Pretium

Pretium

A Story by Casey Luther
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Goodie White soon realizes that magic has its price.

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Goodie White did as her slave girl instructed and journeyed to the Western Woods. There she built a fire out of sticks and brush and once the flames grew higher she tossed in the rue, the mugwort, and the hemlock watching the herbs smoke upon the pyre. From her apron pocket, she drew her husband’s hunting knife and cut into her palm. Squeezing her fist, she drizzled her blood upon the belching embers. The rising smoke grew darker blocking out the sun and without warning Goodie White found herself in an unfamiliar place where the air ran cold and the woods birthed dead oaks and lifeless limbs. In front of her stood a hooded figure.

“Art thou she?” Goodie White’s fingers fidgeted staining her apron with blood. “Art thou the witch of the wood?”

A pair of glowing eyes shone inside the hood.

“I come seeking help.”

“I know nothing of charity.” The witch whispered.

“I privy thee.”

Goodie White tossed a sack of gold at the witch’s feet. The burlap bag vanished into a cloud then reappeared in the witch’s hands.

“There’s a girl in the village. She fancies my son. I wish her gone.”

“All magic has its price.” The witch warned.

“And I have paid thee thy wages. Go now.”

“There is always a price.”

“He lusts for her. She is but a w***e. I need not a b*****d in her womb. Some repugnant child to steal my husband’s name.”

“Thou art cut from the same cloth as I, Goodie White.”

Goodie White’s lips tremble. The darkest force in the Western Woods knew her name.

“I am nothing like thee.” Goodie White hissed.

“Art thou sure? Evil is not always clothed in darkness. Mark thy white coif and thy shift. Thy white apron now stained. There is darkness there.”

“Speak no longer, specter. Thou hast thy payment. Go. Do my bidding!”

The witch circled her cloak and vanished back into the fire. The overcast gone. The trees alive again. Good Wife White went back into the village knowing not of the serpents writhing in the fire. Serpents forged by her own blood.

The White family was a proud family. Proud, pious, and pretentious, with Goodie White’s crimson locks donning the only lace bonnet in the village. She had but one child, a son, Lemuel, who was not yet wed. Handsome and strong and carrying his father’s name and fortune, every young maid in the village wanted to share his marriage bed but only one maid caught his eye and that was the young and beautiful Elizabeth Owens.

Elizabeth was dark haired and fair skinned and soft-spoken. She came from a long line of midwives and had helped deliver half of the children of the village but Goodie White’s tongue was strong within the township. Whatever she said others believed and all believed that black magic was at work in their little hamlet by the sea. As Elizabeth passed the meeting house, a hand grabbed her and pulled into the shadows. The man kissed her. She pulled back slapping his cheek.

“Hast thou lost thy senses?”

“I have,” Lemuel answered with a boyish grin.

“What if someone sees?”

“So what if they do? Let them look.”

“The world already cries witch. I dare not tempt them to cry harlot, as well.”

“Thou hast bewitched me.”

“Witchery is a hanging error.” Elizabeth softly exclaimed. “Those words are not to be used in jest. The village already questions my midwifery. They whisper of witchcraft.”

“Thoust aide in birthing babes. Who wouldst find fault in thee?”

“Ask the woman thou callest Mother.”

Lemuel’s face turned cold.

“Think not me wicked. I like not to speak ill of thy mother but I knowest not what bitter seed I have planted in her heart for her to hate me so.”

“She dost not hate thee.”

“Her hatred burns like a fire. I can feel it. It burns in the pit of my stomach.”

“I am her only child. She is protective of me.”

“She is protective of thy father’s fortune and his name. I say to thee, I care not for thy property or thy riches. I only yearn for thy heart and that alone.”

“Patience is a virtue, Elizabeth. Show some virtue towards my Mother and I swear to thee she shall see exactly what I see.”

“Pray. What dost thou see?”

Lemuel looked down at her blushing cheeks and her black curls escaping her bonnet.

“The most beautiful girl in the village.”

*****

Whispers of witchcraft caused a great hysteria to rape the land. Every night a house was raided yet no witches could be found.  Eventually, the dark cloud made it to the Owens’ house where the Widow Owens’ only daughter, Elizabeth, was taken into custody after witch hunters found a boiling pot of herbs over the fire and bloody swaddling cloth underneath her bed.

“Art thou a witch?” Asked Reverend Coleman.

“I am not,” Elizabeth answered.

“What of the potion over the fire?”

“Tis not a potion. Tis medicine for Goodie Browne and her unborn child.”

“And the bloody swaddling?”

“I know of not of any swaddling.”

“The one found under thy bed.”

“I know not of any swaddling,” Elizabeth said again.

“Goodie Browne’s child is dead.” Goodie White stood amongst the crowd.

“What say thee?.” Coleman glared.

“Goodie Browne’s child is dead. A bloody swaddling cloth was found was it not? A swaddling cloth which holds a newborn babe.”

“Why dost thou wish to harm the unborn?” Coleman inquired.

“I wish harm on no one. I bear no ill will.”

A storm began to brew. Lightning. Thunder.

“Why dost thou conjure this storm, Elizabeth Owens?”

“I conjure nothing.”

“God condemns all liars. Admit that you are a witch. Admit it!”

“I will not!”

“There’s a mark on her neck. See there.” Goodie White pointed with her slender finger.

The township gasped and awed. Lemuel allowed his mother to conduct her charade.

“What familiar suckles thee?” Coleman demanded an answer.

“I have no familiar. I cast no spells. I know not of a witch!”

Lightning flashed. Thunder cracked. The front doors of the meeting house blew open and in flew a flock of blackbirds. The birds perched on the rafters with their beady eyes gleaming looking down at Reverend Coleman and the terrified congregation.

“Stop thine hex, witch!” Coleman slammed his fist down on his podium.

“If anyone be a witch in this room tis Goodie White.” Elizabeth wept.

Another rumble of thunder and the air became filled with the sound of screams and the echo of a goat’s dying bleat. Goodie White turned to the door seeing the witch standing just outside of the meeting house’s threshold. Her dark cloak flowing. The woods whispered, “All magic has a price.”

“I stand by my word. Mark this!” Goodie White ignored the warning and screamed bitterly at the court. “At dawn, we must rid the world of this darkness. At dawn, we hang the witch!!”

*****

Elizabeth stood upon the gallows as the sun blinded her eyes. Goodie White glared with a murderous stare. Lemuel stood conflicted with a heavy heart and a heavy belly. His guilt like a stone in his stomach.

“I beg thee. I am not a witch or sorceress. I practice no devilment. Save me from this hanging tree!”

“Thou shalt hang for thy crimes if thou dost not confess!” Reverend Coleman said coldly.

“Lemuel.” Elizabeth wept with her tied-up wrists outstretched. “Speak. Speak of what thy knowest is true. Condemn thy mother’s word.”

Feeling the icy stare of his mother, Lemuel said nothing. He looked away.

“What loose spirit has turned thee against me?” Elizabeth asked disdainfully. “I curse thee. I curse thee and thy betrayal.”

“Who else sets a curse but a witch?” Goodie White shouted.

“Mark this. If thou dost take my life thou shalt have blood to drink.”

Elizabeth dropped. The gallows noose tightened around her neck snapping it like a rotten branch.  Her feet dangled above the dying ground. Nothing but the wind and the hanging rope could be heard among the crowd. With a satisfied grin, Goodie took her son by the shoulder and led him back home.

*****

That night, Goodie White, being a good mother,  poured her son a cup to drink and served him a bowl of pottage. Lemuel sat and supped and from his cup he tasted the harsh flavor of iron on his tongue. He opened his mouth to speak. The scarlet drops flowed from his lips like ghastly flowers blooming in the night. One last gargle, he fell dead face down on the table. Goodie White wailed in dismay. Her hands covered in blood. The manor door swung open. Lightning illuminated Goodie White’s tear-stained face. The witch entered. The Good Wife had done her sowing. Now it was it time for the reaping. All magic has its price.

© 2018 Casey Luther


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This is a great twist on a history that cruelly killed so many. I hope you post more of your work here

Posted 1 Year Ago


Casey Luther

1 Year Ago

I'm glad you like it. I've always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials. I don't know why but it.. read more

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Added on December 29, 2018
Last Updated on December 29, 2018
Tags: Salem, Witch Hunt, Witch Trial, 1692

Author

Casey Luther
Casey Luther

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About
I'm an aspiring writer who lives in the world of make believe. I tinker with all pros such as poetry, plays, short stories, and I am currently working on a book. I am working on an English degre.. more..

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