HOES 12-12: Innocence
Seimunda watched the world turn around her.
The impact was harder than expected so she missed the exact moment the water closed around her. Instinct clamped her jaw closed.
Her eyes opened on waving pondweed and a startled trout. She had always had the knack of tickling fish and it looked like it would make a good meal; it was a shame her hands were bound.
The day had started so well. The blossom had come out on the green. She had found a clump of merricks that would have gone well with the fish.
Then lies ruined it.
* * *
Seimunda reminded Gammer again that the rub was for external use. After showing him out she latched the door and collapsed into a chair. The dandelion rub would help him stay mobile day-to-day but periodically he needed the kinks working out of his back which was always tiring. He had always been kind though so she didn't begrudge the effort. She should go gathering before dark set in. Maybe a short sit down and a tisane would perk her up.
Something struck the door hard, shattering the latch.
The remains of the door fell inward. A hulking figure filled the doorway. Stepping forward it raised its hammer again.
"This is cold iron, harlot. You'll not use your wiles on me!" Ethric Smith surged forward and grabbed her neck with his free hand. Despite her lack of struggle he squeezed hard enough to bring spots as he pulled her from her chair. She desperately tried to keep up as he backed out the door, his bulk knocking bunches of herbs from the ceiling and sweeping a pot from the table.
Standing outside her hut were Edric's wife Frowin, his sister Perdis Wheeler, and her husband Torben. Torben looked slightly shocked at the violence but the women bore identical looks of sharp pleasure.
* * *
She could feel herself starting to drift. The current was pulling her down and along.
She needed to keep calm. Panicking would just use up her time. They would pull her out again. Eventually.
* * *
"...And my Oswik died the night later."
Seimunda tried to avoid snorting as another wife giving finished her tale of evil magic leading a virtuous husband astray. Never mind that Oswik smelled of the pig shit he shovelled everyday. And never mind that she had come to Seimunda asking for a potion to make him last longer. And most of all never mind that the one time Oswik had come calling Seimunda had chased him and his grasping ways out with a skillet. This was her chance to get revenge for Seimunda looking young and pretty so Seimunda must have wanted him so badly she called on evil magic.
"He... he fell from the tree outside the chapel," said Father Grevil, "I do not think our Lord would let magic work on holy ground. It was an accident I am sure."
"You're to look after our souls Father, so 'tis right as you might see the good in people," replied Ethric, "But you ain't listening to t'evidence. 'Tis clear she uses subtle wiles such as a holy man wouldn't understand."
Subtle wiles? So subtle she was unaware of them herself. And as for a holy man not recognising wiles, Grevil was the first one who had not tried his own wiles at the first chance.
"So you've heard evidence. But as Father Grevil do say they could all just of been ill luck. Afore we burns her as evil there should be a testing so none ask as was right." Ethric pointed at the millpond. "'Tis known water being pure will turn from evil. If'n she floats then 'tis clear she ain't what she claims."
What she claimed? To claim she would need to speak. But Ethric had kept her gagged all afternoon to prevent her using her wiles. If it weren't for Grevil she did not think anyone would have suggested she might not be guilty. She suspected that they would not have bothered with even this much of a trial if they did not fear the Baron calling her death murder.
* * *
A trickle of bubbles swam past her eyes and she realised her mouth had opened.
The mill wheel brushed her ankle yanking her deeper before casting her off. As the bottom rose up to meet her the last few bubbles slipped from her mouth. Following nature and not superstition the water was more than willing to take their place.
She felt the pressure of the wheel leave but the darkness rose faster and her thoughts flowed out.
* * *
Her lungs ached as air forced its way back in. Once she was able she held her breath and listened.
Only the sound of wind. She lay on a hard rough surface. Opening her eyes she saw cloth and a gentle flicker. Rough linen. She was laid out for burial. She let one arm drop off the bier and waited.
When no one reacted again she reached up and folded off her. Sitting she confirmed she was in the church with a single candle for company. Dropping silently to the floor she padded over to the door and peered out. The village lay in darkness. Creeping out she moved from tree to tree, gathering blossom.
After she had filled her arms she returned to the bier and piled it in a long heap. With the shroud replaced it looked like a body. That should give them pause when they came back. They would certainly remember all the help she had given; help that was just mundane herb lore. Maybe they would even start listening to Grevil.
So many villages over so many years and so many bitter people ready to assume she used magic to achieve so many things; but none of them had ever wondered if it was possible to use magic to stop your breathing for just a while.
- 988 words