Khisara’s Last Walk
Never before had Khisara witnessed such splendour. Even in her distressed state the Great Hall made her marvel in utter awe. One hundred and twenty cubits the numberless columns reached into the air, and upon entering the hall, one’s eye could not fathom its far end. The palace guards marched her along, keeping the chain to her high gold collar free of slack, but felt no need or inclination to drag at it. Whither could she flee? How could she form the mere concept of defiance in such overwhelming manifestation of unquestioned power?
For minutes now they were passing larger-than live statues of god-kings from ages past, each one an obsidian masterpiece and the pinnacle of its creator’s art. Courtiers, minions and all folks seeking favours had gathered in groups near the house-high bases, yet remained lost in the vast dimensions. They looked up at the guards’ echoing boot steps and the sound of Khisara bare feet on the marble. They looked at her tanned and toned body, clothed only in a tunic of sheer silk. At the proud slave girl whose skin was the lighter colour of those who dwell at the sea in the north. But where their hair still was dark, this one sported golden tresses – a feature that easily doubled her worth.
Khisara did not know by name what was awaiting her. Yet rumours were whispered all around that those summoned by the King’s Slavemasters during the weeks of audiences were bound to meet a dark fate. Of finest slave breed, pleasant intelligence and ravenous beauty, she had thought herself save from the worst cruelties. Over the years she had felt the kiss of the whip of course, the terrible bastinado, too, and also the more refined ways of disciplining a slave girl just for the sake of disciplining. But to be brought to the palace meant that her qualities might no longer protect her; that they might very well be her undoing after all.
At the hall’s far end two flights of stairs ascended towards the monumental gates of the throne room. The first one stretched across the hall’s width without interruption. The second flight, however, was split by a massive terrace in its middle. The terrace corpus was clad with bass reliefs of enormous sizes, depicting scenes of victory and annihilation. Khisara ascended the many steps to its left, and when made to turn at the top to face the platform she found with bitter certainty that she had reached her journey’s destination.
At the end of the long terrace a Royal Slavemaster and his apprentice were waiting with sombre expressions, two worked timber beams on the ground before them. A surge of horror washed over Khisara, immediately triggering petty thoughts of disbelieve and denial. That it could not be. Not her. That this was only meant to happen to lesser slave girls and those who had deeply displeased their masters. A firm yank at her collar demanded the absolute obedience she had been born into. With weakening knees Khisara followed to the terrace’s end where she was wordlessly ordered to stop. The Slavemaster scrutinised her trembling body for some time and gave a nod, upon which she was swiftly disrobed. The leash chain was disconnected from her collar, but a finer chain had been revealed to lead down from it between her ample breasts, splitting up and running in daunting upward curves to lavish rings in her nipples. Another ornament was set in her navel, and the chain from it disappeared between the folds of her womanhood. Like her collar, the chains and rings were made of gold.
The Slavemaster’s hands, applying more guide than force, pushed Khisara to the stone floor. Oddly she came to lie with her buttocks resting on the shorter beam, which ends extended from under her to both sides. The beautifully crafted moonwood dug into the slave girl’s hot skin, raising her hips high. With both speed and strength the Slavemaster’s apprentice seized Khisara’s right forearm and pressed her hand palm-down against the timber, thus extending the arm in an angle of thirty degrees to her body. Ere Khisara could form a gasp at this sudden action, her chest cramped up in terror as she saw the Slavemaster himself kneel next to her, hammer and nail in hands. Showing the calmness of decade-long practice, he placed the nail’s point on the top of her wrist and raised the mallet. Khisara tried to pull her arm free in blind panic, yet remained helpless against the apprentice. The hammer thundered down, sending the spike with might into the fine array of bones and nerves. Under ear-shattering shrieks Khisara writhed on the ground, tried to roll to the right, to the left then, but was soon pinned down by one of the guards. The second blow drove the nail’s tip almost completely trough, the iron shaft now separating the delicate anatomy of her wrist for good. The pain, overwhelming and total, burnt through every fibre of the howling woman. A third and fourth and fifth stroke seated the spike deep in the crossbeam.
Moving over to the other side, the apprentice took hold of Khisara’s left arm as his master produced a new nail. Between erratic breaths the slave girl was pleading unintelligibly for mercy, her face wet with tears. As the Slavemaster positioned the second spike, she once again fell into a fit of frantic struggles. But no matter how sweet her cries, how desperate her begging, how wild her kicks – in went the spike, grinding bone and grazing tendons. Again two blows of the hammer were sufficient to pierce her limb, and three more embedded the nail unmoveably within the moonwood.
The two men stepped back as though to behold their handiwork. The slave looked awfully pale from shock, and they granted the questionable mercy of allowing her to regain her strength to some degree. Khisara tried her best to lie still, arms extended downwards and slightly to the sides. Yet she was emitting a steady stream of sobs and suppressed screams as her toned body was raked with unspeakable pain.
After a reasonable lapse of time Khisara was made to rise by two of the guards taking hold of the crossbeam. Too sickening was the pain of the nails moving in the vicious wounds for her to not comply. The messages sent from the damaged nerves made her believe her whole forearms from fingertips to elbows to be engulfed by flames. Fresh screams echoed through the Great Hall as she was dragged over to the longer beam and forced to kneel on it lengthwise. Having made sure she was pointing her toes and thus resting her insteps on the wooden surface, the apprentice held fast of her ankles. With the guards still steadying the crossbar, Khisara could only hear the Slavemaster approach from behind. She whimpered in anguish even before feeling the spike pressing into the sole of her left foot. When she did, her premature scream almost drowned out the thud of the hammer. Once anew flesh yielded to metal, was a body bound in the cruellest of ways. As her foot was nailed to the beam with the same numbers of blows as her wrists had been, Khisara fell into savage convulsions, giving the men of the watch a hard time keeping her controlled. Upon his master’s last blow the apprentice lost his grip on her right ankle. She flailed her free leg about in near-madness, delaying the process of her nailing unduly. Cursing under his breath, yet already skilled in the arts of spiking a slave girl properly, the young man slammed his fist down on the crossbeam. The force of the impact travelled through the wood and into the nails, which in turn tore at the severely wounded wrists. White-hot pain vibrated up Khisara’s arms, paralysing her for long, horrible moments.
Quickly the apprentice repositioned her foot, and the Slavemaster performed his gruesome task for the fourth and last time. Khisara threw her head back and roared, but was weakened quickly by the torrent of hurt. She clenched her teeth at the sharp sensation of the tip digging deeper and deeper. At the unbelievable pressure as the four-sided shaft wedged itself between bones and sinews. Five final strokes of the hammer sealed her fate, if it hadn’t been sealed already.
Khisara was beyond pain. She had entered the blinding realm of true agony, where her very body had turned into a vessel for pain. And still she was not anywhere near the end of her suffering. Under the Slavemaster’s instructions the guards brought the crossbeam towards the far end of the soon-to-be upright, taking Khisara’s arms with them. The slave girl cried out in a strange guttural manner as she had to lean all the way back whilst her shoulder joints were forced to rotate backwards. With a heavy sound the crossbeam finally slipped into a groove in the upright far beyond her head and locked itself due to its design. Even without the spikes this would have been a position of torture. With her legs bent completely, buttocks resting on the nail heads protruding from her soles, Khisara had to keep her torso arched upwards. Failing to do so meant putting even more strain on her distorted shoulders. Already she felt her abdominal muscles cramping up.
Meanwhile the Slavemaster assured himself that the cruel nailing would hold her body fast even under the most violent spasms. In a low voice he pointed out details and peculiarities to his adjutant. Only after verifying that Khisara was fully secured to the cross he beckoned the guards to raise her.
As the upright’s top end gained height, Khisara began to slide down the polished wooden surface. The pain was beyond description as the weight of her body gradually came to rest on the nail wounds. Screams more insane then ever filled the air, until the increasingly torturous position and the outrageous suffering robbed her breath at last. The upright, finally true to its name, locked into place in a hole near the terrace’s edge. Now Khisara was fully hanging in the brutal spikes, her arms stretched taut all the wrong way high above her head. Paralysing pain lingered in her shoulders as her torso’s weight dragged at twisted muscles and wrung ligaments. Rivulets of blood were collecting in her smooth armpits, more were running down her shins and calves to send crimson drops off her knees. What parts of her senses had been left by the agony of being nailed and contorted were threatened to be taken by vertigo, as her place of woe above the terrace’s end put her high into the vast emptiness that was the Great Hall. She was craving for a draught of air, but already her ribcage was beginning to sink. Her chest muscles worked against gravity, and would try to do so for many more hours. But to fill her lungs, Khisara had to lift herself up on the spikes. And with each pull, with every breath, she had to torture herself. Had to condemn herself to another minute of agony.
Groaning in endless torment, she submitted to the gruesome predicament and raised herself. The pressure on her diaphragm lessened, but for that she paid dearly as her limbs fatigued. With a whine of desperation she slumped back down and let herself hang from the nails. Khisara would remain so until the grip of asphyxiation would become too horrid, and the grim cycle started again. Each lifting up was inevitably followed by her slumping back, and each drop brought her shoulders closer to dislocation.
For days on end she would ride the cross beautifully whilst ambassadors from lands far away, diplomats of wealthy merchant guilds and generals in foreign armour would arrive to receive audience. They all had to pass her on their long way to the King, hear and see her agony as they negotiated the length of the Great Hall. Many of them might have witnessed the horrors of crucifixion already, but never before in such outlandish manner. And never before at the gates to a throne. This, now, was the truth behind Khisara’s fate. The display of absolute cruelty as a symbol of absolute power.