And The Dogs Came Running 5.7

They afforded more dignity to her in preparation for execution than in trial. The cell was a little larger, and the thin, slit-like windows were more widely spaced so that Edam had light for most of the day. Still, time seemed slippery and difficult to track within the stark white room; a bed to one side with a single plain linen blanket and pillow and a latrine. To the other side was a bench, a stone drain and a tap with running water, alongside a hardened iron bowl. When she was finally confident that she was alone, and not being watched, she disrobed from the harsh sackcloth and filled the bowl with icy water.

She washed by touch, not by sight. Looking down at her body was too much at the moment. She had other things to think about. 

She shivered as she poured it over herself, again and again, scrubbing with the harsh sponge she had been offered. She then dried herself with the sackcloth as best she could, set it over the bed to dry, and cloaked herself in the linen. She combed her hair with her fingers, straightening it as best she could.

Tarnye came later on that day to visit. Her brow was heavy with worry. She walked into the room carrying a book. She signed very slowly, so that she was certain that Edam could understand. 

“Hello,” she signed as she sat, “I brought a gift.”

She handed the book over. It was a small copy of the Scriptures. Edam took it in hand.

“They’ve already checked it for contraband or the possibility of sorcery.”

The mousy girl stared over to the slits, seeming distracted by the way light played through them in the later parts of the day.

“Thank you,” said Edam.

“It’s odd how beautiful it is,” signed Tarnye, “I thought they would have treated you worse.”

Edam nodded.

“Mercy is the way of the Church, even in execution,” she said, “And for that I am thankful.”

Tarnye turned to look at Edam again.

“I sent a secret complaint about your cousin,” signed Tarnye, “I hope it’s enough.”

Edam smiled weakly.

“You did the right thing.”

“I hope I did. To think such a respected man would…”

Tarnye shuddered, and went silent.

“I’m sorry,” said Edam suddenly.

Tarnye cocked her head.

“What for?”

“You never signed up for any of this,” said Edam, “You aren’t even a full priest yet. You just wanted to help find Ana, and now you’re tangled up in my things. It’s not fair to you.”
“It’s just one complaint,” she signed.

“It matters,” said Edam.

It had to matter. Tarnye nodded in agreement, before hesitating.

“Have you thought about your last rites?”

“Tarnye, you don’t-”

Tarnye looked at her very seriously.

“Would you rather it be someone you don’t know, the day of your death?”

Edam went quiet as she seriously considered the thought. If she had to go, she would go as dignified as she could. She would rather have it now, when the panic was less, when she had all of her senses about her. That would minimize the humiliation later on.

She hung her head low before leaving the bed and kneeling on the floor.

“Now,” she said, “Do it before I change my mind.”

Tarnye stood from the stone bench and drew up a bowl of water. She made a sign of blessing – two fingers raised high, five more splayed in her open hand, before proceeding to the next sign. She sat in front of Edam. Edam already knew the words for the rites of condemned to a proper execution – the kind that was more a matter of spirit than the ecclesiastic law of a field execution. She had seen a priest give them to a prisoner in one of the Antipodes. They weren’t far from the prayers given to the sick, or the ones given after death. She just never thought she would be on their receiving end. 

“O you who sits on death’s gate, who shall soon return to the house of the Godhead, you who have lived a sinful and imperfect life, shall soon be judged before the Saints and the Godhead. You have prostrated yourself in the power of the Godhead and kneel before the Lord of All-Earth, whose power is in all things, whose mysteries are infinite. I call you now to repent for the final time.”

“I repent all my sins,” said Edam, “But the ones I committed with Ana, she my sole companion, she my solace. I repent them earnestly and honestly. I hope the Saints have mercy on me for that trespass. I know it was a weakness of my heart to-”

Edam shuddered.

“To indulge such things. I only hope they understand. I repent, I repent, I repent, before the Prophet, before the Saints, before the Godhead. I submit to their judgment, to their infinite wisdom, to their bountiful strength.”

Edam rolled down the linen blanket that she was cloaked in so that Tarnye could see her sternum. Tarnye shuddered at the scars that had been left by the mallet not so long ago, but did not stop. She pulled a small bead of red clay from her pocket, and wetted it with the water in the bowl.

“All things spring from the house of the Godhead; all things spring from the earth and beneath the earth. All things must return to the earth at their appointed time and place. You, too, have been appointed a time and place to die by the Godhead and by the Church. Do you accept this wisdom?”

“Yes,” said Edam.

She wetted the clay with water from the bowl, and deliberately smeared the bead down the center of Edam’s chest in a straight line, covering the scars she made with the mallet.

“I anoint your heart with the blessing of the Godhead in clay. This is the first grave-dirt upon your body. You now sit as a dead woman, prepared to enter the house of the Godhead. I pray for you, lost sinner, and pray that the Saints have mercy upon your immortal soul, that the Godhead shows kindness upon you. Should they show you that kindness, you shall enter the gates of Paradise through the Sepulcher, and live there in perpetuity. Meet your death with dignity.”

Tarnye sighed as Edam covered herself more closely again.

“I shall do as you and the Scripture have said,” said Edam.

“Do you have any requests for your remains?” She finished.

Edam shook her head.

“No,” said Edam, “Treat me as you would any other. I have no care for where I will be buried.”

Tarnye nodded.

“I should be going now,” she signed, “See you-”

Tarnye stopped. She wouldn’t be seeing Edam again except at the execution, if she went. 

“I bless you, Edam,” she said, “Thank you for being kind to me.”
She rose and rapped three times on the passageway. Azure mana sparked heavily, and the heavy iron locks slowly clicked apart with percussive force. One, two, three, four; then a cavalcade of smaller locks that sounded like little bells. Tarnye left, and like that, Edam was alone again.


Her second visitor was Danza, a few days later. She was in half-dress; without a hat, her freckles were very apparent, and her dirty blonde hair shone in the late morning light that came through the slats. As always with inquisitors, Danza kept herself as detached and quietly judgmental as possible. Edam, on the other hand, felt no qualms for showing her disgust for her. She had interrupted Edam’s reading time; she had paced herself to seven chapters a day, and it was somewhere through the fifth of the day when Danza arrived. 

“What are you doing here?” asked Edam.

Danza didn’t answer at first, instead choosing to sit as Edam tried to pretend to focus on the words.

“Two more weeks,” she said softly, “Your cousin’s appeal to the state of your mind has failed.”

“Of course it has,” said Edam, “I revoked my right to that appeal. Why did he even bother?”

Danza didn’t answer.

“Two more weeks until your execution,” said Danza.

“You already said that,” said Edam.

Danza sighed.

“I know. I only wanted to say-”

“Say it.”

“I apologize.”

Edam closed the Scripture and looked up.


“I’m sorry,” said Danza, “I was a fool. A damned fool.”

“Yes,” said Edam. 

I have to admit, it is a little gratifying to hear her say it out loud, Edam thought.

“I thought- I thought I was doing what was right. I was going by everything we were taught, by the Scripture, by everything. I had drilled that into myself – that my superiors knew the rules better than I did, and that if I was to fight evil and iniquity earnestly I was to follow their orders and now those same orders have betrayed me.”

“They’ve betrayed you?” Asked Edam, “How so?”

“I mean – I’ve tried to live my life by the Scripture, but they’ve twisted it around me. I thought when my superior at the Dzhemor said that your cousin was not to be questioned, that he had a new method to discover witches infallibly and it was not to be questioned, I believed him. I believed that torturing- it was-”

She shook her head.

“And you’re telling me this?”


“Why are you telling me this, Danza?” Asked Edam, “Why are you repeating things that are so obvious? Did you not see how zealous he was with it?”

“I saw it,” she said mournfully, “It wasn’t my place to question it.”

“Do I look like a priest to you? Why are you confessing to me?”

“Because I have no one else to tell, Edam,” she said, slightly raising her voice, “You are the only other person here who understands this. You were complicit in it too.”

Edam was quiet. She thought of Verat – how scared she seemed. How little she had really done to protect her. She couldn’t fully deflect that accusation. She had already admitted as much in court. She might as well admit it to herself. She met Danza’s eyes. They looked up at her, and Edam felt a twinge of pity herself. She was looking for absolution – for some tiny bit of forgiveness in face of what she’d done. 

“Yes,” she sighed, “I was being foolish as well, thinking I could deal with him so simply.”

Danza was very quiet. 

“This won’t be the end of the matter. My hands are tied when it comes to you, but between me and the judge I’m sure I could…”

Edam looked up at her mournfully.

“I know. It doesn’t help you now. Too little, too late. And- and it was dirty of me to bring up your past affairs. I was against it. It seemed frivolous to me.”

They looked at each other for a while, uncertain of what to say next.

“For what it’s worth, I think you would have been a great school teacher.”


“Really. You were very well spoken in court. And I suppose I just see a knowledgeable air around you. You seem intelligent, well-versed in the Scripture and in hermeneutics, well-accustomed to sorcery. Saints, you could have even gone into more general sorcery. Worked as a mercenary or gone afield in that war down south with the Sondi.”

“It’s all gone now,” said Edam, “I’ve had my last rites done preemptively. Wanted it over with quickly.”

Danza nodded.

“It’s funny how life slips away like that. I’m only twenty-six and it feels like yesterday I was fresh-faced, learning sorcery, taking the oath. When I was really little, I thought I’d join the army, but with how idle they are nowadays I wanted action, wanted something that would get me moving outside of drills.”

“Did you get it?”

Danza cracked a slight smile.

“I’ve spent half my years just working in an Antipode. Supplying mana, keeping track of prisoners, making sure thaumaturges are kept in line. So no, I guess not.” 

“I mean, I spent half my time bored out of my mind at my postings too. Most of it is waiting, paperwork, more paperwork, helping out the local priest, responding to alarms that are rarely more than a wild crocuta. Maybe I made the right choice after all.”


“At least this way I won’t be wasting my youth.”

Danza laughed uncomfortably at Edam’s joke. 

“I suppose you won’t be.”

“Oh, come now,” said Edam, “I’m going to be dead in two weeks. The least you could do is laugh in earnest.”

She shook her head.

“I’m sorry. I think I feel too much guilt in the matter to laugh about it. Could we change the subject?”

Edam shrugged.

“Why not. What would you like to hear?”

“I wanted to discuss Ana. Your relationship with her means that you would know her better than anyone.” 

“Of course.”

“I’m curious. Where do you think she’s hiding?”

Edam shrugged again. 

“It’s as much a mystery to me as it would be to you. Blackwood is where I think she’d go, but she’s a skilled sorcerer and a witch. She could be making her money as a mercenary for the rich, or else she could have sold her most valuable effects and fled the country already.”

Danza nodded.

“I’m not asking to hunt her down. I want some better reconnaissance here so I can understand your cousin’s next moves. I may find myself heading back with Verat to the Dzhemor for some further assessment to her success in the field. If Ana fled, that’d make Darea the most likely choice, no?”

“Maybe,” said Edam, “They do have a very similar language to Kolet. But if she has any principles, that’d be a hard sell for her to make a living there. Plus, she’d be at risk of becoming a serf or a slave under their government, if the rumors are true.”

Danza nodded solemnly.
“I see. Tricky, tricky. With so few leads, he’d probably want to draw her out. Well, thank you again, Edam. And once more, my apologies.”

“Alas, I think it’s too late,” said Edam, “But I appreciate what you’ve said nonetheless.”

Edam watched her leave in silence before returning to her reading.


Her third visitor came nine days before her execution. Edam knew she was coming. He wouldn’t let her confession in court go unchallenged, and he certainly wouldn’t let her have the last word in public or in private. When I-Merach-Lluar Miaza walked in, the air seemed to sharpen itself like a field right before a lightning strike. He very nearly had a beard now, and his eyes seemed wild and stormy beneath the brim of his hat. He sat on the bench without so much as greeting Edam. Edam sat up at attention in her sack-cloth clothes, and stared him in the eye.

“Cousin,” she said.


He waited for a little while longer, holding his gaze on Edam.

“I’m waiting for an explanation.”

“I think I’ve already explained myself.”

“Not all of it.”

He waited for her again.

“What else do you want me to say?”

“An apology would be in order,” said Imera, “Penance, as appropriate.”

Edam’s gut dropped. She had been down this road before. She spoke the words again.

“I don’t know what I’ve done wrong.”

His tempestuous eyes flared.

“You lied about me.”

“I did no such thing,” said Edam coolly, “And you know it. I told the truth.”

“You implied my conduct was improper in front of a judge.”

“Was it?”

“Was what?”

“Was your conduct improper, I-Merach-Lluar? Or do I need to remind you what you’ve done?”

“At no point did I break any law or stricture; even the slightest deviation was approved by my superiors and their superiors above that. And you have no right to speak on my conduct. Look to yourself first, to your own roving eye before you accuse me.”

It was as she expected. He was still deflecting from what he had done. Edam feigned shock.

“My roving eye? What an accusation, cousin. Do you want the truth?”

“I’m still waiting for it.”

“You sicken me,” she said.

She felt her eyes twitch and her jaw clench at the word.

“You make me feel sick. You really do. I studied the Scripture as well as you, and every single word in it convinces me more that you are a mad dog, a thrashing idiot, a wild animal with no self-control and no dignity. There is almost no depth that you have not dug to in cruelty; no height in hypocrisy you have not flown to.”

“How dare you!”

He stood. Edam stood with him.

“You asked for the truth!” She said, matching his tone, “And I am not interested in lies anymore. You saw to that, you convinced me of it. How many times have you lied to strike me in your zeal? How many times to increase your own high piety? Like a babbling idiot-miser who thinks he makes more gold by splitting it in two. Hypocrite you are, hypocrite! 

“Hypocrite?” He spat “You make yourself one with the mere accusation. You accuse me of lying when you’ve done so much yourself, and defied your own oath.”

“None of it justifies how you’ve treated me.”

“It is justified and made righteous by Scripture. Surely you can see that?”

Edam shook her head.

“I am seeing more clearly now than I have since I was a child.”

He paced to the other side of the room, then back.

“And how many times I struck you? I stood to the same penalty for my actions, and I mostly kept my nose out of trouble. You, damn you-”

“Damn me? You have!”

Edam shuddered at the thought. As certain as she was of her moral rectitude in accusing her cousin, it still seemed that her ledger was unbalanced. She had done so little living, and so much of it in sin that damnation did not only seem likely but inevitable now with the arrival of her execution date. Tarnye’s rites had set the fear a little further down the road, but now it welled up inside her like a storm. And with the fear, her hatred and anger grew just as much. Imera, for his part, seemed almost puzzled by the accusation.

“You have. You were responsible for my moral education, were you not? You have as surely damned me as I have myself.”

“I will not take responsibility for-”

“For what? For teaching me to castigate my body and soul? For reprimanding me for the slightest failure? For treating me like a wanton boy might treat an ant, separating him from his compatriots, peeling off his life and his limb for study? You have done all those things, and they are a terrible sin.”

“You’re deflecting again.”

“They are!” Said Edam, “Like a butcher’s zealousness to pigs and a philosopher to the animals he stuffs, to the alchemist who poisons his assistant with the fumes, you have traded my virtues for your own and so you have damned me to the Torment.”

He cocked his head.

“So you’ve resigned yourself to that fate?”

“I might be wrong to go anywhere else,” said Edam, “After all, I might see you there again.”

He rankled at the thought. This, she knew, was one of his sore points. Whenever uncle was angry with him, he tended to bring up the Torment, and it always seemed that Imera was quite genuinely afraid of the thought of damnation itself.

“Damnation,” she repeated, “Damnation and Torment await you, Imera. You’ve much to repent for. Have you beaten yourself recently?”

There – there was what she was looking for. Not pity, not judgment, not acceptance, not even love filled Imera’s eyes for a moment. For a moment, he took the look of a twelve-year old boy being scolded for paying too close attention to a girl or skipping a church service. He was, for just a moment, afraid of her accusation, afraid of what might come of it, afraid of how he might be punished.

She pounced on it even as he approached her. 

“What, are you not so pious as to use the scourge anymore?”

“You question my piety?”

“I have questioned your piety since the day you came back into my life,” said Edam, “You are a failure, Imera. A failure and a coward.”

“I have rank-”

“You have a coat and a promise and a badge, and I am very impressed, yes,” she mocked, “But you have not changed a bit since we were younger. Not one bit.”

“I won’t hear this anymore,” said Imera, “This discussion isn’t going anywhere. You’re as stubborn, sinful and idiotic as always.”

Edam feigned a gentle smile.

“I am my mother’s child. I can’t help it.”

I helped it.”

“You clearly didn’t,” said Edam, “Or else you wouldn’t need to execute me.”

He pulled away tempestuously. He reached into his coat pocket and produced a small knife, and a pistol.

“You’re afraid,” Edam said.

“Enough. You will not show me this disrespect any further. Repent now, so that you may be saved from Torment. Purify yourself, or I will help you.”

He held out the knife, and Edam considered it. Even now, he seemed so certain that she would not take it from him and slit his throat. At this angle, with the right timing, she could take it from him before he could use his pistol and kill him. It would almost be easy. She didn’t have anything to lose in doing it. Her death was assured either way.  

For three seconds, she considered it; three seconds too long for Imera’s taste. He slammed the barrel of the pistol to her head and cocked it before tackling her to the bed. She’d grown strong over the years, but he was still physically bigger and stronger than her. His arms bore her down and the rest of his weight was enough to pin her. Edam whooped and cried out and found herself both laughing and crying in spite of herself. She cackled wildly as he raised the knife. He lowered his knife to her forearm.

“Yes! I can see it! I can see it in your eyes. You’re afraid! You’re a scared little boy in a man’s coat!”

Pain shot up her spine. The hot ichor spilled down onto the blanket. He had abandoned all protocol or pretense of holiness, and threw another wild slash on for good measure before rising again from Edam’s shaking form. Her eyes had blurred from the tears. Her lungs hurt from laughing. Through the pain and the tears she could see Imera, his hat having fallen to the floor. He was shaking with anger and fear. He threw her some linen bandages as she cleared the tears from her eyes. Still, unbidden, she kept laughing. She wasn’t even certain what was so funny about it to her.

“Clean yourself up,” he said.

“Go!” She cackled as he began to leave, “Live your long life. I’ll be waiting for you! I’ll be waiting!”

He slammed the door precipitously behind him. She kept giggling to herself as she bandaged her arm until the laughter became sobs again, and the sobs became a horrid, keening shriek that she could no longer fully control. She screamed wordlessly for what felt like minutes as she watched the blood stain the bandages. 

No one came. 

Silent and now totally alone, Edam pulled the blanket tight around her in the dark of the encroaching night. She shivered again against the cold of the stone. 

She was certain now that there would be no more visitors. 

One thought on “And The Dogs Came Running 5.7

  1. Surely if theyre so heavily strict about no weapons entering Edams room they’ll question the cuts and bandages. surely that will cast damage onto Imera. surely Im not a fool


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