat. He said nothing, however, and simply led me by the arm to the kitchen, glancing over his shoulder to scowl at Mephistopheles.
We asked Mrs. Martino to make sandwiches. As we ate them on the patio next to the pool, we self-consciously discussed the weather for a while and lapsed into silence. After a while I asked Sylvan whether he disliked all cats or just Mephistopheles.
"Cats make me uneasy. They can see the dead, you know. Like snake and bats, they're creations of the devil."
"You mean they see ghosts?"
"Yes. Haven't you ever seen a cat stare at nothing intently and sometimes meow at empty space. They do that when a phantom appears to them."
I did not comment, but smiled to myself. I knew cats acted this way. It was probably simply instinctive behavior. I owned a cat once. Right before my eyes, she was smashed flat by a tractor-trailer as she crossed the highway in front of my building. I was so devastated that I vowed never to have a pet again.
After a while we were joined by Father McGuillicutty. He and I discussed our views of Catholicism. I stated that I was had my doubts about the infallibility of the pope after delving into Church history during the Medieval period. We debated this topic until the Tantric-exercise ladies descended upon us chattering away as though they had been doing ordinary Aerobics. I apologized for leaving them so suddenly and gave them the excuse I had decided upon, that I had become slightly ill and needed to get out in the air.
Chung Lee said, "I don't doubt it. Tantra can be overwhelming at first. We really should start you out with the basics. Tomorrow I'll teach you some beginning exercises in private."
"Well I ... uh ..." I tried to think of some excuse to get out of it.
Mildred Hoffstator came to my rescue. "Oh Melody may be busy tomorrow. I'm sure Michael will be back from the institute and will be taking up her time."
I smiled my thanks at her.
After lunch I retired to my room and laid down for a nap. About an hour later, when I arose, Mephistopheles was at the foot of the bed staring at me.
"You are magic. How did you get in here?"
My door was closed and locked. The door to Michael's room was also closed. I glanced at the French doors leading to my balcony. Perhaps he had got in that way. They too were closed.
It was still early so I picked up Michael's manuscript and began to read about Faust from the point I had left off last time.
My room faced west so I had a beautiful view of a gorgeous sunset behind the round peaked Catskills. The sky slowly went through the gambit of gold, red to scarlet and finally a deep purple twilight. Soon I found myself in the dark as the stars blinked on, first Venus and then several others of the first magnitude. I came in from the balcony and turned on my bed lamp.
When I found Mephistopheles staring at a dark corner of the room, I recalled what Sylvan had said. The cat mewed softly, and I followed his gaze. The shadows in that corner were deep. Yet, it seemed that I saw something man shaped that was even darker than the corner's intense blackness. I squinted to see whether I could determine exactly what I was looking at. It, whatever "it" was, seemed to move. I shivered and mentally screamed, too frightened to let out a sound. Not again! It all came back to me, the horror of that evil incubus pretending to be Steve and how it seduced me.
A sound seemed to emanate from the sinister darkness. A low-low whisper, so low I could not tell whether it was real or in my mind, seemed to say, "Beware. Beware the sorcerer."
Although I was terrified almost to immobility, somehow I sidestepped to the light switch and turned on the overhead light. The sudden explosion of brightness lit up every part of the room including the dark corner where Mephistopheles and I thought we saw a phantom. Nothing was there except a floor lamp that might be mistaken for a human shape in the dark.
I giggled with relief. Jesus, I thought, you've got to stop this imagining that you see stuff that's not there and hearing things that can't exist. You'll drive yourself crazy.
I glanced at my watch. Michael's servants would be serving dinner soon, and Michael had not returned as he promised. I prayed that he would be back tonight. I didn't know what I would do if I had to spend the night alone in this house.
I had dinner with the usual group and returned to my room about eight. Michael was still out. I took out his manuscript and continued reading the chapter on Faust. I made darn sure that every light in the room was on. Mephistopheles curled up nicely in my lap.
* * * *
CHAPTER 3. FAUST AND MARGARETE
Mephistopheles was true to his word. Not only did Margarete become Michael's mistress and eventually his wife, but the couple lived in splendor and fame. Doctor Faust (as Michael was know at that time) became renown throughout Europe as a sorcerer, seer and healer. Even kings called upon him to perform acts of wonder and provide cures for their ills. In addition, Margarete was a lovely, intelligent and charming woman who made Michael ecstatic in his happiness.
There was one fly in the ointment of their bliss. Soon after Margarete became Michael's lover but before they had wed or Michael had achieved his fame, Michael had an encounter with Margarete's younger brother, Valentine, an extreme hothead. One evening as Michael neared Margarete's home, Valentine stumbled out of a tavern with several of his friends as Michael was strolling by. They were quite drunk.
Valentine blocked Michael's passage. "Well, look what we have here, boys. It's the dog of shit who is dishonoring my sister. You didn't think I knew, did you Johann, you bastard." He shook his fist under Michael's nose.
Michael purpled with outrage and embarrassment. Nevertheless, he kept himself under control. After all, this was Margarete's brother. "Valentine, you've had too much to drink. And you are wrong. I do your sister no dishonor. My intention is to marry her."
Valentine scowled drunkenly. "Marry you, you piece of excrement. She would never do that. My parents would never allow it. Our name would be besmirched to have an evil devil worshiper as an in-law. Your reputation follows you, you son-of-a-bitch."
"I am as Christian as you, Valentine. It's just that I dabble in the arcane arts. It means nothing."
"Means nothing! You've enchanted my sister so that she lays with you like a common whore. She could've married a nobleman, was bethrod in fact and broke the engagement when she met you, you son-of-whore necromancer."
"Valentine, don't you understand. We're in love."
"In love, my ass." Suddenly Valentine drew his sword. "You're nothing but a demon worshipping swine whom I intend to carve into chops." He took up a fighting stance and with the point of his sword made a deep scratch on Michael's cheek.
Valentine's friends stepped back and formed a ring around the two men. They shouted out taunts and insults at Michael. They were eager for Valentine and Michael to fight. It would provide this evening's amusement.
Michael put a hand up to his face. It came away bloody. He glared at Valentine and could see that he was deadly serious. There would be no way to appease him, other than turning tail like a whipped dog in front of the crowd that now gathered, after swearing that he would never see Margarete again. He had no intention of doing that. He drew his own sword. "You're a fool, Valentine. Don't you know my reputation for swordplay? I don't want to hurt the brother of the woman I love." This was true. Michael had centuries of practice with the weapon. Nevertheless, he also assumed a fighting stance.
Valentine's only reply was a thrust towards Michael's chest. Michael easily parried it, came in under Valentines arm and flipped away a button on Valentine's coat. "That could've gone into your heart. Why don't you quit?"
Valentine, however, was not about to give up the fight. He attacked again. This time he was more wary and they locked swords. Michael wondered what he could do to teach his future brother-in-law a lesson without hurting him too badly. A thrust in his arm muscle should do it. It would prevent him from continuing. He pushed away and fought defensively until he saw an opening that would allow him to stab Valentine in the arm. He feinted to his left and came in right. He did not know whether Valentine stumbled from drunkenness or miscalculated the direction of the thrust, but he moved in the direction of the thrust so that instead of it going into his arm went into his heart.
Both Valentine and Michael gazed at the blood spurting from the wound in horror and surprise.
"I'm dead. You ... ," Valentine coughed and collapsed.
Michael dropped to his knees and tried to help the injured man, but it was too late. The life quickly drained out of Valentine.
The crowd that had surrounded them quickly disbursed, except for Valentine's friends who when the police arrived minutes later swore that Michael had provoked the fight deliberately and that Valentine had been defenseless. Somehow his sword had vanished. When Michael realized what was happening, he slipped away before he could be arrested, ran to Margarete's home, and climbed a trellis to her window. When he told her the story, at first she glared at him with a terrible hate in her eyes for killing her brother, a hate so intense it made Michael want to weep with sorrow. He was sure that the killing of her brother would end their love affair for all time. But after a few moments, whatever spell Mephistopheles had placed on her, worked. She forgave Michael and was sympathetic towards his need to escape the police.
For two days she hid him in the cellar. But, soon the Budapest authorities put out a general alarm branding him a dangerous felon. A cousin discovered that she was hiding him, and for the substantial reward offered, told the police. A warrant for the arrest of both Margarete and Faust was issued. The couple barely escaped the city before the police battered down the door of a rooming house where they had been hiding.