"Off with their heads." The order was met with blank stares and a panicked screach emerging from the crowd of curious onlookers.
"Sire, please! Have mercy!", a woman's hysterical voice preceded the hooded figure that was desperately trying to move past the circle of guards in shining armor, holding their towering shields high to keep the common people from opposing the royal verdict.
The king's tired eyes measured the woman that was throwing herself at his royal guard to no avail.
"Bring her here."
Two knights seized her by the arms, lifting her off of her sullied feet and carried her before his majesty, where he, Lucius XII, the Iron Heart, Monarch of the Silver Streams, Regent in the Marhudt Mountains, traced the rim of the woman's linen hood before removing it softly.
His solemn gaze was met by a look of panicked but fruitless defiance.
She had never planned on actively defying him.
This comely woman was trying to resist him out of sheer terror and out of lack of other options, like a hare that one held by the neck, just before one hears the crackling of their spine and see this defiant look give way to the emptiness that also filled Lucius XII's formerly silver eyes.
This woman held before him would be no danger to him.
"Knights, release her", he spoke with a soft voice that, nonetheless, reached the furthest corners of the market place and filled the hearts of his people with a warm, comforting sadness.
The woman, back on her own two feet, locked in the nervous embrace of her own arms, spoke with wavering voice: "Sire, I beg of you, put no harm to them.
This is my husband and that one my brother-in-law. They are good men, I know it. Please let them go." An expected development. "My child, what is your name?" "Myriel, Sire." "Myriel. It is very honorable of you to stand up for your kin."
He laid his bejeweled hand on her shoulder, spreading his calmness onto Myriel. "You ask of me to do no harm to these two men. I ask you, and answer truthfully, as you stand not only before me but in sight of the gods as well, do you know that these two men are innocent of the crime of murder?"
Myriel's green eyes widened.
"Sire, they would never do such- " "Child," the king interrupted her, "this is not a question of 'would not' or 'would'. This is a question of 'did' and 'did not do'.
And as multiple eyewitnesses can confirm, these two are the criminals that killed Farund Bremhail."
The woman broke down before Lucius, sobbing and holding her face in her hands. Still, the king went on: "My child, you ask of me to not harm these two men. Yet they have harmed another child of mine, one of their brethren."
Myriel's shrill voice cut through the market place. "He was a beggar! He was worth nothing! How can you weigh his life the same as those of these two men who have served you for decades?!"
The Monarch of the Silver Streams waited for her to calm down before he went on.
"How can I weigh their lives differently? A life is a life, and nobody's life is worth less than another's."
Lucius sighed heavily, the weight of his crown pressing down on him. "Child, I will give you a choice, since you feel you are able to do what I cannot. You will judge the lives at stake.
You will decide, who deserves to live and who has to pay for the crime that-" "My husband! My husband shall live!" Myriel clutched the silk of the royal robes.
"Are you sure?", the Regent in the Marhudt Mountains asked her. "Yes, Sire, I am sure, his brother has always been a bad influence on him. It must've been him all along! The whole crime must've been his idea. Sire, he is the one that deserves to die!"
The king waved his hand. Marhai, the Golden Executioner, stepped forward.
Lucius adressed him: "Hand her a sword." He looked at the terrified woman. "Do not hesitate. You decided him to be the one that deserves to die. Should you hesitate, not honoring your decision, Marhai will make sure you never decide anything else."
It was a gruesome sight as the shaking Myriel, only then feeling the weight of her decision, averted her wide-opened eyes before she took her first swing with the heavy two-hander.
Several people in the crowed puked as the man's infernal screams tore through their bodies. It was only Lucius XIII and the royal guard that had their eyes open as the second swing fell.
By the third swing, it was only the king. The woman sobbed and kneeled before the mutilated corpse.
The king softly spoke, the crowd aware of each syllable: "Two people committed a hideous crime and took the life of one of you, my children. One life has been paid. A decision has been made, a promise given, a life saved.
Yet another life is required."
The Iron Heart's empty eyes fixed Myriel's exposed skin, where her head connected to her shoulders, and the king raised his sword.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed to story, leave a like and/or a comment with your impressions. :) (copyright of the images not by me. This is where I found it https://www.pinterest.ch/explore/libra-scale-tattoo/ )