“And so,” the herald called as he read off the parchment. The inner courtyard of the palace was deathly still, and Maelys was trembling in his bindings. “The charges against Maelys; that of Unprotected Nightly Foray, Unlawful and Undocumented Entry into the city, and Treason under suspicion of opening the Spear Gate.”
Maelys looked into the crowd for the brief moment of silence accompanied by his words. Dozens of guards wearing the uniform of Upper Terrace. He even recognized two of the three guards that had came down into the dungeons the night before. Eathe stood in the front of the group, alongside the Hand of Justice, whose name was Karayan. Both had spoken testimony against Maelys, but from the talk the three of them had this morning, it was obvious that Maelys would be executed regardless of who said what. Eathe was just playing a part.
“… to be executed via axe immediately,” the herald finished. A chill ran down Maelys’ spine.
He had nothing to fear though, right? All he had to do was trust in himself.
In his magic.
He felt an arm grab him by the shoulder and lead him away from the crowd. His mind screamed at him to bolt, but that would only get him killed that much quicker. Just breathe steady. In, then out.
He was pushed further towards the front of the makeshift wooden stage as the Herald folded his parchment and stepped aside. He glanced back, away from the crowd and towards the Spear Gate.
If Varra and Eathe were wrong, and Maelys had no magic, this would be it. He had to trust them. People that, realistically, he had only just met days ago. If only Rozire were here.
The executioner pushed him onto his knees. They agreed Eathe would give the signal, and even though he assured it would be auditory, terror flooded into his body now that Maelys couldn’t see him.
“Aenias,” he muttered under his breath, trembling. “Guide me. Maker protect me. Please.”
“Consider this an honor,” the executioner chuckled, too quietly for anyone but him to hear. “A petty criminal like you doesn’t ever earn the right to hold the case of the Hands of Aenias. What makes you think the Maker will save you now.”
“If faith was so easily squandered,” Maelys replied, “what value would it have?”
The executioner chuckled again. “Profound. The best last words I’ve heard in some time.”
A horn blared from inside the palace. Maelys heard the crown start rustling in response.
“All personnel!” Eathe yelled. “Find the Hands! Protect them with your life!” Maelys heard the sound of armor plates sliding against each other as the guards bustled into motion.
That was the signal. Maelys moved to get onto his feet, but a boot pressed him down into the wooden stage.
“Oh no you don’t,” Karayan said. “I see what you’re doing. Guards, stay here.”
“You don’t command these men, Karayan,” he heard Eathe say. “I do.”
“Not for long, boy. Maybe if you’re so eager to consult with your girlfriend about matters that are no longer her concern, you both will be joining that boy as he gets the axe.”
A few people inside started screaming for help. Maelys finally felt the pressure on his back release. And he couldn’t trust he would get a better chance than this.
Maelys loosed the fake knots in the cord that Eathe had bound around his wrists and rolled to the side. A grunt of surprise was followed by the soft whistling of air, and then finally the loud slam of metal splintering wood.
He looked to see the executioner heaving the axe back up and staring at Maelys with a mixture of annoyance and anticipation.
“Fourth Squad, stop the prisoner! The rest to the palace!” Eathe yelled.
His heart skipped a beat. He glanced up to see Eathe and Karayan both staring at him. It was a slight movement, but Maelys was sure Eathe gave him a nod of assurance.
No time. Maelys turned around and leaped off the wooden stage. Straight for the Spear Gate.