Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: To The Victor

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of original flash fiction. This week...

To The Victor
Word Count: 600

Karthos winced as the chains tightened around his wrists and ankles. Lord Seebly stood over him with a lantern. Karthos had been in the dungeon for a week, maybe longer. It was getting hard to keep count.

“Let’s try again,” said Seebly. “How did you kill Myka the Bold?” Spittle bubbled on a lip that trembled with rage.

“In combat,” said Karthos.

“Liar!” shouted Seebly.

“Fine,” said Karthos. “Leave me here for a while longer. When you ask in a week, I’ll tell you the same.”

“You can’t have beaten him,” said Seebly. “You’re a weakling, Myka was a champion.”

“Was,” said Karthos. “And I’m not so weak as I look.”

“The Hidden Duel is a sacred contest,” said Seebly. “You profane the gods with your lies.”

“Perhaps,” said Karthos. “Or maybe the gods gave the victory to me.” He looked up with a smile. “In which case, you’re the one profaning them.”

Seebly spat.

“Fine,” said Karthos. “Come back in a week and ask me again.”

“You will tell me how you killed him!” shouted Seebly. He grabbed Karthos’ shirt and shook him, rattling the heavy iron chain around his neck.

“I told you,” said Karthos. “We crossed swords. Mine was faster.”

“Impossible!” said Seebly.

“Oh, it was very possible,” said Karthos. “It wasn’t even that hard.”

“Myka the Bold has won every Hidden Duel in the last thirteen years,” said Seebly.

“When was the last time you saw him fight?” asked Karthos.

“He’s bested hundreds of champions from every neighboring kingdom,” said Seebly. “There’s no way he lost to a lowly farmer like you.”

“Yeah, that’s just what he told me,” said Karthos. “Funny thing about the Hidden Duel. It’s hidden. No crowds. No judges. Just two men, their swords, and the gods, and to the victor go the spoils. So I’ll ask you once more, my Lord. When was the last time anyone actually saw Myka fight?”

Seebly straightened, but did not speak.

“Been some time, I imagine,” said Karthos. “Years, perhaps.”

Seebly said nothing.

“Better part of a decade?” asked Karthos.

Seebly said nothing for a moment. Finally he cursed. “I’ve had enough of your lies for one afternoon.” He turned on his heels to exit the dungeon.

“Myka the Bold could barely raise his sword,” called out Karthos. “His muscles had weakened. His senses were dull. His words came slowly. It was obvious from the moment we both entered the ring that he was no match for me physically. But he still had one important weapon: his reputation. He told me this would happen if I killed him—that no one would ever believe he’d been beaten. Told me that if I surrendered, I’d get a quick death and my family would be rewarded for my participation.”

Seebly had stopped. He shouted over his shoulder without turning. “Why should I believe you?”

Believe me?” asked Karthos. “You should be thanking me. Myka the Bold had turned your so-called sacred contest into a ruse. If anyone was profaning the gods, it was him. And I put a stop to it.”

Seebly paused. “Why?” he finally asked.

“Because I don’t like cheats and liars,” said Karthos. “And I frequently act without much forethought.” He shrugged. “I cut him down in a matter of seconds.”

Seebly bent down.

“Come back in a week and ask me again, if you like,” said Karthos. “Or you could declare me the champion.”

“The people won’t believe it,” said Seebly.

“They will if you tell them to,” said Karthos.

Seebly stood. “I’ll think about it,” he said, heading for the door.

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