The chains rattled together as the man was dragged toward the platform, his tainted blood spattering the polished marble of the courtyard. Clouds rolled in overhead and he shivered in the cold air of the early morning. His clothes had been torn from the hours of torment the night before, now doing little to combat the chill.
“Dale Cartwright. You have been found guilty for the murders of His Majesty and Her Royal Highness.”
Thunder rumbled in the distance, but none paid any attention to the approaching storm. Their eyes were fixed upon the man whimpering as palace guards forced him to kneel before the spectators with his head bowed.
“For your crimes against the kingdom, you are hereby sentenced to death.”
A figure cloaked in black approached the platform where the man lay sobbing, and cheers echoed across the courtyard. The first droplets of rain began to fall as heads eagerly turned, peering through the storm to catch a glimpse of the blade that would be cutting through flesh and bone.
“P-Please,” the man begged. “I d-didn’t do it. You have to b-believe me. Please.”
None listened to the dead man’s ramblings. For all told tales of innocence when faced with their end, and this man was no different. His hands were still drenched with the blood of the king, and the nobility did not forgive. Nor did they forget.
The cloaked figure raised the blade above his head and the crowd held their breath in anticipation, the entire courtyard descending into silence.
The whisper was lost to the wind as the blade was swung and the head was cleaved from the man’s shoulders. It rolled to a stop in front of a small child who had watched the execution from the shadows, her tiny frame concealed within a cape and hood.
The nobility, so lost in their frenzied delight, did not notice the girl regarding the severed head as the tainted blood seeped into her shoes. She did not feel pity for this man’s death, nor did she celebrate it like the others. She felt nothing.
A hand touched lightly upon her shoulder and the girl turned, peering up at a familiar face, seasoned and weathered with the passing of time.
“We must go. You cannot remain here any longer,” the old man said, his eyes warily glancing towards the many palace guards posted around the courtyard.
She nodded and the pair silently disappeared within the crowds, cheers rising all around them as the nobility celebrated the death of Dale Cartwright.
In the sky up above, another thunder clap shook the kingdom.