A Tale of Dark Shadows
"Amadeus!" cracked a harsh voice across the din of battle.
"Here, father!" came the young, excited cry in response.
Smoke blinded the young Amadeus Collins, and his ears were ringing from cannonades and the scream of dying horses. Not that there was much to see. The low ground about Bussex Rhyne stream was lit only by the red flames of artillery or the yellow blossoms of musket-fire. Here and there the flame-dripping barrels had ignited such tinder as was dry, but mostly the area around Sedgemoor was dim these few hours before dawn.
Suddenly, a huge form appeared from the smoke of battle. Brutus Collins, dented armor gleaming in the uncertain light, rode up on his splendid blue-gray mount. His sword was clotted with the gore of rebels, as was his gauntlet and sleeve up to the elbow. It was at this unlikely little patch of foggy moor that James, Duke of Monmouth, had decided to make a bold move in his bid to overthrow James, brother of the late Charles II, who had died earlier in the year. Now, on July 5, 1685, or perhaps the 6th, since it was four in the morning, the rebel army of 4000 had met James II's army of some 6000, almost achieving total surprise. If not for a gunshot, Monmouth's rebel army would have fallen upon the Royal troops unawares, but the alert had been sounded, and they had rallied to the sound of drums.
Amadeus, still young at twenty eight, was a trooper with Lord Churchill's Blues, while his father Brutus was a squadron leader. Both were experienced men, having served in America, as well as North Africa. Amadeus' younger brother Isaac was in the rear, carrying water for the wounded and dragging them from under fallen horses.
"They're on the run!" Brutus growled, fire gleaming hot in his blue eyes. His fair face was flushed and streaked with gunpowder, but he sat his horse like a boy of twenty, rather than a man of fifty. "Lord Churchill wants us to form up and have at the beggars. Come on!"
Amadeus spurred his horse and followed his father, making sure that his brace of pistols were primed and ready. Beyond in the darkness were a few red flowers that marked the desultory firing from the retreating rebels. Occasionally a sulfurous blast would emit from their artillery. Seemingly oblivious to the large iron balls rolling past them, Brutus Collins formed up his squadron of cavalry.
"Heads up, by God!" he swore at them. "Those are cannonballs they're throwing, not daisies! Bugler, sound the charge!"
Two hundred men drew sword at that braying call. Like a steel-clad wave, the troopers surged across a cattle ford and plunged into the ranks of the retreating rebels. It was too much for the already beaten army attempting to melt away, and retreat became rout. Onward the Blues plunged, basket-hilt broadswords hacking to and fro. Brutus reigned up as his commander, the proud Lord John Churchill, yelled something at him. Suddenly, out of the gray mist stormed a figure whose black clothes matched the Stygian mount he rode. Sword high, the eerie attacker crashed his ebon steed against Brutus', almost overturning them both.
The stranger's sword hacked down toward Churchill while Brutus tried to get control of his horse, and Lord John's arm, weary from hours of battle, was tiring. His guard was going down, and the dark stranger seemed on the verge of winning, when Amadeus drew close and snatched his pistol out of its scabbard. He barely took aim and pulled the trigger, hoping the flint was dry. There was a flash in the priming pan, then a heavy, bone-numbing discharge as the lead ball shot out, striking the assailant across his sword hand and glancing to leave a red trail across the stranger's forehead.
The bullet's force knocked the black stranger from his horse and left him in a tangled heap on the chewed earth. The raven-colored horse snapped left and right with huge white teeth, causing all surrounding to pause. Amadeus replaced his pistol in its sheath on his baldric and sidled his mount next to his father's. By now, the elder Collins had his steed ready, interposing it between Lord John and the wild-eyed nightmare.
"Are you alright, father?" solicited Amadeus.
"Fine, son, fine," the elder snorted. "What of you, my lord?"
"Tired, but unhurt, no thanks to this assassin of King Monmouth's," Lord John said, contempt in his voice for the sprawled figure. "You and your son shall be rewarded for your deeds. I shall make sure you are deeded lands in the New World."
"My lord is too generous," Brutus mumbled in confusion. "First, let us see who tried to do you in."
They surrounded the malevolent horse, but their own mounts shied away in fear. Reluctantly, Lord John pulled a double-barreled wheellock pistol from a saddle-sheath.
"Too spirited, alas," he sighed, and pointing his weapon at the horse's head, discharged both barrels. The twin balls of lead caught the creature beneath its ear. In a shower of blood, the black horse reared backward and fell over, barely missing its rider.
As the trio of cavalrymen watched, an eerie transformation took place. Instead of a black horse dead on the moor, it changed subtly in the moonlight until in its place was a huge black man, his skull smashed by two bullets. All three shuddered and muttered oaths to their God as they looked down upon the slain Nubian.
"This smacks of sorcery," Lord John proclaimed. "Who is our devil-bought rider, then?"
Amadeus jumped down from his still-shaking horse and approached the fallen rider with sword ready. Using the tip of his weapon, Amadeus flung back the dark cloak that concealed the rider's face. Seeing the brutal features now exposed, Amadeus took a step back.
"Judah Zachary!" Brutus breathed in wonderment. "I know him well, damn his black soul. Lord John, this man is from my village, and has been passing himself off as a doctor. There have been rumors about him. He has been seen with the DuVal family, most often with Madame DuVal. The talk is that they go to a grove beyond the village and perform strange ceremonies, usually without benefit of clothing, and that DuVal's young daughter is being brought up in such heathen ways."
By then, a group of cavalrymen from Churchill's "Blues" had gathered. They looked upon the fallen Zachary and his polymorphic companion with loathing, and not a few muttered to himself that Zachary should burn, and the DuVal's with him.
"I have seen this black man," Amadeus told his father. "He was doing chores at Zachary's cottage one day when I passed by. I asked him who he was, but he merely growled at me, showing off pointed teeth."
"A cannibal, no doubt," Lord Churchill said. "Filed his teeth so as to be able to rend his fellow man's flesh. A dark business, my friends."
"We have heard enough!" shouted Bill Avery, a color-bearer. "This man has tried to bewitch us, and the DuVals are French, obviously in league with King Monmouth! Who will go with me to clean them out?" At least six swords went high, and before Churchill could protest, Avery and his band had wheeled back over the plungeons toward West Camel, below Glastonbury. In the confusion, everybody had forgotten about the prone figures, their eyes on Avery.
When Amadeus looked down again, Zachary had disappeared, only his crushed hat marking his presence. The felled Nubian had vanished as well, a dark splash of blood strewn about when he had fallen. Amadeus immediately vaulted upon his horse.
"So, honest lead cannot fell Zachary's skin-turner," Lord John observed. "I have heard stories from Tangier, Brutus, that only silver will kill his kind."
"I will be short a few spoons at home, then," Brutus replied wryly. "I must catch up with those hot-heads anyway. I spoke in haste about the DuVals. There might be no truth about their dealings with Zachary. Do I have your leave, my lord?"
"Of course, fly!" Lord John commanded. "If we can spare Avery and his bully boys, then we can spare you. King Monmouth's rabble are done for, I think. Fell that Nubian, and you shall have double the lands I promised you for saving my life."
"Done!" Brutus wheeled his mount and was off, with Amadeus plunging in his wake. It would be well past daybreak before they could reach their village, which lay in the shadow of Cadbury castle, thought by some to have been the site of Camelot. First, they rode through camp to change horses and grab Isaac. The adolescent helped them out and joined the chase, reloading Amadeus's pistol and making sure that the rest were primed or wound. How much had this delayed them, wondered Amadeus, and would they arrive in time?
Smoke curling in an ominous black pillar told them that they would not. Spurring their horses in one last effort, the trio of Collins rode madly down the still-empty streets of West Camel and beyond to the DuVal's cottage. Already, they could see that Zachary's home was the cause of the smoke as flames eagerly devoured it. At the tavern, Amadeus noted three of the distinct blue-gray horses. The odds were getting better, he thought with relief.
As they drew rein at the cottage, all jumped down. Amadeus carried both his pistols in hand, while his father carried only one, preferring naked steel in the form of his basket-hilt broadsword. Isaac followed behind, dragging a heavy musketoon as he cranked its wheellock primer. In his belt were two pistols, should his father or brother need reloads. Outside they found Monsieur DuVal, face down with a large crimson stain still wet upon his back.
Suddenly, a screaming white shape fled past them, and Amadeus barely recognized Miranda DuVal, who was nearly Isaac's age. Her long blonde hair flowed behind her like a banner, and Amadeus could see she was clutching the remains of her white dress to her still developing bosom. So, that was it! Bill Avery's piousness was a mere excuse for rapine and pillage. No sooner had Miranda fled past when two of Avery's men stumbled drunkenly out the door.
"Come, little witch," called one. "If you are old enough to bleed, you are old enough to butcher!"
His face suddenly went sober as Amadeus brought up both pistols even with his head. Brutus covered the other one.
"Get out of here!" Brutus snarled. "Be glad we don't blow out your worthless brains."
Hastily, the two leaped to their horses and sped off, most likely to join their fellows at the tavern. Without hesitating, the Collinses entered the cottage, finding the front room in total disarray. Hearing sobbing from the kitchen, they moved there, and stopped short at what they saw within. Spread-eagled upon the dinner table, her arms held by Avery's last companion, was Madame DuVal. Pinning her pale form down was an oblivious Bill Avery, holding himself up with one hand while with the other he held his misericord to her throat. By the blood on her snowy bosom, Madame Duval had not previously taken her defilement calmly.
Grunting like some animal, Avery was unaware of the Collinses until Brutus cleared his throat.
"Get off her, Bill Avery, or I will shoot you down!" he roared, pistol high.
His fellow released Madame DuVal's hands and ducked down below the table edge, clawing for his own weapon. Amadeus discharged both his pistols, but the balls whizzed past and into the cottage wall. Madame DuVal made one last attempt at freedom, but Avery was enraged and his dagger plunged into her throat. Withdrawing the misericord, he attempted to cast it at Brutus, but Brutus's bullet shattered Avery's arm below the wrist, and with an oath, the elder Collins drove his sword through Avery's body until its point came out the other side.
That was when his fellow decided to make his move. Coming from behind the table, he aimed two pistols at the Collinses.
"Now, its your turn," he snarled as he thumbed back the hammers.
Then, there was a report that nearly deafened Amadeus. A flash singed his right scalp and their antagonist was smashed against the wall, his chest blown away. As he slid down, leaving a red smear, Amadeus turned to see an excited Isaac, putting down the musketoon and grabbing his right shoulder.
"Damn, that hurt!" he cursed.
Brutus examined Madame DuVal, but found that Avery's dagger had done its work. As they made sure that the rest were dead, all turned as a scream erupted from behind them. Turning, they saw the almost-deflowered Miranda, green eyes wide, a sword held two-handedly before her. As if stricken, she threw the blade from her and sank to her knees. Brutus covered her deshabiliment with his cloak, and held her in his arms.
"Poor child!" the elder Colllins said soothingly. "Would that we had come sooner, but the deed is done. At least we have avenged your parents, though such acts will not bring them back."
Guilt because of his off-hand words swept over the elder Collins as he looked down upon the disheveled girl. She had stopped crying and was content to be held in his strong arms. Amadeus looked at her as if he had never seen her. Though some years his junior, he thought that she was quite pretty, even in this state. To his surprise, his father handed her over to him.
"I've got to see the high sheriff," Brutus said. "The rest of those plunderers must be gotten rid of or jailed. Take her to our house, Amadeus. Listen to me girl." Here, he knelt and turned her so that her luminous green eyes met his. "This has been an evil day. Many men have died, and your parents, as well. I cannot see any other way but to take you into my house and raise you with my sons as if you were my own. It is my Christian duty to do so. Amadeus will take you home with him, while Isaac and I go deal with the rest of those ruffians. Do you understand me."
"Aye, sir, I do," Miranda whispered, he accent soft and charming. "My parents have gone away, gone to the Master. I will go with Amadeus."
"Good girl." Brutus stood up. "Take care of her, son."
He turned to his horse, and Isaac stopped reloading pistols to join him in the ride back. Both Amadeus and Miranda eyed each other with some dubiousness.
"Why did these men come here?" she asked.
"They thought your parents connected with Judah Zachary," Amadeus explained. "Can you ride?"
"Yes, probably better than you," she said, eyes suddenly stern. "Where is Judah?"
"Fled. He tried to kill our Commander, to the west of here, at Sedgemoor. He and that Nubian witch-man of his both escaped."
They mounted, he on his own steed, and her on one of the trooper's horses. "How do you know about the witch-man?" she demanded.
"He had changed into a horse for Zachary to ride on, and would have protected him had not father shot him," Amadeus recounted. "He still managed to escape."
"Zamba, the Obeah man, is not easy to kill," Miranda admitted. "I have seen him break the necks of bulls with his bare hands. It was Zachary, though, that I am worried about."
"I was to be his bride at the next May Eve," she said simply.
"Bride? You mean marry him?"
"Not as you define marriage. He was to represent the Black Master. I would be laid upon an altar, and Judah, wearing a black robe and a goat's head mask, would consummate the ritual by which I would become one of Satan's harem."
"God's wounds!" Amadeus swore hotly. "That evil creature was to have his way with you in the name of Satan?"
"Yes." Miranda spoke calmly, as if she were discussing a walk in the country.
"Thank the Lord we have saved you from that fiend, may the Devil eat him," Amadeus said defiantly.
"Yes," was all Miranda said, and they rode the rest of the way in silence.
Amadeus Collins looked on with disgust as Bedford citizens dragged the charred bodies of the Bronson family from the still-smoking remains of their house. Seven years had passed since that fateful night at Sedgemoor, seven years of tumult. Neither Judah Zachary or the Nubian had been uncovered, but Lord John Churchill was good to his word and the Collins family was deeded 500 acres of land in the upper part of the colony. Bleak and forbidding, but brother Isaac thought it an excellent spot for a town. Brutus had turned to shipbuilding up there, and before his death had begun to turn the family fortunes in an upward direction.
His death, thought Amadeus; yes, that is why I am here. Only a year ago the elder Collins had been run over by a strange black horse and rider as he traversed the streets of Boston. Both he and Amadeus had traveled there because there were rumors that Judah Zachary had reappeared, starting a witches coven in the area. Upon hearing this, Miranda DuVal, a virtual ward of Brutus', had disappeared in the night.
Now, Amadeus was a horrified witness not only to his father's death, but a veritable orgy of destruction that seemed to radiate from the town of Bedford. Several people had disappeared or had died under mysterious circumstances, and many had seen a strange man dressed in black in the area, lately accompanied by a beautiful blonde woman with hypnotic green eyes. Amadeus knew his quarry, and left Isaac to his plans for a town that would be named in honor of his late father. He originally wanted to call it Brutopolis, but Amadeus had persuaded him that Collinsport might be more descriptive.
"Well, sir, it's not a pretty picture," mentioned Constable Philo Green, whose brother was the local executioner.
"This must be his work," Amadeus growled. "We must find him, and find Miranda. Any news from Bedford?"
"Strange chantings in a grove of pines a bit north of the town," Green related. "A black-cloaked man on a black horse has been seen there, and I've a list of complaints as long as my arm, over one-hundred counts. Nobody, however, will come forward and point a finger at the man."
"I'll point something else." Amadeus indicated the flintlock at his hip. "A few less spoons, as father said, but I am charged with this pistol and its silver bullets. What men have you?"
"Eight, most of whom are ex-soldiers."
"Excellent." He patted the blocky Green on his shoulder. "This will be wild work, Constable, and we need men who do not shirk at blood or evil. Let us go to Bedford."
Amadeus mounted his horse, and, save for having a leather jerkin instead of a steel cuirass, he felt much as he did seven years ago. The aches of being past thirty melted at the call to action, and he placed his old baldric about his shoulder, letting his broadsword fall snugly at his left side. Waving his plumed hat to the knot of horsemen behind Green, he was off, with them close behind.
Once the sun had set, temperatures fell to nearly freezing in the raw October night. Leaving the horses with one man, Amadeus bid his party to dismount and approach the suspected grove on foot. The moon was bloated and full, so that no torches would be needed. Amadeus realized with a chill that it was All Hallow's Eve, when the barrier between this world and the next thinned and in some places burst like a soap bubble. Whispering a prayer and touching a crucifix about his neck, he pushed on through the trees, soon hearing the voices of chanting.
He whispered to Green that he was going to scout ahead, and that they should wait within the ring of trees until he signaled them to advance. If they heard shots or a struggle, they were to rush forward. The stolid Green nodded, and Amadeus softly moved toward the chanting. Stark, black branches of leaf-shorn deciduous trees grabbed at his face and arms. Then, he was inside the grove of conifers, and they surrounded him like a vast colonnaded hall. Dimly, he could see a bonfire, eclipsed at intervals by writhing silhouettes. Pistol in hand, Amadeus eased behind a nearby bole and watched in horrified fascination the tableau set before him.
There, amid the sturdy pines, was built an altar of collected stones, topped by a rough-dressed slab of granite. Placed on each side of this altar were two bonfires, one at the east, and another at the west, so that the lumbering moon would pass between them as it travelled its east-west course. Beneath its silvery, dispassionate eye danced eleven women, and Amadeus could guess the rough ages of each, from teenager to crone, since they were all naked, their white bodies shining and then black as they were silhouetted against the fires.
They danced with abandon, even the aged goodwives, in a rough circle about the bonfires and altar. Within their ring stood a black-robed Judah Zachary. Amadeus could see that Zachary was now bald in the center, a result, no doubt, of being wounded in the scalp seven years past. Amadeus could also see a huge figure dressed also in a black robe, but his skull was covered by a giant goat's head, evil horns curling outward from its temples.
Between them was Miranda DuVal.
She seemed quite different than she had been in the six years as a ward of the Collinses. Amadeus had never seen her quite happy, but the girl had grown to a young woman, quick of mind and body, slender and lovely. No other woman could compare with her, and it had made his subsequent marriage to a proper woman of the colony cold and loveless, spawning no heir. Amadeus never revealed his feelings to anyone, especially Miranda, for fear of ridicule. Certainly, his father would have forbade any thoughts of romance with her, still unsure whether she had dabbled in witchcraft. Yet, Amadeus had looked upon no woman with the same feeling as he looked upon the young Miranda DuVal, no matter the difference in their ages.
Now, as he saw her flanked by her ebon-garbed companions, a loathing overtook him. Her guardians stood her before the altar, and with a theatric gesture from Zachary, he whipped the white robe she had been wearing over her head and dropped it in a heap by the stones. Her unclothed beauty made Amadeus' blood sing. Never had he seen such loveliness, and it gnawed at him to think that Judah Zachary would lay his devil-spawned hands upon her. He waited a bit more, slowly withdrawing his broadsword and laying it beside his crouched form on the carpet of pine needles.
The goat-headed figure must be the Nubian, Amadeus reasoned. He wondered whether the head was really a mask, or had Zamba used his arts to change his form as he had turned from man to horse?
Miranda was led to the altar. In a daze she climbed upon the rough stone to lay upon her back. The Nubian held her arms, while Zachary himself began to raise the hem of his robe to reveal white, gnarled legs. Amadeus was about to spring forward when Miranda screamed in terror. Certainly, the memory of her mother's rape had returned to her, and Miranda's assuming the same position caused her to cry out in misery and flail helplessly in the Nubian's mighty grip.
Shouting an oath, Amadeus grabbed his sword and charged into the opening, knocking aside the coven members like nine-pins. His broadsword flashed in the moonlight, and Zamba drew back, blood spurting from the stump of his left arm. Miranda sat up, the black hand still clutching her. Amadeus fired his pistol, shattering the goat-mask. Unfortunately, his aim was high, and the mask fell away to reveal the thick, evil features of the Obeah-man. Judah Zachary grabbed Miranda and held her behind the altar.
To Amadeus' horror, the severed hand dropped from Miranda's arm and crawled like a huge black spider to Zamba. Up his robe it clawed its way, finally to allow its owner to reattach it at the end of his arm. Almost instantly, the wound healed, and Zamba came forward, snarling between his filed teeth. Amadeus wondered if his sword could wound the man when he heard shouts behind him. From amid the trees rushed Green's men, while the coven members fled in all directions.
Green ordered his men to grab the Nubian, but his prodigious strength was too much. Amadeus drew back to reload his pistol, and as he did, the Obeah man clutched a man in each hand and squeezed their throats until their spines snapped like dry sticks. Throwing their twitching bodies to one side, he continued toward Amadeus.
Amadeus had charged his pistol with powder and rammed home the ball, but the giant was upon him before he could fire. He ducked under the sweep of those massive arms, and cocked back his pistol.
"Zamba!" he called.
The giant Nubian paused and turned. With deliberate aim, Amadeus fired his silver bullet through the Nubian's heart. Stricken, Zamba threw out his arms and fell forward. Amadeus watched as the body underwent its final transformation, from that of a huge man, to that of a withered ancient, bent and knobbed as if centuries old. This time, his magic had truly fled and there would be no reclamation. With his booted foot, Amadeus kicked the brittle form onto one of the bonfires. It seemed weightless, and the flames parted to receive their gift, crackling loudly as they devoured it. Then, Amadeus turned to see if Zachary had been bound.
He had not. Green and his remaining men had circled the sorcerer, but they had not touched him, because he held a curved dagger to the throat of Miranda DuVal. Amadeus recharged his pistol as he approached them, keeping it in his left hand while his right still held the basket-hilt broadsword.
"Keep back, Amadeus Collins," Zachary called, eyes mad with excitement. "I shall slit her throat before you can stop me. Remember Bill Avery."
"His heart was not half as black as yours, devil bite you," Amadeus swore hotly. "Let her go, and I promise you a fair trial."
"You promise nothing. You will let me go with her, or her life will be on your hands."
"Judah," sobbed Miranda, "you would kill me to save yourself. I came to you, a woman seeking power, willing to be your bride. Is this what I am, no more than a pawn to be bargained for?"
"Be silent, little witch," he hissed. "You would have made a fine bride. You learned well the arts of the Prince of Flame. Your powers might have someday rivaled mine, but now it is too late. You spurned my droit de seigneur, and so you will serve me better as unwilling hostage than unwilling receptacle of Satan's lust. We are going now," he said to Amadeus. "Do not follow us, or I assure you that your fate will be much worse than your father's."
"You killed him!" Amadeus roared, aiming the pistol directly a Zachary's head.
"Zamba," admitted the sorcerer with a sneer. "Now, we are gone."
"No!" screamed Miranda. She frantically twisted in his grasp, so swiftly that Zachary's dagger did not part her skin, but a cushioning coil of her golden hair.
Having no better purchase, her strong white teeth closed upon his wrist, and the dagger fell as he moaned in pain. It was all Amadeus needed. Unwilling to shoot or stab with Miranda still in Zachary's grip, he lashed out with the hilt of his sword, and its brass guard caught the sorcerer behind the ear. Silently, he sprawled on the ground. Immediately, Green and his men fell upon the recumbent figure and tied him with ropes.
Miranda fell into Amadeus' arms and he held her close, wanting to tell her of his longing, but not daring to. He led her to the altar and snatched up her garment, which he tried clumsily to wrap around her. By then, the moment had passed and he was called upon to help sort out what had happened.
"When I look into Judah's eyes, I am helpless," Miranda moaned as she sat in an antechamber of the courtroom. The only other occupant was Amadeus Collins. A week had passed. The date was November 5, 1692.
"You will not have to look at him," Amadeus promised. "The decision is yours. Do you wish to rot in Hell? Will you stand with God? Will you stand against Satan?" Amadeus came over and held her up by both arms, his eyes searching hers, hopeful. "Will you, Miranda? Will you?"
"I will testify!" she screamed hysterically. "Do not ever let me look upon his eyes again, Amadeus, I beg you!"
She looked up at him again, and he found her beauty too intoxicating to resist.
"I will throttle that fiend with my own hands before you again fall under his spell," he promised, and with emotions overwhelming him, he covered her upturned lips with kisses.
"Amadeus -- I --" she began.
"I love you!" he admitted, at last. "All these years, from the day I saw you as a child, now here I am middle-aged, and yet I could not tell you until now. Do not tell me you cannot love me."
"I -- nay, I cannot, though I should; twice you have been my savior," she murmured against his lips, and then returned his kisses with her own. They paused only long enough for Amadeus to make sure that the ante-chamber door was securely bolted. Any thought of unfaithfulness to his wife was absent from his racing brain. The aching he had felt for so many years was to be fulfilled, no matter how mundane the setting.
BOSTON -- SPRING 1693
"Up anchor!" The ship captain's booming command caused Miranda DuVal to grip the rail and take a last look at the Massachusetts colony. With a snap of canvas, the schooner's sails filled, and it swung away from the dock, to take her south.
She turned away, lest the other passengers see the single tear coursing down her ivory cheek. Amadeus had promised her that she would be given a passage to safety, but it was to be a lonely voyage. She had begged him in the days following the trial, to go with her, but he became too enwrapped in the sudden deaths of the judges and their families. She went so far as to give him a gift, an oblong ring with a black stone. Gratefully, he slipped it on his forefinger.
"Perhaps," she had told him, "perhaps some day an incarnation of mine, a descendant, will meet an heir of yours and will know them by this ring."
Amadeus had kissed her. "They cannot help but be lovers, no matter their station or their commitments."
That tender afternoon had been the last time she saw her lover alive. The next day both Amadeus and his wife had fallen to their deaths after a carriage brushed them into a well. Since they had no children all Amadeus' belongings, including the ring, went to Isaac. Miranda, fearful that Judah Zachary's evil would find her--even beyond the grave–quickly departed Collinsport for Boston, and from there the grief-stricken young woman secured passage to Martinique as soon as the weather calmed.
The two families would meet again, she knew. Her powers were still alive, and she knew that she would live again, skipping a generation. Already, she could feel the swelling in her stomach, the promise of new life, new hope. Amadeus' child. Better him as the sire than foul Judah Zachary!
She could return to her French ancestry on Martinique, an island where witchcraft was more accepted. Her daughter–though how she knew that Miranda could not say–would be taught the old arts so that her next incarnation would have more power, perhaps more than Judah Zachary. As she watched the coast slip away, Miranda DuVal knew that her family would forever be twined with the Collinses and that--as Judah had proclaimed--death was but an extension of life.