Authors: Stephen Tremp
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2015 by Stephen Tremp
Published by Three Diamonds Press. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. The names and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, and actual events are entirely coincidental.
Edited by Marvin Wilson
Cover Art by Jeremy Tremp
Other Books by Stephen Tremp
Dedicated to my beautiful wife, Deena, and my family, who supported me while I wrote the Breakthrough series. For many days and nights all you saw of me was the back of my head as I researched and typed this manuscript. Thank you for bearing with me.
Chapter 1 Boston 1705
This was a hell of a way to hold a monthly meeting and welcome newcomers to the coven. Emily Livingston ran faster and harder than she thought possible. Her body’s defenses kicked into rapid, automatic responses as the cacophony of her pursuers’ shrieking blasted through the late autumn night.
Her heart slammed against her rib cage. Her bare bloodied feet pounded against the ground as she fled. The sounds of torches blazing, brandished pitchforks whistling and stabbing in the air, flintlock pistols cocking, and hollering curses from the stampeding mob slammed into her eardrums.
She stared straight ahead, her gaze fixated on a tall thick oak tree where the trail turned to the right. The stress caused her muscles to tighten and her heart pound ever faster. Emily pumped her legs high and hard. She thrust her arms back and forth in perfect rhythm. Her chest heaved as she fought the urge to vomit.
She had witnessed what her pursuers’ fathers did to her mother twelve years earlier. Emily would not go peacefully like her beloved mother. She would run for her life, then fight another day; for herself, her family name, and against those chasing her.
But it wasn’t only her safety Emily was concerned with. Her younger sister needed protection. She swore to her mama she would safeguard Sarah for the rest of their lives.
Behind her, the mob from surrounding villages and towns had flushed out their coven at the midnight hour. They’d been compromised by one of her closest followers. Olivia Shepherd. I should have known, Emily thought between exasperated breaths. She’s so weak and frail of mind and heart. It probably took those bastards less than an hour to force her to surrender our secret place. Then kill her.
Though Emily’s senses were heightened and her awareness of the surroundings at peak levels, she could not find Sarah in the mass panic of dozens of young women running to save their lives; all daughters of those hung at the Salem Witch Trials and other untold witch hunts in the following years.
The space between the hunters and the hunted lessened with each breath. Emily and her coven sisters did have gifts, powers above the natural abilities of normal people. Some were unique to the individual, while others shared more than one. Emily possessed them all, and that fact plus her director type personality, had made her the natural leader of the group.
But it was difficult to use their powers while running for their lives. It took concentration and a steady heartbeat—a luxury far from available at the moment.
Fear gripped Emily’s heart in a vise and tried to strangle her courage. She needed to be strong, not only for her own safety, but for that of her younger sister. Emily tried to communicate telepathically as she ducked a hatchet thrown her way.
Sarah, where are you?
“Thou art a witch for sure,” one of the villagers yelled. “How else could you know my hatchet was coming from behind?”
The drunken mass of people was closing fast. She had to force herself to vomit the night’s dinner in stride, helping her to run faster.
But it was the pounding of approaching horse hooves that caused her legs to carry her faster. She cast a glance over her shoulder to see the beasts break through the running horde—their noses snorting streams of hot white vapor in the cool of the night.
The two-wheel path through the woods curved to the right, giving sight to a large red barn that was their refuge. The ground was soaked from recent torrential rains. A treacherous mixture of wet grass and mud threatened to fall them on their panicked way to their haven of safety.
A few of her followers slipped while rounding the bend and fell, spinning and sprawling in the muck and mire. Emily didn’t bother to look back. They were as good as dead. Their screams were drowned as the villagers descended on them.
Sarah. Where are you? You have to keep close to me.
The horsemen were upon her. To her left and right she saw her friends cut down under the ax-wielding and pistol-holding riders. Emily’s lungs racked with excruciating pain as she burst out air faster than she could gulp it in. The daughter of a local businessman, she was not raised to quit anything. She would not give in to these local drunken thugs chasing her and her friends, more for sport than religious reasons.
As a six year old living in Salem, Massachusetts in 1693, her beautiful and loving mother explained the meaning of their last name was intended to inspire people to a higher cause. Emily remembered the elation she felt at her mama’s words. She had a calling on her life and could help people. Young Emily daydreamed of the possibilities when a loud snap of her mother’s fingers jolted her to attention. Mama had a stern look as she’d ordered her to be caretaker of her four year old sister Sarah.
Those were the last moments they spent together. Seconds later, her mother was dragged by her ankles to the town square and hanged by an angry gang. Much, Emily knew, like the group chasing her wanted to do.
Straight ahead was the two-story red barn, standing alone in a clearing and illuminated by the full moon. Her salvation. She was almost there.
Sarah, my beloved sister, are you okay?
Horses’ hooves thundered and shook the ground under her feet, threatening to break her stride. But Emily maintained her breakneck pace. She needed to survive for Sarah’s sake.
To her left a horseman bumped her. She quickly regained her pace. Another to the right nudged her into the horse to her left. Back and forth she bounced as the riders focused on pummeling her followers on either side. Emily kept her balance as the riders were so close they served to help keep her upright as she ran.
The riders surged ahead. Emily looked back to see another friend trip and fall. Lydia Tanner. Her friend was swallowed into the riotous horde.
Emily’s heart rate increased—how was that possible?
Sarah, look for me and stay close.
A third horseman was behind her, rearing a hatchet over his head. She glanced back. That face. She knew him. Impossible to speak, she planted her voice in his head.
Thomas Fitzgerald. You do not have to follow in your father’s footsteps.
He was the sheriff’s son. His father had helped kill her mother. And the junior had taken it upon himself to torment her publicly since she was a child. Emily closed her eyes. She knew she would die.
But a pair of hands on her back thrust her forward. She stumbled and looked over her shoulder. Her sister Sarah had pushed her away from the oncoming hatchet.
Sarah’s eyes froze wide open. Her pale freckled face, framed within her matted auburn hair, stared silent. People had told Emily the two sisters could easily be mistaken as twins, even though two years separated them. Sarah was dead before she hit face first in the muck. She slid to a stop on her belly, the hatchet’s blade buried in her back.
Emily couldn’t scream. Her gasping lungs would not allow it. But she swore inwardly she’d live to fight another day. Up ahead the two barn doors opened as if they had a will of their own.
Chloe Livingston. Her cousin could lift things and move objects. Like doors. She must still be alive.
The three horsemen were the first to enter. Emily, and what remained of her sisterhood, followed. They collapsed on the cold dirt ground as the doors abruptly swung shut. A long plank slammed down on steel braces, locking the wooden sliding panels from the inside. The villagers arrived seconds later, ramming the doors and trying to force them open.
There was silence as Emily and her following fought to catch their breath. Each horseman held a torch that produced deep flickering shadows of the young women that streamed across the barn floor and onto the walls. They walked their steeds through the assemblage as if they had vanquished an enemy of invincible powers.
“No need to worry,” one shouted to the villagers outside. “We’ve got the bloody devils trapped.”
Emily stood and clutched her knees, staring up at the sheriff’s son. She wiped mud from her face and chuckled between deep breaths. The ability to read their minds wasn’t necessary. Thomas’s smug, arrogant face revealed he thought he had the women trapped.
“Now we got you filthy witches,” Fitzgerald slurred through a drunken stupor. “My father, he will surely honor me in front of the entire town for this.”
The other two laughed as Fitzgerald raised his torch, like a mighty warrior ready to be immortalized as a folk legend hero.
Emily expected only half the women would make it to the barn. Out of the thirty-nine the mob flushed out, many were shot while others bludgeoned to death. The remaining female mystics, still catching their breath, were now standing. Twenty-three had miraculously made it inside.
Twenty-six, counting the pursuers who foolishly entered with them. Emily knew the riders well. All were prominent young men in the town and bastards of the worst kind, as were their fathers.
The women formed an arch behind Emily and slowly closed in, forcing the riders to back their horses. Emily looked who remained from her coven. They were a mess, their dresses and cloaks wet and covered in mud. But this, Emily knew, made them look more menacing. The horsemen stopped at the barn doors, shuddering against the stress of the mob trying to force them open.
But the crossbar held fast. Her cousin Chloe,
still on her knees, squinted hard to focus. She had used her powers to open the barn doors while on in a full run, then closed and locked them, expending most of her energy and leaving her exhausted.
The doors shuddered with each push from the villagers. Not much time left. They had to escape. But first, Emily implanted an image in the men’s minds. A simple message; they were all as good as dead.
The mental communication was of three rotting vermin hanging by a noose, their eyes bulging and tongues hanging out. The riders’ facial tones drooped as they realized they were not only cornered, but outnumbered. Emily now saw only terror on their faces. She smiled wickedly.
The witches remained silent and stared at their hunters. Adam Jefferson, the town cobbler, tried to reload his flintlock pistol, but shook violently and dropped the gunpowder to the ground.
Emily finally caught her breath. So did the rest. Chloe was able to stand with the others. They could now use their abilities much more effectively. Her biggest challenge was deciding who would take down the three villagers who unwisely trapped themselves with an opponent they had no chance of defeating.
The doors continued to quake with each thrust of the mob. Emily had to act.
“Rebecca. Let’s make this fast. You know what to do.”
Rebecca Smyth, a raven haired girl of seventeen and Emily’s best friend, grinned as she stepped forward. “Thank you. I’m honored.”
Emily knew what would happen next. Rebecca gave a quick backhand wave of her arm, and Adam Jefferson’s blood began to boil. He screamed and cursed as he grabbed his head, his eyes rolling back. Within moments he fell off his horse, dead.
“Sweet mother of Mary,” a paled Thomas Fitzgerald said. “You had her kill Adam, you did. You’re a murderer for sure. Both of you.”
Emily locked her eyes on Fitzgerald. “I’m a defender. And that slime is the least of your worries.”
The third horseman, Richard Dibble, son of the town banker, began pleading for his life. “My good ladies. Please, I beg of you. Let me go. I did not want to do this.” He pointed toward Thomas. “He made me come along. I swear it.”
Emily would hear no more. “Your father, he is a master thief. He financed then foreclosed any business my father tried to start. He sent my papa to the poor house, as if this were a sick sporting game for him. And my mother—”
Dibble raised his hands in the air. “Spare me. I have family. Children. We’ve known each other since we were youths.”
“Your father helped kill her, he did,” Emily said, aiming and waving her hands up and down in quick motions, as if she were shooting pistols. Richard Dibble and Thomas Fitzgerald tried to hide their faces in their hands.
“And,” Emily continued as she stepped toward them. “Her blood is on your family’s hands.”
“We don’t have much time,” Scarlett Hanson interrupted.
The blonde-haired maiden pointed to the corner of the barn. Next to the horse stalls, behind stacks of hay, were four wooden crates. Inside were more than enough cats to accommodate the women for their escape.
“What are we waiting for? Let’s take our leave.” The barn doors seemed ready to explode wide open. “We have to go now if we want to live.”
Emily grabbed Scarlett by the shoulders. “Take Angel and Esther. Prepare the cats. Rebecca, Annie, and I will take care of these scums.”
Emily looked at the rest of the women, scared and needing to be led. “Everyone else, follow Scarlett and ready yourselves to escape. We’ve practiced this enough to get it right the first time.”
Emily turned her attention to Annie Smyth, Rebecca’s younger sister. “Make haste and take out Dibble. Thomas Fitzgerald, he’s all mine.”
Annie stomped toward the men and spit on the banker’s son. She raised her arms and spun her hands in a tight circle, faster and faster. Adam Jefferson clutched at his chest.
“I pray you, cease and desist! What the devil are you doing?”
“Exactly what you think,” Annie shouted. “I’m speeding up your heart.”