Tendra was sitting back in her rocking chair, the dim glow of the fire warming the small room with the scents of roasting herbs and bubbling stew.
Sitting across her lap was a large patchwork quilt, one that had been in the family for generations. She was currently waiting for the newest square to come, then she'd take the time to add the new patch with her worn needle and silver thread. Looking up at her doorway, her one good eye blinked as she thought she saw movement behind the beaded entryway.
"Hello?" She called out. "Who's out there?"
All she heard was the crackle of the flame, which eased her worries. Tendra had been a resident of Haiti now for nearly eighty years, having come from Africa when she was nine-years-old. She'd studied under her mother, who had become the center of the local community, and when the time came Tendra took over her mother's mantle. She smiled at the look on her mother's face when she watched her daughter ascend the ranks and be accepted by the community. Looking across the room, she smiled at the faded visage of her mother, gray and black held still for eternity.
"How I miss her..." Tendra mused. A low creak near the front of her home snapped her attention back to the door. She reached down to the side of her chair and grabbed her weapon of choice, taking careful aim at the doorway.
The creaking turned into footsteps, each one falling harder and harder as weight pressed into rotting wood, held up over the waterfront by six moldering wooden stilts. Tendra had carefully selected certain boards and allowed termites and the elements to weaken them, allowing her some measure of protection from the thieves and thugs that permeated the island. While she was a respected figure, that would hardly stop anyone from coming into her home to get a quick score.
After all, who wouldn't want a trinket from the Voodoo Queen of the Southern Shore?
"Whoever you are, I'm ready for you!" Tendra called out, her voice weak and strained. "Come forward and meet your maker, if'n you dare!"
The footsteps stopped, the wood creaking in a questioning way. Her threat must have given the intruder pause, or perhaps they'd found some of her silverware she had on display. Whatever it was, it wasn't enough to force them to retreat. Within a minute, they began walking towards the back of the house once more.
Tendra cocked her pistol, loading a heavy slug into the Luger. Holding her arm out with pistol aimed at the doorway, she waited for whoever dared approach to make themselves known.
She thought of her daughter, who'd died years ago and left a fourteen-year-old granddaughter for Tendra to tend to. She ran her other hand over the patch that her daughter had added, eye locked on the beads as they gently swayed, the heavy orbs thumping into each other like wooden blocks. Scowling, Tendra lowered her gun to her lap, darting her eye over to her desk where her Grimoire sat. The ancient book had been passed down for years, each priestess adding her wisdom to the pages. Astorath had gifted her family with many spells and potions over the years... perhaps it was her time to shuffle out of her mortal coil and allow her granddaughter to take her place?
The creaking grew close, just outside the room. She could hear the shallow breaths, smell a slight flowery scent... one that was familiar. Reaching down to tuck her pistol away, she smiled and called out.
"Come on in Cassie," Tendra called. "Gun's put away and I didn't set any traps."
The beaded curtain, all miniature heads shrunken down to the size of tennis balls, moaned with dozens of distant voices as a lean black woman pulled aside the macabre decoration. She nodded at her grandmother before looking at one of the heads, smiling at it.
"Hello Honored Ancestor," Cassie said to Tendra's mother, the woman's leathery head drawn taut, her eyes mere pinpricks of green light.
"Begone you harpy!" The head groaned, gnashing it's yellowed teeth. "I'll have no part of speaking with the lies of you!"
"Aw, why not? I added to the curtain so you could have someone to talk to you know. You should be grateful!" Cassie exclaimed as Tendra chuckled. Tendra's daughter, a head further down the chain of interlocked faces, frowned without speaking. She didn't speak, or rather she couldn't speak.
Cassie had removed her tongue before she had performed the ritual making her into the living dead she was today.
"Quit teasing the dead and come closer dear, what is it you've come to show me?" Tendra smiled, waving her close to the fire. "How is dear Reggie? Has he been treating you better ever since I had a talk with him?"
Cassie walked closer to the fire, revealing that she clutched a tattered bit of stained cloth in her right hand. Her shirt was speckled with flinting fluid, as was her face. "Reggie got drunk and began beating me for not making dinner for him. I remedied the situation this time."
"Oh?" Tendra said.
Cassie tossed the soiled rag to her grandmother, who caught it deftly. Examining it, she saw that it was a dark, ashen color dripping with red gore. A inked writing scrawled across the skin, "Cassie", told Tendra all she needed to know.
"Oh girl, you make your grandmother proud!" Tendra cried, setting the flesh down onto the quilt. "I'll add it to the quilt with the rest as soon as I can."
The blood leaked onto the leathery quilt, the varying colors of skin patches resilient against stains from their time being tanned in over the fire. Tendra would start on Reggie's patch soon enough. She had time for that later.
It wasn't often she got to speak with her granddaughter over something as happy as her husband's death.