Off with their Heads!

Коля’s wrists were aching from the bindings. As  tradition demanded, he was lead into the council chamber in his ragged prison uniform, his hands tied behind his back with hempen rope. The guards nearly had to carry him, he was so weak from starvation. His eyes hurt from the light that enveloped the councilmen. The cell he had been held in for a number of days he couldn’t possibly know had only had a dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling. At irregular intervals, usually just after he had fallen asleep, three guards charged into his cell and dragged him to the water chamber for torture. He was tortured a lot, but they were careful enough not to leave any marks on his body. Only his mind was to be broken. There was no bench for the accused to sit. Five were to be processed in total at this appeal hearing. It was customary to hold an appeal hearing for those sentenced to death. Коля didn’t recognize any of them, though he assumed they were here for a similar reason as he was. High Treason was the charge, death the sentence.

The first traitor was called to the stand. “Фьодор Василиевич Добронравов, by the laws of Алтайра, you have been found guilty as charged of the most heinous crime known to our people. By our most sacred rights and customs, the penalty for this unspeakable crime is death by beheading. If, however, you show yourself truly repentent, you may yet live out your natural life, far from home, never to return.” Named convict fell to his knees, pleaded, prayed, cried and yelled, but to know avail. One of the councilmen, by whatever whim befell him, vetoed on his exile. A hooded man approached, carrying a terrifyingly large axe, grabbed Фьодор by the arm and led him out of the chamber, where the raging mob awaited. Фьодор offered no resistance. All hope had been drained from him, as well as his blood would soon run from his limp corpse.

The other convicts were called to the stand in the same manner. The words of the chancelor were repeated without variation, as prescribed by tradition, for every one of them. After Фьодор, two others pleaded for mercy, one louder than the other, but the last before Коля had finally understood: There would be no mercy for anyone. His head hanging low, he dragged his feet to the stand, let the chancelor’s shower over him, and after a moment of silence that seemed to last for ever, he chose death. Finally, Коля was finally called. As he staggered up to the stand, he would have wretched if not for his empty stomach. As the chancelor began to raise his voice, Коля cut him off: “You nauseate me. You pretend to honor our traditions. You pretend to execute the people’s will and the laws of the land. You pretend that you have any power. You stink of the Imperium. This hearing is a farce. The imperium ordered you not to let anyone of us live. You are puppets on the laser rifles of the Imperium. The people will rise against the Imperium!”

Коля was dragged out of the chamber by the headsman, yelling curses and profanities at the council until he was gagged by one of the guards. Four bodies lay on the podium outside the council chambers, their heads hung by the hair on a rack. Коля was struck in the hind of his knees with a baton, and he collapsed on the ground before his morbid audience. A ruff hand grabbed the bindings of his hands and dragged him to the executioners block, on which his head was set. Heavy feet went into position, shaking the wooden podium. A low whistling rush of the air, a crunching sensation. The floor, the audience and the sky exchanged positions rapidly and repeatedly. Tock. Tock. Tock.

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