Read Kathir's Redemption (Book 6) Online

Authors: Kristian Alva

Tags: #YA fantasy, #epic fantasy, #dark fantasy, #fantasy, #dragons

Kathir's Redemption (Book 6) (5 page)

BOOK: Kathir's Redemption (Book 6)
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Tallin looked back at Skera-Kina, and as he did, he saw her face change. On her countenance, he saw a look of liberation.

They locked eyes for a moment, and Tallin felt a connection he could not explain. Skera-Kina

s lips parted, and she mouthed silently,

In death, I shall finally be free.

 

3. The Hangman

s Square

The soldiers led their prisoners into the city square to await the High Priest

s orders. The square itself was a massive open space filled with merchant

s booths, soldiers, and slaves. One side of the plaza was dominated by the Temple. On the other side stood the town hall, surrounded by statues of former priests.

Cobbled roads branched outward from the plaza in every direction and led to other parts of the city. The square looked a great deal like the plazas in Parthos and Morholt

or, it would have, if not for one dark detail.

The very center of the plaza held an enormous executioner

s circle. The merchants kept clear of it; they set up their booths along the plaza

s perimeter, sometimes glancing at the gallows with visible dread. A huge wooden beam with dozen of ropes attached ran across the stage, designed for public hangings. The structure was undecorated and painted black. Hooded and silent, an executioner waited on the platform.

Under the gallows, there was a set of wooden stairs and a set of steel cages, just large enough for a grown man. There was also a line of wooden posts with iron loops attached to them. Behind the gallows, a vast fire pit belched black smoke. As Tallin

s group approached, the executioner cut a dead prisoner down from the gallows and threw the corpse into the fire pit, which flared up as it consumed the dead.

The soldiers led the captives underneath the platform to wait. The elves were chained with iron shackles around their hands, feet, and necks. Tallin and Mugla were tied to a wooden post with ropes, but this time, the guards didn

t bother to enchant them. There wasn

t anywhere for them to go

there was no escape. 

Skera-Kina was escorted out a few minutes later. Unlike the others, she was locked inside one of the steel cages. Guards carried the cage to the center of the square, where they placed Skera-Kina on a small stage near the gallows

in a position that was in clear sight of the crowd.

Tallin recognized Skera-Kina

s apprentice in the crowd. His arm was still in a sling. The young man was smiling

he was enjoying Skera-Kina

s humiliation.

Now that they were out in the fresh air, the elves looked more alert. Amandila blinked her eyes as if she was awakening from a trance.

What

s happening to us? Are these men going to kill us?


We are in danger, but be patient,

Tallin said.

All is not lost.

He turned to his aunt, who was tied to the post nearest to him. Her gaunt face was lined with fatigue and hunger.

Aunt, do you have any idea what they plan to do to us? How much time do we have to escape?

Mugla sighed.

At sunset, they

ll kill us. The High Priest usually doesn't bother to attend executions, but I

m sure he

ll be present for this one. At sunset, he

ll come down to the plaza and issue his judgment in front of the crowd. Then we

ll be hanged from the gallows. In the morning, the executioner will cut down our bodies and incinerate them in the pit.

A large crowd formed around Skera-Kina

s cage. A soldier spat at her and hooked a painted sign onto the bars.


What does the sign say?

Tallin asked.

I don

t recognize the script.


The sign says

oath breaker

in their language,

Mugla replied.

Treason is the worst crime imaginable

a traitor is the only person who has lower social rank than a slave. Skera-Kina

s refusal to obey the High Priest is considered a terrible offense.

The crowd began pelting Skera-Kina with clods of earth and rotten food. She stood emotionlessly inside her cell. She didn

t flinch when objects hit her through the bars.


She

ll be humiliated and then killed,

said Mugla.

There

s nothin

we can do.

Tallin watched the scene with growing revulsion. Across the plaza, his eyes locked onto her face. There was no anger in her eyes

only resignation.

He felt a storm of conflicting emotions rising within him. He tried to remind himself that Skera-Kina had caused a great deal of havoc and suffering

and so many deaths. She was a murderer.

So why did he feel pity for her now?

As the minutes passed, the crowd grew larger. People started chanting obscenities at Skera-Kina, shaking the cage and spitting on her. Skera-Kina remained quiet and did not utter a single cry.

The sun began to dip below the horizon. It grew noticeably colder, and Tallin

s breath turned into white vapor. A slow drizzle started to fall, but the crowd did not disperse. The moisture turned to steam on the closely huddled bodies in the plaza and created an eerie, misty cloud. The atmosphere took on a ominous quality, like a scene from a nightmare.

Finally, a horn sounded, and everything went silent. From the western side of the plaza, the High Priest entered the square accompanied by a vast entourage of guards, attendants, and slaves. Together with his entourage, he moved toward the gallows in the center of the square.

The High Priest stepped forward and took his position on the stage, flanked on either side by two other high-ranking priests

officials dressed in garish costumes complete with flowing red robes, shiny black stockings, and powdered wigs piled high on their heads. The High Priest didn

t wear a wig or a hat, but he did wear a glittering white robe. It sparkled from afar with silver embroidery and colored gemstones.


All this ceremony for a simple execution? These people are insane,

Tallin said.

The elves started to look more alert.

Amandila blinked and shook her head.

It seems that the entire city has come to watch us die.

Mugla nodded her head with disgust.

All of this is completely normal for them. Their preferred entertainment is public violence, and their bloodlust is encouraged by the priests. They

re all eager for the slaughter.

The crowd grew rowdier as the people became excited by the prospect of violence. Scattered fights erupted. More guards were brought in to pull rowdy citizens away from one another and to calm the gathering.

The High Priest raised his staff into the air, and the crowd quieted down.

This woman is an
oath breaker
! She has defied me and threatened my life! She is an enemy of the state!

The old man then turned to Skera-Kina and addressed her directly.

Prisoner! How do you plead?

A sardonic smile drifted across Skera-Kina

s face.

Why would I plead when you have already decided my fate, Your Grace?

Her words drew a chorus of jeers from the crowd. With a scowl, the High Priest lifted his hands again to silence them.

The charges are true and correct! You are guilty! Guilty of treason!

After an moment of tense silence, the crowd erupted into cheers. The High Priest nodded solemnly and then started toward the gallows.


Now what?

Tallin asked.


Now they hang us,

said Mugla.

F
ë
anor piped up.

They won

t kill me that easily

I

m not surrendering without a fight.

Mugla shook her head.

Can ye break the bonds of cold iron, elf? They know yer weakness. They won

t remove yer shackles, not even after ye are dead. There

s no escape.

F
ë
anor

s shoulders slumped, and Amandila started to cry.

Tallin felt the glowing warmth of his dragon stone inside his pocket. In all the commotion, he was lucky that the guards had forgotten to take it from him.

Don

t despair,

he said quietly.

There

s still hope. Duskeye sent me a message. He

s coming to rescue us!

Mugla

s eyes grew wide.

No, Tallin. No! Tell him he can

t. He

ll be killed! Any dragons crossin

the island perimeter will activate the protective wards. There are wards
specifically
designed to stop dragons from coming to this island. Without protection, he

ll be torn apart in the sky!

Tallin

s face went white.

What? You never told me that! Who would set wards specifically against dragons? Oh no!

He felt fear rising up within him. Would Duskeye die trying to save them?


Duskeye might be able to circumvent the wards,

said F
ë
anor, a bit cryptically,

if
he was smart enough to get help from my queen.

Tallin looked at the elf.

Explain yourself. And I mean right now.

F
ë
anor cleared his throat.

The Balborites didn

t set the wards upon this island

their spellcasters aren

t skilled enough to set wards on such a large area. The elves did it, thousands of years ago, as part of an ancient compact. The only way to bypass the wards is by using a special key

a shadowkey

and our Queen has it in her possession.

Tallin grasped at this small glimmer of hope.

What is it? I

ve never heard of such a thing
.


A shadowkey doesn

t look like a regular key,

said the elf.

But it works in a similar fashion. It

s an enchanted object, but more powerful than any enchanted object  in the human realm. A shadowkey will allow anyone to bypass the wards with ease.


I

ve heard of shadowkeys, but I

ve never seen one myself,

said Mugla.

F
ë
anor continued.

You wouldn

t be able to

there aren

t any shadowkeys left in the mortal lands. The elves destroyed most of them eons ago. Any remaining shadowkeys are kept in Brighthollow. There are several shadowkeys in Queen Xiiltharra

s possession. A few were made by humans, and others were crafted by other races, but the spells required to create them has been lost to mortals.

BOOK: Kathir's Redemption (Book 6)
2.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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