They took him to the courtyard at dawn, a gallows permanently erected, a fresh rope waiting. Jakun stared up at the eye, the cat's tail limp in resignation.
A crowd was gathered around the gallows, elf, dwarf, and man all eagerly awaiting his death. He didn't know what he had done to anger them all. He had only tried to stop a robbery like he'd been told they were supposed to.
"Anya… please help me…" he whispered.
Hands bound behind his back, the cat couldn't do anything to help himself. The world was going in slow motion around the amurrun, his breathing shallow, measured.
'It's going to hurt,' Anya said flatly. 'There's no sugaring it. You are going to die. We failed, Jakun. I'm sorry.'
Tears leaked from his eyes, Jakun shaking. His knees collapsed, a pair of guards grabbing him and dragging him up the wooden steps. Every footstep echoed in his ears, the cat hypersensitive to every action.
"Wait! You can't do this!"
Nearby, Amnor Sen was fighting through the crowd, the elf trying to reach the cat. "Jakun… you have to escape…"
'Some paladin…' Anya chuckled ruefully. 'There's magic here but it's warped. Anything we do could make things worse.'
Jakun was suddenly lifted onto a wooden block, a man wrapping the noose over his neck. His eyes closed, his fists clenching as he dug deep.
Methusda stood near the front of the crowd, the gnome glaring at the guards.
"He was protecting our shops, not stealing from them!"
"Cat. You stand accused of murder, a murder witnessed by no fewer than three men of the guard. Your life is forfeit. You are sentenced to hang by the neck until dead," a guard said, reading from a scroll. "If you have any final words, speak them now."
"The dwarf tried to kill me. He attacked first…" Jakun croaked, his throat drier than the desert.
"So be it."
A dwarf approached the block, preparing to kick it out from under Jakun. The executioner froze suddenly, a look of horror on his face. Jakun could see nothing around the dwarf, no cause for his terror.
Turning, the dwarf began whispering to the guard in change, his arms surprisingly animated. And Jakun waited, his gut churning as he drew closer to death, the heavy rope around his neck slowly being tightened further.
"Hold the proceedings. We cannot go further with the execution today. Cat, barring exoneration, your execution is postponed until tomorrow at dawn."
The noose was loosened, Jakun collapsing into a pair of strong arms. He was dragged back into the jail, and immediately thrown into an interrogation chamber. His eyes picked out the sheen of various tools on the walls, thumbscrews, knives, a wheel suspended over a bed of coals.
The amurran flinched as a door slammed shut, the dwarf executioner stepping around him. He was shoved into a chair, Jakun nearly tumbling backward.
"It was my brother. You murdered my brother in cold blood!" he snarled.
Jakun was silent, already knowing what was coming. This dwarf… he didn't want answers, he wanted payment. The amurrun was going to die. This way would just be much slower.
His wrists were grabbed, his hands bound to the chair. A knife slid out of a sheath, the sound sending a chill through Jakun.
"Talk cat. Why did you do it?"
"He attacked me. I was stopping a robbery."
Jakun's throat crackled, his voice quaking. The knife passed over his eyes, and the amurrun squeezed them shut.
"No… you are going to look at me, watch me cut you up…"
Rough fingers grabbed his face, thumb shoving into his eye as they pried his eyelid up. Jakun bit back a pained cry as a piece of wood was shoved in, holding the lid up. A tear ripped through the room, a breeze running over his suddenly bare torso.
"You are a lifelong criminal, aren't you?" the dwarf scowled, staring at the numerous scars running down Jakun's back. "Well we will make sure no one makes the mistake of working with you again. You brainwashed the paladin, who knows who else has fallen under your cat influence…"
Jakun let out a fearful grunt as a fire was started, the dwarf picking up a brand with a Taldane letter on it.
Jakun flinched, not realizing the door had opened. A man entered the room, scowling deeply at Jakun.
"Three people have come forward professing his innocence. He is a murderer, yes, but all adventurers are murderers. It is best to let him go."
"I will not release him until he suffers for Vyl's death!"
"Duel… duel me…" Jakun croaked out suddenly, trying to seize a way out.
"I accept," Durand snarled.
"I formally resign from the guard. I will duel this piece of dung in the morning. With pistols, to the death."
Jakun gulped, not sure exactly what weapon that was. But Amnor Sen or Jeremy would know… they had to know.
"You are to be released, pursuant to the duel on the morrow. Who do you name as your second?" the human asked with a steely gaze.
"Amnor Sen, paladin of Shelyn," Jakun said shakily as the wood was removed from his eyes.
He blinked painfully as his hands were freed, his body tensing as soon as it could, flinching away from any and all touches.
"Durand, who do you name as your second?"
Jakun had no idea who that was, but from the sneer on Durand's face, he assumed it was someone who was going to kill him if Durand lost. Which seemed unlikely, with the dwarf already having the advantage of knowing the weapon they were to use.
"We will release you into the custody of the paladin. The duel will be held at the Bridge of the Gods at dawn tomorrow. Once one is vanquished, the blood between the two of you and your families will be held as settled, and honour sated," the human guard said.
"I should have hung you when I had the chance," the dwarf snarled.
"Why didn't you?"
"The gods told me to wait."
Jakun shuddered, knowing that had to have Pharasma's hand in it. He was escorted from the room, Amnor Sen moving swiftly to grab him as soon as he was in sight.
"Come on Kitten. Let's get you out of here…" the elf breathed.
"You aren't going to like me Amnor Sen…" Jakun said quietly, the paladin guiding him out of the jail.