Her hair was left threaded underneath his finger-nails.
Mud and wetted boots from chasing her through the moors, he finally caught up with her, though exhausted, she still put up a fight.
Breathless screams for help did her no good, not out here, where it was too barren, too cold for any human to survive for long, where the heavy fog blanketed the sedge grass and it wilted under its dampness.
Her clothes were tattered, expected, her life lived in the woods at the edge of the moors would be a poor one, but yet she was still pretty. He observed her cream complexion beneath the streaks of mud, her hair though matted a rich red and her lips though dried from the winter winds, voluptuous.
This job was not to his liking, it was dangerous, but it paid a gold florin and when instructed by the council, he did not hesitate to find the ones they sought.
There were other members of family, pacing the small room into which they were thrown, a bucket of ice cold water supped occasionally by the rats and a piece of mouldy bread, thrown in to stave their hunger, not that it was cared for if they lived, for they were to die.
She was the fourth, she was Alison, daughter of Elizabeth Device.
Cattle had been dropping of illness for weeks, winter crops had not flourished and the child not meeting her thirteenth year struck with a terrible fever, died in an agony that lasted for eight days, her stomach bloated, her face contorted from the pain that consumed her young body.
The voices in the village, mumbled, they, the outcasts were the cause, they were witches. Outcasts brought upon them by the people of the village. They had travelled a long distance, their appearance not met kindly by others. At times they would beg for food and were told there was nothing for them to eat, no need for them to be there and they were not wanted. They moved into the woods and lived off the land and what they could steal in the dead of night to survive.
He grabbed the rope from his satchel strung across his back and tied her wrists together, she kicked him. He spat at her three times, to ward off her evil, he was in control and would not succumb to her trickery or look directly into her eyes. Binding her wrists tightly, he pulled her behind him, clenching the lucky stone that was hidden on his leather necklet.
Alison, screamed for him to set her free, she begged and cried with such conviction of her innocence, that he was almost persuaded to feel kindness for her, but he would not falter, this was merely a trick, sorcery and he would have no party to it. He held his tongue.
They reached the village, crowds started to mingle as they watched him bring her in. Her feet now bloodied, her skirts ripped and muddied. Her legs weary made her falter now and then but she picked herself up and walked, silently behind her captor.
Voices started calling out, taunts of the scared. Bread was thrown and a potato hit the side of neck, they laughed as they watched her wince and close her eyes to the pain.
“Death to the witch”, they began chanting.
“Burn her at the stake”, yelled another.
“Aye kill them all, they have done this to our crops and our cattle, they killed Katherine Maloney”, one yelled at the back of the excited, angry crowd.
Her family was dragged out one by one from the cell, three in total, her mother Elizabeth, her brother James and sister Margaret. Alison was the fourth.
Alison locked onto the tear filled, frightened eyes of her mother and siblings and shook her head in silence, nothing would save them, no one would listen or believe. They had committed no crime, nor practiced sorcery, but lived a secluded life out of necessity, but the village thought otherwise.
They practiced their witchery in the woods, these were the ones chosen by the people.
In the courtyard of the village, 4 large timber posts were dug deep into the ground, hay, torn up muslin and kindling were piled high around the bases.
Four large black crows circled overhead….