Challenge #02153-E324: Legendary Salvation
"The group was brought back to Hamburg to stand trial, where they were sentenced to death by beheading. Resigned to his death, Stortebeker struck up a bizarre deal with the mayor. His pirates would be lined up in a row when he was decapitated. The mayor promised to free as many men as Stortebeker’s headless body could walk past.
This must have seemed like a raw deal for the pirates, who had doubtlessly witnessed the effects of multiple beheadings in their adventures. However, the story goes that after the executioner chopped off his head, Stortebeker’s body stood up and began walking, making it past 11 men before the enraged executioner tripped it." -- Anon Guest
The story is whispered throughout the Edge Territories, though when Erik's old crew tell it, they tell it loudly and with laughter. Enlarged and embellished by retellings, it has only enhanced Humanity's reputation as Space Orcs.
Captain Erik had been a Space Pirate. Like many living in the Edge, he and his crew chose to make a living off of others who were living there. Few trader vessels were safe and he insisted that killing a ships' crew was a very bad move. After all, dead traders don't ever come back. They were caught, of course, as many before him were caught. Sentenced by the outpost's governor to execution by beheading.
The Edge Territories prefer the simple ways, sometimes.
Captain Erik stepped forward. "My crew is under my command. Their actions are my responsibility. It's only fitting that I am executed first." He ignored the protests of his crew. "My only proviso is this. I am executed standing up, and however many of my men that my body walks past, that is how many men are freed."
He had an even dozen crewmen at the time. Though none of them wanted to see their Captain die, none of them wanted to meet the Grim Reaper, themselves. The deal was struck in honour, and kept in honour.
None of the local Q'ignart were tall enough to behead a Human, so a rig had to be constructed to slice his head off. Captain Erik crossed himself and said his last words, "God have mercy on this sinner." Then he walked towards his death with the same fearlessness he had shown in battle.
His body kept walking. Past his First Mate and lover. Past the cook. Past the gunner. Blood spurting from the stump and showering his men with a gruesome baptism. He had followed one of the many Human deities who had died and risen again, and had symbolically imbibed blood in ritual remembrance of the legendary miracle. All those men became converts that day.
Guards had to hold the executioner at bay as the body walked past the seventh man, then the eighth. They say the executioner started screaming obscenities as Captain Erik's headless body passed the tenth man.
The number of steps the body walked past the twelfth man is a matter of debate, depending greatly on the size of the listening crowd, and how many drinks the storyteller has had. Serious research into the records of the Q'ignart list the official number as eight, the point at which the body took one, final step off the execution platform and fell to a stop.
It's no surprise, then, that so many Human Ghosts continue to walk without having their heads attached.
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