The people parted and began jeering as a young woman dressed in filthy rags, hiding very little of her nakedness, was brought forth by guards. Her head had been shaved and she was skeletal thin. Her long nose hooked and her chin was pointed. Rotten fruit and vegetables were thrown at her. Children spat on her. A plump woman in the crowd screamed that the vile creature was causing her to itch uncontrollably.
“Burn her!” the crowd cried in agreement.
The condemned woman pursed her lips causing her filthy face to seem all the more despicable and spat back at those who were accusing her. The guards, both young boys in their teens, tied her to the stake. Fire wood was piled up to her waist.
“She corrupted my poor boy!” The plump woman told those around her. Her screeching voice rose above the unrest.
Another woman reached her hand up and cried out, “She sacrificed my child to her blood magic!”
The prisoner let out a peal of wicked laughter, revealing she had several teeth missing from her rotting mouth.
“We really must get out of here! I don’t want Hannah to see this!” Helena protested to the driver.
The driver leaned back and replied. “If you can see somewhere for me to go girl, please be my guest and show me.”
An older man, in the same guard uniform but with golden medals on his chest and fine lace on his shoulders, addressed the crowd. He was someone of high importance judging by the respect and admiration he was shown. He had a thick brown beard. A tall and commanding general of the Navarian Guard. They hushed obediently when he held his hands up signalling that he wanted to speak. He was General Drenisov and had long served in Navaria’s battles. He was now acting as the Minister of Justice by order of Queen Annabelle.
“Rebekka Rarikova, you have been found guilty of witchcraft. The penalty is death by burning. Is there anything you wish to say before sentence is carried out?” asked Drenisov. The people became more impatient and more eager to shed blood. They were salivating in their lust like hounds ready to hunt. The snow was starting to fall again. The sky darkened into a deep inky blue.
A fiendish smile spread across Rebekka’s lips. “I curse you all!” she cried. “It is your children who will suffer!” she continued.
Drenisov shook his head in disapproval. “Rarikova, you are a whore. You are a heretic. You are a witch.” The crowd cheered in support of him.
“That wasn’t what you told me last night when you wanted to fuck me?” Rebekka replied. She showed no fear of death as it leaned in close and whispered in her ear.
Drenisov signalled to the boys to bring their flaming torches. “Hurry up and get it done,” he murmured to the young guards.
Hannah stirred from her slumber whining in pain and crying for Helena. Helena lifted the child, holding her close to her chest. She shielded her eyes and ears from the horror they were about to bear witness to.
“You’re all going to die! I curse you all!” Rebekka cried, her final cackle floated into the air like the smoke. The crowd gasped in horror. Mothers began pushing their children away. The wood surrounding Rebekka’s legs was lit. Flames of punishment erupted. The crowd began to sing as they watched the woman die. Rebekka screamed a high pitched shriek of fear and pain that echoed above their song. The flames licked her legs and lit her clothing. There were large gaps between the screams to allow for heavy coughs as the smoke filled her lungs. It was a long and painful wait for her skin to ignite and for Hell to finally consume her. The smell as Rebekka’s flesh burned was unbearable. It reminded Helena of a time her father had killed their pig and was roasting it for supper. Andrew had fallen asleep drunk and the pig flesh burned to an inedible crisp. Their cottage was thick with a sickly stench.
Hannah shook with fear listening to the screams, the chanting, the singing and the death croak as Rebekka became nothing but charred bones. Helena brought Hannah down into the cart beneath the blanket to soothe her until the crowd began to dispel and the horse had room to move again.
“What a horrid place!” Sofya commented. “What kind of barbarians would do such a thing?”
Helena lowered her voice to a whisper. Hannah had closed her eyes with the intention of falling asleep again. “Things are different here in town. We will just have to get used to it.”
“Get used to public murder?” Sofya gasped. The very idea was unimaginable.
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