BY: JANE JORDAN
After losing her father, Amy Derneville travels to remote Whisht Hall on Dartmoor, the home of her step uncle and three step cousins. Far from being close, her cousins have unresolved rivalries, and one possesses an odd and destructive power. After an eventful outing to a dangerous tor and haunted wood, Amy does not know who to trust, and the cries from of the legendary Whisht hounds shatter her nerves completely.
As the mystery of the family starts to unravel, her uncle is murdered on the moors. Fearful that she could be next, Amy flees to New Orleans and to a strange house in the middle of the black-water swamp—where lies some dark fragment of a past she never knew. Drawn into the world of voodoo, she uncovers the shocking truth of her family as she is propelled toward disaster. Now, Amy must return to England and face an adversary who means to destroy everything she holds dear.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Whisht Hall by Jane Jordan, seventeen-year-old Amy Derneville has recently lost her father. Her only remaining family is her step-uncle and step-cousins in Dartmoor, so Amy travels to Whisht Hall to live with her uncle and cousins. Once she gets there, however, she soon learns the things are not as they should be. She hears hounds crying on the moors and learns that people are dying. Her cousins also don’t seem to be normal, and Amy doesn’t know who to trust. As she digs for the truth, the mystery will take her from England to New Orleans and the black water swamps of Louisiana, and into the practice of voodoo and magic, where dark secrets are revealed that may change her life forever…
Combining the paranormal with an intriguing mystery and a sweet love story, Jordan had crafted a tale that will grab and hold your interest from the very first page.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Whisht Hall by Jane Jordan is the story of a family cursed by an evil voodoo priestess. Seventeen-year-old Amy Derneville, whose mother disappeared when she was baby, is lost after her father dies. With no other family than her father’s stepbrother and his three children, Amy is sent to Dartmoor to live at Whisht Hall. However, Amy soon learns that the family has problems. Her twin step-cousins, Calin and Damien, hate each other, while Lisette, their younger sister, seems to have strange powers. Amy doesn’t know who to trust, especially after she hears hounds on the moor and tales of the people they have killed. Fleeing to New Orleans in fear for her life, she is drawn into the world of voodoo, where she learns some dark secrets about her past.
Well written, fast paced, with marvelous characters, Whisht Hall will keep you enthralled all the way through. A great read.
New Orleans, 1989:
After the relentless heat of the day, a brief shower at twilight promised to ease the oppression, but still the breath of the Louisiana night choked the air. A ghostly white haze had formed over the fingers of the bayou. Penetrating every tributary of the swamp, it crept across the black waters to steal along the shadowy ground. Even when full darkness descended, heat still seeped from the earth, giving no relief from the general airlessness of the night.
It was a fitting atmosphere for the occasion, already surreal, except the effectiveness of the mind-altering herbs influenced the scene. The bayou’s misty fingers appeared to leave their earthly domain and rise higher into the air, encouraged by the breeze, strange otherworldly patterns formed. The shapes snaked across the sky with purpose, transforming into swirling masses, then, slowly descending to eclipse the witchdoctor’s silhouette.
He moved wildly and unnaturally. A reaction of the altered mind was to fancy his image as dark and demonic, as the moon’s luminosity highlighted the whites of his eyes, the only visible impression against the darkness of his skin. The image was thrilling, the ambiance so significantly charged, it felt as though it was a tangible organism, and if you were inclined, it was possible to reach out and grab the vibe as it flowed through the air.
At the same time, his figure was darkly frightening. He flaunted the guise of a strange magician, coming close enough so that Marguerite could feel his breath upon her skin. In the next moment, he moved so dangerously close to the flames that he appeared to step into the fire. He repeatedly performed this ritual, as sparks spewed in all directions and landed on his skin. He did not appear to notice. The drums beat faster and he shook the gourd rattle as though demented.
“Dambellah, Dambellah!” he chanted, before disappearing behind the fire, only to emerge seconds later with a large snake draped around his shoulders. It writhed about his body, shifting and contorting until it was tight around his neck, noticeably laboring his chant and constricting his windpipe. His eyeballs rolled backward, and he forced the mantra though his lips while giving himself wholly to the trance.
The energy built. The power of the snake amassed and the entity he had called upon, crawled up his body, gliding over his skin and infiltrating every pore. The power overwhelmed him as it entered his earthly form, entwining itself around every fiber of his soul, taking possession. Free will suppressed, he was a willing slave to the bidding of the Loa. He fell to the ground, while his body writhed and undulated as he and the snake became one. They moved in unison, even his tongue darted in and out of his mouth, as if he were mimicking the gesticulation of the great white serpent.
Cecile gathered up a white cockerel in her arms and moved into the circle. Her body began to convulse in time with the drumbeat. She chanted and plucked feathers from the screeching bird, moving toward the ceremonial poto mitan that was set into a stone plinth, and covered with sacred offerings. Cecile’s dance became wilder as the posturing of the witchdoctor intensified. Her eyes glazed over as she clasped the bird in both hands and offered him up to the Loa.
Other figures moved closer to the poto mitan, their steps close to the geometrically complex and intricate symbols drawn upon the ground, they contorted their bodies and joined the frenzy. Faces were mostly obscured by darkness and shifting shadows, as they moved around the circle. Pungent incense mixed with smoke scented air, rose in hazy spirals into the dark pitch of night. The collective incantation grew in timbre and the beat of the drums became steadily louder. The cockerel’s scream pierced through the hedonistic chaos for a brief moment, as a dagger plunged into its chest. The head was ripped from its body, and blood sprayed out in all directions.
Marguerite screamed. The pain tore through her in waves that felt never-ending. Cecile discarded the bird and went to where she lay, at the edge of the circle. Placing her bloodied hands on Marguerite’s naked belly, she chanted. Her words were barely audible above the thumping drum. The Creole girl’s eyes rolled in her head, and as she exerted more pressure, Marguerite let out another cry and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, trying not to hyperventilate and to suppress another ear-splitting scream. Her efforts were futile, it soon escaped from deep within her.
The pain was excruciating, and Marguerite could easily believe that Cecile had plunged the dagger into her flesh. A wave of heat rushed over her body, her eyes snapped open, meeting Cecile’s gaze that glowed darker by the light of a candle. She moved her hands lower.
“Don’t fret now, Ms. Marguerite, it will soon be done.”
She could not believe Cecile’s words. The sweat was pouring off her skin, even if, she felt chilled. Fear filled her up. It felt as though she were dying, her body agonizingly torn in half, for the pain was too intense, more than she could stand. She screamed again.
Cecile reached down between her legs. “Push, Ms. Marguerite. I see the head, tis almost over!” Marguerite lost the ability to focus, mental numbness embedded firmly in her psyche, as her mind inwardly retreated to a dark place.
Just when she believed that she no longer cared to live or die, an uncontrollable sensation forced her body to recover briefly, making her fight to bring this life into existence. Clenching all of her muscles at once, she pushed hard, willing the baby to come.
It was shocking to her that her body could endure so much torture, and having lain here for hours in pain, she was in a state of near exhaustion, wholly convinced that it was taking too long. She could not bear any more agony, right now, she would give anything, even her soul, just to make the pain stop and be able to close her eyes.
There was to be no reprieve. The next contraction was too powerful and all consuming. She pushed hard and with what remained of her voice, screamed loudly as the baby’s head delivered. It was a shock to realize this was the end. Her will to live resurfaced, her fatigued muscles rallied, and the rest of the baby came easier. A few moments later, the pain stopped, it was as if it had never been. Marguerite breathed freely, dazed and overwhelmed that she was alive. She caught her breath and took a deep gulp of air.
Cecile cut the umbilical cord with a knife, and lifted the bloodied infant, turning toward the onlookers, as the baby let out its first cry. Marguerite’s mind conflicted, mostly she wanted to close her eyes and not open them for a week, the other emotion was to ignore how violently her body shook, and hold her baby. With some difficulty, she leant up.
“Cecile,” she murmured, “give me my…”
The word was lost. A pain shot through her insides, disorientation clouded her relief, and she collapsed backward as panic overcame her senses. All her muscles tightened and her head drew back sharply. She screamed. Something was wrong.
She caught her breath and shook her head in denial. This was abnormal. She’d had the baby, only now that felt like a fanciful dream.
The pain came again, faster this time and even more severe.
Cecile had been watching her intently, and she spoke quickly to someone out of Marguerite’s line of sight, handed the baby to the crowd, and knelt down. Realization dawned, and a slow smile spread across her face.
“Tis twins, Ms. Marguerite, the Loa is pleased to give you such a gift.”
The words barely registered. Marguerite didn’t care, what she was enduring was foremost on her mind. Drumbeats grew louder again, and she looked sideways to the powerful images that danced about the poto mitan and the fire. She prayed then, to the spirits, begging for it to be over. Between her cries and the drumbeats, the voices became distant in her head as pain tore through her repeatedly. Fever hovered over her, and she felt grateful that a cool damp cloth touched her brow. Believing she was on the brink of death, it was no surprise when a dark shadow passed over her. Confirmation that death had come to claim her, and just before her mind gave in entirely to this thought, the baby came.
“Did you feel that,” she asked hoarsely, while staring at the cockerel’s blood spattered on her skin.
A real shadow fell across her body, and she tilted her head to gaze up into the vacant eyes of the witchdoctor. Up close, his dramatic makeup made him appear more sinister, and his black weeping eyes and swollen muscles alarmed Marguerite more. Cecile was beside him with the second infant, and he took it from her, raised it high into the air, all the while speaking words she did not understand. Then he moved away carrying the child.
Marguerite wanted her babies, but she could not protest, her muscles were unable to prop up her body any longer, her voice was gone, and she could not even resist as Cecile forced a liquid into her mouth. The narcotic took effect at once and her lids became so heavy that it was impossible to hold them open any longer. The torment, the excruciating pain was over, even her body that, moments before, had shaken uncontrollably, now was still, and she could no longer remain in the moment.
The fire had died down, only a few embers glowed as Marguerite woke. There were sleeping bodies all around the perimeter of the clearing, and the air was clearer. She looked skyward to the long beards of Spanish moss, studying their shapes and patterns, as they dangled from the cypress tree under which she rested. The drums had ceased, the darkness was intoxicating, and lingering scent from the incense came to her on a slight breeze as the beards began to sway gently.
Listening to the sounds from the black water swamp was comforting. The warm Louisiana night was full of cicadas hypnotic song and loudly croaking frogs, intent on drowning their rival’s noise, by making their own territorial din. An occasional bellow or splash from the bayou signaled an alligator in the vicinity. The thought frightened her, knowing that the scent of blood must still be pungent in the air. Their prehistoric disposition would draw them to her, and in alarm, she looked across to where the noise had come from. She breathed a small sigh of relief, two figures sat by the bayou, keeping guard.
A movement by her side, startled her, and she looked down at two infants swaddled in a dark cloth. She blinked, unable to comprehend that these babies could be her children. All at once, somebody reached out and touched her shoulder. Marguerite jumped violently. She looked up and into the milky eye of an old woman who crouched beside her. The other eye was a glowing ebony color. Marguerite did not know her. She looked Creole, with her one dark eye, graying black hair, and deep-set lines etched into bronzed skin. She was reminiscent of an ancient voodoo queen, with many amulets around her neck and rings adorning all her fingers. The woman stared at her for a few seconds, as though she might read her mind or draw out some bad spirit. She said nothing until she reached across to the babies.
“Your sons,” she murmured.
Her voice was light, like that of a young girl, as she pulled the dark cloth aside. A black cord bound the babies’ wrists together, in the center was a leather pouch, somehow, it distorted the innocence and purity of new life.
Marguerite’s hand instinctively caught hold of the old woman’s sleeve, her eyes opened wider, and a cold chill passed through her body as her senses heightened. After tonight, she would see danger symbols in everything. Her nerves felt frayed and thought patterns adhering to superstitious beliefs to keep her children safe. The night suddenly felt darker than ever, and a shadow settled over her mind as she stared at the gris-gris.
© 2019 by Jane Jordan