I don’t have an artists render of Phillipa yet but this is my inspiration …
The plan was to escape the town tonight. She had buried supplies outside the city gates. She knew where to rendezvous with the rebels. She had discreetly sold all she could not carry. For the next twelve hours she just had to pretend to be another manic supporter of Mott, Bestich and the menzach. Mott had sent his wizard’s flame into countless numbers of the faithless.
There are two parts to me now, thought Phillipa, as she sat upon the cart. There is the part that lives in this world, and sits here and smiles, and laughs and watches the butchers. Then there is the part that watches the other part with horror. It scorns me. It flinches in horror while I laugh at another execution. That part of me will always stand in judgement over the coward that wants to survive. What is so good about seeing another sunrise? I have not been brave these past few days… but tonight I will be.
She continued knitting as the man screamed and begged as he was dragged to the cart. Phillipa threw her head back to show how hard she was laughing. Goddess forgive me. I threw myself on my knees to worship Bestich as soon as his crimson wizards were reborn. The victim locked eyes with her. It was Araman, the man who made cider, elderberry wine and gooseberry jam. He would sharpen knives and sell pins and now he was being lashed to the wheel of a cart.
“Please, I thought he was dead,” said Araman. “I worship Bestich now. I will be loyal.”
Mott’s icor enhanced voice responded. “Sweet summer friend. You took the blessings of Bestich’s harvest. You took the safety and security Bestich gifted you but when our wise and loving lord gave you the slightest test of your faith, you spurned him for the false prophets and promises of the rebels. Let your bones serve to cushion the cart. As they break at least they serve to comfort the loyal passengers of Bestich’s chariot.
Phillipa closed her eyes momentarily — just a brief second to shelter against the horror, before again being immersed in her reality, not just witnessing but participating in the subjugation of those who had dared to dream to be free.
She was surrounded by flags, black circles on a red background, the flags of Bestich’s Merconia. Flags are excuses for inhumanity, she thought. The more someone waves the flag of their nation, the more they hate the people of that nation. They hide their resentments, bitterness, and vile intent behind shows of patriotism. They disconnect the people of a nation from the idea of the nation, and then they can unleash their most bestial impulses on the people; waving the glorious flag, beating their chests in the certain knowledge that their rapes, their tortures, and their executions are noble and just. Never trust a man waving a flag. There is no flag imbued with indulgences for the murder of innocents.
The cart was now adorned with sixteen traitors to Merconia who had dared to speak for freedom from fear, and the menzach, and all the odious apparatus of subjugation. Phillip beamed a manic smile at Mott, praying the smile did not freeze and falter, and praying that her name would not be pricked on the scrolls before she had time to flee. Night can’t come too soon, she thought.
The cart jerked into motion as the horses strained to pull the uneven wheels. The screams from the victims tied to the wheels startled the normally laid back shire horses; one reared up a little, just a couple of feet in the air, but then it pulled forward. More screams. She could hear the crunching sound as the cart began to crush the victims’ bones. A spray of blood hit her face. Her smile froze and tears came to her eyes. She looked urgently to see if Mott had noticed. He was busy scanning the crowds for signs of anyone who showed a lack of enthusiasm. She smiled just before his gaze met hers. She knew better than to wipe the blood from her face, instead she licked her lips as if savoring the taste. Mott’s reptilian smile was her response and her reward.
Later she stood before her wash bowl looking at the black flakes of dried blood on her face. The black badge of cowardice. She plunged her face in the bowl and kept it there as long as she could, impotently trying to bury her shame in watery grave. She pulled her head up and gasped for air. Her shame had not lessened. She opened her eyes and stared at her reflection. There were still black flakes on her face. She rubbed them, but they did not come off. Freckles? Did I always have this many? She shook her head and threw the bowl of water out into the street gutter. It was dark but the swathe of stars in the sky looked like frothy river.
Time to go.
She looked around furtively; there were no watchmen in sight. She reentered her home and went to Elijah’s bed. He was sleeping soundly. She pulled back the covers and with a practiced hand she turned the sheet he was sleeping in into a sling holding Elijah. She wrapped the sling around her stomach so she could carry him with ease. Quickly she grabbed her arrow, quiver, backpack, wine bladder and water bladder. The moment of no return was upon her. A weight settled on her shoulders. I am making a decision here that could cost me everything, including the life of Elijah. Am I doing the right thing? She closed the door of her home for the last time and leant her head against it. She kissed the door. Goodbye home, you saw me give birth thrice, raise my boys and lose two of them. Now I take the last of my blood before Bestich’s minions take him too.