• morningstarrising

The Accused.

She rested her hurting, battered head on the straw, her eyes closed. Praying, calling out to the only god she had ever known; but he remained silent, as always.

She knew the end had come for her, they would never let her go. She closed her eyes, her body burning with fever, covered in painful bruises and cuts. Her thumbs started to turn black; the pain had been agonizing after they had been crushed, but now they were numb, almost as if they were no longer a part of her body. Her painful head made it hard to think. As a matter of fact, she did not want to think at all anymore. She just wanted her agony to be over.

Life had never been easy for Elizabeth. Born to poor and abusive parents, her life as a little girl was filled with pain and fear. It was not until her grandmother interfered, that life got better for her. Grandmother Mary took her under her wings.

She lived alone in hut at the forest entrance. Accompanied by a goat, four chickens and a small cat, her grandmother lived a solitary life. She was a wise woman and people would come to her when in need of healing herbs.

Mary used to bring the little Elizabeth with her when she would be harvesting herbs in the fields and the forest. She taught her granddaughter the names of all the plants and the healing or poisoning powers they possessed. She taught Elizabeth what the best moon time was to harvest them and which blessings to say when preparing teas and tinctures.

After a rough start in life, Elizabeth grew up in the warm embrace of her loving Grandmother. They were very poor and the little food they had was bartered in exchange for her Grandmother's services. The village people would leave bread, barley and oats and sometimes vegetables for the daily pottage. Sometimes there were eggs from grandmother's chickes; meat was barely served, although sometimes a grateful villager would leave them a slice of bacon in exchange for one of grandmother's healing potions.

Grandmother Mary was a kind hearted woman and animals were naturally drawn to her. She taught Elizabeth how to communicate with the animals, helping them heal when they were injured. Life was simple, but not bad in the little hut at the edge of the forest.

Grandmother was a woman of faith and took her granddaughter to church every Sunday. She taught Elizabeth to say her prayers faithfully, but also taught her that their god was a faraway god and that he could not be bothered with their daily ordeals. They were to give him praise, not to ask questions or doubt his wisdom.

Elizabeth secretly wondered why she would pray to someone who would never answer, but she was an obedient girl and loved her grandmother dearly, so she never questioned her.

Then, one night, things took a turn for the worst. Grandmother Mary was called to a little farm just on the outskirts of the village. The farmer's wife had been in labour for 3 days and the baby would just not come. The farmer's wife was exhausted and finally the farmer decided to send for help. He was a god fearing man and a well respected member of the church. He did not care much for grandmother Mary, who he referred to as the town's witch. But the midwife said that she could not provide more help and that something needed to be done or his wife would die and so would her baby.

The farmer, who only had 8 daughters and was in need of a son was not ready to let his wife leave this world without having done her duty and bare him a man child, decided it was now time to call upon the local witch. He sent someone over to fetch Mary.

Grandmother, well aware of the farmers reputation was very reluctant to make her appearance at the farm. She did however love the kind hearted farmer's wife, who suffered a lot at the hands of her religious and demanding husband. She was a frail woman and the hard work at the farm and many years of pregnancy and child birth had taken its toll on her health.

Mary feared that after 3 days of labour, most of the life force would have left this poor woman's body already and that there was not a lot she could do, but she was driven by compassion and wanted to help. Elizabeth, who was now at the blossoming age of Fourteen, accompanied her to the farm.

When they arrived, Mary knew right away there was nothing she could do to help this poor woman. The baby was in breach; the farmer's wife had lost a lot of blood already and was at death's door. All that was left to do for Mary, was make her suffering as bearable as possible.

A few hours after their arrival, the poor soul left her worn body and she blew out her last breath in a relieved, final sigh.

The farmer was beyond himself. He was not a grieving man, because he was a ruthless, loving-less individual, but he was raging with anger, as he was convinced this child would have been the son he so desperately wanted. "You ugly old witch!" he roared at Elizabeth's grandmother, who was trembling with fear. "You murdered my child! I will see you hang for this!"

He kicked the old woman in the stomach, sending her flying across the room. Elizabeth broke down into tears when she dove after her grandmother, the mid wife and the farmer's daughters cowering in the other corner of the room. The farmer picked up Mary by the back of her dress and hurled her outside the door, sending Elizabeth after her with a big push. "You will burn in hell for this, you witches!" He screamed at them and slammed the door shut. Elizabeth crawled towards her grandmother, crying. Mary slowly got up and wrapped her arms around her granddaughter. She instinctively knew that this would not be the end of it.

And she was right. The farmer sent a letter to an infamous witch hunter, who was said to be able to get a confession of every single witch he encountered. It was only a matter of weeks before he paid a visit to the small village.

Working with the permission of King James, who was dedicated to rid his England of all witches, the witch hunter soon made his way to the little hut at the forest entrance.

Accompanied by soldiers, he had grandmother Mary and Elizabeth arrested.

He took one look at the inventory in the little hut and scoffed. What more proof did he need? It was quite clear this was a witches lair. A black cat, a goat, all those herbs and potions... the devil roamed here.

One look at the old woman convinced him she had had intercourse with the devil many, many times. An experienced man like him could tell. But law dictated he could not hang or burn these witches unless he had a confession.

This thought put a smile on his face. The satisfaction of extracting a confession was one of the bonuses of his work. Oh, he would make them confess.

Elizabeth and Mary were loaded into an old cart and as they made their way through the little village, the locals were yelling at them, throwing rocks and dirt and spitting at them. These people had been their neighbours. Elizabeth stared at them with disbelief. These were the people who had been blessed for many years by her gentle grandmother. They had attended church together, shared stories together, washed their clothes together. Now they had turned into a bloodthirsty herd, ready to tear her grandmother and herself apart. She stared at them in disbelief, tears rolling down her cheeks.

What was going to happen to them??

Grandmother did not last long. She was a frail, old lady with a body that had been forced to do hard labour for many years. After she was undressed and shaved bald, her body soon gave in to the torture. Elizabeth never got to see her grandmother alive again, although she could hear her screams slowly turning into moans as the hours past, Then grandmother Mary grew silent, for good. Her spirit had left his earth, without ever having confessed. The witch hunter was very displeased. His reputation was at stake. The old cow had died before his torture had extracted a confession; but her granddaughter was young and fit and very scared. He was confident it would be easy to crack her like a nut.

Elizabeth was brought in to a large room, accompanied by four rough looking soldiers. They undressed her and mocked her slender, youthful frame that had just begun to blossom from a child's into a woman's body. They made sure to touch her as much as they could in all the places that Elizabeth did not want their rough and dirty hands. to be but there was no way she could stop them. Then her head was shaved. Her beautiful thick auburn hair was cut off, plucked out and fell to the ground, like feathers of a chicken right after slaughter. They made her stand in the middle of the cold, damp room for a long time, staring at her and laughing at her. There were no clothes to hide in, no shadow to cover her shame. Elizabeth stood there while the tears came down her face in silence. A woman from her village was brought in and examined her body, looking for the witches sign. A mole, a birthmark, a third nipple. Anything that would proof she was carrying the devil's mark. But she found none. The witch hunter came in himself. For days on end, Elizabeth was kept awake. Slept in the face if she would doze off. The sleep deprivation went on for four straight days, but Elizabeth confessed to nothing. There was nothing to confess. She did not understand what this man wanted her to do , or say. She just wanted to go home, put on clothes, hide her body from all these men's probing eyes. She was cold to the bone, her lips were cracking and she was trembling with fear, thirst, hunger, and lack of sleep.

The fifth day, her guards were no longer satisfied with watching. While one guarded the door, the other ones took their turns in raping her. Elizabeth passed out a few times as they continued their twisted deed throughout the day and into the night. Finally, they grew tired and lost interest and left her bleeding body on the straw in the cold and damp room, locking the door behind them. Elizabeth did not regain consciousness until the next morning when the witch hunter came in and dragged her to a table with a strange and ominous looking instrument on it. He put the exhausted fourteen year old girl in the thumb screws and crushed her thumbs, looking to get a confession.

The agony was so overwhelming, Elizabeths' spirit drifted out of her body and it seemed as if she was looking down on herself from above. She hear the sound of crushing bone, and wished she would be able to just float away and follow her grandmother into the here-after, but fait was not that merciful. Elizabeth woke up, lying in the corner of the cell again, her thumbs throbbing with an unimaginable pain.

Elizabeth's battered body was not able to get up when the witch hunter came back in. The four soldiers grabbed her and pulled her up, holding her up in front of her torturer.

"In the name of god and the holy trinitiy, are you ready to confess child?" The witch hunter asked her. "Are you ready to confess that you are a witch? That your grandmother was a witch and that she taught you all the sinfull ways of the evil one?" Elizabeth was silent. She wondered why she wouldn't say yes, why she remained silent. She did not understand why god was not coming to her aid. Surely this injustice would be something that even a distant god would not allow to happen? Had she and her grandmother not served him loyally by visiting his house every Sunday? By saying their prayers faithfully? By paying their tithes from the little they had? Why was he not answering her? She had prayed and prayed and prayed during her waking moments. And why were her grandmother and her the evil ones and not this man, these soldiers? They came here in the name of the king and in the name of god, but were they not the ones doing the evil?

Elizabeth remained silent, she did not answer the witch hunter. How could she lie? Wasn't lying a sin? What did this so called man of god want her to do??

The witch hunter ordered the soldiers to take her to the head crusher. They dragged her to a corner of the room, covered in shadows, She had not noticed this device before. When they put her head in the crusher, she realized all of a sudden what they were about to do. Elizabeth started to scream even before they started to tighten the head crusher and she had passed out by the time fluid came out of her ears.

But again, no confession was made. The witch hunter looked down in dismay on the young girl's broken body. He hated the witches. He hated this young girl, lying at his feet. He felt no sympathy, only disgust. Evil has many disguises. And this time it was disguised as a young, beautiful girl. But evil is evil, no matter what. And perhaps more importantly, if he was not able to extract a confession, he would not get paid. His reputation would be blemished. He had interrogated hundreds of women and ALWAYS gotten a confession. And he certainly was not going to fail this time. He was confident god was on his side.

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus, 22:18." He was doing gods work and he would be successful.

The next morning, Elizabeth woke up but could no longer move. The pungent smell produced by her crushed and rotting thumbs did no longer bother her. One eye seemed to have gone blind. The side of her head sticky with the fluid leaking out of an ear. She laid on the straw like a broken rag doll. When the witch hunter came in, she did not feel anything anymore. Not even fear.

Her torturer sat across from her, holding a sack in his hands. It moved. "You will tell me the truth this morning, or this creature will die today," he said. He reached inside the back and pulled out her cat. The poor animal was bound and hissing in terror at it's captor.

Elizabeth's one good eye looked at her pet and tears welled up. What torture and rape could not accomplish, the sight of her poor, helpless cat did. Elizabeth broke. Although she could barely speak anymore, she whispered: "I will confess whatever you would have me, but please spare my cat." The witch hunter pulled out his knife and replied: "Say it. You know what I want to hear."

Elizabeth whispered: "I am a witch. My grandmother was a witch. Please don't hurt my cat!" The witch hunter smiled, showing two rows or yellowed teeth.

"So it is done. The witch has confessed!" And with one generous cut of his knife, he killed Elizabeth's cat. "I will not suffer a witch to live, nor will I allow her familiar to live., this vessel of the devil!" He tossed the dead cat aside and left Elizabeth in her dark prison cell, frantically praying to her god for his final mercy. But mercy never came.....

Two days after her confession, Elizabeth was dressed in a grey prison cloth and dragged unto a cart that would bring her to the stake to be burnt alive. Normally witches in England were hanged, but the witch hunter wanted to use Elizabeth as an example for other witches and decided to have her burned alive.

She was dragged up and tied to the stake but her body was already shutting down and so numb, she did not feel anything at this point. When the flames started licking the wood right beneath her, she felt as if something or someone was stroking her aching head. She became aware of a presence beside her; it was a man, dressed in dark clothing. The flames did not seem to bother him at all.

He lifted her chin with his hand and whispered: "so much suffering inflicted upon you because of me and you did not even know my name, child. You have been wronged and suffered while you, just like your grandmother, were an innocent. But your sufferings are over. I will carry you with me, away from this world. I will not let your childhood god claim you, for he has abandoned you during your life. You are mine now. You will suffer no more."

Elizabeth's spirit left her broken body to the flames, consuming it while the witch hunter watched it burn. The dark stranger spoke the truth. Her suffering was over, and she was carried away to a different place, where her spirit would rest until she was ready to be born again, rising like a phoenix from the ashes. But this time, she did know the dark man, and she was carrying his mark. And she realized it was not a curse, it was a blessing.

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