KINGDOM OF KLENARD HOT SEASON, 279
Tomorrow, I am going to die.
It was ordained by the Lord. I felt very lucky. Most people have to wait for God to collect their souls. They never knew when that moment was going to be. They might meet an unfortunate accident or a slip of the tongue might destroy them.
John Bryon-Howe, the former Duke of Shaeriden, sat nearby. He had not moved much more than an inch from the fireplace since I had arrived. A man so still and so close to death should not be wasting his time in silence. I was frightened for his sanity and hoped that he did not lose his mind in the end. He was supposed to be beheaded with me on the morn.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I began. I hoped to coax something out of him.
Yet, His Grace said nothing.
The night progressed. We could hear the workers below, sawing wood and nailing it together. Some guards called out the hour. The birds called out a lovely tune.
God granted me a beautiful last evening.
I decided that I was going to turn my mind to a night of prayer. The last of my belongings had been dispersed with long ago. Because I had been condemned as a warlock, Archbishop Gaines was going to excommunicate me before the beheading. The Lord had granted me serenity this very night. I no longer had any earthly worries, not even the prospect of being outside of Mother Church’s flock.
I crawled to my remote corner with the large pillow. A few minutes later, I felt a heavy weight beside me. Another set of lips spoke the same familiar words.
I let a smile escape.
We both stopped a little while later, but we did not move. We pretended to be praying silently. The guards were changing and the scaffold was finished. The stars were just letting up. The sun was still hours away.
“What do you think, Redeemer?” Bryon asked me. “Do you think it will be quick?”
His words startled me. It was confident, as it normally was, but his questions slightly quivered. I understood. He was going into the next unknown with me. This man, who had experienced war, betrayal, death, and politics, was asking me for reassurance.
How do I answer him? I am no priest.
It was not going to matter soon anyway. We were going to die. Whether he came to terms with it or not was something not meant for my shoulders. I did not need to additional bondage to this earth.
But I replied anyway. “I heard that the executioner was swift,” I joked. “Your Grace should be comforted to know that God will be waiting on the other side. He will heal all pain.”
Bryon shook his head with laughter. “What brought us so low, Redeemer? Why did we not see it coming? What brought us to this revolution?”
I was startled. I thought the outburst was rhetorical. Bryon was serious, though. He was of noble bearing, after all, and I was formally a small landowner. He wanted a story. It was not to while away the hours before we died. Every Klenard man needed comfort when he went into the next stage of his life. His Grace was no different.
“The new Klenard was difficult,” I offered him weakly.
He nodded, encouraging me to continue.
“But we were all comfortable under the old Queen,” I dared to add. “Like you, Lord Bryon, I was born under the happiest of decades…”