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READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: The Curse of the King by Winnie Lyon

When young witch Laura Wilson is ironically cast against her will in her school's rendition of Macbeth, she is determined to break the curse that's long plagued her family. Things go awry when, instead, she manages to summon her long-dead magical relative—Cecily Wilson, one of the three witches who'd cursed Macbeth himself.

On September 1st, Winnie Lyon's THE CURSE OF THE KING will debut with The Parliament Press!



Chapter One

The Insufferable Rigor of High School Electives

I have to do this.

My mother may kill me for it, but I have to do it.

Well, she’s more likely to curse me than kill me, but it’s hard to predict with her.

The word MACBETH, scrawled in beautiful black calligraphy against a stark white poster, looms over my head. I reach for the pen dangling by a string tied to a thumbtack, but my hand freezes midair. I’m suddenly conscious of all the eyes on me, theatre kids desperate to get their name on the audition list. I retract my hand and step away, turning on my heel in a single swift movement before booking it toward Mr. Cochran’s room. It’s just past 3:15, so hopefully he hasn’t yet hopped in his signature brown sedan and left.

The school’s halls are almost barren, save for a few straggling kids making their way to their cars and athletes with hefty bags slung over their shoulders headed for the gym or the track. The lights in the English hall are still bright, their fluorescent rods humming faintly.

Thankfully, my teacher is still in his room when I reach the door, slightly breathless. My stampeding foot" steps must’ve grabbed his attention, because he cranes his graying head upward before I can even speak. The thin, blue-rimmed glasses resting on the bridge of his nose slide down a bit with the motion, and he has to readjust them as I step inside.

“Ms. Wilson, what brings you in?” he asks. He’s midway through packing up his computer and papers into a worn brown leather briefcase. I shift the strap of my backpack on my shoulder with one hand and shove the other in my back pocket. The eyes of Shakespeare, proudly displayed on the poster behind Mr. Cochran’s head, seem to watch me with impertinent omnipotence. Sorry, Will, hope you’re not too disappointed.

“Is there anything I can do instead of the play?” I blurt out. Cochran raises a quizzical brow and turns his whole body toward me, pressing one palm to the edge of his desk and leaning on it.

“I beg your pardon?”

“The play, Macbeth: I need to do something other than audition for it. I know it’s required for class to be a part of the production, but I’m wondering if I can somehow do something else. I’ll write a paper, read a monologue for the class, whatever. I just can’t be a part of the show,” I explain in a rush of total word vomit.

Cochran laughs, stunned, and straightens his spine, hooking his thumbs on his belt loops. “Well, Laura, if you’re having stage fright, I’d be happy to have Ms. Ellis, the director, coach you through some tactics to help out your audition. Or you can sign up to work tech. It’s only an audition, anyhow. Ultimately, it’s in Ms. Ellis’s hands.”

How do I tell him it isn’t stage-fright?

“You see, I’m just not sure I can make the time commitment,” I say.

“What do you have besides this?” It’s a genuine question, but his tone makes it clear he thinks I’m just trying to weasel out of it.

“I have a job,” I say. Not true, but he doesn’t need to know that. Most high school seniors have jobs.

“I see. Well I can’t interfere with your work and wouldn’t you expect to cut back your hours, but you are still required to audition.” The crow’s feet around his eyes crinkle as he gives me a reassuring smile and a thumbs-up. “You’ll do great. And besides, if you don’t get in, no harm done. The paper just needs to focus on the process.”

Damnit. Okay, what now?

“Well, it’s cursed!”

Mr. Cochran pauses, then laughs in surprise and crosses his arms.

“Yes, but as we discussed in class, that’s just a legend. I’m sure any superstitions you have won’t prove true. Anyway, remember what we said? Only the performance is allegedly cursed.”

Oh, that’s what you think.

I shake my head vigorously and readjust my bag. My palms are sweaty. “It’s been cursed since it was written. The original actor playing Lady Macbeth died the night of the performance and Shakespeare himself had to fill in for him. King James banned it because of the gore in it! You can’t even say the name without bringing on the curse, so it’s more than just the performance.”

“Laura, why—”

“In 1926 the actress playing the part of Lady Macbeth fell fifteen feet o the stage in the sleepwalking scene. Thirty people died in a riot that broke out after an 1849 performance. A weight fell onstage and nearly killed the lead actor in 1937.”

“Ms. Wilson, why do you know so much about this?”

Definitely not because I’m a descendent of the witches who ensured all of that would happen.

I wonder what would happen if I said that out loud. I could just be completely transparent and tell him that I, along with my entire family, am a witch, and that for four hundred years the name Shakespeare has been more or less unspeakable for us.

I wonder what he’d say if he knew that my family, my ancestors, were responsible for the infamous curse of Macbeth.

“I like history.”

“Yes, well, I’m sorry, but you have to audition. Just the audition, nothing more. It’s a rather large sum of points and I can’t just reassign it.”

My heart sinks. I really can’t get out of it, not if I want to pass this class. Mr. Cochran sees my face fall and he sighs, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt and gesturing with his hands as he speaks. “Laura, you can bomb the audition for all I care. I just want you to get a feel for what it’s like to speak Shakespeare’s words aloud, with a crowd there to hear you, even if that crowd is a high school theatre teacher and twenty-five other students vying for the part you’re reading. It’ll take an hour out of your day, and it’ll be over!” His smile isn’t unkind, but he obviously doesn’t want to hear another excuse. He finishes shoving his materials into his briefcase and hoists it on his shoulder. “Don’t stress about it, it’s just a paper.”

He extends an arm to the door, the kinder man’s version of, Please leave, I have better things to do than tend to whiny teenagers. I do as I’m told, stepping out