The One and Only

    He crept out of the house as not to disturb his wife and kids. He was going to get away with this. Reaching the door, he slowly opened it and snuck out, hoping no one awakened to the sound. Once out, he quietly closed to door back and began sneaking around the village streets. Now to find Jacquelyn, he thought.

 

   Long after the sun had set below the horizon, Andrew completed the work he needed to get done on the field that day. It was harvest season, meaning he worked long and grueling days trying to get all the crops in before winter settled in. He was crossing his field to the house his father had built and now where he and his 8-month pregnant wife, Victoria, lived when he heard the sound footsteps. He looked over and by the moonlight, he could barely make out who they were. “Tristan,” Andrew whispered, “and Jacquelyn?” They froze, staring at Andrew with a fearful gaze, then Jacquelyn grabbed Tristan arm and they darted around the building. Fool, Andrew thought and continued into his house, stoked up the fire, kissed his wife and got to sleep.

    The next morning, he woke to the increasing amount and volume of voices gathering someone outside. He got up and went out to see what all the fuss was about, and as soon as he opened his door, he saw it. Tristan’s head was stuck on top of a pool not twenty feet from his house. Body parts lay everywhere, some looking like they had been… crewed? His face went pale. Who could have done this? he thought, and immediately had the answer, Jacquelyn. He ran back into his house and said to his wife, “Tristan been killed, right outside. It looks like parts of him were… eaten.”

    “Eaten?” Victoria asked fearfully. “A witch, here?”

    A booming voice came from outside, “Everyone calm done!” It was the steward of the realm, Henry, or Lord Henry as he insisted. “My personal guard has examined the sense. This is an act of witchcraft.” The townspeople gasped in unison, some saying, “A witch, here?” and the like. “My guard will get to the bottom of this, or my name isn’t Lord Henry.” For the first time, Andrew noticed Jacquelyn standing next to Henry. She has him in her clutches.

    Andrew turned back to Victoria, who was still struggling to get up, and said, “I know who did it.”

    “How do you know?” Victoria asked, not believing him.

    “I saw Jacquelyn walking with him last night. They seemed shocked to see me.”

    Victoria’s eyes grew wide. “You need to tell someone,” she replied. “What about your friend on the council?”

    “Leo?” Andrew asked.

    “Yes him, go now. Tell him what you saw.” Victoria looked into her husband’s eyes. “I’ll be fine. Now go.” And he went.

    The crowd had begun to disperse, and Andrew made his way to Leo’s residence. A few minutes later, he reached his destination. We walked in the door with no regard for politeness. He was greeted by Leo’s wife, “Hello, how are you today?”

    “Troubled,” Andrew replied.

    “Ah,” Leo’s wife said before Andrew could add any more. “Leo is away running an errand in one of the nearby villages for his lordship, Sir Henry.”

    Now fully annoyed and more than a little frustrated, Andrew replied, “What?”

    “He left late yesterday.” Andrew blankly stared at her. “I heard there was a little incident over on your side of town this morning,” she continued. “News travels fast in this village. A little too fast for my taste.”

    Andrew simply  smiled at her and said, “Thank you for your time.” Then he left.

 

    Frustrated, Andrew took a couple of steps away from the door when he heard the town bell ring. That meant there would be a town gathering shortly, and he must attend.

    Andrew made his way to the steward’s manor. He hung out on the back end of the gathering crowd. A few minutes later, the steward appeared, Jacquelyn at his side. “I have discovered the who these witches are!” He announced, “It is Andrew and Victoria. She’s a witch and he’s the necromancer! Do away with her and bring him to me! This village must purge all evil and corruption!”

    Andrew ran as fast as his legs could carry him. The mob followed. He almost made it. He was only fifty feet from the door before they caught him and shoved him to the ground, the dirt and rock diving into the right side of his face. After many kicks to the stomach, someone flattened him on the ground face first and tied his hands behind his back. By this time, the mod had gotten torches and one determined soul threw his at Andrew’s house, lighting it on fire.

 

    It got hot. Victoria was only acutely aware of the increasing light on the opposite side of the house. Then the thick smell of smoke became noticeable. She struggled to get up, as it got harder to breathe. “My child!” she yelled and barely made it to the door before the burning roof caved in on itself and fell right on top of her.

 

    Andrew watched as his whole house went up in flames. “Victoria!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, trying desperately to break free of the bonds his fellow villagers had put him in.

    “To the tree in Lord Henry’s courtyard!” someone shouted, and the crowd cheered. They carried him up the hill to the steward’s manor. There they tied a rope around Andrew’s neck and tossed it over a strong tree branch of the mighty oak in the center of the courtyard. They stood him on a log while four men got on the other end of the rope to hold it in place. From this position, Andrew could see the whole village. The fire they had set at his home had spread to serval of the surrounding houses and was clearly out of the control of the fertile attempts the few villagers that remained were making to stop it.

    “For crimes of witchcraft and necromancy against the Crown,” Henry proclaimed, Jacquelyn grinning at his side, “I hereby sentence you to death.” Henry nodded to the guard standing next nearest the log. Fool, Andrew thought, and Henry’s guard kicked the log out from under his feet.