FlashFic: The Thirteenth

They watched her being prodded through the crowd. Lisbet leaned close to Maud, voice pitched low. “Thirteenth burning this year.” She shook her head. “No good come of it.” Maud glanced around furtively, but no one was close enough to hear.

Maud whispered, “Maybe they’ll think the coven destroyed?”

“Hmph. May as well be, they’ve the High Priestess now.” They winced when the men slammed Rosamunde against the pole. Judge Richardson grabbed her arms and pulled them around to be tied.

Maud peered at Rosamunde. Her lips were moving. “Lisbet, she’s chanting.”

Judge Richardson’s voice travelled even to where Lisbet and Maud stood. “Calling your demons, witch? They cannot help you now.” He gestured to the men. “Pile the branches high. Give her a taste of the hell that awaits.”

Rosamunde’s voice lifted. Maud shivered. She reached for Lisbet’s hand. “Did you hear that?” Lisbet nodded, her eyes widening. “She’s invoked the elements, Lisbet.”

A sudden gust of wind blew around the village square. “Great Mother, Lisbet! It begins, the Watchtowers hear!” Lisbet’s only answer was a slow nod. Maud grabbed her arm and shook her. “We must away!” Maud took no care to keep her voice down. The wind carried it away as the square darkened. Clouds gathered angrily overhead.

“Come, Lisbet, quickly!” Maud tugged on her arm. Lisbet stumbled into motion. The shadowed village lit briefly. Thunder answered, drowning out the wind’s voice. Maud led Lisbet, both struggling to stay upright in their haste.

“We must to the clearing,” Maud shouted. The older woman let herself be dragged beyond the village and into the forest. Branches slashed at them and underbrush tugged at their feet. The sky lit up again and again. Thunder came in a cycle of crescendos.

The first explosion shocked them to stillness. They stared at one another. Lisbet turned toward the village. A hint of smoke reached Maud. She grabbed at Lisbet, yanking her away. The air became acrid with smoke. Screams from the dying mixed with the wind’s roar.

They burst through the edge of the clearing. Dark clouds and vicious lightning strikes filled the sky. A glow filtered through the trees from the village. “Great Mother, we call to you,” Maud gasped. She grabbed Lisbet’s hands. “Speak it with me!” Lisbet’s eyes met hers and she nodded. “Great Mother, we call to you,” she repeated. Lisbet echoed her words. They hailed the Watchtowers and elements, pleading for the Goddess’s grace and protection.

Within the circle of power, the wind stilled though it bent the trees beyond. A voice came on a gentle breeze. “Leave, daughters. Carry the tale of my vengeance.” Crying out blessings and gratitude, Maud and Lisbet opened the circle. They raced toward clear sky and safety.

The air behind them became still and quiet. Embers glowed. Ashes floated and settled like snow on the trees and in the clearing. No one was left in the village to appreciate the beauty of it.

© 2010 Jessica Rosen

The last two lines are a #storystarters by @Selorian (Clifford Fryman), but for the words “and in the clearing.” He seems to channel my muse for #FridayFlash and I thank him.

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10 thoughts on “FlashFic: The Thirteenth

  1. johannaharness July 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm Reply

    There is a beauty and calm in this as the storm washes away offending humans. Welcome back, Jess!

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen August 1, 2010 at 10:35 am Reply

      Fire is so cleansing. Thanks, Johanna, it’s great to be back.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  2. asthemoonclimbs July 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Nicely done. One wonders what will happen to the two who got away, whether they’ll be able to tell the tale without being accused of witchcraft themselves for escaping. Opens a lot of questions, but none that especially need answering, just prompt speculation.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen August 1, 2010 at 10:38 am Reply

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve envisioned their future a variety of ways. It’s great to hear that it’s left you imagining it as well.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  3. marc nash July 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm Reply

    Very well drawn, really conveying the sense of the elemental forces at work.

    Marc Nash

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen August 1, 2010 at 10:39 am Reply

      Thanks, Marc. I’m glad that came through. I wanted that to be at least as strong a presence as the characters. I appreciate your feedback.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  4. Gracie July 31, 2010 at 12:43 am Reply

    Love this. They picked the wrong witch to harass, didn’t they?

    The writing is wonderful. The descriptions are vivid and Maud’s voice is strong… and so is that of the high priestess, even though we didn’t hear her say a word. 🙂

    Great story.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen August 1, 2010 at 10:43 am Reply

      Thanks so much, Gracie, so glad you liked it. Sometimes a story comes into the mind vividly and challenges one to coerce it into words. Delightful and frustrating fun as one navigates that course.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

  5. The Four Part Land July 31, 2010 at 7:46 pm Reply

    Very nicely done story. Like the way they turned the tables on the burning. Using #storystarters as an ending is a nice idea.

    Like

    • Jessica Rosen August 1, 2010 at 10:47 am Reply

      Thanks for that, I really appreciate it. The #storystarters was such a vivid image, a quiet beauty that spoke of great violence beforehand. Some of them just refuse to stay at the beginning of a story.

      Take care,
      Jess

      Like

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