"N-No! No, plea-" ?
She desperately screamed, frantically kicking her legs across the surface of the maniacal stage, trying to escape, her eyes staring out to the crowd, pleading for help, filled to the brim with trepidation of what was mere moments away. Before anyone could answer her plea, before a single soul was moved by her innocent cries, the floorboard beneath her feet ceased to support her, falling from under her. In a matter of seconds, her neck was wrung around the rope. The life faded from her tearful eyes, yet the pain remain, forever engraved in her dead expression. Hung, she was, for witchcraft, a crime against the God these faithless people worshipped. No matter how pure, or how helpful her intentions were, she was sentenced to the role by the very people she cared for, by the people she had dedicated her life to work for. She was a monster for her deeds, after all, she deserved no better for playing with power beyond the understanding of foolish, mortal men. They left her body hanging there, to serve as a symbol to all who enter their town, to all who dare oppose or skew from their insignificant, mundane way of living. They nailed a post beneath her dangling corpse, warning all the foolish boys and girls who once dreamed of magic:?
"Any who practice the art of the devil in this land shall be sentenced death." ?
And every man and woman cheered after the fact, cheering for murder, cheering for their crime, unthinking, unbending, unwilling to understand the atrocities they commit in the name of purity. Believing, believing that retribution was theirs to deliver, exempt from the very adjudication that has condemned too many. Of course, because they are holy, only they are worthy of absolution, it is they who hold the truth and they alone.
Twilight cascaded over the once bright, and ever growing darkness slowly creeping over the light. The crowds had dissipated since the afternoon, some still lingering, wandering about the village, others simply standing, staring at the corpse in the village center. The ever so slight clinking of steel resonated in the dead silence of the coming night, an armored knight approaching a young man who stood near the stage, joining him in gazing at the body. A few moments had passed before the young man registered the presence of the knight, quickly taking in the small details, the scratched, cut, worn steel that forged the helmet, gauntlets, and greave. The stitched, obviously torn before leather tunic, reinforced with small plates of metal, they just as dirty and worn as the rest of equipment. His armor did not shine, it barely reflected the light in the sky having fought through so much grime, this was no knight in shining armor, but instead, a warrior, tried and true, whose scrapes and scars signified his duty, his honor to those who have fallen in the fields of blood, he did not hide them, instead wore them as a symbol of strength, a symbol of pride. There was a crest carved into the knight’s pauldron, that mark of the Holy Knight’s who served for justice ages ago, an order scarcely seen in the world today. They have since become legends, their exploits mere tales of glory that serve to inspire armies, the few members that still exist having since retreated into the darkness, working in shadows, saving lives and hunting beasts in silence, without a soul ever seeing their work. They had disappeared, and that is the way they shall stay, unknown to the world.
“If only you had arrived sooner, I bet a knight like you ought to of wanted to hunt the witch yourself. A real shame that is, it seems they caught and wrung her up in an inst-”
“Did they even know her name?” The knight interrupted the young man’s statement, completely ignoring everything he said.
“I--I don’t think so, she’s a witch, her name is that of a demon, innit?” The young man said, completely indoctrinated to the beliefs of this unevolved society, believing that works of wonder are truly that of the devil, a mindset that will only breed violence, and more death down the road.
“I have one a word of advice for you…” The knight said slowly, stern, as if he was holding back anger, trying not to lash out at the boy, “run.” he told him, turning away from the grotesque display of justice. He marched along the villages dirt roads until he reached the keep, where the reigning noble resided in luxury, governing and delivering judgements that he saw fit to his own little world. Indeed, using power to compensate for what he locked, a man who sipped the tiniest taste of greatness and went mad, gripping to the irrelevance all nobles loved so. The knight stopped at the unnecessarily ornate wooden doors to the lackluster residence, forcing them open to stand in the main hall, facing down a line of conscripted guards that lead to the nobles malevolent throne at the farthest end. There was a red carpet that led all the way to him, a set of 3 pillars on each wall that supported an upper level, each with a guard posted, bearing swords and shields at the ready.
“Ah,” the noble exclaimed, leaning back into his throne, “it appears we have a guest! I am Ser Emery the Just, have you come to congratulate me on the spoils of my hunt?” he said with an ever so slight wicked smile, one that only the keen would notice as mad. The knight walked forward in silence, not gracing his host with the praise he desperately wanted.
“You killed an innocent woman.” The knight stated with confidence, speaking sharply to the maddened man.
“She was a witch, a monster, she deserved to die. I sent her back to the devil where she belonged” his faint smile soon turned to an unamused frown.
“You have no right to condemn a good-willed soul to damnation, heathen. The only devilry at play is here, the creature of which you speak, sitting right before me.” The knight held his hand close to the grip of his sword, ready to unsheathe at any given moment. The noble twitched at the knight and his statement, gripping firmly onto the arms of the chair, stiffly sitting up,
“You dare accuse me of being a devil!? Magic is an atrocity! The work of the devil, a crime against my God! My will! I am the executor of his judgement and my work shall not be belittled by the likes of a wretched, faithless knight!” The noble’s circuits snapped, “kill this intruder, guards! Put his body with the monster in the square! Now!” He commanded the conscripts, they drawing their swords and raising their shields, circling the dreaded knight. The first to rush came from behind, lunging his sword forward in a clumsy manner, an amateur warrior at best. The knight stepped to the side to avoid the blow, then sweeping his legs under the guard, knocking him off of his feet and using the lunge to faceplant him directly onto the floor. Before letting the guard have the chance to recover, he drew his straight sword, plunging it into the crevasse between the helmet and breastplate, blood oozing onto the red carpet, blending in perfectly. With his other hand he drew a small knife, quickly carving a line into the back of the dead guards armor as two more of the guards rushed forward, hoisting their swords to the air and striking down in a cross attack. Leaving his sword in the neck of the first guard, The knight leaped over their unified swing, rolling behind the two and drew two more knives, tossing them through the air and piercing the cheap cloth that protected the skin behind the kneecap, severing the fibular ligament, knocking them down in their stride. The knight rushed over and grabbed his, sliding beside the first body, quickly carving two more lines in the dead guards armor, crafting an almost inscrutable rune as he drew the sword from their neck. The two guards who fell were trying to stand, with the remaining rushing in to support them. The knight lunged, stabbing into the neck of one guard through the opening in his armor, kicking the other onto his back as he stood, stabbing his sword through the leather and into their gut. He looked up, his helmet immediately bashed with a the shield of one of the remaining guard, throwing his helmet off to side, knocking the knight back beside the first dead guard, with two more standing above him, dropping their swords down to his body. The knight barely moved, only raising his hand, slamming it onto the rune carved into the dead guard. There was a hissing in the air, the rune glowing a deep red.
Instantaneously, a massive explosion enveloped the room, sending pieces of the keep as raining bits of fire across the village, leaving the room exposed to the open night sky, enveloped by a shroud of smoke, fire, and ashes. The floor was stained black, the guards who were fighting had been blown, now resting, embedded into the dilapidated walls of the keep, their armor reeling with smoke and scorch marks. The knight emerged from the smoke, his helmet gone, his gauntlet shattered to pieces, leaving only burnt, turn cloth and an exposed forearm. He shakily stepped forward, facing the noble, shaking in his shattered, crumbled throne. Staring down the knight, a man whose arm, his very face, seemed to of been scorched and scarred by flames long ago, a mark that will forever remain on his tortured body. The knight scratched the back of his head as he walked forward,
“Runes are a strange magic, becoming exceedingly powerful when infused with blood… all the more suited to rain fire down upon your transgressions…” he mumbled, standing in front of the fearful noble.
“Wh-What are you?!” he screamed, the knight gazing at him with cold, dead eyes.
“Oh, just another monster…” he claimed, driving his sword through the heart of the devil himself, the true monster that laid before his eyes.
The fires would not cease, cleansing the earth of this foul place, burning down every house and hut as people ran, escaping to the roads and to the woods, still unaware of the mistakes they made. The knight picked up his helmet, placing the heated steel over his head once again, a cowl for his monstrous face. Walking down to the center of the town with his blood soaked sword still drawn, held tightly in his right hand, still covered with a gauntlet. He approached the stage on which the witch was hung, taking each step up slowly. He cut the rope, catching the body of the woman in his scorched arm. “Coleen…” he whispered, holding the corpse closely. “You did not deserve this…” He held laid her down on the stage, removing the knot that was around her neck. He ran his hand over the choke mark, the discolorations that ended her life. He stayed, sitting with her until the fires ceased, burying her in the ashes. Leaving his blade sealed in the soil that rested above her body. His sword, the heathen’s blood, the headstone of his oldest friend.