Annora Pascal sat in the sitting room of her lavishly furnished castle, staring at the picture on the coffee table of her late husband, Grant Pascal. She sighed deeply, as she swept a piece of loose auburn hair out of her face. She looked out the big bay window, down onto the serfs working away below in the fields. She also saw a man riding up on a horse, only to be turned away by the doorman.
She figured that it was another man wishing for her hand in marriage, or in other words, wanting to control her land. Well she would never let a man control her land. She was proud of it and it was making her economically stable. So what if the men in the village thought she was wrong to not have a man protecting her, she could protect herself.
She smiled proudly and stood up, her long maroon dress’ hem falling to the ground as she did. She walked over to the door, and walked out into the hallway with maroon draperies all along the walls. Her favorite color was maroon, and shortly after her husband died she had the whole castle refurnished from the ugly puke green that used to adorn it.
She walked to the top of the stairs, but stopped as she heard hushed voices below. She could barely make out what they were saying, but she recognized the voices right away. One voice belonged to the knight Sir Radulfus and the other belonged to one of the serfs that worked in the house.
“I don’t see why she won’t except my protection, she’ll be wiped out in an instant if I don’t help her,” Radulfus whispered.
“Yes sir I agree, but she claims she can protect herself,” the serf said, “Which makes me wonder…”
“Whether she might be a witch or not?” Radulfus whispered even quieter, “I was wondering the same thing.”
“But how do we prove it if she is?”
“If we can catch her doing something out of place we can get rid of her and get a man to be in charge of the manor, because she doesn’t seem to be interested in marriage…”
Annora gasped to herself quietly and rushed down the hall to her sleeping quarters. Was this true? Did they really think her a witch, or, did they just not like her to be in charge of such a large piece of land. She reached her sleeping quarters and collapsed on the peach sheets of her canopy bed.
She heard footsteps come up the steps and she heard them go down the hall to the sitting room. She held her breath as she heard them moving around in the room. She heard the opening of the chest, and moving of furniture, and then suddenly everything went silent. Then she heard laughing, but not laughing at a joke, triumphant laughing.
What could they have found in there that could show that she was a witch? She didn’t know what they found, but it was obviously something. She listened carefully, still lying on her stomach, on the bed; she listened to footsteps traveling back down the staircase.
She scrambled to the window next to her dresser and looked down onto the village where Radulfus and the serf were running. The church was just letting out, and the priest was standing at the door, shaking people’s hands as they left. Radulfus ran up to the priest and handed him something, though Annora didn’t know what because the church was far away. From what she could see, the crowd coming out of the church stopped and looked back at the priest who appeared to be yelling at them.
She got scared, what had Radulfus shown the priest? And why now was the crowd of people running out of the village and up to the castle, led by the priest and Radulfus? She turned away from the window, closing her eyes and breathing quickly.
Her heart thumped in her chest as she sat down on the bed. She heard thumping at the door, she knew the villagers had arrived.
She ran out of her bedroom and into the hallway and looked over the banister at the crowd that was now flooding in the door and starting up the staircase. Radulfus was in the lead holding up a book high, as though it was the Bible. She suddenly realized what it was, her journal. Women didn’t usually read or write, but her mother had taught her at a young age in secret, but that was enough for them to think she was a witch.
Radulfus neared the top of the step, and Annora made to run, but stepped on the edge of her long dress and fell forward. She landed on the floor and bit her tongue as her chin thumped onto the carpet. She tasted blood in her mouth and she spat it out. She felt a hand tighten around her ankle, pulling her backwards towards the top of the steps. She turned around as she was being pulled to see that it was Radulfus. She tried to kick him away, but he was much stronger than her for he was a knight.
“Please Radulfus!” Annora pleaded, “Don’t do this! You know it’s not true!”
“Not true!?” Radulfus laughed maliciously, “I hold the proof in my hand.”
He extended the journal above the banister so that the crowd could see it. They let out a cheer of agreement as Radulfus seized Annora up by the neck of her dress and held her draped over the banister. She winced as blood dribbled from her mouth.
“Is this who we want as our ruler?” Radulfus yelled to the crowd.
“No!” they all exclaimed.
“Should she pay for her sinful practices?”
“Yes!” the crowd exclaimed again.
“What should her punishment be?” Radulfus yelled pulling her up from the banister, still holding the neck of her dress.
“Burn her! Burn her!” they chanted.
Radulfus then started to drag her down the staircase by the neck of her dress so that her legs thumped down the steps behind him. He treated her like a rag doll, like she was worthless, the exact opposite he was taught. He was taught about code of conduct, Chivalry, to respect women, to protect them, but that was all thrown to the wind as he dragged her to the bottom of the steps.
The crowd parted as he dragged her out the big castle door and across the drawbridge, all while she struggled to get out of his grip. He dragged her all the way down to the village square, while the crowd followed like a pack of dogs. He threw her onto the pedestal in the middle of the square. A bunch of peasant men came out of nowhere, carrying a large wooden post. They set the wooden post up behind her and each of them took one end of a long piece of braided rope and tied her tightly to the post.
She struggled to get free, but the more she struggled the tighter the rope dug into the wrists. They tied her feet to the post as children ran up to her and hurled rotten fruit at her. She was quickly covered in rotten food and the flies were attracted to the smell and began to feast on it.
“You ready to watch her burn?!” Radulfus called out as he raised a torch out in front of him.
“Yeah!” they all screamed.
“Does the witch have any last words?” he asked mockingly.
Annora said nothing as she looked down at the wooden pedestal below. Tears fell from her red eyes onto the weather beaten wood and the crowd cheered Radulfus on. He laughed a hideous laugh.
“Well if that’s all then why don’t we get it over with?!”
“Burn her! Burn her! Burn her!” the crowd chanted all while Radulfus inched the torch closer and closer to the wood that the peasants placed around her feet.
The torch finally connected with the wood and the flames leaped from the wood to her dress, burning it away fast. She barely heard the crowd chanting as the roaring flames covered her body, engulfing her in a hellish bonfire. She screamed loudly as her flesh was singed away from the bone, as her organs began to cook inside her. She screamed so loud, that they could even hear her above their chants and the roar of the fire.
She felt like this was hell, that she was in hell, paying for everything she had ever done. But what had she done? Nothing, she had done nothing wrong in her life. So why must she pay? She felt everything drift away as if she was drifting up, up away from everything. Pain still consumed every inch of what was left of her body. Everything went silent as she drifted away, but she kept repeating one thing over and over in her mind or what was left of it: God forgive them.