William wasn't married. That was the best he could defend himself when asked. He wasn't married, and so he was not being unfaithful to his wife.

He'd been bewitched. He could see that, now.

He wouldn't live to see the autumn of that year; the bone woman told him so.

"Th'art a fool, Billy Butcherson. To take a witch as thy lover. But th'art double the fool for playin' her false. Unfaithful's unfaithful, it matters not if th'art wed or not."

It was as he'd feared.

"Surely there's something I can do," he begged. "I've been hexed, I say. Why else would I take with these creatures? They are my elders by many years. Crones. Hags."

The bone woman tossed her bones and asked her questions. She wasn't evil. Not like the Witches were evil. She charted stars and talked with her bones, and worked a little healing in the Village atimes. It was doubtless she used Magic, though. To make her bones speak to her.

"Thou'llt not live into this summer, Billy Butcherson. Winifred Sanderson knows thy sin, and even now, she prepares her revenge. And even if I could stop this happening, I daren't. There's a fate tied to thy soul. A destiny I mustn't muddle in."

"A fate tied to my soul, but not to my death?"


"You're crazy."

William hastened his journey back to the village, trying to put the nonsense from his mind.

The first day of May brought with it an encounter most foul.

It was Sarah's voice that lured him to their cottage.

It was Winifred's hand that held him fast, pushing a small vial to his lips and forcing him to drink.

It was Mary's fingers that he felt pinched over his lips at the last, when the needle pierced them.

When he came to himself again, he was dead. And he couldn't say a word.

He was invisible to even them, and he couldn't leave, just as surely as though he'd been sewn in place. He could go not to the Beyond, where dwelt his sisters and his father. Nor out of the borders of the village. And he couldn't sleep.

His curse, then, was an inability to rest.

He was there, when they took the girl they shouldn't have. Stole her life away.

He was there when the girl's brother was cursed into the shape of a small black cat.

He silently rejoiced when Sarah sealed their fate, and silently mourned when their death did not release him.

And he wondered at his fate. The fate the bone woman had told him of. Which would stay with his soul, surpassing his life with him.