Echoes From The Past – Episode 17

There was a moment’s shocked silence before reaction set in.

Hector was enraged.

“Witchcraft? Are you out of your senses? Who has accused her? I’ll have his hide!”

Mirin herself had frozen with astonishment and fear. What could she possibly have done to give anyone the impression that she was a witch? Usually witches were old women, losing their wits most of the time, poor souls. But Mirin was not yet nineteen, far too young to be suffering the debilities of old age.

“Come, mistress,” the sheriff’s officer said, reaching forward to take her arm. She instinctively withdrew, and Hector put his body between the man and his daughter. Again the two larger men moved forward.

It might have turned into an unseemly wrangle had it been later in the day, when the Black Cockerel’s customers would have come to Mirin’s defence, but it was morning, and the regulars were at work. Hector and Mirin had been cleaning and cooking, ready for the midday onslaught. Pate Joiner happened to be there, passing the door as a small crowd gathered, but there was little any of them could do against the sheriff’s men.

Then, from the back of the group, pushing his way into the Cockerel, came Thomas Forester, down from the castle on business for his master.

“Is something the matter here, sir?” Thomas addressed the sheriff’s officer politely, but there was a hint of steel in his voice. He could, if he desired, bring the might of the English Army about the heads of these locals. Or at least he could threaten to. He was not absolutely sure that Sir Philip Mowbray, commander of the castle, would get himself involved in the small detail of Stirling life, but he was pretty sure that Guy and Humphrey and others would be happy to mount a rescue attempt.

But then what would he do with Mirin if he rescued her? Stirling was a fine town, but a small one, where most people knew each other. Where would he put her? He could hardly take her to the castle. She would be even more at risk up there.

The officer brought Mirin out into the street.

“This is the sheriff’s business, Englishman,” he said to an angry Thomas. “Nothing to do with the castle. Out of my way, sir.”

The two heavier men pushed Thomas back, making it impossible for him to get anywhere near Mirin. She turned her head towards him with a kind of desperate smile.

“It’s a mistake, Thomas. Do nothing to make things worse. My father will take care of it.”

He struggled, but the two henchmen were too much for him. All he achieved was to assure Mirin that she truly mattered to him. Why else would he stick his neck out like that? These were not men to tangle with. They would break his neck as soon as look at him, if they were somewhere less public.

Hector closed the door of the Cockerel, and made to follow his daughter, but the officer would have none of it.

“Look after your customers. The court will keep you informed. Your daughter will come to no harm this night.”

In that respect, the man was right. Mirin was bundled off towards the prison cells, where she was left with a heel of bread and a jug of ale till the sheriff decided what to do with her. She had many hours to try to work out what on earth had brought her to this pass, and who she could ask to help her. There were no lawyers among the Cockerel’s clientele that she could think of.

Hector left the Cockerel in the hands of a regular customer who helped out occasionally behind the bar, with Etta in the kitchen, and set off to find a lawyer himself, but he was unsuccessful. No-one wanted to deal with witchcraft. If she had stolen a jewel or watered down the wine, someone would have defended her. But witchcraft was different. Witchcraft was dangerous. To everyone.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!