By Zoë Amber
Those standing on the Dais were the next to die. Stripped of their clothing and their humanity, the four men and women were condemned by the Crown for their defects. Seen or unseen, she couldn’t tell from where she stood, but their whimpering stuck sharp pains into her heart.
The announcer climbed onto the Dais with his parchment. “Hail Fairest of Ardania! Today we shall please the Divine Six who spoke so many years ago to cure our hearts and our land from the defect and the weak. They may be our friends, or a family member, but the Law is the law, and the Crown and the High Gods has spoken. The two men are defected by criminal acts and obstruction of order in the Runes, and the two women have failed to meet their debts. Either who, their punishment will be death. May the gods accept this sacrifice and bless the Kingdom of Ardania.”
Mageia Unknown clenched the hilt of her sword as the crowd cheered, seeking the sight of blood. She glared from her cloak’s hood that concealed her purple eyes scolding the empty crimson ones of the god of life and death. The statue stood amongst the other five gods gracing the entrance to the Hamino’s Temple built into the structure of the Mideri Wall.
The families of the lost wept closer to the Dais, shouting their goodbyes and pleas for mercy as a ferry priest of the temple recited a prayer.
“Dawnis have mercy,” Mageia muttered.
The executioner prepared his sword and with one swift motion separated the first man’s head from his body. Blood squirted everywhere. Its metal odor clung to the spring breeze, curling her stomach. She hated working during executions, but it was the only best time to collect from the pockets of those who found these proceedings pleasing and holy.
A hand tugged her sleeve. She caught eyes with Faebrin, a teen member of her family who didn’t need to cover his face. His birth defect dwelled on his chest and the Crescent Mark on the side of his neck identified him as a Strange. The burn in his narrowed eyes reminded her of what they came to the Dais Grounds to do. When she nodded, he swooped away into the crowd.
Swift and with years of great skill, Mageia pick-pocketed coins, purses, timepieces, fancy pipes, and anything her sticky fingers touched. The sack within her cloak grew heavy, but not heavy enough to weigh down her silent feet. She was of a woman’s average, law enforced height, about five by six inches that would not make her stand out. Many wore cloaks like hers with their hoods flopped onto their heads to block Mesori’s angry sun. So, she weaved through the rowdy crowd undetected.
Midlaan soldiers and guards in their greens and black chuckled at the horror taking place on the platform. They were unaware of the many thieving fingers doing what they knew best right under their noses.
The temple guards grabbed the third Strange who gave a heart-wrenching scream as they forced her onto her knees. The priest muttered his prayers to the gods as the woman whimpered sore. The crowd’s ruckus heightened and all Mageia could do was avert her eyes as the sword came down. Past images of standing on the Dais made her chest tighten.
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