To read about how this story came to be, its background, and its journey to publication on IGC Publishing, please see the author’s note.

               See him.  There he stands, dressed in finery, in silk, in the silk so pleasing brought from conquests in distant lands.  See the trust of the Queen of Kings upon him.  See the people’s praise as he descends the steps of his stately home.  Surely does Ol the Sun shine upon him.  Surely does Ethini the Wind kiss his cheek.  Surely does Novar the Earth bless his sandals.

               A man, a citizen, a craftsman calls to him as he passes.  “What news from the palace, Lord Liga?  When shall the Queen of Kings punish the traitors?”

                “Who am I to know the Queen’s mind?” asks Lord Liga.  “Only am I Her Majesty’s humble servant, as are we all.  Blessings upon you.”

                “And glory to the Queen of Kings!” replies the craftsman.  Others echo the sentiment, and the streets, the baked brick streets, the paved and perfect streets built to rival Videran ring with praises for the Queen of Kings, the daughter of Gods, the ruler of the seventeen kingdoms.

               Behold Inishri!  Behold the Queen of Kings, the ruler of the seventeen kingdoms, the daughter of the Sun and the Moon!  Feel the smooth skin to which her silken gown is rough.  Smell the ten thousand flowers of the holy gardens of the Queen’s palace.  Fall to your knees before the throne of gold and jade, silver and emerald, electrum and sapphire.  Hail the glorious Inishri, Queen of Kings!

               Before Inishri’s throne Lord Liga kisses her bare feet.  “As you summon, so I am yours, oh Queen.  May all that I do add a drop to the incalculable bounty of your reign.  How may your humble servant answer your needs?”

                “Lord Liga, who so well fulfills those duties with which I bestow you, come now the time is.”  Queen Inishri leans forward in her throne and raises Lord Liga to his knees with a hand to his cheek; he shudders from the hand lest his base flesh pollute her holy beauty.  “How shall we punish my brother and his allies?”

                “As you will, oh my Queen,” replies Lord Liga.  “Whatever shall multiply your blessings.”

               Avert your eyes.  Turn them, close them, look not upon Inishri’s disgrace, her brother.  See not how his lip curls, his eyes shout, and his chin juts.  Close your nose to his treasonous stench, his unholy deeds, the rot of his soul.  Bear no witness to this demon in human flesh, this beast that affects the trappings of humanity, this monster masquerading as a sibling to the Queen of Kings.  Let all memory of the Traitor be expunged!

               The Queen of Kings addresses her servant.  “Let his sycophants be staked upon the ground and trampled by the wild beasts with which they share mores, one each day, beginning this very afternoon.”

                “It shall be done, my Queen,” vows Lord Liga.

                “But for my brother, too good is this punishment,” declares Inishri, who is vengeance, who is mercy, who is righteousness.  “Advise me, oh Liga.  How shall the Traitor die?”

               Lord Liga brushes the cool stones with his forehead.  “That I should not lead you astray in my mortal inadequacies, I beg of you the time it takes to execute each of the Traitor’s followers to provide an answer.”

               To this Queen Inishri inclines her head, for the Queen of Kings is gracious to her subjects and all those who please her.  Then Lord Liga departs from her presence, for there are preparations to make.  He walks down the marble halls, he strides beneath the vaulted ceilings, he passes out of the glorious palace which would surely be copacetic in Videran.  Lord Liga works while a crowd gathers outside the city walls.

               Do you hear them?  Do you smell the people gathered outside the city walls?  Do you feel the ground tremble from their treads?  Hear how they demand justice.  Hear how they call for blood.  Listen to their condemnations of the traitor being led upon the field.  They cheer the masked Executioner who awaits those who betrayed the Queen of Kings.

               The Queen’s Executioner wears white: white to show the blood of his victims, white to show the purity of judgement, white to show the glory of the Queen’s will imparted.  Only his mask is black, to hide his identity.  The first of the Traitor’s followers steps onto the clay and is forced to his knees.  His hands and feet are bound, but his face is bare, that all may see.  Forward the Executioner steps; he holds a wooden mallet and wooden stakes.  When he is done, he wears red, to show justice done.

               This is the day.  This is the day of the penultimate execution.  This is the day on which Lord Liga owes his Queen an answer.  He dons his silken robe and ties his sandals to his feet.  He hides his calloused hands beneath fine gloves.  He walks from his home towards the palace, but his thoughts are troubled.  Will his humble plan meet with his Queen’s approval, and bring a death suitable for the Traitor?

               A woman, an artificer, a maker of complex workings, hails Lord Liga in the street.  “Lord, what news from the palace?  When shall the Queen’s vengeance be satisfied?”

                “Who am I to know the Queen’s mind?” asks Lord Liga.  “Only am I Her Majesty’s humble servant, as are we all.  Blessings upon you.”

                “True, better to ask her Executioner,” replies the Artificer with a shudder.  “How thinks he of such tortures?  His is surely a twisted and brilliant mind.”

               Lord Liga pauses in his progress.  “I know not,” says he.  “Blessings upon you.”  His voice is stiff, and he does not await the Artificer’s reply before he continues towards the palace.

               Look closely.  Can you discern his thoughts?  Can you sense the conflict that roils within him?  Can you feel his hesitation as he approached his glorious queen?  Lord Liga falls to his knees before his Queen and does worship unto her toes.

                “Three weeks I have allowed you to ponder the nature of my brother’s death.”  The Queen of Kings does not raise him up from his prostration.  “Tell me: what is the Traitor’s death?”

               A breeze stirring in the throne room cannot cool the sweat that beads upon Lord Liga’s forehead.  “Many ideas I have considered, oh my Queen,” says he.  “He could be staked in the desert and fed a single mouthful of water each day until he dies, and thus would his suffering be prolonged.  He could be covered in milk and honey and given to the fire ants, and thus would his suffering be acute.  His eyes could be removed but remain connected, that he might witness his own death as a spectator.”

               The Queen frowns.  “Fine ideas are these, but they are not enough for his crimes.  I would that he suffer torment such as only Shauton knows.”

                “No God am I, to induce such agonies as that; forgive me my mortal inadequacies, oh divine Queen.”  What weight of failure should settle upon his shoulders for the Queen’s disappointment he could not bear.  “A better idea did I contemplate, though most challenging to implement; it would be suitable, I think, for the crime committed.  As he brought poison into the seventeen kingdoms, poison shall be brought to him.  As he brought darkness into your divine heart, so shall darkness be brought to him.  As he lived, so shall he die.”

               Now flees the Queen’s frown from her face, and radiant is her smile in its place.  “It is fitting.  Let it be so, Lord Liga.  Let it happen on the morrow.  Let all be witness to justice.”

               Therefore, all the city’s citizens come forth on the morrow to the place outside of the city.  They come from their homes to see the Traitor’s punishment.  They come from their farms to see the Traitor’s pain.  They come with their families to witness the Traitor’s death.  There the Queen’s Executioner stands ready.

               Here comes the Traitor!  Spurn his handsome face, for it shall be ruined.  Deny his silver tongue, for it shall be silenced.  Repudiate his royal pride, for he shall be brought low.  He shuffles in his bindings, starved and beaten, led on a leash like a beast.  The crowd roars for his blood.

               It is not blood that the Executioner gives them, but poison, which he forces down the Traitor’s throat.  The sun moves in the sky while the crowd waits.  Is there a tint to the Traitor’s veins?  Are the Traitor’s muscles tensing?  Is that a moan emerging from his throat?  Further the sun moves, and now the Traitor screams.

               When he screams, the Executioner comes forward and cuts out his tongue, for the Traitor should have no words.  When he scans the crowd for those who were once his friends, the Executioner burns out his eyes, for the Traitor should not look upon the righteous.  When he writhes and seeks to crawl, the Executioner breaks the bones of his limbs, one at a time, for the Traitor should not be whole.

               But wait, for now the Traitor lunges; the Executioner punches him to the clay.  The Traitor struggles, and the Executioner beats him.  The Traitor lashes out, and the Executioner’s mask falls away; the Executioner’s face is revealed!  All look upon Lord Liga, the Queen of Kings’ Executioner.  See how he metes out punishment.  Watch as he enacts his craft.  Bear witness to his talents and his cruelty.

               Three days it takes the Traitor to die, and never once before the end does his agony ease.  None leave for all that time, and all eyes are on the Executioner.  The Executioner who is unmasked.  The Executioner who walks amongst them.  The Executioner who is Lord Liga.  When it is over, and the Traitor is dead, the crowd disperses to their homes.  This time, the Executioner’s clothes are stained black with poisoned bile.

               Here stands Lord Liga, the Queen’s Executioner.  There walks Lord Liga, the bringer of punishment.  Alone stands Lord Liga, the Executioner unmasked.  In the quiet of the evening when the wind plays in the flaxen fields and the sparrows sing, Lord Liga answers his Queen’s summons.  He dons his tunic of silk, and he ties on his sandals.  When he steps from his house, no salutation does he receive, and those he sees recoil from his presence; they do not understand.

               Glorious is the palace in the dusk.  Then Ol the Sun and Selna the Moon are closest to Novar the Earth, and together they bring holy light to every corner of the Queen of Kings’ incomparable edifice and chase out Shauton’s long shadows to bring the night’s restful peace.  In reverence, Lord Liga ascends the steps and prostrates himself before his Queen.

                “Your divine Majesty, I answer your summons, for always am I your faithful and inadequate servant,” says Lord Liga from his place upon the floor.

               Sad is the Queen’s voice, and she raises Liga to his knees with an ethereal palm that sets aquiver his skin where they touch.  “Always you have proven this to be so.  Ah, but this ten-days fleeting world is cruel.”

               Though raised to his knees, Lord Liga bows his head.  “My Queen?”

                “Always shall I fondly recall your service,” says the Queen of Kings.  “Let there not be regret between us for what must be.”  She bends down and kisses Lord Liga’s forehead.

               There is a shadow behind the Queen’s throne, a figure Lord Liga does not recognize.  Then, the shadow steps forward.  He wears white: white to show the blood of his victims, white to show the purity of judgement, white to show the glory of the Queen’s will imparted.  Only his mask is black, to hide his identity.  Lord Liga sees his own, naked face reflected in the figure’s bronze axe, and he bows his head to the Queen of Kings’ Executioner.

Thank you for reading Lloyd Earickson’s short story, Executioner, an IGC Publishing original story. If you enjoyed the story, please consider leaving a comment or review in the discussion below the story. Be sure to follow for updates, more information, and other freely available stories.

If you want to know more about the writing process for this story and how it came to be, please read the author’s note and release post.

Copyright 2022, IGC Publishing

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