“Hey, friends, we can talk about this, ya? C-Come, now. Pull this noose from off my neck so we can speak civilly.”

“You had your chance to talk, Starbán. Shut your gob or we’ll stuff it with tar.”

A man whose hands smelled strongly of garlic placed a wreath of the bulbs around my neck and then gave a good, strong tug on the noose. The rough rope pulled up against my skin, scraping and burning a rash into my neck. I chuckled nervously as I looked onward to a crowd of angry protestors, the citizens of the town that had but weeks ago lay beneath the parapets of my castle, hands full of torches and pitchforks. Those were the only weapons the townspeople had.

“Liliya! Liliya Sorensson will attest to my innocence. I’ve turned over a new leaf! I swear it!” I choked out while the executioner tugged on ropes around my wrists. They spared no expense in keeping me stationary. It was all for show. At a moment’s notice I could escape, with ease, honestly, but that was not the point. I had to be good.

“Liliya has gone to Kalka. There is no one here to speak for you.”

I had really gotten myself into… something. I had made the miscalculated assumption that I could go on a late-night walk into town without my travelling companions, and it seemed that the people of the town of Starkovia would make sure it was the last mistake I would make. No friendly faces bobbed in the crowd, and I fought the garlic bulbs at my neck. The soft, dry husks of the bulbs tickled at the underside of my jaw, and I twitched to get them away from my skin. Irritating, at best.



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