Todd held his breath as he hurried past the Dias; head lowered as to not look upon the latest traitors who hung before it. A pair of steel beams jutted into the air in front of the low platform, a rusted crossbeam connecting them like outstretched arms, meeting in an icy embrace of crudely welded metal; a single iron hook hung from the brace. Navies in their heavy uniforms and tinted visors stood vigilant watch in front of the Dias, though knowingly placed as to not block the view of onlookers. The latest defectors were left to rot from the slab and hook – a display that the Violet and Navies had left to ensure an example was made of those who would conspire and sympathize with the Scourge. It was a pair of Olives this time, a father and daughter.
Todd had not been present for the trial, but the whispers around the colony of it were deafening. Rumors ran rampant of the daughter’s treachery, and of the sacrifice of her father to stop the swift hand of justice from swinging down upon them. Word had spread fast and far that the daughter had aligned herself with one of the Scourge, that she had been willingly cosseted by the terrible thing. As pitiful as it all was, Todd could not bring himself to pity her; her betrayal was one that put the entire colony in jeopardy, and with it the rest of humanity as he knew it. Even as he had slowed his stride to steal a glance towards her rotten corpse, his gaze quickly dancing over hollow and sunken skin, there was no sympathy. It was his duty to right their wrongs, to bring back honor and pride to his Ring.
It was a sharp hissing and sputtering that drew Todd from his thoughts. A lone flame devouring the wick of a bomb The body crumbled to the floor as a house of cards, and as cold skin kissed concrete, a plume of black smoke shot off and filled the Stacks. At its heart swallowing the Dias and the guards whole. Violent coughs and urgent shouts rang through the cloud, desperately trying to find one another and anything to use to find their way out. Bright light flashed and strobed within the storm as thunder roared. But it could never drown out the screaming.
Wailing screams echoed through the Stacks, through the tunnels, through the station above, and into the open air of the night beyond. Hollow skin began to crackle with life and agonized tears washed away the remains of a gruesome end. With a final roaring cry, the thunder stopped, leaving only labored breaths in its wake, gasping for the stale air that once filled rotten lungs. Through the smoke, twin purple lights burned as bright as day and rose from the ground, though as they ascended, they faded into darkness behind empty sockets as the smoke faded around them.
Standing on the Dias now, clad in a tattered gown of shadow, whose head was adorned with the skeletal mask of a stag and painted in dazzling golds, was a woman.
A godling whose veins bubbled and burned with hate, and whose
lips only starved for vengeance and blood. Surging forward, she seemed to move
faster than any of them could comprehend, a painted hand violently seizing Todd
by the throat.
A gravely and hoarse voice snarled through the rot and blood that spilled past her lips, squeezing the life from him. “I am EVERYTHING.”