You are no one in the Free City.
No one will ask who you are, and in return, you ask no one.
The King's Army turned a blind eye to the Free City. It was like a phantom in the middle of the kingdom, to be unspoken of. You see, the Free City is a refuge for men and women with no past; and in most cases no future. The city is rife with thieves and murderers lucky enough to escape from their sentence. And between those criminals, lies the most dangerous one: the soldier in the corset dress. The girl who escaped her village instead of staying and fighting. The girl who betrayed her people.
I stayed at the Free City for eight months, and no one dared ask where I come form. It was clear that I was a northerner, of course. My fiery red hair gave me away. I had expected to find many other northerners. Say what you will about the Free City, with it's nooks and crannies where one might be robbed of their life, but it was still safer than the north villages. But there was only one other red headed girl here. I met her within a week of my stay, and that's when everything started.
The girl, Helena, was pregnant at the time, and as much as I wanted someone to talk to, I avoided her. It was the day that I saw the man she was with that I stopped avoiding her. That is not to say I went to chat; I held a knife to her man's throat.
I knew him all too well. A soldier of the King's army, son of General Vlair. I first saw him at the Battle of Deroos years ago, he set my aunt's hut on fire, took off on his horse and never looked back. I would have killed him at sight, that much I knew. When there is a knife in your hand, you don't think. And yet I did, I looked back at the woman he was with. Who she is. What she is.
So the rumors where true. Thomas the Vlairian had escaped the army after his father's death and ran off with a northerner.
Seven months later, I was still at the Free City, but by then everyone knew who I was. Here is the thing about a refuge: They might be safe, but they are a prison in on themselves. The dwellers of the Free City longed to go out. To my surprise, some of those criminals had dreams and ambitions just like the innocent. None of those dreams could be possible as long as they were imprisoned in the Free City. As long as the King's Army existed.
The dwellers of the Free City had a common enemy.
Now, the stone under my cheek feels cold. Behind me, the headsman is sharpening his sword. Had it been another time, I would have took a moment to admire it's beauty. In front of me the crowd had gathered, along with a large number of the King's Soldiers. In a moment, the Capital's bell will ring seven times, signaling my death, and the crowd will cheer with happiness.
It will also signal the army of criminals, thieves, murderers to enter the city, end their imprisonment, and make their voice heard. The men and women outside are paving their future with their own hands. They might be stealing their dreams, rather than accomplishing them, but then again, what other choice do imprisoned criminals have? Some of them might die, but they won't die in vain.
I won't either. I was supposed to die almost a year ago, the day I opened the gates for the enemy. I should have died fighting alongside my people. Instead, the Universe decided to grant me another year, and now the Universe was demanding it back. My death today won't redeem my betrayal a year ago, but it will help others. You see, the more Capital Soldiers that gather to witness my beheading, the better chance the criminals outside the Capital's gates have of succeeding.
I know better than anyone how much the element of surprise works.
The seventh bell rings, and the beautiful sword swings down, slicing me.
And then silence. I don't feel anything. I'm dead, but I'm still conscious. Not for long though, the world will turn black any moment now.
But long enough to see the Capital's Gates open.
Thomas is in the front lines, fire in his eyes, and Helena by his side.
Note: In all honesty, this short story probably might not make any sense to people who haven't read the first two short stories. It's a conclusion to both stories. Here is the first, and the second.
Anyway, this week's suggestion comes from Jessylyn @Books Over Flowers. Her suggestion was Redemption and Honor. Oh, and I know I promised a more cheerful ending last week, but since happy endings are physically hard for me to write, I opted for a bitter sweet one. You know, with the criminals fighting the King's Army, there would be no more northerners killed, which is what I promised last week.
Oh, except that girl I beheaded.