The Fire Witch's Tale

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The Chase Begins

Eva and Helen were in a state of chaos. Both knew that whatever had happened in the town, a hue and cry would be called soon enough and she would be hunted down, taken and would have to face the same fate as her grandmother. Helen quickly packed Eva a travel sack filled with food and handed it to her.

“You must leave. They will find you here eventually.”

Eva took the travel sack and hearing the calls from the town, she headed for the cottage door.

“Thank you Aunt Helen,” she said.

Helen kissed Eva’s forehead and looked into her eyes, imploringly.

“Make sure you get as far away as you can. Never come back, you hear me. Never. And don’t raise anyone’s suspicions by entering a guarded town. You must stick to the country side where no one will suspect you.”

Eva nodded. “I love you Aunt Helen, I will never forget you,”

Helen, hearing the people’s voices approach nearer, pushed at Eva. “Go!”

Eva took off. In the cover of darkness she ran to the limits of the town away from the main road. As she did though, Eva stumbled on a small thorny bush and she heard her dress tare. In too much of a hurry for her life, she ignored this and kept running as fast as she could. She reached the river and kept going, crossing the bridge and glancing back briefly to see the distant torch lights of people dashing about and what she swore was a house fire. She questioned whether she was the culprit that started it, but it seemed unlikely. She had been at Helen’s far too long, she was sure of it.

She stopped once she had reached the cover of the forest and hid behind a bush in a small gully. From there Eva watched the lights as they flitted around, and as one large illumination raged and burned. From the look if it, she thought it near the market square. But she could not have known for sure. It was dark and she was tired, her eyes heavy from all that had happened and her lack of rest. Eva allowed her eyes to slowly close while she watched Weycombe from her vantage. She soon fell into a deep slumber, resting her head on the leather travel sack in her lap, her woollen cloak guarding her from the chilly evening.

Eva awoke to the calls of men around her.

“She’s here somewhere,” she heard someone say close by.

Eva froze. She had no idea she had been asleep that long. The sun was right above her in the grey sky and she was sure it was midmorning. She had never intended to sleep so long, and should’ve been long gone by then.

Eva tried to keep silently hidden behind the bush within her ditch, hoping the men wouldn’t come near and find her hiding place. She wondered how they knew she would be in the section of forest she was in, but when she moved slightly, she felt a stinging on her legs. She lifted her skirts gently to find a large gash that had scabbed over on her shin, dried veins of blood trailing down her leg; a piece of her blue dress missing where her flesh had torn. She must’ve left evidence on that prickly bush. She only hoped they hadn’t placed her at Helen’s home before she escaped – they would have Helen hanged too, for that.

Eva remained quiet and still, but heard feet loom dangerously close. Closer and closer they approached, leaves rustling as they went, until Eva was sure one of the men had found her. She heard them stop and bend over near her, the cold wind hitting her from all sides but one. Eva shivered, slowly turning and hoping she was adequately hidden. She peeked up behind her and saw Matthew watching her intently. His expression was emotionless but for his green eyes, and Eva wanted to object to his accusing stare, but to what? She wasn’t sure what her crime was yet, or if there were any at all.

“What’s that?” they both heard someone call.

Matthew rose, turning without a word.

“Have you found her?” the voice asked.

Now that it was closer, Eva recognised the voice for Jacob’s.

“Ah you have,” he said, rushing over and pushing Matthew aside. “Good job, boy. Now we can hang the ill-bred scold.”

Eva got up and tried to bolt, but she was met by three other men: Richard Chandler, her father’s friend; Baldwyn Miller, Lora’s father; and the Butcher, William Bakoun. They herded her in, taking hold of her once they were close, and stopped her from running away.

“You know that if you resist arrest, we can drown you in the river down there, girl. So you better give up your struggling if you want a fair trial,” Jacob derided.

“And what is my crime?” Eva asked, hesitantly.

“The attempted murder of your mother, Juliana Smith, arson and witchcraft,” Jacob said with a smirk.

Eva felt almost relieved. She had suspected worse, and despite the fact that she would be gaoled and convicted, her crimes would not be weighing heavily on her conscience.

“Oh and the murder of your own dear father, Randolph Smith,” Jacob added.

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