The Stone of the Burning Witch

The grass pulled at her skirts like snakes, hissing with each movement, lashing out in her wake. As she fled from her pursuers she knew her bare feet were leaving tracks of copper through the woods as the stones cut her soles. There must be some escape! Some path or cave...

Ahead something glinted in the orange moonlight, only for a moment before it flittered out of view. She paused for a moment and pulled her hair from hair face, quieting her heavy breaths so she could listen... whispers sounded in her ears, the voices of faeries and the soft murmers of water mingled sweetly. With the harvest moon shining through the evergreens it would have been a sweet moment had the sound of trampling not followed her in the distance. Shouts of irrational villagers and the baying of hunting hounds were growing louder with each second and in response she knew she must continue to flee from those she once called friends.

She ran and eventually reached the river, and watched as it peaked in small white rapids. She gathered herself a moment and waded carefully into the icy water, holding her lantern high. It pushed at her legs, it slapped her back and threatened to push her down and hold her in its muddy embrace until the bubbles stopped. She breathed, in and out, and listened. She listened to the murmers, to the leaves and pine needles rustling, the swelling of the water. Gradually the water softened its blows until it became playful taps around her thighs.

It wasn't until the dogs came that the faeries abandoned her. They fluttered up into the trees as the first hound leapt into the water. The raucous caused the river to ripple, and with it her hold on the magic around her collapsed. Suddenly waves crested around her, pushing the poor creature past her. She was pushed into rocks, her night dress catching between two of the large stones that protruded above the water line. The lantern swung widely, casting evil shadows all around as she reached for the boulder and attempted to pull herself up, away from the rivers grasp. She coughed and sputtered like a drowned cat. On hindsight that sounded about right.

It was seconds until the rest of the hounds reached the banks, wary of the unnatural rapids. Their owners crashed through the last of the brush with flaming torches and gleaming pitchforks. Some brandished swords and spears and the gilded emblem of the king shone on their coats. They shouted and jeered at her and they eventually began to shove each other into the water, grabbing their dogs and pulling them in. The baying and shrieks of the innocent animals pierced her ears and she pulled at her gown, attempting to loosen it from the stones. She laid the lantern on the top of the flat stone and gave one final tug. With the sound of ripping seams, it tore, unraveling in tatters around her knees. The woman finally stood on the top of the small rock, her feet bleeding onto the slick surface.

As the men neared her she swung the lantern down onto the base of her sanctuary. With shattering of glass and the roar of flames she screamed,

“I will take myself before you’ll have me! And I will take you all with me!”

The fire raged around the stone and leaked into the water. It was a power like none of them hade seen before as the fire irrupted around them with the same intensity of the waters. Screams filled the air as men burned and hounds shrieked pitifully in the haze of smoke and steam. Shadows burned away and the men that stood on the banks swore they heard the witch utter a curse before insubstantial hands pushed them forward, falling towards their doom and they drowned in flames and burned in water.

Comments 3