Excerpt from Quiet Whisper chapter 19, which will be out around September.
Two guards walked out the gate. Behind them the prisoner followed in chains.
Selissa drew in a breath when her eyes fell on the leader of the Rebellion for the first time. Her first thought was that Lord Taelan in no way looked like someone walking to his death.
A huge steel collar was clamped around his neck, allowing long chains to be fastened to it and letting the guards drag him along like a dog on a leash. His hands were chained as well and he was wearing nothing but a pair of torn trousers. Even underneath the dirt that caked his body, Selissa could see the angry red gashes from a whip covering his naked torso, some of them still bleeding.
Yet even chained and beaten, the Rebellion’s leader walked with an air of confidence, holding his head high as he was paraded in front of the Ver’dohnian masses. With his tall frame he towered over his captors and in the bright sunlight, he looked almost regal.
He’s not a criminal being executed in disgrace, Selissa thought, mesmerized by the quiet strength the man radiated. He’s a martyr dying for his cause.
She was not the only one affected by the prisoner’s lack of resignation. As he had been brought onto the grounds, the crowd had erupted in cheers. Now those cheers were fading, giving way to an uneasy murmur as people threw glances at each other, unnerved by display in front of them.
Captivated by the sight, Selissa had nearly forgotten why she was there before Bane got up from his seat and disappeared into the crowd. Remembering her part, she crept closer to the edge of the platform, watching as the guards led Taelan onto the scaffold.
Two men were waiting for them at the top. One were the executioner, a large halberd resting against his shoulder. Even at a distance, Selissa could see the light flash in the sharpened blade.
They pushed Taelan in front of the chopping block, chains rattling as the guards stepped back to allow the crowd a clear view of the prisoner. The cheering started again, angrier this time, demanding blood to pay for the arrogance of the man still standing tall even though his time was running out.
The man next to the executioner stepped forward, a piece of parchment in his hands. He was wearing a military uniform similar to that of the guardsmen, but with far more adornment than any soldier Selissa had seen. Though not as tall as the rebel in front of him, his presence still demanded respect and Selissa had a feeling she should know who he was, seeing as the crowd immediately quieted when he moved closer to the prisoner.
He folded out the parchment and started speaking in a clear, but toneless voice that somehow carried his words clearly to the audience above him. “Taelan, former thayn of Ashfall, you stand accused of high treason and crimes against the country you once swore to serve. What do you have to say to these charges?”
“All I did, I did in servitude to Ver’dohna.” His reply was strong and unwavering, and as he spoke he raised his chin and turned his head to the audience platform where Selissa was standing.
Sucking in a breath, Selissa took in the sight of the black tattoo on his cheek, wondering how she hadn’t seen it before. Even the layer of dirt on his face couldn’t conceal the swirly black lines against his pale skin as the merciless sunlight hit the exposed Mark and Selissa suddenly realized why they had needed a sorcerer.
His words had caused an uproar among the crowd. All around her, people were shouting and rising from their seat, more eager than ever to see his head roll. Taelan remained unaffected, not even resisting as one of the guards removed the steel collar around his neck and forced him to kneel in front of the chopping block. Selissa fought to keep her breathing calm as the executioner stepped forward, halberd grabbed in both hands. The crowd didn’t share her panic, the cheering nearly exploding in volume as the guard made Taelan rest his head on the block.
That was then the screaming started.
The spectators fell silent in confusion, looking around to find the source, before screams and yells of dying soldiers started sounding from all around them. Selissa stood patiently, waiting for her signal.
It came in the form of a crossbow bolt burrowing itself into the executioner’s heart.