WHERE THE WICKED LIVES
I found myself in a new village. Death had run me out of town, and I need a place to rest my head. Maybe I could stay at a nice inn in a peaceful village. It would give me time to contemplate things.
I looked around the village. The town square was bustling with people and children playing with their friends. The market was crowded and men were sparring with partners. Everything seemed so normal. Maybe staying here for a while wouldn’t be a bad idea.
I ignored the feeling of dread that came over me.
“Watch yourself!” a voice yelled.
I glanced up and saw a sword point headed my way. Instinctively I pulled my sword from its sheath and deflected the blow. I must have shocked the poor bloke because he staggered backward.
“What are you doing with a sword?” his sparring partner said.
“Where I used to live, all the women carried a sword or a dagger,” I answered, calmly.
“That’s an outrage!” one of the men shouted.
Apparently, I’ve stumbled into a non-progressive village. I despised the sexist pigs in my very own village. Every woman deserved to defend herself. Then again, maybe it’s best some women don’t carry a sword. I can’t undo what my father taught me.
“They should never let a deranged woman handle a sword,” a woman said.
I must look like a lunatic to them! My red curls look unkempt, and I must look awfully distraught. My emerald green dress that matches my eyes was filthy from travel and sleeping in the dirt. My white skin had blackened with filth. I’m guessing I’m letting my madness show through my eyes.
I guess I was letting the desperation to survive show as well.
“I can explain. I’ve run away from home. It was too dangerous for me to stay there,” I began.
“What’s your name?” a man demanded.
“Destiny McOwens,” I replied.
There was a silence that followed her statement. I saw people exchanging glances. Maybe it was rumored I had died too or had gone missing like my brother, Seth. I suddenly felt self-conscious. Had news reached them about my family?
“You, you’re the one whose whole family got killed!” another woman exclaimed.
“Mira of Avon has been telling us that the McOwens have been plagued!” an attractive young man said.
“Mira is my friend. I have left her in charge of my estate if something should happen to me. I’m afraid my father left it to me, and I don’t know what all it encompasses,” I stated.
Now everyone looked at me in a very confused way. Who doesn’t know what their father’s estate encompasses? What could be so bad that I would have to run away? Am I going to bring the plague to them? Should they welcome me with arms wide open?
“Hi, I’m Samuel,” a guy said.
“Hello,” I said.
“Come, you can stay at my parent’s inn. They won’t mind. I’ll tell them of your distress, and you won’t have to pay anything,” he informed me.
“No, I have money. I want to pay them,” I argued.
He waved away my argument. He led me towards a beautiful stone building. Blood-red roses were planted around the entrance. The red stood out against the grey, like blood on a rock. I had an eerie feeling about this place like I used to get when I would go to Mira’s.
Speaking of her, Mira was in hiding. She was accused of witchcraft, which is such a silly thing. I always thought a real witch would be clever enough to not be captured. They have circumstantial evidence, which is all the lawmen need. Could Samuel’s mom be a witch?
“You look uncomfortable,” Samuel said.
“I just have a bad feeling,” I commented.
This is where my demise would start.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Samuel said.
I chose to believe him, and I should have known to trust my instincts. As we walked in, I looked at the high ceilings and the beautiful woodwork of the lounge area. Lavender and lilies decorated the walls in beautiful and intricate ways. Pieces of art hung on the walls, some by known artist and some by unknown ones. His mother must have an eye for culture, and the feeling she was a witch kept bubbling under the surface.
“Samuel, there you are!” a woman yelled.
I looked at a short woman with blond hair. Her blue eyes reminded me of sapphires and her pale skin looked healthy. Her face was kind, and she had a warm smile. It made me miss my mom. No way had that eerie feeling come from her.
“You’re the young lady that they were telling me about,” she stated.
“I would love to spend a few nights at your inn, it’s beautiful,” I said.
“Of course, dearie, I’ll send a maid up to you to help you dress,” she said.
“What’s your name, might I ask?” I said.
“I am Abigail if you need anything let me know,” she said.
A young lady with black hair and dark eyes came down the stairs. Her eyes said she was unkind, and her body language told the same. Her blue dress swayed as she walked, I couldn’t deny that she looked too beautiful to be considered a changing maid. She looked as if she belonged to nobility. I hope I can help her brighten her day some.
“I have a bath drawn for you already, milady,” she said, coldly.
“Thank you, I’ll be fine from here,” I said.
“No way, milady, someone has to help you untie your corset,” she said.
“Now, I just want to take a bath,” I said.
“Then follow me,” she demanded.
She led me up a spiral staircase and into a room. It was a quaint little space with a comfortable looking bed. A bowl of water with a towel, so that I could clean my face, and a nice changing station sat in one corner. The colors reminded me of fall. It was pleasant.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“I am the Widow Elizabeth,” she said.
My heart lurched. No wonder, her husband must have died in a war. Of course, she must have taken whatever job she could to pay the way for her and her children. I imagine I would look kind of sour too. I reached for her hand.
“Don’t, milady, many know of my burden. I don’t expect compassion from those that haven’t suffered in the way I have,” Elizabeth said.
“I give it to you anyway,” I said.
She nodded and helped me get undressed so that I could take a bath. Once I was left alone I soaked in the tub and thought about my circumstances. Why had fate dealt me such a bad hand? I always had a good life with a family that loved me and a promising marriage proposal. Now all of that was ripped away from me.
Now I have to start all over in a new town, and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to. I might go mad first. I have no friends to confide in or conspire with. I have no family to tell all my burdens to. I am all alone, and that is a sad thought.
I dried off and let Elizabeth help me get a new dress. It was blood red, no doubt picked out by Abigail. She had an eye for colors, even though the red took away from my hair. I pinned my hair up to the side and followed Elizabeth downstairs.
“Well, someone looks a little less deranged,” a young man joked.
One of Samuel’s friends, I thought.
“Yes, it was nice to wash up,” I commented.
“I am George,” he said.
He was muscular and tanned from working in the sun. His hair was brown, and he had freckles on his face. He was handsome, any girl would be lucky to court him. He seemed kind and genuine. I could imagine he was a good friend to have.
“I am Destiny,” I answered.
“I am his brother, Louis,” another man said.
Louis was almost exactly opposite of George. He was more muscular and not nearly as handsome, he looked like a puzzle. His black hair and black eyes sparkled with mischief. He had no freckles on his face, and he looked as if he might think of things as a game. He is the troublemaker of the village, I decided.
“Nice to meet you,” I said.
He grabbed my hand and kissed it.
“The pleasure is all mine,” he said.
I smiled at them both and walked outside. Sunshine always helped make things better. I wanted to look around the village. I walked around the market and town square and made my way to a church. It’d be nice to go inside and pray.
I walked up the stairs and into the church. It was built out of wood and stone. The steeple was so tall it made the church look like it was hundreds of feet tall. I walked in and saw the pews spread out, and on the floor, what was there? Red carpet.
I sat in the first pew and prayed. I prayed for my family’s souls. I prayed that God would show me where to go. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for Seth, and I prayed for the people here.
Someone came in quite frantic.
“What is the matter?” I asked them.
“Widow Elizabeth, she’s dead!” he said.
“How?” I asked
“She drowned in the bathtub, milady,” he replied.
I ran out of the church and back to the inn. People were gathered outside waiting as they brought the body out. It’s a gruesome picture, it really is. People muttering to each other about what happened. They were talking about who was responsible.
“There she is! That’s the witch that killed her!” a man yelled.
They seriously can’t think I had anything to do with this? I’ve been gone for a few hours. Elizabeth was probably found in her own room. They always blame the new person in town. I looked for Samuel.
“What’s this business?” I asked him.
“I don’t know, Destiny, I wouldn’t want to be new in town right now. There were two deaths. Louis was found in his room, with red roses tossed around the room and all over his body. Elizabeth was in your room,” Samuel informed her.
Oh, no. What have I done? Whoever killed my family has found me! Of course, people are going to accuse me! What do I do?
“Samuel, I didn’t do anything. They’re here, they have to be,” I said.
“Who, Destiny?” he asked.
“The ones who killed my family,” I answered, terrified.
Samuel looked around and grabbed my hand and took me in a back entrance. I cried and looked around frantically to see if someone was watching me. Samuel was good and comforted me. I was going to be burned at the stake, I just knew it. That eerie feeling was back more now than ever.
“Where’s George?” I asked.
“He went to meet the girl he’s been courting for a while. I can’t recall her name,” Samuel told me.
“He needs to be sent for,” I said.
“He’ll be back,” he told me.
“Does Elizabeth have children?”
I felt small relief. At least no little ones would suffer from her loss, but the people that loved her would. How could they have found me so quickly? These families had better be ready to go on watch and fight if necessary. I made sure I had my sword.
“Samuel, we want the girl, she’s going to have to go on trial,” a man shouted from the outside.
“She didn’t do anything!” Samuel shouted back.
“Let the law decide that,” a woman called.
They clasped chains on my arms and ankles. They herded me towards the church, sword point against my back. It was very difficult for me to walk with the irons on my feet. I felt a tugging at my waist, and I noticed they had removed my sword. I tried to grab it.
“No weapons for you, witch,” the priest said.
We walked into the church. The judge already donned his white wig and black robes, and he was standing on the podium sneering at me. The priest was on his right-hand side, reading him my charges. Despite the sneer, he looked like a grave man, almost as if he didn’t like the job he had to do. I could only hope he found me innocent.
“Destiny McOwens, you are accused of the murders of Elizabeth, Louis, the King, and Queen. Also, you will be tried for the disappearance of your brother, Seth. Lastly, you are charged with witchcraft. How do you plead?” he asked.
“Innocent,” I said in as bold a voice as I could.
I heard gasps coming from everyone. I looked around the church to see how big of an audience I had. The pews on either side of me were full of the town people. I guess they all want to take part in making sure I am convicted. What grounds could these people possibly have?
“Silence!” the judge said in his booming voice.
A silence fell over the church.
“Now, Ms. McOwens, just tell us what you know,” he said, calmly.
“I came into town when my parents were killed. Samuel offered me stay at his parents’ inn. I met Widow Elizabeth and Louis, and I know that Elizabeth had suffered a great loss. I met Louis and George when I came downstairs,” I recounted.
“Yes, and where did you go?”
“I went and bought apples from the market, and then I came here to pray,”
“Can any of you testify for her?”
No one said a word. The silence made me feel terrified. Could they be so willing to convict someone they don’t know?
“I can,” said Samuel.
“I remember her saying she was going to get some air,” Abigail put in.
“When was this?”
“Near about two hours ago,” Abigail answered.
“How long before you found Elizabeth?”
“A few minutes after she left.”
“What were you doing in Destiny’s room?”
“I needed Elizabeth to help me with a guest. I went looking for her and found her in the bathtub.”
I heard a sob come from my left. I looked at her and tried to hold back tears myself. I forgot they were friends. I wanted to hug the kind woman.
“Who knows about Louis?”
“I found him, sir,” Samuel said.
“Downstairs in his room,”
“Where is his room in relation to Destiny’s?”
“On a different floor,” Samuel answered.
“What was his state?”
“I walked into the room and all I could see or smell at first was roses. I saw Louis laying in his bed. His throat had been slit and he had been gutted.”
“An hour after Destiny left.”
I felt bile rising in my throat. He had spared me those details. Whoever did this was sick. I knew the evidence was stacked against me. I still had a sliver of hope.
“I saw Destiny walking in the town square, and I saw her walk towards the church,” Samuel said.
“I found her in the church,” a young man said.
He was the one that told me about Elizabeth. He was stout and pale. His brown hair looked disheveled, and his brown eyes shone with sorrow.
“Destiny, did you see our young Timothy here?”
“I did. He came running in telling me about Elizabeth.”
“Destiny wouldn’t have done it. Why would she inflict pain on us after suffering herself?” Samuel asked.
“That’s a good question, Samuel. What was the motive is my question?” Abigail offered.
“What purpose do their deaths serve?” I asked.
“How can we be so sure she’s the one who did it?” Timothy asked.
“I know she’s been spilling us her sad story. I’ve heard the rumors that she was a tyrant in hunt of more power. I heard she’d kill you as soon as look at you,” the priest said.
“Did these rumors come from a reliable source?”
“It was her father’s priest!”
“My father’s priest died two years ago,” I snapped.
“Silence! I have a decision to make.”
“What about her muttering incantations here in the church? You know a witch doesn’t pray!” a woman said.
“Of those charges I’m sure she’s innocent.”
“Humph,” said the woman.
It seemed to take an eternity for the judge to make his decision. He had to way all the evidence. The fact that I carried a sword and Louis’ throat was slit is not a good combination. But how could he tie me to Elizabeth’s death? I would have never killed her.
The only person that really believes me is Samuel. He had stood by me throughout the entire trial. Maybe the judge’s verdict won’t change his mind. I could be happy knowing that one person believed in me. Now, I just have to wait and see what happens.
“Guilty,” the judge said, gravely.
Cheers erupted from the townspeople. I sank to my knees and prayed. Please don’t let them kill me. I would rather be thrown in prison. I looked sadly at Samuel.
His face was unreadable. He didn’t look shocked by the outcome, but he didn’t seem overjoyed with it either. He grabbed my arms and started walking back towards the entrance of the church. I reached for Abigail to tell her how sorry I was about Elizabeth, but the men pulled me back. I stopped in the middle of the church to catch my breath, and they pulled me on towards the town square.
I walked out to accept my fate. I went on trial, and I lost. They found me guilty of the murder of Elizabeth and Louis and my family. They even went as far as to say that I was responsible for my brother’s disappearance. I looked around horrified and I saw Mira.
What’s she doing here? I knew that face anywhere as well as her platinum blond hair and her hazel eyes. That wicked smile was new, and George had the same look on his face. Mira’s eyes showed she was remorseful, but the smile remained on her face. I guess she figured I had it coming.
“I find you, Destiny McOwens guilty of murder and sentence you to burn at the stake,” the judge said.
Samuel walked me outside towards the center of town. They had already built a pyre and had rope waiting. Of all the things to have happened, I never expected this. Even Samuel wouldn’t look at me. Then I heard voices.
“I’m glad we killed them, now we can get what we deserve,” a female’s voice said.
“Now we just have to wait. Destiny’s estate is large, considering her father was the King,” the male said.
“I did well to make her be so deranged. It played out perfectly for us,” the woman said.
Mira and George! That’s who those voices belong to! They planned this. Mira wanted to rule, she was never a friend. I looked at Samuel to see if he had heard.
His face had hardened. Pointing the finger at them now was too late. God, please save me from this. They bound me to the post and the preacher said a prayer. They were walking towards me with torches.
I cried and begged for them to listen to me. I saw Abigail and she had a wicked look on her face too. Was she in on it? She saw the look on my face and nodded. Samuel looked shocked.
“Wait! My own mother has just admitted to the crime, and earlier I heard George and Mira saying they had done it too!” Samuel shouted.
I felt my heart swell. He was defending me. I thought I would be alone. I thought he would let me burn. I didn’t think he would believe what he heard.
“It’s too late for the girl, Samuel,” the priest said.
“She’s innocent,” Samuel argued.
“She is not,” the priest said.
Next thing I knew the torches were being tossed onto the pyre. I felt the smoke take over my lungs, and my vision went hazy. I watched, blurrily, as they beat Samuel. They accused him of being in cahoots with me and being enchanted. They bound him and threw him on the pyre with me.
What would you sacrifice to gain power? Would it be your family? What about your friend? Would you even go as far as to sell your soul for a crown? Is power really worth losing everything that matters the most?
Death couldn’t come fast enough. I should have known when I put on this dress and all the red I was seeing. This is a place where they put the innocent to death, and let the wicked live their lives. They sealed their targets with blood-red roses, blood-red dresses, or blood-red carpets. I was marked in more ways than one.