Original Written Work
Characters: Rylerion, Rannon, Kamiyeh
Summary: Rannon’s sworn oath to never kill again was broken, and King Rylerion is forced to pass harsh judgment.
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”Would you two care to explain to me,” said the King, intense anger tight in his voice, ”why in all gods’ everlasting hells my people just witnessed my two closest advisors hacking away at each other in deathly combat? Really, do explain, because I am very, very curious to find out.”
”Ask him, Sati-rama”, the old Shantu said, contemptuously indicating the man beside him with barely a nod. ”He killed one of my soldiers in cold blood.”
Rylerion transferred his furious gaze to his uncle, who stood stoically bleeding from a near fatal wound. While his stance was ever proud, at least he had the shame to avert his eyes.
”Now, yes,” said Rylerion, gaze unwavering, ”that is what I heard. And I thought to myself, surely not, surely you wouldn’t have done something so utterly and profoundly stupid. Explain.”
Rannon looked up, blank cold stare meeting burning eyes.
”They were disrespectful, Sati-rama. They spoke ill of the dead. Of Akari. I would not tolerate it.”
”And now they are among the dead themselves. Is that your idea of a solution?”
Not a muscle moved in Rannon’s face, but a few more drops of blood spattered onto the marble floor.
”No. And yet here we are. And you, Kamiyeh – what on earth possessed you to attack? Did it never occur to you to try and resolve this without resorting to violence..?”
The old warrior gave a half-bowing shrug.
”There were nearly eight hundred warriors gathered to pay their final respects to their dead comrades, and they just witnessed one of their own struck down. By him. If I hadn’t intervened, it would have been a massacre. The royal honour guard, his servants, likely many more of my soldiers. Innocents.”
The King looked back and forth between the two of them before letting out a deep sigh, rubbing his forehead.
”And so it becomes my mess to clean up. You do realize I have my hands quite full, taking care of the day to day business of governing Kayalana? That I do, in fact, have other rather more important things to do than convince my council members not to behave like angry children?”
Both men avoided his eyes this time, clearly not wanting to challenge their king in such a foul mood.
Rylerion sighed again, briefly closing his eyes.
”I cannot overlook this,” he finally said. Quiet bitterness and something darker, more chilling in his voice. ”You killed that soldier, Rannon.”
”Izla,” Kamiyeh interceded. ”Her name was Izla. A good soldier.”
”Izla,” Rion repeated.”Dead, because of you. Slain in front of eight hundred witnesses. My hands are tied, there is nothing I can do but pass the inevitable judgment. I told you, the very first and last thing I told you that day; to not ever harm anyone again, or you would be left to rot in that dungeon for all eternity. Do you remember?”
Deathly pale, Rannon opened his mouth as if to speak, but closed it again, pressing his lips tightly together.
”I said, do you remember?”
”Yes, Sati-rama,” he finally said with a stiff bow. ”I remember.”
”And yet we’ve come to this,” Rylerion said, sounding tired now. ”I never asked for this crown, did you know that? The only reason I was convinced to take on its weight was so I would have the mandate to spare your life. My last living family. And it mattered. But you did this. You must have known the consequences.”
He had never before seen his uncle struggle to find words, but despite his harsh expression there was something brittle there, not just pain, but genuine fear.
”Sati-rama,” Rannon finally managed, sinking to his knees and bowing more deferentially than he had ever seen. ”I have served you faithfully, served Kayalana faithfully, from the moment you set me free.”
There was a plea there, tightly controlled desperation, and it hurt. Rylerion looked away again, pain mixed with the anger on his face.
”Yes, you have. Until today. You struck down an unarmed soldier for speaking out of turn. I can give no pardon for this. Kayalana is watching. You’ve left me with no choice.”
Rannon drew a short breath, and he could see the struggle it took to keep his face impassive, a losing battle, eloquence and dignity impossibly faltering.
”Not another word out of you.” Pain and anger making his own voice harsh. Face grey, Rannon shut his mouth and bowed again, deeper.
”There may be a way to resolve this without involving you, Sati-rama,” Kamiyeh offered into the raw silence, casually studying an interesting spot of ceiling.
”If you have a solution to get us all through this utter disaster, by all means, do share it,” he snapped, looking back up at the weathered warrior.
”Rannon ZanTaoyaka was trained as one of us in his youth,” Kamiyeh said, bluntly refusing the politeness of titles. ”That rank was never officially revoked. The attack took place on our grounds. With your permission, we could settle this internally. It would be within our rights.”
”And what would that entail, exactly?” Rylerion asked, voice even sharper to mask the small glimmer of hope. Kamiyeh shrugged.
”A death sentence, most often. But other means of punishment have been dealt on occasion, and a bit of that violence you do so abhor could well sate the bloodthirst of the people.”
”Meaning more precisely?”
”Three hundred lashes and a dishonourable discharge. There are a few precedents.”
”Three hundred? And that isn’t a death sentence?”
”It depends on the whip, and the person wielding it. In this particular case… I think the gods would be merciful, don’t you? Not even my soldiers could argue with the divine if he were to live.”
With a look of distaste, Rylerion shook his head, then looked back to his uncle.
”And you would submit to this?”
”Yes,” he conceded, voice dry, bowing his head. ”Of course.”
”Fine,” he finally allowed, with a gesture of bitter loathing. ”Sort it out between yourselves. But by all gods, if something like this ever happens again I’ll have the both of you locked away in the deepest cell the palace has to offer. Now go. I have work to do.”
”Yes, Sati-rama,” both men echoed, recognizing the severe tone for the serious threat it was. Bowing deeply before their king, they left.
The sunlight was harsh to the point of pain after the cool gloom of the council chamber, the world white and sharp, and it was only with iron self control Rannon resisted the urge to lean heavily against the wall. Unacceptable weakness; he had been humbled quite enough for one day. He settled for pressing a hand against his bleeding wound, the soreness real and solid.
”I owe you thanks”, he stated, forcing his voice flat and detached,”for intervening on my behalf. What I don’t understand is why. Are you that eager to put a whip to my back?”
Kamiyeh gave him a bluntly unfriendly stare, but at least didn’t seem inclined to wallow in his victory.
”I won’t be the one wielding the whip. Izla’s comrades will.”
He scoffed, fingers pressing into bleeding flesh, the pain grounding him.
”Why then? You could have been rid of me for good.”
The old Shantu looked him up and down, then shrugged with casual indifference.
”You weren’t wrong in what you said. You have served Kayalana quite well on the council. It would be a shame to permanently rid her of a useful asset.”
Certainly only Kamiyeh could deliver what was very close to a concession of grudging respect as though it was an insult. Blood loss was making him irritable and exhausted, and so he opted to ignore the statement.
”When?” If the man wanted to forego formalities and cut to the core of the matter, by all means.
”Three hours before sunset, three days from now. You’ll want the royal guard, double force. We wouldn’t gain much from having you torn to pieces on the way over. I’d leave whatever servants you treasure behind, just in case.”
Forcing his face neutral, wanting only to retire to lick his wounds in peace, he merely gave a short nod. As Kamiyeh turned to leave, however, he stopped him with a tight gesture.
”Akari. He will be at risk now. There will no doubt be those who would take their anger out on him.”
Kamiyeh gave him an impatient glare.
”Akari is one of us, and I will not lose one of my soldiers to an angry mob. The boy will be safe.”
Suddenly he felt spent enough to collapse where he stood, but forced himself to straighten.
”Good. That is all I ask.”
”You’re in no position to ask anything,” Kamiyeh pointed out, condescension back in his voice. ”We look after our own. That is all. Now go get yourself patched up, sati. I’ll want to see you steady on your feet in three days’ time.”
The old warrior turned to leave again, and this time he gladly let him walk away.