OWS Ink LLC
By Readers, For Readers
Today’s story is an excerpt from Dinner at Dark, a novella by Lyssa Medana.
Lyssa Medana is a 50 year old author living in West Yorkshire, UK. Her works include The Forgotten Village, Digging up the Past, Cats in the Bible, Dinner at Dark and Tales from the White Hart.
Lyssa also regularly publishes poems and short stories on her blog, Always Another Chapter.
Lyssa is fascinated by the odd, the quirky and the unusual and enjoys dipping in to old folklore and English social history, which she shamelessly uses for her writing. Her hobbies include knitting, reading and heckling history documentaries.
Connect with Lyssa on her social media:
“This book is amazing.” Ian said, fascinated as he delicately turned the pages. “Of course you really need to know Latin to appreciate it, but it’s a thing of beauty in its own right. These illustrations are amazing.”
“The legend about this book is that it was written by a demon and left where mortals could find it so that he could use it to trap their souls.” Richard watched Ian poring over his latest treasure with a certain smugness. “There are a lot of those sort of legends around, probably started by insecure parish priests.”
“Who knows.” Zoe said, “After all, why would a demon let books exist that tell you how to summon them. If I was a demon I wouldn’t want to be summoned and made to work for a mortal. I’d want to get rid of any book that encouraged that sort of thing. It makes sense that books summoning demons are unlikely to work.”
“Hmm.” Ian seemed transfixed by a page he was reading. I couldn’t tell what it was about as there were no illustrations, but some of the writing seemed to be in Hebrew instead of Latin. “Well, lots of people in the Middle Ages believed you could summon demons. There must have been a reason for that.”
“Blind superstition and ignorance, probably.” Mike said with an edge. He couldn’t read Latin.
“Would anyone like a sherry before dinner?” I asked. “Dinner will be at six.”
I had warned Zoe about the dinner. It had been quite a challenge. Richard and Nathan could eat and did eat normal food, but they didn’t have much of an appetite and they had very old fashioned tastes. On the other hand, the werewolves all had massive appetites and liked lots of meat. Not only did they work hard in the pack’s building firm but Mike kept them all busy. They were always doing training hunts and runs. Richard would be appalled if any of his guests left the table without feeling obscenely full so the plates had to be overloaded and he and Nathan would eat about a tenth of what was put in front of them but the werewolves would undoubtedly clear their plates. Not only did there have to be quantity but there also had to be quality. Everything had to be the best. Richard had a position to keep up. He wasn’t exactly lord of the manor, but he was highly considered and it was important to him that he put on a good show. He wanted the most up to date dinner party, to show that he wasn’t living in the past, but he also wanted things done ‘properly’ which meant slightly old fashioned and elaborate. I let Zoe know that she wasn’t seriously expected to eat everything that was put in front of her.
“It sounds lovely, and to be honest I’m starving. The business lunch was more like a very small business snack and I didn’t dare delay to grab something else.” Zoe said. Then she stopped in the doorway to the dining room. “Did Richard insist you did this as well?”
I laughed. “It was my idea. Richard isn’t bothered about the dining room, but I wanted to have a go. I used it in my blog.”
Ann gently eased Zoe further into the room. “Don’t worry, Carol always goes the extra mile with decorations. You should see it after she decorates on Christmas Eve. It’s amazing.”
“I don’t want to alarm you, but you may well find yourself seeing that.” Richard tapped his smartphone. “I’m watching the weather reports. It isn’t like to ease up and a few of the neighbouring streams are over their banks. Travel could be tricky.”
The dining room did look nice. The large dining room table was covered with an immaculate white cloth, candlelight sparkled off crystal glasses and the flatware and cutlery were set out just so. I had followed Mrs Beeton’s suggestions and the centrepiece was a low flower arrangement of white roses and ivy. The fire had been lit early and was giving a steady warmth and the polished oil lamps positioned in the corners case gleamed softly. I served the chicken and lemon soup with a certain pride. So far everything was going well.
“Is the new book definitely vellum?” Ian asked. “I mean, it looked right and felt right, but lots of things are easily faked these days.”
“You can buy genuine vellum on-line.” Richard said a hint of amusement. “But as far as any expert can agree it is genuine vellum with genuine leather and they are putting the date around the start of the sixteenth century.”
“What sort of leather?” Ian asked.
“Definitely cow.” Richard looked around the table. “It wasn’t unknown for books to be bound in human skin. It wasn’t common, of course, but a man who had been hanged was considered fair game.”
“Seriously.” Zoe looked utterly appalled.
“Some places used to post guards over the hanged criminals until they were cut down for burial.” Nathan said. He took a spoonful of the delicate soup. “There were some ghoulish ideas around. I think there’s a book bound in human skin at Harvard. I saw something on the web about it. And there’s a Hand of Glory at Whitby Museum.”
“What’s a Hand of Glory?” I could see Zoe regretted asking the question as soon as it came out of her mouth.
“It’s an ancient superstition.” Richard laid his soup spoon down carefully. “You took the severed hand of a hanged man, bound a candle to it and when you crept into a house and lit the candle it was supposed to send all the inhabitants into a deep, deep sleep so that the house could be ransacked. I never heard of any successful use.” Zoe shuddered and pushed her soup a little away.