CLICK CLACK CLICK CLACK. Claus slowly, yet powerfully hammered the detail into
another newly-welded sword. His son, Levv, sat at the opposite end of the smith shop, intensely
staring at the flyer that he picked up from the street the day before. “N-No… Not…i-i…”, he
struggled. Claus noticed the efforts of the young boy, and plunged the red-hot sword into a
cauldron of water before walking over. He sat down next to him, wrapped one arm around h
is shoulder and took hold of the paper. He read slowly, tracing over the words with his finger:
“Notice. All Supplemental Taxes Are Due in Five Days’ Time. Those That Fail to Submit Are
Subject to Public Whipping”. Levv’s eyes widened to this decree, and he turned to face his
father. “Have we paid our taxes yet?”, the worried child asked. Claus lowered his head in
despair. “Don’t worry Levchik”, he replied. “I have four more days to make the last 10 swords –
should be plenty of time”. Levv nodded his head at the response and gloomily lowered his head.
His father grinned. “Maybe after I’m done we can work on your reading”, he said to the boy. “I
think I have a few extra pence to get a nice story from the bookkeep”. Levv’s face lit up to the
proposition and be rocked in his father’s arms. “Okay”, he replied, and the two exchanged smiles
before Claus returned to his metalwork.
Claus prayed for better days for him and his son – their city of Livgorod has fallen into the
grips of oppression. Their former ruler, Rameus the Fair, was overthrown by the Zherkiy, a
powerful military state, on the grounds that the old man was no longer fit to rule. When Rameus
retaliated against the state, they declared him a personal enemy of the crown of Zherkiy, and sent
an army to the gates of Livgorod. Unwilling to oversee the bloodshed of his people, Rameus
surrendered to the Zherkiy, only to be publicly executed for his “incompetence”.
A resistance against the Zherkiy sprouted from their savagery. Two months after the murder,
the people of Livgorod did not forget, and the power of the resistance grew with every Zherkiy
Claus’ thoughts were interrupted by the thunder of the Town Square bells. He turned to the
window of the keep and his countenance shriveled into concern. “We ought to get going,
Levchik”, he uttered. Levv put down the flyer, put on his shoes, and the two exited the shop.
Claus remembered when the bells in the Town Square meant celebration. Under Rameus the
Fair, the bells meant large banquets, street fairs, or days off from work as celebration for
successful business with other city-states. Under the new ruler, the vassal Lord Yasin Musa, the
bells in the Square meant whippings and executions.
As always, the streets of Livgorod were flooded with people heading toward the Town Square
– the people worried for each other. Lining the streets were Zherkiy guards, in their battle-tested
armor. Claus exchanged a dirty look with one guard and he passed.
The two entered into the Square with the mass of people, met by an antsy Lord Musa, pacing
up and down the Square’s platform, with more guards in between him in the crowd. As Musa
waited to begin his announcement, Claus caught the eye of Pavlo, a close friend from the
resistance. The two shuffled through the crowd until they united, signified by a hearty hug.
“Hello, Levchik”, Pavlo exclaimed at the boy. Levv waved his hand shyly in response. He then
tugged on his father’s garb – “I can’t see”, he whispered, and Claus slowly lifted him up into his
When the Zherkiy guards orchestrating the flow of the townspeople felt that the crowd was
sufficiently large, they signaled for Musa to begin. “Bring out the traitor”, Musa boomed, and
two Zherkiy guards brought out a poor, beaten girl from behind the platform. The crowd
immediately launched into agitation, which included murmurs, cries of brutality, and the ghastly
shrieks of a distraught mother. “Silence!”, Musa roared, quickly annoyed by the commotion.
“You all brought this on yourselves”, he continued. “The crown has explained to you people
with great specificity the law of the land under its rule”. He paused, and the crowd fell into silent
focus. “I mean, they are all pretty straight forward rules”, he resumed, slowly pacing along the
platform. “They all make sense”, he uttered after some time. He then faced the girl. “So… it
seems a bit odd for the guards to find someone stealing bread from the Zherkiy pantry.” The
girl’s eyes welled up and she bowed her head with regret. The mother quickly broke the silence
of the crowd: “Please, my Lord, I-”. “Stop”, bellowed Musa with irritation. “No more excuses”.
Musa hesitated, then proceeded: “I will not continue to tolerate this kind of insubordination… 15
lashes”, he bitterly ended, and was hastily escorted by Zherkiy guards. The crowd launched into
a frenzy as the girl was quickly dragged over to a whip-wielding guard, but could not do
anything to stop the proceedings. The mother fainted as the petrifying screams of pain
commenced. Claus turned his son away from the horror, and the rest of the audience could do
nothing but watch.
The girl collapsed by the sixth lash, and the remaining nine were unleashed on her limp body.