Baroness Lipus’ boots made short, brutal clacks against the warped wood of the platform. “Adorable,” Lipus cooed, whipping around from behind the post to face her, “believe me, if there was anything else I wanted, I would have gotten it by now. And there is nothing you can do to win your freedom. I’m just waiting until the price goes up.”
The Baroness of Antion then turned towards the crowd, “How many of you have been wronged by this wanton woman?!”
A rabid cheer erupted from the collection like a bark from a dog. Of course, Bingham had done nothing to incite this persecution. She had only been married to the King a month when she had been captured. She had told him she didn’t even want to be called the Queen in privacy yet. Her bloodline wasn’t even truly noble.
“How many of you see your sick families, your war torn land, and remember the time when she invaded your homes unprovoked, tearing apart our unity and way of life!?”
Another cheer. Lunacy. Even that attack hadn’t been her husband. It had been a neighboring tribal band that had ripped through this small kingdom, spreading disease and suffering as wildfire because they had been wronged by the ruling family. Lipus’ family. Clearly, the memories were fresh with these people.
Lipus continued spouting old favorites, many ‘tyrants,’ ‘sworn enemies,’ and ‘will not tolerate’s. Bingham stopped listening, it took too much effort. Besides Lipus seemed to ignore her now, enchanted with the rapture of the crowd. She weaved from right to left in the front of the stage like a sage, her arms rising with punctuation at every opportunity. Nausea would have been a thought if Bingham could bring her sight to a pause. The scene churned in front of her.
She heard the chink of the chains again and felt the shock and comfort of warmth under her arms came again as they dropped. She couldn’t help but lean towards it. Why string her up to let her down again?
Then she felt the prick of a frayed, rotting rope scrape against her cheek and pull tight at her throat. Something in her awareness stirred. Later she wondered if it was the last small desire for survival that was reawakened by that rope. The outside began to come to halting stops between the spins. Beneath her wounds, behind the smell of blood and sting of her own tears she could smell a familiar comfort. Her family was near.
Tipping her head towards the warm hand that held her she peered into cool blue eyes offset by a striking scar across his forehead. She had never seen her guardian without his sase, the tattoo that crossed the left cheek of every warrior that providence had claimed in her realm. So close it was obvious that thick makeup covered it now. Still, Locan’s face was clear as day to her. Though not her biological family, he had become everything but that to her since her coronation. A confidante, protector, mentor, words fell short.
Stepping behind her, he gave her a wink of recognition. Her gaze extended to the crowd, and the soldiers who had seemed angry before took on a new meaning to her. They were reinforcements.
Lipus growled again, “…and my husband…” she was interrupted by cheers, “will make them pay!”
Beneath the scream of the crowd a voice responded twice as threatening, with the whisper of a veteran ready for combat, “Not today.”