Ariadne could no longer remember how many days had passed since she began walking on her own two feet, with her elbows bound together by a cord connected to a horse ahead of her; or how many of her teeth had fallen from her gums after the endless beating she received. Or how many men had entered her during the night when no one was watching… but she was certain even if there were guards, they would not bat an eye if one of the soldiers decided to ride her.
It first happened on the downfall of Atolia. She resisted, screamed and cursed like all people would do if they were touched against their will. But as those events kept happening, the urge to fight left her. She only wished that the person doing her would come faster; or that he was gentle, unlike the one who came to her first that night. Those were the only thoughts she had as she sleep in her tent, dreaming of her own death.
Ariadne tripped, pulling the horse into a halt. The man riding it cursed from almost falling off the horse.
“Stand, bitch! Stop trying to kill me.” Sir Ronial said. He was a ruthless man in his forties with graying hair on his temple, and a battle-scar that ran across his neck.
She stood without a fight. She learned the lesson not to fight back to them unless she wanted to face their fury. The man enjoyed beating her. Perhaps he had taken a liking on beating the most notorious enemy.
The first time she felt afraid of him, she almost laughed. How can she be afraid of him whom she could kill in an instant with a sleight-of-hand… but that was all in the past, her fingers that could touch the Stardust had already been cut off from her, now she only had a stinky stump in front of her.
The journey to the capital continued. She didn’t know that they were finally closing to Arkalas, the center of the kingdom, and with that her own execution. The death that was about to befall her did not bother her. Rather, she felt hopeful and eager to be at peace after walking miles and being beaten all throughout. The gods know how much she wants to die. She even dreamed of death frequently and with it the face of His Grace, Duke Augustus Osriel de Atolia.
As the Imperial Army closed towards the capital, the soldiers became more brutal to her. Ariadne would receive a beating even if she wasn’t doing anything. A soldier had even punched her just for watching the swaying fields of wheat, stating that she had no right to adore such beauty. Each time she was treated like that, something inside her stirred alive. A feeling long forgotten but still familiar. She knew that having that kind of feeling would only make her miserable. Hating would only make us miserable. She read once, but Ariadne didn’t realize she would remember it years after as death loomed before her.
She could now finally see the southern gate of Arkanlas with a long line of wagons, simple carriages and horses. Since they were the Imperial Army who had come victorious from the war, the traffic dispersed before them, partly because of the knights’ shiny armor and the other half was because of Sir Ronial’s booming voice.
“Everyone, see this woman is none other than the mass murderer, Ariadne!”
“The one who kill our brothers and sisters. Who cause as death for three years. Who poisoned our river and the person who murder the late Imperial Family of Estrellio Empire.”
Lies! Yes, I poisoned the rivers, but I harm no one in the Imperial Family.
She wanted to shout back, but the thirst and tiredness that she felt did not allow her to open her mouth. The merchants glared at her. Out of nowhere as they neared the gate, something hard hit the back of her head. Ariadne looked back and saw a woman in her gray wool dress and pastel apron glaring at her with tears brimming in her eyes.
“My son drink on that river! How could you do that to a child?”
She wanted to tell her the same thing. How could the Empire do it to them? How could they do that to the innocent citizens of Atolia? It’s their idea, I just have them taste their own medicine.
As she watched them blame her, she can’t help but to feel those stirring emotion once again.
The Imperial Army slowly trudged towards the capital and as they did, more and more rocks came flying to her direction. Occasionally, there would be something liquid would find a way to her face. She was glad to feel something wet on her lips no matter where that water came from.
“Death to the Blue-eyed She-devil!”
“Death! Death! Death!”
After they entered the palace, she was thrown in a dark prison. She guessed it was one of those underground prisons in the palace. From the darkness, she could hear rats somewhere and it became her companion for the next three days that she had stayed there. No one even bothered to come to her on those three days. For the first time since she was captured, Ariadne was at peace.
One morning, she heard thumping boots nearing her prison cell, Ariadne was already sure that she was going to be executed. The two soldiers roughly dragged her out of the prison as if she had all the intention of escaping from them. Where would she even go if she managed?
They brought her in the plaza and intentionally let the people present to grab on his hair and clothes, stripping much of her torso naked. When she finally saw the platform of the guillotine, the two soldiers threw her on the floor and grunted in dismay about how dramatic she was. They feigned anger and use the butt of their spear to hit her on the spine. Ariadne growled like an animal as she squirmed like a worm being subjected to salt.
The citizens of the Empire laughed on her hardships. But among those rugged laughs, she heard those familiar laughs that can only be heard from someone who had come from the nobility.
She turned her eyes on their direction, they were sitting in a raised platform looking down on her. In the center was the new Emperor, Allan Gregorius de Miurgen the one who’s responsible for everything. In that moment as if in a trance, she remembered everything that happened in that hellish three years of war. The stirring that she tried to suppress pulsated inside her.
“Everyone, I have here the enemy of our glorious Empire. Ariadne Larissa y Severine, the Blue-eyed She-devil, the woman responsible for the most heinous of crime, who poisoned our rivers and the one responsible for bringing ruin to the late Imperial Family.”
Angry noises echoed in the plaza, but Ariadne was deaf to all those noises. Her eyes were on the emperor. He is the one. The sinner that I must kill.
“As your Emperor of Estrellio, I charged this wicked woman guilty of all the said crimes.”
The emperor turned his back on her. The soldiers pulled her before the guillotine’s blade. But her eyes remained on the emperor as they forced her to stand.
Allan Gregorius grinned at her and raised his hand to silent the crowd.
“Do you have any words to say Lady Ariadne?”
It took her a moment to realize what he had said, and when she did, her lips quivered in rage. What came out of her was a sound similar to that of an animal. Those who heard her had their head fall backwards in a fit of laughter.
“It seems like you have nothing to sa-“
“I have damnit.” She cursed; her voice unfamiliar even to her own ears.
She looked around, the Imperial Citizens who goes to watch her execution was as far as the eyes could see. All of them wore the same expression of anger on their face. This unexpectedly made her laughed. In front of the crowd, Ariadne laughed her heart out until she felt she had lost all air in her body. She gasped for air loudly, the people just below the platform took a step backwards as if afraid of what she might do.
“Many of Atolians died in this war. I would never forget them. And the days and night that I suffered throughout my journey to this sickening place.” She looked around, her eyes searching for the guards. When her eyes landed on them, they averted and bowed in shame. “I hope all those pricks goes rot and be infested with worms… the gods know who you are… and the gods know how much I hated myself after each night. Though I doubt the gods will even listen to my pleas, because they never did! May this land and its rulers be cursed for eternity.”
She turned at the direction of the palace. “Those proud glistening towers that this damn Empire boast so much! I hope the day that it will be stripped of its glory will come.”
She said these words with a growling voice, Ariadne glared at the crowd with madness. She pointed her stump at them.
“I would never be at peace! I will make all sinners pay. I would make sure that all noble Houses will be stripped of their Grace! And the Empire will bath on the blood of its own sinful citizen… until all the oceans and seas turn into red and all the air stink with the smell of rotting flesh!”
Ariadne’s laughter echoed over the silent onlookers in the plaza. Then she looked back at the raised platform where the nobility sat, something inside her pulsated wildly.
“I will make you all remember. You will call for my name to lift the curse… but I will not.”
The crowd fell into a stupor. Ariadne kneeled before the guillotine and waited for its blade.