© Copyright 2012 - Jo - Used by permission
Storycodes: Solo-F; M+/f; majick; mages; captured; bond; gag; cell; court; sentence; public; encase; buried; sand; cons/nc; X
The child was sitting, alone, digging in the sand with a spoon. She was young, maybe three years old. Asilla glanced around. There were other people in the park, but none nearby. She walked over to the girl.
The girl looked up at her with big, brown eyes. Asilla squatted.
"My name is Silla. What's yours?"
The child didn't respond, only stared.
Asilla took another look around, held up her hand before the child's face, and made the sign. The girl began to cry.
The blow came from behind, lifted Asilla off the ground, sent her crashing into a tree. Through dazed eyes she watched the man approach. The child raised her arms and the man hefted her onto his hip. Asilla's world went dark.
Asilla woke to find herself in a cell, naked. The walls were stone, damp and musty. The cell door, a heavy, metal-barred thing, held the neutralizing symbol. Asilla's hands were balled up in tight, leather pouches. And there were locks. Her mouth was jammed full of something that tasted like leather. She could feel straps circling her head. She pushed herself up to sit.
There was the sound of a key in a lock, the clack as it sprung free. The guard opened the door. The mage stepped in. She walked over to Asilla, raised her hands, closed her eyes.
Something, some energy coursed through Asilla's body. It felt very much like a doctor's visit, but it was stronger, sharper, almost painful.
"Level three and not a strong one at that."
Yes, she was a three. It was the reason she was denied access to the guild. The reason she began borrowing time. The mages lived half again as long as the common folk. Not so long as to invite jealousy from the people, but, still, a long time. Asilla wanted to live a long time, but she had been denied the ways of magic.
The mage opened her eyes. She undid and pulled the gag from Asilla's mouth.
"Where did you learn the sign?"
"I, uh, it was ... was a mage. I had money. She agreed to teach me."
Asilla tried to lie, but she couldn't. The truth came spilling out - all of it.
She came from a wealthy family and wealth buys things, many things, but not entrance to the guild. She had found a mage, an outcast, willing to teach - for a price. Yes, it was against the law and if they had been caught they would have been brought to the guild house, never to be seen again.
The mage replaced the gag. She turned to the guard.
"While she is only a level three, she has acquired certain knowledge. Knowledge that makes her dangerous, very dangerous."
The guard nodded, held the door for the mage, then closed and locked it.
The days passed, turned into weeks. The gag had a plug in it and twice a day a guard would remove the plug, insert a funnel, and pour thin gruel into her mouth, then secure the plug. She was unable to clean herself, but the bowl had a water jet that rinsed away most of the filth.
The guards passed by her cell regularly. Some paused to look at her. She was considered pretty, even beautiful. And even at nineteen she had learned the ways of men. That and the signs. She prayed that one of the guards would come to her, remove her gag so he could kiss her. Even without the use of her hands, without the signs, there were spells.
But it never happened.
Asilla stood before the judge, clean and clothed, a mage on either side. She still wore the leather on her hands, but they had removed the gag.
"You have been found guilty of stealing time."
"I did not steal it, I borrowed it, and it was only a little. A few years here, a few-"
The judge made a sign and Asilla was rendered mute. Her jaw moved, but no sound came out.
"As far as the court is concerned it was stolen. Yes, technically, the time would have been returned once you had used it, but when would that be? And what if something were to happen to the victim? Or should I say victims? Until the time is returned it is considered a theft."
"This crime is most heinous because you stole from a child, indeed from several children, children who had not yet learned how to protect themselves."
"And as for it being only a little, what if that child was to become ill, had, in fact, very little time to live, but having that little bit of time you stole she might have gotten well."
The judge folded his hands, leaned forward.
"I could have you executed. You have stolen life from others. It would be appropriate. You would lose your life and the time you stole would be returned. But because of the horrendous nature of your crime, a crime against helpless children, I sentence you to the glass."
There was a murmur in the court room.
"You will die, but you will not. You will merely use up your allotted time quickly. Then you will live out your remaining years on the time you stole. And as each slice of time passes it will be returned to its rightful owner. Hopefully they will still be alive to benefit. Once time has run its course, once all the time has been returned, you will be allowed to leave this world."
He slapped his hand on the desk.
"It is so ordered."
The next morning Asilla was led, naked from her cell. She wore the gag and hand bindings. Executions are carried out in private, but this was a public affair. Time theft touched everybody.
The glass stood off to the side of the square. They led her up a few stairs to a platform, guided her to the center of a large, wooden disc, strapped her feet to a metal ring.
The disc was raised, then inverted. For a long minute Asilla hung by her ankles as the disc was fastened into place. Then the entire glass was inverted. Asilla fell. Sand rained down on her. Asilla struggled to her feet. Sand poured over her head, bounced off, built up around her ankles, her knees. It came to her waist, her chest. Soon she was covered with only her flailing arms visible. And then they, too, disappeared.
The small crowd stood, silent, until the last grain of sand fell. The sand filled the lower part of the glass. It glowed in the morning light. By ones and twos the crowd drifted away.
Somewhere a child smiled, felt a little tingle as she was returned a small slice of borrowed time.