[Prompt from http://daily-writing.blogspot.com/ . Characters and story from One Realm, part of my novel series idea Hand of Fate.]
It was what I had imagined the war to be like.
Before the wooden stand was every Renterran within a one-day’s ride distance. Their faces were twisted with disgust, their mouths screwed into forming around hateful words meant to harm me. Everyone, from the old men who knew how far the realm had come, to women carrying their unborn children, to youth like me who had only been raised on stories of the horror, held clenched fists high. I was surprised to see these fists empty, for surely I was walking into battle and Renterra’s children meant to kill me with whatever forces they had.
These people truly did hate me, which seemed strange. While I was Lucan, I was much beloved. As myself? Despised, possibly more than my grandfather. A strange turn of events, indeed.
On the wooden stand stood the remainder of my family. Lucan stood looking out over his people. He radiated royalty, his tall posture and blank face the very image of a commanding ruler. Yet, as his eyes flitted among his people, there was a compassion in his blue eyes that spoke more than his face ever could. Unlike our grandfather, he cared about his people and wished to see them well-off.
Then there was Amicus. He stood behind Lucan, a sword held in his left hand. Even as I approached, I saw his fist tighten and loosen repeatedly over the hilt. When had he last held a weapon more powerful than a hammer and chisel? He, too, stood stoic. But where Lucan’s eyes told a different story, Amicus’s spoke nothing. It was as though he had drawn curtains over those brown eyes, hiding any emotion from view; a true warrior’s impassive gaze.
And Silvia—my mother. Fate above, why was it so hard for me to see her as such?—stood off to the side. Her shoulders were stiffly placed, her hands clutched the fabric of her skirt. She, too, was wearing the same impassive gaze as her brother, but hers couldn’t quite stay in place. It was a constant battle, I could see, her trying to seem as though my execution wouldn’t affect her. But she was my mother, after all. Even though she knew what I had done, or almost done, she had given birth to me all those years ago. I was her first-born, her son. Lucan and I were the only things she had left of our father.
I would have been more surprised if she had managed stoicism, even in the face of my atrocities.
I was now at the foot of the wooden stairs. I could see the chisel marks and the nail heads. Every fiber of the pine planks were distinct and singular as I moved to take the first step. Strange, indeed. I wish I had that clarity earlier, to prevent myself from getting into my predicament in the first place.
The jeering and harsh words had reached their peak just as I fully came onto the stage. Stage. What a perfect word. How appropriate that this would be my final part to play.
I walked up beside Lucan and stood there, taking in everything. A sweep of the faces showed me the dismal truth, the one I had refused to accept throughout my entire journey to the stage. Abelinda didn’t care. Of course she wouldn’t. I had betrayed her just as I had my own flesh and blood. There would be no reason why I should expect her forgiveness. I didn’t deserve it on any account.
But there was movement at the right edge of the crowd. My gaze jumped over there, still holding onto the smallest thread of hope. And there, those ruby eyes. I felt smile tug at my lips as the thread of hope expanded into a quilt, wrapping around me in a warmth I had never expected. I felt tears, but not out of sorrow or regret. No, those tears I had shed earlier in my cell.
I was forgiven by her. I could now accept my death with open arms.