Chapter Two ~ Burned at the Stake

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     Gabby raced down the mountain faster than she had ever gone before; forest after  

forest, tree after tree. Gasping for breath and badly scratched up, she flung her arms out  

wildly and grabbed the nearest tree as it raced past her. 

With a pull that felt like her arms were going to be removed from her body, she  

hung on with all her might until she felt her feet hit the ground, then fell face-first into the  

dirt. 

     "Fir tree? Who calls this a fir tree when it doesn't even have any fur", she asked  

testily looking at the redness of her arms. Rolling onto her back and taking in deep gulps  

of air, she stared wide-eyed into the blue sky high above her. "Why are these people after  

me? What did I do? One minute I'm working on my father's farm and the next I'm being  

chased out of the village by townspeople who want to burn me at the stake for being a  

witch.

      "Burn you at the stake!" her brain shouted at her, making her roll over and push  

herself up with shaking arms back to her feet. With her remaining strength she began  

wobbling back down the mountain, searching for anything that could save her. With  

seconds seeming like minutes and minutes seeming like hours, she finally spotted the  

near-hidden entrance to a cave. 

    "Oh!" she cried out in exhaustion, "Maybe I can hide out in there?"  

Although she couldn't see very far, she made her way into the cave as quickly as  

she could, using her hands against the rough wall to guide her into the darkness.  

     "Just far enough to be out of sight and out of smell of the dogs", she told herself.  

     "Uggh! I'm sweating like a pig. I must smell awful! No cave will ever be deep enough to  

hide this stench", she declared right before she tripped over some rocks and fell to her  

knees. 

     "Crawl. Crawl. I'll just keep crawling until I smack my head against the back  

wall. Then I'll be too tired to even care if they find me. Maybe I'll knock myself out and  

never wake up. Let them find me and burn me. The farther I go the colder it gets in here.  

At least I'll be warm again.

     As Gabby crawled on hands and knees through the darkness she remembered the  

news her village had received a few months earlier. A woman named Joan who had been  

burned at the stake in France 25 years ago had now been found innocent of being a witch  

by the Pope himself. But it had been too late. 

     "Well another mistake is about to be made!" Gabby screamed. "Someone meet  

the Pope on his way back to Rome and convince him the Vatican's been moved to  

Romania." Even though her village was miles away from the new capital city of  

Bucuresti that their prince, Vlad Dracula, had just founded, it still gave her a one-in-a- 

bazillion chance of being saved from the deranged psycho mob that was after her.  

     "Burned at the stake?" Gabby trembled at the thought. "No thanks. Not for me.  

Maybe you'll be a hero some day Joan of Arc, but I, uh, I think I'll just try to stay alive  

and be little ol' me", she decided, continuing to see in the dark with her hands and knees  

while landing on one sharp rock after another.  

     "Burned at the stake? Ouch! The fire must have been so big. Ow! So hot. Argh! 

So bright. Youch! I can almost see it and feel it. EEEYOUCH!!!" 

The last rock her knee fell on hurt so bad it made her entire body tense up in pain  

and eyes pop wide open.....Then she saw it. A faint glow up ahead. "A fire?" she faintly  

hoped and began crawling again.  

     "Yes!" She could feel some heat coming from its direction. The closer she got the  

bigger the flame became, and the more heat she felt. She was going to be saved! She was  

going to be alright! She got to her feet and stumbled towards the fire, coming closer and  

closer until finally reaching it and collapsing next to its wonderful warmth.  

     "What do I do now?" Gabby wondered aloud to the fire, exhausted, angry and confused. 

     "You become one of us", she heard the fire answer back.

     "Wha-a-a-t?!?" she stuttered, sitting straight up in terror. 

     "You, become, one of us", a second voice slowly from the flames.

     "Wh-oo...Wh-oo...Who are you??

     "Stop sounding like an owl, Gabby. You know who we are", yet a third voice with  

no mouth sounded. 

     This time there was no mistaking who the voices belonged to. She had heard them  

yesterday, almost 600 years ago, in her classroom, somehow, in a country that hadn't  

even been formed in land that hadn't even been discovered. 

     "Hello cousin", Ruba, Raian and Ramara sang out in unison as they walked  

together into the light of the fire. "Did you enjoy your run?"

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