Having made your name, having started to believe
the tales that swirled around each village
as you entered it, having acquired a dangerous craving
for smoke from the pyres of those you condemned,
you half-listened to stories of one who was different:
greedy for rumours of her beauty; stopping your ears
to whispers that even you could not match her skill.
You sought, found, accused, condemned.
She confessed, crowned your reputation, suffered the penalty.
She was your last witch, and your first woman. Her image
branded your mind with the hiss of a snake.
Now you know: in her prophetic red hair danced demons,
consuming her soul, and yours. Living clothes caressed her
familiars licking and flickering, revealing glimpses
of white limbs; glimpses of breasts from which you longed
for poisonous suck; glimpses of her hot pubic flame.
And you will always see, behind her shattered
porcelain features, her charred skull.
In his eyes, I saw him crying.
In the clink of his jewellery,
I heard him demanding.
In his expensive perfume,
I breathed in his need of me.
At his centre I saw a child
that I could not resist.
He would not be easy to win;
the other way would have been so simple.
No one had ever voiced an accusation,
(no one had ever dared)
and my charm would have done the rest.
He would have left, satisfied of my innocence,
and I would never have seen him again.
My barren womb could not bear
such a separation..
So I used the spell that broke all others,
and reclaimed my sex. He realised too late
he had conquered me not with strength,
but with his weakness;
that I had chosen the future where I burned,
and in which he became mine.
They said he was holy, but the hate in his eyes
didn't have much holiness about it. Nor his cronies,
sneering at the best we offered.
They did their job well, though. Found a sight
more witches than any of us had guessed at.
Everyone was shocked when Susan confessed.
Little Sue, always eager to please.
But the screams when he released her demons.
She must have had a powerful magic locked up in her.
What really surprised us was how easily
he took the redhead. We'd kept a bit
quiet about her. None of us reckoned
even he was her match. And after they'd gone -
well, we didn't want trouble.
But someone must've blabbed.
He was a long time gone; we half-expected
him back in the shape of a toad, but he led her
gently, never taking his eyes, she not resisting.
The interrogation lasted all night,
though she screamed only the once. Next morning
his deputies read the usual confession,
and burned her. We never saw him again.
They say he's lost the power to find witches.
They say he's gone mad.
Course I did. We all did. Perk of the job.
Only those who wanted it, naturally.
But most of them could be persuaded
to beg for it, if you asked nicely.
We'd have been out of a job soon enough
if he'd caught us. But a cunt's a cunt,
whether the rest of it's human or fiend.
None of us got a sniff of that last one, though.
He kept her to himself. All night. God knows what for:
couldn't see anything through that poxy keyhole.
I reckon that time he gave in and had her,
or (this is a good one) she had him.
Bottling it up all those years must have sent
the spunk to his brain, and it drove him mad
when it all rushed out at once. I tell you,
it scared me shitless when he burst through the door,
muttering bollocks, and rode off. We just
got the business over, and got out quick.
A personal bodyguard now. Soft touch.
God knows. Don't want to know. Fuck him.
The candidate for whom I crave your lordship's indulgence to
petition is one -------, sometime witchfinder. He previously
great reputation from the diligence with which he sought to
country of Satanic influence between October 1620 and July
these dates he identified some 320 witches, extracting
297 and supervising the burning thereof. (The remaining 23
died under examination.)
He was subsequently commissioned to undertake a similar
campaign in the
northerly regions of the kingdom, and had, apparently,
already rid the
country of numerous personifications of evil (the exact
unfortunately, not known, due to the confusion attendant upon
premature abandonment of the expedition) It appears that he
village of -------- on 22nd April 1623 and proceeded
his customarily thorough investigations. Having executed some
witches of no more than average malignancy, word came to him
of a woman
who exhibited all the characteristics of a witch possessed by
particularly vicious demons. Despite a deplorable lack of
from the residents of the village (your lordship will
the levy of an additional tithe upon the villagers) he
traced the woman, determined that she was indeed a witch of
terrible potency, tried her, and had her burned. Strangely,
seems to have left the village before the dawn appointed for
execution, leaving word with no one of the reason for this
departure. He was discovered, several days later, wandering
countryside some miles from the village, his senses having
him. He has now been examined by the most prestigious sacred
authorities, all of whom are convinced that there is little
hope for the
recovery of his mind.
He is presently cared for by an order of monks, who are
much comfort for his tormented body and soul as it is capable
receiving. In view of the assiduity of his previous service
present sad condition, I respectfully supplicate your
lordship for an
order of perpetual stay, and an annual pension of fifty
ducats for his
continued care. It is the opinion of those whose duty it is
to tend him
that his condition is deteriorating; he is unlikely to
survive for more
than a twelvemonth. The cost to your lordship is therefore
be excessive, and will be seen as an act typical of
generosity to those faithful and zealous in his service.
If you've any comments to offer, Peter Howard
would be pleased to hear from you.