The sun glistens off the wooden roofs of the castle, the shining jewel of Aiolia, Ioannina. The city of Salina hustles with busy people. Sailors loading cargo, merchants lining the streets, and fishing boats dotting the ocean's horizon. Along the road just outside of the city, horses’ hooves can be heard as a parade of carriages trundles into town. The commotion caught the eyes of none but the little children. The caravan halts in the dead center of the square before the castle, and a young man gets out, running to Ioannina’s gate. Several of the guards approach from the castle to investigate the disturbance. Finding the captain of the guard heading the caravan, they take their orders from him and begin their work.
A large wooden platform is carted out by a group of large men. A tall construction in the shape of an “L” is raised, slotting into a hole in the platform. The bottom of the “L” stands high above the platform, a rope looped around it. The rope trails down, ending in a noose. A hangman's station. A crowd begins to form around the stage, the eyes previously ignoring the odd sight drawn in by the excitement of bloodlust. The victims emerge from one of the carts, three men bound up in chains. The men are thrown about, treated like common thugs, but many in the crowd recognize them.
One is Vitus, His school teacher bursts into tears as her favorite student is thrown to the ground to kneel before the citizens. Another, Jairo, prays that his siblings are at school, or home, or anywhere just that they don't see this. The last, Tavares, is taken to the side. He is watching his only friends hang, for he has no family to concern himself with. A more gruesome fate awaits this boy. They can't be older than twenty, such bright futures…
The crowd suddenly goes dead silent, as an imposing figure approaches the crowd, shadowed by the young man who fetched him from Ioannina and two armored clay golems. The Vassilias, Eternal solemnly marches to address the crowd. Rarely does Eternal involve himself in such trivial issues, this is a rare event. He wears a billowing purple robe, and a hood covers most of his face. He pulls back the hood to reveal the eternally youthful face of the man who had ruled over them for three hundred years. He raises his hand and all movement stops, sailors watch from the ships, merchants close their stalls. All are attentive for the Vassilias words.
“These men are criminals and will be hanged for their crimes!” His silver tongue boomed out. He had a voice that sounded like he was speaking directly next to you no matter where you were standing.
“These criminals,” he spat, “attempted to kidnap one of our precious golems. In doing so they put each and every one of you at risk. To satisfy their own selfish wants, their actions resulted in the harming of several civilians and the death of a golem. For their reckless, senseless actions, they shall be hanged by the neck until death!”
“Lies!” One of the men cries out. Eternal almost looks surprised for a moment. He looks directly at the criminal and cocks his head to the side, seeming to curiously inspect the man who had dared to defy him. Eternal turns, finished with his inspection, and speaks to the executioner now stationed on the platform, “Let’s begin, shall we?”
“Golem, bring Virus to the stand,” said the executioner in a gritty voice. Jairo attempted to run but before a single step was taken the golem holding him tightened its grip and he yelled out in pain as a crack rang out across the square. Eternal shook his head and tsk-ed at the man as if he was scolding a misbehaving child. Jairo whimpered, as the golem’s grasp had broken his arm. Tears rolled down his cheeks as Vitus had the loop placed around his neck, the rough threads chafing his tender flesh. The priests of Polligo and Dolorpe, summoned from their temples, read out the prisoners’ last rites. “Any last words?” The executioner asks. Vitus shakes his head. The executioner nods his acceptance and pulls a lever. The floor drops out from under the young man and the crowd explodes, yelling and cheering at the death. Vitus’ body hung limp, an antithesis to his name.
The executioner moved, pulling the body back onto the platform, untying the noose, and completing the knot once more. The body was removed by two pages, standing by their guards off to the sides. The cadaver would be burned on the sacrificial pyre to the four gods later that day.
“Golem,” the executioner began, “bring Jairo to the stand” Jairo whimpered as the golem tugged at his injured arm, tears staining his face, his best friend had just been murdered in front of him. He didn’t struggle as the priest read his rights. “Do you-” the executioner began.
“No.” interrupted Eternal. “This man already had his last words.” Jairo attempted to yell out at this injustice but the golem grabbed his face, preventing his speech. In the golem’s harsh quick actions a snap was heard as his body went limp in the golems arms. The creature had accidentally snapped Jairo’s neck. The crowd stood in shocked silence, there was no yelling or cheering as there had been before, only the emptiness of death.
“Pity,” Eternal spoke into the void, “Bring on the next one.” Tavares wasn’t afraid as he was marched onto the steps. He knew he could tell his truth and in a few words shattered the people’s confidence in the monster that stood before him. But then Eternal spoke again.
“This man's crimes outweigh that of his compatriots. He instead shall have a more… pleasing death. He will be slain in combat in our arena! He will fight until he breathes his last breath, giving his entirety to the gods.” With that, Tavares was shoved off the platform and into a carriage awaiting him. People threw fruits and rocks as he was carted away, yelling insults like “Criminal, Heathen!” and, “Urchin!” Now, he was afraid. He would get no last rights, no final word, and would die slowly and painfully.
Days passed as Tavares sat in prison. He was angry, terrified, and… helpless. He told his truths to anyone near him, he proclaimed his innocence day and night. Of course, the harsh guards didn’t care. He wasn’t fed anything but potato skin soup. Cheap flavorless crap, the same stuff his mother used to make. He sat in his cell, waiting for anything to happen. Then a guard unlocked the door and walked in. Two others followed behind him holding bronze armor.
“Put this on,” the man said to him and the others threw the cheap armor plating to the ground. As Tavares readied, he told his story one last time. Someone had to know the truth.
“We didn't steal the Golem! When they get old they go mad right?! I was sailing and I saw one go insane, something inside him changed. He wasn't angry just afraid! There was a light in his eyes! My friends saw it too, and we realized we can't keep killing them! They are alive! So we tried to take an aging golem just about to turn outside of town. We wanted to calm it, show everyone what we saw. But he turned while we were just outside the trading district. The guards saw and shot the golems head, killing it. I saw the light fade from its eyes! I don’t deserve to be killed just for trying to save this creature do I?!”
Tavares knew his pleas fell on deaf ears, but maybe they would at least give it some thought. Shake their faith in this horrid country.
“Eternal spends all our money to make golems, then kills them when they become aware!” Tavares yelled. He was escorted out of the cell to the entrance of the arena. He was thrust into a tiny black room and the door locked behind him. Traves uttered prayers to the gods, praying that at least his death may be swift. A stone sword was hung on the wall. He grabbed it, and the gate began to rise. He was blinded by the sun engulfing the small space. The cheers of a rowdy crowd echoed along the stadium walls. Tavares walked out on the dirt into the arena. He never thought he’d be standing here, then again, no one does.
Standing on the other side of the arena was a golem. Tavares turned to run behind him, anything but this. He was expecting a serial killer or a lion, but no. It had to be a golem. The gate had already slammed shut, sealing his fate. Tavares turned back to face the creature. He had never been afraid of a golem before now. It was armored, even wearing a helmet. Tavares didn't stand a chance. The golem stood in the center of the stadium staring blankly ahead, its eyes empty. Tavares approached the golem. It didn't acknowledge him. Tavares looked up at the Vassilias’ seat. It was empty. The bastard hadn't even shown up to see the outcome of his sentence. Suddenly, the golem made a grunt. He turned back to look at it and there was a light in its eyes. This was a mad golem.
“I’m… I’m not gonna hurt you okay.” Tavares tried to say. The golem stumbled back, terrified and confused. Its eyes darted across the crowd. “I am Tavares. I will not hurt you.” He said, his voice cracking. He was trying to stay calm but the golem was getting more afraid. It looked down at Tavares. Their eyes met and for a moment it seemed to understand his words. Then SPLAT and a burst of red, a tomato from the crowd hit the golem in the back of the head. It cried out at turning to look in the direction of its attacker, knocking Tavares flying to the ground in the process. Tavares tried to move, but golems are strong, his ribs were cracked and broken. He cried out in pain garnering the attention of the golem once again. In its confusion, it ran to him, stepping on his leg, crushing his shin beneath its immense weight. Tavares screamed, scaring the confused golem. Blind instinct filled his pain-ridden senses, and Travaris lifted the sword and stabbed the golem’s leg, trying to get it off of him. At the sensation of the sword plunging into the clay and the feeling of its body losing bits of itself, the golem startled, making an angry yelling noise while stepping back. Tavares relaxed, the sword dropping from his hand to lie beside him. The pain was excruciating, he could barely see. The arm of the golem arcs down, catching Tavares in the head, embedding deep into his skull. He dies instantly, the death a mercy to his agony. The crowd erupts in cheers, now pummeling the golem in rocks and fruits. It bellows, ripping its arm from the body of Tavares and running toward the door it came from. It claws at the entrance and shakes the walls. One of the many scorpios lining the arena shoot. The bolt strikes the golems in the head, smashing the pumpkin even through the helmet. It slumps over dead. The crowd cheers and cheers as the corpses are removed and the arena is prepared for the next event.