It was just before dawn and the land was quiet.. a land that she had once called home.. a people that had once been her own

Maria stood in the public court area, surrounded by the fallen leaves, almost transfixed as the morning wind blew past her.. held captive by the raging scenes that flooded her mind

The memory was clear and the tempo of her heart, the pulsing in her veins all made her quiver.. she remembered still how they had crucified her, how they had bled her heart and drained her innocence.. how they had turned their backs

She had fallen sick.. a sickness she did not know, a sickness they did not understand, a sickness they refused to understand

No medicine-man could call it by its name, they did not know its name.. and as it spread and they could not find a cure, they stopped looking for a name

Her daughter then had only been a few months old.. she loved her and wanted desperately to care for her, but her strength failed her though her will fought desperately to strengthen her

Her husband did most of the work, his love for them both never weaning.. but it broke her that she could do nothing more except get sicker

Then their lives had changed on that fateful day.. that day that was covered in grey clouds from dawn till dusk.. that day when the villagers came for her.. when they said she was bewitching them, bewitching their land

They matched her out like she was some disgusting creature they dared not call by name.. nearly killed her but they were afraid to touch her skin.. afraid to be poisoned even by her oh so wicked stare

They did not hear her cries for mercy.. did not hear her heart break on that cold September night.. did not see the tears her soul shed for wielding a burden she did not want.. a burden she did not understand.. a burden so heavy that her frail body did not believe it could continue to bear

Her husband had stood in the crowd with their child.. wanting to follow her, but they held him back.. wanting to cry for her, but their rejoicing froze his tears.. wanting to scream for her, but she was already gone

He tried to find her after they had all gone, but she could not be found.. maybe she did not want to be found

He continued to look for her, but no one in the nearby villages could seem to remember seeing her.. they did not even remember her

He wanted to keep looking, keep searching, but baby needed him by her side, now more than ever

For a long time he was quiet.. saying nothing and talking to no one, and they thought that he had forgotten her

But how could a man forget the woman he loved.. he could not forget her, would never forget her.. and when the moon was full and its light shone at the back of his house, he would sing to baby Anna.. sing like Maria had taught him to sing

And now she was back.. and as she stood there her shadow began to form on the sturdy trees and the sun came up to meet her

She was ready to face her accusers.. face those men and women that had chased her away

Maybe they would recognise her.. or maybe they would not.. she was no longer the sickly woman they had called “witch”.. those ashes had burned and like a phoenix.. she had risen

Anna, her father and step-mother were getting ready to go for the community meeting.. the council would pass the sentence that day