They crept through the darkness. Following single file, the girls skirted the edge of the clearing creeping silently through the night. They paused there peering through the bushes. The light coming from the center of the field reflected back in each of their eyes.
The men gathered among the weeds were unaware of their audience. They were entirely focused on the task they had in front of them. The punishment of the witch. She had been caught redhanded seducing one of the most powerful men in the town. She had been tried and convicted and now she had been sentenced to burn for her sins.
The girls observed the scene from their hideout. They stood solemn guard. This was a night they knew would change their lives. The two oldest girls exchanged looks. This was it. They nodded to one another before gathering the others close. It was designed to make sure all of them knew exactly what was happening but also they needed to protect them.
The men had been standing in a tight knot but now with the prisoner securely restrained they widened their circle. Flanking to the sides they revealed the large pile of debris she stood upon. The smell of turpentine filled the air. The witches in nearby Salem had been hung but at John Campbell's insistence this particular creature would be burned in order to keep her from reaching out from beyond the grave. He had made a strong case for leaving no trace of her and the evil she had inflicted upon them.
The girls watched in horror as the men regarded the witch. They wanted to run and hide but found themselves frozen in the moment. Again the two oldest crowded the younger ones between them. They could hear the whispers between the men. There was a hate there that they truly couldn't understand. How could they have convicted her without a true trial? How could they be so callous?
"What say you witch? Any last words?" John Campbell commanded the attention of the men.
"What have I to say now? I have told you of my innocence. I have proclaimed to the world what happened but you refuse to know truth when you hear it. I shall die an innocent woman and the blood on your hands will never wash away."
With that she stood tall and looked her accuser directly in the eye. John Campbell walked close leaning in so only she could hear him. The rest of the man found themselves holding their collective breath fearing she would cast a spell on him. "I told you that you would succumb to my power. You fought me and this is your punishment. I will always be the victor, never question me."
He stepped back. She squared her shoulders and tok a deep breath. it came out in a plume of steam in the crisp air. "You have condemned me for a lie. You will know pain. You will know vengeance. Your peace ends now and your lives will shortly follow."
John Campbell regarded her with the same smug look he had given at her trial. It was the first time she felt her heart race. She had accepted that she was going to die. But it was him defeating her that made her so angry. He looked up at her and while keeping her gaze steady, eye contact for eye contact he once again commanded the men around him, "light it."
They charged forward eager to send this demon back to hell. As the kindling scattered about her lit and smoke climbed into the air she looked into the woods. It was then, for the first and last time that she saw the girls. The flames licked up her skirts eating into her flesh. she writhed in agony, screaming. The girls maintained the vigil. It didn't take long for the screams to fall silent again but they would ring in their hearts for eternity.
The men stood for a moment longer making sure that nothing remained of her before extinguishing the last of the flames. They shook hands calmly congratulating themselves on removing the terrible threat from their midst. Now they moved on heading to take care of the last of the concerns from this terrible affair.
In the trees the girls stood helplessly but resiliently waiting for the men to leave. They looked at one another in the moonlight making a vow that the vengeance promised would be delivered. They would keep her promise and they would all pay.