Imagery

n. Imagery is a literary device comparable to the literature equivalent of pointillism in the sense that both writer and artist using their respective techniques do not use the actual words or colors that they wish to display to the audience. Instead, they portray the surroundings with shades of colors that the human senses blend into a coherent idea that is ideal to them. Yet language arts and visual arts are not the only such things that use this idea: pixels in our computers, the units of atoms that make up everything in our universe, and etc., are all examples of the smaller components of nature that a well-written imagery should capture.

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“My Dictionary” Launch

Now that I have finished my first story (and plagued all of you with super long, thousands-worded posts), I thought I might have a bit of a change with this new project, “My Dictionary.”

This is a project that aims to show how I understand the world around me. It’s mostly meant to try to convey the way that I allow my mind to drift with every object that I come in contact with. The order in which these posts come are completely random, and I aim to update it as often as possible. So, hope you enjoy these much quicker reads!

V. Dream of the Night of the Sabbath

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“And as do I.”

She was unharmed. Sore and somehow knocked to the ground, but unharmed. When she looked up, she found several soldiers bent over their employer, who fell to the floor. Her attention was soon diverted, however, by a low groan. She pushed herself to a half kneel and snapped around to find its source. Her throat ran dry. “Sirius!”

She somehow managed to flung herself towards him, who barely remained above the ground with his knees and a hand. She seized his shoulders to forcefully turn him onto his back. The second she pulled his cloak away, she weighed the inevitability pounding in her heart.

He moaned, “Esther…” Her hands were but sieves pressed against his wound, a steady stream of scarlet seeped through her shaking fingers, soaking her sleeves. “My love…I-I am…”

“No,” She stopped him, biting her lips as though that would stop the tears from falling. “No, no, you agreed that we would leave together…” The last syllable cracked and she said to herself, I must stop the bleeding, I must…His life continued to fade through her hands. “Sirius, love, please look at me.”

“Es…” He began again in a quivering whisper, his dark eyes drowsy. “…ther…I’m…so-sorry…”

“No, an apology does nothing. Save you breath for later,” She almost yelled, but choked instead.

She could measure the agony in each gasp for breath yet she was…helpless. She summoned the willpower that she did not know she was in possession of to not burst into tears, reassuring him to fight, to seize the last wisps of bitter life as she, alongside his mother, attempted to bandage, call and cling to him. He met her forced smile with one of his own, chapped lips opened to utter syllables that were forever unacknowledged, before his hand, originally resting in her grasp, made a slight wave.

Then darkness overcame her.

She woke in a bedroom — not unlike the one she shared with her husband — as though from a nightmare, though she later learned from Madame Crisiota, who made her entrance so silent as to startle her, the hard truth that her reality and her worst nightmare were indifferentiable. After inquiring after her health, her mother-in-law began to explain the entirety of the happenings starting shortly before his demise: the elderly lady took the pistol from Esther before the latter’s attempt at self harm while her father shot Sirius fatally, which prompted his mother to try upon the Council member’s life.

“Your husband…he used his dying breath to send us here…”

Esther bit her lips and inquired after her sons to distract herself from the gory visions of her beloved’s end.

Madame Crisiota answered her question with too much hesitation for Esther to feel ensured, “Gabriel and Canopus are both here…but there have been some complications…You see, the time is very different from ours: recall that you were born in the last quarter of the 18th century? Well, as of today, it is 1977, and both your sons and I have been here since 1975.” Her mother noted how deeply knitted her brows were, so she prepared to explain the complexities of time traveling when a shrill call interrupted them.

“Grandma!” a toddler burst through the door in excited chatters, closely followed by his doppelgänger.

“Sorry, Madame, I wasn’t able to stop them,” A nurse, clearly too out of shape, practice and breath made her appearance leaning upon the door hinge in minutes delay after the two boys flocked to their grandmother’s side. “The second they heard their mother was awake, they just abandoned their walk and ran here like little –”

“– Don’t worry, Anne, it is quite alright,” Madame Crisiota excused the rumbling nurse and chastised the two troublemakers with pretended chagrin, which was immediately brushed aside after several solemn nods from the two-years-olds.

Having spent a good five seconds repenting for their enthusiasm, the two began anew, “Grandma, grandma, is that my mom–” “– Our mommy, not just yours –” “– Are you my mother?” “Are you okay, now?” “I’m Canopus!” “And I’m Gabriel!” “Ma…”

Esther was awestruck by growth that she missed in the span of two years, and instinctively, she drew both of them to her in a tight embrace, mumbling spoiling affections onto their bonny heads as though that may fill the gap. She thought that she already shed all the tears that she was capable of for her entire life, though she was wrong as her eyes watered from the sheer happiness of being able to hold her beloved children again.

Later on, as her ankle was well patched and Madame Crisiota helped her into the improper set of strangely tailored clothes, she was conducted on a brief tour around “town” by the two over-zealous children and their contrasting grandmother. The world was so much altered. The dull scent of wet earth was replaced by a putrid acidity that made her gag and reel. Walls moved upon her, rough bricks and calloused structures sharp and concrete. Dismal screeches of discord erupted against her ears in whooshes of pitches, rising then falling with the distance.

All was so overwhelming, yet she appreciated the struggle in her adapting to the current society: anything, anything that could distract her from the recurring nightmare of her lover forever bleeding to his painful death in her arms was welcomed.

Many, many years had passed since then. She had performed her duties as a parent to the best of her abilities in pretending comfort in this hazardous world and in giving the two a perfect transparency of their origins when they were old enough to understand without confusion. She retired from the busy world and her productive life originally in hopes of keeping the aged Madame Crisiota company, though the old woman passed before Esther could do much to repay her kindness.

Now the narrative had chased her to her current, hermit state in her isolation from the world, her pains had greatly subsided. She thought to read Canopus’s letter: he writes unusually well for men of this time, and the script nearly distracted his mother from its important content. It was a kind reminder for an arrangement the brothers made with her scheduled this Sunday, which she, surprisingly, actually still remembered. So, she sat idly for a good couple of minutes to contemplate if her reply would be received before then.

*******

“You ought to tell me where we are heading.”

Gabriel turned from the front seat to meet her command with a grin that was more or less forced, “Should we, Canny? I think it might take away the surprise…”

“You just don’t want to be the one to tell her,” his brother was almost bitter, but not demanding.

“…” Gabriel turned his attention back to the scenery flying past the window while his brother began after a moment’s silence.

“We found where he was buried, mother,” Esther had a glance of hesitance and solemnity in the same deep, dark eyes that still haunted her from the back view mirror.

At that moment, she was too filled with the awakening of dormant emotions to question the brothers’ source. The long silence left the three of them mindful of the passing of other cars and each rough bumps upon the increasingly sparsely traveled road. Canopus, keenly aware of the distress the two of them might have inflicted, added.

“We really don’t have to go if it’s…too much for you.”

“No, no, no I would like to see it, and we absolutely have to,” She didn’t mean to sound offended or sarcastic, but she was misunderstood as both of those qualities; the brothers exchanged a quick look while Gabriel muttered something that Canopus merely turned away from.

Yet, still she didn’t realize how much the first part of her statement was a lie until she was immediately before the engraved stone. It was…too simple and understating, with only a faded, hardly legible name and two dates too close to each other, both in terms of time and their position on the stone. His supposed criminal actions had stripped him of epigrams, titles and relations to mark him, condemning him to his final slumber among crooks and felons.

After Canopus and Gabriel retreated to the car for her privacy, she dared to reach out and rest her hand upon the weathered monument, made even rougher with its recent freedom from ivies. She wasn’t sure what her gesture was meant to symbolize, but really just an unconscious belief that the earth may stir below and knock her off of her feet.

Thankfully, the earth remained as deathly unmoving as its quiet inhabitants.

Instead, the constant light breeze brushed over her; cold, though not harsh. It wisped against her coated frame and shifted her scarf. Delusions placed words that were whispered unacknowledged centuries before in the breeze’s mouth, and just like the first time she heard the utterance of these syllables, she replied aloud in a low sigh only audible to her sole audience below and herself.

“And as do I.”

IV. March to the Scaffold (Part II)

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So she read another, and another, and another. The pile was eventually exhausted, and so was her faith.

Gabriel cooed with content as he tucked at the loose curl of his mother’s hair; the absence of hunger only invited mischief, a character so rarely displayed in the author of harmless tricks’s elder by seconds. It was still a wonder to Esther how the two little ones could already behave so differently. Perhaps it was to make her life the simpler in distinguishing the indistinguishable. Or perhaps Gabriel only meant to uplift her heavy mind, she contemplated the possibility as the said babe grabbed at her hand and made noises resembling giggles to rouse his napping brother. Canopus gladly joined the squeal of excitement. She smiled.

The days had been very long. Merely three days before, her parents came to her at the notice of Sirius’s predicament, closely following Madame Crisiota. The confrontation was vastly uncomfortable, as the fervent admiration Mrs. Gilabre so readily bestowed upon the noble widow deteriorated into blatant disdain that both her and her husband thought best flaunted, the proposal of divorce the only subject upon their busy lips. One night, Esther found the Madame alone in the hallway, her small frame shaken after more consternation from the world.

A pang at her heart prompted her to ask, “Madame?” The older lady was much startled by the lack of venom in a voice, and eased at the sight of her daughter-in-law. “Sorry for disturbing you…”

“Sorry?” to hear the word uttered by another soul seemed incredulous to Madame Crisiota. “No, you should not be sorry, my child, much less should you be capable to disturb.”

A deathly pause passed.

“You mustn’t blame yourself,” the Madame kept her dark eyes fixed upon the wall behind her. “If there is a fabric of guilt entitled to you, it would only be having not too be of this…bizarre curse in which the Crisiotas possessed…”

“Oh child.”

“I am not accusing you of anything, mother, it’s just that…the confidentiality might have saved me from questioning the genuineness of my relations with both you and Sirius…”

“Child, the lie was a desperate attempt to maintain your innocence from unexplainable horrors beyond both Sirius and I,” Madame Crisiota snapped around, her eyes glittered. “It claimed his father, his sister…my love and my daughter…we didn’t think…we didn’t think…we both thought he would be well hidden, but now…” The glitters had turned into a downpour, and she held up a handkerchief to cover her face: Esther knitted her brows in confusion. “I am sorry, my dear, now that I have said this much incoherence, I must explain it in full: the truths and confidentiality that you so more than deserved.”

So she began a splendid speech: “presuming your familiarity of the Scriptures, you must know the Sanhedrin? The council of elders of Israel that condemned the Lord? Very well. Then, you must understand that this same council lived through this crime to manifest in…organizations of sorts with a mission to guide the development of mankind to become pleasing to their eyes. With its claim to ancient knowledge and the name of God they strove to control and…extinguish…” Here she took a deep breath. “…Any…’abnormalities’ that may pose a threat to mankind, and it is to their duty to ‘correct’ such a thing. And this is thus how the Crisiotas became a target.” She went on to explain that the Crisiotas had always been in possession of certain abilities, though even she was never in their confidence enough to learn the true origins. “Before Sirius’s great-grandfather (he too, was named Canopus), the Crisiotas had been…rather more or less selfish with their blessings and kept it to themselves. Then he thought it unfair and had a grand vision of helping the entire world with his family’s prowesses, and his naively altruistic act eventually attracted the Council, whose desire for these convenient powers prompted them to draw closer to the Crisiotas. Ultimately, the Council rushed to phony friendship when it learned that such powers are simply hereditary and not transferable to their own kin.”

Esther would hardly believe that purposeful accusation by court would constitute as “phony friendship.” But, she thought better than to interject.

“Yet this ploy became clear to my husband when the existence of the Council was betrayed to him through one of its members that was also his close friend. And, the same naivety being seemingly hereditary as much as their supernatural abilities, he thought it wise to confront the core of the Council, which only led a heated argument in their different philosophies that prompted his…early demise. I was with child and Eleanor was but six…”

Esther sensed contradiction in her paranoia, “So…how exactly did you catch wind of all these details had the late Baron passed so early? Why would an organization such as the Council, which is cruel enough to silence with murder tolerate its target in recounting such accusing details to yet another witness?”

Madame Crisiota was clearly taken off guard by her question and her lips quivered, though not from grief, “…I…Sirius really did not exaggerate when he noted your keen abilities to observe and rationalize. My old feminine mind is clearly defenseless in the face of a wit as sharp as yours: then I shall be blunt in my truths, and come clean altogether.” Another long dab with her handkerchief, “I am the traitor of the Council in my narrative, for youthful love is blind: the arranged marriage that was the Council’s means to secure a closer eye upon the Baron only led to the bloom of true affections during courtship and their loss of a weak-minded member who had been working against them ever since. Now that I have filled the holes in my tale, allow me to finish.” Disregarding Esther’s widened eyes, the madame went on to address the lives of the surviving Crisiotas after her lover’s death. “Then the Council disappeared mostly out of our lives, probably thinking it unnecessary to associate with us for fear of complications that may lead to the necessity of killing a widow and her children. Then both Sirius and Eleanor grew up to be a true Crisiota in both beauty and their wicked abilities, and though I bore in mind the looming presence of the organization, I cherished my abnormal life and deemed it happy. By the time it became imperative for me to answer the outstretched hands of numerous suitors, I was mostly too taken by pride for my children and a false assurance from the long peace to act as though we were free from the Council. Eleanor and Sirius were both ignorant of its existence. Imagine my shock when Eleanor came to me with a young man she favored, with all the charms a youngster could ask that I would have approved of had he not been the heir of an old associate of mine back in my days in the Council. I denied the match with all the vigor I could muster, which only strengthen the bond between Eleanor and the young man despite my belated explanation of the hidden venom that the young man had within the facade of his well-breeding. Then they…the pair eloped. At that point I cannot help but give them my blessings to keep Eleanor by my side, which was a decision that I have yet to forgive myself for as that same year, my servants stopped this young man from strangling my son to death. I knew fully well what he intended. He was simply tasked with the same mission as I was years before: find out the true nature of the abilities of the Crisiotas (for there are much varieties), though our methods clearly differ. Eleanor was heartbroken, for she loved her brother dearly, and finally understood my chagrin. She confronted her husband in a stormy argument, by the end of which she swore her being with her powers against the Council. Her defiance was short-lived, as her husband pleaded for forgiveness and she was too kind to grant it. A few weeks later, the two of them went on an evening walk that neither of them returned properly from: the constables found her body in a near by canal, while her husband was never seen again, clearly under the sanctuary of the Council for his crime. I didn’t have time to mourn, as I searched for a sanctuary of our own for Sirius and I. Eventually, we found space here, in this property among sparse towns as recommended by one of my former colleagues that followed a similar trajectory as I, away from the Council. I finally came to my senses and told the boy about the root of the entirety of our family’s tragedy, and bid him strictly from using his powers. Our society was rather small, with just the two of us and the occasional peaks at the outside world vetted by the same dear friends that brought us here. One such instance was the Thenazra Ball, as Sir Mileach was one of these dear friends of mine. I suppose you know fully the rest…”

“…Why, such treacherous paths both of you partook, and I seemed to have only added more peril with my mere existence.”

“No, no, no, that will not do,” the Madame took her hands in her own. “You have no space to place blame upon yourself: the fault lays solely upon Sirius and I. For the most basic responsibility of a woman is to rear her children in the light, and yet I have allowed the shadow of my past to consume them both along with you. Had I been barren, it would have saved so many pains…”

“Please, mother, if you are truly sorry for the pains that you have inadvertently caused, then do not pain me in cursing my beloved and his mother,” she squeezed the hands of the lamenting woman. “He killed only to save me: his crimes were that he loved me with too much passion and too little sense, and if you are truly sorry, suffer no longer and rid yourself of your present misery. Begone, hide yourself from society; I do say so kindly.”

Lady Crisiota gripped her hands a little, wrinkles deepening either in confusion or perturbation before she met her eyes, “You are right.” She drew her little hands away. “You are right…God bless your soul and maybe take pity upon mine.” With that she went away with a final kiss upon her brow, a shaky breath wisped away into the dark.

Today, she pondered the perils she would have been in if Canopus or Gabriel was condemned for slaughter. She gently caressed Gabriel’s cheeks, and the idea forced her to return the child to the crib.

She had no time to sympathize. The execution was to commence in a matter of hours, and she had to fulfill her beloved’s last wish. Out of their false sense of protectiveness, the Gilabres prevented their daughter from tending to the trial out of fear of the wrath of the victims’ families. Yet this fear was so invalid, since the arrest of her husband, she was bombarded with a surprising number of letters and notes from these same families.

“We do not bare any ill will towards Baron Crisiota. In fact, we are grateful for the riddance of an abusive tyrant (or drunkard, gambler, bastard…) The generous payment only made for more grace, and we could only hope for the Jury in understanding this sentiment.” The more well-written notes generally conveyed a message along these lines, and some of their authors even took the liberty of visiting her to ensure their intent was clear and not mistaken for some cruel sarcasm. From their eyes Esther read geniuses and true sorrows that corroborated with the proceedings at the trial, which her frail body at last convinced her to be absent from.

Instead, she was condemned to hear the matters from her mother, an unlikely witness for the trial and an unreliable narrator. Still, Esther extracted a sketch of the truth from her mother’s excited story: the victims’ family seemed to have agreed upon a tone of sympathy for the accused. “They weren’t even remotely angry or grieving beyond their black veils,” Mrs. Gilabre spat with disgust at the impropriety. To her, outward flaunting of such sorrows was the only way to show loss, and what occurred in the court was but an abnormal ploy that twisted sadness and human decency into immorality and sympathy for the condemned. At this part of the retelling, Esther was almost happy, but the end was not nearly there, so she abstained from premature celebrations.

“Fortunately, your father was there to right their wrongs.” The tone and foreshadowing nature of this statement made her flinch visibly, though Mrs. Gilabre failed to take note as she went on.

“Your father—you ought be glad that he is so eloquent—was able to make the double-sidedness of of the scoundrel’s nature apparent, thanks to some of the past correspondences the foolish fiend left behind in his own writing…”

“What, he has no written correspondences to condemn him!”

“…And upon this assumption, you err, my dear,” Making an erroneous assumption that her daughter wished for the death of Sirius as much as she did, Mrs. Gilbre produced a thick pad of leaflets covered in fine script.

Eager to prove his innocence, she seized one of these letters, reading the fine lines crafted by a familiar hand. Yet the contents dated years prior, and were composed in an unusually venomous tone of raw violence threatening her father to concede her hand to the writer in courtship. She crumbled it, much to her mother’s chagrin, and tossed it aside for another, only to find a yet more malicious threat for the Gilabres’ silence unless they wished to cost the future and honor of their beloved daughter. She ripped this despite her mother’s belated alarm. So she read another, and another, and another. The pile was eventually exhausted, and so was her faith. Had the entire reason for her existence been baseless? The earth beneath her feet swooned, reminding her that she stood up from her seat in her passion of denial.

Or perhaps it was an unconscious standing ovation to the masterful deception?

But, she begged for no encore, but simply the truth. Each pound of her heart reminded her of her last conversation with Madame Crisiota: the Council, it must have been them. Those villains must have forced him into writing these letters. The tone was too condescending, too harsh, too heartless to be the same man who lulled her to sweet dreams and nursed her at the expanse of his own health. She fell back into her seat and nodded her mother’s concerns away.

After assuring the health of her daughter, Mrs. Gilabre thought best to finish the tale, “So, the Jury was at last informed, and conferred to the decision of putting the wretch to justice.” She went on to utter the words that continued to haunt her for the rest of her life with an animated ardor.

Death by the guillotine.

She removed herself to the window in his office, where only a while before she thought herself the most loved and luckiest individual, her eyes dry and face robbed of expression by the constant chirps of lamentations the world thought appropriate to shower her with. The kind notes took a subtle turn as the victims’ families realized their benefits from their murderous negotiations had been annulled and confiscated along with further monetary compensations on their part. They were lucky that the Jury somehow found it unnecessary to deem them accomplices, yet the glimpses at an improved life and the dispersion of this dream made them bitter: “Though we thank Crisiota for dirtying his hands in ridding my bastard of a husband, we also thank Gilabre for the certain gloom of starvation and poverty.”

These words pinched her, chased her into the safety of her lofty and now more or less eerie home. No passionate plea or gold would allow for a visitation, so she remained by the window. Fear, she found, was all she saw in nature now, with shadows of their past happiness like taunting fairies just a pinch away from her reach. She also found that dread was no intangible entity, but a liquid, or fine particles, that found cracks and gaps and crept to fill all findings until none could move in a solid mold of death. She wasn’t dreading tomorrow, the day of the execution, but rather the gliding uncertainty of her beloved’s character. Had there been a glimmer of cruelty beneath his gentle brows? Was the hands that embraced her, the lips that blessed her, authors of utter terror? No, his eyes were not made to hold malice, but bottomless love…

…Which turned out to be a perfect stock for a concoction of desperation and conflict in the face of her suffering.

She couldn’t bear to look out of the park any further, so she snapped the curtains shut.

*******

The hour was near, and her early. Esther kissed Canopus and Gabriel earlier in the morning in hopes of gaining some courage from the gesture. She wasn’t sure if it gave either one of the party involved any.

Despite the fact that she was at least an hour before the scheduled execution, the grounds were already housing a substantial crowd since another beheading was in place. So, she had dismounted her trusty stead and left him in the care of a store clerk that was an old acquaintance that also turned into a pile of premature condolences. She tucked herself deeper into the anonymity of the crowd in the plain cloak that Corah lent her.

Esther beheld the bladed beast with mortification. Its gleaming teeth were with scarlet, and only becoming increasingly so as it counted in long slow thuds. No…perhaps it was not a count, but rather, a beat. The heartbeat. An injured beast pumping sprays of blood into nonexistent arteries and into the air. She retched, coughed, and turned away to let her ears stay watch while her eyes fixed themselves onto the face of the pocket watch in her hand. She measured each minute step despite the pulse of the crowd around her in pushed and shoved.

“Brian Adlar, guilty of theft and attempted murder.” Some skirmishes, a thud. Next. “Eleanor Warren, guilty of adultery.” Skirmishes, struggles. Thud. Next.

At last, the hand reached twelve, while its shorter brethren greeted nine. Esther forced herself to look up.

She saw a cart approaching from behind the face of the guillotine. As each clear click-clop came to be closer, she attempted to look past the beasts drawing the cart for a familiar facade. She could not decipher one from the uniform mass of misery, so she bit her lips instead.

The additional inmates were ushered off the cart with barks of instructions and kicks. At that point, the scaffold obscured their figures from her frantic search, which turned out to be useless as the presider boomed.

“Sirius Crisiota, guilty for murder and accounts of blackmail.”

With a gaoler’s push, he ascended the platform, and she squinted and knitted her brows and gaped at his deplorable state: his dignified walk was reduced to a slight limp urged on by the grips of the two soldiers that flanked his side, which, despite the plain white cotton, evidently lost flesh. The wound clearly still plagued his tortured being; his cheeks were sallow, setting his features to become more angular, sharp, and if she allowed the preposterous rumors to affect her, cruel in his blank stare into the crowd before him. She shifted against the sudden breeze, her hand shot up to hold her hood in its place. That was enough for him to find her.

What unknown doubts for his possible capacity for evil was dispersed as a keen look of concealed passions and conflict passed in the brief second their eyes met. His lips, which she now noticed were cut and chapped, opened as though to utter anguish, but closed again as he tore his gaze away and threw it to the floor before him. Was it guilt? It was difficult for her to remain partial in the face of his obvious misery.

The guards noted the delay in the prisoner’s limp and gave another shove that made Esther flinch. The crowd around her jeered in what she took as the usual insults hurled upon the criminals that she had numbed herself of for the past couple of trials. But, the words made her blink.

“Innocent!” “Falsely accused!” “Injustice!” The cries grew in fervor with each vehement shout and raised fist.

Then from among the throng produced a pebble sailing straight for the head of one of the guards by Sirius’s side. Unlike Goliath, the guard was not slain from a single stone, though the rock left a white mark that began trickling red and crumbled the civil restrain upon the rest of the outcry. More lethal projectiles were issued, as the rally found greater stores from loose pavement, sticks, other assortments of urban decay haphazardly strewn upon the crooked establishment. Esther was shuffled to the edge of the outrage, noting with growing anxiety that despite their intentions of freeing Sirius, he was not even free from the rain of bricks and concrete in the mobbed blindness, one of which collided against his agitated side and jolted him with silenced agony. He fell forward, hard onto his knees as his bounded hands left no means of cushion. Instincts overcame her, sending her sprinting to the side of the platform with the plan of forcing her ascend through the guards that were rushing to their confounded comrades’ aid. Yet she found that she was beaten to the task, as some of the more motivated mob had secured the stairway by drowning the guards simply with their unexpected fervor and numbers. She hesitated from daring her passage, but propelled herself forward anyway. A gruff man was wrestling a musket from a soldier, and a woman grabbing that same guard’s hair as though to free them from the roots. Esther planned her ascend in the moment’s distraction, but the man took notice of her shortly after dispatching the soldier with the butt of his newly gained firearm. She froze and took to assume: unhooding, she spoke, “I am Esther Crisiota, please allow me to tend to my husband…” The man yielded before she even finished speaking. “Ah, Lady Esther, we —“

A loud crack broke the air: a squadron leader fired into the air for decorum. The man originally addressing her scoffed, responding to the attempt by taking aim with his newly gained weapon, and before the smoke cleared from the first shot, another blasted and clouded the air. The soldier stilled, then toppled over the scaffold with a gaping hole in his chest.

Esther fought the urge to vomit and took the opportunity to ascend, but before she set foot upon the platform, a rough push sent her sprawling down the steps. She groaned at the sores of her rough landing and attempted to catch her breath, “What on earth…” A dull crack and hiss answered her.

She looked up, finding a steady screen of smoke obscuring her vision. What…the smoke choked her, squeezing the last breath out of her and made her gag and tear until even her hands appeared blurry held up against her eyes. Her head throbbed in loud pulsating pounds. She might have thrown up, might have shrieked and writhed on the floor. Then she passed out.

She recalled coming about to a loud crack of gunfire near her. Her lungs burnt and she was immediately seized with a violent cough, her numbness made her ignorant to a figure stooping right before her.

“Esther, my child” A low voice murmured above the chaos around, and Esther regained her sense enough to realize that she was leaning against the dusty floors of an alley neighboring the scaffold. “Can you stand?”

She beheld the speaker: a few blinks removed wooziness, “Madame Crisiota…why?”

“We shall talk later: I was not aware that you were in such proximity to the smoke screen, and for that I do apologize. Now, we must take flight after that minute’s delay…”

“Where is Sirius?” The elder woman helped Esther unto her feet and allowed her to lean on as the earth reeled.

“He’s waiting in a little distance from here. Let us leave before your father brings the entire Council with him…” At this the Madame took her hand and started deeper into the alley.

“My father? Why…”

“Do you think the Council found Sirius only because of his one time use of his powers this month? We must make haste…”

Madame Crisiota’s fear rang true as a thundering of footsteps approached them from behind. Yet Esther was still weak from her tumble and suffocation; at the most untimely moment her legs gave. A gap upon the floor caught her clumsy ankle and in her fall, tearing it. She cried out and clutched to her feet, her shaky hands groping for her handkerchief to secure it while Madame Crisiota, justifiably distressed, urged her on. Still, even the common guards were not to be mocked and soon overtook them: she watched with helpless horror five uniformed men preceding her father, who dressed in a dark coat as though for a hunt. She stared at squadron, “Go on, Madame, my father would not hurt me…”

As though to mock her naivety, Mr. Gilabre raised a pistol and fired in her direction. She screamed and turned away, a searing heat grazing a path across her left cheek and issuing a yelp of pain behind her. Her eyes fluttered open, and she held a shaking hand to the scratch to paint her fingers with blood. She turned only to find Madame Crisiota upon one knee, her hand pressed against a fresh wound upon her shoulder. Esther turned to face the aggressor’s eyes, which where identical to hers and yet void of the terror and shock that beguiled hers. Mr. Gilabre was not stirred by his daughter’s injury and terror. Instead, he frowned upon the previous shot being too nonfatal, tsked at his old age and lack of practice before raising his pistol again to aim.

“Father!” The men froze at her shriek as she sprung upon her feet despite the pain to spread out her arms before her mother-in-law. “You’ve gone mad, father, please, she is my mother!”

Mr. Gilabre clearly flinched, “Move out of the way, Esther, I do not act upon my own will…”

“Must your cowardice towards the Council cost my happiness?”

It might have been the surprise in her knowledge of the Council and the truth of that statement altogether that made Mr. Gilabre hesitate, his gun slightly lowered by the smallest degree of reconsideration. This was enough of a distraction: from the turn of the alley a shadow emerged, subduing one of the five guards. In the same breath, the shadow drew the subdued’s long sword to parry the blow of a clueless soldier, whose head was later dashed against the enclosing brick walls while the blade stained itself with a third guard’s blood before knocking the pistol out of Mr. Gilabre’s relaxed grip. Stepping into the narrow strip of light in the alley, their aid revealed himself.

“Sirius!”

The Baron ignored Esther’s call and made quick work of the other dumbfound guard immediately before him, blocking the bullet from the last soldier with his comrade’s corpse. A flick of his hand, and a dagger embedded itself deep into the last guard’s chest. Mr. GIlabre blanched as his son-in-law held the bloodied blade against his collar.

“Sirius, no!” Esther ignored her burning ankle and flung herself at him, begging him to stay his blade. “Please, don’t kill any further…please…for me.” She could feel the muscle of his shoulders tense at her sudden embrace.

Then all was stilled.

He dropped his shoulders before he choked out, “Then please tend to my mother.” He said so without looking at her, expecting her to follow suit and release him. So, she did, and limped hurriedly to Madame Crisiota’s attention. She heard a grunt shortly followed by a thud and snapped around in fear that Sirius already contradicted his agreement. He didn’t kill, but only turned the stolen blade around to strike his enemy with the hilt. She supposed it was only safe and fair considering her father’s aggression, but still she winced.

Madame Crisiota made a much better dressing of her wound than Esther could ever had, though she was faint from the blood loss. Resting the old woman against the wall, Esther turned again to confront her husband, whose cloaked figure leaned heavily against a wall. Uneasy, she called out his name again as she made her painful passage to him; the proximity allowed her to see the irregular rise and falls of his quiet gasps, “Are you alright?”

He finally turned to face her, his features in obvious pain from producing an assuring smile, “Esther…” She didn’t think before she embraced him, kissed him, struggled to be more gentle as she finally released him to agonize over his feverish state. Then all the sudden, the venom of the letters that he supposedly wrote rushed back into her veins, and the sting upon her cheek felt even more acute. He frowned in concern.

Distancing herself a step away, she stated flatly, “Those letters…did you really threaten my father? They were written in your hand…”

He blinked in attempt to grasp the random nature of her inquiry, but understood, “Oh, Esther, they were—”

“— No time to chat now, they are here!” Poor, poor Madame Crisiota was forgotten in the lovers’ confrontation, which she curtailed with a stern nod at the shadow of more approaching soldiers.

So, they started their escape again after Esther threw a doubtful glance at her father, who stirred briefly but was mostly unconscious. The sting in her cheek and Madame Crisiota’s bloodied shoulder prompted her to run from his unreasonable cruelty, leaning heavily upon Sirius’s relatively steady arm.

“Why on earth did you come back? I told you to remain with Elon by the carriage!” Madame Crisiota assumed hypocrisy and picked up chatter with her angry demand for an explanation of Sirius’s disobedience.

“I am sorry, mother, but you were abnormally late and I couldn’t help but realize how bad of an idea it was for you to bear the sole responsibility as important as retrieving Esther!” He shouted back above the enclosing reinforcements while Esther shivered as she mistook a command to shoot on sight for her father’s voice.

Her distress coincided with Madame Crisiota’s sudden halt, which sent her stepping too hard upon her injured foot. The pain blanked her sight and forced her legs to give.

“Esther!” Sirius stooped to gather her in his arms, but before he could lift her, a violent cough took hold of him.

“We…no…we are surrounded…” The elder woman bemoaned a late explanation for her disastrous halt.

Sirius turned away from Esther, seizing the wall and coughed into his hands. His frame was thoroughly shaken by the fit, and his hand slipped into his cloak against his side. Strips of light that fell into the alley struck his hand as he drew it out of his cloak, and it was steeped scarlet.

What could we do? She began to acknowledge the breath of death traveling down her neck. Sirius was clearly in no condition to fend off a more numerous militia, their shadows and now audible steps suggested their numbers. Clearly, his jailers did not bother to improve her amateur treatment for the wound on his side, and adding on to the previous accidental assault, it was no surprise that it should reopen to torment him again. Silently, she drew to his side and took his hand as though her concern could stop the blood and pain.

“Esther, those letters…” As the Council’s mercenaries closed in upon them, he began amidst his haggard breaths. “…they forced me to write them in my imprisonment…they are also the reason that I reported myself…they would kill you and our sons if I didn’t…”

Yes, these were the words she would die content with, “I have made myself the author of your doom.”

At this he grimaced, “If you were the only author, I would die happy.”

The soldiers halted a few yards away from them, allowing their employer to step forward, “Leave that brute in this instant, Esther.” It seemed that the blow did very little to incapacitate him.

“Father, what wrong was there for me to do so? You are the ones who used forgery to accuse for your own purposes? You knew that I love him, why?”

Mr. Gilabre remained expressionless, “I shall not repeat myself, my child.”

“You have no right to call me that if you do not even have the basic esteem of a parent!”

“Esther, you are being unreasonable: what the Council have done is for your safety…”

She didn’t really understand her reasoning when affected by the pang of desperation, but she wrenched a pistol from Sirius, raising the alarm of all around her as she pressed it against her temple: her father made a flinch for his own weapon at her sudden movement while Sirius attempted to wrestle the gun from her. Adrenaline allowed her to overpower him in his weakened state, and she elbowed him in his injured side, sending him stumbling, wheezing against the wall. The pain in her ankle kept her from remorse.

“Very well, if you are so concerned for my safety, let the three of us leave or I shall end my life here.”

“Esther…no…” Sirius rasped from the side, where his mother had rushed to his attention, while Esther tried her best to stand in such a way that the two were obscured from the soldiers by her boast.

“You are trying my patience and exhausting my original fondness for you, Esther Crisiota,” the pure disdain her father heaped upon her futility made her tremble.

“Let us go.”

A deathly silence fell between the father and daughter before the former chuckled, “I suppose God made it so that I should also lose a daughter today.” At that he drew out yet another pistol and aimed, and before she could follow suit her arm was twisted, the pistol slipped out of her hand. Two shots rang with proximity.

So, the execution was complete.