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Severed

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Edgar Roleau looked up at the sky. It was a clear night, and he could see hundreds of stars. He scanned the skies for one constellation in particular. He found it. He had hoped that it would have brought him and his men the luck needed to defeat their foes. It was Scutum. He had hoped that it would provide the strength necessary to overcome the Royals. The least it could do was protect him and his men. Despite his disappointed attitude, Edgar grinned as he pondered the significance of why he was there. He was there to be a leader for his friends. He began to chuckle as he thought about it even deeper. This was a serious issue, and he had couldn’t resist the urge to chuckle. He would have gotten up and gave a shout of exuberance, but a bayonet was currently pressed against his throat.
Edgar shifted his gaze from the starry night to the face of his oppressor. A member of the Gardes Françaises stood directly above him. The unit of Gardes Françaises had run out of gunpowder while fighting Edgar and his men, so they had to resort to storming the Revolutionary’s stronghold. Due to their inexperience in hand-to-hand combat, Edgar and his men stood no chance. From what Edgar could see, he was the final revolutionary alive. Edgar broke eye contact with his oppressor turned his head to either side. Both Revolutionary and Royal blood ran through the area, merging into one, little creek. The creek flowed in the cracks between the stones that made up the road. The area was littered with both Revolutionary and Royal corpses alike. Edgar caught movement out of his left eye.
Although Edgar had thought all of his men were dead, he noticed one of his was still alive. The man clutched the ground and attempted to pick himself up. He had been face down to the ground. A head wound was dripping blood down his bruised face. His hair was red and dripping the blood of his friends, as well as enemies. He had no strength left within him, and collapsed in a heap to the ground. This caught the attention of another member of the Royal Army. The Revolutionary attempted to reach for a rifle to his side. He couldn’t reach the rifle, and the Royal was soon upon him. Edgar watched as his final survivor yelled in pain as the Royal plunged his bayonet into his back. The Revolutionary grew suddenly silent. The only sound to be heard from him was the slow inhalation of air. A slow cascade of blood began to trickle out of the corners of his mouth. He turned his head slowly, and made eye contact with Edgar. The dying Revolutionary managed a faint smile, before his eyes closed and his head thumped into the ground again.
Edgar reached out to his dead comrade. His oppressor pressed the bayonet more firmly into Edgar’s neck. Edgar felt yet another brook of blood trickle down his skin. He glanced back at his oppressor. Nothing was said, no sounds were to be heard. The air was filled with the silence of death. Edgar’s oppressor placed his right foot onto Edgar’s chest and removed the bayonet from his neck. He drew back his arms. Edgar shifted his gaze back to the starry night. Another smile flooded his face. He closed his eyes, and he felt the smile grow larger. He waited. He knew he would soon be with his comrades, hopefully in a better place.
After a few seconds, two pairs of hands grabbed him, one pair per shoulder. Edgar was whisked to his feet, and then shoved. He opened his eyes and regained his balance. He turned around to see the commander of the Royal squadron standing behind him. The commander shook his head at Edgar’s oppressor. He glanced at Edgar before turning his back to him, and then whispered something to Edgar’s oppressor. The oppressor nodded his head. The commander began to walk away from the ghastly area, not turning once to look at Edgar. Edgar continued to look at the commander, until his oppressor struck Edgar in the side of his head with the stock of his rifle. Edgar spun slightly, fell to the blood soaked ground, and blacked out.
***
It was early on a Saturday morning. The rising sun was bright in the sky. The sunlight itself lit up the faces in the market place. Some birds sang their song as they flew over the market place. Children sang and danced on the street corner, playing various games on the street curb. A few clouds drifted aimlessly through the morning air. A light breeze blew through the crowd that had gathered at the market place.
It couldn’t be said the same for Edgar though. The air smelled musty and was very heavy with humidity. The stone walls and floor had moss growing in between the cracks. Water constantly dripped through the barred window and wooden ceiling. The only view Edgar ever got out of his barred window was of the sky. Edgar’s door opened, and in walked a member of the Gardes Françaises. The guard carried a pike wherever he went. He told Edgar that it was his turn, and this time it wasn’t a practice run. Edgar was led out of the prison to the outdoors, but only after his hands were bound by the guard. The sunlight blinded him as he stepped through the iron door. His vision had not yet recovered before he was shoved into the back of a rough, wooden wagon.
Edgar sat down on the planks, all by himself. Not a single other prisoner was on the wagon with him, just the three guards and the wagon driver. Two of the guards had rifles, the other one a pike. Edgar lurched forward and hit his head onto the bottom of the wagon as the horse began to trot down the road. Edgar cringed as a gash on his forehead reopened. He struggled to right himself back into a sitting position. He managed to roll himself over onto his stomach. He glanced at the guards in the wagon with him, looking for a helping hand. None was given. He was able to use his bound arms to prop himself up. His hands slid across the bottom of the wagon due to the pool of blood from the gash on his forehead. Edgar gritted his teeth as the wood from the wagon embedded itself into his hands. After righting himself, Edgar turned himself back around into his original position, so that he was facing out the back of the wagon. Edgar bounced as the wagon bumped its way along the cobblestone road. He wiped his blood smeared hands onto the top of his pants. This movement dug the wooden splinters deeper into his flesh. He attempted to remove these pains with his teeth. He had one clamped between his front teeth, when the wagon bounced again. Edgar socked himself in the nose. Edgar gave up trying to remove the wooden splinters after socking himself a second time.
Edgar watched as the city of Paris moved past him. The wagon passed the cobbler. Edgar remembered he had an order placed in for new shoes, but he wouldn’t be there to pick them up. The next building Edgar noticed was the church. He wondered if he would rest there with his parents and sister. He doubted that they would have the decency to place him with his deceased family. He hoped he could at least be with them in heaven, if he still was accepted there. These thoughts were interrupted by a new thought. As Edgar passed the bakery, memories of his childhood flooded his mind. Edgar remembered how he would wait every Sunday afternoon for the baker to come from church. Edgar would run out of the church doors and go straight to the bakery. Almost every week, Edgar would get to the store before the baker himself. Once the baker got to his shop, he would open the doors for Edgar. Due to his regular presence, the baker would usually sell Edgar a pastry for a lower price. Edgar was suddenly jarred back into reality. He bounced around again, this time his left knee slid on the blood smear. More splinter bore into his flesh. But pain was irrelevant at that point. He would be dead in a few minutes.
The sounds of the marketplace reached his ears. He knew what was there, and he didn’t like it. Panicked, Edgar frantically searched for a way out. There was only one option he could think of. When the driver slowed the wagon down to make a sharp turn, Edgar threw himself from the back of the wagon. Edgar hit the ground hard, and tumbled into a passerby. Edgar scrambled to his feet with a bit of trouble, and pushed the man he fell into to the ground. Edgar’s aching legs carried him down the road. Suddenly there was a sharp, loud sound that echoed off of the buildings. It felt like something had bitten into Edgar’s right calf. Edgar fell once again into the cobblestone road, and once again, he picked himself up and continued to run.
Blood, sweat and mud all mixed together on Edgar’s face. His vision began to grow a red tint in his right eye. A new gash right above his eye was dripping blood down into Edgar’s eye. He clamped his eye shut. His mouth tasted salty. He wiped his wrist over the corners of his mouth. A red streak covered the top of his hand. Edgar right leg collapsed from underneath him. Edgar tried to stand back up, but took only two steps before falling again. Edgar heard the shouts of the guards from around the corner. Edgar looked to his right and saw a narrow, dark gap in between two buildings. Edgar crawled on hand and knee into the darkness. Now alone and in solitary, Edgar analyzed his wounds. He sat down and leaned against one of the walls. His face was covered in blood and dirt. Cuts were abundant on his head. His arms were sore and a dark purple from the numerous bruises that had accumulated over the past couple days. His hair was sweaty and greasy. His legs ached from running and were covered in mud. Edgar noticed that there was a huge blood stain on the back of his right calf. He reached down and stroked the area. Edgar retracted his arms immediately and bit down on his tongue to keep for yelling in pain. Maintaining the bite he had on his tongue, Edgar went back to this leg wound. He patted various areas around the opening. He felt something hard, something that should never be located inside someone’s body, a bullet.
Edgar closed his eyes and leaned his head against the brick wall. He opened his eyes when he heard a grunt come from around the corner of the building. He inched his way along the wall, away from the guard. But it was no use. The guard’s head poked around the corner and caught sight of the fugitive. Edgar fell to his back and held up his bound hands. The guard held up his rifle, and brought the butt down onto Edgar’s head. Edgar blacked out.
***
It was late on a Saturday evening, the day of execution. The setting sun cast an ominous shadow onto the cobblestone, a tall shadow all too familiar for the prisoners. The sunlight itself glinted off the mouton inside the wooden frame. A guillotine stood up tall and erect on a red stained scaffold. Some birds sang a throaty song as they circled above the market place. The singing birds were the few ravens that would show up for the free meal. Children sang and danced to songs they made up about criminals, death, and other morbid subjects, and played fake executions on the street curb. A few clouds drifted aimlessly through the morning air, but were only the forerunners of a larger force that was coming. A light breeze turned into a cold wind as the storm approached. The crowd was still just as large as it was earlier that day. Edgar, a leader of a group of revolutionaries, was successfully recaptured, and was to be executed last. The crowd would have usually thinned out by now, but no one wanted to miss the last execution.
As a fresh head was placed onto yet another pike, a new bound prisoner was brought up the scaffold’s stairs. The pike with the young man’s head on it was placed next in line among the dozens of others. The executioner attempted to scare away the ravens perched on the heads, but they refused to move. The prisoner who was dragged up the stairs did not quiver. In fact, she stood erect with her head up high. She almost seemed proud that she was being led to her death. The executioner grabbed her wrists and roughly thrust her into the bascule. He took the rope in his hands and bound her legs to the bascule, then tilted her up into a horizontal position. He then walked in front of her, lowered the lunette, and spit in her face. An official on the corner of the scaffold announced who this lady was and her crime. The crowd cheered. Once he was done, he gave the executioner a slight nod of the head. With the pulling of the déclic, the lady’s head was severed from her body. Though her hair was a disgrace by length, there was still enough for the executioner to grab in his fist. He pulled the head out of the wooden bucket, half covered with blood. He thrust the trophy into the air. Some of the blood glided off the head and into the crowd. A few were disgusted, but the majority did not care.
As Edgar was led up the scaffold, the executioner grabbed the bucket. He then was able to part the crowd using his hand, and dumped the blood out of the bucket onto the ground. The blood snaked its way in between the gaps in the cobblestone road. As Edgar poked his head up above the scaffold, the crowd went into an immediate up roar. He limped up the stairs. All he did was look at the planks that made up the scaffold. The executioner whispered something into his ear, but it was indistinguishable. This was the real execution, not another practice, like the day before. The blade was real, the crowd, everything. The executioner grabbed Edgar’s wrists, and threw him into the bascule. Edgar cringed as the edge of the bascule jutted into his stomach. The wind was knocked out of him, but he still stood up on his own strength. He lay himself down on the bascule, and continued his study of the wooden planks as his legs were bound. The lunette was placed over his neck. The executioner spit, and he felt the droplet hit his right temple. The wood put splinters into his neck. Edgar lowered his head. Blood from the numerous cuts on his head trickled down his face, gathered at his chin, and dripped into the bucket below him. The crowd suddenly grew silent. Edgar looked up to see the reason. The official stood with his back to Edgar, holding a large, handwritten document. The official was reading the document to the crowd. The crowd grew into an uproar. The official turned towards Edgar and looked directly at him. He too spit at Edgar and hit him on the left cheek. The people stared at Edgar like he was a criminal, for in their eyes, he was.

Edgar watched as the official glared at him. He wiggled his wrists in an attempt to loosen his bonds. The official turned his head up and away from Edgar. He knew what that meant. He stopped picking at the ropes, knowing it was pointless to continue. Edgar tilted his gaze back down to the wooden planks. There were four knots in the planks that caught Edgar’s eye. They were in the form of a constellation all too familiar to him. The constellation had failed his men, and now it was failing him. It had helped his foes. It had placed him here. Edgar felt like a fool, putting his faith in the stars. The official gave one last look at Edgar, before turning his gaze completely to the executioner. The official nodded his head. The executioner pulled the déclic. Edgar blacked out for the second time that day.



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