You stand on a platform in a castle courtyard, bathed in the early morning sunlight. You are
dressed in a regal cape and crown, and you hold a heavy, bejewelled sword. Hundreds of peasants press in tightly around the platform, all eyes on you in silent, fearful anticipation.
A row of headsman’s blocks stretches down the length of the platform. All but one is accompanied by a headless corpse lying in a spreading pool of crimson. One last prisoner stands by the nearest block. He is tall and calm, with a youthful face.
The prisoner turns to face you. You find no malice in his face, no matter how desperately you search.
“I forgive you,” he says, softly.
You hear yourself speak in a harsh voice. “But I cannot forgive what you did, the deceit you
practiced, nor what you have become.”
He bows his head. “Nonetheless,” he says with regret, “I still forgive you.”
The prisoner kneels over the block, you raise the sword, addressing your words to the crowd. “Let all who witness my action today,” you proclaim, “take forth the word that justice and the law apply equally to all!”
The blade drops. You wake, your hands trembling.