An N'Geenr must at all times follow the Protocol. To not do so could result in risk to all other N'Geenr. Those who put the N'Geenr at risk are evil and must be put to fire. Those who serve their fellow N'Geenr will receive the blessings of the Elders and will be blessed by Pae.
--Protocols, holy texts of the N'Geenr
“Let him go you bastards! Let him go! Jol! Jol! Oh Pae, don't let them do this! Jol!”
Karin screamed and clawed at the two men who had grabbed Jol. They had just left the hut when suddenly three men had beset them and wrestled them to the ground. One of the men was holding Karins hands behind he back while the other two searched through Jol's bag and beat him over and over again.
“Please, just leave him alone!”
“Have you found it?” The man beating Jol said with a final kick to the ribs.
The other man pulled the Protocols from Jol's bag. “Yeah, the bastard has it alright.” He turned and looked at Jol in disgust “Right, your coming with us, the Elders want to see you.”
“NOOOO! Jol! Noooo, Pae, nooo! You bastards! You skel-less bastards!”
The man with the Protocols strode over and slapped Karin. Hard. She felt like she had been slapped with a slab of ice and her head spun.
“Leave... her... alone...” Jol spit out blood as he tried to lift himself from the ground. “She has... nothing... to do with this.”
“Oi! Watch it, we're not here to slap little girls around, we're here to capture the blasphemer, now look sharpish and and give me a hand with him.” The man holding Jol turned to Karin. “And you keep your mouth clean if you don't want to burn with him.”
Karin just sobbed as she struggled against her captor. Why were the Elders doing this? Karin gave up fighting after she realised she couldn't win and the men proceed to drag them into the village square.
In the square, a pyre had been set up and the villagers had gathered round it. In front of the pyre the Elders stood waiting.
Her captor spotted her father in the crowd and shouted out. “Hey Mathis, this one your littl'n isn't she? You ought to teach her some manners.”
Karin's father pushed his way through the crowd.
“Karin, are you okay? While you were gone, the Elders found out that someone had stolen the Protocol. They said that whoever did it must have angered Pae and that is why he has brought about the Unwinding.”
“Father! They're gonna burn Jol!”
“That's Jol up there!? Oh Pae! Karin, you mean he's the blasphemer?”
“No! Yes. Don't call him that!”
At that point the Elders called for silence.
“N'Geenr, we have found the cause of the Unwinding.” One of the Elders looked down at Jol, who was laid out, barely conscious on the floor before them. “This blasphemer broke the Protocol! Not only that, but he stole the Protocol itself! That which guides us and protects us! Such an affront to Pae could only result in our punishment, and Pae has descended on us all with his wrath for this ones vileness!”
The villagers gasped and the silence descended into a mass of shocked shouting and worried talking.
“But have no fear! We have retrieved the Protocol and now we shall punish this one by the very laws he sought to destroy! When we have cleansed ourselves of this vile one, Pae will be pleased and end the Unwinding!”
Karin panicked. “Father! That's not true! Jol was trying to save us, He said the Protocol was wrong, we can't let them do this!”
“Then it is true, he did bring the Unwinding.”
“Don't you see girl, he was poisoning your mind with his evil lies, how could the Protocol be wrong. Just as he does this, the Unwinding happens, what more proof is needed of his treachery?”
“But he didn't steal it until after the Unwinding! Father, I love him and he loves me, how can he be evil!?”
“Silence Karin, I'll not hear any more of it. Jol shall burn for his sins and I hope he suffers for tainting my only daughter with his filthy lies. Pae will cleanse you in time Karin.”
Karin couldn't breathe, she couldn't believe what she had just heard. She looked at her father for a moment, unable to believe that he could say such things. But he could, and he had meant it, she could see it in his eyes. Sobbing uncontrollably she ran towards the pyre, unaware that the Elders had resumed there speech.
“...and the Protocol says: Those who put the N'Geenr at risk are evil and must be put to fire. So be it. Jol, betrayer and traitor to Pae and the N'Geenr, we sentence you to death by burning so that Pae will forgive us for your sins. Burn him!”
Karin pushed through the crowd as she ran to try and get to Jol. She burst from the front of the crowd to see Jol tied to the stake at the centre of the pyre.
Jol lifted his battered face and tried to smile at her. “Get away Karin, you have the book, just run, the task of saving us must fall to you now. I love you.”
Jol was suddenly engulfed in flames as the torch was set to the pyre. He didn't even scream, he just cried.
“Nooooooo! Jol!” Karin yelled as she ran up onto the stage. An Elder tried to stop her from running into the flames and she lashed out at him, flinging the Protocols in his hands into the tragic inferno.
“Run Karin, ruuuuuun!” Jol croaked from the pyre before the pain drove him into unconsciousness.
Karin, tears in her eyes, compounded by the acrid smell of burning flesh, ran as fast as she could. No-one tried to stop her, everyone was still too shocked, having witnessed the destruction of the Protocols and hence any hope that Pae would forgive them. She kept on running, past the pottery-tiled huts, past the fences and gates, the field where the cattle were kept. Running and running away from that horrible vision, that horrible place, where Jol had been burnt alive for trying to help his people.