Continued from The Sand Flea.
The trial was a shitty act. The justice man was prejudiced, and the law that was broken was an old one, from less civilized times. A huge crowd formed to watch the local goblin take the stand to defend himself, dried blood still caked on his claws.
“I’m being punished for defending a woman. So what if the law says the owner of the bitch needs a chance at a revenge strike? He wasted it in letting the man get to his woman.” Ask grunted and looked around. “I killed a raper and an enemy of Njolr!” He lifted his head up. “For Njolr!” he screamed. There was no answer. His red eyes looked across the square, at the justice man. “Did you kill anyone for Njolr this week?” His narrowed eyes were a challenge.
“No, but if you are guilty, I will.” The stern-faced justice man’s face twisted into a smile. He looked toward the jury of nose-pickers and fools. “The jury may now decide– guilty or not guilty.”
One by one, the ‘jury’ declared him guilty without pausing for a single moment to think. Some blood flaked from his claws as his grip sharpened on the wooden stand he was shackled into. “Morons.” He nose wrinkled in distaste as he drew back his lips to snarl. The innkeeper’s wife, who he protected, didn’t even try to help him.
Nobody did. Red eyes glared at the ‘justice’ man in a silent challenge. For a time, all was silent.
“The verdict is guilty. The accused will be flogged forty times, and then he will be gelded and left to die in the wastes with all of his belongings.” His grin was wide. “For Njolr.” He slammed a hammer on his stand, then walked away as the city guards dragged the howling, enraged, struggling goblin away.
Time was a blur for Ask, until it came time for his sentence to be carried out. His belongings, and his horse, were dragged out ahead of him.
The head of the guard yanked Ask’s fur vest off him, and then did the same to the creature’s soft leather pants. Both acts were done with enough force to nearly pull his limbs from their sockets. His clothes were tossed aside, and his bony, thin frame was left bare, save his loincloth.
The head of the guard dragged Ask to a massively thick pole in the center of town and tied his hands, then pulled it through an eyering drilled into the top of the trunk. With a yank, he pulled the goblin off his feet.
Ask was silent through the abuse. His red eyes were wide with barely-contained rage. His tail was stiff behind him. As he was lowered back to the ground, the claws on his toes dug into the hard dirt. Prominent ribs heaved slowly, in long, purposeful breaths as a guard tied the rope. He didn’t look back, but instead stared at the blood-stained grain of the wood.
Heavy silence reigned. Everyone was waiting for something.
Ask gasped through tightly clenched teeth, but refused to scream. His entire back felt like it was on fire. Before he could catch his breath, two more slices from the whip opened, and his head jerked up. The master of the guard was warming up for something horrible. Ask spread his legs apart and braced himself against the wooden pillar.
The strikes of the whip continued. They became faster and faster, until he almost lost count. He was more than halfway through when his mind went dark and empty. He couldn’t handle the pain. It wasn’t long before he woke, and he slowly looked down. The ground under him was soaked red, and he was shaking.
For several long moments, he simply let himself breathe. He unclenched his aching teeth and slowly wiggled his toes. As he lifted one foot to get blood flowing again, the crack slapped against his back. This time, it had four tails and ripped his flesh along with it. It tore a scream from the small humanoid, and the guardsmen took turns using it. The first scream was out, and more followed as they beat and mutilated him.
Ask’s face, pale from blood loss, slowly colored with shame, and he forced himself to try to stare at the pillar. The guards began to get creative, and quickly destroyed his composure a second time to increase his shame. His vision blurred, and hot liquid spilled down his cheeks. Suddenly, the whipping stopped, and he collapsed against the rough wood of the pillar.
His existence itself was pain. His mind refused to comprehend what was happening as he was turned around to face the crowd. His lacerated, sliced back was shoved hard against the uneven wood, and he was quickly gelded, with the wound shut using fire.
At some point, he couldn’t remember, he was unconscious. When he woke, his clothes were on, and his back burned fiercely. The horse he stole nosed at him, and stayed close. It felt like he had sand in his joints as he slowly forced himself up. He was shamed, and would die soon. He had no food, and no water, and all around, the steep cliffs blocked view of where he could find any place to survive that wasn’t his old village.
The goblin’s movements were wooden as he loaded some things onto the horse’s saddle, then put the leather thing onto the beast, followed by the bridle. The horse was very compliant, which surprised Ask. He expected the beast to be frightened, or at least nervous. With a sigh, he began to walk. Most of his belongings were left behind, to reduce the weight either he or the horse had to carry. His stumbling, pain-filled steps slowed him, but the horse kept pace, even when the humanoid let go to try to regain his composure.
For three days, the pair walked. Ask began to see mirages, and his steps slowed. Finally, he collapsed with a weak groan. The fire in his back had yet to abate, and instead was hotter. He closed his eyes, then forced them open as he reached for a knife. He wanted to free the horse before he died.
It was stupid, letting a stupid animal live when it could give him food and more.
His hand lifted, but it didn’t get high enough. He was simply too weak. The horse nuzzled him and laid down near him. It rested its head on the young male’s chest, and closed its eyes.
Ask’s last thought before his mind left him was spoken aloud in a tired, raspy voice. “Damn sand fleas.” His voice was barely a whisper.