November 10th, 2013


[ANON POST] Surviving Being Burnt at the Stake

Setting: Alternate universe. The story is contemporary urban fantasy, but leaning more toward magical realism than unabashedly supernatural.
Research: Wikipedia and various Google searches. "Execution by burning," "burning at the stake," "burning deaths," and every other cheery variant. Also looked up some of the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as the medical effects of burns.

MMC is a spy, gets caught, and is sentenced to be executed by burning. There are religious and symbolic aspects to the execution that I won't go into here (tl;dr it can't be another form of execution). Unsurprisingly, him being the MMC, I need him to not die, but there are three criteria that have to be met:

1. The people witnessing the execution must think he is genuinely dead.
2. He needs to not be permanently maimed or crippled.
3. It must be something put into effect by an outside person, without the explicit knowledge of the MMC himself.

So what I'm looking for, basically, is a way the MMC could survive his execution without his enemies' knowledge. Either by faking suffocation convincingly enough that he's taken down before he's actually burned, or (the somewhat more gruesome option) by having an outside factor in play that keeps him alive. I'd also appreciate any sort of information on timing, since that was what I had most trouble finding. How long would it take someone to suffocate? Assuming they didn't suffocate, how long would it take for shock to set in before eventual death an hour or two later? Even if MMC isn't actually dying, his executioners know these things and he has to fool them.

Other details:

1. The antagonist who orders the burning is far more practical than he is sadistic. His people want a show and he's going to give them one, but he doesn't necessarily have a diehard interest in making the MMC suffer as long as possible. Apparently when/how a victim dies can be affected by quite a lot of factors (height above the fire, type of wood, wind/weather conditions, etc.) so I thought this might be important.

2. MMC's bosses are very keen to get him back in one piece and have considerable political and financial clout, so bribing the executioners is a possibility. He doesn't have to survive unscathed, but he does have to be physically able (on a side note, if anyone has any sort of point to make on PTSD/possible psychological ramifications, those would be greatly appreciated as well.)

3. Magic is present in the world, but isn't understood by or available to the vast majority of humanity, so I'd rather not fudge it as something supernatural. Dubious imaginary knockout herbs, though (or real ones!) are all good.

Thank you guys so much in advance!