'The accused Lumina Fawcett, of disgraced House Opal, is found guilty of treason to the crown of Angelica, and is hereby sentenced to death.'
The breeze that washed over my face was that of winter. Normally, winter meant cold nights cuddled against my sister at the orphanage, and layers of knitted jumpers to protect us outside. Winter meant less food and snow drifts piled high outside.
Winter here meant death.
I breathed, in and out. The world was dark beneath the bindings that covered my eyes and tied my wrists together in front of me. My wings twitched in fear and anticipation, the feathers standing on end as if to put out one last ray of self defense. All I could do was listen and shuffle when I was led.
A raw whisper was carried on the wind, the constant murmuring far below of a crowd awaiting my execution. They were too far away to discern any voices, but I could sense the unease as I was led to the highest point of the city.
When we finally stopped, I felt the bindings being tugged at. The tightness around my eyes loosened, and gave way, the black shadow falling away. My guard was the first thing I saw, and I recognised him immediately from his patrols outside my cell. With his red uniform and unforgiving glare, he was not what I had hoped to see in the last few minutes of my existence.
The guard moved away, tossing the bindings in the same direction for me to go.
He tossed them, tauntingly, over the edge.
My eyes couldn't look away; they were still bound to the black material as it was caught by the wind and curled into the air. As it flew, it curled in ribbon-like streams that made it seem almost beautiful, an impromptu dance out across the city.
Because, below it, sat my kingdom.
My eyes adjusted to the longer distance, the ribbon becoming blurred and the sight of the Diamond City taking precedence. The ledge of the tower spiked over a two-hundred-foot drop, right over the edge of the island.
I recalled seeing the Diamond City for the first time; how the glass structures seemed remarkable, and the strength of entire buildings made of all shades and opacities of glass caused my brain to wonder at the inventions I might make. Even now it took my breath away, as I stepped over it, directly over the plaza of the palace far below.
Hundreds of blurred faces filled every corner of my vision. They started as near as the fountains of the palace, and I could still see angels weaving through the colourful streets of the city.They hung from their windows on their terraces, and climbed to the rooftops to see the execution. To my relief, there was no signs of joviality, nobody actively promoting my death.
If anything, there was an odd, respectful silence.
Further beyond my immediate line of sight, trees and landscape burst onto the scene, allowing me to see the dull slate roof of the Ruby prison, and even the spiral tower of the Sapphire City over the hills.
I looked ahead, to where the ledge stopped over an even larger drop. The floating island was nearing its highest rendezvous point, which meant my fall would be even longer than anticipated. I could see only a distant blue.
My teeth began to chatter in nervousness. My heart rate began to rise, thuddering in my chest in an erratic manner. I hadn't expected to feel this unprepared and in denial. It was almost as if I was waiting for someone to allow me the opportunity to run away.
'Do you have any last words?'
Of course I did.
I wanted to cry and shout and be safe at home. Sure, the orphanage had been tough at times but at least I'd had Reia with me. I never wanted any of this.
But I wouldn't change a thing. I'd found adventure and been scared out of my wits. I'd ran, escaped, invaded and hid. Deceived and been deceived. I'd met people I'd never forget, even if I lived for another hundred years, and not a hundred seconds.
And on top of all that, there was Fabian.
My last words would be for him. To apologise for not giving him an answer in time. For hesitating that moment when I should have trusted him completely.
These people wouldn't understand. They probably wouldn't even give him my message. Instead, I whispered it to the wind as the breeze grew stronger in the hopes that it would carry to him.
I hope he doesn't see me fall.
'If you have nothing to say, then go.'
The guard gave me a rough shove, and I staggered towards the edge. My bare feet trembled as I fought to keep my balance, even when I had no arms to steady me. I was determined I wouldn't stumble to my death.
I would at least die with dignity.
But as dampness rolled down my cheeks and a quiet sob burst from my unwilling mouth, I realised that if I wanted to retain any dignity at all, I would have to be quick.
Everything in my body fought against the idea. To stand on that ledge for as long as damn possible, just in case something changed. That I would be able to go free, somehow.
Shaking and feeling like being sick brought home the reality that all that was keeping me alive was that tiny sliver of hope.
Give up that hope, Lumina. Hope can only bring disappointment.
Breathing shallowly, I took one more step. The world teetered; the ledge had grown thinner, so that the edges of my feet were leaning over the sides. For a moment, I thought I would fall. I felt my body wobble as I had to readjust my balance.
'Keep moving, prisoner,' a surly voice commands from behind me.
I gritted my teeth. I have only room to take one more step, and I'm certain that when I do, I won't be able to keep balance on that one foot.
This is it.
My right foot felt numb with fear as I pulled it forward, my toes curling around the spiked end of the ledge. Sadly, there was no grip. I would fall as soon as I moved my left foot.
How did I end up in this position?
I stepped forwards.
My foot hit air. My stomach dropped. The ledge rose as my body toppled below it.
I was just a thief, blended into the background.
How did a thief end up in a civil war for a throne?
Then, I was free falling.