New Ceres Nights extract – “The Widow’s Seven Candles” by Thoraiya Dyer


Extract from “The Widow’s Seven Candles” by Thoraiya Dyer

“You are the Chandelier called Etienne? You’re the one who made the sunburst-shaped candles for the Lumoscenti?”

“I am.” He frowns. The sunburst candles had been destined for the private chambers of the Director-General. “How is it that you know of them, madame?”

She smiles a small, pointed, vixen’s smile. “I am the Widow Courboin.”

Etienne blinks. Charlotte Courboin controls her late husband’s trading empire. The Courboins founded Port Deeping’s coral harvesting enterprise and now have their hands on the copper, glass, cotton and marble monopolies. Chateau de Courboin is the grandest residence in Port Deeping, even more stately than Deeping Castle, the home of Duke Henry.

More to the point, half the waterfront belongs to her, including Etienne’s chandlery.

It is whispered that the Widow is part Veremaur witch. That she reads thoughts. That no man can resist her. That even the golden monks are not immune.

She knows of the monks’ sunburst candles. Etienne draws a deep breath. The urge to run for his shirt is almost overwhelming.

“How may I assist, Madame Courboin?”

“It will soon be the anniversary of my husband’s death, Monsieur Chandelier. I do not wish unhappy shades to linger at Chateau de Courboin. To flush them out, I am holding seven days of feasting and dancing. Each night will be such a ball as Port Deeping has never seen, and I require suitable lighting.”

“Candles, madame?” Etienne asks stupidly. The wealthy have gas lighting in their homes. They only purchase candles as required by law for lighting the streets where they live.

“Yes, candles,” the Widow says impatiently. “That is your trade, is it not? I require seven of them.”

Etienne has heard stories of the vast, gilded ballroom at Chateau de Courboin. “Will seven candles be sufficient, madame?”

“For my purposes, yes. You will have room for more than one wick in each candle. Like the moulded candles of the monks, I wish mine to have a certain shape.”

“What shape is that?”

“The shape of your naked body, monsieur,” she says brazenly.


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