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A Doom Fit for A King

The sky is black with the roiling smog of battle-stoked fires that dot the landscape in every direction. Everywhere are bodies, men and boys of every make, all cursed to rot for country and kin. Peasant conscripts lay, mouths agape, tongues black and swollen, next to milky eyed lords whose livid flesh is alive with swarming flies. It is a landscape of ruin whose only bright ornaments are the shattered swords and cloven shields of the armies of Kesh and Meredak. There is no victor here, only the slain, and those that have not yet passed wail mournfully in the wan light, praying for deaths black deliverance and the reaping of their misery. And death comes to all in its season, even to good King Tawr of Meredak. Atop a mountain of corpses, King Tawr grasps the shoulders of his killer. His grip is strong, even now, but they tremble, those hands, holding fast to this mortal enemy. Beneath the dirt and gore of war, his face is pale from loss of blood and his steel gray eyes are filled with fury and despair. Vardis meets the Kings gaze coolly, one hand on Tawr's left shoulder, the other on the hilt of the sword whose blade points cruelly out the old warriors back. From a distance they look like brothers locked in a warm embrace. But there is only the bloodless cold and the intimate, bitter gaze of enemies. The King spits words through clenched teeth, gaze unwavering as his body shudders with mortal pain, All this slaughter, and for what? What has it profited you? You, who are a mercenary, what have you gained from all this murder? Vardis answers, dark eyes narrowed, thin lips parted in the vaguest semblance of a smile, I am a warrior, good King. I fight for glory. What does it profit a man to live at all if he does not know he is alive? I fight, kill, and risk death for glory. Your death, Tawr, is a noble one. A doom fit for a king. I can only hope that I may pass as nobly as you. King Tawr can hardly stand now, and the uneven footing provided by the slain causes him to stumble. Vardis steadies him, but the king falls forward, driving the steel deeper in. Tawr groans and tenses in agony, It is wrong for it to end so. My kingdom, my people. All will be lost. He lowers his head sadly, then coughs a great clot of blood onto the black armor of his foe. King Tawr hangs dead on his enemy's weapon like so much meat on the devil's fork. Poor King Tawr, you mourn your people and call me unjust, but Nature is unjust, my friend, and no king or god is her equal. I am nothing if not wholly natural. having said this, Vardis heaves his weapon from the dead kings body in a bloody arc. The blade sings out of bloodied armor and King Tawr's body slumps into a heap, rolls a short distance, and is still. Vardis can't help but notice that amid all the carrion, a king is indistinguishable from both his subjects and enemies alike. Vardis laughs and sheaths his blade as a crow descends to take its pick of eyes. - Jason Tiffany, 10 07 2011

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