Short stories

Dea Ignis – vss

England, circa. 1660 AD

Hundreds gathered in the square, surrounding the pyre, cheering loudly. Two priests stood by the pile of wood, bibles in hands. A woman, young in years was dragged roughly along the ground by half a dozen guards, towards the pyre. She was dressed in a white gown, though muddied and torn; her red hair knotted and littered with leaves and twigs.

With no hint of care or respect, the guards hoisted her upright and lashed her to the stake in the centre. The priests began to read from their texts, reciting Latin passages and phrases in unison. Two more guards approached, each bearing a lit torch, ready to set the tinder aflame.

“You fools!” came a cry from the back of the crowd. “You fools will kill us all!” Heads turned on shoulders and angry murmurs rose as an ageing woman forced her way through the gathering.

“What is the meaning of this, crone?” one of the priests spat. “This woman has been tried as a witch and found guilty of practicing the Dark Arts.”

“But she is no witch,” the old woman stated fearfully, dropping to her knees. “She is so much worse. You of all men should know this.”

“I know all that the Lord has permitted-” the priest shot back as the torches were brought closer to the pyre.

“You must not burn her!” screamed the crone. “For all our sakes!” She looked up from her kneeling position, her eyes locked with those of the accused. The accused smiled back. A wicked, knowing smile. “Her name, Father?”

“Dea Ignis…” replied the priest. “Oh, Lord have mercy,” he muttered, realisation dawning. “Goddess of Fire.”

Without warning the torches were ripped from the guards’ grasp by some unseen force. They landed upon the base of the pyre, the dry timber catching immediately. Flames licked around the base of the stake, rising around the bound woman. And, as they did, she smiled.

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