Trevor was not sure that he could go through with what had to be done, but as he looked back at the figure coming through the door behind him he knew that somehow or other he had to do it, if not for his sake then for Pip’s. He had brought Pip into this and he had to get both of them out of it. Anyway, if they did not face up to things what chance did they have of making any sort of life together?
As the door closed the last rays of the setting sun caught upon Pip’s shoulder-length blond hair, causing it to glow like fire, reminding Trevor of their first meeting—that first moment of attraction, before they realised the immensity of what they were becoming involved in. How could they have known? How could they have understood? Neither of them had even known of the other’s existence until that day, some six months earlier, and by time they knew the truth about each other it was far too late; they were helplessly in love with each other.
It was, no doubt, the curse of Carr Dulm. Trevor tried to remember what his father had told him about it: each generation of the family was cursed with a love they could never have, a love that would destroy those involved. And it came close to destroying Pip and himself—siblings with the same father but different mothers.
They first became acquainted at the Intercontinental Hotel, both having flown in to hear the reading of their father’s will. In accordance with his instructions neither was told of his death until he had been well and truly disposed of; his body cremated and the ashes scattered at sea. That left only the will to be read, which the family lawyers were to do the Friday two weeks following the funeral, allowing everyone involved time to arrive for the reading. So it was that Pip and Trevor arrived at the Hotel on the Thursday night. They met in the bar.
All right, they were siblings but it was not as if they had known each other—or even about each other, really. Trevor did know that his father had carried on relationships with a number of women outside his marriage. He was even aware, from what his mother had told him, that at least one child had come from those relationships. That he might meet that child, however, had never occurred to him, nor did it cross his mind as he chatted to Pip at the bar or later over the dinner they had together. By the time they made their way by unspoken consent to Pip’s room, where Trevor had spent the night, it was already too late to raise such thoughts; they knew that they were in love and that they wanted to be together. It was only in the early hours of the morning, after sessions of love making, that they realised the truth, when they talked about what had brought them to Manchester.
Pip—understandably—had been upset at what they had done. Trevor had tried to comfort his sibling, saying that, as they did not know of their relationship, they could not be held to blame. He knew the argument was weak… it was not what they had done that was the problem, it was what they wanted to do. The desire was manifest in both of them and they both sensed there would be no denying it.
Pip asked Trevor to leave, which he did. In the morning each avoided the other, both taking breakfast in their rooms via room service.
At ten thirty of the clock, however, they met again—in the offices of Moraine, Shankline and Websters, Solicitors. When they saw each other they both knew that, no matter what, they wanted one another.
“What shall we do?” asked Pip.
“Find a way,” Trevor answered, trying to find a confidence that he did not have.
The bulk of the estate was within an entailed trust which went to Trevor, along with a useless title and a lump of obligations. There was a hunk of money that was outside the trust, and their father had split this equally between the two of them, together with such properties as were outside the trust. Then there was Carr Dulm, an ancient stone tower on its own desolate island, whipped by Atlantic winds; this their father had left to them jointly, to hold together, as if he had known. Maybe he had. Trevor cursed the old man, but thanked him as well for putting Pip on this earth for him.
All that was six months ago. Now they had come to Carr Dulm, a place of dread and fascination; the place that was at the centre of the curse upon the family.
Standing in the hallway of Carr Dulm brought back to Trevor all the stories he had heard about this place. The reading of six months earlier was no longer a dry academic exercise but something that came alive in this place.
Pip came and stood next to him, taking his hand. “You sure you want to go through with this?”
“No, but I don’t want it messing us up, either.” Trevor looked at Pip. “There is no reason for you to stay though… you can go.”
“Like hell lover boy! If you think that I am letting you out of my sight with a demon around you have another think coming.”
They stood looking into each other’s eyes; smiling, knowing.
Then Pip reached up, pulled Trevor’s head down and kissed him. “Gawd, I love you too much. Let’s get this thing over with and go and find some nice comfortable bed and fuck the night away.”
They walked across the hallway, their footsteps on the ancient flags resounding off the high stone walls. In front of them were the double doors into the Great Hall. Trevor released Pip’s hand and pushed the doors open, then together they entered.
Everything was just how Trevor had instructed. He had phoned ahead the day before and given Duncan—the manservant who with his wife maintained the old pile for the family—instructions on what had to be done, and then told him that he and his wife would not be needed that night. The couple lived in the coach house on the far side of the courtyard, so any noise from the night’s events would not disturb them. As requested, a fire was burning in the grate.
Trevor released Pip’s hand and strode over to the fireplace. He picked up a couple of logs from the log box and threw them on. “Might as well have a good fire for what is coming.”
“It’s turning dark already, aren’t we a bit late?”
Trevor turned and looked at the worried expression on Pip’s face. “No, we still have a good hour till moonrise, and that’s when it will make its appearance… if it does.”
“You doubt it.”
“No, our dad told me all about it. It ruined his marriage to my mother, and your mother was the victim of his rebound.”
“Tell me about it, Trevor? I never really knew him so I never heard the story.”
“Right, sit yourself in the inglenook whilst I prepare the room.” He indicated the seat by the side of the fire.
Trevor started to remove items from the shoulder bag he had brought with him. “According to Dad the story starts with one of our ancestors doing something fairly irresponsible with a local girl. Trouble was, she was also the daughter of the local witch, who, it is reported, was a woman of great beauty and great power. When our ancestor dumped the girl she killed herself. The witch cursed the family and pronounced that each generation would find great love, and then lose it.
Since then, that has really happened in each generation. Whenever one of our ancestors found somebody they really loved, something would happen and that love would be destroyed.”
“And you love me so much that you think it would destroy our love?”
“Yes, Pip, I do, and that’s why I intend to fight it.” He placed five wooden blocks on a small table near the fire. Each of the blocks bore a symbol. Pip recognised them as being similar to runes, though not the normal sort you saw in books on rune casting.
Trevor saw that Pip was looking at them. “Bind runes, luv. They are a combination of two or more runes brought together to form a sigil that has power. These are ward blocks. They are used to protect or contain an area.” He took a knife from the bag and pointed it at the arrangements of blocks.
“Bij te moeder and te dochter,
Bij ard, aer, vuur und vater,
Bij dis tenken I charge te,
Var jij art letten kien evil be.”
The words spoken sounded vaguely German or Dutch, but being familiar with both, Pip knew it was neither. “What was that?”
“It’s the charge, it sets the potential for the wards to work when needed.”
“I meant what language. By the way, where did you learn this stuff?”
“Oh, it’s Hoktall, the High Language. Sort of bastardised Saxon with some Frisian in it, mixed with English. One of my friends from College is a member of one of the traditional covens, one of the Saxon Witches. He taught me what I needed to know. “
“Couldn’t he have come and sorted it out for you?”
“No, I asked, but he said a member of the family had to get rid of the thing.” As he spoke, Trevor traced a circle out on the wooden floor. He placed a candle at each quarter point of the circle, lighting each as he did and speaking a blessing in the High Language. Then he placed one of the warding blocks at the base of each candle, leaving one block on the table, which was outside the circle.
Trevor sat in a high wing-backed chair at the side of the table. In that position he faced the massive carved wooden staircase that led down into the Hall. He could also look into the high inglenook and see Pip, who, seated on the side bench of the fireplace, was hidden from view to the rest of the room. Trevor would have preferred it if his sibling had not been present but he sensed that Pip needed to be there. It was their love for each other that would draw the Bane out, and to its—or their—doom.
“Why now, why tonight?”
“I didn’t dare leave it longer, Pip, for if I do not deal with this bane, it may well deal with us.
“As for tonight… it is Samhain, the feast of the dead; you know it better as Halloween. It is the time of the sacrifice of the Year King, and the start of the days of no time. At this time the barriers between the world of men and the worlds beyond are at their thinnest and the spirits can move between the two, as can our workings and our magic.
“Tonight, for pagans, is the end of the old year and the start of the new year. We are entering the time of darkness, the domain of the Hag.”
“The Hag?” queried Pip.
“Yes, the fourth form of the Goddess. She takes on four forms through the year cycle: the Maiden, the Mother, the Whore and the Hag. In her form as the Hag she is the mistress of magics. That is why this is a good time for the working of enchantments and banishments.”
As darkness fell fully, the flickering firelight and the glimmer of the four candles lent an odd effect to the hall. It seemed to grow larger. Though neither of the lovers was prepared to admit it, both felt a sense of apprehension, almost fear, descend upon them.
“Why didn’t Father get electricity put in?” Pip asked.
“He tried, so did Grandfather and his father. The rest of the house has it, but for some reason whenever they bring it into the medieval part it just goes wrong. Had a couple of nasty fires because of faulty wiring and other problems.”
“Maybe. Perhaps after tonight we can get some nice spots in here.”
Pip laughed at Trevor’s comment. It had been Trevor’s observation that Pip, who was an interior designer back in New York, answered any design problem with a couple of spots… whilst Pip countered that Trevor, an architect, just threw in an extra window.
A single shaft of moonlight pierced the window at the end of the Hall, sending a beam of light onto the top of the stairs.
Trevor looked up and gasped. Standing at the top of the stairs was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen; not the classic beauty of the magazine model or film star, but an alluring beauty that was ancient in its form. This was the beauty of Aphrodite, risen spume-damp from the seas; the alluring beauty of Homer’s Helen. The figure at the top of the stairs looked down at him and smiled, like a cat at a bird table.
“So, child of the House of Dulm, you seek to challenge me.” The words were softly spoken but filled the Hall with their volume.
“I seek release from the curse that lies upon my family.”
A laughter that sounded like the tinkling of a thousand knives reverberated through the Hall.
Trevor took Pip’s hand and the two of them entered the circle. Trevor picked up the last rune stone and placed it at the point of entry.
The woman moved down the stairs into the room.
“You think mere symbols and chants can me defeat?” There was a sweetness in the voice that was steeped in temptation. Like the sweet scent of opium it would draw you in… but there was a feeling that if you entered where it beckoned, all would be lost.
Trevor picked up the knife that lay by the centre of the circle and pointed it at the form that stood without. “Bi de moeder und de dochter, bi ard, aeir, vuur und watter, ik kallen ji ghysts van de werld afar, cum je, horen mi worden…”
The creature without the circle laughed.
“Child of the House of Dulm, cease thy pratting; thou seeks to bind me with small magics. I am the curse upon your house and it will stand. No man of your house will ever find and hold great love with a woman!”
Pip gasped; Trevor turned at the sound, and their eyes met. They reached out to each other and joined hands, Trevor drawing Pip to him so they could kiss.
A screech emanated from the creature. It’s fair form fell away to reveal a hideous corrupt darkness.
As it did, Trevor spoke its doom. “Then you are finished, for my love is a man.”
There was a deep silence and stillness in the room.
Trevor and Pip looked at each other, then Pip spoke. “The bane wouldn’t speak falsely would it?”
“It said ‘Child of the House of Dulm’—child, not children. Only one of us is of the House of Dulm. We can’t have the same father.”
Copyright © 2014 Nigel Gordon
My thanks to Alien Son for his assistance in editing this, though I did not follow all his advice so the mess ups are mine.