Everyone had heard of the Dragon Slayer. A single man who roamed the country, taking on any job he could find and always returning triumphant. This man wore a heavy, leather coat, and brandished a sword. These were the only two details all stories contained. The first rumour of him had appeared around 20 years ago. He had appeared out of nowhere, a nameless stranger who took any challenge. Since then, his legend only grew, until he became a story to tell at bedtimes.
Some stories told of a man who could never die- one who had become immortal one way or another, one who could survive even the most lethal blow, whilst another spoke of a god, who had come to walk among the humans, and aid them however he could. Others spoke of a mere man, with skill unmatched by any other in the world, who could take you down in a heartbeat.
None, however, spoke of a man who was dead. A man who searched for a meaning, a reason to pass on. A man who searched for his place, and a way to stop wandering.
Lucas had not heard his name in many, many years. He had not given it to anyone, he had not asked any to call him by it. He walked a lonely path, slaying any dragon who crossed his path, before he continued. He roamed from place to place, relentlessly searching for something, anything. Until, that was, he returned to a place in which he had once lived.
The town had grown a little in size since he had walked there 20 years ago. It had expanded further across the river since he had said goodbye to his little sister. Fond memories flashed across his mind, a distant thought of the past. He hadn’t given any thought to those who used to be a part of his life. A vague sense of guilt rose up within him, and he sighed. He stood in the market square, feeling a small hint of nostalgia. He had grown up here. His parents before him had both lived and died here. Lucas had avoided this one place. It was the only town he had not visited at least twice since he began to wander. It was the only place he dreaded returning to.
For the first time in two decades, he felt at home. He felt at peace.
Lucas sat down on a nearby bench, adjusting his sword so it was less obvious, and sitting back. He watched as daily life went by, remembering the past fondly, remembering his childhood.
He had sat there for a few hours before any took any notice of him.
The sun had reached its peak, and was about half-way down the bright blue sky, when a woman approached him, a child clinging to her arm. She had grey streaks within her long, dark hair, and wore plain clothes. She held a basket in one hand, with odds and ends inside.
She walked up to him slowly, tilting her head to try and see his face. Lucas looked up, and frowned, his scars catching the light.
“Lucas?” She asked, her voice only just hiding her excitement as she said his name.
His frown deepened, and he spoke with a confused tone. “Yes?”
Her eyes widened slowly, and she hurried the last few steps, the child looking on in bewilderment. She put her basket down on the bench beside him, and stood there, smiling. “You really haven’t changed.” She exclaimed, as he slowly stood.
He couldn’t put the name to the face. His mind was swarming with many of the different faces he’d seen in his lifetime, trying to fit two and two together. It took a while, before it finally clicked. “L- Leticia?”
Her face broke into a grin, and she reached forward, hugging him around the middle. He froze for a moment, unused to human touch, before he put his arms around her, and hugged back.
“It’s been so long.” She said, pulling away and looking him up and down. “About twenty years now? I… I didn’t know what had happened to you.”
The child stood a little way away, fidgeting nervously. Leticia hurriedly took the boy’s hand, pulling him in front of her. “Nichol, this… this is your uncle, Lucas.”
Lucas tilted his head in faint surprise, before he knelt down so he was face to face with him. He held out a hand, inviting him to a handshake.
The boy looked at it nervously, eyes wide like a frightened deer. It took a few moments before Lucas held the small hand in his own, and gently shook his hand.
“Hello, Nichol,” he said, straightening. He looked at his sister, finding a rare smile spread across his face. “I see time has treated you well?”
She shrugged, pulling her son closer to her. “So- so. I’ve heard that my older brother is now a living legend, the ‘Immortal Man’, I’ve heard you being called.”
“I’ve only been doing my job.” He said, his smile broadening. “Who was the lucky man?”
“You wouldn’t know him. He moved here a year or two after you left,” she went quiet, her smile beginning to fade. Nichol was fiddling with her dress.
Lucas’s own smile was wiped off his face, and he stared at the ground. “I am sorry I had to leave, but… you wouldn’t have been able to lead the life you’ve lead if I had not.”
Leticia took a deep breath, trying to smile again. “Anyway. I’m sure you have things to do here. You wouldn’t have returned unless you did, right? We’ll be on our way.” She picked up the basket, and started to walk back, leaning down a little to talk to her son as she went.
He sighed, turning around and going his own way.
Compared to him, Lucas’s sister had changed drastically. He felt guilt rise within him. Seeing his sister like that sent chills down his spine, and he was reminded of a grim future, overshadowed by the deaths of any whom he grew close to. He paused, and looked around and watched the two figures, as they turned a corner. She had continued with her life, and had lived it in a way Lucas couldn’t. She had moved on from him, she had abandoned her grief. It took him a few moments to think about his wife, to feel a sincere urge to see her. He pondered this for a while, as he walked along the narrow, cobbled streets, walking tall and proud. Somewhere, he knew that seeing Sabine would only bring sadness to both of them. She, he was sure, thought him dead. If he returned now, after twenty long years, he knew she would treat him as some monster.
He sighed, stopping again and looking up at the darkening sky. The first nip of winter was well on its way, as trees grew bare, and leaves littered the ground in an expansive orange and red carpet.
Lucas decided to stop for the night, finding a dark corner in the town he had grown up in, and sat down on one of the boxes that were strewn across the area. He adjusted his sword, making sure it was in reach. He did this more out of habit than necessity. There had been many, many occasions where he had stopped concentrating on the outside world, only to discover himself face-to-face with some challenger, eager-eyed, with a sword to his neck. Almost every time, Lucas had met that sword with his own, and the clash of blades had followed.
He remembered, without feeling, killing a few of them. He remembered the gasps around him as he watched the red blood slowly drip from the owner, studying the proper art of death, and envying his opponent for the death he could never truly have.
In the twenty years Lucas had been gone, he had found no clue as to what he was to do. He could find none who knew of how to cross into the other side, how to end his undeath. He had no wish to turn to darker, more sinister magic, but his options were running out faster than they appeared.
He found himself sighing, and leaned back against the wall behind him. It was beginning to look like he would have to delve deep into the realm of necromancy, in some maddening search for some ‘cure’. Or, he thought suddenly, perhaps the one who had brought him back- if it had been human, of course.
Somewhere further down the street that turned into the alley, he heard hurried footsteps, rushing close and closer. Lucas narrowed his eyes, gripping the hilt of his sword firmly. He pulled it out a little, and adjusted himself to look as natural as possible.
After a few tense moments, a figure rounded the corner, and he drew the sword fully, stopping it just short of the person’s neck. He could hear a terrified gasp, before he had time to register exactly who had come running to him.
Leticia stood, frozen in time, staring at the tip of the blade. Her head was tilted backwards, greying hair falling free from any tie. Her hands were raised, one of them against the blade of the sword. A bead of blood dripped down the steely silver. Slowly, she looked up to stare at her brother, fear evident in her gaze.
Lucas removed the blade as soon as he could, sliding it back in the sheath before putting his hands on her shoulders, muttering hurried apologies.
She shrank away, pushing off his hands, looking hurriedly toward the way she had come, like a mouse cornered between a cat and a corner.
“L-L-Lucas,” she stuttered, fear slowing her tongue, as her mind struggled to keep up. “L-Lucas…” She raised a hand, pointing toward the way she had come, trying to forget about what had just happened, as she looked between her brother and the street. “They’re… they’re…” She took a deep breath, slowing her breathing a little. “They’re looking for you,” she finished, looking back at him.
He noticed with shame the fear that she held onto as she looked at him, and averted his eyes as she panicked. “Why are they looking for me?” He asked, his voice steady and calm.
This seemed to reassure her, and she took another deep breathing, swallowing. “S-something about dark… black magic. And… and murders. Lots… lots of murders. It was such a long list…” She trailed off, frowning.
Lucas looked off to the side, a hand returning to the hilt of his blade. “It is time I left then, dear sister.”
She didn’t say anything, and only looked at him with a mixture of fear and sadness.
“I… I am sorry, I am… not the man I used to be.” He patted her shoulder, making sure he met her gaze. “I won’t bother you again, don’t worry. You’ll… you’ll be safe now.” Lucas turned away, and set off at a run.
Leticia said nothing, only holding her hands close to her body, watching him as he left again.
It happened all too quickly. There was a bright flash of light, the sound of crackling lightning, and Lucas felt his control over his body stop. He fell to the ground in a tangle of limbs, sword clattering as it smacked against the cobbles, skittering away. All he could see was the ground beneath him, through his dead eyes. There was yelling all around him, words that blended together in his stunned confusion, words that massed into a storm, before they converged into one woman, as she lifted Lucas’s lifeless body, moving him into a sitting position, and turning his head to her.
Bright eyes met his own dead ones, bright green eyes framed by dark brown hair, on a pale face. She spoke to somebody behind him, glancing up every now and then, her face switching between different expressions. He made out a few snatches of conversation, able to notice talk of confinement, binding, and execution. His spirits dropped.
Lucas knew that no conventional means of death would work. He had tried them all himself. He had crushed himself, stabbed himself, payed somebody to decapitate him, he had burned himself and tried to drown himself. He had stopped moving, lying there for a few months with no particular change. Nothing Lucas had tried had worked. Broken bones troubled him not, and any damage he took would heal within two weeks. It was dual sided- a curse, and a blessing. On one hand, he could hunt and kill dragons without caring what was inflicted upon him- he could stride through the fire like it was nothing, and kill the damned creatures with one swift swing of his sword. But, on the other hand, he had to continue living.
The only thing that hurt was magic. Magical fire charred his flesh and caused him great pain, as did any form of spell. Magic did not, however, kill him.
About a minute passed, as the woman talked to her partner, readjusting her grip on the back of Lucas’s head as she did so. He payed less and less attention to this, feeling his own mind begin to lose consciousness. It was a welcome feeling. Darkness began to close over his vision, his hearing little more than muffled sounds, like voices through water. It was soothing, calming.
He let himself slip into what felt like sleep, for the first time in twenty years.
He was lying down when he woke up. It was dark, and his cell was made of stone. It was quiet. After a few moments, he wiggled his fingers, feeling his control over his limbs slowly return. It didn’t take long before Lucas sat up, glancing around quickly before looking toward the bars. He tilted his head, standing up and walking toward them. There was a sizzle of magic when he touched them, and he pulled back his hand, wincing. From somewhere in the darkness of the cell opposite him, there came a voice.
“There ain’t no point trying that, mate.”
Lucas sighed, sitting back down with his back straight against the wall. He peered into the darkness, trying to make out the shape of the speaker. “Who are you?” He said eventually, after an extended period of silence.
At first, there was no answer. There was hurried scrambling as somebody moved toward the front of their own cell, and Ariss heard the clink of chains. A scrawny face appeared on the other side of the narrow corridor, lit dimly by the light of a fire. “A… veteran prisoner, ye might say.” The man puffed out his chest, proudly displaying his bare ribs. “I’ve been ‘ere a good fifteen times now- I’ve only lost one toe.”
Lucas chuckled, stretching out his legs straight as the man reached a hand through the bars, picking at a piece of mud between the flagstones of the floor. “Who’re you then, newcomer?” He continued, stopping his action and looking up. “’N why do ye have that cell? ‘S the one reserved for the worst of the worst- The last man in there killed five people when ‘e was free.” He grinned, displaying his missing teeth. “He was killed ‘bout a week ago. What did ye do to get in there?”
The dead man shrugged in the darkness, putting his fingers together and looking forward, still shrouded by darkness. “What did you do?”
The prisoner across the hallway narrowed his eyes, a sly grin sliding onto his face. “Mostly thievery. I’ve stolen more ‘n ye could imagine. More ‘n they know about, tha’s for sure.” he stated happily, “so what did you do?”
“Where do I begin?” Lucas muttered, looking up at the ceiling. “Let’s see. I’ve wounded, tortured, killed and kidnapped a good number of people over the past twenty years. At the very least there’s been one a year… I’ve avoided arrest for 18, I’ve dabbled in most kinds of magic, mostly avoiding the black types…” He paused, frowning. “There’s… there’s probably more.”
The man had stopped fiddling, and was starting to back away from the cell’s bars. “Ye’ve been killin’ people since ye were five?”
Lucas allowed a grin to replace his frown, his eyes dark shadows in the torch light. “I’ve also been raised from the dead using necromancy.”
The other inmate fell silent, and Lucas heard him scrambling back from the bars, muttering something to himself.
He let a smile fall across his face, proud that he had managed to scare off the only person who might talk to him. It was true he had killed people before- he had murdered more than he felt comfortable -but he had not killed without any good reason. Or at least, he thought to himself, for no reason he hadn’t thought good.
Time seemed to drag past as he sat in the cell, crawling slowly along like a toddler. Every now and then, a guard would pace down the narrow corridor, sometimes yelling something at some distant prisoner. Lucas payed them little attention, but he noticed the nervous stares he received, as guards remembered rumours they had heard about their new prisoner.
A day passed before anybody came to tell him why he was there.
Fast footsteps tapped across the flagstones, a steady rhythm adding to the constant drip of water from the ceiling. Lucas shifted a little for the first time in a few hours, adjusting his back against the wall, and looking up slowly. A woman walked in front of the bars of his cell. It was the one who had cast the spell on him, he noticed, and he tilted his head slightly to one side.
“Impressive spell casting.” He stated, standing up. He towered above her by about a foot, looking down at her as she glared at him. Her mouth was tight, lips twisted into a curve of mild disapproval.
“Your name,” she began, as he folded his hands behind his back, “is Lucas Henecoc. You have been missing since Summer of 1164, and presumed dead by your remaining family.” Her eyes narrowed, and she clenched a fist. “You are now a spirit inhabiting a dead body.”
His slight smile faded. “That’s no news to me,” he muttered.
“As such it will be burned at the steak, to free your soul and put you to rest.” She paused. “Any questions?” The woman said this as more of a statement than a question, a challenge to him.
Lucas took it. “May I see my sister before my spirit is ‘liberated’?”
Her glare morphed into a frown, and she took a step back in surprise. “You… want to see your sister?”
There was silence for a few moments, as she considered it. “If your sister wishes to see you as well, I don’t see any harm, as long as you’re supervised.”
Silence returned, as she eyed him warily, before turning on her heel and striding off, feet clicking on the stone.
Lucas rolled his eyes, walking back to the darkest shadows of his cell, and sitting down, staring into space once more. His time in prison was not going to be pleasant, he decided.
It was a few days before they granted his request. He was escorted by a full guard of armoured men, each with their own magical abilities. His hands were chained together, heavy iron weighing down his back and feet. His pace was slow, as his captors merely shuffled along, not expecting him to go any faster.
In truth, Lucas could move unhindered by the weight of the chains. His only burdens in strength lay with his own soul. There were, of course, some loads that he could not lift, loads that he could not muster the strength for. But most things, like the metal that composed his chains was easy, and felt like soft feathers in comparison.
They led him along the dim corridors, winding in every direction through the darkest depths of the town’s castle. A large, candle-lit room was where they stopped. There was some sort of grate above, allowing faint daylight to stream in through the ceiling, illuminating the centre in eerily white light.
A table was beneath this beam, and beside it were two chairs. Leticia sat in one, various people surrounded her, dressed in equally simple clothes. Lucas noticed Nicol standing beside his mother, clutching her arm. He lowered his head, as all eyes turned on him.
There was silence, except for the heavy, grating scrape of chain on stone. His armed guard slowly split in two, circling the room before standing to attention at regular intervals, holding great swords, bows and axes at the ready, prepared to stop him at all costs. A few were unarmed, not holding anything physical. It was from these individuals that Lucas could feel a certain air of magic, a strong sense that he knew meant that they could inflict pain if they wished. It was these people that he kept a keen eye on.
Lucas kept walking to the chair in the middle, sitting down heavily in it. The wood creaked, swaying a little, before it steadied. Lucas looked up to his sister’s aged face with a mixture of sadness and guilt.
She refused to meet his eyes, instead looking at her children, or the corner of the table. “S-So.” She said, taking a deep breath. “We- uhm, we might not see you again, so… I brought everyone.”
He looked up, skimming past the faces, feeling their eyes on him, cold and judgmental. Unlike his sister, they held no firm relationship with him. He could tell from how they stood that they distrusted him, they thought him a monster. “You didn’t need to.” He stated, straightening a little in his chair. They fell into awkward silence again, and Nicol whispered something quietly to the man who stood behind him.
Lucas shifted awkwardly, before he continued. “I wanted to apologise,” his tone was grim, “for everything. I should have stayed away, I shouldn’t have come back. I wanted to say… say sorry for what happened when you came to warn me. The life… death… that I have lived has drilled things into me that I could not forget.” He mimicked a breath, out of nervousness. “I-”
She interrupted, smiling shyly. “Don’t say anymore. We don’t want to stay on the past now, do we? We can’t go wasting what time we have now.” She stood up, starting to walk around the table.
The man who stood beside her caught her arm, and some quick words were exchanged, Leticia speaking in heated whispers. One of the guards took a step forward when she continued walking around the table.
“Leticia.” The man spoke now, releasing her arm, instead pulling Nicol closer to him, further from Lucas. “He could be-”
She cast him a stern glare, kneeling down beside her brother, and putting her arms around him gingerly.
Lucas sat there awkwardly, caught between the two. He raised one hand carefully, putting it on her back, trying not to move the chains too much. “Thank you.” He muttered, feeling emptier than ever.
She pulled away, and stood up, turning away.
Lucas stood as well, his chains clinking. The guards closed in on him, some taking his arms, others taking his sister back toward the other side of the table.
From somewhere on the other side of the room, the woman’s voice came. “Take him back to the cell.”
The day of his execution came fairly quickly. He sat against the far wall of his cell again, twiddling his thumbs aimlessly as guards rushed around on the other side of the bars, yelling things to each other and calling out to one another. Lucas’s fellow prisoner took the chance to strike up a conversation.
“How’re ye goin’ to be killed?” The man asked, crawling toward the bars on the other side.
Lucas rolled his eyes, glaring out of the darkness. “I’m not going to be killed. I’m already dead,” he muttered, scowling, “They’re going to try and put my soul to rest by burning my body.”
The man across the hallway shuffled back a little, and Lucas could see his figure shuddering. “I’ve ‘eard stories about people who’ve been burned.”
“’Apparently they use magical fire. ‘N the smell is meant to be horrible.”
Lucas groaned, letting himself sink a little closer to the ground. Magical fire. Of course. So, he thought to himself, not only wouldn’t it kill me, it’ll hurt like hell as well.
The man fell silent after that, scurrying back off into the shadows, as the woman strode down the corridor once more. Lucas figured at this point that she was some high rank within the hierarchy of the prison. The thought only made his dislike for her grow, and he looked up at her with a glare. “Prisoner.” She said, her voice sharp as a knife. “You are to be put under magical bindings and escorted to the town square. When we reach that point, you will be secured atop a pyre, and burned.” Her eyes glittered menacingly in the torchlight. “Any questions?”
Lucas said nothing, not making a single move toward her or the other guards that had started to file in beside her.
“Good.” She turned to the guards, nodding swiftly before beginning to cast the spell that would bind Lucas’s hands and feet together. He felt the tug of magic, pulling his wrists closer as magic shimmered between them, in a thin, silvery line. The bindings formed a chain that could only just be seen by others. It was practically unbreakable, and could weigh as much as the caster wanted. The chains forming around Lucas were heavy. Unlike the physical chains, Lucas could not disregard their weight. These chains weighed down on his actual spirit, affecting more than just his dead body.
After a minute, the spell was done, and the woman waved a hand. The slight magical shimmer of the prison bars dimmed, and the door was unlocked with a large, heavy key. It swung open noiselessly, and a guard stepped in. Lucas offered no resistance, standing up and allowing himself to be led through the corridor once more.
They turned a different way this time, and climbed steps that led into sunlight. They stepped out of the underground prison, out from beneath the castle, and started to walk in a grim procession toward the town square. It wasn’t often that the town got to witness an execution. People lined the streets, pushing amongst each other to try and get a good look at Lucas and the guards that surrounded him. The woman walked in front, head held high, light armour clicking slightly. Lucas was taller than most of the guards that escorted him, and could look over their heads quite easily.
The onlookers had mixed expressions- some knew him, and had heard the rumours that had spread. Some looked on with awe, and a few children pointed. Others looked on with hatred, disgust evident in their eyes. Lucas looked back at them without expression, meeting the gaze of countless people. He imagined that most knew he was dead.
They reached the town square in a short time, and he was led up atop a pyre. There, his bonds were shifted to anchor him to the pole that rose up, and he was held in place, unable to move his arms or legs. Lucas sighed as the womans stepped down, standing a few feet from the base of the pile. As she began to speak, he looked around.
She stated his crimes, and the reason why he was here. He found his sister in the crowd, her eyes red, looking directly at him. He looked up at the sun, which was high in the sky in the late morning, clouds drifting slowly past it, obscuring it from view for a while. There were a few market stalls set up, the merchants running them taking advantage of the entertainment for the day. They were silent as the woman spoke, listening closely themselves to what was being said.
Eventually, she stopped speaking, having said her words and turning to the prisoner. “Any final words?”
He looked down at her coldly. “None.”
She inclined her head, taking up a spell casting pose. “Very well.” It was a few moments before anything happened. The crowd was frozen in anticipation, everyone silent as they waited for the fire to begin. Lucas simply looked down at them, waiting for it to begin.
The fire started as a dim flame, tiny and dwarfed by the large logs that built up the fire. It grew steadily, devouring the kindling quickly and spreading to the larger pieces. It flickered a dark blue, displaying its magical origins plainly. Lucas braced himself as it spread around, faster than any natural flame. It started to creep up further, wood beginning to snap. He felt the pain first in his foot, and gritted his teeth, wincing. It started off dull at first, and he felt warmth unlike any he had felt in his undeath. The magic spurring the flames on stimulated the sensation of burning, the feel of pain, It sparked through his soul, as the flames bit into his legs like hungry wolves.
He was silent as it began, forcing his desire to scream out in pain to stay down, deep where it could not be heard. As the fire spread to his chest, where is wound was, he could hold it no more, and yelled out. He glanced toward Leticia, his eyes searching for some relief. She had turned away, unable to watch.
Lucas felt his dead flesh begin to burn, and was distracted momentarily from the pain by the strange sensation, as he felt his dead body begin to give in to the heat. Pain flashed through what he could feel of his body, and still the crowd looked on somewhat eagerly, some cheering at this sudden burst of flame. A few had looked away, unable to stomach his charring body. Lucas’s mind was too clouded by pain to take much notice of exactly who. He angled his head upwards, staring at the sky in agony, as the clouds shifted and the sun shone brightly down on the town.
After a few minutes, the fire started to die out. The woman moved her hands in a wide, arcing motion, and the flames subsided. Lucas’s burned body shuddered as he stood, still tied to the pole, which by this point was mostly charcoal. He looked over to the woman, and spoke quietly. “I told… I told you it wouldn’t work.” His voice was little more than a growl.
The crowd was unsatisfied, and a nervous chatter started to rise, as people looked on in confusion. To them, he looked as though he should be dead.
Shaken, the woman waved a hand toward the guards. “T-Take him… back to his cell.”
There was a quiet murmur, broken only by the loud clanking walk of the armoured guards. They walked up to the pyre nervously, stepping over the burnt wood, before they pulled Lucas away from the pole, which he had been freed from. They lead him slowly back toward the castle, practically dragging him half the way. From behind, Lucas heard uproar, as people yelled out that they were cheated of an execution they were promised. As his flesh cooled down, the pain subsided completely. The intense heat of the flames took a while to completely dissipate, though, and he was aware of slowly becoming colder as this happened.
When they reached his cell again, they shoved him in, throwing a simple set of clothes in after him, before they locked the gate again. The woman had followed, and cast the spell upon the bars of his cell, and then undid the one cast around his hands, freeing them.
Lucas didn’t move for a while. He lay there as he cooled down, waiting until he returned to the same empty cold he had felt for the past 20 years. When he did move, he pulled on the clothes, and then returned to his previous position. There was muffled shuffling coming from opposite.
“Hello?” Came the voice of the other prisoner, timid and fearful.
Lucas found himself answering. “What?”
There was silence for a few moments. “H-how…?”
“I can’t be killed.” He said simply, growing tired of conversation. He couldn’t rid himself of the memory of the pain, and shivered every now and then, as his mind tried to come to terms with what had happened again.
A few days passed and he found himself as he had been before. He stared at one hand in the dim glow of the torches, examining the pale skin carefully. This was one of the things he had noticed over the past few years. Any sort of damage his body suffered seemed to repair itself, and return to how it had been when he woke up all that time ago. He added magical fire burns to the list of things that had been healed so far, and sighed.
The guards that walked past every quarter of an hour often stopped for a while, staring at him in a mixture of fear and amazement. He met their stares with scowls or glares, watching them walk by.
After a little while, the woman returned.
He could recognise her footsteps as she walked across the stone floor- they were different to the melodic tapping of the guards’ feet. Her footsteps were lighter, faster, and had a different rhythm. She came to stand before his cell, confusion obvious on her face. “Prisoner.” She addressed him, a frown painting her features.
He made no move to sit or stand up, and sat there, glaring. He found himself wondering what they would do next. They weren’t going to let him go, he was certain of that.
“Stand up, and follow me.” She finished, waiting for him to stand. He complied begrudgingly, and she cast the same binding spell on him, and opened the gates. The guard she had entered with cast Lucas a nervous glance, before they started to walk.
This time, they climbed up stairs and turned back into the castle, stopping in the courtyard. He sighed, looking at the woman. “This is not going to work.”
Before them, in the centre of the square courtyard, there was a large wooden structure. A structure he immediately recognised as somewhere people were hanged. A length of rope hung from the highest part, a ring tied in it. This time, there were no crowds. There were only guards, standing around and closing the gap they had entered trough. Lucas was taken up the steps, and stood atop a door in the floor, chin a little higher than the bottom of the rope.
Hands came from behind him, slipping the rope over his head, and tightening it around his neck.
He stood there quietly, waiting for them to try it. It came all of a sudden, a jerk that opened the doors beneath his feet and let him drop. He felt the quick tug of the rope as it snapped taught, and he heard the sound of the bones in his neck giving way. Lucas himself was not affected.
There was a storm of nervous mutters, as gossip fluttered through the guards. He reached up, his hands closing on the rope above his head, and pulled himself back up. Nobody protested much as he placed his feet back on the wooden platform. He shook his head, hearing the broken bones grinding against each other. The woman looked puzzled, her head tilted to one side.
She turned on one foot, toward the nearest guard. “Get the coffin, and inform the public of a burial. It will take place tomorrow, at noon.”
The guard saluted, marching through the gates, disappearing around a corner.
Lucas started shaking his head, slowly at first as he realised what she was thinking. “No.” He muttered. She met his gaze, smiling. “No you can’t. You can’t do that to me. No.”
Her smile faded. “You must pay for your crimes, and as death does not seem to be an option, life long imprisonment seems like the best next step. It is regrettable that your soul has to suffer as well, but... that is how it must be.”
“No.” He said again, eyes wide as he thought of the mental torture he would put himself through, and started repeating the word over and over, forgetting about everything, that single thought sitting in his mind and tormenting him. He couldn’t spend however long he had left lying in a wooden box, thinking about what he’d done.
It was bad enough being alone on quiet nights, doing nothing but walking. It was bad enough being left alone in a prison cell, to think about what he had done during his time being dead. At the times he had done things, they had seemed necessary. They had seemed like the only things he could do, things that he could not help. At those points in time, he hadn’t thought of the consequences. It was the long, lonely nights when he was left alone with his mind that he realised what he had done.
Lucas didn’t notice as his escort returned, leading him off the platform, muttering amongst themselves about him as he stared into space, repeating the same word, over and over.