(feel so high and mighty typing that!)
Please be patient and I'll really appreciate feedback. This story is still a work in progress and I hope to make good of it and not disgrace the people who sent me to prep school so that I could pronounce scissors properly.
Minor changes are likely to happen constantly as I ensure meshing.
Also minus the title I have added I found this cover picture at:
Credit where credit is due
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Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep…
- Mary Elizabeth Frye
The spearhead hovered a mere finger-width from his face. The dragon insignia engraved in the silver tip seemed more fearsome than the edge of the weapon. His blood, streaked along the metal, gave the engraving the appearance of breathing fire. More disturbing than that, however, were the three shrunken heads hanging from her belt. The centre one’s ghastly grin leapt out at him the most. He wondered briefly if his head would soon join the collection but then he struck this from his mind as illogical. Based on the rumours of this woman, she wouldn’t have a sack large enough to hold the amount of heads she had decapitated, much less a belt.
“Artur Jean Grendell, the state has charged you with one count of murder and several counts of resisting arrest. The Council has found you guilty of treason in absentia and sentenced you to death. They have ordained for me to slay you here like a lowborn bandit without honour and your body will be left here to rot in an open grave.”
He stared at her. Was this the same war goddess who had cut him down so aggressively, her movements efficient but fluid and her face had been feral but captivating like a wildcat as they had crossed blades? Now she just seemed like a stone-faced, skinny girl with marble eyes.
“Ha,” a trickle of blood ran down the corner of his mouth. He winced and spat out a molar. He had no interest in his death warrant; his soul had already dried up. “You fight well girl. I can see why the council gave you a 99% success rate.”
“I can see why you managed to last so long on the run. I was told you even bested an executioner with a 78% success rate,” she grabbed a fistful of hair and pulled him close. The rough handling coupled with his blood loss made his head swim. Of course, the bloody hole she had gouged into his shoulder did little for his comfort anyway. She lifted the shrunken heads before his face. He flinched back. He would prefer the last vision of his life to at least be something more cheerful than trio of mouldy skulls, like even a tree trunk or a pigeon.
Then he heard whispering. It was unnoticeable at first but grew steadily into an ethereal and foreboding hum. He suddenly thought of demons calling. His instinct told him to ignore it and he tried to concentrate on the girl; trying to find the fierce war goddess in her rigid face. But the humming sound would not let his attentions be distracted. He gritted his teeth and tried to pull away but her steel grip countered his movements with ease. In a desperation that he could not identify, he even concentrated on the burning wound in his side, or his discomfort of being soaked in the salty, sticky brew of sweat and blood but his mind was still pressed with the haunting chant that he was sure was somehow coming from those hideous skulls.
“Artur, did you kill your former employer, the Countess Wilhelma Jou-Boren?” Jean could hardly hear her voice as it mingled among the chanting, but it sounded strangely gentle.
His eyes were focused intently on the shrunken head in the middle. The dull glow in the depths of the sockets pulsated gently. Jean was suddenly aware of the numbness in his body when he failed to pull away again. The chanting began to unearth memories that he had stamped into dust months ago.
The Countess said that now he would remember to put business before personal affairs and she found this so funny that she laughed and laughed until she was a shaking puddle of skirts on the bed; her strawberry hair encircling her round face like a fiery halo. She was still in that position when the he took the dagger from his boot and planted it into her chest.