The guards watched Adrian Parker like hyenas stalking surrounding their prey, just waiting for the order to tear into him but too afraid to approach him alone. Standing in a circle around him, they leered with anticipation and glee and the prospect of his execution. Adrian watched them indifferently not giving them the satisfaction of his intimidation. There was nothing they could take from him that he hadn't already given up. He'd given up his body, his life as a sacrifice long ago.
They sat huddled in the desert sand outside of the watchtower waiting for their general to give them the order to bring Adrian to Devil's Helmet. The moments seemed to drag on and on until at last the guards all turned in unison as the door to the watchtower opened and General Wilhert stepped out. He looked out towards the sun for a pause drawing out the moment as all his guards watched in suspense. He nodded to the two guards on either side of Adrian.
The chosen guards guffawed with excitement as they hoisted Adrian roughly to his feet. Adrian scrambled to catch his footing as they dragged him roughly towards the watchtower.
“A word in your ear.” Wilhert whispered, stopping the guards escorting Adrian with an outstretched arm. “If for any reason this man escapes, or anything happens to him you will be the one’s to answer for it.”
The guards cast each other a confidant look coupled with a nonchalant shrug, which seem to instill certainty in them that Adrian would not escape their hold but it did little to reassure Wilhert so he repeated himself.
“He ain’t gonna escape!” One of the guards promised. “Now cool your coals I think Stratagus has gotten rid of enough Generals this week.” He and his partner laughed. The General tossed him a resentful look which did little to intimidate the officers as they dragged Adrian passed him and into the watchtower. Adrian found it somewhat comforting that Stratagus’ army was so disorganized and shattered, yet the lack of an obvious authority was also foreboding. Adrian was dragged roughly through only door in the watch tower and led into a dark corridor. The men's footsteps echoed on the wooden plank under foot as they climbed atop it. The platform began its descent, the long journey down seemed to pass in a matter of seconds. Adrian sighed as the platform clattered on to the ground of Devil’s Helmet the foul stench of the land filled his nostrils. He choked on the bitter taste. The guards dragged him down the tunnel were a carriage waited for him.
The guards shoved him hastily into the carriage and climbed in after him. The Wer’s pulling the cart tore off towards the village. Adrian took in a deep breath. His heart beating frantically as they drew closer his thoughts grew more desperate. It was believe he was here, at last. He was finally back. All the memories he’d tried so hard to forget and hid away in the corners of his mind that the sun would never touch all came flooding back to invade his thoughts in the absence of sunlight. Stratagus had won. It was a very hard notion to comprehend. Though Adrian would risk anything to save his family and kept them safe he couldn't tolerate the idea that Stratagus would be the one to write his ending. There was something terribly humiliating about that. He knew Stratagus would exploit that fact and draw it out as long as possible. Adrian sighed miserably, trying not to let the guard’s witness his distress but they hardly even looked at him.
The market place had been transformed into an arena. People had gathered around and stood in the door ways of shops, on the roofs and balconies all pouring out to get a glimpse of the action. The carriage’s entrance to the village square was welcomed by the uproarious clamoring from the crowd, deafening cheers and shouts that invaded Adrian's ears and weakened his resolve. For the first time since his capture he truly felt he was Stratagus’ prisoner, he had him where he wanted…helpless and alone. The carriage pulled to a stop and the guards hoisted Adrian out, his back slouched against the inevitable. His eyes flicked around the angry crowd like those of a frantic rabbit caught in a trap. In the middle of the market square was a large cage, designed for his death he assumed. Whoever, built it had put great care and detail into it. The cage was finely twisted from small strands of copper wire until they were as think and strong as a steel bar. The cage was completely comprised of doors which showed no signs of ever intending to be opened. Stratagus’ must’ve designed it Adrian mused as he was dragged closer to the cage. His nerves were on edge he was unable to stand still, yet he was oddly clam, he had a clear sense of what he had to do. He had to run before they put him in the cage, he had to get away. He had to see...Kat one last time. If it was at all possible.
The guards held tight onto his arms cutting off the circulation to his hands. A young man, built like a beast stood by the cage wearing a patched up overcoat and shabby top hat, his intense blue eyes peeked out from under shaggy locks of black hair. The young man caught Adrian’s eyes, he gave a very subtle nod, in fact Adrian wasn’t truly sure he saw it. But in that moment, the man’s gaze seemed to calm him. He wasn’t on Stratagus’ side that much was obvious but whose side was he on? The guards came to a stop beside the blue eyed young man.
“Adrian Parker, so glad you could make it to your homecoming!” Stratagus boomed from his throne, his sister Roshell sat beside him her hand rested on his arm. Stratagus rose from his throne, a small smile tugging at the edge of his lips. He walked towards Adrian relishing the moment.
“Oh Adrian Parker I’m so happy to see you once more.” Stratagus spoke softly as he reached him. “I missed you.” He sighed, resting his hand on Adrian’s shoulder, no longer able to mask his disdain.
“I loathe you so much Adrian Parker.” He hissed, “For the past twenty years I been fantasizing about all the ways I could possible make you suffer...as I have. Make you pay for you sins. But no punishment will suffice for your crimes.” His grip tightened on Adrian’s shoulder. Stratagus leaned back from Adrian looking him over with distain.
“But you will not take away my pleasure this time Adrian Parker, there is no escape today you will die!.” In one swift movement he drew the dagger from one of the guard’s sheath and stabbed it through Adrian’s thigh. Adrian cried out in pain his leg buckling under him. Toby gasped. The crowd roared in approval.