Feb 25, 2022
A town in the 1700s finds itself having a witch problem. Luckily someone knows what needs to be done with witches!
(I thought this had come out long ago, but somehow I missed posting it!)
Written by Julie Hoverson
Sound and mastering by Aaron Emmanuel
JUDGE (50s) Russell Gold
BAILEY (40s) Barry Howarth
WITCH HUNTER (any) Karim Kronfli
ELIZABETH JAMESON (18) Libby Thomas
MASTER BERNE (30) Michael Hudson
MASTER HILLMAN (30) Alex Gilmour
OLD MAGGIE (70) Elizabeth Price
OLD AGNES (70) Julie Hoverson
MAJOR JANIS TIMMS (30) Devin Nissan
KATE (30) Katy Anderson
PRIEST (40) Owen Curtiss
BORDO, GOAT (any)
Naomi Rose Mock
The Shadow of Ignorance
Old Maggie, who lives by the Fen
Major Janis Timms, Time Traveler
Kate, Priest, and other TOWNSFOLK
SCENE 1 COURT
SOUND CROWD IN LARGE ROOM
BAILEY Oyez, Oyez, this Court will come to order!
JUDGE Are all present who would accuse?
BAILEY Aye, judge!
JUDGE This court is convened in a case of the most severe crime...
MAN IN CROWD Witchcraft!
TOWNSFOLK [general mumbles "curses" "witchcraft" "I always knew about her" "God protect us" "witch!"]
SOUND GAVEL BANGS
JUDGE Call the court, Bailey
BAILEY This tribunal will come to order!
TOWNSFOLK [murmurs subside]
JUDGE Call the accused.
BAILEY Bring in the accused!
SOUND DOOR OPENS, SEVERAL PEOPLE ENTER
KATE [at the back] Witch!
BAILEY Do not think I would hesitate to remove you from the court, Kate Carlin!
KATE [hurried murmur] My apologies, master.
JUDGE Pronounce the bill, Bailey.
BAILEY [reading] Elizabeth Jameson, you stand accused of multiple acts of witchcraft.
ELIZABETH Never did I any such thing!
JUDGE Hold your hexing tongue, woman.
BAILEY [reading] Such acts include the drying up of several of Master Hillman's cows. Is Master Hillman present?
HILLMAN Aye, them cows was grand producers afore she--
BAILEY Reply "Aye," only, master. Should we require testimony, you will be called to witness.
HILLMAN Aye. I be present.
BAILEY [back to reading] Further, accusation has been made that you attempted to seduce master Berne--
ELIZABETH Nay! He is the one made every attempt to importune me!
BERNE You gave me the horn, you cannot deny it!
JUDGE This is not--
ELIZABETH You get the horn all on your own, sir, else why would your wife be abed with your eighth child?
BERNE My lust for you is from the devil.
JUDGE If you please--
ELIZABETH Perhaps you should visit Master Hillman and his cows!
BAILEY Silence in the court. No mouths will speak but my own, unless invited to witness!
SOUND A MOMENT OF SILENCE, A COUGH OR TWO
BAILEY [loud] Good. [to judge] Shall we add inciting congress with animals to the charges against the accused, for her impetuous insult to Master Berne?
JUDGE Think you we need further charges? The evidence is quite damning.
BAILEY [shrug] It was well-witnessed. We may have to address it.
JUDGE Continue with the case as presented.
BAILEY [reading again] You further stand accused of stealing dirt from a consecrated grave after midnight, whistling on a Sunday, and wearing a red hat to church.
ELIZABETH I never stole nothing! I put flowers on me mother's grave, and the only time I had to go there, it had come down dark - but surely could not been as late as midnight! What else am I do to? I work from sun up to sun down to keep body and soul together!
JUDGE Your soul is debatable, were these charges proven true.
ELIZABETH My soul is as pure as any maid's, judge. I am poor and alone, an easy target for the lusts and accusations of others.
BAILEY You are accused by some number of your fellow townsfolk. Do you claim they conspire against you?
ELIZABETH I know naught of conspiracy. I throw myself on the mercy of the great lords gathered here, and say that were I ever to even have a foul and fiendish thought, I banished it with prayers to God, and would never have acted on such, even had I power to do so.
JUDGE Mercy is all very well, but the accusation must be answered. Call the witch finder!
BAILEY [solemnly announcing] Witch Finder! Enter!
SOUND DOOR OPENS, SLOW CONFIDENT STEPS APPROACH
BAILEY You swear upon your immortal soul that you will speak true.
WITCH FINDER I so swear.
JUDGE Most excellent.
BAILEY You are Master Morgenstern, expert at uncovering witches and heretics, are you not?
WITCH FINDER I am. I have personally been party to the execution of over a dozen witches in several counties.
TOWNSFOLK [Murmur of approval]
BAILEY You have said there are certain signs that can reveal a witch, beyond any doubt. Would you enumerate some of these, in brief?
WITCH FINDER I would be honored, masters. First, most witches have some beast - generally of a midnight color - to guide them. They are known to speak to this "familiar", which might even reply, though often in words unheard by any but the witch.
JUDGE Does the accused have such a familiar, Bailey?
ELIZABETH I do not! I barely keep myself fed, let alone a beast!
WITCH FINDER [smooth] Tis not the only sign, merely the most obvious. Witches often have area on the body rendered insensate by their congress with the devil. Patches which cannot feel the prick of a pin.
JUDGE Have you checked the accused for such?
WITCH FINDER I have not yet been given that task.
ELIZABETH I am never a witch! Certes an expert like yourself must see that, my gracious lord!
WITCH FINDER [seemingly sympathetic] Witches may wear any visage, young lady. With such power as they can wield, they may appear as lovely as you.
JUDGE Is there none safe from being a witch?
WITCH FINDER Those who dwell without the company of others, with none to observe any devious activity, are the likeliest culprits.
ELIZABETH I am not alone for a single portion of the day! I toil daily for three different families to earn a shred to eat, and sleep in a pew in the church, where the good father might always watch over me.
WITCH FINDER Hm. May I peruse the charges, Bailey.
BAILEY At your pleasure, Witch Finder.
WITCH FINDER [reads for a minute, grunts, then quietly to judge] May we retire from company for a few minutes, masters? A strong suspicion comes upon me, but is not for the ears of onlookers.
JUDGE [quietly responding] As you wish. [up] Bailey? Announce we shall return shortly.
WITCH FINDER Bring the accused, if you please.
BAILEY [announcing] We must have private counsel. None may leave whilst we are absent.
SOUND MURMURS, FEET, DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES, CUTS OFF MURMURS
SCENE2 SMALLER ROOM
[They speak in whispers unless noted otherwise.]
WITCH FINDER May I perform a test on the accused, sirs, here in your presence?
BAILEY Need you a pin?
WITCH FINDER I have in mind a more serious test.
JUDGE Well enough. What is it?
WITCH FINDER I have a holy relic on my person for just such cases. If she is a witch, she will be unable to even gaze upon it.
BAILEY That would settle all.
WITCH FINDER However...
WITCH FINDER If she can look upon it, but not touch it, she may not be damned herself, but have had dealings with a witch.
WITCH FINDER [ominous] Even the most upright of folk may turn to the devil when desperate. Never think a simple charm or remedy will do them any harm - but evil sneaks in through the slightest of cracks.
BAILEY [clearly guilty] Oh, uh, really?
JUDGE [also shifty] Um, yes, of course.
WITCH FINDER [lighter] Or a curse may be upon her. You say she has no family and no hopes of marrying, due to her extreme poverty?
BAILEY Yes, it's quite tragic.
WITCH FINDER And none ever considered a curse might have placed her in such straits?
JUDGE [astonished] No! Do you think--
WITCH FINDER I must consider everything.
BAILEY What must we do if she is accursed?
WITCH FINDER We must find the witch that laid the curse upon her, and destroy her to undo all her wicked works. Or his. Some of the most diabolical witches I have uncovered have been of the male persuasion.
JUDGE Good god preserve us!
WITCH FINDER First, let us test the accused. If she is the witch, this will all be moot. [up, speaking across the small room] Girl!
ELIZABETH [tearful dignity] I am called Elizabeth Jameson.
WITCH FINDER You claim you are no witch, do you not?
ELIZABETH [a bit confused] I - I mean
aye, I mean ...
[definite] I am no witch, master.
WITCH FINDER Then perhaps you are accursed. Are there any who would do such a thing to you, girl?
ELIZABETH [reluctant] Perhaps master Berne, as I... I struck him when he made unwelcome advances.
WITCH FINDER Many men do not take such a rebuff kindly. Hold this for a moment, if you would.
ELIZABETH This? Certainly. [pain, surprise] Oh!
SOUND SOMETHING CLATTERS TO THE FLOOR
ELIZABETH Your pardon, master! That - that thing! It burned me!
WITCH FINDER [satisfied] I know.
SOUND SNATCHES UP FROM FLOOR
WITCH FINDER See, masters? She is accursed; no witch.
BAILEY How lucky we are you were here!
WITCH FINDER Certes, sirs. Else you might have condemned an innocent. Further, thought yourself safe, while the true miscreant walked unsuspected among you.
BAILEY What is there to do now?
WITCH FINDER [grim] We summon the witch to the court.
BAILEY Will your relic do that?
WITCH FINDER Nay, sir. I must use a trifle of the witch's own power to do it. This must be kept secret between us.
JUDGE What are you saying?
WITCH FINDER I am trained, by the mother holy church, to use some of the devil's own magic against his works, but none must ever know. You must all swear.
JUDGE I would never uncover any such trust placed in me.
BAILEY [hesitant] We will not be called upon to participate, will we?
WITCH FINDER Nay, master, I endanger no soul but my own. I am willing to do that, in service to god and the good people of your town.
BAILEY Well then, I concur.
WITCH FINDER You, girl?
ELIZABETH Were you to remove whatever curse I am under, and free me from this accusation, I would follow you to the ends of the earth!
WITCH FINDER Just swear you will never speak of it.
ELIZABETH My lips will be ever sealed.
WITCH FINDER Good. One further request - if the culprit is uncovered, their property should be forfeit to the crown, but in recompense for the curse this girl has suffered under, I think she should receive some portion in recompense. Do you gentlemen concur?
JUDGE I will make it so. Enough to dower her into a respectable marriage, certainly.
WITCH FINDER That would do well in the eyes of the lord. Now I must lay hands upon you, girl, to summon your tormentor. These good men will witness there is no mishandling.
SCENE 3 COURT ROOM
TOWNSFOLK [restless murmurs]
SOUND DOOR SLAMS OPEN AT THE BACK OF THE ROOM
TOWNSFOLK [GASPS, other exclamations]
TIMMS [very witchy sounding] Who is't that summons me?
TOWNSFOLK [horrified gasps, a few sounds of fainting or small muffled screams]
SOUND NEAR DOOR OPENS, MEN RETURN
WITCH FINDER I do!
TIMMS Who are you to summon such as I to your bidding?
WITCH FINDER I command you, with the power of the church and God behind me!
TIMMS I laugh at your command!
WITCH FINDER Laugh you may, but I shall compel your name from you, crone. Speak!
TIMMS [fighting] I... will... not!
JUDGE Should we not take her? She cannot help but reveal her name in custody!
WITCH FINDER This is merely a manifestation - the witch is here as if in a dream. Else you would surely recognize her voice or visage.
JUDGE [knowingly] Of course!
WITCH FINDER Do not distract me further. [up] Speak witch! Your name - I command it!
TIMMS [fighting] I am... I am... Old Maggie of the fens. You fools never thought twice about coming to me for my remedies, thus I own a morsel of every soul in this chamber!
WITCH FINDER Release them, now, crone! Most especially this girl, Elizabeth!
TIMMS You cannot command me!
WITCH FINDER Everyone! Everyone in this room must pray and refute the devil! Where is the town priest? Ah! Lead the prayer, if you would, sir.
PRIEST Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil
TIMMS [still fighting] You are far too strong! I must release my hold on them! Aaaaaagh!!!!
SOUND WHOOSHING EXIT, DOORS SLAM
WITCH FINDER [exhausted] Come morning, we'll fetch this Maggie--
BAILEY We should go now!
JUDGE Yes! We must brave the darkness to bring justice and security--
PRIEST And release from Satan's grip!
JUDGE --to the town!
TOWNSFOLK [Agreeing noises]
JUDGE The people will not be halted, Witch Finder.
BAILEY Is there great danger if we go by night?
WITCH FINDER [tired] Tis of no matter- A witch may be stronger by night, but this one will be weakened by the confrontation just passed. I will be recovered and ready when folk have fetched torches to light the way.
BAILEY [announcing] Fetch torches and weapons to protect ourselves!
WITCH FINDER [halfheartedly, still tired] Yes, yes weapons. Of course.
ELIZABETH We must destroy the witch to assure the curse is gone forever! I cannot go on, under such a dark cloud!
SCENE 4 COTTAGE IN WOODS
SOUND OUTSIDE - FROGS, NIGHTTIME
SOUND POUNDING ON A WOOD DOOR
MAGGIE [inside] Who is't that comes to me so late?
TIMMS One who would save you, wise woman.
SOUND DOOR OPENS
MAGGIE Save me? From what calamity?
TIMMS The townsfolk. They come to burn you as a witch. Gather anything you wish to keep.
MAGGIE Who art thou?
TIMMS I have a conveyance ready to take you away, what more do you need to know?
MAGGIE May I bring my goat? I cannot abandon her to burn.
TIMMS Your goat is welcome, but time is short. Dress. Tell me what I can gather for you.
MAGGIE A trunk lies under that blanket. I wouldst have it with me, if you can shift it.
SOUND SHUFFLING FEET GOING UP CREAKY STAIRS
MAGGIE [from off] A dream forewarned me of this, after my dear cousin Agnes was drowned at Haddisfield.
TIMMS Agnes. Yes. [Uhn! moving heavy object]
SOUND HEAVY BOX SHIFTED
SOUND DISTINCTLY MODERN HUMMING NOISE, AS OF MACHINERY. WHOOSH OF MOVEMENT.
TIMMS [calling] Your trunk is safe, grandmother! Grab your goat and hurry, I think I hear the rabble approaching!
SOUND MORE SWITCHES, ELECTRONIC NOISE
MAGGIE Come Bordo, my sweet--
MAGGIE Oh! What have you there?
TIMMS A false body for them to burn. They need to see you die, to be content.
MAGGIE How awful people are, that they may need one's help one moment, then turn so cruel and heartless the next.
TIMMS I promise you, times do change. Come now.
SOUND DOOR OPENS, EXIT
SCENE 5 OUTSIDE COTTAGE
MAGGIE My trunk?
TIMMS In my carriage, here.
MAGGIE I see no carriage. 'Tis a small house!
TIMMS [amused] If it helps, I will enter first.
SOUND WHOOSHY DOOR SOUND
TIMMS Come on. Get inside!
MAGGIE Very well.
SOUND FEET, WHOOSHY DOOR CLOSES
SCENE 5 SCI FI SOUNDSCAPE
SOUND SLOW FOOTSTEPS
MAGGIE [awe] It is so large within! How can this be?
TIMMS The door is a just a portal. It can open anywhere. It, and I, are from the future.
MAGGIE But why come for me?
TIMMS Once it was determined that people who were going to die anyway could not hurt the time stream if they were removed, the wiccan council of 2170 decided to save any of the wise women of the past that we could.
MAGGIE Your words mean nothing, I fear.
TIMMS See if this helps.
SOUND ANOTHER DOOR OPENS, SHUFFLING FEET ENTER
MAGGIE [awe!] Agnes? But- but you--
AGNES [happy] Just as with you!
AGNES Quite unnerving, I know Maggie, dear. Sit here with me.
SOUND TIME TRAVEL NOISE [NOT THE TARDIS - LOL]
TIMMS And... We are clear.
MAGGIE My head is a jumble. Where are we? Who is this lady?
AGNES This is Major Timms. She is from a future as far beyond our time as the birth of Jesus was before.
TIMMS Close enough.
AGNES She came here to carry us off, in the very moment of our doom, to bring our knowledge and wisdom to the world of her future. Wisdom appears to be scarce there.
TIMMS Just another stop or two before we return to my time.
SCENE 6 OUTSIDE, MORNING
SOUND CAPSULE APPEARS - SCI FI NOISE
SOUND DOOR WHOOSHES OPEN
TIMMS [looking for someone] Hello?
WITCH FINDER [weary whisper] Here.
TIMMS [clearly knows him] You look tired.
WITCH FINDER Late night bonfires can do that.
TIMMS Good job, if that helps.
WITCH FINDER Thanks. Only three more months of this and I get to go home.
TIMMS Want me to take a message?
WITCH FINDER [shrug] I'll get there about the same time you do. Where you off to next?
TIMMS Somewhere in Africa. Late 1800s.
WITCH FINDER How did we ever get past all this?
TIMMS [noncommittal noise] Mm. Just keep up the good work. OK?
WITCH FINDER You too.
TIMMS [yelling back] And don't catch dysentery!
SOUND LEAVING NOISE SEGUE INTO