“There comes a point in everyone's life where they come to a crossroads, where the decision they make will take their life in one direction or another. Sometimes the direction you choose is to shorten your life by using evil ways. Magic that comes unbidden to you and through deliberate actions you use this evil to rob and harm those who support and care for you. The path to the gods you abandoned, you did not come to the temple when you felt the first stirrings of this power when you could have been saved, redeemed. Instead, you chose to revel in these powers, you chose to walk the path of evil and magic. Now, the end of the path is nigh and you find the reward that comes with your path choice.”
The voice of the high priest and judge rang out over the assembled crowd as the bound prisoner was jerked to his feet and dragged to the raised platform. The boy’s slight frame shook wildly as his knees touched the wood and he was pushed down onto his back, the guards silently but harshly tying his arms and legs spread wide and fastening his head into the harness to hold it still. Tears streamed down the young face, beardless still, and his eyes stared pleadingly to those nearby. At the judge’s signal, the platform was raised at an angle so that all present could see the condemned.
“Mahru Galae’Cartref, for the crime of possessing unreported magic and for the crime of using the misting magic to rob from those in the town you have been found guilty. Your crime has been judged evil but not completely foul. It is the sentence of the court that you shall be executed to protect Cartref and its inhabitants from the spread of horror. First, the arms, then the head, and lastly, the legs.” The white-haired priest raised his arms. “Thus face the justice of the gods.”
The arms lowered with a nearly audible snap and the guard raised his ax and with a swift, efficient movement the boy’s left arm was no longer attached to his body. Blood spurted for a moment, then slowed to a trickle. On the other side of the platform the next guard grasped his ax, raised it and repeated the act on the right arm. The boy’s body jerked and he moaned deep in his throat, though no screams were allowed to pass his lips. For several minutes the boy laid on the platform in agony before the lean priest raised his arms again.
“May the gods be merciful to your soul, as you were not in this life.” The arms slashed down again and the first guard took a firm grip of his ax handle and with an indrawn breath separated the criminal’s head from his body. After a few moments, arms quickly motioned again and the corpse’s legs were removed.
“Eolas Eagna grant justice swift and always true.” The voice rang out over the crowd. Echoing back came the crowd’s refrain, “Goddess true, goddess swift, justice to one, justice to all.” The execution and catechism over, the crowd each made the sign of the seven upon their chests and drifted silently away.
One of those leaving the ceremony was a young girl, ten years of age, small but strong of arm. She glanced back several times to the body on the platform as the guards unstrapped it and placed the pieces in a wooden box nearby for transport. She walked slowly, her feet dragging, down the road away from the town hall. A body of nearly frozen water passed by on her right and when it ended she slipped easily into the tall grasses next to it. She followed the curve of this pond and where the water met the town wall, she sat down, hidden from sight by the waving grasses and the shadow of the towering wall.
Tears began to flow down the pale cheeks of the sharp-faced child. She wrapped her arms around her knees and rocked back and forth as she wept. Only a few minutes passed before a rustling in the grass was heard over her silent grief. A form emerged into her sight as she raised her head.
“I thought you might need to talk, Cinnia,” the form said softly as it sank to the icy ground beside her. “I saw your face after the execution and I followed you. When you came here, I knew you might need me.”
Cinnia bit her lip for a moment before nodding. She turned her head to face him, her older broru, the closest of her sibs or sibus to her, and whispered, “He was only 14.”
Tawel nodded. “Yes, he was. But as High Priest Scanraither said, he chose his path. Mahru was my friend, Cinnia. We played together as children and we had begun working the fields together, lately. But he chose his path. He was not surprised by the magic. He knew what it was. I know 14 may not seem old to you, only 4 years from now for you, but we have all been to temple class since we were tots. You know better than to hide magic, or worse, to use its evil. Mahru let the magic fester inside himself and it burst out and he became evil.”
“I know he stole stuff but so did Bargei and they just locked him up the first time and exiled him the second time. Why didn’t they do that with Mahru?”
“Bargei was just a thief. He picked locks and slipped in open doors to steal. Mahru walked through the walls using the evil magic that had consumed him. Only the fact that he did not physically harm anyone is what saved him from head lasting. I know it is hard for you to understand. For the first execution of your tenth year to be of a boy that you knew, hardly older than yourself is hard. Most people’s first law witnessing in their tenth year is a bandit or other obviously evil criminal. Now that you are old enough that you must attend, you will see plenty of those. But in some ways, Mahru is even more evil than a murderous bandit. If he had not been stopped and sent to the gods, he could have corrupted and harmed many here in Cartref. You have heard about the evils of magic in temple school, the rot that it brings, the horror. Believe it. Two years ago, I saw someone use magic to kill. And he escaped justice and now leads a bandit group and has killed and harmed more. I understand your feelings, Cinnia, but you must use your head. Grieve for the person that Mahru could have been had he chosen a different path and for the person that he was before the magic took him, but do not grieve for the life that ended today. He is better off in the hands of Marlowathe than here and Cartref is better off and safer that it is so. ” He used his mittened hand to wipe her face then put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a quick hug before rising to his feet. “Thanks, Tawel. I love you.” He smiled down at her and walked away through the swaying grasses. She watched until his form was lost among the stalks and then she lay down on her back and her dark green eyes stared up at the cold blue sky as over the next hour she tried to let go of the memory of the fears and terror that had swamped her unbidden at the execution star.