Chapter 7: A City to Die For
The clanking of metal woke me up to the redolent odor of excretion. The smell made me want to vomit. I coughed and kept whatever was in my stomach.
A hand was shaking me. I looked up to a guard standing over me.
“It’s time.” The guard said. Was the guard Bryan? It sounded like him.
“Time? Isn’t it early morning?” My brain couldn’t handle this abrupt transition.
“It’s the middle of the day Liv. You are just out of sync.” He reached down and unlocked my cuffs from the chains.
“Oh.” I thought I had more time.
He reached toward Dan, who looked like he was also just woke up, and unlocked his cuffs.
“I’ve been told to tell you that if either of you try to run I am to shoot you.” His voice is flat and gruff. Top notch guard voice.
“Why are you unlocking Dan? Aren’t I the one who’s done something wrong?” I ask. I want Dan with me, but I don’t want him to be accused with me.
Dan grabbed my arm. “Wherever she goes I go. I will face whatever she faces.”
His face looked set. There was no room for argument. It will all work out. If it works out like it should, then we will be together and alive. It’s better to not be separated. But I don’t want him to be on the execution platform.
“You are her co-conspirator in the eyes of the law. Do not worry, they won’t separate you.” Bryan said as he grabbed my hands and cuffed them together.
Dan held out his hands, and Bryan snapped the cuffs on.
“Alright you two, stand up now. And remember, don’t try to run or we will shoot you.”
“We?” I only saw Bryan in front of me as I forced my aching joints to unbend into a standing position. Everything looked fuzzy, and even Bryan faded from view as I grabbed the wall for support. In little tiny black and gray squares the world came back. Next to me, Dan dragged himself up using clawing at the wall with his cuffed hands.
“There is another guard at the door.” Bryan was glaring at me, probably warning me to uphold a pretense of distaste.
The world stopped feeling like it was rocking and I let go of the wall, my cuffed hands falling back to in front of me.
Bryan pointed at the door. “Walk in front of me. The guard at the door will lead you to the square where your sentence will be read and carried out.”
A soft feeling brushed against my hand, and I looked down to see Dan reaching out with his cuffed hands to touch the top of my hand. I looked at him, and saw a tense forced smile. “We’ll get through this.”
I nod, but I can’t bring myself to say anything. What do I say when I know I could die soon, and even if I don’t I’ll be causing many people to die? I pull my hand away and step forward. Did my father feel this dread when walking to his sentencing? Did he realize he was about to die? Did he have to willingly walk to his own death? Did he get dragged screaming and crying? I can’t remember him right now. I can remember my own cage, but I can’t remember him. I can’t even recall his face in my memories.
I could hear Dan’s footsteps following behind me. Every step I took made my stomach churn. Am I afraid? Maybe. Who wouldn’t be afraid walking to their death? Everything told me to turn and run, to refuse to move, but I couldn’t. I had to keep going. I had to walk to this nightmare.
Walking through the door I see a face with a distinctive scar running from the left temple to the lower right side of his jaw. Scar-Face. His hair had grown a little; tight black curls that reminded me of a sheep’s wool lined his head, but the hair on his face was still just a curly stubble.
He stepped in front of me. “Follow,” he said. Why did Bryan warn me about him? Hadn’t Bryan said he was one of the “good” guards? Maybe even though he wasn’t a terrible person for no reason, he wasn’t onboard with this plan. Or maybe he had changed in the years I’d been gone.
I walked behind him, past the rows of cells. So many cells. I could see other people in the cells. Who was kept in this section? Were they other people awaiting sentencing? I didn’t remember seeing any other prisoners lead by in the cell. Were other sentences put on hold for our sentencing? We had made a large uproar when we entered the city.
We made it to a stairwell and began to climb up the spiraling stone staircase. Step after step the hollow echoes of doom rang through the claustrophobic staircase.
Is today it? Was I dying for this damn city that has only ever hurt me?I should have never come back. I should have accepted my death in the village and died surrounded by the people I cared about. At least I wouldn’t have dragged Dan in with me.
My stomach protested the thoughts. Roiling to a boil that made me gasp and stop to heave, but nothing comes up, just me gasping at the wrenching pain. Was I sick? People don’t get sick in the City. Did I bring sickness back? No, the wall people wouldn’t have let me in if that was the case. This had to just be my nerves.
Scar-Face grabbed my arm and started to drag me up the stairs, my stumbling barely able to keep up and scratching my ankles on the rough stone edges.
“Are you okay?” I could hear Dan’s concerned voice behind me.
Am I? “I think so.” I managed to whisper as Scar-Face gave me a rough tug.
“If you are fine, walk on your own and stop making me drag you, Exile,” Scar-Face barks.
I forced my feet to catch up to the movement of the stairs, “I think I can walk.” Scar-Face released me, and I almost fell backwards from the sudden release, but Dan caught me. I looked back for just a second, grateful for the warm push of his hands against my back, and I saw his worry. He was not immune to this fear either.
I raised my foot, and placed it on the next step. Does this stairwell never end? I hope so. I can walk a stair to my death. Much better than execution. Execution. I touched the E branded on my cheek so many years ago. Exile. A status that doesn’t belong in the city. Neither Dishonored or Honored. Beyond the walls of the city lies a life that is outside this caste. Exile, bound for Execution but not dead. A state considered dead to the city. A ghost that returns from behind. To them, I was already dead. I died the day I walked into the Wall. Exile. I can be strong. I’ve had two extensions on life now. What’s a third extension?
I took a deep breath and I could feel the sand dunes in my stomach fading away, clearing out to show the rocky surface that is sand scoured underneath. I am that rock. I placed that rocky image in front of my thoughts. I am that rock.
I stumbled as the steps disappeared to a flat surface. I hadn’t been watching where I was going. Light shined in through a high up window. It reminded me of the windows in the cell I used to live in.
A wooden door stood in front of us. Scar-Face pulled out his key ring and picked a key out. He unlocked the door, and stuck the keys back into a pocket in his uniform. Mechanically he opened the door like he had done this so many times they could do it in their sleep. How many people have walked up these stairs to their execution following him? Or is this just the familiarity of a man who lives in the prison of the dishonored?
He walked through, and we followed,stopping behind him when he stopped. I turned to look backwards, and I saw Bryan locking the door behind us.
In front, I noticed we were in a hallway. Each side had proper wooden doors. Were these guard rooms or other cells? The hallway was lit by false light. I knew the word for the false light now. Electricity. These were electric lights. Did the people of the wall come in here to maintain these lights too? The more I learned about this city, the more I could see why the Wall viewed it with this sort of disdainful arrogance. The residents really couldn’t survive without the people of the Wall fixing and keeping everything up.
We moved forward, past the hallway of doors, through more doors, though most of these weren’t locked, and up a short stairwell. I knew this place. It was the courtyard where we were fed. It was empty. It looked lonely without the throngs of dirty humans eating their small allotment of food.
I glanced behind me, and I could see Dan looking at everything. It was a strange place to a villager I guess. Flat unadorned walls. Empty tables for food pickup, and a flat smooth rock floor with cracks here and there that gave the floor a little character.
“This place is desolate,” Dan said, which earned him a light wack from Bryan.
“Don’t speak unless you are spoken to, Prisoner,” Bryan said in his roughest mean guard voice.
Bryan poked Dan, prodding him to move faster, and reminding me to keep moving as well.
We walked through eerie silent halls past empty cells where Dishonored lived. Barred doors were casually open exposing their barren innards. It must be mid-day, a time I never saw while I was here because I was always out working.
We went out a door to have light pour onto us from the horrifyingly familiar pink sky. This place with its worn cobblestones leading up to a wall topped by concertino wire was where we lined up in the mornings. That post near the wall was where Annie was beaten and shot with a pistol. A shot right through the side of her head ending her pain and suffering.
“Better dead than to lose what little honor we have, Liv. I would rather die a million painful ways than give up what little honor I hold for myself.” Her last words to me echoed in my thoughts. What good is honor when you are dead? There is nothing more one can do from the grave. I cannot die today. Today I must destroy honor.
My feet slipped out from under me, and I fell backwards, caught by Dan behind me. I took just a moment to look at him, to promise myself I have to keep moving forward for him if for no one else. A prod from Bryan behind us, forced me fully back to my feet.
I looked down to the troublesome ground and noticed that most of the cobblestones look slick with water. It must have been a rain day.
I looked back at Dan, wanting to convey my thanks, but a strong grip grabbed my arm and pulled me forward.
Scar-Face glared back at me, daring me to continue being slow. I carefully walked across the slippery ground following behind him, but he didn’t let go of my arm till we reached the first gate guarded by two guardsmen who seemed ready for us. They saluted, and he released me and returned the salut in a fluid motion.
The gate behind them slowly inched open. Someone or something other than them controlling it. It stopped at just enough room for us to pass through single file. Scar-Face walked forward, and I followed behind. Into the barren space between the walls. In front of us the second gate was already open the same amount as the first. Had they opened at the same time, or was the second gate already open? Not that it really mattered.
We trouped though, and I could see the dilapidated structures of the undesirables ahead. No one was around to watch us walk past. Where were they taking us for judgement? Were we going all the way to the main square? Was today a festival to celebrate our death, or would the people be quietly angry at our execution? Or maybe, I had misread everything. Maybe I was wrong, and when we got there, the judgment would be our honor for returning from the lands beyond. No. I couldn’t hold onto such silly false beliefs. I knew this place. It wasn’t like that.
The houses got nicer and I was certain now. We were going to the main square. People were standing on the side of the road through now. Guards stood in front of them lining the road forward. Here and there flowers were thrown out past the guards onto the road we walked.
Cloaked figures moved through the quiet crowd leaning close to people and saying something. The people whispered to their neighbors, but their whispers sounded like yelling in the still silence of the crowd. “A place beyond. Looked at their abnormal darked skin. They lie to us to keep us here.” Are these cloaked figures help from the Wall?
I wished I could reach back and grab Dan’s hand for comfort. This bizarre atmosphere has me on edge. I was not ready for this. But I kept stepping forward. All I could do was continue to face each moment as it comes until there was nothing left for me to face.
A platform like the one my father was executed on was set up in the middle of the square. Guards held a walkway to that platform open, and kept a small space around it clear, but no one pushed against them. No one fought to get at us. The only thing thrown was flowers. What was with the flowers? Why flowers? There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the flowers. They just seemed to be wild flowers you would see growing between the stones in the road.
A large man with a black hood stood on the platform sharpening a large edge of an axe. A wooden block with a U shape was in the middle of the platform. Was I to die by beheading? A pistol shot to the brain would be more merciful, but then again this didn’t seem to be about mercy.
Scar-Face walked up on the platform and I followed behind. I couldn’t stop now. I was already here. I could hear Dan’s footsteps behind me thudding on the wooden platform. The wood creaked beneath me, and I looked down to notice that it was old and laced with stains. It made sense that it was old. There weren’t a ton of trees inside the dome to produce wood.
Scar-Face stopped and turned toward me stopping me. He reached out and turned me to face the crowd. To my left I could see Bryan doing the same thing to Dan. Where we had just walked up the steps, a thin bald man in blue roads holding a piece of paper stepped onto the platform. Did he carry our sentences?
“As the emissary of the King, I am here to proclaim the judgement the King would see carried out on these criminals.” His voice projected the answer to my internal question across the quiet crowd. “For the Exile known as Liv, she will be sentenced to execution for breaking her exile.”
The crowd moved and mumbled, but one voice could be heard over the others, “How dare you kill one who has come back with Honor to open the gates for us!” Agreement rippled through the crowd.
The bald man continued, yelling over the top of the crowd. “For the unknown accomplice from the Wall, we sentence him to Dishonor. The people of the Wall hold ancient agreements with us, and those who interfere with our internal matters do so with knowledge that they face the judgements of this city.”
“I am not of this city or the Wall!” Dan shouted. “I come from a village beyond the Wall, and we would welcome those who want to leave this city to our village!” I expected Bryan to attempt to silence him, but Bryan just stood silently next to him. The man reading the judgements glared at us, but the damage was done.
“Listen to them! We can leave this place!” This time it was a clearly feminine voice yelling out in the crowd.
“Free them! Let them open the gates to outside the Wall for us!” A male voice screamed from a different part of the crowd.
This was my chance to be heard, to stir their hearts. I yell with all my might, “Can you stand by for a king who dares to break the rules of honor? This King is turning away from Honor! He dishonors himself with these judgements! There is another way! We don’t have to follow a leader who refuses to abide by his own rules! We can write the laws! We can become the rulers!” The people are silent and everyone is listening to me.
“Outside this place, I lived for two years in a village run by the people. Together they decided laws! Together they passed judgement on those who were criminals. Every person was subject to the rules! You can do the same. You can choose the rules you want to be governed by. Rise up! Refuse the rules in place. Refuse those that oppress without being subject to the same laws and say ‘No! I will not tolerate this!’” I stamped my foot for effect, and the people cheer and scream. They run at the stage, and the guards have to hold them back.
Sacr-Face just stood to my right, making no effort to stop me. Hands grabbed me from behind and dragged me backward causing me to scream in fright. I don’t want to die! “Fight them! Fight these cowards who oppress us!” I screamed as I was dragged backwards. I fought to free myself but this person was strong. I could see Dan staring in horror. Bryan moved as if in slow motion turning toward me with a look of shock, like he hadn’t accounted for this.
I attempted to pull the person’s hands off me, but I did nothing more than flail. I could see the execution block come into my vision as I was dragged backwards, and suddenly I was forced forward and down. A foot pressed down on my back pushing my neck into the U shape of the block. Was I going to die?
I could see Bryan unsheathing his sword and running toward me. I think it’s too late. “Dan!” I scream. And then a thunk behind me, and the pressure on my back disappeared.
“Run Liv! Get out of here!” I heard Bryan yell. I twisted and saw Bryan above me, holding off the executioner’s axe with his sword. A different hand grabbed me and pulled me out from underneath. This time it is Scar-Face. In one hand he had Dan and in the other he gripped my forearm dragging me toward the side of the stage even as some of the guards dropped their post manning the crowd and rushed onto the stage.
A sword swung at him, and he pushed us back blocking it with his left arm. He gripped the offending blade with his left hand. Blood dripped from his hand onto the wood below. He pulled out his sword with his right hand and buried it into the chest of the guard whose blade he blocked. “Run you two! Change things for us. Make it so we don’t have to kill to live!”
I scrambled forward toward the edge of the platform and jumped down right into the arms of a guard who wrapped his arms around me. I went to scream, but his hand grabbed my mouth. “Shhh. We are on your side. Henry stationed us here.” He let his arms drop, grabbed my bound hands and unlocked the cuffs. To my right I could see a guard releasing Dan. Up on the platform I could hear the gland of metal on metal. The guards pushed us forward, we ran into the ground that pulled us in. Looking back at the platform I saw a guard come up behind Bryan and stab him in the back. “Nooo!” I screamed, but it was too late and too quiet in the roar of the crowd. More swords hacked and stabbed into his body as Scar-Face ran toward his friend who was falling toward the ground, but he was met with at least 5 swords, and one chopped though his neck. My last sight was of him following toward the ground as the crowd pushed me backwards and closed out the view of the platform.
“Search for the fugitives!” I heard from the platform. The emissary’s deep voice boomed, “Any who are found aiding them will be executed on sight. They are to be found and immediately killed!”
They died. I hadn’t meant for Bryan to die. At most I had hoped he would just stand by and do nothing. I hadn’t expected this! I didn’t want this. Both him and - and Scar - no. I really had to stop thinking of him that way. He had given his life for me. Kyle. His name was Kyle. He’d always been strange. He was the one who had shot Annie before her full punishment was enacted.
Why, why had they sacrificed their lives for me? I didn’t want them to die for me! I could feel tears falling down my face, and I tripped and fell, but someone pulled me up and continued to push me on through the crowd.
A brown hooded cloak was thrown over me and tied. I felt a hand grab my own, and I looked to its owner to see Dan behind me desperately grabbing me through the crowd, and I gripped his hand back. Holding on to his lifeline, I looked to see his wide eyes, and I could feel him shaking through our grip.
Hands propelled us forward and pushed us to the outskirts of the crowd until I found myself standing in front of Henry. Next to him was a figure cloaked in black. “Your friends, I assume?” He pointed at the cloaked figure.”
I shrugged. I didn’t really know anymore. I kept seeing Bryan pierced by swords, falling to the ground; Kyle racing toward him to be met by a sword to the throat and joining his friend on the bloodstained platform.
“Yes, we of the Wall have promised weapons to her if she could change the people’s hearts.” The cloaked person said.
Henry raised an eyebrow, “So this is all a plot of the Wall just like the King’s spokesperson said?”
The cloaked man laughed, “No, she came back from the outside. She insisted on coming back into the City. We just promised weapons and some help. A couple whispers to get the crowd riled up, and then some weapons. The rest is up to you.” He gestured at us.
“Viva la revolution!” I proclaimed. Lifting my fist. Henry and Dan both looked at me like I was insane, but the cloaked man laughed.
“Aye,” He said. “May your revolution live long.”
Dan was the one who questioned me, “What did you mean with what you said?”
“It was a saying in the ancient past. It meant ‘Long live the Revolution’. It was from another language and has been taken up as a battle cry for revolutions across the ages.”
“It’s definitely a foreign sounding battle cry. Fits with the whole theme of you coming from the outside to free us,” Henry said while nodding approvingly. “For now though, we need to move and grab these promised weapons. My men have weapons, but the citizens don’t. If we want to grow our numbers we need to outfit everyone with weapons.
I could hear the clashing of swords still in the distance. Who was fighting right now? Bryan and Sc-Kyle were dead.
“My men are blocking all guards loyal to the crown from entering the crowd. We also gave weapons to some people in the crowd, but we need more. We need every citizen holding a weapon.” I am amazed at how much Henry seems to have planned for this.
I remembered why Henry hadn’t stopped them when they came to arrest me. “Henry, why are you helping me? Why aren’t you with your wife and kids?”
Henry shook his head, “Do you know how angry my wife was when I told her what happened? She told me that if I claimed to believe in justice I better not let you die.”
There had to be more to the story than that. I couldn’t imagine her just basically telling Henry to go die for me. I would quiz him more later.
“Weapons,” the cloaked man called out as he started to walk away, and we quickly fell in behind him.
Dan spoke up, “When we find the weapons we can have any people who you know are loyal distribute them, but Liv and I need to hide. Do you have a plan for that? If they find us we are dead and this revolution will end before it fully begins. I’m a skilled warrior, but Liv can only fight with ranged weapons.”
The cloaked man stopped. “That’s right, I almost forgot to give you your weapons. I found this recruit of yours quite intriguing.” He pulled out a belt with a sheathed sword and a holstered pistol. “For the outsider.”
Dan took it from him.
Then to me he held out a belt with a different pistol and a number of ammo pouches on it. “For our revolution leader.”
I took the belt offered to me and cinched it around my waist. I had trained with this special pistol enough to know that I wasn’t going to be dangerous to anyone around me.
“No special weapons for me?” Henry asked.
“You are already decked out in armor and weapons!” The cloaked man exclaimed indignantly.
“Ahh, too bad. I was hoping I could get a weapon like you just handed Liv.” Henry didn’t sound that upset though.
“We don’t hand out weapons like Liv’s to just anyone.” The cloaked man shrugged.
“Weapons stockpile, right in here.” He pointed at a small door hidden in the side of the building next to us.
I stepped forward and opened it. Inside were steps. I began walking into the darkness, and lights turned on in the ceiling. “What!” I exclaimed.
“This is a passageway beneath the city. The lights here still work.” The Wall man’s voice came from behind me.
Well, at least I didn’t have to walk down these stairs in pitch black. At the end of the stairs leading down was a simple looking room filled with chests. I walked forward and listed the lid on a chest. It was filled with swords.
I walked to another chest, lifted its lid, and found it filled with armor.
To my left Dan opened a chest and I could see bows and arrows. Henry had opened a chest with traditional city barrel loading pistols. I saw him grab one for himself and attach it to his belt along with a bag of munitions.
Dan came over to the chest I had just opened. “We should bothe put on some armor.”
I nodded, but I didn’t know what to pick. He grabbed a piece made of interlocking rings. “Try this on, Liv.”
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. “Can you help me with it? I’m not quite sure what to do with it.”
“Well, first you need to take off your cloak.” He dropped the armor back in the chest and reached forward to untie my cloak, stopped, and looked at me. His cheeks turned a touch red. “Uh - I shouldn’t have. You can-”
I grasped his fingers. “It’s fine.” And then I let go of his hands again. What was I even doing?
He reached forward unable to meet my gaze, staring at the ties on the cloak while he undid it.The cloak slid off my shoulders and onto the ground. He then quickly undid my belt I had just put on. How much did he want me to remove before putting armor on?
He picked back up the metal rings thing and moved it until I could tell it looked like a shirt.
“Lift your arms.” I did as he told me and he slid the garment onto me. I stumbled from the weight falling onto my shoulders as it tumbled down and went to my mid thigh.
“I’m not sure I can wear this,” I muttered as I grabbed him for support. I hadn’t expected it to feel this heavy spread across my body like this. “It’s a bit heavy.”
“Hmm.” He looked at me, and then at the chest. “I’m not sure there is much lighter armor in there.”
“She’s already wearing exile leather still. That counts for a little bit of armor.” The Wall man came toward us holding out two pieces of metal. “Maybe just have her wear arm bracers and a neck guard.”
Dan nodded. “That might be a better idea. Lift your arms again.”
This time I struggled to lift my arms from under the weight of the metal garment, but Dan made it fairly painless by quickly pulling the weight off me. He dumped it back in the chest.
“Arms.” He said and I held out my arms to him. He took a metal piece from the Wall man and put it on my arm. It had two leather straps that buckled around my arm holding it on. He then did the other arm.
“Now for some sort of neck protection,” He muttered as he searched in the armor chest till he found what he wanted. “Here we go.”
He pulled out a thing that had to smaller us shaped pieces that flattened out into a metal plate. “What is that?” I asked. I couldn’t decide if it was some sort of strange jewelry or a torture device to choke prisoners with.
“It’s a neck guard.” He undid the buckles on one side opening it up. Torture device confirmed. It went just below my chin, and seemed a little big. At least I could breathe in it . The plate that fanned out from the part around my neck seemed to be holding it up to stay seated around my neck. He did up the buckles. “That should work.”
I tried to nod, finding my chin hitting into this neck guard thing.
“Put your pistol belt and cloak back on. I need to get armored.” He said as he looked through the chest searching for armor for himself.
I wished he would put the belt on and tie my cloak for me too, but that was selfish of me. He needed to get armor too, and we needed to get weapons out to the people that were fighting in my name.
I leaned over to grab my pistol belt, and found this metal neck collar war really annoying. It messed with my balance and ability to look down properly. I pushed it back with my chin and found I could maneuver it so that I could in fact look down, though it still pressed into my chin.
I finished putting the pistol belt back around my waist. I then did up my cloak and looked over to see Dan’s weapon belt and cloak on the floor as he put on what looked like a jacket made of the metal rings. “What is that thing called?” I asked.
“Chain Mail. This particular style is called a Hauberk. I will also do a chain mail hood, a breastplate, pauldrons, and bracers like what you have on your arm.” He finished tying up the laces in the front of his hauberk. He pulled out a large piece of metal that I could tell looked like it went over the torso. It had some pieces of metal dangling down off of it. He put it over top of himself. “Can you do up the buckles on the side and the buckled for the thigh pieces that are dangling down?”
“I’m not sure I’m qualified for this.” I looked at all the buckles and gulped. Nope. Not ready for this.
A light tap on my shoulder, and Henry’s voice. “I’ve got this. You go talk to mister cloaked man about how we are going to get these passed out to the masses.”
Yes. That sounded like something I was much more qualified for. “Sounds good.”
“You’re just going to leave me to this stranger after I helped you?” Dan called out.
“Yes, I think you are much better off with Henry helping you.” I called back as I walked over to where the cloaked man was sitting on a chest.
“So I assume you heard Henry’s request for us to discuss arming the people?” I asked.
“Yes. I think that’s on you.” He replied nonchalantly while staring at his nails.
“There are four of us here right now. Henry can’t carry all of this gear by himself back to the crowds.”
“Come up with a plan, miss strategist, leader of the rebellion. Isn’t that why your life was spared at the expense of those guards?”
Bryan and Kyle. How dare he use them against me! But he was right. They died for me. I had to be more than someone who just relied on others. But my strategies were shit! I had to think carefully about this and do my best.
What if I just spread word of this stash and had people come here to get it themselves? No, that wouldn’t work. The spies would hear about this and the guards would come to confiscate the weapons stash. I needed a different plan. Some way to get lots of weapons out to people without the spies or guards finding it.
“Are there other weapons stashes, or is this the only one?” I asked.
“There are others, but we won’t show them to you until you either exhaust this stash or it gets raided by the guards. Then again, if it gets raided by the guards maybe we shouldn’t show you other ones. But that’s not my call to make. I’m just following orders.” He shrugged as he said this. It looked like he was looking at me, but there seemed to be a black fabric under the hood of the cloak blocking his face from view.
“Why is your face covered?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking.
“I’m a repairer. Part of the contract with the city is we are never to show our faces, and the guards aren’t to question us. In return, we fix things like the plumbing, lights, the stacks, and basically anything that needs technological knowledge to be kept running. It’s why I was ordered to help you with supplies.”
They had a contract with the city to be masked like that? An idea was starting to form in my mind. A way for me to secretly move. A way for my loyalist and closest followers to be kept secret. “Do you have more of those special cloaks?”
The top of the cloak’s hood moved upward a bit, and I assumed he was looking into my eyes, but I couldn’t see his face at all. All I could see was that I was clearly looking at a black fabric screen.
He laughed. “Yes, I have more. You might be a touch smarter than I gave you credit for, but only a touch.” He stood up. “I’ll be back in a bit. Just wait here and I’ll bring you a trunk of cloaks.” He stepped behind the chest he was just sitting on, and pushed on the wall. It moved, showing a dark hallway. He moved into it, and the hallway lit up. Then the wall closed behind him, and the hallway was gone.
I looked back to Henry and Dan, and I could see they were working on getting armor on him. I thought about explaining my idea to them, but they would learn when the Wall man came back with cloaks. For now, I took a seat on the chest the wall man had been sitting on and watched them..
“You do realize you could die in this city?” Henry asked.
“Yes.” Dan answered.
“You have no qualms about dying for a strange city?” It looked like Henry was buckling a metal piece onto Dan’s shoulder.
“Nah, I wouldn’t be dying for da city.” He nodded toward me, and I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. I really should tell him about my feelings. He continued, “I couldn’t care less about his place. So far, what I’ve seen, it’s a terrible place. There do seem to be good people here, but that’s not my fight. That’s hers. I am here for her.” His eyes met mine, and I was quite certain my face must look like a ripe apple right now. I couldn’t stand the strength of his gaze or his determination, and I found myself staring down at the smooth stone floor.
“What about you?” Dan asked, “Are ya fine with dying for this city? Ya have a wife and kids right? Ya fine with just leaving them behind?”
“This is my home. If I’m not willing to die to change it, what type of place will my kids grow up to live in? Do I let things continue to go the way they are, with the illusion of choice in the jeweled prison, or do I fight to open the gates to choice? All I want is for my kids and their kids to be able to live a good life. I want them to be happy here, or elsewhere, and right now that isn’t a choice. The King’s laws have been getting stricter and stricter recently. Lots of people have been being demoted. Whether just to Undesirable or all the way to Dishonored. Neither is really a good place to be. Undesirables are basically Dishonored who just get to live outside the prison. I’ve come to hate this place as much as I love it. And my wife believes in honor.” Henry chuckled after that statement.
“Well maybe not honor. I don’t really know what she’s thinking sometimes. What I do know is that she wants me out here fighting. So maybe I am fighting for a similar reason to you. Maybe I am just fighting for what my woman wants and justifying it as fighting for a noble cause.” Henry sounded as if that thought had just crossed his mind.
“What about you Liv?” Henry’s sudden question caused me to look up from the floor to see him staring at me.
“What?” I responded, not quite certain what exactly he was questioning me about.
“Are you willing to die for this city?” Henry asked.
“In a way, I should already be dead. I’ve been saved by people in the village outside the Wall. I’ve been saved by the Wall people. I’ve been saved by Bryan and Kyle who died for me up on that platform. I think it’s only fair that I fight for the people who have saved my life. I want my young half-siblings to be free of the prison that is the only life they have known. They were born dishonored. They didn’t do anything except be brought into the world by my Dishonored mother. I want Kevins’ brother and father to be free of the chains Kevin and I accidentally wrought. I want this place to be more like the village outside the Wall where everyone works together for the good of the community. Honor shouldn’t be some rank cast upon you. It should be a thing inside you that carry. A thing that compels you to hold yourself to the highest standards. Whether that is a standard of treating others with courtesy or standard of not breaking laws. Sure, people who break their honor should see some sort of repercussion, but losing their own honor shouldn’t affect everyone else. And even then, they should be able to work to regain their honor.” I realized I was rambling and stopped speaking.
Henry clapped. “Glorious! You paint a vision of such a perfect place. Maybe my wife was right to insist I not come home if you died.”
All this talk of death. Would I be the cause of death for all of us? Would we all die for this cause that I was obsessed with, and no one else seemed to care about?
“I could die for a city that was the way you described.” Henry stated, surprising me. “I want you to tell the people that vision. I want you to spread that. Maybe we can write it on a pamphlet and spread it. ‘A Vision of Honor’, we can title it. That should spread our cause quite well.”
It was exactly what the Wall wanted. Me as the visionary of a cause people would die for. I nodded. “I will write it down. We can also tell people it and spread the vision through word of mouth. The more people believing in it, the more support we will have.”
This was it. This was why I lived. I lived because I had the ability to tell people a vision. A vision that could convince them to die for their city. Bryan. Kyle. I would make their deaths worth something. I would change this city so no one else had to pretend to be evil and to kill as mercy to those they watched. I would make it so that there would be no more Bryans and Kyles in this world.
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