The gallows’ faded wood plans beneath the weight of the two people walking up the steps. The entirety of Oxcreek had turned out for this hanging, already muttering under their breath. The witch had been caught casting a spell over the mines. The sheriff declared it devil magic, and she was jailed, to be hung. A week later, and the day had come.
Cassidy was near the front of the crowd, feeling uneasy. The witch, named Amelia, stared hard out over the crowd. Cassidy could see her honey-amber eyes glinting in the sun from where she stood, and it made her stomach roll. Whispered prayers and curses flit through the crowd as Amelia leered at them. Cassidy rubbed her hands over themselves. She hated hangings, but this - this felt horribly wrong, and she couldn’t place why.
The hangman, a brutish man named Harold Hayes, pulled the witch beneath the noose. Cassidy watched with mounting nausea as Harold slid it around Amelia’s neck and cinched it tight. Taking a step back, he sneered at her.
“You don’t even deserve last words, witch,” Harold spat, the townspeople booing and shouting slur at the witch, “but let’s hear it.”
Cassidy watched in a mix of horror and fascination as Amelia shot Harold a look of pure disgust, and spat at his feet. The crowd was in an uproar almost immediately.
“Kill her already! She doesn’t deserve to speak!”
”Kill the witch!”
The people revelled in Amelia’s impending death, and it made Cassidy sick to her stomach. Harold flashed a wicked smile to his fellows just as Cassidy leapt forward, gun in hand. Neither of them got to Amelia before an explosion of fire cocooned the gallows, sending Harold and Cassidy flying backwards from the charred wood. The rope around Amelia’s neck went slack as the hangman fell over, and she yanked it off with intent, sending a murderous glare towards her would-be murderer.
Harold let out a cough, a strangled noise emitting from him as he grabbed his throat and doubled over. Blood spurt from his mouth and nose, dripping onto the wood through his fingers as he dropped to his knees and keeled over. Dead.
Gasps and screams erupted from the townspeople, backpedaling away from the scene as Cassidy slowly sat up, the blast still burned into her eyelids. Amelia walked down the blackened steps, brushing ash and embers from her body. She stopped beside Cassidy, who was watching her with awe and trepidation.
Those honey-amber eyes looked Cassidy up and down, scrutinizing her carefully, lip slightly curled. When Cassidy didn’t flinch, the witch softened ever so slightly.
“What’s your name?”
Cassidy pulled herself to her feet, the swagger back in her movements as she stared this woman down, brushing her jeans off and matching the intensity of Amelia.
“Cassidy Williams. You’re the witch everyone’s been talking about.”
The dark-haired woman eyed the gunslinger. “And you’re the ex-leader of the Copper Snakes”
They observed one another for a long moment, before Cassidy stuck her hand out. “You need a place to stay, I’ve got a free room available. Just outside of the town, away from the mines.”
Amelia looked at her suspiciously. “If you’re looking for the reward on my head, that’s a shitty plan. I’ll kill you before you can even blink at me the wrong way.”
Cassidy blinked, then chuckled. “I’m not interested in turning you in. Had my fill of the ‘authorities’ around here.”
Amelia looked between Cassidy’s hand and her face, before shaking it slowly.
“Alright, gunslinger. I’ll take you up on that.”
Incense burned in every corner of the sitting room, leaving a thin fog between Amelia and Cassidy. Across the floor was a stretched out tapestry of a naked woman holding the sun between her hands, several candles in brass holders and unlit, crystals encircling the cloth, and a handful of bones with runes scratched into them. Amelia was sitting cross-legged in front of it all, hunched over with her chin in her hand. Cassidy leaned in the doorway, arms folded and a loose smile on her face.
“How are you dealing with this?”
“Very poorly,” Amelia replied, not bothering to look up as she moved her crystals aside for Cassidy to pick her way over to sit behind her on the couch.
Amelia sighed in exasperation. “I can’t find anything about this anywhere. I’ve looked at my charts, your charts, the goddamn dates the town was first founded. Why can’t I find anything?”
Cassidy reclined on the couch, throwing an arm over the back and looking over the mess on the floor. “Maybe you’re not supposed to?”
Amelia shot her a sharp look, and Cassidy raised her hands up in peace. “It’s just a guess from a nobody, don’t look at me like that.”
Amelia turned back to her tapestry, grabbing the bones again and rolling them in her palm. “I had one of my sisters show me how to read dates before, and I made sure to take perfect notes, which I’ve been using. But I can’t see.” She rubbed her cheek staring at the candles. “Maybe I could try creek water...no, bears lately. Blood is out, too gory, not me.”
She sighed, leaning backwards on her palms and tilting her head to look at the wooden ceiling.
“Any ideas from the audience?”
Cassidy laughed, shaking her head. “Your guess is better than mine, even if it’s wrong. Perhaps you need a drink?”
She rose and headed to the liquor cabinet while Amelia shuffled onto the couch, grumbling to herself as Cassidy handed her a mug of añejo and sat down beside her.
“Thanks,” Amelia muttered, and she threw back half her mug.
“Easy now, we’ve not eaten yet. That’ll go straight to your knees,” Cassidy admonished, taking a sip of her own. Amelia chucked.
“Maybe I want it to. Maybe I don’t want to think straight right now.”
Amelia gave Cassidy a long look, before sliding into her lap to straddle her. Her cotton trousers hugged her hips and thighs tightly, and the gunslinger took notice, sliding a hand around the witch and squeezing her.
“No? And what do you want to think right now?”
Amelia laughed, leaning down and kissing Cassidy on the forehead. Her shirt was unbuttoned halfway, billowing outward as she moved, letting Cassidy take a glimpse underneath.
“Take a guess, cowboy,” the witch murmured, tucking her fingers into Cassidy’s belt and running her fingers upward to untuck her shirt.
“Do you need another drink to help that thought along?” Cassidy smirked at the twinkle in Amelia’s eye, but obligingly helped her remove her shirt from her pants.
“Maybe in a minute or two,” she replied. Setting her bottle down at the foot of the couch, Amelia splayed her fingers over Cassidy’s abdomen, pushing her to recline and watch her. The storm-cloud of hair that was the witch’s seemed to crackle with power as she examined Cassidy, long nails grazing her ribs through her shirt.
“What kind of magic are you casting, witch,” Cassidy murmured, setting her own bottle down and sliding her hands over Amelia’s ass, over her spine and through her hair.
“Forbidden arts, Cass,” she said, smiling darkly as she unbuttoned her shirt, “I couldn’t share it with you, even if you understood how it worked.”
“Mhmm,” Cassidy hummed, watching as Amelia removed her belt. The leather sliding through the loops sent goosebumps down her arms, and the witch tossed it behind her, the sound of leather hitting bone.
“Why do you have the most beautiful ass, my witch,” Cassidy groaned, sliding her hands beneath Amelia’s pants to touch hot skin. Amelia gave her a smoldering look.
“It’s a witch thing.”