The air was hot and dry like gavel against her skin.
Perhaps the unbearable pressure came from the crowd of Highbloods who had come to witness the execution of the rumored Signless.
Perhaps it came because the sun was rising soon.
Perhaps it was just the blistering weight of what was happening that settled on The Disciple's skin like a miniature sun.
She made no move to run, even though the desire to spring upon the imperial flogging jut and claw away the searing irons that bound her love's wrists was pounding through her veins with a mad fervor ten times stronger than any thrill of the hunt.
His grey skin fizzled under the red hot shackles as he was whipped.
Again and again.
Bright red blood, the color of his flaming irons, leaked from each cut made upon his grey skin.
The blood that branded him a mutant, that would have killed him sooner had he not been hidden.
The blood that spewed from his lips as he spoke.
His voice was different from that of his teachings, raw and pain-filled, as he cried out bitter hate filled words.
Each emerged like a spiny insect from his lips, flying to bury themselves into the ears of his captivated audience.
He was loud, his voice reverberating through her ears, so loud she thought she'd go deaf.
He cried a hate-driven sermon for his captivated audience, their cries for blood silenced by his thundering words.
Compassion turning to rage, his final sermon echoed all the way to the Grand Highblood's throne, blackened words echoing to her very core.
If she wasn't gripped by her tossing emotions, she would have howled alongside him.
Happy to follow his teachings to the ends of Alternia, she would have copied each vulgar word in the dust at her feet, so that she might serve her purpose as his most devoted follower.
As his Disciple.
She no longer needed her name, she no longer needed her now-dead lusus, she didn't need anything, as long as she was his and he was hers.
Their love outlasted quadrants, too red to be simply define by the term matesprits.
True love, unrestrained passion, had replaced her blood.
And now, it ran out with him.
As his speech rose in anger, reaching the climax where she felt her emotions soar to her throat in defiance of those surrounding them, she saw The Grand Highblood raise his hand.
The hope in her throat, brought on by his raging words, plummeted.
A flying creature shot down to rest on the floor, blood flowing from it's once white breast.
E%ecutioner Darkleer hefted his bow, and notched an arrow.
Sleek as night and sharp as pain, it's point spelled doom.
"Signless?" She had asked the night before, as they lay close, intertwined by dying fire.
Darkleer aimed, his eyes shrouded by dark lenses, a void of blackness reflecting the burning red.
"Yes?" His voice had been a whisper, so as not to wake up the others.
He was screaming now, cursing the biased world in which he had been born and found happiness.
Only to have it ripped away for trying to share it with those who could not understand.
"Will we...have a future? After this, after we've reached our goal, what will we do?" A night ago, she'd seen hope, she hadn't seen this terror.
Darkleer was pulling back the string now, straightening the arrow. It's point poised to strike.
Dolorosa sobbed, begging and pleading for anything to just STOP THIS.
Her sobs fell like crystals to the ground, shattering into smaller pained pieces.
A night ago, when the world was still right, The Signless had answered. "I don't know all of the details...but I know this. Wherever we go," he had looped a hand in hers. "We'll go together."
Darkleer released the string.
And it was only then, that The Disciple screamed.
A cruel accompaniment to the flight of the black arrow.
The Signless released one final cry, one that seemed to echo forever, as the arrow pierced him.
Their cries swirled together, a final accent of misery as true love bled out.
She remembered a night where they had bent hidden beneath the trees, lips sweetly pressed together.
A night of light and love.
And she knew that as his eyes closed, his thoughts were of his people, and that night.
Where they had forgotten the true horror of the world they inhabited.
And found solace in each other.
Dolorosa was kneeling, her breath stolen, as if she had been pierced by the same arrow.
As if she could feel his pain.
Her son was dead.
The Psiioniic was silent, yellow-hued tears spilling down his cheeks.
His misery was a kind of internal storm, a strong wind caged within his body, tearing it inside out.
His comrade, his best friend, was dead.
The Disciple brought her hands to her face, holding it as pain radiated from her very core.
Her love, her very heart, was dead.
The Signless was dead.
And his cry had faded from the air.
Like the final wisps of dying smoke.
And she was no more.
The world was frozen as The Disciple stared at the body of The Signless.
Which dangled from the cooled irons like a gutted beast.
Red pooled beneath him, mixing with the dust.
The Grand Highblood's great honking laugh echoed across the now still sky.
A great honking disturbance as he slapped his knees.
Doubled over in thralls of dismembered glee.
Trolls shuffled forward, quick to finish, so they wouldn't pause their master's murder induced mirth.
Low-blooded slaves, torches in hand.
Could they feel their part in this story?
As they set their only hope for equality ablaze.
A rust-blood's tears pattering into the flames.
An olive blood looked close to following, as she held the remnants of The Signless' clothing.
His only remnants that would remain on this plane.
But then, when the corpse was ash, and the cackles had faded into gasps, The Highblood was bored again.
So he called for the next execution.
It was only as she was thrown before the leering highbloods, that The Disciple feared.
But it was a only single second, a pause amidst her roarbeast heart.
A single moment of unsure clarity in which life beyond life was questioned.
Before her world moved on.
And she tasted the gritty dust that had gathered into her mouth.
Her side aching from where the blue-blooded guard had kicked it.
Her eyes flicked like a grub's, curious, at the sight just below her nose.
Red splattered fabric.
His red splattered fabric.
Dropped by an olive-blood with a quick nod before she'd receded to wait.
For the next burning corpse.
The Disciple pushed herself up onto her elbows, reaching for the final remnants of The Signless.
Gathering it in her hands, she'd found strength woven inside the blood spattered article.
Strength to turn and stare into the void.
And watch the tremors that quaked through his arms as he hefted his massive bow.
The void was not terrifying, as she'd imagined it to be.
A calm black reflective lens, shaking with unseen questions.
Those which would remain unanswered, as he looked not at her.
But at his bow.
His lenses fell, just sliding down his nose, to reveal the yellow eyes beneath.
To reveal the troll beneath.
With unsure dark blue irises.
And a choking sense of inability.
Sweat beading upon his brow.
The Disciple didn't know what stayed his hand.
But she knew it would only be for a few seconds.
And so she came to a fork in her path.
She could take the easy option, await the arrow, and die with the one she held dear.
Or, she could continue her greatest mission.
Continue her purpose.
And so she did.
Scrambling and sprinting with the mad frenzy of a cornered animal.
She used the burning pain inside her to propel herself away from the flogging jut.
Away from the roaring Highblood with clouds of dark chucklevoodoos descending from his head.
Away from the cheering Psiioniic and the silent Dolorosa.
Away from the horror filled blue blood with a now broken bow.
And away from the red splatters adorning the jut and it's irons.
The leggings clasped within her hands seemed to weigh her down.
But she kept running
Until olive streamed down her cheeks again
and the roars had vanished from the air.
Until she could no longer see the shocked crowd of Highbloods.
And the air no longer stank of heat and loss.
With the blistering sun mounting the sky she hid inside a cave.
Much like the one she once shared with her lusus.
Where she stayed.
For all time, hours melting into minutes, and minutes melting into days.
Painting out her beloved's teachings with the blood of her prey.
Loneliness replacing love.
And loss replacing life.
As The Disciple remained his most devoted follower.
Even as he died.
And even as she lived.
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