Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Burning Hope- Chapter 2

Chapter 2

I grinned at Lyndia. “You’re the best, mistress.” I gave her a hug. I skipped over to my coat, put it on, and dashed out the door. I knew the officials would listen to me. They had to. There was no way Lyndia could be arrested. Not her. When I convinced them she was innocent, and she only did good things, we would be able to go back to our regular lives, and just get on like it was usual. It wouldn’t be like it was before Chloe died, but it would be a sort of normal.

My feet pounded the hard packed dirt path as I shot down the hill towards the village. The cold autumn air blew directly at my face, and I shivered. The leaves were starting to turn bright red, and the people I saw were starting to be seen wearing coats.

Someone grabbed my arm and started to pull me in the opposite direction.

I pulled in the opposite direction and tried to get away from the person’s grip. I had to get to the inn- to where the officials would be staying. I had to!

Kezia, we need you!” said the voice. I recognized it as Mrs. Weaver- Mercy’s mother. What would she want from me? I remembered many times when Mr and Mrs Weaver had turned a blind eye from the mistakes of Mercy, and had instead insisted I had do it.

“Mercy is sick, and we need a healer. Now.”

I wanted to shake her and ask, why me? I had never been able to heal anything more then a few common illnesses, and those had been with Lyndia, or at least her instructions and cures.

“Why don’t you send for Lyndia, then,” I snapped, finally managing to pull out of her grip. I had to get to the officials- the sun was almost directly above me, telling me it was almost noon. They’d be coming to arrest her soon, if I couldn’t manage to convince them.

Mrs Weaver stuck her nose in the air. “She has been accused as a witch, you silly girl. We sure aren’t going to ask one of those devil children to heal our Mercy girl.”

I blinked. “And why would you think I’m not a witch, then?” It dawned on me that I was stupid. What if she thought I was also a witch? I held my breath for a second. If she thought I was, Lyndia and I would burn together- unless I got stoned to death.

Mrs. Weaver brushed it off. “Let’s face it,” she said, in a long-suffering voice, “You just wouldn’t have it in you, Kezia Dustin.”

I felt like someone had just socked me in the eye. Not have it in me to be a witch?

You’re too… fearful.”

What? I blinked. She had to be kidding. Sure, I was afraid of chickens, but that was because they were evil. And I didn’t much like fire… or Mr. Weaver… but those were it!

“But you may know some healing. Come, help Mercy.” She pushed me into the house.

I hadn’t ever been in the Weavers’ house before. It definitely felt strange to be standing where Mercy lived.

Mrs. Weaver steered me over to a curtain, opened it, and pushed me inside.

Mercy laid on a small bed, next to a larger one. The quilts on the beds were bright colors- red and blue and green. They were obviously worn, and looked like they were sewn from the petticoats Mrs. Weaver and Mercy had outgrown, or worn out.

Why’d you bring her?” Mercy moaned, as she looked at me with a distrust. “I told you to bring Lyndia.”

“Honey, Lyndia has been accused of witchcraft. This girl is the best I could do.”

Mercy groaned, and let her eyes shut. Her head fell back down against the pillow. “You’ll pay if you make me suffer, Kezia Dustin,” she hissed when I went over to her bed. “You’ll pay mightily indeed.” I gulped, and Mercy, as sick as she looked, still somehow managed to let out a small cackle before she started coughing.

“What do you feel like, Mercy?” I asked, placing my hand on her forehead. She had a fever, and seemed to be shaking a bit too much.


This was never going to work. She was going to continue to give me these sorts of answers until my voice stopped working. That was just who Mercy was.

“Mercy,” I said, in a serious voice, “You may have a very deadly sickness. Tell me how you’ve been feeling.”

Mercy’s eyes snapped open, and I almost giggled when I saw the terror in them. She didn’t have a horrible sickness, really, and it did feel a bit wrong to mix her up. But after all she’d put me through, I thought she probably deserved some of her own medicine so to speak.

“I’ve had a sore throat, a cough, and-“ Mercy said. Then her eyes narrowed, as she obviously caught onto the trick. “Kezia… I’m going to g-“

I shook my head. “No, Mercy, you need to tell me. Otherwise I may not be able to help you.” I gulped. “And with Lyndia being arrested soon, you’ll have to go without a healer.”

Mercy took a shuddering breath. “That’s it. Sore throat and cough.”

“Does your head ache?”

“Yes.” Mercy glared, and I felt a bit helpless. She was going to be stubborn, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I had a hunch of what sickness she had, and I also knew I had the exact cure in my pocket. But I didn’t really want to give it to her. I didn’t want to make her hate me more, either. And I knew Lyndia would want me to.

“And I guess I’ve been feeling a bit dizzy, too.”

I knew if I didn’t give it to her, Lyndia would be very upset at me. Besides, it might make her hate me less.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small bag of leaves. I had taken to carrying around the cures for common sicknesses so Lyndia felt less overwhelmed. It also gave me a small taste of what it was like to actually have people listen to me.

Use this as tea. Drink it twice a day.” I didn’t tell her it was so bitter she would probably want to drink honey with it. It was my own way of getting back at her. Let her drink the bitter tea.

Goodbye, Mercy.” There was no reply, and I shrugged. It was Mercy. What did I expect?

“Did you help her?”

I jumped at Mr. Weaver’s voice. Despite the fact he was quiet, slight, and almost as short as I, he still scared me.

“Yes sir.”

“Very good. Now, on your way.”

I nodded and backed up until I had walked out of the door backwards. Then I turned and sprinted through the town. I had taken so long- what had I been thinking? I had to find the officials, and before it was too late.

Still running through the town, I slowed down when I reached the inn.

The building in question was a plain structure made out of grey wooden boards. It was two stories tall, which towered above the short single story houses which lined the rest of the streets. It had at one time been painted a bright green, and remnants of the paint still clung to the walls in places. The door was the same boring grey, and had I not known it was there I would have just assumed it was part of the wall.

I walked through the door, feeling a little nervous. I had gone in most of the stores many times, but never had I wanted to set foot in the inn. Before then I hadn’t had any reason to visit it.

I walked up to the counter. “Ex- excuse me, sir?”

The innkeeper glared down at me with beady eyes. He reminded me of a rat. “Yer the servant to the witch, arn ye.”

I restrained myself from telling him she had only done good. Better just figure out where the men were, before he kicked me out of the building. “I am her servant indeed, sir.”

“Why’re ye here, witch’s servant?”

“I came to talk to the men who are here to take away L- the witch. I heard they were staying here…”

“Yer outta luck. They left cerple of hours ago.”

I felt panic rise in my chest. My eyes widened involuntarily. They had already left?! Didn’t that mean Lyndia would be gone? Please no. Please, please, please no.

“What time is it now, sir?” I asked him. I had to save Lyndia. She had to be at home, still. She couldn’t’- They couldn’t have taken her yet.

“Half past noon.”

The panic exploded in me. She’s gone! She can’t be gone. She can’t be gone. Oh please, please let her not be gone. She can’t be gone. The panic changed to fear and I turned, and started to run. I ran past the Weavers, Smiths, the Bakers. I passed the town square, and the church. The cold air pushed at my back, making a noise which, to my ears, sounded like ‘hurry, hurry, hurry… shhheeee doesn’t ssstand a chanccceeeee. Hurry, hurry, hurry…’

Taking the wind’s advice, I sped up, my heavy boots making a thudding noise against the ground, like the noise of a butter churn with no cream in it.

I reached the door of our house. I pulled it open. No one.

Lyndia?” I called, and, hoping for an answer, waited.

“Kezia.” The answer I had waited for came, but something was wrong about it. It wasn’t the right voice, for one. And… it sounded faked. Like the owner of the voice tried too hard to make it sound sad. But that must have been my imagination.

Kezia, she’s gone.”

My hair whipped my face as I spun around. She can’t be gone…

Zilla stood near the door. She looked sad, but like the tone of her voice, it seemed… off. She coughed. “They came early- they’re probably already miles away from here.”

No. They couldn’t be. I shook my head. “They can’t. She can’t. She can’t be gone.”

Zilla gave me a sympathetic face, and came closer to me. “It’s true, Kezia.”

Something changed. The reality hit me. The dream-like quality left. It was like a fog lifting. Everything seemed sharper, but it also seemed less comforting. Like now I could see, but it wasn’t covered up. She was gone. She wasn’t coming back. If she was found guilty, she would be burned at the stake, stoned, hanged, or some other method of death.

No. No, no, no. It- She can’t be gone. This can’t be happening.”

“Before she left,” Zilla continued, ignoring me. She took a couple of steps towards me. “She told me to tell you I would give you a good home. You can stay with Unity- Ardmorr’s sister, you know.”

I nodded, but something still seemed wrong. Lyndia wouldn’t tell Zilla that. She had already told me a couple years before she’d send me to Ardmorr’s family. I don’t know why she chose them, but she had. And Lyndia never broke her word. She wouldn’t send me to Zilla.

I shook my head no.

Zilla’s expression changed to disbelief. “You aren’t interested? I have a good family, Kezia. You would be able to have a new start. Make friends. Be respected.”

The bit about having a new start caught my attention. I would love a new start. To be able to not be just Kezia Dustin. I could be someone else, someone completely different. Someone who stood up for herself. I could be someone who didn’t give in to the taunts to a girl like Mercy. It would be marvelous.

I was about to answer ‘yes’, when something caught my eye.

Laying on the floor was something shiny. A feeling came over me, telling me not to let Zilla see it. The feeling was irrational- why shouldn’t I let Zilla see something that happened to be on the ground? It couldn’t be important, or it would be put away.

But nevertheless, the feeling was there, and I moved slightly, blocking Zilla’s possible view from the thing.

I will think about it,” I said, finally. “But I wish to be…”

“Alone,” Zilla finished for me. “I understand. A lot has been going on in the last few days. I shall need the answer by tomorrow morning though.”

I nodded. “I shall have made up my mind by then.” Though it may not be what you want to hear.

Zilla gave me a calculating gaze. “Good.” She nodded. “It’s been a pleasure.”


She nodded one more time and then turned around. She strode across the room and exited the house, letting the door thud closed behind her.

When I was sure Zilla was gone, I knelt down, and picked up the shiny thing.

It was what appeared to be a charm or something similar. There was a small bronze oval, with an anchor engraved on it. It hung on a bronze chain. Where had it come from? I racked my brain, trying to remember. Something about it seemed familiar. Why was it so familiar? It took me a while, probably about half an hour, to get it.

I remembered Lyndia wearing it. She wore it all the time. And here it was. Not on her. Because she was gone. The thought almost brought me to tears, but somehow I couldn’t get myself to cry. I should be crying. I should be weeping my eyes out. Lyndia was gone, and Zilla was- Zilla wasn’t sad. Why wasn’t she sad?

I puzzled over this thought. Zilla should be more upset then I was, it was her sister, after all. Lyndia was just my mistress. Why, then, was she not sad? It baffled me, and not in a good way. There was something wrong with Zilla, and again I got a gut feeling Lyndia wouldn’t want me with Zilla. But where to go?

I looked down at the necklace in my hands, and knew I had to rescue Lyndia. She couldn’t burn. I couldn’t let them burn her. I couldn’t let her die because she used herbs to heal people, or because she sometimes meddled in magic to do well for people. People were superstitious. I knew that. They thought all magic was evil. But it was up to the person who used it to choose. If they used it for evil, for the wrong reasons, it would indeed be bad. But if it was used well, carefully, and without evil intent, it could be helpful and amazing. And the good was how Lyndia used it. I couldn’t let her come to a premature end because someone generalized all magic as evil. Someone had to save her, and since no one else was willing, it’d have to be me.


I pulled my hair into a thick braid, again cursing the curliness of it. I had already packed a bag. Clothing, food, and herbs from Lyndia’s medicine room. I didn’t know if I’d need the plants, and I had really no clue how to use most of them, but I didn’t want to leave them. I wore the amulet around my neck. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going, because it was my quest. Besides, who could I tell? Mercy? Ardmorr? He wouldn’t help me. He wouldn’t understand about Zilla. It was partly because of his sister.

Ardmorr didn’t like Zilla, either, but for different reasons. A couple of years ago, Zilla had set him up. She had said if he could accomplish a task before sunset, she’d pay him well, and he would be thankful. If he didn’t though, she’d take something of his. Poor Ardmorr had gone along with it. His family had needed the money at the time, and Ardmorr had always trusted those who were older then him. Of course, Ardmorr had failed. Zilla had set him up with an impossible task (I forget what), and she knew he’d fail. She said because he got almost nothing done, she would have to take someone who would be able to work off what Ardmorr had left unfinished. As a result, she had taken Unity, Ardmorr’s sister. She, while apparently feeding, clothing, and housing Unity, wasn’t a kind mistress like Lyndia, and Ardmorr often came with reports of Zilla sending Unity without food for a day because she had spilled a bucket of water or something similar. As a result, Ardmorr probably wouldn’t dare to go up against Zilla, for fear of risking his sister’s well being.

I picked up the bag of stuff, and slid my feet into my boots. I remembered this time to take my coat, and I put it on, buttoning it up. It wasn’t going to be warm out, at least not at night.

Peering out the door, I saw no one. Good. I took a cautious step outdoors, making sure to watch to make sure no one saw me. I knew I could come up with a good excuse to get out of trouble if I was found, but I would much rather just get out of the town without incident, then have to come up with a lie.

I was pretty sure that Lyndia was being taken to Salem. It was the center of the witch hunts, and I had heard that if someone was arrested for witchcraft that they were taken to Salem for their trial. On to Salem, then.

I crept down the hill, towards the forest. There wasn’t a road, an actual road, that was close to Brookdale. Not for a mile or two. But if I could get through the forest, I could start doubling back, towards the road. It was difficult to know that I had to go away from Lyndia first, but if I wasn’t careful it would be easier to find me, and I’d never get to her.

The forest was dark, and it scared me. I had never ventured into the woods at night, and the trees looked like people in the dark mist. They spooked me as I walked through them and I kept having to remind myself they were only trees. There was no wind at all. Everything was still, like the trees watched me and the wind held it’s breath. The rustling from fallen leaves made it almost impossible for me to hear anything- if there was anything to hear. If anyone crept up on me, I wouldn’t be able to hear them. The thoughts of being caught and arrested, of Lyndia burning, and the memories of Chloe being stoned haunted me, making it impossible to think of anything else.

I shivered, and periodically looked behind me and to the sides, checking if anyone was there. I couldn’t see anything, and every snap of a twig and rustle made me spin to locate the sound. The tension, combined with the constant spinning soon made me feel quite nauseous. When I twirled towards a suspicious sounding snap, I felt a tree trunk collide with my head. The feel of tree bark dug into my forehead and nose, and I fell to the earth, twigs breaking, leaves crunching, and a throbbing pain in my head.


When I woke up, a mist covered the entire forest floor. The white substance was now I thought of it, more like a fog. It hid tree roots, the bright colors of the leaves, my own feet, and, unfortunately, my bag of supplies.

I sat up, and started feeling around, trying to find my bag. My head started to throb, and I brought a hand up, accidentally scraping it against the tree trunk. Ouch. A large bump was forming on my head. I groaned. Perfect. I put my down on the ground again and the texture of cloth touched my palm. A small smile lit my face. Sure, I was lost, there was a fog, my mistress was probably going to burn at the stake, I was alone, no one was on my side except possibly Ardmorr, but I had found my supplies again. I’m coming, Lyndia.

I stood up and balanced for an entire five seconds before I became dizzy and fell over again. My head really hurt. Grimacing, I carefully stood back up, making sure to hold onto the tree so I wouldn’t fall over again. It worked this time, and I looked around. I had no idea which way to go. One way looked correct for some reason, I decided to follow it. The worst thing which could happen was I’d get lost again. And seeing how I already was lost, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.


As the sun rose the fog started to dissipate at a rapid speed. It seemed one moment I couldn’t see my feet, and the next time I could almost pick out the exact shapes of leaves.

I made it a game. “One leaf. Maple. Two leaves- oak.” It kept me from thinking about Lyndia.

I looked up to see a large green smudge in front of me. I started traveling towards it, curious as what it was. As I approached it, I groaned inwardly. I stood in front of Lyndia’s herb garden. I was right back at the start.

I sat down at the ground, and stared at the herbs. “So, how am I going to do this?”

They just sat there, as I knew they would. They weren’t alive in that sense, after all.

Do you think I can do it?”

No answer.

I’m going up against everyone.”

Still nothing. I knew I could sit there and ask questions forever, and I still wouldn’t get an answer. Herbs weren’t going to suddenly grow mouths and gain the ability to speak.

I sighed, scuffed my feet on the ground, and stood up again. Time to find Lyndia.


It took me the entire morning to get out of the forest. By the time I finally stumbled out of the woods the radiating heat of the sun had thankfully burned away the fog. The last thing I needed was to knock myself unconscious again.

I rubbed my forehead as I sat down on the ground and looked across the fields in front of me.

They had been harvested, and the barren corn stalks stood, standing straight against the breeze. Some of the grey stalks had blown over, and the fields were covered with the downed stalks of corn.

I shivered. Excluding the forest the night before, nothing I had seen had been this… creepy. But never mind that, I had to find Lyndia. I couldn’t let her burn. I wouldn’t let her burn. She wouldn’t burn. I wouldn’t let it happen. To save her, I had to cross the fields. So be it.

I tromped across what seemed like hundreds of acres of cornstalks. Every time the wind blew through them, they’d rattle, and I’d stop moving and listen, to make sure no one followed me.

Nearing the middle of the afternoon, I finally spotted the road. It wasn’t much more then a tired looking dirt path, with ruts where wagon wheels had beaten, smashed, and worn down the earth. But it was a road. And all roads went somewhere. At least, I hoped they did.

I stopped a couple of feet from the road, so I was still hidden by the stalks of corn, and peered in both directions. Nothing. I took a step onto the road, and breathed a sigh of relief. There was, to my eyes, no one around. I accepted this as fact, and started on my way.

For the first hour or so, it was quite enjoyable watching the trees and fields and grasses going past me. The sun shone down, and it quickly warmed up the world.

I took off my coat, wondering if the previous days had just been a warning to get us ready for autumn. It was while I walked I realized just how tedious that traveling is. All the trees started to look the same. The sun started to burn the back of my neck. My bag and coat felt heavy, and my feet hurt. They never talked about how hard it was to walk after a while, in those stories that Ardmorr and Lyndia used to tell me when I was younger. They always seemed to skip those parts, like they could erase all the unpleasant scenes. I wished I could do that now.


Well,” I said, thinking out loud. “What should I do now?” It was evening, and I mused whether to stop and sleep, or continue to walk. My feet ultimately made up my mind. Their aches told me they wouldn’t be walking any more that night.

I pulled out my familiar blanket. Unlike most of the blankets in Brookdale, this one was not a quilt. It was just a large piece of loosely woven fabric. It wasn’t even a bright color- just a nondescript blue. But it had been mine since I could remember, and it stopped me from feeling quite as hopeless.

I laid on top of it, staring at the stars. Poor Lyndia. Poor Ardmorr. Poor Chloe. I was about to think “poor Zilla”, but something stopped me. I didn’t actually feel sorry for her. I didn’t think this was a… bad thing for her. I wasn’t sure why I thought that, but an internal feeling was telling me just to stay away from Zilla.

I thought about it for a minute or two before I shrugged, and closed my eyes, letting myself drift off to sleep. After all, I was laying down to sleep, not to wonder whether or not Zilla deserved pity.

I woke to the smell of smoke. This was not an unusual thing for me to wake up to- Lyndia often tried to make bread in the morning for breakfast. When I remembered where I was, however, I shot up immediately. Smoke should not be out here. At least, not as strong as it was, unless the field was on fire or something.

I looked around, searching for flames, or any indication there was fire. I didn’t have to look very long.

“Morning, Kezia,” came Ardmorr’s voice, and my eyes went incredibly wide. “Breakfast?”

“A-a-a-ardmorr,” I stuttered. “What in the world are you doing here?”

“Um, well,” Ardmorr looked a bit confused himself. “Zilla was looking for you, and I told myself, I said ‘Kezia’s mistress has been taken, if I know Kezia, she’ll be going to find her’, I told myself, and I knew where you’d go, so I went to find you.”

“But Ardmorr,” I said, sighing. “I didn’t want to be found.”

“I know. You wouldn’t have run away, otherwise,” he said, as he handed me a plate of what looked to be burned meat. “Sorry it’s burnt,” he apologized, “I sort of forgot about it.”

I sighed, but took the burnt breakfast. “It’s no problem. Thanks. I know you tried.” I picked at the food for a second or two, before setting to the not so pleasant task of actually eating breakfast.


After we had finished the rest of the burnt meat, Ardmorr sat, staring at me.

“What?” I asked him, a bit nervous. It was, in my opinion, never a good thing to have someone staring at you, especially after you had just run away.

“You have to go back, Kezia,” he stated, not removing his eyes from me. “Zilla was really frantic.”

I shook my head. “You don’t understand.” I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths before continuing. “I have to save Lyndia. She needs me. I can’t let her burn. It’s, well, it’s my duty.”

Ardmorr raised his eyebrows. “Come on, Kezia,” he said, and his voice sounded a bit impatient. “We’ll get them to release her. Zilla wields quite a bit of power, you know. I’m sure she can talk them into letting her sister go. You and me, we don’t stand a chance. Why would they listen to-“

“To two children?” I finished. “Well, what if we didn’t talk to them. What if we just got her out?”

“No.” Ardmorr said, and I could tell he had already made up his mind. “We can’t go breaking the law, Kezia. You know that would just make it worse.”

He had a point; I had to admit. If we failed, then what would happen to Lyndia? The punishment would most likely be worse, and Ardmorr and I would probably face a death punishment. Death wasn’t on my agenda, but I had to rescue Lyndia- didn’t I? Then there was the question of whether or not we could trust Zilla. If Ardmorr had already made up his mind about going back, then I had made up my mind about trusting her. She hadn’t seemed to try very hard before to get her sister freed. Why would she do it now?

“Come on, Kezia,” Ardmorr said, as he dumped dirt on the fire. The sparks flew up. The last huzzah. The fire flickered into oblivion.

Let’s go. If you can convince me on the way back, then we’ll turn around. I really don’t want to be unfair, you know. At least this way you have a good chance.”

I had a suspicion he was lying. I knew perfectly well the chances of me being able to convince him on the way home were about nothing, and even if I did, we would probably be so close to the house we would be sighted, already.

“Come on, Kezia,” he repeated. “We have to go now. You can’t save Lyndia, and if we try, we’ll most likely die. Come on. Let’s go home.” He grabbed my hand, and pulled me to my feet.

I sighed, and picked up my coat and bag of supplies. Ardmorr continued to pull me in the direction on the road of Brookdale, and I had no choice but to follow, still wondering if I was doing the right thing.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Burning Hope- Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Kezia, Kezia, when will you ever learn?” Mercy had turned it into a chant. “You know you’re not normal, why do you even try anymore?” She circled me, and I gritted my teeth, refusing to answer her. “Poor Kezia. Orphaned, and under the care of the weird old lady…”

I felt my temper start to flame up. “Stop it, Mercy. I haven’t done anything to you.”

“Is that so?”

I gritted my teeth. “Please, tell me what I have done wrong.”

“Oh Kezia,” Mercy shook her head in a condescending manner. “I can’t tell you. Why, if I did, it’d take all the fun out of this!”

“Drop it, Mercy.”

“I don’t think I shall. You see, I quite enjoy these little conversations we have. They’re quite enjoyable, you see?”

“No, I really don’t.” I took a deep breath. I had started to shake, which was a sure sign that my anger was getting the best of me.

“Well, allow me to enlighten you.” Mercy cleared her throat and put her hands behind her back, as if reciting something. “Your face, when you get mad, it’s just a priceless sight to behold. And your pitiful attempts to get back, well, I just couldn’t stop!” She smirked. “And the way you take offense about your poor. Strange. Weird. Mistress.”

That was it. I narrowed my eyes. “Oh Mercy?”


Oh my- look!” I pointed over her shoulder.

She always fell for this. Mercy spun around to look where I pointed.

I took the opportunity to shove her. It felt good. But it still didn’t feel like enough. So I took the liberty of grabbing one of my buckets of water and emptying it over her head.

She spluttered and spat at me, calling me the usual names. And then she started to get up. “You’re going to regret this!” She tripped on her skirt and fell flat on her face.

I took this moment to get as far away from her as I could.

I shouldn’t have given in. I would regret it later. But for now, it just felt good to be able to wipe the smug smirk off of her perfect little face.

I didn’t know how Mercy would get back, but I knew she would. She always did. Because Mercy, for one reason or another, hated me.


The house in which I lived with my mistress Lyndia was just like every other house in the town of Brookdale, Massachusetts. Except for the fact it was Lyndia’s. The house always smelled like herbs and burnt bread and ointment. She always had people visiting, for her to heal their leg, or patch up a cut, or mend a bone. Her burnt bread and overcooked meat guaranteed no one came for her cooking, though.

Brookdale wasn’t really a true town- more like a group of houses built every which way. Lyndia didn’t like the closeness of the houses in the so-called town though. She had told the ‘important figures’ of the town if she was going to live in Brookdale, she was going to live far enough away that no one could look through her windows. Since Lyndia was really the only one in the town who knew how to heal more then just a cold, they really didn’t want to have her leave. Which was why our house was where it was- situated a ways away from the town. So Lyndia didn’t have to deal with the other villagers, and so the other villagers didn’t have to deal with Lyndia.

I pushed the door open, and immediately gagged on a puff of smoke. Entering the house I saw bread in the oven. I hurried across the room to the bread, and pulled the loaves out of the oven. Burnt. As usual. I took the bread and dumped it outside, where it could be eaten by anything who wanted a bite or two of burnt bread. (Though who in their right mind would want to eat Lyndia’s bread was a mystery to me.)

I stepped into Lyndia’s medicine room. If the house smelled like medicine and herbs then the medicine room smelled five times stronger. Despite the suffocating smell, the small room would always be my favorite room. It truly was a wonder to behold. Dried herbs hung around the rafters. Fat sat in jars, ready to be made into ointment and mixed with plants. Empty containers for making potions were placed in baskets and then also hung from the ceiling. A fire burned in the corner. Everything Lyndia needed for her witchcraft was right where she could reach it.

Lyndia,” I complained, “You burnt the bread. Again.”

Lyndia was sitting at the table, assembling what appeared to be an amulet of some sort.

She looked up, with an apologetic look on her face. “I’m sorry, Kezia, I just got caught up in this again. You know I can’t leave if I’m working on something.”

I rolled my eyes, but nodded. Lyndia was… well… she was a witch. She dabbled in magic, and used plants to heal people. There were many healers who thought they were witches because they could sometimes cure a cold or stop a cough, but Lyndia wasn’t one of them. She always managed to fix whatever needed fixing, and her amulets always worked.

But even I knew it wasn’t the best time for witches. Rewards were offered for each one turned in, and if anyone saw what Lyndia had in her medicine room, it probably wouldn’t end well for her.

“I understand, mistress. Next time, though, at least tell me you are making bread,” I said. I hoped she’d agree, so maybe, for once, we could have bread which didn’t come from the baker.

“If you ever came home on time, I would,” she sniffed.

“I got waylaid by Mercy, again, Mistress.”

Lyndia rolled her eyes. “Just ignore her and move on, Kezia. If I’ve learned anything from raising you, it’s you’re stubborn. I’m sure if you put your mind to it, you could ignore her, and pretend she didn’t even exist.” She turned back to her work.

“I don’t have as much faith there,” I grumbled. I knew Lyndia was often scorned, but at least she was respected. I wasn’t.

“Well, I have faith in your chicken feeding abilities. I heard them squaking earlier. Would you mind throwing them some feed?”

My eyes widened. I didn’t like chickens. They had those little beady eyes, and always wore an evil and inscrutable expression, like they were plotting to destroy you, and they didn’t want you knowing about it.

“Do I have to?” I asked.

“Yes, you do. Now hop to it.”

I sighed and turned around.

Make sure they actually eat.”

I clenched my hands. “Yes, mistress.” I walked out of the room, making sure to close the door behind me. I crossed the kitchen which was still heavy with smoke, and exited the house. I shuffled across the yard to the chicken coop, the chicken’s never ending chattering already quite loud. I watched the chickens for a little bit, before picking up the burnt bread to feed them.

There were five chickens, and, to my eyes, they all looked the same. They all had the same evil countenance, and were all always hungry. I called them all Mercy, because their expressions reminded me of the one Mercy wore when she was planning something particularly evil for me.

“Ready for food, Mercy?” I asked, breaking the bread into crumbs and scattering it on the ground. They all attacked it, eating like I hadn’t fed them for weeks. Which, now I thought of it, I might not have. I did try to avoid the chickens as often as possible, after all.

“Sorry, Mercy,” I told them with a small pang of guilt. I shouldn’t have left them without food, whether or not I thought they looked evil.

“It won’t happen again,” I promised as I broke another piece of bread up and scattered it for them to eat. “Well, until I forget, that is.”

I finished feeding the chickens, and skipped inside. Lyndia was mixing up another batch of bread, and I groaned.

“I won’t burn this one,” she said without looking up. “I’m done working for today, so this one should turn out fine.”

“As you always say,” I grumbled.

“This time I’m not kidding. Really.”

I raised my eyebrows and nodded. “Whatever you want to believe.”

Lyndia snorted. “Run to the blacksmiths would you? I told Mary I’d give her some tea mix for her throat.”

I nodded. I didn’t particularly like running errands for Lyndia, but if it meant the bread wouldn’t be burnt, I was willing.

“It’s in the medicine room,” she continued, “In a little bag labeled ‘Mary’”

“I figured.” I walked into the medicine room and looked around.

“Don’t touch anything,” Lyndia called, and I sighed.

“I wasn’t planning on it, mistress. I don’t really want to get a rash.”

I heard a chuckle coming from the other room, and had to laugh a little myself. I knew most of the herbs in the room didn’t have any magical abilities by themselves, and there weren’t any plants which would give you a rash by just touching them, in here. Lying on the table was a small bag with a label on it that read ‘Mary’ in messy handwriting. I was one of the few girls in the village who knew how to read, and that was only because Lyndia needed me to be able to read to help her with her work.

“Have you found it yet, Kezia?” came Lyndia’s voice again.

I huffed, a bit annoyed. Did she think me stupid? Of course I had found it. “Yes I have, mistress,” I called, making sure not to let the annoyance show in my voice.

It never made things better for me if Lyndia knew I was annoyed at her. It wasn’t that Lyndia was a cruel mistress, like others I knew. She was much more like a mother. If I did something wrong, she’d give me a talking to. Actually, it was often worse then if she yelled and screamed at me, which was what most of the other women in the town seemed to do.

I picked up the bag and went out into the kitchen again.

Lyndia waved and the bread dough bits which stuck to her hands went flying.

I waved back and pulled my bag/medicine pouch off of the back of a chair. There was no way I was going to walk around the village holding a bag of tea in my hand. If I fell and it got destroyed, Lyndia would have some harsh words.

Say hello to the pastor if you see him.”

I nodded at her and started down the path to the village.

Brookdale wasn’t a large town, and everyone pretty much knew everyone else. And everyone knew Lyndia. Most people went to Lyndia’s house at least once a month, if not more often. She helped everyone with a variety of different things, from birthing child to mending a bone. Lyndia was respected, even feared sometimes. But I wasn’t. I was just the red-haired girl who ran errands and cooked for her.

The Smiths lived on the opposite side of town from Lyndia, in a house similar to everyone else’s. The smithy was next to the house, so Mr. Smith and his sons didn’t have to walk too far to get to it.

I walked through Brookdale, waving at the few people who didn’t ignore me. When I reached the house I knocked on the door and prayed none of her sons would answer it. They were especially bad, teasing me about my hair, my mistress, my outfit (this I didn’t get, it looked just like all the other girls’!), and anything else they could come up with.

Why hello, Kezia,” said Mary when she finally answered the door. “Is that the tea for my throat?”

I said yes, it was, and she took it from me like it was made of gold.

“Why don’t you come in? I’ve just made bread, and we have some strawberry jam.” She opened the door father and motioned for me to enter.

I smiled and entered the house. Mary was one of the only people in the village who showed me kindness. Besides Mary there were really only two other people who were kind to me. Chloe Thomason and her son Ardmorr. I didn’t know either of them very well at all, although Chloe was a close friend of Lyndia’s. I mostly stayed out of their way.

“Here you go,” Mary said, handing me a slice of bread and the jar of jam.

I sat at the table and smeared some jam on the bread.

“Thank you, Mary.” I hoped my voice told her just how thankful I was. “Lyndia burned the bread again today.”

Mary laughed. “It’s a wonder she survived for so long. She cooks so badly it’s a wonder even she can bear to eat the food!”

I laughed, and nodded feeling a bit guilty. I betrayed Lyndia’s cooking abilities, however bad they were, when I agreed with Mary.

“She does make good baked apples, though,” I said. “And her carrot stew isn’t bad, either.”

Mary shrugged. “I sure you’re right- I haven’t eaten at Lyndia’s since I was a child, after all.”

I nodded, although I was thinking Mary still was a child. At least, she still acted like one at times.

I finished the bread and stood up. “I’m afraid I have to now, Mary,” I said, almost wishing I didn’t. “Lyndia may need me for something else later.”

Mary nodded, and I exited the house. A couple minutes later, while I was still walking through the town, a crowd of people caught my attention. They were situated around Chloe, her husband Tobias, and Ardmorr. I wondered what was going on, and pushed my way through to the front of the crowd. Tobias stood beside the village pastor and several unfamiliar men. Ardmorr and Chloe stood beside each other a little ways off, in obvious disbelief over something.

You!” Tobias pointed at Chloe. “You are a witch! You cast a curse on me!”

A murmur went through the crowd. “You’ve spoken with the devil!”

Yes! She put the ailment on my leg!” Tabitha, a servant, pointed at her leg.

And she ruined my best cabbages!” Mrs Weaver glared at her.

The accusations continued- she did this, or did this other thing, or someone saw her talking to the devil late at night. Most of these I knew were made up.

Tobias turned to the pastor. “Do you find the evidence sufficient?”

“Indeed. As punishment for meddling in the dark arts,” the pastor proclaimed, “you shall be sentenced to whatever punishment the victims of your witchcraft wish.”

The Dark Arts? I wondered what the pastor was talking about. Chloe wasn’t a witch! If she were, Lyndia would most likely be down here trying to stop the pastor. Well, it’s what I thought, anyway.

“Stone her, stone her, stone her, stone her,” chanted the crowd,

Ardmorr stiffened, as Chloe started to weep.

This couldn’t be happening.

Reports of witchcraft did indeed reach the town of Brookdale, but we hadn’t had any accusations or executions in our village itself. Most of the villagers were happy with it. It seemed like we had a holy town, in which it was impossible to be accused as a witch.

Standing on the edge of the crowd was a face I recognized. Zilla, Lyndia’s sister, was here. I wondered why, but this wasn’t the time to be talking to people I knew. I had to tell Lyndia about Chloe, fast. Maybe she could do something, convince them Chloe was innocent, or maybe cast a spell on them. She could do something, though. I was sure of it.

I ran up the hill, tripping on roots and stones, until I got to the door. I burst in, tripping on the threshold and falling flat on my face.

“Goodness, what is the hurry?” Lyndia asked, sounding mildly amused.

“Chloe has just been accused of witchcraft,” I said, as I gasped for breath.

Lyndia’s face went immediately solemn, and she stood up. “Are you sure about this, Kezia?”

“I just heard them accusing her!”

Lyndia stood, and walked towards the door.

Can you do something to help her, mistress?”

Lyndia didn’t stop. “I will do what I can.”

“Are you sure there isn’t anything you can do?” I asked, for what seemed to be the fiftieth time that day. I looked up at Lyndia from the floor. “Absolutely sure?”

“I told you,” Lyndia said, obviously annoyed, but not at me. “They won’t listen to me. They say they caught her, and there is not way to get her out of the righteous punishment of dealing with the devil.”

“Maybe she could escape?” offered Zilla. She leaned back in her chair.

“It would be downright impossible,” Ardmorr said, letting his head drop onto the table. “They have a guard watching the house, to make sure she doesn’t take a step outside.”

Zilla frowned and tapped her fingers on the table.

“Could we possibly make the guard… sleep?” I asked.

Lyndia shook her head. “It would be unreliable, and if he woke up, it would make it worse for us all. I can’t endanger you all, and I won’t endanger myself, either.”

I frowned. There didn’t seem to be any way of saving Chloe. “Maybe a miracle will happen, and she’ll get out,” I offered, in a hopeful voice.

Zilla turned a condescending eye on me and sighed. “Maybe, but it would be a miracle.”

I had never liked Zilla. She was proud, spiteful, and condescending- now I thought of it, she reminded me strongly of Mercy, and of chickens. No wonder I didn’t like her.

“Well, let us sleep on it, and maybe an answer will come,” she finished, and stood up. “And now I must be leaving. I have business I have to attend to.” Without waiting for us to say goodbye, she turned and strode out of the house.

“Ardmorr,” Lyndia said, and Ardmorr lifted his head off the table. “You are welcome to spend the night here, you know.” Ardmorr nodded.

“I think I should spend as much time with my mother as I can. Thank you, anyway.” he stood up, took his coat off the back of the chair, and shrugged into it. “It is a generous offer indeed, and I am thankful to have it extended.” We all three nodded at the same time, as if agreeing on something, and he left, leaving Lyndia and me alone.

“Are you-“

“Kezia, there is nothing you or I can do,” she said in a tired voice. “We have discussed this until my brain hurts, and still we have no answer. I do not think there is any hope for Chloe.”

“How can you say that?” I asked, horrified. “There is always hope.”

Lyndia chuckled and shook her head. “Ah, to be young and full of hope, it is the life.” Her smile disappeared. “You… learn things, Kezia, things which make hoping in the future harder.”

I shrugged. “Maybe I won’t learn those things, mistress,” I said, jutting my chin out. “If they make me stop hoping, I do not wish to learn them.”

Lyndia just shook her head. “It is time for bed, Kezia,” she said, turning and leaving the room.

I watched her go, and rubbed my head. I had to agree that in this case, she was right, and there wasn’t much hope for Chloe. After all, the officials were the authority. What they said was law. I would never be able to stand up against them… right?

In the morning, despite Zilla’s apparent hope we would, somehow, come up with an answer, none of us had any clue how to rescue Chloe, if it could even be done. The town seemed to be holding it’s breath as the day dawned. I went about my chores, cooking breakfast, feeding the animals, cleaning the house, and running medicine from Lyndia to the very people who were to kill her best friend.

“Kezia,” I was scrubbing the floor after making lunch, when Lyndia’s voice broke my concentration. “They’re starting.” I dropped the cloth, and stood up, slowly.

“But…” I said, and crossed to the other side of the room. Shouts came from the village, and I felt Lyndia settle her hand on my shoulder. I pulled away, pushed the door open, and sprinted down the path toward the village.

Upon entering the main cluster of houses and shops which made up Brookdale, I followed the shouts and jeers to the center of town. Chloe was standing in the center of a ring of people, all of whom were throwing rocks at her. She bled in many places, and I could tell already it was beyond stopping. The village baker, usually a calm man, threw a particularly large rock at her. I winced as it smashed into her shoulder with a crack. Dark stains spread across her dress and I could see something white through the ripped dress and skin. Bone. Chloe sobbed out incomprehensible words, and I couldn’t help but feel sickened.

“Kezia,” came a voice, and I turned, to see Constance, the sister of Mary. She held out a rock to me, as if I would like to throw it at Chloe.

“Throw it,” she urged, pressing it at me. I shook my head but she continued to pressure me. “She deserves it!”

“I can’t, Constance.” The idea of anyone thinking Chloe deserved this torture brought a sour taste to my mouth. “No matter how much she deserves it.” I started to back away from her. I bumped into several people, but no one said anything. Constance shrugged, and threw the rock herself, going back to screaming at poor Chloe.

“Kezia!” I turned to see Ardmorr, pushing through the crowd towards me and away from Chloe.

“Kezia, is- can Lyndia…”

I shook my head no. “There is nothing she can do, Ardmorr,” I said, and although his expression didn’t change, I could feel the air of desperate hope he’d had disappear and turn into despair.

“Go back to hell, witch!” someone screamed. A rock flew by me, barely missing my head and I ducked.

“We have to get out of here, Ardmorr,” I said, dodging yet another rock. “There isn’t anything we can do, and we are in danger of being hit if we linger.”

Ardmorr shook his head no. “I can’t leave her, Kezia.”

“She wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Kezia, I can’t leave my mother, she’d want me to stay with her,” he said, as if trying to make himself believe it. As I started to reply, Lyndia approached and grabbed both Ardmorr and me. “What are you doing? You could both be killed!” With that, she pulled us out of the crowd.

Although Ardmorr put up such a fight when I suggested this same thought, he didn’t resist when Lyndia did. I supposed it was because Lyndia was like his grandmother, the same way she, although my mistress, was sort of like my mother.

“No, I’m fine,” Ardmorr insisted. It was a couple minutes after we had arrived at the house, and the screams were still came from the rest of the village.

“I’m… fine,” he said again.

Lyndia shook her head, but let him go. “If you think you’ll be alright, then,” she said, and sighed. She gave him one more concerned look before she turned and entered the medicine room.

“Kezia, I’m fine,” he said, before I even had a chance to open my mouth and say something.

“No, you’re not,” I admonished.

Ardmorr gave me a long stare, then shook his head no. “No, you’re right, I’m not. It’s not. This in general is not. I’m not okay, it’s not okay. We’re not okay. We’ve never been okay. But you can’t do anything.” With those words he turned and started out the back door.

I hesitated, then ran after him. “I can talk to you,” I said, when I caught up to him. Ardmorr was sitting a ways off from the house, but still on the hill. “Talking seems to help most of the others. The ones who come to Lyndia. They seem to like to know someone is willing to talk.”

“I’m not the others, Kezia.”

I sat down next to him. “Never mind that. You need to talk to someone, and I want to get out of the house.”

“Kezia, I’m fine,” Ardmorr insisted, and I could hear the annoyance in his voice. I’d better shut up.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, and stood up, and stumbled towards the forest.

“Kezia,” Ardmorr called, “I didn’t mean to offend you…”

“It’s fine, Ardmorr,” I shot back, and now I was angry. Breathe. I couldn’t explode at Ardmorr. It wasn’t his fault he was testy and annoying. It wasn’t my fault his mother had died, though. No, the fault rested with his father. His father was the one who accused her.

“At least you won’t snap,” I said, to the basil and mint, as I sat next to the herb garden.

Lyndia was one of the few people in Brookdale who had a proper herb garden. Sure, others may have a bit of basil growing in their vegetable gardens, but Lyndia had an entire garden of herbs. It was about five foot square, and there were so many plants growing they were always struggling for a place to grow. Many grew on top of each other. The garden itself was planted on the edge of the small forest by the town, and near Lyndia’s house. The reason it was there was because Lyndia claimed that the best growing magic was in the forest. I might not believe her, but her plants were healthier then others in the village.

I pinched off a mint leaf, and bit into it. The sharp taste was perfect for my anger. I tore it into bits with my teeth, trying to make the taste last. I didn’t see why this should be happening. Chloe had done nothing to deserve her death, and none of us had done anything to deserve the pain we felt when she died. It was horrible, the feeling of rage and fear and sadness I felt, and I was sure Lyndia and Ardmorr were feeling it a tenfold more. After all, I didn’t know her well. For them she was one of the closest people in their lives.

“I suppose I should be getting back,” I said to the plants, hesitating a bit longer. I had obviously been wrapped up in my thoughts for a bit longer then I meant to be, because the sun was quite a bit closer to the western horizon than it was when I had left. I stood up and brushed the dirt off of my skirt, trying not to think about how hard it was going to be to wash out the mud my dress had accumulated from sitting on the ground for so long. Continuing to brush the mud off of the coarse fabric, I started towards the house. When I caught sight of the house, I saw the same men who had accused Chloe, standing by the front door with Zilla and Lyndia. I broke into a run.

“Kezia, no!” I was almost into hearing range when Ardmorr grabbed me around the waist. Thankfully, the others were to busy talking about something… Something I couldn’t hear!

“Let go of me!” I shrieked, struggling. “I need to know what they’re doing here. They were the ones who accused your mother!”

“I know. I was there, remember?”

I heard the pain in his voice, and mentally slapped myself for bringing up the subject again. “But why are they here?”

“You can’t stop them!”

“What are they doing here, Ardmorr?” I demanded, still struggling.

“You can’t stop them.”

A horrible thought came to my mind. What if they were here to… accuse Lyndia? I finally managed to pull loose, and run towards them. I barreled into their midst, and faced them, panting.

“What. Is. Going. On?” I asked, giving the men the worst glare I could manage. It wasn’t very fierce, obviously, since it did nothing to their expressions. Darn.

There were three- three? I counted. Yes, three strange men, and the pastor. One of them couldn’t stop coughing. It sounded really nasty, and I stepped away from him. I didn’t want to catch some horrible disease.

The first one turned back to Lyndia, brushed off his suit, and continued. “As I was saying, Lyndia Dustin, you have been charged of witchcraft.”

I blinked. “What do you mean?”

The pastor sighed. “She has been accused of meddling with the dark arts. She will be taken at noon tomorrow to be burned.”

“What did she do?” I felt bewildered. Lyndia had been totally secret about her powers, and I hadn’t told anyone. Not even Ardmorr- although it was tempting to do so, sometimes. Ardmorr was a bit of a coward when it came to magic, and there were many times when I was annoyed at him that I wanted to tell him about Lyndia… just to see the look on his face.

“She has dabbled in the black arts,” said the coughing man. “She must pay for her curses upon the good, holy people of this village, upon the earth, and upon the God in the sky himself.”

“No, no you don’t understand,” I said, “Ly-“

“Hush now, Kezia,” said Zilla, giving me a sharp glare. “You will only make it worse for her. You leave your nose out of my sister’s business.”

I blinked. Her sister’s business? Did she not think this was going to affect me, too? Lyndia was like my mother- and, more importantly, If Lyndia left, where would I live?


“This is too much,” Ardmorr complained.

We were, as before, all sitting at Lyndia’s kitchen table. Unlike before, Zilla was not there, and we were discussing Lyndia’s impending death, Lyndia’s house arrest, and how to save Lyndia from dying- not Chloe.

“I agree,” I said, resting my elbows on the table and my chin in my hands. “It is too much. Why can’t these people just go away and leave us well enough alone?”

Lyndia shrugged. “They believe they’re doing the right thing, Kezia. They believe we are magic.” She shot me a look, reminding me to keep my mouth shut in front of Ardmorr. “And magic comes from the devil-“

“What? How can they think that? You,” I coughed, “are not a witch.”

Lyndia sighed. “They believe I am- and it is true many think so, too, when I can fix their arm, or leg. And,” she bowed her head, “lying is bad- whether or not you are lying about the right information.” She shot me a look, and I blushed. I knew I had just lied… but it was to protect Lyndia, so I hoped whatever higher power there was would forgive me.

“No, there is nothing I can do,” Lyndia said, chuckling, when I opened my mouth.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

She nodded. “Was I able to help your mother?” she asked Ardmorr.

He shook his head.

Would I have not done whatever I could to help her?”

Again, no.

Then the answer is the same, Kezia. I cannot do anything. We are powerless.”


The next day was like a dream. I did my chores as usual, but even an evil chicken biting my finger failed to wake me from the sense this wasn’t real, that somehow we would be able to convince them- wait. We really hadn’t tried to convince them of anything, had we. No. What if they were gullible? They must be if they thought Lyndia was a witch.

I ran inside, and pushed over to Lyndia. She wrote something, and when I came in, she hastily flipped the paper over. Something she didn’t want me to know. But my mission here was already determined.

“Lyndia, I thought of something,” I started, and she raised her eyebrows. “You tried to convince the officials when Chloe was at stake… but you couldn’t for this time. May I-“

“Go into town and try to convince them I’m innocent?” Lyndia finished.

I nodded.

Well…” she said, and I started to tap my foot impatiently. “They can be awfully stubborn,” she said, finally, “but if I’ve learned anything from raising you, it’s that you’re just as stubborn. I say, don’t be expecting anything miraculous, but if you want, you can try.”