Execution bells are ringing in the distance, and I can feel it in my bones that the end draws nearer. It has been awhile since I have returned to my motherland, but in this instance, I must disregard my eternal exile. I must disregard all the risks that comes with doing so. I have already decided to myself that the moment I passed through the city gates, I will never leave again.
My worn stallion continued to head in the direction from which the scent of death rose, and the autumn scenery on either side of me blurred violently into specks of oranges and reds. The moment that bell sounds again, I will be at the foot of the scaffolding, patiently waiting for the one I seek. There was no time for luxuries like sight viewing. I only had a very limited time to accomplish the task I had traveled across seas for, and I will be damned if I do not see it through.
The fallen leaves crunched and shattered under my stallion's hooves, leaving a trail of disintegration as we descended into the familiar Valley of Rouge. Up ahead, the agonizing cries of the condemned and the roaring cheers of the blood thirsty crowd sounded. I can smell the repugnant odors of executions, the soiled bodies, the sweaty mass, even the vomit of those weak of stomach. Pressing an old white handkerchief to my nose, I rode on to approach the scene.
The prison guard was now walking out a fresh pack of condemned, leading them roughly from the stone walls of the holding cell onto the sloppy platform. My eyes searched rigorously for the woman for whom I came all this way for. The man in front of the bunch was an older gentleman, looking at least fifty. He ascended the platform with a solid air of pride about him. I know that he is a Noble. The one to follow behind him was a younger boy. His hands wringed nervously at the rope around his wrists, and as his shaking gaze caught glimpse of the nooses before them, he suddenly turned to run. Taking my eyes off of him when the prison guards seized him, my attention fell to the last of the three.
She was a young woman, little older than I am. She too was a Noble, one could judge by the remnants of her dress. She walked onto the scaffolding with her resigned fate disguised in the form of relentless pride. I can see it in the way that her eyes, once a deep sable, now gaze so hollowly out into the cheering audience before her. Her attention fell to the noose before her, and she quickly adverted her gaze again, looking back over the crowd to hide her quaking limbs.
I watched a moment longer, my heart sinking at her current state. She was so beautiful once, her hair more gold than the sea at noon, her will like that of a storm. At one point in time, she had everything. She was the envy of countries, she was the desire of hearts, she was the personification of
grace, and now she falls from it. To see the lion in the state of a deer; a part of me cries for her.
These are the sentiments that had brought me back here to the motherland. I wanted to see her descent into the common filth, but more than not, I wanted to see her again, and to finally realize my long woven dream. The execution bell rang again, its echo reverberating for a few brief moments after, an eerily pleasant sound. My time was up. Taking my last glimpse at her, I unwillingly tore my gaze from her beautifully wretched face and dismounted my stallion. Falling into the crowd, I fought my way to the foot of the scaffolding, glancing up, desperately trying to catch glimpse of her fragmented state. When all I could see was the frayed edged of her stained white dress, I knew what I must do.
As I ascended the rotting wood stairs to the platform, the older gentleman had the noose around his neck. His expression never once altered, and when the floor board beneath him dropped, his neck snapped almost simultaneously, and he was gone. I knew immediately that he had paid the executioner in advance for his easy death. As the roaring of the crowd elevated, I advanced nonchalantly towards her, unnoticed still. They have been anticipating the death of the boy. Judging by the coat of arms on his chest, he was a direct descendant of the old king. As I reached out to touch her shoulder, a shrill cry rang out, and the boy was dangling grotesquely about. The crowd was jeering enthusiastically as he swung back and forth. She stood, seemingly unphased still, though at my distance, I saw the single tear that escaped her eye.
Before the boy could die, I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her back from the noose affront. He was still struggling next to her, though his attempts gradually grew weaker before they stopped altogether. The crowd gazed up at us with questioning eyes. Their brutal cheering turned into murmurs of confusion. Feeling her chest rising and falling rapidly now, I continued to gaze into the crowd. This woman's only crime was that she was born. Her only fault was that fate was cruel. She stands condemned today purely because of her lineage. She is expected to redeem her line's sins with her life, a life untainted by the blood of others.
My gaze fell to her tattered and stained gown, and suddenly I began to cry. She has been touched. She has been dirtied now; they have dragged her into their hell, and she has been dirtied. Her only fault was that she was born. Her only sins were those of her father. Her only fault was that she was born. Her only sins were those of her father!
"Her only fault was that she was born. Her only sins were those of her father!" I screamed into the crowd and all their murmurs stopped. She glanced up at me, her empty eyes holding a questioning gaze. I held her closer, and I was dazed momentarily by her skin and bones. That was all I could feel under the smooth material of her dress. I gazed up into the crowd once more, and all the courage in my heart left me.
"I loved her... I love her still," she suddenly uttered. I was dumbstruck. "I have not done our people wrong; I will not deny that I loved her, and that I love her yet. Let it be known to all that I stand here on this scaffolding not because of the crimes of my family, but because I have seen love, and I embraced it." She looked to me again, and I was in tears. I was so ashamed of myself. In denying our love, I was simply exiled for life. Now I know that she never denied our love, not as I did. She, with the pride of a Noble and the heart of the damned, embraced our love even though she knew of the grave consequences. I am such a spineless coward, I ran.
Falling to my hands and knees beside her, I continued to weep, and she spoke again. "I loved her then, and I love her now, even though she abandoned me to this fate alone. See how she weeps in atonement now, and know that I never blamed her." I felt her gaze on me, and I looked up at her. "I hope that she can forgive me for my pride." She offered me a weak smile. "Ragnarök," She whispered before she turned back to the crowd. "I loved her then, and I love her now. See my death not one of remorse, but one of resentment."
I watched fearfully as she stepped forward, her name stuck in my throat. With her neck in the noose, she took a grand bow, displaying the sorry bits of her remaining skirts. The crowd was silent still, but I could hear it all: the creaking of the wooden floor boards, the rusty crank, the palpation of my own heart, and the sound of her heart breaking again. Then the execution bell rang a third time and her body dropped. She was dead, I knew it. I stared helplessly at her dangling body, and I grew sick.
My dreams...they have not be shattered yet, not completely. I can still die for her. I was unable to protect her. I was unable to save her, but I know that I may die for her still. I stood up warily before the bewildered crowd, my body quivering from fear and guilt and self-resentment. I opened my mouth to speak, but no words were uttered. Instead, I bit my tongue before my love, and falling to my knees before her, I swore on my grave that my tongue shall never betray her again.
*Note: I did not write this to strive for any kind of literary perfection. I just wanted to write^_^ Thank you!