"There are far worse things awaiting you than death." Those words repeated over and over again in Edward's head. They had become the mantra that echoed in every cavern of his mind... and screamed whenever he would attempt to move his body.
The former Grand Vizier, once the second most powerful individual in the kingdom, had been made an example of. Falling back on his ancient form of punishment, Vlad had had the traitor impaled, a titanium spike driven up through his rectum until it protruded from his open mouth. Human victims of impalement typically suffered for up to three days as the metal rod which pierced them also formed a makeshift clog to slow the loss of blood. Three days of absolute agony, as the victim remained suspended half way between life and death and any attempt at movement caused the metal rod to scrape fresh against guts, organs and flesh, sending shooting pains through the still active nerve endings. Three days of thirst, of hunger, of misery, and of shame. Vlad considered it a most fitting punishment for traitors.
It had been more than a month since the day of blood, and the former Grand Vizier still hung on the tallest pole in the kingdom, a warning to any others who might even contemplate subversion. He'd long since gone mad, not just from the physical torture - although that alone probably would've been enough by now - but from the mental and emotional anguish as well.
He was on display, made a mockery for any who might pass by, his sin revealed to the whole would and all his glory stripped away. And possibly worse, the King had had him posed so that the traitor's head stared through one of the windows to the throne room, and through that portal Edward was forced to watch the world of splendor, power and wealth continue on, a constant reminder of what he'd had and lost.
He could not turn away, or even close his eyes. His could not close his eyes because his lids had been ripped from him, and the remaining flap of flesh was seared to prevent any possibility of regeneration. And he was unable to turn away do to the way he'd be posed - his jaw broken open and the top of his head bent so far backwards that it snapped his neck. The metal spike at the tip of the poll protruded from the traitors open mouth, just as his venomous lies had done, and his head was bent backwards to view the world from an eternal wrapped perspective, as he was given no choice but to watch palace life pass him by.
And that psychological aspect of the punishment wounded the prideful creature nearly as much as the physical suffering. Indeed, today it wounded him even more. For this was the day that he watched his position fall to his most hated enemy.
It was warm in the throne room. The royal banners were hung with pride, and the nobility of the kingdom was assembled, though they had not been told why they'd been called forth. More than a few seemed surprised by the fact that a second throne now rested to the right of the King's and that they stood not only before him, but the Queen as well. It was something previously unheard of in Vlad's kingdom. For, in the past, the King had always ruled, and the Queen merely governed in his absence. But the presence of that second throne sent a very clear, if unspoken, message. The rules had changed and now the Queen and King would rule the kingdom together, not as master and servant, but as partners.
Yet, this surprise was small when compared to what followed. For once everyone was assembled the King stood and told them all why he'd called for them. "Dukes, earls, barons; lords and ladies; the nobility of the kingdom; my friends: I have called you here today to deliver a lesson. No matter who you are, no matter your station or breeding, the same rules apply to all. The guilty, and the treacherous will be punished!" So saying, the King moved his hand to indicated the pitiful creature hanging outside the window; and then he paused for a moment, both to let that part of the lesson sink in fully, and to add emphasis to the next.
"And the loyal and capable shall be rewarded," Vlad then continued, motioning to the throne room doors, which slowly, and with great ceremony, were pulled open. A single human stepped forth. "You may remember this women from her march through the city, or from her many years of loyal service as a gatekeeper. You might even remember her from her youth, spent as a kitchen server. Perhaps she even brought you a tray or a meal at some point. She was born a commoner and has remained a human all through her life. Yet she repeatedly proved her loyalty, capability, and sound judgment. Trice she has been instrumental in foiling plots against our kingdom. And this is the day that she is to be rewarded for all her loyal service. Ms. Integra Hellsing, daughter of Arthur Hellsing, son of Abraham Helsing - the very man who took up arms to oppose my rise to power - step forth."
Integra obeyed and approached the raised platform on which the double thrones rested, and the King took a step forward, placing himself on the very cusp of the platform. He extended his scepter and touched it to her as he continued. "You are Ms. Integra Hellsing no longer, but Sir Integral Hellsing. And all within the kingdom, save myself and my queen, are to address you as such. For your position is no longer that of gatekeeper, but rather that of knight, defender of the realm, and - should you choose to accept it - my new most trusted advisor."
Sir Hellsing immediately snapped to attention and saluted. "It would be an honor, My King."
Seras had to suppress a small chuckle. She knew that her mother wouldn't bow, as was customary, and she'd explained it to the King when he'd first told her that he was considering Integra to fill the vacant position of Grand Vizier. Seras knew that he was willing to accept the salute as an alternate sign of respect, even still she found the whole situation a little amusing, especially the odd looks the display was generating among the nobility gathered.
"Then so it shall be," Seras broke in, taking up the part that Vlad had given her in this ceremony. "All the lands, wealth, and other holdings of the previous Grand Vizier are yours," she recited as she placed an elegant, purple cloak around her mother. "May you live long, prosper, and serve your king, queen, and kingdom well... all the days of your life."
Well, I hope you enjoyed the epilogue. Thanks for reading. ;)
Have a good day, and God bless.
To Larisa: I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the final chapter and thought it was a wonderful twist to have Casey and the V-Bros show up like that at the end. :D Thanks for the review. :) And I hope you enjoyed the epilogue as well. ;)