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AND AT THE GATES, WILL HE ASK TO SEE MY HANDS?
Only such a wicked sin as Greed could drive a man to volunteer to end his spouse’s life. With a pouch full of gold in his right hand, Jareb turned his back on his wife of ten years as she struggled in the arms of the same four strong men who had brought her to this very spot and tied her to this very stake in front of the jeering crowd.
Betrayed into the hands of sinners, his Adela now limply stood unconscious behind a sheet of billowing smoke that uncoiled like a serpent from the insides of the mound of sticks and hay that she was positioned atop.
Jareb watched the multitude of peasants howl around him like wolves as the wind picked up, blowing Adela’s white nightgown against her slender figure – the figure that he would never again be able to hold against his own. He turned away from her as his throat tightened.
If it weren’t her, it would the children -…or me.
Looking back he saw an eerie red glow of rising ashes begin to shape around his wife and a tiny glimmer of light caught his eye. The thin wedding band around her finger reflected in the smolder of the small blazes forming around the bottom of the heap.
He remembered; only fourteen, standing with his fingers intertwined with Adela’s, begging her father for her hand in marriage. He had assured nothing but the love of a hardworking partner and many healthy sons. Markedly, this would become nothing but an empty promise. With two ailing daughters and now being a corrupt husband, Adela would not have been the only one Jareb had betrayed, had her father not died years ago.
Tears welled in his gray eyes as a flood of emotions that had been barred from the borders of his mind burst forth. What had he done? Where had his love for this woman gone to over the years? Had he not been kissing her cheek only yesterday? It should be him on the stake tonight, having been a callous husband and a negligent father.
Being crushed by the weight of his own brazen guilt, he quickly began to realize what he had become. Through the mass of screaming fiends he could see in the distance his sad messiah with a bowed head. A feral gasp shuddered through Jareb’s lungs but with the bat of an eye the apparition had vanished.
Knocking shoulders with the members of the roaring public, Jareb tore forward through the crowd toward his blameless wife. Screaming her name as he reached the front, he was swiftly stopped by a wall of flames that ruptured through the mass of wood and grass.
He fell to his knees and broke down. The reek of burning flesh immediately filled the air and they all cheered as he wept into his palms. He only looked up when he thought he heard the hissing of a snake behind the barrage of fire that engulfed Adela’s smoldering corpse. However, a corpse was not what met his gaze, but a large cross and a sinister silhouette of a woman; an arm outstretched, her finger pointing toward the man who would eternally regret his ghastly betrayal.