August 17, 1685, Tower of London
“Let me go!” The woman struggled between the two tower guards as they dragged her farther into the damp structure.
“Fighting will do ye no good!”
As they flung Elsbeth into the dark space, she lost her balance and fell to her knees. Her hands scraped the rough rock floor, but not before she felt something soft and warm. It snaked through her fingers, and she shrieked. The men laughed as the well-worn wooden door slammed behind her. Their satisfied sounds trailed off amid the clink of their armor.
The filthy cell, with barely enough room to stand, had held many prisoners before the witch. She peered into the darkness and listened to the moans from tortured souls in neighboring chambers. The sounds were much more bearable than the skittering feet of rodents surrounding Elsbeth.
She pulled her skirts closer, backed into a corner, and sat down. It was not the first time the woman awaited execution. Nearly three hundred years prior, she—along with a handful of others—was captured in a witch hunt. A Papal Inquisition found all of them guilty and sentenced each one to death by hanging. Swinging from that tree for hours, Elsbeth learned the truth of her curse. Death would never come to the witch.
And, what crime landed her in the Tower of London?
Stealing from a nobleman.
Elsbeth had been a bloody fool to believe she would escape without penalty. It mattered not that the baron was nary a staunch supporter of King James. The bloody bastard bellowed as if someone had bludgeoned him. All over a mere pittance. The old bugger could have easily spared the shillings.
But ye did not need them, said the small voice in her head.
Elsbeth ignored her conscience. In her mind, she had done nothing wrong. The man wanted a proper fucking, and she was simply collecting payment. Sadly, he saw the situation differently.
The chattering teeth of the rat were too close for comfort. She flicked her wrist and lit the space with a fireball. Not the wisest of decisions. If she were caught, they would surely burn the witch before the sun rose. For a fleeting moment, Elsbeth wondered if that action would cancel the curse.
But, Elsbeth had no intention of sticking around to find out. In order to escape the tower, she needed eyes outside the chamber. It was common knowledge that there was an unkindness of ravens stationed within the courtyard. They had been rendered flightless but could still prove useful to the witch.
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