Vol. 3 - Wiccan | i

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Nerina—or Marjorie as she now went by found the witch trials disturbing.

She had thought after Eve's death she would have been able to move about freely, but she had been wrong. She had merely swapped fangs for three-pronged pitchforks, hysterical bloodthirsty mobs, fires and the occasional drowning with a beheading here and there for good measure. That was if witch was the decided label ascribed to her. Nerina wondered what they would do with a vampire.

She did her best to blend in—not be different, as different was tied to stakes and burnt to the jeers and applause of women and men who should have been civilized enough to be appalled at the sight. And she was the one they would label a monster.

Different was bad. Different could get a simple farm girl killed after being beaten and spat on by people who were her neighbors. People who had smiled with her for most of her short life. People she knew and would never have expected that kind of treatment from. People she had trusted. They were the real monsters.

Evil was everywhere in the world. It merely took different faces.

Ignorance towards the unknown, fueled by religious radicals drove people to violence out of fear. Instead of watching Eve murder for sport, she was watching humans persecuting and hunting each other down like animals. Death was the only sentence given to those labeled as heretics. Men of the cloth forced their faith down the throats of the heathens. Those who did not swallow had their throat promptly slashed. Others were hung from gallows as examples. Others still were burnt crisp at the stake to the amusement of their fellow humans. She had seen a few drownings. Innocent women bounded and dropped to the bottom of the river weighed down by stones. Yes, there would always be evil in the world as it has many faces and took on many forms.

Nerina had encountered witches and if this poor, pale-skinned girl were a witch, her audience would be the ones croaking frogs or drowning in their own blood. She stammered and was slightly loose in the head but she was hardly a witch. Still, drowning was her sentenced fate. A woman Nerina could only assume was her mother was off to the side held on her knees. Whenever she tried to get to her daughter the man that held her hostage shoved her to the ground. Associating with a witch was also an offense punishable by death.

In the crowd but not a part of it, Nerina stood watching. Humans killing humans was none of her concern, though maybe it should have been. Her own need to hold on to some semblance of normalcy prevented her from interfering. At nights, her guilt haunted her. Still a coward eliminating one fear awoke another. Nerina did not want to be running and hiding anymore.

A small slip of a thing brushed passed her heading for the platform where the bawling girl was tied up over a barrel her tears mixing in with her watery grave. Two men, self-appointed guards to the self-appointed judge and executioner, caught her before she reached the platform.

The girl fought in vain against the restraints of the men as the other fought against the restraints of the thick braided ropes that held her. Her delicate skin rubbed raw and bleeding. The woman on her knees already hysterical became more so when she saw the other girl who came running from the crowd. By the looks of them, they were family. Tonight the woman may lose two people she loved including her own life. It was a cruel thing.

Nerina sighed as she left the scene behind her. It was a morbid thing to watch and her guilt ate at her. To save the woman would be to risk showing what she was. A selfish case of self-preservation. Once a coward.

She felt the slight brush of energy before the air crackled with it. Nerina stopped looking at the faces contorted with contempt towards the woman and young girls. No one else seemed to notice. She spun in a circle examining each face. Someone there was using magic. She could feel the light brush of it tingle against her skin. She looked towards the three females at the front. It could not have been them.

The judge and executioner took his place behind the girl tied on the platform. Holding her head back roughly by her hair he riled up the crowd with words sullied with hate. Nerina moved deeper into the crowd looking for—him. While the others shouted ridicules and cheered for the death of the witch and her accomplices, he was standing calmly in the midst of them. His eyes fixed on the platform. As Nerina moved towards him the closer she got the more her skin tingled. A male witch. She had never seen one before but he was the real deal.

The gurgling and gasping of the girl had Nerina's attention back to the platform. Repeatedly the man pushed her head into the barrel of water and held her there. She fought shaking her head, trying to kick out with her feet. Bounded she could do nothing. Nerina looked from the platform to the man standing in the crowd. He was responsible for the tingling in the air she was sure of it but nothing was happening. Nerina felt her panic tightening her chest. What was he waiting for?

The girl took longer than the others did to drown. No matter how many times the man dunked her or how long she under water she was held, she did not drown. The longer she took to succumb the more the crowd was convinced that she was a witch. Her refusal to die proved her guilt to the people. To the judge and executioner who did his best to get the nasty business done. The crowd started calling for a hanging, for her to be dropped to the bottom of the river. One man beside Nerina went so far as to ask for a beheading. Nerina looked around at him wanting to rip his head off. The man—the witch was saving the girl's life and inciting the hoard at the same time.

Driven by their emotions, the crowd became rowdy at the absence of the finale they had gathered here to see. Debris went hurling towards the platform, profanity sprayed through the air along with whatever the villagers could find to throw to demonstrate their displeasure. Determined to give the crowd what they wanted the judge slash executioner took a knife from the waistband of one of his guards. Nerina looked away as he went back to the little girl. It looked like a beheading was in order. Except instead of the man slicing through the girl's delicate neck he held his head back and sliced through his own.

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