Skip to content

The Witch’s Trial

Note: This story hasn’t been professionally edited. It’s free for your enjoyment. Constructive Feedback is welcome.

A hooded figure dragged Amber through the mob. They shouted liar and spit at her. The figure forced her to a wagon, headed for the centre of the gallows. Pieces of rotten lettuce flew at her face. A stone struck her on the side of the head. Blood ran into her ear. She twisted to allow the blood to drop on the bottom of the wagon so somebody would have to clean it—small victories.

The wagon jerked to a stop and Amber flew forward, crashing chest first into the driver’s bench, the worst of the impact absorbed by her diaphragm. She gulped air. Nobody would care if she died right there. She wasn’t sure how much she cared, either.

“You’re next, witch!” a boy bellowed.

If they’d stood beside each other, the boy couldn’t reach her shoulder. What had she done to him? His father smiled approvingly and tapped his son’s head like he was rewarding a dog.

“Hey kid—” Amber said.

The crowd roared with anger. Cardinal Adam had spoken on the platform, but Amber hadn’t heard him. The crowd yelled their agreement to burn witches.

Jessica stood on the gallows with a noose around her neck. Jesus, no. Jessica had nothing to do with what happened. She’d only rushed in to help. The mob would kill her anyway, just to make sure no more witches lived in their shithole of a town. At least they weren’t burning them alive.

Cardinal Adam continued preaching from the gallows. He muddled his words and spit a lot, but the crowd was into him. Amber couldn’t understand what he was talking about and what she did understand didn’t make sense. The crowd roared in agreement, but she didn’t think they understood either. The town was in a bloodlust.

Amber studied the crowd for a target to drain the life out of so she could use her magic. First, she’d have to get the gag off her mouth so she could whisper the words. Although Cardinal Adam was the obvious choice, the guards would kill her the moment they saw the colour go out of him. Most of the people were farmers hoping to find the solution to a disastrous crop season. Unfortunately, everyone thought they knew what to do—find witches and kill them. That’s what God wanted.

“I was trying to help,” Jessica said. Her knees buckled so hard Amber thought the gallows might be collapsing. “You did this.” Her eyes locked on Amber. “Tell them I came to help. I had nothing to do with killing that family. You tell them, witch.”

Amber nodded, trying to send her regret through her eyes. Gag first. Target second. Only she didn’t have a target. Old men barely gave enough energy to light a torch. Children gave the most power, but she wouldn’t hurt a child.

“Do you deny knowing Amber was a witch?” Cardinal Adam asked, pointing at Amber.

“Yes, I deny it. I deny it,” Jessica said.

“Witch,” Cardinal Adam said, looking at Amber. “Is it true?”

Amber knew he didn’t care about the truth. What angle was he working? Making the people think they’d given them a fair trial?

“Tell him,” Jessica screamed. A small puddle formed beneath her legs.

“She came to help,” Amber said. “The boy was already dying of his disease.”

“Disease,” Cardinal Adam’s voice cracked like thunder. “You mean witchcraft. You cast spells on the boy and killed him.”

“No,” Amber said regrettably. Freddie’s mother had brought Freddie to Amber, asking for help. The boy had been sick for weeks and the doctor couldn’t help. To save face, the doctor admitted to the church that the boy died from a curse by a witch.

Freddie’s mom had offered her energy to Amber to save him, but Amber’s attempt to save him failed. The lump in his chest had spread beyond the energy his mother could provide. His mom died in the attempt. Maybe I deserve to die.

“Do you see what witches do?” Cardinal Adam’s eyes lit up. She’d answered as he’d been hoping for. “They lie to save themselves. Despite irrefutable evidence—a dead mother and son whom we all loved dearly—and the testimony of our own city doctor. Still, they will lie. God demands justice.” A vein nearly exploded in Cardinal Adam’s head. He kicked the lever and Jessica dropped. The noose caught her fall, mercilessly snapping her thin neck before she choked.

Amber bit down on the gag, tears falling down her cheeks. Rotten fruit struck her. She closed her eyes, ignoring the hateful crowd. If they knew the truth, would they regret their actions? Or are they so blind in faith they truly believe God wants this?

Amber scanned the crowd again. It would take a young person to escape her bonds and disappear into the crowd. No older than thirty. Plenty of people in the crowd would do. The hateful little boy would give her an abundance of power. Why did it feel wrong? They wanted her dead. Is it so bad if she got to one of them first? She’d known others like her and many didn’t care who they hurt. 

The gate of the wagon dropped, and the hooded figure took Amber by a rope and dragged her up the gallows. When the hooded man reached for the noose, Cardinal Adam put a hand out to stop him. “No. This one will burn,” he ordered.

Amber struggled to break the rope binding her. She jammed her tongue against the gag, frantically working to get her voice into the open air. They couldn’t burn her. Parliament banned burning people alive. It had banned murdering women for witchcraft too. Yet, if the Cardinal believed God wanted her dead, what did a piece of paper from a group of men a thousand miles away matter?

“You can’t burn—“ a man’s voice beneath the hood said, cut off by a roaring crowd.

“Our crops are dead as God has willed because of the evil that walks among us. We must purge this evil in fire. God demands it.”

Amber worked at the gag with her tongue. Wood appeared from nowhere in the crowd, as if they’d prepared for the opportunity. Cardinal Adam nodded as the wood piled at the base of the gallows. Amber thought he fought back a smile. He took her rope, waved the hooded man away, and dragged her into the crowd to a chair. He forced her down and tied her to the chair. Amber saw Jessica’s body still dangling, looking straight at her, accusing her of not doing enough to save her life.

People in the crowd moved the wood to the base of the chair. She smelled the sweat caked deeply into their clothing. She looked down and smelled pine, strong and resinous. It would burn quickly.

The crowd parted, and Cardinal Adam walked through, holding a torch. “May God have mercy on your soul,” he said and threw the torch on the wood.

The flames caught immediately. Amber squirmed. She couldn’t move the chair and if she tipped it, she’d fall into the flames. Her toes burned. She cried, her tongue working furiously on the gag. Her leg burned and her face felt the heat. The gag loosened slightly, and she found air for her voice. The hateful boy that had cursed her, what felt like moments ago, was crying, his head buried in his father’s legs.

Amber called her magic and drained the life from herself, using the power to send the images of Freddie’s death to them. In a blink, they lived those moments with Freddie and his mother. The crowd silenced as Amber closed her eyes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *