View Full Version : In the Hangman's Noose - Sins of the Father

March 1st, 2013, 06:31 AM
Setting: a pseudo, pre-Victorian era
WC: 2000

Recap: After the murder of his mother, and the arrest of the guilty party - his father - the young Killian Todd must now await the life of an orphan as his father is made to atone for his crimes...in the hangman's noose.

Hey, it's been a while, but I'm glad to be back. Hope you enjoy this piece, and, as always, I accept any form of criticisms or suggestions or brutal slanders. A preemptive thank you to any potential readers (or skimmers). Cheers!

IX: In the Hangman’s Noose

I could not believe my eyes as I stood there on top of that shipping crate in the Imperial District north of Dockside. Gazing out across the massive, sea of people, I could not believe just how many people had turned up. Each way I looked stood more people than I had ever seen in one place before. I realized then just how bloodthirsty the denizens of Irianna truly were.

The Imperial Plaza was full for a specific reason, and for the crowd, that reason was for entertainment. It was a cruel practice. These men and women and children gathered to watch what could be considering a horrifying event, and made a pastime out of it.

Families, friends, and neighbors all gathered to watch the spectacle unfold. Something about the pain and suffering of others helped these poor folk forget about their own troubles and woes. Witnessing the fiery hammer of Justice in motion was only a bonus.

I gazed down to my left at the ground below where Imperial Investigator Deckard stood. He leaned against the crate, arms folded, cigarette sticking out of the side of his mouth. Deckard had placed himself in position where he was protected from the brunt of the storm, helping keep him and his cigarette dry.
The smoke trailed up past me, and it had a way of overpowering that familiar piss, tar and salt water stench of Irianna. In comparison, the tobacco smoke was not half bad.

Deckard inclined his head upwards at me, removing the cigarette from his lips, and blowing smoke away from me. He looked cold, but indifferent about it. He had given up his coat freely to me, after all. He gave me a comforting smile, and I returned a half-hearted one. I suppose I had no reason not to feel joyful, but I felt nothing inside. Wasn’t I supposed to feel something?

A few droplets of rain fell harder than the last, but I did not pull Deckard’s coat over my head to shield myself, though I did think about it. I was thankful for warmth and protection it offered, but I was already too numb to feel the cold sting of the rain. Besides, I did not want an obstructed view.

Standing a respectful distance away from Deckard’s vice, the Mother gazed ahead. Holding a parasol over her head to protect herself from the downpour, the Mother was safe and dry; unlike Deckard and me who opted to bear through the storm. The Mother carried a blank expression, lips pursed with eyes unwavering.

Deckard coughed below me, and held his cigarette closer to the crate to protect it from the gust of wind that rushed through plaza. Deckard watched as two children ran past, into the horde. Deckard shook his head, and gave a sigh. Even the youngest of the children raised their hands into the air, and shouted and cheered for the events unfolding.

There was no innocence in Irianna.

The sky roared and rumbled the fury of the heavens, and lighting crackled and jolted through the skies. It was the gods’ wrath manifested, and it was humbling to witness. If thunder is the gods’ laughter, then this was a merry gathering for them.

The night sky was shrouded in clouds and fog, and the plaza was illuminated by the streetlamps and flashes of lighting alone. The mixture of the warm yellow light and the bombastic flashes of bright white lightning foreshadowed the coming events.

A cry rang out from the crowd, drawing me from the cascading rainfall from the heaven’s above. “Repent! Repent, and in the light of Auro, be saved!”

The cry came from an elderly man cloaked in a wet brown cloak. From the darkness of his hood came a long, dirty, grey beard that was tucked into the belt around his waist. The man hobbled along, waving a stick back and forth in front of him. He was shouting something, but I could not hear him over the crowd.
I slipped my legs over the side of the crate, and watched the man curiously. I noticed that Deckard was watching the man too. He turned my way, and said, “It’s a sad sight, ain’t it?”

“What is?”

“Him,” Deckard flicked his eyes back to the elderly man shuffling his way through crowd. “That man’s a street preaching doomsayer.” Deckard cleared his throat, and spat onto the ground.

“What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s blind. Left him a sour old man whose only solace in life is to make other’s as miserable as himself. Claims to be some kind of prophet or seer, but no man of the gods would have been a regular in the tank for drunken and disorderly conduct in a public place.”

“You arrested him?”

“Not exactly,” Deckard said, flicking ash from his cigarette. “He’s never done anything to warrant a stay longer than a night to sober up. He’s just a menace, is all, and a hypocrite.”

The elderly man was only a few yards from us now, and I could see the black cloth wrapped around his eyes. He tapped his cane against the ground as he made his way through the crowd, occasionally whipping someone’s ankle. The victims of the man’s freely swinging cane bore no hostility once they looked his way and saw the blindfold.

As he neared, I could hear bits and pieces of his tirade: “…ye, those who bear sin shall be shrouded in darkness, and the fury of the Infernal Abyss shall be revealed unto them…verily, he that hath not repented by the coming day of Judgment, they shall be the ones who art cast into the depths, and made to suffer.”

The prophet shuffled along, his voice shrill and raspy. “Harken, I say unto you, nay, I proclaim this to be the words of the gods...from the scriptures of Auro, words written from the hands of the High God himself…heed my words, lest you be smitten, as your brethren have been smitten. Transgression and sin and immorality of the flesh shall see no tolerance in the Halls of the Dead, ye I say this unto you…”

The blind man kept moving, and his rant never quite ended. Trailing off of his previous topic, the man would proceed to talk about another sin, or another punishment. There were no words of praise or worship from him. The elder was a man of fire and brimstone, and he made his beliefs clear and known.
When the man neared the Mother, she offered him a few kind words, and thanked him for his service to the gods. The blind man returned the gratitude, and brought his campaign to the Mother’s attention. The Mother was very respectful to the man, despite the fact that he had no kind words to say to anyone else.

“Why is the Mother so nice to him if he’s a criminal?”

“Because the Mother is kind to the Less Fortunate, I guess; or she pities him. Eh, I don’t rightly know. He won’t receive any such welcome from me; that much I am certain of.”

I watched the man as he departed back into the crowd, disappearing into the dense forest of people. The crowd reformed to their original positions, and soon I could no longer hear the man.

In his place, a wave of cheering and applause bombarded the plaza. I turned my attention to the cause of such a commotion. Not a hundred feet away, past the surging mass of people and the wall of Imperial Watchmen, stood a large, wooden platform with three upright posts side by side. A crossbeam lay across each of these posts, and suspended from the ends hung three empty nooses, waiting to be filled.

I watched as the iron-plated carriage rolled in from the east, and came to a halt at the side of the platform. The driver and his rifle-bearing cohort stepped down from the wagon, and made their way to the back. The driver unlocked the compartment door, and the prisoners began to filter out.
Was this a truce? Had the gods finally put down their weapons? Was the war over?

The first prisoner out of the wagon was a gruff man with a shaved head and a thick, black mustache adorning his upper lip. The man glanced at the crowd only once, before turning his gaze to the cobblestones below. One of the Watchmen led the prisoner up the platform, while the next prisoner filtered out.
A man clad in a black and silver robe made his way onto the platform, following after the Watchmen and prisoner. The robed man conversed with one of the Watchmen while his other fitted the criminal with a necklace of rope.

“Who is that man,” I asked Deckard, “the one in the robes?”

“Arren Varian.” Wisps of smoke followed the words up to me, and I turned my head to look Deckard’s way. Deckard gave a short sigh, expelling the smoke through his nostrils. “That man is the High Priest of Azeri. That is a man of the gods.”

“Why is he here?”

“To give the prisoners their last rights.”

I watched as the High Priest meandered about on the platform while the prisoners were being put into place. The second prisoner was brought up to the platform. She was a middle aged woman with a pale complexion, and dark, sunken eyes; a telltale sign of an Ashstone addict. The woman twitched and struggled as she was pulled along by the stoic Watchmen.

Tears were streaming freely down her cheeks, but she received no sympathy from the hangman. I watched on, as the man in the black hood placed the noose over the blubbering woman’s neck. The woman legs wobbled weakly, and threatened to give out. The tension from the rope kept her from falling over, leaving her struggling and crying in despair.

The woman gazed out at the crowd, at their hungry, bloodthirsty faces, and it did nothing to stem the flow of her tears. I gazed on at this woman, and my heart ached. I did not feel this same empathy for the man standing not five feet from her, but for that pitiful woman and the fear I could see in her eyes…I had to force myself to look away.

“What did the woman do?”

“I don’t rightly know. High Priest Arren will get to that shortly, I’m sure.”

“She looks so sad.”

“I’m sure she’s regretting whatever bad decisions she’s made.” Deckard flicked the remnants of his cigarette onto the ground, and put out the smoldering butt with the tip of his boot. “There’s no point in trying to feel any sympathy for her, lad; her fate is sealed.”

I turned my head back to the platform as the crowd began to roar again. The final prisoner was being brought of out of the iron wagon. I pushed myself away from the edge, standing tall on top of the shipping crate. I watched, past the flood of people, as the Watchman opened up the door to the wagon again. The open door obscured my view inside of the wagon, and I was glad for the few extra moments.

The rifle-totting Watchman stood a few feet away, holding his weapon at the ready as the prisoner took his first step out of the wagon. One foot touched the ground, visible only beneath the door. I gritted my teeth, standing proudly, defying the gods. This was my victory. This was the payment for the loss of my mother. The time had come.


PS. Sorry for the cliffhanger, it would have been a bit too long (another 2000 words).

March 2nd, 2013, 06:28 AM
I've totally got a work set in a pseudo-post-Victorian era, so I had to do this one. :)

Per my usual, expect running commentary through the story unless I get sucked in, and then ... Well, whatever. I'll see you at the end.

First paragraph is backward. "I don't believe my eyes" is basically just code for "The author hasn't figured out how to describe this scene yet. Check back in a paragraph." Oddly enough, you figure out how to describe it when you end the paragraph: "Jeez, these guys are bloodthirsty." Strong realization. Start with that.

Specific reason = repetitive.

I'd ditch most of the first two paragraphs and start with "I realized just then how bloodthirsty[...]. These men and women and children had gathered to watch a horrific event--had made a pastime of it." Or something like that.

Let Deckard stand somewhere. Don't "place" him. Think of characters as people. They move on their own. "Deckard stood in the lee of the (shipping crate?), sheltering his cigarette from the pelting rain."

Wrath and laughter don't mix like that. Pick one mode for your imagery and stick with it.

In all seriousness, some of your paragraphs seem like repeats; you'll set out to achieve a certain impression in Paragraph A and then Paragraph B seems to set out to achieve exactly the same impression. See for example the two paragraphs describing the state of the sky back to back.

Never end without a cliffhanger unless you're retired or something.

One comment I would make is that, overall, the religious commentary seemed maybe just a little out of place--but that may be a function of my being unaware of the context of the story.

March 2nd, 2013, 06:39 AM
No need to apologize for the cliffhanger; successful scenes (or excerpts) make the reader want more. My only comments here are that the descriptions feel a little redundant in places (especially when describing the general mood of the scene and crowd). I also feel like the scene dragged out longer than it should have, and that was probably due to the blind zealot. I'm not exactly sure what you are trying to get across with him. Is he a typical believer? We see the Mother speak kindly to him and Deckard speak poorly about him. It was hard for me to decide what purpose he was serving.

March 2nd, 2013, 07:17 AM
I love the ominous feel you have going here. The way you've described the cigarette really connects me to the scene.

I only really have one suggestion.

Your second and third paragraphs are similar when you're talking about the families/women children. It almost wants for more descriptions about the women and children. The sounds they're making, their reaction to the scene before them.

Other than that I love the atmosphere you've created.

March 4th, 2013, 07:25 AM
Hey thanks for the reads, all! This is the first incarnation of the scene, so thanks for pointing out the major stuff like cutting back on some of the repetitive details and the like. I'll make sure to mull over all of them when the rewrite comes! Cheers!