Rating: PG 13 for violence and language.
Summary: In 1675, thirteen people sat down to dinner. The host was the first to rise – to start a quarrel – and the first to die – mysteriously, with nobody having touched him. Now, using a series of seemingly unconnected clues and accounts from various witnesses, none of whom is being fully honest, Sam and Dean need to piece together a centuries-old mystery. And they need to do it before one of them gets badly hurt.
Warnings: Set vaguely in S2, but it could really be any season. No spoilers except to the premise of the show. Mild language, show-level violence and horror themes, nothing worse than what you'd see on the show. Hurt Sam. Mentions of marital infidelity, but nothing explicit, and brief mentions of suicide.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Notes: First of all, thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy the story!
This is my third round with the Big Bang and, as always, it's been loads of fun. My artist this time was the incredibly talented desertport, who brought the characters to life and took my breath away with her art for this fic.
A big thank you to wendy for her hard work running spn_j2_bigbang every year.
For help with the story, my gratitude goes, as always, to Cheryl, who has been the most accommodating of betas and managed super-quick turnarounds, and SandyDee84, who listened to my rambling about murderers and poisons without calling me crazy. All remaining mistakes are entirely my own fault.
For once I don't have a writer to apologize to. All characters (other than Sam, Dean and the Impala) come from my imagination, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
I'll try to post a couple of chapters a week here, but if you want to see the whole story, it's on my Supernatural fic LJ and on AO3. Links to both are in my profile.
Thirteen at Dinner
Andover, Massachusetts; November 1675
Ralph Ashby raised his hands for silence. His wife Frances would have rolled her eyes, but she didn't quite dare. The dim light might hide her from him, or it might not, and Ralph had an uncertain temper at the best of times.
"If I may take a moment of your time, I want to express my gratitude for your kindness to my family. Without your help, I could not have hoped to provide for Frances and my children as a man ought to do." Ralph smiled across the table at her, and Frances let out a breath of relief. It was a good day, then. "Please, sit."
With much scraping and jostling, the group settled onto the long benches on either side of the trestle table, with Ralph at the head.
Frances nodded at her daughter to lead them in grace.
Joyce was just fifteen, and already a beauty. She had her father's dark hair, but she had inherited her mother's clear grey eyes and finely-chiselled face. The combination was striking. More than one young man of their acquaintance had taken to spending time at the Ashby home. Joyce herself favoured tall, broad Bernard Elliott, a choice that pleased both her parents. Ralph knew Bernard's father to be wealthy, and Frances knew Bernard to be kind and gentle. Joyce would have a happier marriage than Frances had.
As Joyce began to call for God's blessing on their meal, Frances turned her attention to her son Alexander, who sat at his father's right hand.
He had been named for an ancient king, a great conqueror, Ralph had said. Ralph had those odd notions sometimes. He had been to university in England. It had been his father's dearest wish. Frances privately thought he would have been better off if he had stayed home. Oxford was meant for wealthy young aristocrats in Europe. Farmers in the New World had more important things to learn than History and Philosophy.
Perhaps Ralph had hoped that some of the original Alexander's greatness would infuse itself into his namesake. If so, he had misjudged. Even through a mother's biased eyes Frances could see that at seventeen Alexander was petty, cruel and dull-witted. She would be glad for Joyce to marry Bernard, if only because it would remove her from the reach of her father and her brother.
Joyce finished saying grace. Frances echoed, "Amen," with the rest of the table.
Today, as part of the celebration, it was spread with a white cloth covered in delicate embroidery picked out in fine silver and gold thread. It had been a wedding gift from her dearest friend, and Frances used it sparingly. She looked down now at the pattern, running her fingers over the strange symbols it seemed to form in the fading light.
She signalled to the hired girl to bring the roast, hoping it would be enough. There were more people than she had anticipated. Walter and Agnes Winn had brought their eldest son to help, though he was only ten and had been more of a hindrance. Ralph's brother Philip had brought a… woman… who called herself Isabelle, parading her under their noses with all the careless insolence of which he was capable. And then there were Colum and Kat O'Donnell, and old Father Maynard the pastor.
Frances frowned, looking around the table again.
She had expected eleven at dinner, planned for eleven, but the addition of Isabelle and little Peter Winn made them thirteen.
A superstitious shiver came over her.
She glanced at Father Maynard and saw he had noticed it as well. He shook his head at her, a twinkle in his eye, and she held back her answering smile. Sometimes thirteen was simply a number.
"You!" Ralph snapped, jolting her from her thoughts. She turned to him, and saw him pointing at Father Maynard in accusation.
Her breath caught. Ralph was prone to violent jealousy, and he was seldom reasonable. She saw, too, that his cup was already half-empty. Liquor made him angrier.
"You were winking at my wife!" Ralph snarled.
Frances was too startled and frightened to hear Father Maynard's response. Kat reached for her hand, squeezing it in sympathy, but she barely felt it. She had so hoped to get through this day without Ralph losing his temper.
Ralph leapt to his feet. Frances gasped. Surely he would not –
"Please," she said, standing as well and holding out her hands in conciliation. "Please, sit down. Father Maynard meant nothing, I promise you. We should not spoil this day by arguing."
Ralph pushed back his chair and took a step around the table.
He stopped, hands flying to his throat.
"Ralph?" Philip demanded, swinging his legs over the bench to get to his feet. "Ralph, what –"
Ralph fell to his knees. Frances' hands flew to the medallion she wore, a talisman for luck.
The world was suddenly full of noise. Joyce was screaming, Alexander swearing, and Peter Winn was bawling so loudly Frances thought she would hear the sound until her dying day. The only voice that truly registered was Father Maynard's. He had run to Ralph and was bending over him.
"A fit," said the pastor. "A fit is upon him."
"Help him, Father!" begged Frances. Ralph might be capricious and ill-tempered, but he was her husband. "Please, help him!"
Yet somehow, even as she said it, she knew it was hopeless. She knew it before Father Maynard sat back on his heels and crossed himself.
"No," she whispered.
Then she heard the words that were to define the rest of her life.
Philip, face ravaged with sudden grief, pointed at her across the table. "She did it. Witch!"
I know, I know. Sam and Dean will show up in Chapter I, and the chapters will be longer than this.
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