Disclaimer: just the usual, random, sometimes genuinely interesting stuff you can find all over FF. net
A/N: the prologue takes place in 1986, for those of you who didn't see it.
A/N2: assume all speaking in this chapter is German.
As Margali Szardos finished her last crystal ball reading of the day, she sighed and boxed up the glass ball, traipsing through the rapidly descending frozen Bavarian night to her trailer at the edge of the river. She was about to push the door open when she heard a baby crying. Doubtless it was Stefan, her young son, wanting something. Margali walked into her trailer, surveying the dark, tidy kitchen and open bedroom, lit by the candle she left burning a distance away from Stefan's crib. The gypsy sorceress preferred to use candles. It was the way she had been raised, and for a travelling circus in rural southern Germany, there was rarely electricity available.
However, as she approached the crib, the crying became quieter. The baby must've been outside, in the frosted, freezing air, with snow looming heavily. Margali hiked up her skirts and ran back out into the night, her breath coming in clouds in front of her as she whirled around. There it was: a tiny wicker basket, on its side on the bank of the river. Margali put her hands protectively over her abdomen, where her second child was growing. How could a baby ever survive as long as it could have in the cold, probably wet?
Approaching the basket cautiously, Margali righted it gently and gasped as the infant face inside peered up at her, tears streaking down its cheeks, face screwed up from crying. She reached down and touched its dark cheek cautiously, a tear welling in her eye as she felt matted wet fur under her fingers, but more prominently, the sharp angle of the infant's cheekbone. The baby had no weight, it was just skin and bones and fur.
Strange looks aside and overcome with pity for the child, Margali lifted it out of the basket and carried it to her trailer, smoothing its fur, trying to hush its crying gently. As she opened the door and lit a few more candles, she wondered where the baby had come from and how he—she had confirmed the baby was a boy—looked so strange. She cleaned him up as best as she could with a rag and fed him at her breast. The baby, once settled in next to a peacefully slumbering Stefan, fell asleep instantly.
"Ah, poor Kurti," she sighed, leaning on the crib, looking down on her new son, not really realizing she had just named him. "What harm has befallen you that you look so pitiful?"
Kurt sighed in his sleep and rolled over, half the size of Stefan, though the boys couldn't be more than a week apart. Margali pondered Kurt's situation as she went into the kitchen quietly and found a few slices of bread to munch on.
Six years after the fateful night Margali found little Kurt on the river, she was closing the door to her caravan and beginning to wade through the shin-deep blanket of snow that had fallen overnight, her three children following behind her like a string of ducklings. Stefan and Kurt were six, and Jimaine was four, and all three kids were bright and eager to learn the ways of the circus and gypsy life. Already, Kurt had shown amazing athletic flexibility, and shared his knowledge with Stefan, who was not far behind on his way to becoming acrobat with Kurt. Jimaine had expressed much interest in the ways of sorcery, and Margali happily obliged in teaching her only daughter her profession.
When the four were about twenty feet away from the food tent, there was a sudden whap and a squeal. Margali whirled around as Stefan collided with her legs, and she saw Kurt had been hit by a snowball and was smiling hugely as he formed another snowball and launched it at the other gypsy kids, laughing and ducking behind the caravans and tents as Kurt flew after them on four legs, Jimaine in hot pursuit and Stefan sliding around trying to catch up.
"Don't get too snowy!" Margali called after her kids and continued into the tent, taking food for herself and her kids for when they came in. She smiled to herself as she heard the kids shrieking with laughter, glad that the other kids treated Kurt as an equal instead of a pet or a freak as some of the visitors to the circus were inclined to do.
There was loud crackling from one end of the tent as someone tuned the radio, trying to find a station. Margali's neighbor to her left leaned over and muttered jokingly,
"You'd think that in a tent of sorceresses one would be able to tune a radio." Margali laughed a little, waving as her kids filed into the tent, the hems of their pants and sleeves of their jackets sopping wet from melted snow.
"What did I tell you, little munchkins? Here, eat breakfast then go change into something dry." Margali spooned eggs and sausage onto their plates as they chorused,
They wolfed their food and dashed back to the snow, undoubtedly taking a detour in the snow to accidentally hit someone with snowballs; Margali smiled to herself again at the thought. Ah, well, kids will be kids.
There was an encore of squeals and whaps and the sound of kids running through snow, and the sounds of kids at play gradually faded away as they took their fight elsewhere. There was a sudden shriek of laughter from one of the girls, and hoarse shouting from the boys, but the sounds quieted quickly.
Margali finished her breakfast and went back outside, tugging her jacket tighter as she lifted her skirts and started to wade back through the snow. As she reached her caravan, she saw black ink on the handle of the door and scowled a little, rubbing it off with the hem of one of her shawls, entering the caravan. There were three sets of watery footprints going into the kids' bedroom, and Margali followed the trail.
The atmosphere in the bedroom was uncharacteristically grave. Kurt was sprawled on the bed, with Stefan pinning his arms above his head, Jimaine sitting on his feet and tail. Kurt was very still and had tears on his face, biting his lip nervously.
"What happened?" Margali demanded. Receiving no answer, she demanded again. "Answer me!"
"Kurt broke Heidi's leg." Stefan said furtively, softly, as if it were a curse, tightening his grip on Kurt's wrists.
". . . Kurt . . . !" Margali said softly, covering her face with her hands. She shook her head slowly. "Why?" She asked, uncovering her face, tears of anger and disbelief brimming in her frowning brown eyes.
"I . . . I didn't mean . . . I don't know what happened!" Kurt choked, shaking his head against his arms, smearing tears on the arms of his jacket. Margali rubbed her eyes.
"Stefan, Jimaine, I need to talk to Kurt alone, please," Margali said softly, nodding out the door. Stefan released his brother slowly, taking his little sister's hand and leading her out the door, shutting it slowly behind them.
"Kurt, I can't possibly comprehend why in the world, my God, you would break Heidi's leg. She needs her legs, she's to become a contortionist. You've just taken her livelihood from her . . . am I making you feel guilty? . . . because I hope I am . . . until now, I thought you a very kind, rational boy. Now . . . I have no idea what to think. Tell me exactly what happened." Margali said levelly, keeping anger out of her voice, knowing it would do nothing but frighten the boy senseless; however, guilt would make him speak.
"We were playing . . . snowballs . . . and Heidi jumped on my back . . . I was laughing, it was all fun . . . and then, I don't know what happened . . . but it feels like it was happening . . . it feels like somebody just took over me . . . that person was s-s-so ang-g-angry . . . it was te-te-terrify—" Kurt hiccupped, "—ing . . . I th-thought I was sc-screaming . . . the angry person th-threw Heidi in the sn-snow, and then he-he grabbed her leg . . . one h-h-hand on either side of her k-k-knee," the boy was sobbing so hard his words were barely understandable now, "an' he b-b-bent it b-b-backwar-r-ds-s . . . H-h-heidi screamed . . . the b-boys sh-sh-shouted . . . I w-was sc-screaming at th' a-angry pers-person . . . b-b-but then th-the angr-gry pers-s-on l-l-left, an' I w-w-woke up h-here . . . Mama!" Kurt threw himself at Margali, hugging her tightly and sobbing into her side. Margali hesitantly put her hands on her son's back, rocking him gently, mind racing.
Being a sorceress and a gypsy, Margali was more open-minded than a normal parent, and at the moment of that thought, she was gazing with narrowed eyes at the bookcase a few feet in front of her. The books were everything from practicing sorcery to German history and theories of God.
Picking up Kurt and holding him like she used to do when he was a baby, Margali crossed to the bookcase and pulled out a book bound in faded green cloth titled in black ink, "Jungoljuncion de Phaeodaemnen", Latin for "Binding the Dark Spirits". Quickly, Margali leafed through it, looking at the handwritten translations of the Latin into German in the margins, done by her grandmother many, many years ago.
The page that she was looking for was titled "Signs of Demonic Possession". Margali absorbed the information on the page, eyes widening as what she read matched what her son had described. She leafed through the book more, still rocking gently from side-to-side, comforting Kurt, until she reached page 666, "Destroying a Demon".
A silent sob escaped her lips as she read. There was no cure for a person afflicted with a dark spirit. The only way to kill the demon was to rid them of their spirit by destroying their mind.
Sitting heavily on the bed, Margali buried her face in Kurt's shoulder and rocked to comfort herself, too. The book fell out of her hands onto the floor, pages crackling. In a haze of unshed tears, she saw the page the book had fallen to, which was bookmarked with a lock of horsehair. "Treating Demonic Possession".
Hope welled in Margali's heart like a newly tapped spring. She picked the book up again and voraciously read everything about treatment she could, copying it down onto a spare sheet of parchment. Thankfully, she had all the ingredients for treatment. She got to it right away.