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