The Old Woman
Our village was small, compact and close-knitted. Everyone lived in harmony and nothing was ever out of place. We were all happy in our own blissful ignorance and those who weren't never voiced their opinions.
I was never content with the dealings of my village and as I grew older everything altogether stopped making sense. I did ask my parents once, in the privacy of our house. I don't think I've ever seen my mother look as pale as when I had asked her why we believed. My father, however was another story. If my mother was pale, my father was crimson with anger. I had only seen his face morph this way once. He was always careful about his emotions.
Regardless to say, I learned my lesson.
The rain beat heavily down on the house. A dangerous rhythm, a horrific melody. But I knew this was the land my father had worked so hard to build. And this was the house that withstood everything. The Old Woman did say that the Gods protected the house because father was a direct descendant. Funny how I never believed in the Gods. There had never been any reason for me to believe in their existence.
The Old Woman was named Rashi and I made it a point to address her as such, not that we had much occasion for conversation. My parents were the believers, insisting that we stay on the good side. I wasn't one to cower in fear of something that I held no belief in.
However, the Old Woman had always looked upon me with a gleam in her eye. As if waiting for me to luck out on the protection that my family had over me. That's what I feared. I didn't fear the mystical powers that everyone believed she had been bestowed with, but I wasn't stupid to not fear the influence she had over our village.
The sound of the rain, while harsh was a welcome distraction from her thoughts of the day. She had never seen such atrocity in her life, even if she did live her whole life in the village.
“Do you think me mad, insolent people?” Rashi screamed.
The crowd cowered in fear and replied, “No, milady!”
“Then when I tell you that we have a demon in our midst, you will be wise to obey.”
Arya stood still and scanned the murmuring crowd looking for familiar faces. Rashi was talking utter nonsense. Demons did not exist.
“Bring forth the bitch!” She screamed to her hand maidens and Arya quickly stood upon a lone basket to see well.
The air grew colder and the wind fiercer against her skin. Goosebumps appeared under the thick layed of her clothing as she waited for the girl to be brought forward.
“Marjan, of House Merman. Guilty of being Devil’s advocate.” Rashi screamed as the crowd gasped at the sight of Marjan.
Arya’s face contorted with shock and fear as the next words left the Rashi’s mouth, “She shall be stripped and fed to the wolves that protect our lands! A death fitting enough for the Devil himself.” She spat at Marjan’s feet as Marjan whimpered and cried, begged for her life.
“No!” Arya screamed and jumped from the basket, pushing and shoving the crowd in front of her to get to Marjan. The Old Woman sneered at her and scowled at her sight. “Get out of the way! Help her! She’s innocent!”
Gathering her dress in her hand to run faster, Arya shoved forcefully at those who blocked her path. Marjan was innocent. Her own best friend could never be something so idiotic. But the fact that no one was standing up for this kind hearted girl, not even her fiancé who watched from a far corner of the crowd, filled her heart with dread. Tears escaped her eyes at the lack of power she held and at her own desperation to alone save Marjan’s life.
But the Old Woman had already progressed in tearing off Marjan’s clothes and the crowd jeered and catcalled at the sight of her naked body. “And look! She has the mark of the Devil on her skin as well. She is the devil’s bitch!” She pointed to the angry red scar that followed the length of Marjan’s leg. It had appeared on her one night and neither of the girls could explain it.
“Stop! Please! Stop!” Arya screamed to silent ears. The men escaped from the crowd and made their way towards Marjan. Picking her up from the snow covered ground, they groped and carried her towards the edge of the forest, where the wolves were said to feast. Where they were forbidden to go as children.
Marjan’s cries were swallowed by the jeering crowd and Arya found herself at the Old Woman’s side. “Stop them! Please! You know Marjan is innocent! Why are you doing this?” The Old Woman grasped her arm forcefully and pulled her back. A blinding pain went through her arm and Arya cried out in agony. Her arm writhed with a pain so strong that she feared she would pass out any second.
“You would be wise not to anger the Gods.” The Old Woman spat in her face and shoved her at her feet after which everything blacked out.
Silent tears escaped her eyes as she wrapped her arms around her torso to keep herself warm. Nothing could drown out the noise of the crowd in her head or the screams and cries of Marjan. And how she could do nothing, was completely powerless, in saving her.
A loud knock rattled the whole house and for a second Arya thought it was the thunder, but then her mother’s voice traveled to her room, “Milady? What is the matter? Please do come in.”
Arya sat up in her bed and shivered at the next words she heard, “The Gods came to me in a dream.”