Jacques watched as the Flagellants tied the Crescent man to the pole. “The Crescent” was a slash of territory in the north of Joyeuse where several streets and a minor tributary of Murkenmere met. The district was notorious as a hangout of thieves, murderers, and criminals of all sorts, as well as for having a rivalry with the equally decrepit Sophiel’s Corner region.
Which had lead to this particular Crescent man knifing a Corner’s man in the back over food.
Jacques’ stomach growled. Meals had become irregular since Gautier de Fleur Rouge had taken over. Gautier was a smarter man that Gerard, Jacques had to admit, but that turned out to be a rather… bad thing. As opposed to Gerard, Gautier had an eye for details--he figured out which men were slacking, by his rather broad standard, and then…
Jacques shuddered slightly, as he watched the Flagellant bring the whip down on the Crescent man’s back.
Gautier de Fleur Rouge nodded to himself in satisfaction as he watched the sentence carried out, then turned to the men assembled before him on the field. “I hope you are all learning something from this!” he declared. “Be fair with me--do as you should--and we will get along just fine. Fail, and you will be punished. And fail so far that you shed the blood of your brother in arms, and I will make sure you die in greater agony than you have ever…” He paused, a puzzled expression on his face, and turned to the Flagellants. “Why have you stopped beating this man?”
The Flagellants looked at each other. At last the taller one spoke. “It is against the precepts of the Lay Order of the Penitents to give more than twenty-five lashes to a man.”
The armiger frowned at the masked men. “He is a murderer,” said Gautier quietly.
“Then hang him,” replied the Flagellant. “But we will do as the precepts we swore to uphold tell us do, and we will do nothing else.” He gave a respectful nod of his head. “Sir.”
Gautier took a deep breath, and looked at the second Flagellant. “And what of you?”
“Brother Cord speaks for me,” answered the man bluntly. “And I think, sir, you will find he speaks for the entire order on this matter, as well.”
Gautier looked at the man, his frown deepening his eyes narrowing into a hateful glare. “Give me your lash,” he said at last, looking Brother Cord in the eye.
Brother Cord regarded him, apparently unmoved. “Is that an order, sir?”
“It is,” said Gautier, with a nod.
Cord stared at him, and then handed him the lash. “Very well, sir. As you have ordered it.”
Gautier took it with a lordly smile and turned to the Crescent man, who began to squirm in terror.
It seemed to Jacques that even the Flagellants were wincing as the armiger brought the whip down on the man’s back. But then, he couldn’t be sure of his impressions, because as the ordeal went on, and on, and on, he began to almost feel the blows himself. He considered turning away, but he knew… knew that someone would mark him and that a word would make its way to Gautier and…
Gautier tossed the lash away, as the Crescent man slumped over on the post. “Now, you hang him,” he declared grandly to the Flagellants. He turned back to his men. “Now then, men--consider the lesson taught.” He smiled. “Get back to work. Those scorpions will not build themselves.”
Jacques turned and joined the shuffling crowd walking away. “You keeping low?” came a voice at his side. “Keeping out of sight?”
Jacques turned to see the old-timer at his side. “I’m trying to,” he told the old man.
The old-timer nodded. “Good. Good. You do that--and you should come out of this fine.” He smiled and gave a grim laugh. “Better than an old man like me.”
“So--how long do you think before the witch burns the scorpions?” Jacques asked.
The old-timer considered matters. “Well, she likes to give the armigers a few days to think they’re beating her, so… maybe a week?”
“That’d be longer than the catapults lasted,” muttered Jacques.
“Well, I like to leave a long range when I guess,” replied the old-timer.