It was Burning Day.
My father told me to get ready for we shall go and burn the witch by sunset.
I did not want to go, but I feel compelled to. After all, I was the one who pointed the finger at her.
Father and I walked quietly along the path through the forest, him with a torch on one hand. The other was holding my arm securely, as if to prevent me from running away.
I couldn’t have even if I wanted to. My feet seemed to have a mind of their own.
Have the town is heading there, he said, looking at the crowd walking along with us. The other half are fools. It never even crossed his mind that if there are fools in town, it is not the half who stayed safe at home.
But then again, father wasn’t acting like himself. The rest of the townspeople were acting oddly as well.
I marched on, my gaze at the back of the head of the village priest.
He was the one who started the trials against the witch. He was the one who sought out witnesses. When he talked to me, my mouth spoke of things that made him smile. Things that my mind and heart are protesting even as I speak them. Things that led to this sunset march toward the forest clearing.
We reached the cottage at the forest clearing, the home of Margaret Bishop. My tutor. My friend. The Witch.
We stopped just outside her cottage. The priest stepped forward, throwing the hood of his cloak down, as he looked around the crowd.
The satisfied gleam in those sharp, black eyes frightened me. He frightens me.
The door to the cottage opened, and there she was. She looked so…calm.
So beautiful. So defiant.
Tears sprung up my eyes as her gaze settled on me, and her face softened in sadness.
“Margaret Bishop, you have been accused of conspiracy with the Devil,” the village priest said in his loud, raspy voice.
“Who accuses?” she asked.
My father dragged me closer to the cottage and the priest reached out and grabbed my arm. I looked around and all I saw are either blank eyes or those gleaming with hatred.
Except for hers.
Her eyes held power. Even in my distress and the odd numbness I could see that.
“Tell her, child.” the priest raved, his mad eyes bright with madness. “Tell the whole town.”
“She visited me in the night, in the shape of a crow.” My mind screamed at me to stop, but I still heard myself speaking lies. My voice droned on about how she touched me, and how she made me do horrible things to please the Devil.
I was ashamed.
I cannot stop.
When I’m finally done, the clearing was quiet. She stepped forward, her hand reaching out to me, “My child, what have they done to you?”
The priest wrenched me away. “No, what have you done to her! Margaret Bishop, this is your chance to show some remorse and maybe God would have mercy on your soul.”
She continued to look at me. Suddenly, incredibly, I heard her voice in my head.
Do you trust me?
I nodded tearfully.
Then do as I say. I will try to hold him. There is nothing I can do about everyone else. I need them for this to succeed. Do you understand?
I nodded again.
I will give you everything you need to defeat him and you will have your chance, but for now, you must flee.
I started shaking. I’m sorry, I thought.
Her gaze softened. I know. You have a chance to make it right. Will you? Will you accept this gift, this burden, this responsibility, and return to defeat this evil?
Taking a deep breath, I nodded.
“Nothing?” the mad priest said. “Then you, witch, will burn as your soul would burn in damnation!”
I stepped back, touched Father’s hand and squeezed it in a silent, apologetic farewell he mistook for fear.
“You will no longer hurt my daughter or anyone else again!” he yelled at her as they all lurched forward with their torches.
I saw her lunge for the priest, holding him to her. And she was still looking at me.
I felt something snap in my head, and suddenly everything became clearer, the cloud that has stayed with me the past week lifted. I felt something burning on my chest, and when I looked down, saw a glowing amulet hanging from my neck.
The burning at the clearing lasted a week. No one survived. There were rumours of an evil still living there. Some people still talk about how the witch burned everyone alive to please the Devil.
I knew better.
She told me to come back and finish it. She told me she would hold him. She needed blood to be able to do that, and blood she had. But now, she needs help.
I understand that now. I’ve prepared for it.
I’m back. Even if took me three hundred years.