There was a brief ripple of discontent. House Ethis had already commemorated one of their commissions last week. There was a time that there was actual competition between families and businesses but the Ethis family had their threads most aspects of life in Auspar, even if you didn’t know it. Ethis was now competing with itself and most were left wondering where the money came from or the elaborate pieces of Numenera they were somehow able to use as offerings. The only known sources of such things were either the Aeon Priests themselves or members of House Narrkonis. Neither would be giving up any of their artefacts or cyphers for matters they considered ‘trivial’ and the latter certainly wouldn’t to a rival family.
That was true unless a deal had been made; it certainly wasn’t out of the question. Society in Auspar had its cogs oiled in windowless back rooms by families and organisations looking to take advantage of the state of the Kingdom, especially the rule of the ‘Mad’ King. His laws were considered the babblings of a fool. He was well known to take advice from his royal advisor, Melch, a shadow puppet of his left hand. He was a joke to neighbouring rulers and an embarrassment to his people.
Common law was established in his place, rules that everyone abided by. The King’s rules were only enforced in his presence. He was laughed at behind his back but feared if his attention was drawn to you. Common law had no such problems; it was respected by every Thaemic citizen but left little to be enforced. Trade became regulated by its own governing body, the law was left to the most basic of principles (guilt by proximity), religion turned to apocalyptic tongues, and power was traded in blackmail and shins. For all of the cogs and those that tend to them, the machine worked despite its king but only for those who knew how it worked.
The very idea that this ‘invite’ punctuated their inevitable execution made the two feel sick with fear. Their deaths were trivial, like cattle to slaughter. Through the baying crowd and the band playing, something wrapped itself around their ears inside the sack. It felt cold and slimy. It had risen up from their wrists, beneath their clothing and clung around their necks before tendril clung their way around the ridges of each of their ears. It whispers were inside their minds, barbed and serpentine. “I will be your saviour, I will spare you execution. In return, you shall find the King’s daughter and return her to me. I can just as easily let you bleed out onto the floor, let the axe fall on your neck. You must serve me and obey in exchange for your life. Fall to the ground, supplicate and I will give the word”
Both prisoners tried to rid themselves of whatever this thing was. The squirmed in their restraints by the voice had no substance, nothing to dislodge or draw attention to. It withdrew back to their wrists, leaving a numb trail behind it. The executioner’s blade now rang in their ears. It’s call, the sound of it scraping on the metal plates below it. The crowd’s excitement intensified. The man fell to the floor within moments and the crowd began to hiss and boo. The girl faltered a second before following. The crowd pelted them with offerings in anger.”Good.”
Both of them were suddenly aware of the extra metal band around their wrists, as small needle tips pierced the skin for a brief moment embedding the bracelet into their flesh. “This is my safeguard. Leave the caldera and you shall perish, betray me and you shall be punished. You cannot remove me or break me. You are my puppets, my instruments and you will find me the truth.”