Prologue: Salem Massachusetts August 20th 1685
“The witching hour is upon us Alica, retrieve the young child from his mother and bring him forth for the ritual.” Said, my mother, as she placed her silver dagger and bowl upon the wooden kitchen table. I fidget with the ruby charm hanging from my neck, I obey silently and turn to leave. A shaky breath leaves my mouth as I walk out of the kitchen, my mother is taking her hatred for Master Gravedon too far. I swallow the lump in my throat, my mouth feels awfully dry with fear. I climb up the winding staircase and make my way to my lady Katherine’s room. Slowly I push the big oak door open and peek in, she sits with the young heir in her lap. She’s playing with his tiny chubby hands, “M-My lady, I am here to retrieve Master Gideon for his feeding time.” I stammer. I was appointed as the young master’s wet nurse, his mother, my lady Katherine cannot produce milk from her breasts anymore. My mother had told Master Gravedon of the unfortunate lost of my own child, and how my breasts were still full of milk.
My lady looks at me and smiles her contagious grin, I couldn’t help but return it. “You may take him, Alica, do be careful with him though. He appears to be gaining his teeth.” She says as I walk in to take young Gideon from her. The baby twists my loose auburn hair into his tiny fists and pulls, I just smile and nuzzle my cheek against his. Taking care of him fills the hole of not having my own little baby in my life, but I am about to lose my baby again. I hold young Gideon close to my chest as I carry him down to the kitchen, unsuspected tears spring into my eyes. I blink them away before I return to my mother. “I-I’ve returned mother,” I mutter. She turns and smiles at me, but the smile is not warm and welcoming, no it was cold and deceiving. “Place him on the table Alica, hold him tight don’t let him move a muscle.” She says as I lay my young master down on the cold wood. He whines as I hold his little body down, my tears return, the slip from my eyes before I can blink them away.
“Stop your sniveling! This man must pay! He had cast you out like you were nothing, you are his child too!” She snapped. My head drops, she had told me about her affair with Master Gravedon, how I was the product of it and how he didn’t want me. Honestly, I don’t believe my mother one bit, I do not believe that Master Gravedon is my father, we do not share any similarities. Gideon’s sharp cry shocked me out of my trance, I blink and looks down. Blood covers his little body, “M-Mother no! Stop!” I yell as I release him. His blood was on my hands, my mother used the silver bowl to catch the now still baby’s blood. I raise my shaking hands to my mouth, tears slip down my cheeks. “Y-You killed him!” I yell. My mother slaps her hand over my mouth, her piercing blue eyes slice into my very soul.
“Once I complete the ritual, I want you to drink his blood.” She whispered. Tears fall from my eyes as I shake my head no, my mother digs her nails into my flesh and grits her teeth angrily. “You will do as I say! If you drink his blood, you’ll finally get what you deserve!”
I feel dizzy, I cannot tell if I had agreed to do my mother’s bidding. A bitter taste ran down my throat, everything had gone in slow motion. My mother leaving, my lady walking in and screaming, and then me being taken away for a murder I didn’t commit. The marshall had me locked away in the Salem steeple, iron shackles cut into my wrists and ankles. I don’t know how long I was in that awful place, it felt like an eternity. I grip my ruby amulet and say a silent prayer, “Miss Paine? I’m reverend Alistair Crow, are you awake?” A gentle old voice called from behind the wooden door. I force myself up and limp over to the door, “Y-Yes! I-I’m awake! Am I allowed to go free?” My voice startles me for a moment, it doesn’t sound like me. It’s raw and raspy due to my screaming. A sigh sounds from the other side of the door, “My dear...you are being accused of witchcraft and murder, you’re not going to be set free.”
My heart drops, my eyes burn, but my tears do not fall because I have no more to shed. “I-I haven’t done anything...my mother did it I swear to our almighty God Reverend!” I yell as I reach to touch the door. I wince and pull back when the iron cuffs bite into my raw skin.
“Your mother was nowhere to be seen when you were found with young Gideon Gravedon’s body Alica. You killed him and drank his blood for some satanic ritual. Give yourself over to God child, let him lead you to light!” The Reverend’s words cut into me like a sharp knife. My head falls, a soft whimper passes through my chapped lips. “Reverend...If I cannot be set free...then please do one thing for me.” I say softly. A shuffle behind the door startles me for a moment, the loud click of the doors latch causes me to jump. Slowly the door creaks open, Reverend Crow steps in. His wide-brimmed hat almost covers his whole face, his black robe reaches to the floor. He glances up at me with cold but gentle brown eyes, “Yes, what is it, child?” I swallow the lump in my throat, my mouth is sticky with fear and guilt. With shaky hands, I unclasp the silver chain that holds my ruby amulet around my neck and hand it over to the priest. With a pained smile, I say quietly, “P-Please return that to my lady Katherine...it is not mine to keep fore she had given it to me for taking care of her son, I do not deserve it anymore for I have failed her.”
The confused reverend takes the necklace from my shaking pale hand, “Is this all that you wish for me to do?” He asks. I drop my hand to my side and looks down at my dirty feet, I suck in a deep breath. “I-If they wish to kill me like a witch...t-then please do not let them burn me. I-I wish to be hanged.” I whisper. I glance up at him briefly to see him nod, he turns to leave. He looks back at me over his shoulder, “May God have mercy on your soul.”
It felt like an eternity waiting for my execution, each day that passed I grew more anxious and scared. I had finally managed to doze off when the door to the steeple slammed open. My eyes flew open, fear shot down my spine when I saw the marshall and his officers in the doorway. “It’s time witch.”
I stand on the perch with my head down, the rope irritates my neck and wrists. “Alica Paine, you were charged with the murder of Gideon Gravedon, age six months, and for the witchcraft against your master. By the order of Judge Calter, you are sentenced to death by hanging.” The Marshall spoke loud enough for everyone around me to hear. Finally, tears fell from my eyes, they fell to the ground below me. “Do you have any last words witch?” He asks. I force myself to look up at him, my bottom lip wobbles. “I-I’m sorry that I could not protect my second baby from death’s cold hand, a-and I am sorry for what I am.” My voice was hoarse and raw. No one cared about my words, they only glared and threw hateful words in my direction. With a throat cut motion from the Marshall, the perch holding me up suddenly left my feet.