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Solomon Imperiouš

Ascending Enemy

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Orisia – midday. Group by group, villagers were noosed or beheaded, a result of their submission to being conquered. There were but a mere five groups left by the time Vahliath arrived. He watched in silence as soldiers of his banner brought the weight of their hefty axes down upon bowed necks, thinning the herd until there were just two groups remaining. Vahliath moved his attention to noosed POWs. His executioner, donning ebony armour and the helmet of stag’s skull, followed Vahliath, their warlord, to those forced to balance on planks barely wider than their own feet. A cruel, but necessary torture. Those who screamed the name of Valhalla and accepted their fates would be the first to go – in time. Another four prisoners were being forced towards the gallows, heads bowed in shame as they whispered prayers to Odin, Thor and Freya most among their gods. Vahliath scoffed in disgust to their easy submissions. It was a ridiculous way to accept defeat.

“Are these all of them?” Vahliath asked, his voice muffled by the black stag helmet which hung over his own, uniquely designed set of armour.

“Other than the group over there,” Vahliath’s executioner gestured to those currently receiving the axe, “yes, my lord.” He Finished.

Vahliath glanced towards the prisoners, unimpressed yet again. He turned, ready to depart. “Very well. Burn the village once they’re all done—”

Vahliath fell silent, cut off by the struggle his soldiers had upon the gallows. The warlord looked, and his executioner paced to assist. A prisoner, even with their head covered in a sack, refused to accept the noose around their neck, even managing to kick two soldiers from the platform. Vahliath watched the resistance with amusement, until of course his executioner hit the back of their knees with his broad axe. The prisoner fell, and the executioner lifted his axe to behead the fallen prisoner there and then. Vahliath took a step forward and intervened.

“—No!” The warlord shouted, his voice echoing to bring silence across the village. The executioner stopped his axe and looked down towards his lord. “Bring them down.” Vahliath added as he moved closer to the gallows. With his head arched back, his gaze never left the hooded prisoner.

“This prisoner is nothing but a barbarian of these lands. They should be slaughtered like the rest—”

“—Like the rest of them?” Vahliath interrupted. His executioner fell silent. “But they are not like the rest of them, willing to die because of the promise Valhalla provides. Their Pagan gods would spit at the very sight of them. But not this one. Bring them down.” The demand in his voice was clear. The executioner grunted, reluctantly shoving the prisoner forward which caused them to fall from the platform. As they fell to before Vahliath’s feet, however, the hood was grabbed from behind so they had a face to reveal by the time they reached the floor. Vahliath towered them, staring down towards their eyes.

“Tell me, villager: who are you?”

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Vahliath was surprised to see green eyes, blazing with defiance, glaring up at him. A young boy, barely entering manhood, glowered up at the warlord. Vahliath noted the lack of fear missing from his seafoam eyes and suppressed an amused smile. 

 "I am Aegir," the boy spat. 

Vahliath smirked and the soldiers nearby laughed mockingly, "Why would such a strong name be given to you?"  

"What does it matter?" Aegir spat, "You are to kill me regardless. I owe no explanation to the likes of you." Vahliath nodded slowly and gazed around the area. 

Crimson blood dripped from the stump where the villagers were beheaded, mangled bodies piled in mountains next to the Gallows, and everything was in sluggish motion. Death was a norm to Vahliath, this boy was something new in a sea of red. "Did your mother forget to teach you respect?" 

"You could have asked her yourself but you took her head," Aegir countered. 

Vahliath considered the boy for a moment and then regarded the executioner curiously. He wondered what these villagers felt when approaching death. "Are you prepared to die, Aegir?" 

"I do not fear death."

Satisfied, Vahliath turned away and began to leave, "I will see you soon, Aegir." 

"How?" Aegir yelled after him, "I am about to die." 

"It is not your time to die." 

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