Lapis remembered when the white sheet had covered her, the kind used to hide the dead with. She wasn’t dead then and she still wasn’t dead now, though she yearned for the eternal rest more than ever. Everyone thought she had been killed, just another unfortunate Parsiant in the attack. She was as shocked and confused as they were when she first awakened. Unfortunately, a Deviant was a Deviant, and they discovered her. The punishment kept her bones rattling even after she was released from the tortures of the dungeons and loaded into the caged cart that would take her to her execution.
Now there was no white sheet, just a dirty burlap sack that covered her head. She heard a horse snort and the cart began to shudder. She was finally on her way.
“Have you heard of her execution method yet?” the driver ahead asked the purger sitting next to the cage.
“Not at all,” was the reply. They spoke so casually. “I’ve been too busy with the cleanup.”
“It’s going to be an exciting one. She’s a Deviant with an ability that really is a fickle one to deal with. Let me tell you, the process would’ve been much easier with a silencer steel guillotine. Just imagine that: a massive blade of blue.”
The purger snorted. “Sounds like a tax raise to me.”
“I’m sure we’d find a noble willing enough to pay for it privately. Just promise them their name carved into the blade and we’d have silencer steel guillotines popping up everywhere.”
“That’s against regulations. Now, tell me the method already.”
“All right, all right. While we were sure that the current guillotine would’ve been enough if she kept the blue cuffs on, we didn’t want to risk it. Apparently her magic is pretty strong. So, the general himself volunteered to execute her using his personal sabre.”
A gasp. “General Penrod? He hasn’t executed anyone with that sword in a decade.” The purger kicked the cage, making Lapis flinch. “Consider yourself honoured, Deviant.”
Her heart sank further than it already had. While the upside was that it would be a quick death, she had been hopeful that they would’ve burned her at the stake. At least then her body would become unrecognizable, if it remained at all. The thought of her head being displayed on the old watchtower or the palace wall sickened her. She took a shaky breath, clinging to the fact that it was only a matter of time until she would be free forever.
The voices of citizens reached her ears. They grew in number and energy until it felt like she was surrounded by a sea of madmen. Something hit the cage and it shook violently.
“Piss off!” the driver hollered. “Can’t you see there’s a purger in the back? If you hit either of us with those stones of yours, you’ll be fined a gorgeous amount.”
The citizens grumbled and the cage settled, but the angered shouting was still present. Their words pummelled Lapis in waves.
“I hope the blade is dull!”
“Damn Deviant, you were feeding intelligence to the Sicarius, weren’t you?”
“They should’ve locked you in the dungeons longer!”
Everyone’s venom eventually merged into a single chant.
“Purge! Purge! Purge!”
The chanting continued as the cart came to a stop and she was pulled out. She was led up a wooden staircase and across an expanse until she was stood in place. Finally, the burlap sack was ripped from her head.
The light was blinding. It was a long time until she could fully look out over the crowd before her. It was a foaming sea of malice, threatening to crash over her. Hundreds of citizens surrounded the execution platform, all glaring up at her as though she had committed murder. In their eyes, she might as well have. Being executed as a Deviant was bad enough; being executed as a Deviant right after the city was attacked by them was something she wouldn’t have wished upon her worst enemy.
She remembered when she used to be within that crowd, safely nonexistent and unimportant. She had cowered from their hatred just standing amongst them, but now she was their target.
“No one should have a head of grey at that age!” someone hollered. “How did we not see it before?”
“A blind eye is always a bad omen in the south!” another shouted.
Of course, none of those things had anything to do with her Deviancy, but who was to argue with them now? She was about to be purged, and the masses would be left to fester in their unfounded beliefs.
Her knees were kicked from behind and she dropped to the rough wooden floor.
“You’re in good hands,” the purger said behind her. He wasn’t the one who rode with her in the cart. No, his voice was painfully familiar and…indifferent. “Believe me when I say this will go quicker than you think.”
She tried to glance back at him, but he quickly placed a firm hand on her head and kept her eyes forward.
“Is it you?” she whispered.
A long pause. She wanted to believe that she had been mistaken, no matter how unrealistic the idea was. There was no way she could misplace his voice, but still she hoped her final moments would be kinder than that.
“Yes,” he replied equally quietly.
It was as though the world had slapped her in the face one final time. She had prepared herself and accepted her fate, but this…this wasn’t the memory she wanted to die with. Tears began rolling down her cheeks and her voice came out even more broken than before. She tried her luck with what little hope she had left. “Will you do me a favour, then? Just one thing, please.”
“Close my eyes before they hold up my head.”
Another long pause. “I will.” There was a sliver of something there. Remorse, maybe. Hopefully.
Despite her misery, she managed a quivering smile. “Thank you.”
He bent her forward as the general stepped to her side and flourished his sabre of brilliant silencer steel.
“Citizens of Narcis,” General Penrod announced as he placed the cold edge upon Lapis’s neck, “today we shall see another purging of a Deviant in our mission to a pure world.”
The crowd cheered.
The blade swung back.