Flash Friday 06/11/2015: Witch Hunt
“Hello, good evening, everyone,” Laura said, closing the door behind her. The oil lanterns flickering on the wooden walls could only just reveal a face under her large hat. “I’m Laura, and I’ve been a witch in hiding for a decade now. It’s lovely to meet you all.”
The inquisitors — all quite strong-looking men with chins that could mine a quarry — stared at her frozen in shock. Finally, the leader — identifiable by the fact he was the biggest — cleared his throat.
“Really? Well, uh. Nice to meet you, Laura. I’m Samson.”
“Oh.” A polite nod. “Very nice to meet you, Samson.”
“Say, uh…when you came in here, we thought you said something, but…I mean, we must have misheard you, because it can’t be true.”
“What? That I’m a witch?”
Everyone took a sharp intake of breath.
“Yes. Right.” Samson rubbed the back of his head. “Uhm. Listen, Laura, how about you come inside and take a seat at the table?”
“Thanks,” Laura said. “Still aching from the broomstick ride here.”
The small table only had two chairs, both taken by Laura and Samson on opposite sides. Samson’s cronies lingered around the table — if not more around Samson’s side, watching Laura with suspicion.
“So, uhm,” Samson began. “First of all, it’s really nice to see you here. I mean, we don’t get many visitors.”
“Not ‘alf,” a voice from the cronies said. “Nobody comes round these parts.”
“Yeah, see? So, I mean, it’s great to have people turning up, showing interest what we do, and all that. Really humbling. Reminds you why you do what you do.”
“That’s very important,” Laura said. “Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning.”
“Right, right. So, uh…do you, perhaps, you know…I mean, not calling you stupid, or anything, but…you know what an ‘inquisition’ is?”
“Well, I mean, I’m not sure if you know much of what we do, but, uh…we essentially do what we call ‘witch hunts’. Going out, finding heresy, strapping it to a stake, that sort of thing.”
“Oh yes, I know,” Laura said. “I’ve been hiding from it for a decade, like I said.”
“Right! Right. You did say, didn’t you? So, technically, if we saw proof that you were a witch, then, well…”
“Proof?” Laura said, tilting her head. “I have proof. Witches have familiars, correct?”
Samson frowned. “Right.”
“So, I’ll show you them.” She placed a hand into her robes, pulling out a black cat. “This here is Toby. He’s very nice, but always steals salmon from the local market. This one is Truffles, very quiet. This one is Sprout, found him in a garden abandoned, very mischievous. And this one is Spiny. He bites other cats a lot, watch for that. So, there you are.”
“I see,” Samson petted one of the cats on the table. “Well, this is very impressive and all, but I don’t think cats alone would prove that you’re a witch, you know?”
“Won’t it? Oh, dear. Alright then, how about this?”
Before Samson realised what was happening, a hand had whipped out of Laura’s robe, flicking at someone behind him. He could only imagine it held a wand, because one of his henchmen had become an unsightly toad sitting on the floor.
“Ah. Well, then.” Samson uncomfortably looked away from the toad. “That proves that. So, let’s get to business. First of all — how long does that last?”
“Good, good. Second of all — I mean, it’s very rare that we actually have a bona fide witch come in here to report herself. We mainly get cases of people owning a broomstick or have a wart on the end of their nose, but nary anything like a curse or a bubbling cauldron. Even after we captured that girl, the one you lot called ‘the chosen witch’–”
“She’s called Mary.”
“–we tried prodding and poking her with sticks, but she didn’t even cast a single spell. Unlike you, who, uh, proved yourself.”
“Did I?” Laura smiled. “That’s nice.”
“Anyway, the good thing about you coming is, what you’ve just done has saved us a witch hunt. You know how much those inquisitions set us back? How much do they set us back, Garry?”
“Twelve gold! That’s twelve gold that could very easily go elsewhere, you know. But, given you’ve saved us the time and the money of hunting you down…I suppose it’s only fair if we let you choose, right?”
“Choose? Choose what?”
“Listen, uh.” Samson wrung his hands. “We can sort you out with a lovely stake. Have it burn quicker so it’s all over faster, top quality stuff. We save those for the nicer witches. Or we could have the ducking stool elsewhere — doesn’t have to be the duckweed-infested pond. Could be a cleaner pool. A nice lake.”
A hand raised from Samson’s crowd. “The river would be nice.”
“Yes! Good idea. We could arrange that for you, if you like.”
Laura nodded. “Thank you, but I only have one request. Do whatever method is best for you, but I want one more look at Mary before I die.”
“You mean the kid?” Samson stood from the table, walking towards the back. His gang followed. “Sure, you can have a look. She hasn’t changed much since you last saw her, though.” He opened a door, revealing a small room. A girl with long black hair sat in the middle, her hands bound behind her, giving Samson a worried look. “I mean, given how much you folk went on about her, I’d had half expected you lot to raid us or something, but–”
Samson had turned to look at Laura. Where there was once a cat, now stood (or in some cases, crouched) a witch, each one of them pointing a wand at the gang. One of them was still mid-bite in another one’s shoulder.
“Sorry,” Laura said, with a smirk. “You were saying about that raid?”