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Tension, fear, the minds of the crowd of Joraal have nothing but these feelings set in mind as the crack of the whip made each one flinch. An old man, sitting at his porch had a front row seat of the whipping. Crack, he smiled as he took a few swigs of his English Whisky, the most expensive piece of liquor in the known lands. Crack, two brutes guarded him as they watched the blood seep out of the victim’s back. Crack, a sighing scream showed he was near death. Crack, “Stop!” he was in mid-swing. Men untied him, he was limp, he didn’t move, but the air entering his chest ever so slowly. “Do you understand your punishment,” he said. The victim panted slowly, heavily breathing, trying to catch his the life back from his soul. The guards slapped him. He woke, bloodshot, wide-eyed, his breathing heavier. “Do you understand your punishment?” He looked at the old man, bloodshot, can hardly tell what he was looking at. “Do you?” He took another swig of his priceless whisky. The victim looked at him as he spits in his direction. A guard landed a swift blow to his chest, a Joraal woman ran through the crowd screaming for her love. A guard slapped her to the ground.

“You want to be whipped as well, Wench?” She crawled away.

“I don’t, Sir.” the victim tried to speak. “I don’t understand my punishment.” The old man stared at him in silence, with a stern look. “All I had done was have a break. I can hardly walk with all the work we had to do!”

“It’s only picking wheat, my friend. If you don’t feel fit for this, we can let you go.”

“I wouldn’t love anything more. I just want my children to see a better life.”

“So be it.” The guards let him go, his legs limp, but he could still pick himself up. He opened his arms to his lover as a large man grabbed him and slammed him to the ground. His lover screamed as he pulled out an axe, decapitating the victim. The crowd screamed as the guards shot an explosive flare in the sky. The crowd was quiet.

“If you cannot do the simple,” the old man said, “then you shouldn’t live. Know this, Khaja, or face death and pain as this one did.” The crowd looked at him fear, they wanted to do something, but they were too afraid of the consequences. “As for those with children, this Khaja will have his b*tch of a lover branded for her to never forget her loss and her children taken and branded to be sold somewhere else.” The men had angry faces as the women grasped them with tears down their faces.

A door opened behind the old man, a Joraal child with priceless clothing and a toy in his hands. “Stay out of this Jeramy,” the child was pushed away as he took a glimpse of the decapitated body and head staring at him. He thought it was his father, but the scar wasn’t there, on his milky white, right eye.

“You heard the master, Khaja, you follow these rules or you will be this forsaken soul!” The crowd stood frozen. The old man signaled the guard, “What are you doing standing? Disperse to your work!”

As they did I heard the clatter of a horse hoof. Miles away was Gallingway and his English Gentlemen in armor on horses decorated in the English arms and silver. Each one bared a medal on their chest to signify them as new soldiers of the King, smited and deemed by the royal himself. They galloped along the dirt road as Gallingway lead them to the command settlements for them to be trained further in the art of the sword. Gallingway said, “How do you rooks feel to be apart of the English Arms?”

“Excited!” one said.

“We are honored to be in your presence, General.”

“You’re too kind, rook,” Gallyingway said with a smile under his helm. “Tell me, what were you before this Knight Ship?”

One took off his helm to say, “We were beatin’ bags for the civilians an’ royals! We just guarded doors and hallways, told to just stand there and do nothin’.”

“Not make a face, not make a move, not make a breath,” one interrupted.

“It was a pain to our feet and our backs! We were glad to even have a break!”

“We usually scuffed our stress with a little something at the tavern near our post whenever we had the time.”

Gallingway made a smirk, “Well then, some party men? What’s your favorite drink? Something strong? Or the good old juice from the tree?”

“You got that right!”

“A good pint of Armonian Ale always suite us.”

“Remembered the time you got drunk Francis? You were so hammered, you thought I was a Khaja wench!” They laughed as Gallyingway put on a fake smile. He knew they were not of his mind, they have the same opinion as the King.

They stopped their chatter as a Joraal beggar was heading towards them. They gave off a stirn look under their helms, he wore hooded robe, he looked familiar to Gallingway. Something about him felt familiar about him, but he could not see the face of this beggar. The recruits gave the poor Joraal a disgusted look, “Go back to your owner, Khaja!”

“I beg for coin, because my owner exiled me. Would some royal blood spare one for a poor soul?” His voice sounded familiar now. Kos`El, Gallingway thought.

“You don’t deserve such a thing, just head to the nearest plantation and you may find some stink hole to live in.” Gallingway just watched without a spoken word as they scold him. It was nothing he could do, it would give suspicion on his whereabouts.

“Let’s get going, we are wasting time.”

“This Khaja could be a murderer! We have to do somethin’!” one said.

“We can’t waste time to find that out, you are suppose to be at your posts by two sundowns.”

“I can’t take this,” the recruit beside said as he reach for something to his right, a crossbow. He loaded it and aimed down towards the beggar. Gallingway saw fear in Kos`El’s eyes as he could see him reach for a weapon hidden in his robes. He would be killed in front of him if he doesn’t do something. He pushed the crossbow up as he fired the bolt into the sky.

“What in the void are you doing!?”

“He’s a Khaja!”

“Doesn’t mean you kill him without a clear reason. You are about to enter Knighthood, you are to learn not kill without a reason.”

“But he could be a murderer!”

“We don’t have proof of which, neither are we going to waste time finding out.” He looked at his horse and saw his coin purse. “Give me your purse.”

“What?”

“I said, give it to me.” He slowly handed it to him as he threw the coin towards Kos`El. “We must hurry now, the sun has almost set.” The beggar saluted them as they sprinted their horses to down the road.

 

Red Brooch