Grey Bird's Pass
Willem somberly closes the door to the chamber that holds the cell Ahndrew is in, pausing a moment, taking in what was just told him. He heads down the cold stone corridor and up a winding staircase.
On the main floor, Gernant sits in a chair near a fireplace opposite the staircase heading down to the cells. Willem casually makes his way over and sits in the chair next to him.
“So what’s the real story?” Gernant asks.
Willem considers the truth, but it would have done nothing to save his friend. And what about Elias? How would he explain that? “For family,” is his only thought in response to every question he raises. It’s then Willem realizes Ahndrew has taken all this punishment “For family.” Even now, he isn’t just trying to protect his son, he’s trying to protect everyone here. By not bringing up magik, they will continue to live their lives as they always have.
“He didn’t do it. Apparently he blacked out. Come to, just before Olivant entered.” Willem responds.
“Well that’s unfortunate for him.” Gernant says, grunting as he stands and readies himself to leave. “Sorry about your friend.” he says with indifference, and leaves. Willem remains sitting, staring into the fire, pondering his friend’s fate.
A kick comes to the gut, jarring Ahndrew awake. Pain compounding upon pain. Having not been fed for days now, his stomach is already in the worst knot he’s ever known.
Four executioners rough him up. driving the front side of his body to the wall then collar him again. This time, however, his hands are bound behind him, then drawn upwards to the rod and secured. Every movement is pain. In all his life, Ahndrew never thought there could ever be this much pain.
The moment he steps out of the cell house, the mob starts in. Anything that can be thrown at him is, just like the day before (or was it two days, he couldn’t tell). Even after the four executioners push him out of the city, the torment still continues.
Although the people become more scarce, and any that did cross them on the road gets a moment to torment him, the worst is the sun. Ahndrew has no cover. His skin just burns and blisters. He couldn’t sob or sweat anymore. He hasn’t had a drink of water since planting the field. And the executions ride faster than he can walk and often found himself stumbling and struggling to stay upright. His feet are swollen and are bleeding when they reach the mountain entrance to Grey Bird’s Pass, and they still had to climb.
Weak and battered, Ahndrew takes his heavy first steps up the trail. It feels like they barely get going again when he falls. The collar plants his face into the ground as the skinny executioner didn't stop his horse, keeping the rod moving forward.
“Eat the dirt slug!” he shouts. The others laugh along at the sight.
The horse is drawn back after a moment and Ahndrew scrambles to his feet. Pumping with adrenaline to keep his balance, he begins moving forward with even more determination. The sooner he makes it up to Grey Bird’s Pass, the sooner this torment will be over.
Most of the rest of the way up goes without incident. Only a couple more stumbles, but each jar him back to life every time, keeping him moving. Then he arrives.
It’s the largest wall Ahndrew has ever seen. There are no lookouts or windows. Just a wood wall sixty or seventy feet high. Ahndrew wonders where trees grow so tall. The wall is constructed of solid tree trunks, bound together. The only thing standing out from the wall, is a ten foot door, locked shut by a thick metal bolt. For the kind of place it is, the door is much larger than it needs to be.
The two men on the rear horses dismount. The bearded one walks forward and unlatches the door.
“Your new home" he says, pushing it door open.
A heavy set executioner forces Ahndrew inside to unshackle him. On this side of the wall, the mountain goes straight up on the left. But in front of him and to his right, a cliff, straight down. The area is about the size of an arena. The few bones he sees strewn about are bleached white from the sun.
The pain from his arms dropping to his sides is excruciating. He can't help letting out a little scream and immediately falls to his knees. The skinny soldier must have felt the need to get in one last jab at Ahndrew and kicked him in the back driving him face first into the ground. “You can either jump or starve.” he says.
“Or you can let the vultures eat you alive.” chortles the heavy one.
The last, newest and youngest soldier of the four, pulls out a lash and whips it across his back. “Murdruss bugger. Yer own wyfe too. Dis’ll be ah sootible death fer ya.”
Ahndrew tries to pull himself together when another kick to the ribs came, rolling him over to his back. “That’s for making us have to ride back in this rain" remarks the bearded one.
Ahndrew hadn’t noticed the rain clouds rolling in before, but drops begin to drip on his cheek making him flinch. He opens his mouth wide stretching the dry corners of his mouth. It pains him to do so, but to catch a drop of water or two would be nice. He turns his head to watch the executioners leave.
The young and skinny executioners mount their horses, the heavy one re-secures his saddle as the last one, with the beard, pulls the door closed. Not sure if he is hallucinating, but a beast comes out of the forest behind them. Scaly skin and quills standing up on it’s back heading straight for them.
“Elias,” whispers Ahndrew.
He doesn’t see what happens next, only hears an executioner’s scream of pain.
The two executioners dismount quickly, and the bearded one can’t even close the door all the way when he whips around to see the heavy executioner being clawed to death by Elias. He draws a sword, the skinny one pulls a spear, and the youngest draws a sword as well.
They take their time positioning themselves around Elias. The skinny spear and young sword flank him as the executioner with the beard keeps Elias’ attention head on.
“Look here” he says proudly. “Ain’t hardly any of these left. We’ll be famous dragging its body back to Towlbene.”
“Wot is et?” asks the young executioner nervously.
“It’s a skrawn, my ole man hunted these beasts. Ain’t many left these days. Only huntyrs ever get this close to one anymore, and I aim to place myself in their ranks.”
The rain comes a little more steady. Each man taking a slow step. All four seemingly in a coordinated dance.
“Ready yourselves, this will get bumpy. Steady on... and n—!”
A sword bursts through the bearded executioner’s chest from his back. He falls forward with Ahndrew falling right on top of him.
Both executioners stare in disbelief, but Elias doesn’t hesitate. He lunges for the skinny executioner with the spear. One swipe across the man’s face from Elias’ claw does him in. The young executioner, now afraid, runs down the path as fast as he can. Unfortunately, he’s just not fast enough. Elias catches up to him quickly, grabs him around the neck with one large scaly hand, crushing the man’s esophagus and breaks his neck.
Elias drops him with the other bodies, while hurrying getting to Ahndrew. He kneels down and rolls Ahndrew over and cradles him. The strong man he has looked up to his entire life is so small and frail now in his own strange and massive arms.
“Elias.” Ahndrew says. “I’m so sorry.” Ahndrew’s only tears were the ones the rain made from splashing down on his face. Elias purrs a low rumbling purr. Ahndrew closes his eyes and goes limp.