King of the Republic - Opening Scene
Book Two of P.J. Berman's 'Silrith' series - Medieval Epic Fantasy Fiction
ARIGBASA, HERTASALA, BENNVIKA, 1520 YEARS AFTER UNIFICATION – SUMMER
Heathens. Rebels. Savages. All words that had applied in the past, yet there was now but one word to describe the three people who lay at Jostan’s feet. Corpses. Corpses whose souls would be imprisoned by Estarron upon their attempt to enter the heavens, and who would be the slaves of Luskaret, King of the Underworld, for all eternity.
Such would be the fate of all who stood against him. The lean, athletic young Jostan, clad in the holy white robes of a son of Estarron and born across the sea in the Verusantian Empire, had been King of Bennvika for less than two seasons, and already many had been sent to their graves. With the putting down of a huge rebellion at Rildayorda in the far south, led by the traitor, Silrith Alfwyn, he was the undisputed master of this wretched land. Now these non-believers would repent their sins, forsaking their false gods and converting to the worship of almighty Estarron, else face widespread slaughter.
Jostan had been filled with a sense of deep satisfaction as he led his army into the panicked village. En route back to Kriganheim, Bennvika’s capital, Jostan had received reports of a heretical preacher denouncing Estarron and his divinity, and so Jostan had ordered his army to take a diversion and make an example of these people. The village was too small to have a defensive wall, and the preacher, it seemed, had fled long ago. What faith he must have had in his false idols’ ability to protect him from harm.
An old woman had attempted to plead with him as his soldiers ripped people from their homes to force their conversions. He had been affronted by this withered, primitive creature’s yowling, so amid the chaos, he had ordered her daughter and teenage granddaughter to be snatched from her.
‘People of Arigbasa!’ he had declared in the street, causing each of his soldiers to pay attention as they wrestled the heavily outnumbered village populace from their homes and into the streets.
‘See what befalls all who refuse to follow the divine lord, almighty Estarron,’ he said.
He made the old woman watch. The crowds of soldiers looked on as they held down their prisoners. In the middle of the street, the pair of terrified younger women were forced to their knees while a soldier took out his sword. He sliced off each of their ears amid piercing screams, the better to prevent them from ever hearing such heretical notions again. Then, the soldier took the four ears and forced them into the old woman’s mouth as his comrades gripped her arms. She choked and spluttered as she tried to breathe, but the soldier forced the ears further down the woman’s throat amid the groans of the two earless women as their blood soaked the ground. All around looked on in stunned silence.
As the fourth lobe was forced into the wrinkled old crone’s mouth, the soldier forced his victim’s jaws shut. With the woman’s mouth full of her own womenfolk’s ears, the soldier looked to Jostan for his order. Jostan gave a nonchalant nod, and the hag’s throat had been slit. On a whim, he ordered the daughter and granddaughter to be slaughtered too. It seemed like the right thing to do.
Now he stood before the shocked villagers and their captors.
‘Repent,’ he said. ‘Or share in your deranged, misguided kin’s fate.’