"Bring forth the accused!"
The large, unruly, and unpleasantly pungent crowd parted to allow the cloaked, hooded figure to be dragged, kicking and shouting, up onto the wooden platform. Magistrate Giles, the local wise man, raised a manicured hand to silence the assembled masses, and nodded to the two guards to release their grip on the prisoner. The slight figure shook off the offending hands but otherwise remained still.
"What are the charges?" Giles requested of the crowd.
"SHE'S A WITCH!" several dozen angry voices replied as one.
"I see. How do you know she is a witch?" the learned gentleman queried in his typically condescending manner, which as usual the peasants did not pick up on.
"SHE LOOKS LIKE ONE!" the mob roared in unison.
"I'm not a witch, I'm NOT a witch," the girl insisted, raising obstinate green eyes to the magistrate.
"But you dress like one," he explained gently, and to his ears, very logically. He added a slight smile as one would to a small child or an imbecile.
"THEY dressed me in these clothes," she answered indignantly, picking at the drab brown garment.
"Is this true?" Giles inquired of the crowd, which had gone suspiciously silent. Several men in the front row seemed particularly interested in the condition of their shoes. "IS THIS TRUE?" the wise man repeated with a frustrated sigh, realizing once again that volume seemed the only way to get an answer from these wretched people.
"Well...we did do the cloak," one muttered.
"The cloak?" Giles archly echoed.
"And the pentagram," another admitted gruffly. "But she is a WITCH!"
"A WITCH!!!" they roared, brandishing pitchforks, sharp sticks, and in several instances, clumps of mud.
"She's enchanted all the maidens in the village and now they won't give none of us blokes the time of day!"
Giles raised an eyebrow at the young man, who sneered toothlessly back and wiped his nose on one sleeve of his filth-encrusted tunic.
"Indeed? Anything else?" the wise man asked, rubbing the bridge of his nose and making a mental to note to find another wise person to converse with as soon as humanly possible.
"She turned me into a RAT!" a young woman proclaimed, drawing the startled stares of all. "I got better," she mumbled as an afterthought.
"BURN HER!!!" came the immediate outcry, again silenced by Giles' raised hand.
"There are WAYS of finding out if she is a witch," he explained, speaking as slowly and as patronizingly as possible.
"What do you do with a witch?" he asked, deciding that single syllable words were probably for the best.
"BURN THEM!!!" the mob sang out in glee.
"Ah, but if you set torch to another individual, are they not incinerated as well?" Giles winced, realizing he'd neglected to follow his "short words" rule, and waited patiently for his point to penetrate their tiny brains. Several long minutes passed.
"I forgot 'bout that."
"Now then, how does one make fire?" Giles continued.
"Bang some rocks together!" half the crowd called out.
"Rub some twigs together!" the other half countered, looking askance at the rock-banging contingent.
"Can fire just erupt from within?" the magistrate asked.
"I DON'T RIGHTLY BELIEVE SO!"
"Quite," the wise man concurred. "And yet do not witches seem to control the very element of fire at their evil fingertips?"
Giles smiled proudly as the crowd mumbled amongst themselves, nodding and gazing upon their leader's esteemed visage with suitable admiration.
"BEHOLD!" the magistrate shouted suddenly, grasping the accused's hood and yanking it back. A collective gasp went up over the crowd at the flaming red hair that fell around the girl's shoulders.
"WITCH!!!" they cried out, pushing forward en masse.
"Ah ah ah," Giles chastised. "Cannot the color of clothing be altered by the use of dyes?" Not waiting for them to interrupt, he continued. "And cannot these same dyes be applied to one's hair?"
The mob reluctantly acquiesced, although several couldn't help but wonder how and why their leader knew so much about ladies' hair and fashion. They had a witch to burn, after all, and he was spoiling their fun. All were concentrating so hard on the magistrate's riddles that none noticed the arrival of a fine carriage, pulled by a team of white stallions and attended by six liveried footmen, one of whom jumped off the back of the carriage and opened the door to allow a regally dressed lady to emerge.
"Now then, is there hair elsewhere on the body?"
"My Ralph's ears!"
"Me old granny's toes!"
Giles attempted to still the crowd once again, which continued to shout out a never-ending litany of their own and their relatives' hirsute qualities.
"The BUSH!" a loud, clear voice rose above the din, immediately sending a hush over the throng and drawing the attention of the peasants as well as a shocked Giles. The crowd again parted as the lady approached the raised platform, where the magistrate offered his hand to help her up.
"Who are you who are so wise in the ways of...these particular sorts of things?" he stammered.
"I am Tara, Lady of Lesboland," she answered, grinning slyly at the prisoner, whose green eyes widened in awe. Giles fell to a knee and bowed his head.
"Oh, do get up," Lady Tara insisted impatiently. "I believe you were attempting to make a point?"
"What? Oh, yes...of course...the witch."
Giles turned back to the slack-jawed crowd, who looked at him blankly for a moment before one timid voice spoke up.
"So if...the carpet...matches...the drapes...then...she's a real redhead?"
"Which means?" Giles prodded, pleased and more than a little surprised that the uneducated masses could actually follow a logical scientific argument.
"That she's got fire inside her?" another guessed.
"And therefore...?" Giles could see the wheels turning in dozens of heads before one finally had the nerve to voice:
"Precisely," the magistrate sighed.
"A WITCH!!!" they shouted.
"Oh no you don't," Lady Tara denied with fervor as the man reached for the prisoner. "I'LL do it."
Before any could protest-not that any would have dared-her Royal Ladyship had dragged the redhead to the doorway of the magistrate's cottage and pushed her inside. The door closed firmly behind them, then opened for the blonde's head to emerge.
"This might take a while...feel free to attend to...other matters," and the door once again slammed shut.
Inside the small cottage, the redhead stood with her hands clasped before her and her head bowed in submission before the Lady, who walked slowly around the young woman, trailing a graceful hand over the slim shoulders before stopping in front of the girl.
"What is your name?" Tara asked softly, idly toying with a lock of red hair.
"Willow, My Lady," she replied with a quick curtsey. "Willow of the Sunny Dale."
"That's awfully far from here, Willow," Lady Tara commented.
"I...I ran away from home, My Lady. See, my parents-who never paid me much notice before-decided when I came of age that I needed to be married off, but I didn't like any of the suitors they suggested, or any of the young men of the village, for that matter, but they were quite insistent, even though they knew I wanted to study, but they said girls could not be scholars, which I think is just wrong, so I-"
"Silence," Lady Tara commanded and the redhead's mouth instantly clamped shut. "Do you understand the charges against you?"
"Yes, Lady," Willow replied. "But I didn't do those things they said! Amy turned herself into a rat! And...okay, well, I may have told a few of the local maidens that they could do better than the men in this village, but did you SEE them?"
Tara smiled at the look of disgust of disgust on the girl's face. She coughed quietly to hide her mirth and regain her authoritative stature.
"Be that as it may, you stand accused of witchcraft, and it is my duty to...test you."
"Um...about that," Willow nervously started, but was silenced by a finger to her lips, which she reflexively pursed, planting a brief kiss on the digit.
"We'll just take a quick look, okay?" the blonde soothed. Willow smiled forlornly, and Tara moved to sit in one of the magistrate's armchairs. Once comfortable, she raised an expectant eyebrow at the accused. "Strip, Willow."
The girl blushed to her bright red roots, but immediately complied, untying the cloak from around her shoulders and letting it slide to the floor. Despite her initial embarrassment, she found herself unable to avert her gaze from the intense blue eyes holding her own, and with increasing boldness she slipped out of her shoes, dress, and undergarments, until she stood in all her glory before the blonde.
Lady Tara's eyes at last left Willow's to roam agonizingly slowly down the girl's neck and over her breasts and stomach. Though half the distance of the room stood between them, Willow could feel a prickly heat passing over her skin in the wake of the blonde's appraising stare. When blue eyes at last settled on the spot between the redhead's legs, Tara's mouth twitched into a half grin, while she slowly shook her head from side to side.
"Tsk tsk, Willow. What am I going to do about this?"
Willow fought the urge to cover her shame, but as Tara continued her visual inspection, the redhead got the distinct impression that Her Ladyship was pleased by her appearance. The thought confounded her, and in her muddled musings she almost didn't notice that the blonde was again addressing her.
"Of course, as the so-called 'Learned One' out there explained," she commented with a roll of her eyes, "dyes may be applied. I suppose we'll just have to see if the color remains when...wet. Come here," she beckoned.
Willow's eyes went wide, but she shuffled across the floor at once, intrigued-and more than a little damp already, she realized. She came to a halt in front of the chair, her feet brushing the hem of Lady Tara's dress.
"Climb up," the blonde whispered huskily, patting the high armrests on either side of her.
Willow licked her suddenly parched lips as she registered the desire in Tara's voice. Had she been able to speak, she knew hers would have revealed the same. Grasping the high wooden chair back, she placed one foot on the seat and pulled herself up until she could rest one shin on each padded armrest. She looked down at the blonde, who grinned up at her before reaching between them to run her hands up the length of Willow's torso to knead her breasts. The redhead threw her head back as questing fingers stroked her nipples to attention, then let out a sharp gasp as the blonde pinched the stiff peaks.
Before she could recover from the sensation, Tara's mouth closed around the bundle of nerves between her legs and sucked hard. Willow clutched desperately at the chair back as her hips bucked wildly. Just when she felt her legs begin to give out beneath her, she felt Tara's hands reach under her thighs and firmly grip her backside, partially supporting the redhead's weight on her arms while she continued her ministrations, alternating between long, slow licks and rapid thrusts of her tongue over the redhead's dripping folds and throbbing clit. Willow rocked her hips rhythmically, her mouth falling open to take in shallow gulps of air. She felt her body begin to tense, and looked down through clouded eyes to see twinkling baby blues staring back at her. Lady Tara winked at her, and Willow toppled over the edge, her fingernails scraping the wooden chair, her limbs shuddering through a series of aftershocks.
The blonde eased her down from her perch and cradled the redhead against her, running her hands over the girl's sweat-slicked back and murmuring soothing words in her ear. When Willow had fully recovered, Tara cupped her cheeks with both hands and placed gentle kisses all over her face before capturing her lips in a surprisingly chaste kiss and drawing back to look at her.
"Well, then...shall we see?"
"Oh, Lady Tara," Willow wailed, burying her face back in the blonde's shoulder. "It's no use...I was born this way...I must be a witch...and I do have a fire inside me...I've felt it."
"Shhh," Tara cooed. "It's alright, Willow...I have one too, and there's nothing to be ashamed of."
"You, Lady?" Willow asked in surprise, sniffling away her tears and raising wide eyes at the blonde.
"Mm-hm. What do you say we get out of here and you can come home with me? In my Queendom you can study all you like. Aaand...the seats in my carriage are a lot roomier than this chair," she added with a saucy grin.
"But what about...," Willow tilted her head in the direction of the door.
"Do not fret. I'll take care of them."
The cottage door opened and Lady Tara emerged. She gestured for one of her footman to approach and whispered something in his ear, to which he nodded and roughly-but not too roughly-led the cloaked Willow to the carriage and shoved-or lightly nudged, to any watching extra closely-her inside.
"Lady Tara, were you able to ascertain-"
Tara silenced the verbose magistrate with a wave of her regal hand.
"She is not a witch," she proclaimed, ignoring the muttered disapproval of the mob. "However, I did find her to be quite inclined to naughty behavior. Therefore I believe it would be best if I take her into my custody in order to teach her properly."
"Of course, My Lady," Giles agreed, impressed by the young noblewoman's intelligence and compassion. "I'm sure she will be in the best of hands."
Tara nodded and turned her back to the man. She glided gracefully away from the crowd, a wicked grin spreading over her face as she entered the carriage and spied Willow reclining against one couch.
"Hear that baby? You're in good hands."
Willow laughed and pulled Tara down next to her, whispering in the blonde's ear, "So we've discovered. But I believe you mentioned YOU had a fire inside you, too? Wouldn't you like to know if you're in good hands as well?"
It didn't take long for her to find out. Lady Tara's eyes drifted happily shut and she leaned back against Willow as she felt the redhead pulling up the skirt of her dress.
"Ooh! Willowhand!" she squealed. "Ohhh yes...fire good!"