A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth - Epilogue by Brian Joseph Johns


Epilogue - Wytch Hunt

The Priest sat in his room, a tiny but comfortable lodging housed in the upper floor of the Church he presided over. He was currently seated at his desk peering through a looking glass out into the night sky. He sketched what he observed onto a piece of parchment with a quill and ink, the lakes and craters of the moon. He could only work in short spurts as the moon moved too quickly through the sky to get a good fix on any one part of it. The moon had been particularly bright this night and it had presented the perfect opportunity for him to pursue his hobby. Nobody in his congregation knew about it and he kept it secret from them, as did many in the clergy at that time. Just as many had in other fields in places of the world. 

He knew there were others as himself and that loving the heavens and its creation did not put him at odds with his faith. He would give his drawings to the school administrator and teacher, for whom he had an admiration and attraction. It was strictly against the rules for a man of the cloth to engage in a relationship or marriage. He still spent time with her but he was careful to keep it secret. He had just finished his work sketching what we would call the sea of tranquility and the surrounding features, which were theorized to be dormant volcanoes. He packed up the picture into a folder the tanner had made for him and stepped out of his room and out of the church and into the night.

He was only a twenty minute walk away from the teacher's home and he enjoyed the trip as it gave him a chance to take in the full night sky and air. He began his trek to her house along the horse path unaware that he was being followed. The path meandered through a small patch of forest before clearing into a congregation of wooden buildings. The air was brisk and he felt as if he was being followed. As he neared the halfway point, he stopped when he heard a twig snap behind him. He turned to face the source of the noise.

"Whose feet fall in the night?" he asked calmly.

When the figure stepped out he recognized it as that of Widow Milaise, a lady in her late thirties whom had lost her husband years earlier in a riding accident.

"Father Wilsen, you must help!" she spoke in a panicked hushed tone looking around her carefully to make sure that they both remained unseen.

"How may I be of service to your house M'aam. What ever is wrong?" he asked with a genuine look of concern on his face.

"They, the men of ire are coming to get me! Their plan is to fell me! See my death! They've gone mad!" she spoke again the stress permeating her voice and etching itself into lines in the corners of her eyes.

"Who? Who are coming to get you?" he asked her, offering his hand.

"Us. We have seen her in the midst of her black arts." Two men stepped onto the dirt path from the forest, just slightly out of breath. 

"Widow Milaise here is a Wytch practicing arts in the service of the dark lord his self." The second one spoke, his hand darting out and catching hold of Widow Milaise's hand.

She struggled against him but the man held strong to her.

"She killed her own husband in sacrifice to that the same dark lord. She's a demon's succubus she is, this one." spoke the first in accusation.

"I think that you're getting carried away over the bad yield of your crop this season Nilus. Let's go to the Church and I'll fix you a hot drink and we'll talk this matter to resolve." responded Father Wilsen compassionately.

With that the man holding Widow Milaise revealed a knife that he had been holding in his other hand and drove it into the Widow's chest. She gasped and screamed as Father Wilsen struggled with the other man to retrieve the knife from her wound and assist her. The second man began yelling.

"Murder in the night! Murder in the night! There's been a Murder in the night!" he pulled forth a bell, the one he'd use to signal town events, swinging it clanging and shattering the silence with its staccato.

Father Wilsen retrieved the knife from the Widow's body and tried to revive her with what little knowledge of medicine and the body that he had. He had to get her to the Apothecary if he was going to save her.

A few moments later a troupe of town folk had forged their way from nearby homes to onto the scene.

"Father Wilsen felled us a Wytch! The darkest kind! Widow Milaise had been a succubus for a demon of the dark lord his self! She offered her husband whom she was sworn to cherish and obey to the demons of the depths!" The man with the bell was addressing the crowd as they grew.

"Father Wilsen, this is unheard of and not the practice. We've nought had a Wytch these parts for more than twenty hands." Allen who was a member of the militia and had a little knowledge of law offered his input.

"It was time, I suspected her up to as much. My crops were worst yield to be had as were Harlan's and the Velt's by the same." the first pursuing man chipped in.

"She did for that and a whole other of ills that have our laps to us been given by the wind." told by another town member.

Father Wilsen looked around as he knew what was happening. He'd seen it before when the town had driven out Tobias Mesky. They'd said he had the plague and that he was sleeping with three of the wives' of the townsfolk. The truth was that someone else was sleeping with those women and it was customary in town for them to hang their saddlebags on the least senior or least welcome member of the town, driving them off with that baggage. 

One of those wives had come to confession on Sunday and told the Father in confidence that it was Walker Harlan. He'd fathered five children with other women in town while they were under wedlock to other men. They had loaded up Tobias with their baggage and sent him packing and she'd felt genuinely nothing but sorrow for him. The women would likely have refused had the town been more supportive of their rights, but these times were much different. Few men would cross those bounds, but every once in a while when one did who had protection amongst numbers, others often paid the price. 

Unbeknownst to them Tobias Mesky had died in the wilderness only two months later of exposure and starvation. Now they were washing their hands of anything else they could upon the body of the dead Widow as they had with her dead husband years earlier. It was out of control and far beyond his hands now and the Widow's body was sent to the Apothecary for embalming and preparation. 

As far as the town was concerned he'd felled a Wytch. He'd done battle with the dark lord his self and lived to share forth of his exploits. He never spoke of that night again though his nightmares continued speaking to him. He never spoke to the school administrator after that and eventually stopped his moon and star gazing altogether in place of the bottle.

For the years following those incidents, Wytch hunts had become the means of social laundering for many of the sins of the age from adultery to philandering and the cure for poor crops and bad weather. Some of those who had practiced the craft and had fallen to the path of the hunters, took part in stirring up this hunt as it was their intent to be the sole wielders of this power everywhere.

Many women and men were burned at the stake or submerged to a watery grave as a means of cleansing their spirit of these ills only to be cast with the sins of their murders and buried in for the ages. One such incident saw the early ancestors of a modern practitioner of the craft eradicated in one fell swoop. A mother and father killed before the town with a celebration following the deed. Nelony years later would learn of this upon an investigation into her ancestry as part of a school project more than three hundred and fifty years later.

Many good people had laboured to protect those whom were suspected of wytch sorcery and those whom they suspected would become targets for the next social expulsion of local sins. Many apothecares, doctors and healers had been victimized during the initial onslaught and they were among the first to be protected by the so called wytch allies of life. Later as more understood that there were real wytches whose craft was used to protect others, the too were cared for with great secrecy. They would hide those people, and failing that effort they would try to relocate them to somewhere safe, just as Nelony's one surviving ancestor, a boy had been rescued from the massacre that had seen the his parents murdered. They were able to ship him off through safe passage to Thessel Grove located a hundred miles east.

His first meal upon arrival with his surrogate family was Thanksgiving, and it was much different from the feast that we know today. It was a festival where the entire town gathered and many came from far outside of the town and shared a pool of their food and stock. Settlers from far and wide and the indigenous inhabitants put aside their differences long enough to thank their God(s) (as some of the indigenous people had many) and their land as this was the source of all they had.

It was in this atmosphere that the boy, the last of Nelony's surviving ancestors enjoyed home and hospitality with his surrogate mother and father. Years later he'd marry the most beautiful woman in town (that's what he told his grand kids while in the presence of his wife, who would pinch him playfully in response) and have two children together. Nelony's bumpy history had been kept from her, and when she had found out what had happened, it changed her and her relationship with nature became much stronger and her trust of people would have disappeared if not for Shaela and Mila.

Father Wilsen's memoirs which were buried with his body eighteen years following the night of the Widow's death explained the whole truth about that night. A truth that was buried with his body and remained that way until recent developments saw it unearthed centuries later.

The school administrator never found out the truth and did not attend the Father's funeral when he died though he hand delivered his last picture of the moon to her doorstep days before his death.

It was months after their incursion to the Estate in L'Arbres De Noire that Nelony had received a package in which the contents outlined the events that followed Father Wilsen's death. The truth about Father Wilsen's story and his heroic effort and the selfless efforts of the Wytch Haven and the True were the only things absent in this package. The efforts of many who risked their own safety operating in secrecy in order to preserve life and protect what an emerging people stood for were struck from the account delivered to Nelony. It told of the story of the slaughter of all of Nelony's relatives and the celebration that followed marking the end of the Order Of The Aerth Mother.

Nelony grew bitter and full of ire, and nature followed her in hopes of recovering her before it was too late, but it already was. She drew forth her plans to right this wrong keeping them from her two best friends, Shaela and Mila.

Somewhere distant and in darkness the Power Lord watched as his plans took hold.