Misc. Links

  • Highlander
  • The Episodes
  • Disclaimer
  • Immortals List
  • Mortals List
  • Hardcopy

To email the author click on the title.

HFS
We have a total of 23 episodes, and they're all available if you follow the HFS link.

 

 
 

The Heretic

Teaser


Jeanne-Claire Dobbs clutched at the ragged remains of her shift in a futile attempt at modesty. Futile, because the fever-bright eyes of the judge didn't see her, but some mad fantasy of lust and evil.

"Has the prisoner confessed?" the judge asked.

A flush of shame crept up her neck. They had only to show her their instruments to get her to speak, to say whatever it was they wished to hear. A witch's power came from her blood, they told her, and if need be, they would bleed and burn her to remove the threat she posed to the world.

She had hoped for mercy, or leniency, if she confessed. What a fool.

The guard handed over the signed confession. Like most church documents, it was in Latin, which Jeanne-Claire couldn't read. The judge took it, and proceeded to read aloud.

"That the woman Jeanne-Claire Dobbs has confessed to heresy and the practice of witchcraft; the evidence of her crimes is this: that the loathsome vermin of the earth, rats, spiders and insects, do look to her as familiar spirits, and answer her summons. That she bears the Devil's mark upon her flesh where she suckled an imp in place of the child she should have borne, that said mark does not bleed when cut.

"That after two years of lawful marriage, she has borne no child. Through her sorcery, she has caused her husband Charles to forsake his sacred vows, and has ensorcelled a young boy, all in the name of her lord Ashtoreth, a demon of hell..."

The charges rolled on, people she had never met swearing she had caused their injuries, spoiled their food, sickened their animals, or hexed their spouses. Witnesses swore to improbable if not impossible scenarios, claiming Jeanne-Claire's presence and influence.

Jeanne-Claire shut it all out. They said a demon did these things, a demon she served. But she was a woman of faith, a good and loyal servant of the Lord. If a demon walked among them, he did so in the form of Charlotte Stanford. She lifted her head a fraction and scanned the assembly. Her faithless husband and his petite chien were watching, she knew, mock-sorrow and horror on their lying faces. How could such a pair, steeped in the sin of their adultery, stand before the anointed of God and make such claims? And how could the anointed believe?

Until now, Jeanne-Claire had been certain her faith would protect her. The Lord God, after all, looked after His own. Surely she had nothing to fear. Even the Inquisitors had said so. But now, she realized her faith meant nothing.

"You are not God's men!" she cried out, unable to keep silent. "You believe the lies of a whore!"

The guard cuffed her into silence, while the judge ignored her outburst.

"And so this court finds you guilty, and sentences you to death. You will hang by the neck until dead, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Jeanne-Claire spat on the stones. "That for your mercy!"

This earned her a heavier blow from the guard that sent her head ringing. The judge gestured sharply, and they dragged her out to the waiting scaffold.

Neither the verdict nor the sentence had ever been in doubt, she realized in despair. The waiting crowd howled at the sight of her, hurling stones, garbage, and abuse, deterred not at all by the guards and priests with her. Oh, if only she had the power they accused her of! She would summon up a plague wind to make the Black Death seem a summer chill.

They bound her hands behind her back and shoved her up the steps. The crowd's noise faded to a wordless roar, like the ocean's waves. The hangman waited, hood dangling from his hand. Splinters from the rough planks bit into her bare feet, forcing her to hobble forward.

The foul-smelling hood slipped over her head, leaving her in darkness. Desperate, she fumbled for the words to the Act of Contrition, trying to prepare herself. She had only minutes left, now.

{Mon Dieu, je suis regrette...je suis regrette...} She couldn't remember the rest of the words. The noose rasped over her head, scratchy fiber biting into her neck. She sobbed once, and the bottom dropped out of the world.


This place was too cold and damp to be hell, and Heaven surely did not smell of ditch water. Her throat burned, crushed windpipe shifting into something whole. Jeanne-Claire's eyes snapped open. No breath yet, though her lungs strained for air. Her back arched, and her fingers clawed at the mud and water beneath her.

[Thou shall not suffer a witch to live...}

{Suffer...a witch...}

{Suffer, witch. Live.}

And she breathed, drawing in a huge gasp of air as if it were her first ever. This triggered a round of coughing, and she huddled in the ditch until the spasms eased. Shaking with the effort, Jeanne- Claire pushed herself upright. Could the priests have been right? No! She had done none of the things they'd accused her of! But still she had died...and clearly been cast out of Heaven. And even Hell spurned her.

Kneeling in the ditch, under an overcast sky, Jeanne-Claire sobbed.


Tethys stood across from the church, watching. The second hand on her silver pocketwatch swept past the twelve, the minute hand creeping closer.

Almost time.

She returned the watch to her pocket. It clanked against the small glass vial that also rested there. Just three spoonfuls, mixed into the simmering pots of soup and the hot-water urn for tea and coffee. A modern witch's cauldron.

One o'clock.

The church doors suddenly swung open, and a handful of people trickled out. Most were leaning on one another for support as they tried to navigate the stairs. No few were doubled-over in pain.

Right on time.

And then, the sudden pins-and-needles up her spine, tingling at the back of her brain. Tethys tensed, one hand twitched toward her sword. But no-this was a public street. No Immortal would challenge her here. Still, it would be good to know who was around.

A tall man stood at the bottom of the church steps. From here, she could discern only that he had short, dark hair, and he wore dark- colored clothing. No coat, which meant no sword, but he scanned the area with the searching glance of an Immortal seeking another of his kind. He looked in her direction and stilled. Tethys lingered for another moment, then turned on her heel. Let him follow her off Holy Ground if he had the spine.

She hurried down the block, then turned to duck between two shops, following her pre-planned route. Behind her, she heard the screech of tires as the other Immortal dodged out into the traffic to follow her. She paused at the end of the narrow walkway and looked back. He was a solid silhouette above her. She couldn't see him, but he could see her. Let him look.

She dashed out to the corner where one of the local buses was hissing in.

Perfect timing.

She boarded to the sound of sirens in the distance, emergency vehicles racing to aid of the stricken church-goers.

'Opiate of the masses' indeed.


On to Titles | On to next Part | | Back To Front Page |