ashes and snow

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seventeen


Another day passed like the whisper of the wind. Eira had wanted to spend it with Cailin and Bastian like the day before, but that hadn’t been possible. Instead, she had spent it with preparations.

Arkyn had talked her into what would happen. And had been surprised to see that she, unlike any other female, wasn’t scared.

She had dealt with death far more often than he had. But of course, he didn’t know that. No one knew.

“When will they get here?”

Arkyn’s focus fell off the gallows. He looked at her. “They are supposed to be here in a few minutes,” he rumbled, his voice still deep from sleep. It was still early in the morning. He hadn’t wanted to wait any longer before the ceremony.

Eira nodded. “Alright,” she spoke silently. She wanted this to be over soon. This was all too overly tiresome.

More townsmen started to come to the scene. They were all waiting for the grand spectacle the execution promised. Somehow, they seemed to enjoy it.

Alastair, dressed in guard’s blue, made his way towards them, his head held up high. His forme was a stance of pride, even though Eira knew that the death of his companion was still dragging him down.

But he was still able to mask it pretty well.

He stopped before them, bowing his head to his king. “They will be here in a few minutes.” He straightened and crossed his arms behind his back.

Eira couldn’t really focus on anything yet. All the noises around her were getting to her this early in the morning. It seemed like the growing crowd couldn’t be silenced any time soon.

“Who will be hanged first?” Eira asked Arkyn, who was yet again focused on the large gallows. He laid his hand over hers and started to play with her fingers.

“Who do you want to be the first?” he asked.

She tilted her head to the side, biting her bottom lip. It seemed like he was still testing her. “The spy,” she said, looking up into his cold eyes. A second of silence passed while their gazes dances with each other. He wet his lips and nodded.

“You heard her, Alastair. Make it happen.”

Alastair nodded before he disappeared into the crowd once again.

“Are you sure that you can handle this?”

Eira blinked. He really had no idea. “I’ve seen enough death to be able to assure you that I will not faint if that’s your concern.”

It took him a second to answer. “Alright. Then I have no other choice but to believe you.” He gave her a small smile, and Eira wondered what had gotten into him.

There was a riot in the crowd. Eira’s and Arkyn’s gazes snapped to the guards that edged their way through.

It seemed like the condemned were finally led to the gallows.

Eira straightened in her seat. This ought to be interesting.

They stopped in front of the large platform, waiting for orders.

Alastair walked down to them, taking a stance in front of the crowd. “We’ve got together to watch the execution of two case-hardened criminals today,” he said what caused a lot of outcries.

They wanted blood. Even children were crying out for their deaths.

“Is there anyone who has an objection?”

That was when the silence finally fell around them. The townsmen were grinning, bloodlust had filled their eyes. Everyone wanted them dead.

Eira looked towards the condemns. Their hands were bound behind their backs, and they were blindfolded. The male was shaking while the woman was still. Eira could only smell fear on one of them. It was confusing.

The woman really didn’t seem to care if she would live on or not.

Eira didn’t understand. Wasn’t the will of survival a part of human nature?

She watched as Alastair gestured to the male’s shaking form. “He will be the first to lose his life.”

The man cried out and blindly tried to fight against the guards that pulled him up the stairs to the gallows. It was a useless attempt, though. The guards were superior to him.

The crowd seemed delighted and laughed at his failed attempts to get away.

When he finally stood on the gallows, a rope was put around his neck, the knot placed behind his left ear. His body was shaking visibly, and he shook his head.

“I have a family!” he cried out. “Who will take care of them if I wasn’t there more?”

Alastair chuckled darkly at that. “You should have thought about that before you started to work for the red king.”

The male’s skin grew deathly pale. He knew he couldn’t get out of this. Understood, that the only thing people would get to see of him, in the future, would be the dirt on his grave. If he was ever granted one.

Even though he knew that he still tried to fight against the rope around his neck. Tears painted his gray blindfold darker and started to roll down his cheeks.

“Pathetic,” Alastair snarled out.

Eira didn’t feel anything as she continued to watch. The man must’ve known the possible outcomes of this. Had to know his own death was a possibility of this. Why had he agreed to do this if he was so afraid of death?

The only good thing about him was that despite everything that had happened to him in the cells, he hadn’t spoken a single word of the red king’s plans. He had stood loyal to his kingdom.

“End this now,” Arkyn spoke up. He seemed to have grown tired of this.

“No!” he fell to his death, not even a second later. Screams of joy echoed around them and filled the deafening silence.

His last words echoed around them, even as the crowd became raucous.

"No!”

“No!”

“No!"

His frightened voice haunted around Eira’s mind. She couldn’t stop thinking about how easy it was for them to die. And yet, another heartbeat would find its end today.


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