Call of the Colossus - K.C. May

Chapter 1

“Guilty of treason,” said Justice Captain Milad, leader of the enforcers.



The words echoed through Jora Lanseri’s mind with every scuffling step she took down the dank corridor toward her doom. The shackles and fetters clanked, echoing against the cold, gray walls of the jail like a death knell.

“He was sentenced to death by hanging,” Milad said, his tone seasoned by the smirk on his face.

Her knees weakened, and she stumbled. The enforcers’ hands clamped harder around her upper arms and kept her from falling. No. It isn’t fair.

With a whistle, Jora could have summoned an ally to free her, to turn her guards to stone or put them to sleep, but the gag in her mouth and the ancient, metal device they’d put on her head made calling for Po Teng impossible. Bound as she was, she couldn’t help herself, let alone help Korlan, her only remaining friend.

“Your own sentence will no doubt be worse,” Milad said. He led the way to the door at the end of the corridor, his shiny black boots clacking rhythmically on the gray stone floor like a metronome counting the seconds until the pronouncement. “Death by beheading is my guess.”

Jora wondered if that would be best. If she were beheaded, she would no longer be tortured by memories of what had happened in Kaild. The bloody murders of her family and friends and the smell of their burning corpses would no longer haunt her dreams. She’d thought many times in recent days that death would be a kindness.

“I’ll give my enforcers leave to fimble and behand you first. Might get me a reprimand, but for what you did to my men, it’ll be worth it.”

Since turning herself in, she’d been subject to rough handling by her jailers, but it was nothing compared to the agony of witnessing what those soldiers had done to the people of Kaild. Still, Jora’s insides shriveled at the thought of having her fingers broken and her hands cut off. They’d better cut her tongue out first, because without a hand, she would slip the shackle cuff and rip the device from her head. There would be no saving them then.

With the enforcers at her back, she shuffled up the uneven stone stairs of the jailhouse where she’d spent the last ten days. Or was it eleven? In the underground cell, she’d lost track. Sleep brought nightmares, and wakefulness was no better. She’d not eaten well in jail, not because the flavorless slop they fed her was insufficient. Thoughts of her family and her impending trial had chased hunger away.

At the top of the stairs, Milad opened the door to the jailhouse. Jora squeezed her eyes shut against the brilliant sunlight and bowed her head. Her sense of time had been so fouled that she’d expected to see a night sky. The smell of horses and the jingle of tack greeted her outside the prison. A couple of men in mail lifted her under the armpits into the waiting wagon. She stumbled to a bench and sat, and they affixed her fetters to an iron tab bolted to the floor. Milad sat across from her with a loaded crossbow on his lap, pointed at her, his steady brown eyes ever watchful. Apart from a scar on his chin, he had an unblemished face with a narrow jaw and untamed black eyebrows. His head was cleanly shaven like those of the enforcers under his command. Unlike the others, he wore no armor over the gray enforcers’ uniform.

Though she hadn’t been afforded the luxury of a mirror during her imprisonment, she had a little over two weeks’ growth of hair and could imagine the shadow atop her head. The benefit to having been kicked out of the Justice Bureau was not having to shave her head anymore, though if what the justice captain had said was true, soon she wouldn’t have a head left to shave anyway.

They started off, Jora and Milad both flanked by two enforcers in the wagon. Judging from their wary looks, they must have been terrified of her, and the thought made her sad. No one had been afraid of her before she’d joined the Justice Bureau. She didn’t want people to fear her. She just wanted to do what she’d sworn to do, what they’d made her swear to do—uphold the law, honor the truth, and see justice done.

People on the street stopped what they were doing to watch the prisoner being taken off to the Justice