97.

The wind blows crisp and clean up here. His pursuers are far behind. He feels the first stirrings of hope.

He sits down on a rock to catch his breath. He clutches his chest where the ribs are broken. He cradles the arm that is the same. There is a lot of blood. The rushing in his ears is getting more intense. The ice up here is dazzling. He left his mask back in the village.

A hawk beyond the dazzle and the rush lets out a single cry. He tumbles forward into the snow, his fingers scrabbling at ice and pebbles for a little while, before becoming still.

96.

Bec’Tol the Wizard’s eyes widened.

He did not scream at first, as the blue fire burned through his robes and found his flesh.

When the screaming did start, it went on and on and on. But it did not go on forever.

95.

The umbilical cord was smooth: white flesh, never exposed to light or to air until just now.

The babe was purple, blotched: the white cord wound tight around the neck. Unwound now, far, far too late.

94.

King Harbrecht’s third taster did not die of poison. He died when an unexpected pit lodged in his throat.

Unfortunately, no-one realized this was what was happening — everyone simply assumed he was dying of poison. The fruit dish was whisked away. Harrie the taster was buried. And two innocent persons were eventually executed.

93.

The great slavering jaws close about his throat, and his last cry of “Wolf!” is choked into a wet strangling sob, followed by the crunch of his esophagus being crushed and the snap of vertebrae breaking.

92.

Benny Masterson was staring lazily out the plane window at the brightly lit cloudscape beyond when Bob The Pure and Just zoomed into view, pursued by the Cucumber Villain.

Masterson’s face lit up. He had a large collection of comics, posters, and other Bob the Pure and Just memoriabilia, and he had never seen his hero so close.

One of the Cucumber Villain’s dark green, stripey missiles missed Bob the Pure and Just and hit the plane dead center. Masterson was flung back hard against his seat as his half of the plane spun out of control. He had a moment to experience the shocking cold of the atmosphere this high up, before hypoxia and death followed quickly on each other’s heels.

91.

One thousand years it had stood, soaking in the sun, drinking the rain, on its perch on the tumbled rocky slopes.

It did not take one thousand cuts to fell it.