When the wall fell, Bohren saw his chance. He cut through the wave of screaming people heading toward him. A shivering ambassador blocked his way, clutching his feathered hat between his trembling hands. Bohren shoved him aside. He leapt over a bench, ears searching for a litany of foreign profanities. As long as he could hear them, he still had time.
By the time he reached the grandstand, only one person remained on stage: the howling victim of the funeral pyre. Bohren dove into the blaze. The flames licked burns into his exposed hands as he threw the logs aside. He stumbled through the tinder until he could reach the coffin that crowned the smoking heap. Its captive banged against its walls.
He pressed his forehead to the lid and yelled, “I’m going to get you out.”
The kicking paused and resumed again with greater fervor. Rivek was cursing as him now.
Bohren responded to the display of affection by pounding the top of the wooden box. The wood was not dry enough to break. His fingers and boots were too wide to jam under to pry open the lid. The flames jumped to his wool jacket, and the fibers began to smoke.
He grabbed an unlit branch and began to bash the coffin lid. The heat penetrated his boots, making his legs sweat. White ash formed at its corners as the sparks worked their way into the wood. The box crackled between every hit. Bohren raised his arm to deliver another blow, but the snapping died just enough for him to realize the thrashing had fallen silent.
He screamed and took off his jacket to beat back the rising flames. He wrapped its sleeves over his hands and grabbed the edges of the box. The orange corners stung his fingers. He braced himself and tugged the box backwards, sending them both tumbling down the burning mountain. He landed on his ribs against the concrete.
Bohren spit the dirt out of his mouth and scrambled to his knees. He crawled to the coffin and righted it face up. With a massive breath, he braced his muscles and brought his entire leg down across the smoldering lid. It shattered along the grain, sending a puff of soot and splinters into the air.
He reached in carefully and slid his aching arm under Rivek’s head. With the other, he pulled the sack off his face. Bohren pressed his ear against his friend’s chest and breathed a sigh of relief. Rivek was still breathing.
.” Through the Fire
. - 089/100 Themes.
Medieval Europe had some pretty painful execution methods. In Mondigan, people aren’t burned at the stake. Instead, they are sealed in coffins, which are then burned, often publicly. The victim should pass out and die from smoke inhalation before the fire reaches them. Theoretically, it’s more humane.
It’s a method often selected for religious heretics: because Alisian people (like Rivek) ritually burn their dead, they consider this type of execution of a mockery of their their customs.More Art/Writing Featuring These Characters:
Bohren Tabirian and Rivek Ailinar belong to Grace Fong,