Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke. Sadly, I do not own any of these guys.
Windsor, Connecticut – May 25, 1647
The early summer sun had not yet begun to rise above the tree line when Alse Young began preparing for her day's housework. There were loaves of bread to be baked, cows to be milked, and eggs to be collected, and all of this would be done before her husband woke so that he could eat his fill before he went off to the fields. After twenty-two years of marriage, it was a routine she was well acquainted with.
Alse and John had married in 1625, the day after her twenty-fifth birthday. She loved him dearly and nine years later, she had given birth to their daughter Alice. They bought this tiny parcel of land six years ago, longing for a simpler life far from the bustle of Hartford and immediately falling in love with the quiet, misty forests that surrounded the tiny old farmhouse. They moved onto the modest property with the then seven-year-old Alice, and from that day on they lived a relatively secluded life.
John worked out in the fields most days, growing his wheat and rye and barley while Alse and Alice tended to the chickens and cows that would provide them with eggs and milk. This year the market for the crops had been better than usual, and John had even managed to scrounge up enough money for a few hogs. The one they had butchered so far had been fat and meaty, enough to keep them all fed for weeks if the meat was properly preserved. This would be a task for the two women; the preparation of meat, or any food for that matter, was women's work, and so John's only role would be to eat it when it was finished.
Besides her normal household responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning, Alse was also quite gifted in the art of white magic, especially the preparation of medicines used to ease the pain of childbirth. The people of Windsor had come to respect her skills as a healer and a midwife, and she had helped almost all of the women in the small town deliver at least one child over the last six years. Thirteen-year-old Alice had begun assisting her mother in the deliveries two seasons ago, being old enough now to learn the skills of midwifery and help to prepare the herbal medicines she would one day use herself.
After the morning chores were finished and John had departed for the fields, Alse sent her daughter off to tend the animals and ventured into town in hopes of finding one of the travelling merchants. They often carried herbs and spices that were hard to find locally, and after a harsh winter filled with many illnesses followed by a cold spring, her stores of herbal remedies were beginning to run dangerously low. When she reached the main street near the church, she encountered Bridget Townsend, the wife of a local tanner who she had befriended during the first year after she and John moved to Windsor. She waved to the younger woman, and when Bridget noticed her she smiled and waved back, making her way over to Alse with her two-year-old daughter in tow.
"Alse, how nice to see you!" Bridget said with a bright smile, brushing a strand of red-brown hair back where it had come loose from her bonnet. "I haven't seen or heard from you since that last snow we had two months ago."
"Yes, I know, and I apologize for that," Alse answered with a smile of her own. "I've been busy teaching Alice to prepare medicines. She's quite a talent, too; perhaps she'll be better than me with a few more years' experience."
"I doubt that, but it's good to know there's another woman in town with skills to rival yours. I don't know what we should do if anything would ever happen to you."
"I'm flattered, dear. And don't worry, I should be here for a long while yet. John takes very good care of me, after all. He's in the fields even now, planting some of the early summer crop."
Bridget's smile was replaced with a confused purse of her lips. "Is that so? I could have sworn I just spotted John over near the butcher's, but perhaps I was mistaken."
"You must have been. He told me he would be sowing oats all day today."
"Wild oats, perhaps…" Bridget muttered under her breath.
"What did you say?" Alse asked, hoping she had not heard that correctly. "I'm afraid I didn't hear you."
"Oh, I only said that I should talk to my husband about buying some of your crop this year. Our stores are a little low."
"You should indeed. I'm sure John would give you a very fair price this late in the season."
"I certainly hope so. Well, I'd best be off, Alse. I've got to have the house clean before Robert gets home. He loves having a clean house to track mud into!"
She said the last part with a chuckle, and Alse laughed along with her despite the anxious beating of her heart. "Well then, don't let me keep you. Give Robert my regards!"
Bridget nodded and departed for her home, and as soon as she had disappeared around the corner Alse made her way toward the butcher's shop. It was a well-known fact that the town butcher had a pretty young daughter whose moral compass was more than a little skewed, and she often caused trouble for younger men who were easily led astray. That thought sent an icy stab of fear through Alse's heart. Surely John would not be so foolishly tempted? But he had been acting distant lately, and when she had asked why he had simply told her not to worry before leaving whatever room they were in to go off on his own.
Besides which, Alse was not as young as she used to be. She had never been stunning, but she had always been pretty in a simple sort of way, well-dressed without being immodest. At forty-seven years old, though, her beautiful oval-shaped face was beginning to wrinkle, and her raven-colored hair was already thoroughly peppered with streaks of gray. Her hands were weathered from years of housework and scarred from being cut while picking herbs, and she had become a bit plump after the birth of her daughter, losing the slim waist she had always had in her younger years.
Now that she thought about it, a younger woman than she might indeed prove too tempting for greater men than John, especially if it was that little golden-haired tart. She strode toward the shed behind the butcher's house with purpose now, finding the place where the animals' feed was kept and throwing open the door. The sight before her would forever be burned into her mind, almost as if it had been branded there.
Just as she had suspected, John and the butcher's daughter were both inside the shed, naked and tangled around each other in a twisting mass of limbs while they rutted like animals in the straw, sweating and panting and crying out each other's names. When they finally noticed her standing there, both of them froze for an instant, too surprised to speak. Then John jumped up in surprise, pulling himself away from the young woman with a growl while she shrieked and covered as much of herself as she could with handfuls of hay.
Alse stared at her husband, eyes wide in disbelief and heart racing frantically, before she spun on her heel and ran for home, leaving John behind to scramble into his clothes and follow after her.
"It isn't her fault, Alse!" John shouted across the table at his wife. Gone was the tone of love and devotion he had always used when he was with her, the sparkle in his eye that had always been present when they were together. Now he raged like a man possessed, furious at having been caught and not able to understand why his wife was so angry with him.
"Of course it isn't her fault! It's yours as well!" Alse screamed back, standing up and slamming her palms down on the old oak surface. "You are older than I, John, and she is only twenty! You should know better!"
"You had best watch how you talk to me, Alse. I am your husband, and you'd do well to respect me more than that."
"I respect my husband, yes. This man I see before me is little more than a stranger, and an adulterer at that. Neither of those things are deserving of my respect."
"Damn it all, Alse! Can't you see I'm not happy here anymore?"
"Why is that?" Alse asked softly, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes. "What is it about that harlot that makes you happier than I do?"
"She can give me sons!" John spat, and Alse reeled with the force of the insult. It was a sad truth that she had only ever had one child in twenty-two years, though it was not for lack of trying. After having four miscarriages and almost losing Alice during her pregnancy, both of them had decided to be content with having one daughter and raising her as well as they could. They had always wanted a son to inherit their estate should something happen to them, as did every family, but now that she was past the age of childbearing there was no way that that would ever happen.
"It doesn't matter, John," Alse said venomously, her eyes flashing with hurt and anger as she glared at her husband. "Adultery is a sin in the eyes of God, and a shame on your family name. You had best turn yourself in and ask forgiveness from the church, because I certainly can't forgive this. In fact, I've half a mind to turn you in myself."
John's eyes widened and his tone became desperate. "Please Alse, you can't! I'll be thrown out of the town at the very least, and I might even be killed! What would Alice do without her father?"
Alse's eyes softened very slightly, and she sighed before she turned her back on him. "Then find a way to remedy this, John, because I am through with you."
John nodded, reaching out a hand as if to pat her shoulder, and then thought better of it. Alse heard the door slam, and a few moments later she buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
As it turned out, John did find a way to remedy the situation. The very next morning, some of the townsmen arrived at her doorstep, breaking the lock and barging in before Alse and Alice could open it for them. The two women were immediately arrested, their wrists chained together before they were marched out of the house for three miles to the town square.
When they cried out in anger and asked why they were being taken, it was revealed that John had come to the leader of the church the night before, crying and shaking in fear while he told the minister that he had caught both his wife and daughter practicing witchcraft. He claimed that they had attempted to curse him with black magic, bewitching him into committing adultery so that he might be hanged and they could inherit his estate. Alse protested this immediately, but it was useless; all of her medicine-mixing equipment and books of charms and remedies were enough evidence for the townspeople.
At noon on May twenty-sixth, 1647, Alse and Alice Young were led up to the gallows, where they were sentenced to be hanged by the neck until death before the entire town, for the crime of practicing witchcraft. As the wooden crates under her feet were kicked away and the noose tightened around her neck, Alse Young glimpsed her husband and the butcher's daughter standing together in the crowd, watching with only mild interest as she and his child met their deaths. In her final living moments, Alse consulted every black art she had ever learned, drawing strength from one last furious thought…
John Young, you will pay dearly for this.