"Witch!" Shouts filled the cool Autumn air, leaves of brown gold and green danced along the cobblestoned town square. "Witch!" The shouts continued, their cries echoed through the streets. How many villagers stood there? They were gripping cloaks, shawls, coats, and wrapped them tightly around themselves to keep the biting chill of the cool wind off their bodies. "Burn her!" The chants changed, they rose and fell, insults were heard. Neighbors, friends, people whom the woman who stood tied to a wooden post in the center of a large stack of wood and kindling had trusted her whole life. The crowd hushed as the town's Bishop stood up on a large wooden platform just off to the right of the stake. His greedy blue eyes swept the crowd, a very round belly protruded from his ceremonial clothing. He gripped the paper in his pudgy hands and gave a cold fox like grin towards the woman.
She wore nothing that could keep out the chilling cold, nothing that would be able to protect her from the flames that would soon bring hell and damnation on earth. Her thin, white, homespun dress hung loosely around her thing and battered body. Her name was Rose Atwood, she was 19 years old and probably one of the prettiest young women the village had. Rose once long soft blond hair now hung limply along the sides of her face as her head hung, it had grown coarse and greasy over the course of her stay in the prison. Her head raised she heard the silence, her cut and bruised lips turned into a grin. A grin that held a look of suppressed fear.
"Rose Atwood," The stuffed higher pitched voice of the short rotund man reached her ears, her bright blue eyes still retained the defiant look she'd given him through her 'trial'. Her trial had been that of a bunch of men screaming 'Burn her.' They'd given her two choices: Confess and be burned, or don't confess and be burned. Rose had sneered and refused to confess. If there was a god? He sure as hell wouldn't have given her only two choices both leading to death. She had given the man no heed as he spoke then, and she certainly wouldn't give him the pleasure of having his prisoner listened to him now. Her thoughts wandered, there were gasps through the crowd as they listened to the charges. Why should they be so shocked? It's not like didn't know why she'd been plucked from her home in the Inn.
"You have been found guilty of Witchcraft," Rose gave a soft chuckle as she heard the term 'witchcraft.' Her blue eyes flickered as she gripped the ropes that wrapped her hands together with her fingers. "You shall be burned at the stake till dead," His voice droned on, of all people to listen to before she died? It had to be him. A cool breeze whipped around and snatched the paper straight from the fat man's hands. "Catch it!" The snarl that jumped from his mouth was cold, an altar boy that he had follow him everywhere he went jumped at the chance to attempt to capture the danced along the street. No one in the crowd made a move to capture it. "The Witch," The Bishop shouted, his round face red with fury as he spoke. "Has caused a wind to ascend upon us to delay her execution!" The crowd's faces remained impassive as they stared at him, Rose smirked she knew she hadn't caused it. Wind came and went, it did what it wished when it wished how it wished and no one could change that.
"Do you have any last words, Witch?" The Bishop lifted his chubby face he looked at her indignantly. The crowd remained hushed as the boy trotted over to the Bishop, his Altar boy clothing had a fly-away look to them from running around to capture the page which was now covered in horse manure, human fecal matter, and all manner of garbage that was dropped and left to rot on the streets. Rose's thin gaunt face still retained that somewhat twisted smile, her blue eyes swept the crowd before opening her mouth. Her voice was no longer that soft, melodic voice she was known for when she sang in the Inn for now it was dry and husky, "You may burn my body..." Her expression turned into a more twisted grin, somewhat evil and daunting. "But my suffering will be nothing compared to that of this village when I am dead." The Bishop rolled his eyes as he nodded for several guards who held torches to move forward. The flames flickered hungrily towards the wood as they were lowered. There was a wooshing noise as the wood crackled and caught flame. The pain was intense, the flames engulfed the woman. Her skin cracking and turning black as she was burned alive. The smell of burning hair and flesh filled the air, women pressed their shawls to their noses as their stomach churned. Boys and men watched the flames devour the wood and body that had been consumed. Rose was dead, there was no denying that.
"Stupid girl." The Bishop muttered as the flames died down, "You will find no peace, no succor in Hell." He turned with a flourish of his robes and waddled back down the steps of the platform and headed towards the Church which he so loved. "Bah, she thinks she can curse us after death!" He chuckled at the words she'd spoken. As he walked the monks and the Altar boy that had accompanied him chattered quietly amongst themselves. The people of the town stood in shocked silence, had she really cursed them?
The day turned to night bringing cooler temperature. The Inn was silent, no singing could be heard coming from the direction of the warm hearth. The Inn keeper, a stocky woman of about 65, washed a tankard that she gripped in her strong rough hand. Her gray, grizzled hair stuck out from underneath her white mob cap. Her gray eyed gaze swept the customers that sat there. Several young men who had continually flirted with Rose sat in silence as they sipped at their ale. Crude looking travelers kicked their feet up on the tables and chewed noisily on the bread that they'd purchased from the elderly woman. Even the bawdy whore who usually made the most noise in the Inn trying to find a customer was now sitting at the table with her hands folded discreetly on her lap.
"My god..." Edna whispered softly to herself brushing gray hair from her wrinkled forehead. She placed the now clean tankard down on the rough wooden surface of the counter and leaned against it her arms folded across her chest. "That girl definitely gave this place life..." Edna hadn't believed the charges, surprisingly she herself hadn't been dragged in for harboring a witch.
"Hello old Mum." A young boy of about 10 years old shoved open the door of the warm Inn, a woosh of cold air followed in at his heels causing the heads of those in the Inn to look up and scowl.
"What can I do for ya, Jacob?" Edna forced a smile over her old, weathered face. She placed her hands down on the counter and waited for the boy's usual order of milk and cheese along side a slice of ham which he received for the wood he chopped for Edna.
"Nothing, Mum." Jacob called Edna Mum as most of the children of the village did seeing as she cared for each one if they needed help. She bustled from around the corner of the counter. "Rose didn't mean what she said did she...?" His voice became a whisper, his green eyes held a sad light to them as he sat down in his preferred seat by the fire. Edna took a seat across from him and reached out her hand patting his arm gently.
"I don't know what she meant, Jacob..." Edna sat back folding her arms as she considered his question for a moment. "People say things when they're about to die that'll last a life time with the person they they directed it too." Jacob blinked dully as he looked at her.
"Rose was a Witch though..." Edna frowned at the boys words as she clipped him in the ear with her stubby fingers lightly.
"That's no way to talk about our old friend, Jacob." Edna shut her eyes stopping her tears from falling, "Even if she claimed to be one, there was no proof..." A black cat, several herbs that the Pope claimed to be used only by Witches but were in fact good in stew...these things weren't proof they were just objects used in daily life.
"Sorry..." Jacob whispered as he reached up wiping his eyes, "I want her back..." Rose had always been like an older sister, he thought that by being angry at her for being a Witch it would ease the pain of her passing. That didn't work it just made him feel worse.
Edna smiled softly and ruffled his hair, "Now now, you'll see her in 'eaven some day." Edna hardly pronounced the H in some words which caused people to interrupt her with a 'pardon'.
"Heaven...but the Bishop said-" Edna raised her hand to stop him from talking.
"The Bishop is an old cow who can't tell his arse from his face...not that there's much difference to begin with." Jacob started to laugh as Edna continued, "Rose was a good girl, she did her chores and ate her vegetable which is more than some can say." She shot Jacob a look who said, "That's not fair!" quickly in return. "I bet she's up there with the Lord right now smiling down at us, simply happy to watch that fat bastard roll around in his bed afraid of her words."
"Alright, Edna.." Jacob smiled and got up hugging the woman around the neck and planting a kiss on her chubby cheek. Edna patted his arm gently as she stood up and led him towards the counter, "Now what about that dinner, boy?" She asked before he could say another word on the matter. People had gone back to eating, somewhat lighter hearted now that they were sure she wasn't a Witch. Edna; however, had a sneaking suspicion something was about to happen. Something big.