A great mass of people gather there, in front of a large platform in front of the city courthouse. The platform has been there for years, specially built for public hangings and other kinds of execution.
A gallows and a guillotine*) stand magnificently on that very platform, sending a message to the world that justice and law are served well here, therefore people are safe and outlaws will surely pay for their crimes. The people, however, get the wrong message. They think of executions as entertainment – a spectacle to liven up this boring and busy city, while real entertainment is only for the rich and the nobles.
(* Guillotine = A decapitating mechanism that reached the peak of its notoriety in our world during the French Revolution. It consists of a very heavy blade supported by high hurdles. Using the gravity, the blade falls down and decapitates with a higher chance of a clean cut than using axes or broad sabers.
The good thing is, it does strike fear into the outlaws. Anyone will think twice before breaking the law. So, indirectly, this makes the city of Vochaux a safer place to live in indeed.
‘... And so, here we are, once again, witnessing the moment that Justice is again victorious,’ the herald says, acting as master of this ceremony. ‘This is the ceremony, the jubilee, the grand festivity you should join in, and do tell your children, grandchildren and your children’s grandchildren that our Vochaux is the City of Justice; a safe, good place to live and for outlaws, it’s the gateway to HELL!’
The herald is making this spectacle of death into some kind of show, and the people seem enjoying it.
‘And now, let me introduce you the Executioner of the Day! Please welcome: Byraxx the Mutilator!!!’
The crowd cheers in an uproar as Byraxx climbs the platform. He is an enormous man; the wooden platform shakes with every step he takes. He wears a black mask – typical for executioners – and is bare-chested. His big, bad belly wobbles every step of the way and his short legs makes him rather unbalanced, but his overall appearance is so frightening, covering his shortcomings.
Chants of ‘Byraxx! Byraxx!’ from the spectators shows that this executioner is quite a celebrity. The herald rouses them more by adding some statistics.
‘Byraxx did 79 guillotines, 184 hangings and scored 133 decapitations with his great axe Orgathl*). His clean cut ratio is 85 percent. He likes to mutilate the body he has executed, just as the name of his axe stands for. And now, let’s see all of it, live at Vochaux Square Garden!’
(* Orgathl = Ancient Aurelian language, means the Mutilator.
After a long applause from the crowd, the herald continues, ‘Next, here cometh... the scums!’
The crowd boos as response.
‘First, Father Malloy Kordion the Hypocrite! He posed as a good priest, yet he raped sixteen women including little girls! His sentence is: death by the guillotine!’
As Priest Malloy Kordion climbs the platform, the ‘boo’s from the spectators become louder and louder, and volleys of rotten fruits and tomatoes find their targets on Malloy. The herald must speak louder this time to announce the second felon.
‘The second one is the spy, the threat for our beloved empire. Some might call him Zach or Zachary or any other name he might use. But his enemies know him by his codename: Nightshade!’
‘Sounds like a fungus to me!!’ a spectator shouts in the front row.
‘Yes, yes, his name might be kind of a fungus,’ says the herald. ‘But what is he? A SCUM! And what do we do to scums?’
‘Trash ‘em! Trash ‘em!’ The mass shout wantonly, throwing more volleys of rotten food and trash to Zach and Malloy. Before the platform gets too filthy and too slippery, the herald shouts at the top of his voice to get the executions going.
...and continues as he gets the crowd’s attention.
‘Now it’s time for the main event! Byraxx here will send the scums to hell, the big scum bag where they belong! With one jerk, Byraxx will hang Zachary and decapitate Malloy at the same time: a spectacle no one has ever seen before! Ladies and gentleman, let the execution begins!’
The officials of justice in the podium next to the execution platform get up. The one in the center, the Magistrate of Vochaux reads the court verdicts on both prisoners and re-mentions their crimes in more details than the herald’s, along with the statements in the Arcadian Laws that support the verdict. When the elongated, boring speech ends and the magistrate orders the execution, Byraxx the executioner roars excitedly and the crowd follows suit. The guards then put the prisoners on their positions: Zach on the gallows and Malloy on the guillotine.
Byraxx walks on the slippery platform slowly and carefully and adds his exaggerated trademark style on it. He comes in front of Father Malloy, grabs him by the hair and speaks.
‘Any last words, scum?’
‘Just tell the world that even a devout person has worldly passion too. I tried and tried to suppress it, but I failed. As for my victims, I beg forgiveness for ruining your futures. And for...’
‘ENOUGH!!’ shouts Byraxx. ‘You can feel sorry over and over again later – in hell!’ He lets go Malloy’s head with a jerk and then goes near Zachary. This time he just looks up and scolds.
‘You! Any last words? Hurry up! My hands are getting itchy to release that trap door!’
‘I’ve given it to my friend back in the dungeon, so I’m pretty much done. Just do your thing and get it over with!’
‘Hey! Don’t tell me what to do, scumbag!’ says Byraxx, punching Zachary’s belly so hard it pushes that condemned man two steps back.
With a grunt, Byraxx moves back to the center of the platform. Blood comes out from Zach’s mouth, but he didn’t groan or scream in pain – trying to keep tough in the last minutes of his life.
Byraxx bares his muscular hands, distracting the audience from his enormous belly, and adds it with another roar. It’s the sign that he is ready to perform two executions in one time.
The executor holds the rope connecting the guillotine blade on one hand and the rope tied up to the trap door on another.
‘LET – JUSTICE – BE – SERVED!’
As he speaks, without any more warning, Byraxx lets go of the rope on his right hand and pulls the rope on his left hand at the same time! The blade comes down, so does the trap door.
The rope on the gallows severs, and Zach falls all the way down into the trap hole below the platform. As for Malloy the adulterous priest, only his head falls on the platform, severed from his body with the guillotine blade.
The officials, the executioner and the spectators all become silent at once. They can’t believe what they’ve just seen. Not the severed head on the guillotine – that’s the default, usual thing happened in the end of every execution – but not this one. Zach, the hanged man only fell, not hanged anymore.
The executioner and a soldier take a look into the trap hole and find no one there, only the ground and a little bit of sunlight coming into the darker parts inside the trap hole. Then one of the spectators yells, ‘LOOK! There he is!’
All eyes shift to the back of the podium as they see a woman and a fat man in all-blacks running away, with Zach on the fat man’s back.
The Magistrate, realizing what’s happening, yells, ‘Somebody STOP THEM! Don’t let them run away!’
The fat man can’t run fast enough with the burden he carries, lagging behind the woman. They just run, and soon the soldiers are closing in to them. The woman and the fat man, whom we already knew as Sheena and Ellephar throw smoke pellets – standard bandit equipment – to block the soldiers’ sight and make them go slower. Coughs and swearing are soon heard, and the two bandits turn into a corner. Once again, Sheena makes a good use of her knowledge about the streets in Vochaux and avoid more pursuers before she finally reaches the rendezvous point where Robert, Baxter and some of her newly recruited crews are waiting.
‘Great shooting, Robert,’ says Sheena.
Robert answers, ‘All thanks to Baxter’s sturdy bow. And you really pulled out a great escape, too.’
Zachary realizes what’s happening now and asks Robert, ‘Is that you, Rob? H-how...?’
‘It’s a long story, old man, we’ll talk about it later.’ says Sheena. ‘Now we must stay low in our hideout here and get ready for the next step of our plan.’
And they all go into the carpenter’s shop, a camouflage of Sheena’s hideout.
Meanwhile, back in the City Square, the crowd has a new spectacle to see. It’s a rare, different show, something that never-ever happened before in the annals of history.
‘Oohhhh...!! No, no, no! Why is this happening to meee???
Bwaaah! I never-ever left a scum alive after I finished with him, but now... he slipped away under my hands! My HANDS! Bwaaaah!
Stupid rope! Stupid gallows! How dare you fail me so? I should’ve listened to my mama and be a butcher instead! Bwaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!’
It’s Byraxx the Mutilator, the renowned executioner, crying like a baby, adding more shame into his failure to keep his notoriety intact. The hanged man lives.
But of course, the crowd doesn’t share his sorrow. Instead, they sneer and laugh at him. Byraxx acts so funny, indeed, but he doesn’t care. On the peak of his disappointment, he gets up and kicks late Father Malloy’s severed head from the platform as high and as far as possible.
Some may say that the action inspired one of the spectators there to invent a new sport that later become very popular in Aurelia and the entire world: Football.
Then the spectators leave the City Square as there’s nothing more to be seen. An hour later, the Vochaux City Square is practically deserted, except for a few guards who stay to clean up the mess and the executioner sitting alone, still crying in sorrow.
End of Chapter Ten