The door opened. She stood in a yellow shaft of sunlight that swirled with dust motes. Her eyes, unaccustomed to the natural glare, blinked rapidly. Mucus squirted from beneath the lids and ran down the sides of her face, dripping green and white onto the bright red lapels of her dress coat.
Rough hands pushed her from behind and she stumbled over the threshold, falling to her knees in the dust. A thunderous roar of approval rippled through the waiting crowd. All she could see was a hazy and shimmering blotch, but the noise was unmistakable. The Congregation had gathered, and they had gathered for her.
“On your feet,” ordered a gentle, almost soothing voice. She tried to respond, but her disused throat would only allow a tiny croak, and the bellowing voices pouring down from all sides drowned the meagre sound.
“Take her,” said the calm voice, without malice but full of authority. Strong arms threaded themselves under her own and pulled her bodily to her feet. The crowd silenced, as though on cue. A whining note of feedback filled the quiet as a public address system powered up, and there was the sharp crackle of someone taking a microphone in hand.
“Congregation, hear me! This is the voice of Pilnious Franken, your master of ceremonies. Here before you—as I’m sure you are all aware of her position and disgrace—is the fallen, the disrespected, the unhallowed, the alone. I present your former commandant-in-chief of this province’s civil defense militia: Carathursa Delynn!”
The din that erupted cast into the shade the one that had greeted her arrival. Her ribcage compressed with the basso rumble that filled the air, and the crushing sound stole her breath with the sheer magnitude of the hatred in that unified tumult.
And thousands of other lesser voices. Some for justice, many for blood. All for her.
All for me.
My consciousness swam forward and breached the burning haze and screaming voices. It suffused my limbs with energy. I stood of my own accord, shaking off the arms of the guards. I felt my spine elongating, my chin rising, rising, rising.
I still could not see, but it mattered not. I knew the face of madness and fervor; I knew it well. How many times had I inspired it myself? Countless.
The trance had worked, not that I had expected it to fail. Malven had taught me well. He had commented more than once that I had been his finest pupil. I silently thanked him. Lieutenant Torvaal, the owner of the beatific tongue, started. Perhaps he heard the power in my words, or perhaps he was just shocked that I still had the ability to cognize, let alone speak.
I could feel my muscles tighten and swell. I felt the blood that filled my veins pump ever faster from a strengthening heart. I was most certainly alive, and I intended to stay that way.
“Silence!” I shouted, pulling my shoulders open and standing on the very tips of my toes. “Silence! Silence!” Three times, I warned them. It was one more warning than was customary.
The sonic ripple was something felt and seen before it was heard. Teeth would rattle in their gums and eyes warble in their sockets. It could knock internal organs loose. It could kill or incapacitate. The range and strength depended on the ability of the ripple-maker.
I was very skilled at ripple-making.
I chose to kill the two guards that had pushed and pulled me. Torvaal, sensing what was about to happen, rolled away.
I heard the guards’ weapons shake and their medals jangle. I think one of them managed to say “no” before imploding. There was a moment where, once stood a man, a fountain of blood burst into existence, then it passed as the crimson pillar dispersed into a cloud of vapor.
It was a very efficient method of disposal. It was also useful for crowd control and suppression. I warned them once again.
The great hall slipped into a hushed and expectant quiet. I focused my energies and projected my voice to fill the senses of all beings present.
“Yes,” I shouted. “I am indeed your ex-commander. I stand before you and accept all charges laid against me, and my plea—” I paused, slowly scanning all sides of the room, “—is guilty. Guilty of treason. Guilty of murder. Guilty of theft. Guilty—” and again I paused, “—of following my orders. Guilty of protecting my country and doing my duty. Yea, guilty on all counts. So, judge me and execute me, you fools,” I said, and spat onto the dusty floor before raising my chin even higher. “It’s your right to unmake me, for you were the ones who made me.”
2014.11.27 – 2023.06.29