The Krad Duel

The sky was dark with the beginning and end of the sense of peace the planet had enjoyed for centuries. Thunder hummed on the brink of ripping open the clouds, and lightning twisted, scurrying through the skies as if hurrying to catch a seat to watch the match. Evey duel had always been this way, and now, their usually joyous capital turned somber and dim-eyed to the center of the great stadium of past kings.

On one side sat the chosen king and his family. His wife and three sons were there to support him and pay witness to their fates. If he lost, they would lose their status on the planet likely and be forced to retreat to his wife’s family’s home. His in-law would welcome them with open arms, but they all had to be prepared for the possibility.

On the other side of the coliseum, the rebellious, slighted heir, his son, wife, and favorite harem-servant sat. He glared and refused to be reasoned with across the field as he put on his armor. His son, no more than four years old, stared with the same hatred across the field.

The young princes could never understand what the look on the other boy’s face until they witnessed their first duel. It was an expression that was so foreign to them that it was hard to imagine a name for it. Their mother had called it envy or hatred, but they never quite believed that definition. The eldest of the three lead his younger brothers to his mother’s side as she watched the two men preparing to do battle.  

The corporals stood at attention watching their commander and his opponent walk down the elegant, glowing steps of the coliseum onto the pitch black ground where lives had been lost, kings had been crowned, and the fate of the world would now be decided. The stands were filled to capacity with tense observers from both factions of the battle and silent with the darkening of the sky.

Those that supported the crowned king watched in fear of what the outcome would do to their leader. They knew that this battle might bring him victory, but there would be no joy in it.

The other side watched for the greatest fall in the history of the Rilom line: a rise to power, yet all in attendance acknowledged the tragedy of the day when two brothers were set to fight against each other in the ring so sacred to their goddess and neither they nor the men involved could do anything to stop it.

It was fate.

The goddess, in all her kindness and grace, had seen this day and many others that would come to pass, but she never imagined that she would feel as she did now. She knew the outcome before they had set the date and could only whisper a blessing over the three children that her expectations would come to be as they were when they were born. There was no hope for the boy sitting on the lap of the eldest brother’s servant, and for that, she could only offer an apology.

He would suffer and die alone, and there was nothing anyone could do to change that.

The doomed boy sat on the lap of a servant of the rebel’s family next to his mother, gazing across the field at his father with all the adoration and confidence that he would be victorious in this battle. His father was the eldest of the two, the stronger, the warrior of the two men. His father was possessed of the body while his opponent was of the mind. There had been no doubt that he would win. Assured that he would have the life that he’d been told had been robbed from him by those three boys on the other side of the battlefield, he looked up at his father as they looked at theirs.

Then, with all the rage and pain his little hearts could manage, he stared the youngest boy, the one closest to his age, down across the coliseum floor, determined to win this tiny battle to sanction the victory of his father.

The youngest had been staring into the distance where the glowing citadel at the edge of the city, the goddess’s temple, sat when he felt the stare. Slowly, he met it, and in an act of instinct and loss of control for a brief moment, his power flashed across the darkness.

The angry boy glared as crimson liquid leaked from his nose, and the pain only made him hate the other more. He would win and stand above him if it was the last thing he did.

Oyu lilw eb frist ot ide,1 the boy promised before the servant wiped his nose, and he turned his attention back to the image of his father putting on his helmet and taking the field to demolish his opponent.

Their father looked more reluctant to slide on his armor than he had ever been in his life. At the healthy age of thirty, the king was a peaceful man trapped in the body of a warrior. Broad shoulders carried the weight of his crown, and he was tall though not abnormally so with near brown skin, a square jaw and eyes that glowed when he wished. He glanced at his wife and queen for reassurance that he wasn’t insane, that this was the proper route to take. With one word from her, he’d stop this no matter the consequence.

She swallowed, met his eyes and returned his uncertainty with a flash of calm light and a smile: he could do this, and he was right. She slid out of her seat to stand beside him and buckle his armor properly. Her smaller hands had combat calluses on them though they had grown softer in the time of peace. She was still acclaimed as one of the most beautiful women on the planet, one of the fiercest warriors too, and there wasn’t a day that went by that the king didn’t agree.

“Oyu swalya tup ti no gnorw…2” She said with a sad laugh in her voice.

She was right, and he usually did it just so that she could do it for him and he had a reason to be so close to her, but this time his hands were shaking too much. His mind was everywhere at once that he hadn’t been able to do anything properly in the days leading up to the appointed challenge day.

It wasn’t every day that a king would kill or be killed by his brother. He watched her face and stood with a straight back as she readjusted the buckles of his armor with all the care and worry in her heart as if her actions would save him from the pain of striking a fatal blow. It was not a matter of strength but of will. The two men stood equally in total strength, yet the king was the more cunning and swift with his attacks of the two. They knew that this battle would not last long and could only hope that the outcome would not be worse than they had expected. After the last of the clasps were done, the queen turned to prep her husband’s sword and handed it over with a solemn kiss that did nothing for the overwhelming, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. She lifted his helmet over his head and buckled it at his chin. He took her hand, squeezed, and kissed it as if his life depended on it.

“Oyurea versonu rofon nosrea,3” she whispered as he closed his eyes and muttered a prayer.

He took comfort that she was strong enough to tell him that.

“Tisiton imwohi afre rof…4

There was no emotion in his voice, yet she understood his meaning.  Darkness descended into the arena as she blessed and buckled his shield to his arm and turned him with a blessing in a kiss. As the lights dimmed, the eyes of the onlookers dimmed as well, and the protective net shot up over the heads of the combatants. The invisible magnetic force that kept the onlookers safe did not hide the glowing sets of disembodied orbs: the only part of the two duelists that could be seen.

The Krad Duel was an ancient practice only bettered and expanded with time. The two combatants would be suffused in darkness so thick that all that could be seen was their eyes glowing in the darkness when the duel began, they were supposed to snuff the light of their eyes and eventually the other body. Upon landing the first bodily blow, the darkness was lifted, and the winner was named. Of course, the first bodily blow was usually fatal, but the king hoped that this time it wouldn’t have to be.

He wished that he did not have to fight this man that had been like an older brother to him. When he had been adopted into the royal line, he had never imagined the day that he would surpass the rightful heir of the family, yet here he was. He had never imagined the dawn of a morning that he would wake up beside the woman who should have married his elder brother, yet that too had passed. He had never imagined the night when he would wake up screaming at his own blood-stained hands, and the blood would have belonged to his brother, yet it would come to pass.

The match ended quickly with blood-dripping through his fingers as curses dripped from his brother’s mouth, low, seething, and saucy. The darkness lifted and the crowned brother stared down at the older with an expression that even the goddess could not understand, though knew well: regret and anguish.

“Oyurea druces yb lobod sha nebe plist…dan ym nos lilw ese oyu lafl.5

The angry boy leaped from his seat in his father’s harem-servant’s lap over the railing, rushing towards his fading father’s side to take to heart the words of revenge that came from they dying man’s lips. Though the wound was not deep, nor fatal, it seemed to puncture some sort of spiritual vestibule, and now, his soul was leaking out of his body along with the small amount of blood. He seemed more determined to die if only to cause the victor pain, such was the way of a defeated pride. He was his father’s only son, as his father had been the former king’s only son, and the rightful heir to all the things that those three boys and their father had stolen from them. Everything that was taken, including his father’s life, would be repaid sevenfold with agony and despair as interest.

The king turned back to his family, alive but not unscathed. His wife removed the sword from his shaking hand, the shield from his fractured arm, and embraced him allowing herself to be stained in her brother-in-law’s blood though her husband tried to push her away. It was their burden to bear: his as his brother’s killer, hers as his wife. She could see the woman that had been her sister-in-law gaze with cold, bright eyes at the boy and his father before standing and laying hands on the servant who carried her husband’s second child. She made a move to stop the woman, but her husband held her still and shook his head. There was nothing she could do. They’d been over this before, the woman would not relinquish the servant to freedom when her husband was alive and abusive, she would not do so now when the only thing that she had despised was unprotected by her husband’s love for the servant.

Shrieks bathed the battlefield as he made sure that his wife would not put herself in harm’s way before turning to make the raging widow freeze moments before she had been able to land a hand on the servant girl.

Sopt,6” he commanded crossing the battlefield to lift the cowering and battered woman from the ground and held her until the trembling stopped. The widow cursed and sneered.

Oyu yma aveh now, tub tres assured hatt ti si roytivc oyu lilw ton braeletec,7” she hissed and turned her hateful girl to the cowering woman in the man’s arms. “Hirete fo oyu!8

The youngest of the three boys peered over his mother’s shoulder as she lifted him up into her arms and kissed his cheek to watch the man die in his young son’s arms with a strange kind of interest. Something in him pulsed and called out to go to the man, but his mother held him close.

The boy stared back at him with a promise to take from him everything that he had and everything he would have, no matter the cost. To steal from his brothers and every member of his family their right to happiness and give them the burden of his revenge, he promised this.

The little boy cursed them then, and as a young man, he would curse them still. The goddess’ heart turned blue as the wheels of fate began to turn.

It was the beginning of the end.

Author Note:

So there’s a smarty-pants out there who will figure out the language key, but here’s a hint: the language has no articles… like most languages. Don’t judge me, at least one of the languages I make up on the fly has to be simple. 😛

  1. You will be the first to die.
  2. You always put it on wrong…
  3. You are nervous for no reason.
  4. It is not I whom I fear for…
  5. You are cursed by the blood that has been spilt, and my son will see you fall.
  6. Stop.
  7. You may have won but rest assure that it is not a victory you will celebrate.
  8. Either of you!
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