The Maiden

The Maiden

A Story by Bobby W
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The public square in the city of Gemini on the 60th day of the year.

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The Maiden

  

     Hot sweat rolled down her face as Giselle looked between the spaces in the floorboards.  She saw the glints of light reflected off the eyes of the children below as they watched her walk across the raised platform.  In the slivers of light, she could also see their smiles, but was spared their laughter; the din from the crowd was far too loud.  She had even become numb to the burning of the twine in which her wrists were bound, or the rough grip that the guards held her with. 

     She looked up from the faces of the smiling children beneath the boards and saw the executioner was standing at the front of the platform, his arms outstretched, addressing the mob of angry faces.  As her eyes moved to the crowd below, she put faces to the screams and shouts.  It was a sea of anger and hatred, surging as in a macabre rhythm as they called for her blood.  Giselle closed her own eyes trying to imagine a better time and place; asking herself why it had come to this.

     “Bring forth the prisoner!” the executioner’s voice rang out.  The two guards then dragged her forward, pushing her to her knees when they reached the end of the platform.  She she felt a crack when she landed, her eyes welling up as the executioner continued his speech.  “Giselle Croix, for the crimes of murder and sedition, you have been found guilty by a jury of your betters.  You have therefore been sentenced by his Imperial Majesty to die, here on this, the 60th day of the year.”

     Giselle would not have believed that the noise could grow any louder, but the cacophony continued to rise.  The executioner’s sinister grin showed his satisfaction with the mob’s response.  He stamped his feet three times on the platform.  The sound of a latch clicking cut through the noise, and Giselle looked back to see a trapdoor give way behind her.  From the darkness rose a gleaming silver sarcophagus. 

     She knew it as “The Maiden.”  It was one of the Emperor’s favorite tools for disposing of mortals like her.  Unlike a lifetime in prison, or the quick death of the headsman’s axe, the Maiden left no doubt, and no peace. 

     Whatever hope she had had remained on the floor of the platform as the guards brought her to her feet.  They turned her to face the massive coffin as the executioner operated the crank which opened it.  Inside were thousands of needles and spikes of various size and shape.  Some were small cones that came to points where others were nothing more than blunt rods.  The design of the thing was to inflict as much pain as possible while keeping the inhabitant alive for as long as possible. 

     “Due to the nature of your crimes, the right to last words has been revoked.  May your treachery be a warning to future trespassers,” the executioner said as he brought his hand to her chin, and pulled down just enough to dislocate her jaw, sending reeling pain up her temples, and drawing jeers and applause from the on-lookers below.  He then waved his hand, and the guards backed her into the Maiden. 

     As Giselle looked out at the mob for the last time, she noticed that it had grown very quiet.  All the people in the square had stopped their chants and furious yelling.  They wanted to hear as well as to see.  Amidst the sea of near prurient faces, she found his shale eyes.  In that moment, her weary heart found the strength to beat for him.  She watched him through her tears as the door of the Maiden began to swing close. 

     Merrick heard her broken screams as the rods began to crush her bones, and the spikes bore themselves into her body.  The crowd remained quiet, drinking in the sweet sounds of her anguish. 

He remained until her screams stopped, and the crowd had dispersed.  As he approached the platform, he could see a crimson river running over the edge of the platform in two tributaries down the front posts before finally collecting in a small red pool.  Merrick reached towards the Maiden, but stopped when he heard bootfalls come up behind him.

“I knew you’d linger,” a voice spoke at Merrick’s back with a cold, solemn mirth.

“You’ve always been capable of great cruelty,” Merrick said, not turning around. “Though in all these years, I never thought you would visit it upon me.”

“I couldn’t put you to death.  Were you anyone else in the empire, I would have.  It had to be done, Brother.”

     “Why, Gideon?  What did you prove here today?” Merrick asked, turning to face his brother.  Gideon stood tall and proud in his woolen black longcoat, his hands casually half in the pockets.  Merrick was trying to hold back his tears, he did not want his brother get any satisfaction from them but try as he might, he could feel the warmth of them running down his face.

     “I’ve proven nothing,” Gideon said, his voice stern.  “There was never an argument.  You allowed yourself to be blinded, but now I have shown you that no one is above the law, not even the Emperor’s brother.”

     “I’m taking Arianna and we’re leaving here,” Merrick said, turning back around toward the platform.

     “And take her where?  Merrick, you are safe, and if your abomination of a daughter turns out to be living, she will be as well.  Not many places for you to hide,” Gideon said. 

     “It doesn’t matter.  I won’t be a party to this anymore,” Merrick said.

     All he thought of now was his daughter and keeping her safe.  If it turned out that she was dying, then there would be no stopping Gideon from ending the child’s life. 

     “I’m not a complete monster, Merrick.  Take Ari and go to the coast for a few days.  Mourn.  When you get back, I expect that you will continue to carry out your duties.  Consider your her life contingent upon it.” 

“I will never forgive this, Gideon.”

“I don’t need your forgiveness, Merrick.  I need your fealty.”  With that, Gideon walked away, leaving his brother to finish watching his beloved flow slowly to her death.

© 2016 Bobby W


Author's Note

Bobby W
This is a scene from a larger body of work that I'm working on, written in the same style, but separate from the main story.

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Added on March 11, 2016
Last Updated on March 11, 2016
Tags: execution, treason, empire, family, murder, torture, love, blood, hate

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