Chapter 1

Written by: Suraya Dewing

Mary gripped the leather harnesses and unclipped them. The horses whinnied and the whites of their eyes rolled wildly as they clambered up-right. Their shod hooves clattered on the cobblestones.

The carriage lay on its side with the wheels turning. 

As the carriage rolled, the door had caught on the cobblestones and smashed, flinging bits of gold foil over the filthy road. The road clearers who had gathered in readiness for the royal procession had stopped and held their brooms up as if they were crutches. The young woman had stumbled, righted herself and run down Regent’s Close. Mary was just in time to see the flick of the young woman’s dress as she disappeared.

Mary calmed the horses by issuing a soft, soothing click of her tongue.

“Hey, you!” The angry voice cut through the air and Mary’s heart started to pound. “What have you  done to our carriage?”

At the sound the horses became agitated once more. They stamped their hooves and tugged on the reins. The familiar stench from the Loch drifted up from below Castle Rock and anger surged through her. How dare the man coming towards her bellow like that? She put her hands on her hips and jutted out her chin. 

A man in all his military finery, white trousers, tall black boots and red coat was storming toward her. As he drew nearer she could see he was shaking with rage. The horses began to fidget, tugging on the reins and rearing. 

She shoved the reins into the soldier’s hands before he could say anything and ran after the girl, sure she would never find her.

When she got to Regent’s Close she could see no sign of the young woman. She ran down towards the Loch, the layers of her underskirts and long white servant girl’s skirt brushed through the grime and flicked dirt up onto the already muddy hem.

Everyone had stopped preparing for the market and joined the man whose stall was now shattered with all its produce scattered everywhere. They stared at the bad tempered soldier who held the reins of the horses and he back at them.

Mary ran down Regent’s Close past the cluttered houses looking for the girl she had seen running. There was no sign of her until she got to the Loch, where she found the terrified girl huddled amongst the town’s discarded filth and grime. A broken barrel lay on its side and she was trying to hide behind it.

Mary hunkered down beside the frightened girl.

She lifted her huge blue eyes and drew her knees up to her chin. Now that she was closer Mary could see that what the girl wore were not fine clothes but thin cotton, stitched into a maidservant’s dress. 

“Donnae let them find me. I’m nae a witch…” she whimpered. “I’m nae witch.” 

She cast terrified eyes back to the castle on the hill. “The master he say…”