The Long Chron – Online Edition – Chapter Thirty-Seven

“Come on, then,” the obese guard says, opening the gate to our cell.  “Everyone’s out there waitin’ for ya.”  He holds a series of metal shackles.

We stand silently.  Even The Wizard is quiet, although still holding onto that creepy grin of his.  I’m starting to think I’m okay with burning to death, as long as it gets this freak out of history.

The guard shackles us to each other and drags us out of the dungeon.  We arrive at the exit and he pulls us into the castle’s courtyard where we find a heaping pile of wood has been placed in the center of a growing crowd.  Rising from the pyre is a single post.  The last resting place of Chelle and Griff.

The guard shoves the hilt of his sword into my back, pushing me forward and down the steps into the midst of a jeering populace.  It’s quite the turnout for the event of the season. Come watch the exciting death of The Wizard and those two people who magically appeared out of thin air!

I scan the crowd to see if I can find Lance.  I know he won’t remember me, but I can’t help it.  Seeing him alive again would make my death just a little less terrible.  Still terrible, obviously, but, you know, slightly less.

I notice Griff looking through the crowd as well and guess he’s probably hoping to catch sight of Agnes.

I don’t see either of our friends, but I do catch sight of Wyllt standing front and center, excitedly jumping as he watches us near him.  The crowd separates to give us a path toward the monolith of destruction.

“Burn them!” Wyllt screams in overjoyed anticipation.  This guy is a lot more energetic than the minion we saw under The Wizard’s thumb.  And a ton younger.  It also seems odd to me he’s so eager to watch the man die when he will be his servant in the year to come.  I can’t help but question how things work out to bring these two together.

I don’t have time to consider the possible timeline further.  A man wearing a black cloth over his head steps to me, lifts me onto the center of the bonfire, and ties me to the post.  He does the same for both Griff and The Wizard.

Uthyr comes storming through the crowd.  Five fully armored men walk beside him to ensure the populace gives him the needed space to approach us.

The sound of the crowd’s shouts is overwhelming.  Screams about the destruction of the witches and about the arrival of Uthyr are among the top notes in this cacophony of bloodlust, but none are so crazed with excitement than our not-so-old friend Wyllt sitting front and center.  His eyes widen greatly at the sight of Uthyr in his full glory.

A horn sounds and the crowd becomes silent.  Uthyr turns to address them.

“Good people of York!” he shouts. “The loss of life is never one to be taken lightly, even if the life taken is that of a possible spy sent to cause us harm.  Remembering that these folks are, indeed, fellow travelers in this world, I feel it is only proper, as always, to allow our captives one final wish, which we may choose to uphold at your direction.”

The crowd starts chanting “Burn them!”  The excitement grows steadily until Uthyr finally waves his arms to silence them.  His act is accompanied by yet another sounding of the horn, creating an instant silence.

Uthyr walks around the pile of wood, eyeing each of us up silently before he finally stops in front of me.

“Young Moor,” he says softly.  “We have known the Moors to be a proud race.  I find it most interesting for you to be here among these men of lies.  I offer you the first final wish.  Is there anything I can provide for you here as you embark on your final journey?”

“Um,” I stutter, “I don’t suppose it’s possible to ask to be given more time to explain?”

The crowd laughs at my response, turning my cheeks red.  Uthyr even seems pleased by my request.

“I applaud your tenacity, Moor.  I only wish that request were one I could fulfill.  Your death has been decreed.  Even I cannot overturn such a thing.  However, since you have lightened my mood with this seemingly simple request, I believe I shall shun standard protocol and allow this to be brought to the people.”

He turns and directs his attention toward the crowd in front of him.  “People of York, the request brought before you is for a stay of execution.  What say you?”

Before Uthyr’s voice even finishes echoing in the air, Wyllt leads the crowd in shouting, “Burn her!”

Uthyr turns to me with a frown and a shrug before moving on to face Griff.

“You, sir, appear to be a man of genteel quality.  I can’t imagine what would have brought you to such a place in your life that you would be willing to bring death within my city’s walls. However, even your apparent place of nobility will offer you no weakness in judgment.  With that being said, I am also most willing to provide you with some sort of token of kindness through a final wish.  What say you?”

Griff looks at the man and responds simply by spitting in his face.  Uthyr smiles.

“I appreciate the sentiment, sir.” Uthyr wipes his face clean.  He continues on to The Wizard. “And you, dirty beggar who entered my town with messages of crazed retribution.  You, who would claim my city would fall with the coming of two armies.  I am not so willing as to allow you any form of final reward.  However, seeing as I have yet to provide any such form of kindness to your companions in death, and  am feeling generous, have you a final wish?”

“Please, lord of York, I request one simple token.  My pendant of St. Christopher, so that I may find safe travels to my final resting place.”

“A good Catholic request,” Uthyr laughs.  “What say ye, people of York?  Shall we grant him this one final wish?”

The crowd’s boos are deafening.

“I’m sorry, beggar.  It would appear your peers have spoken.  You, too, are not being provided with your last wish.  And so it is, with the power given to me as the protector of—“

“Wait!” Griff yells.  “I request the pendant of St. Christopher!”

“What is that, young noble?”

“I said I request the pendant.  I wish to find safe passage into the next realm or whatever.”

“’Tis an odd request to make, considering your response to the question when I initially asked it.”

“Burn them!” Wyllt screams, unable to contain his enthusiasm.

“I request the pendant of St. Christopher,” I join in, realizing the importance of this decision.

“I’m sorry, miss, but if I’m not mistaken, you are already wearing the blessing of the good sainted brother.”

“Then give it to Griff, for me.”

“Burn them already!” Wyllt repeats.  He begins chanting, “Burn them, burn them.” The crowd joins in quickly.

Uthyr waves his hand, causing the horn to blow again.  Although the horn manages to lessen the shouts of the people, they are still plagued with a constant murmur stemming from the lack of deaths so far.

“Good people of York,” Uthyr says, smiling at the enthusiasm of his people.  “Please remember these are people too, and they deserve at least the smallest amount of respect in their final hour.  A new request has been brought forth.  Shall we allow these folks to hold the pendant of St. Christopher to lead them safely through to the great beyond?”

“Whatever, just burn them already!” Wyllt yells, leading the chorus of “Burn them,” once again.

“My people are quite excited for the entertainment your deaths shall bring,” Uthyr says to us.  “It would appear they no longer care how you are treated before death.  I, however, am a much more gracious ruler than that.”

Uthyr snaps his fingers at the guard to his left, who pulls the pendant of St. Christopher from somewhere within his armor.  He hands the item to Uthyr.

“Sir noble,” he says, addressing Griff, “please accept this token of my kindness to stay with you during your final travels.”

He gives the pendant to the man wearing the black cloth, who reaches up and places the necklace over Griff’s head.  It hangs not far below his chin.

“And now, good people of York,” Uthyr says, returning his attention to the now loudly conversing crowd, “I give you that which you have morbidly been awaiting.”

The crowd cheers and Wyllt, once again, begins a chorus of “Burn them!”

Uthyr nods his head at the man in black, who walks to a nearby torch and throws it at our feet.  The heat of the torch tickles my toes immediately, but is a bit slower at bringing fire to the kindling below it.  Not slow enough for my liking, unfortunately.

The crowd cheers again and I see people jumping in their excitement over the act of execution.

“Activate the pendant,” I hear The Wizard shout anxiously.

“I can’t,” Griff replies angrily.  “My hands are stuck behind my back and the stupid thing is around my neck.”

“Can’t you get your hands free?”

“And risk these death-crazed guards seeing me and deciding that’s a good enough reason to shoot one of those arrows through my heart?”

“Yes!” The Wizard shouts.

“It’s either that possibility or the definite death by fire.”

“Fine,” Griff grumbles.  I feel the post behind us shaking violently as Griff works to loosen his binds.  The pile of wood has now tentatively caught fire, and I see the hot embers dropping lower into the heap, threatening to create the base which will ultimately light us up into some sort of grotesque candle.

I hear a scream coming from somewhere in the distance, followed shortly thereafter by yet another sounding of the horns.  The face of Uthyr turns distraught as he runs from our sides to the nearby castle wall, scaling it to meet with the man who had blown the horn.

A burst of flame explodes at the base of the heap.  Three more appear shortly after in random locations around us, one happening very close to The Wizard’s long tunic.

“Griff,” I shout expectantly.

“Sorry, these cuffs don’t have the same kind of give I’m used to.  Just another second.  I think I’ve got it.”

I begin straining at my own bonds, knowing that, although I don’t have the same escape training as my master, I can’t sit idly by as the fire consumes us.

A great flame bursts up directly between me and The Wizard, causing a loud scream to come from one of us.  I’m not entirely sure it was me.  I’m too focused on trying to find a way to break the bond.

“Give me that!” I hear The Wizard yell.  I suddenly become aware we are no longer bound together.  I look at Griff and see The Wizard pulling at the pendant around his neck.

“Press the button on top,” I yell at him.

“The prisoners!” I hear come from the crowd, however, a quick glance shows that only Wyllt is still paying us any attention.  The rest of them seem to be focused on a flurry of activity occurring at the castle gate.  My feet start to heat up as the fire around us grows.

Just as I feel the burn of flame against skin, a cool breeze builds up around me.  I look down and see Wyllt wide-eyed and angry as the flames die down around us, until once again the world goes dark.

Go to Phase Five

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