Aug. 13th, 2011

Edited.

Aug. 13th, 2011 07:14 am
campkilkare: (Notes.)
There are throngs and throngs of people watching, at the foot of the hill; rustbloods driven over dusty roads made ochre with their blood, and a scattering of blood traitors, drips and drabs of blue and green scattered along the red miles, although those are mostly up here with him. They will almost all hang among the duodecimation, the twelfth of his disciples the highbloods have benevolently chosen to make an example of. (The rest will be killed more quickly, or beaten, or sold into slavery; as a sign of imperial mercy.) Most of the bluebloods scattered among the crowd sit astride hoofbeasts, their bows or whips in hand, watching over the crowd for a riot. But there is no chance of that; their spirit is broken.

They save him for last, letting him watch the Duodecimation dangling from the juts and the awful silence of the crowd, and taking their time on their tender mercies to his flesh.

"THEY WILL REMEMBER!" roars the voice near his ear. "They will remember this forever, don't you think?"

"MAYBE," he says. By now his voice is a hoarse burr with screaming; the leggings cover most of the wounds the harlenquisitors have given him, but cherry red stains through. "BUT THAT WAS ALWAYS ALL I WANTED. I WANTED THEM TO REMEMBER."

"YOU MUST HAVE KNOWN YOU COULD NEVER WIN, SIGNLESS. THE PULSE OF THIS LAND BEATS TO MY DELIRIOUS FLOW." A spine-chilling giggle, close to his ear. "My mirth. Not your MOTHERFUCKING blasphemy."

"MAYBE, JAPESTER. IT MAY BE. BUT THEY WILL REMEMBER THIS... THEY WILL KNOW IT'S WRONG." There's something... through the haze of pain clouding his mind, he sees there is something in the riddling talk of the Japester Presumpt that he's missing. "YOU ONLY BURN IT INTO THEIR PANS."

"OH YES?" The head harlenquisitor stirs the irons in the fire. "Oh yes? The Knight and The Highblood? Such a beautiful tale, isn't it? So necessary. How the bards will sing of it. OF OUR RAGE!"

"YOU..." Before he can finish the thought, the Japester strikes him a ringing blow across his head, driving him to the ground, almost into the fire. He hears gasps from the crowd below, and one heart-rending mewling cry from the camp of prisoners waiting to die. The fist of the highblood apparent, the young indigo who everyone knows has designs on the Grand Throne of the Laughing Kyriarch, closes over his throat and holds him to the ground.

"LOOK AT THEM, KNIGHT! SIGNLESS! SUFFERER! THEY WILL REMEMBER! As we remember. She will remember, won't she? THE ONE WHO STOLE YOUR HEART. And her companion, who thinks himself her jailer. I wonder. I WONDER IF HE WILL DO SOMETHING RASH. For her sake. If he will remember, for her sake, long after her muddy bilious blood feeds her to the murdercrows. I WONDER! When he is stripped of his inheritance and sent into exile, will he remember today? REMEMBER THE KNIGHT AND THE HIGHBLOOD? And will he know what it means?"

"SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD," the Sufferer croaks. "YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE. YOU REMEMBER, TOO."

"There is nothing wrong with the world," says the Japester, quiet, merry. He hurls the Signless to the edge of the fire, the heat of the forge baking his face, sparks and memories swirling up. The bargains with gods and monsters. The heat of the forge. "I'M HAVING SO MUCH FUN!"

"BUT YOU REMEMBER."

"Yes, little knight, I remember. I HAVE SEEN IT! In the fabled daylaugh trance of the gleemorbid, in the smoke of burning pans, I have seen a world. A weak and hopeless world where fools and princes reigned. FOOLS! But why would I ever want to go back?"

"WE WILL MAKE THEM STRONG! STRONG ENOUGH TO WIN! A new generation of heroes, FORGED LIKE STEEL BENEATH THE HAMMER OF THE SUBJUGGULATORS!"

His own pan is burning, ringing like a bell. A bell, he remembers, can never be unrung. He remembers that, as he remembers the Quill tracing the Scratch; the Hammer, crashing into the giant crystalline side of the Vesper Peak. The terrible chimes; the splintering crack. He remembers.

He weeps. "AND WHAT GOOD WILL IT DO? WILL THEY DESERVE IT, THE CHILDREN OF SUCH A NIGHTMARE?"

"That, old friend, is in your hands. WE CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT EACH OTHER, BROTHER," says the Highblood. "Me and you. YOU AND ME! The Knight must have someone to rage against. Or else there is no tale. NO MOTHERFUCKING TALE AT ALL! And without the tale, we will never hear the punchline. It will drop from your lips like cherry blood, and ring from now to the Great Undoing, like the biggest crystal carillion you ever saw. Like the biggest fucking horns you ever wished were on your nubby little pan. THE GREAT HONK!"

"I'm going to make you immortal, motherfucker. I'M GOING TO TURN YOU INTO A STORY."

Down in the crowd, there's a greenblood girl pleading with her eyes; there's a troll on a horse with a bow in his hands, and he's beginning to sweat. In the depths of his heart he knows she's already won. For her sake, before the sun rises to torture the Signless with its rays, he will go rogue. He must trust to his strength to protect them both from the rage of the Highblood.

Down in the crowd there's a woman tall and straight and weeping. The whips haven't broken her yet. But they will. Oh, they will. And if she loves again, in whatever sad shadow of her great light, they will take that from her too. They will take everything. Another holy sufferer; another victim of history.

Down in the crowd there's a traitor with his stomach twisting. But he had to. He had to. They had no future, no hope at all. He negotiated the life of the mother, he did that much, and they promised him... they promised him a seat of power, at the right hand of the Empress, a life extended long beyond the shabby forty or fifty years due his mustard blood. He had to.

But all of that, like so much else, is yet to come.

The Japester takes the irons from the fire.

"I DON'T HATE YOU," rasps the Sufferer, not sure if he's lying; wanting it to be true, wanting to remember this troll as his friend and companion. Wanting to cling to his doctrine of peace.

"You will, brother. YOU WILL." And that, as he will see, is no joke.

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T. Oso

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