The arena was teeming with people, not just inhabitants of the kingdom but foreigners who had come from far and wide to watch this epic duel.
The sun was high up in the sky, it's heat scorching up the earth. But the people paid no heed, standing directly under it's strong rays and bearing the brunt. The crowd was noisy, people could be heard shouting over each other in a bid to be heard. But the undertone of sadness could be felt by everyone in the arena.
The people had fervently wished it wouldn't come to this, but in the last months, there have been so much bloodshed. A lot of good men had died all for one man's lust for power.
King Zik, the slayer of Barbarians, was the first son and heir to the throne of his late Father. And as per tradition, he took over when his father died. Nik, his younger brother became his right hand man, representing him in places he couldn't be physically present. All had been going well, until Zik had fallen seriously Ill, to the point of death. So Ill he couldn't perform his kingly duties to his people.
So he gave Prince Nik authority to act and make decisions in his stead. Zik was ill for over seven months, healers came from all over the world battling to save his life.
Meanwhile, Nik ruled the kingdom to the best of his ability without interference from his brother. And he realized something, he loved ruling. He loved the throne and the power that came with the seat. He loved it and wanted it for himself.
Eventually, the king became well again. Only to find out that Nik had convinced some soldiers to assist him in overtaking the throne. Zik had only the loyal soldiers fighting for him.
There had been a terrible fight within the palace between Nik's Loyalists and Zik's loyalists. A lot of men died that day before Zik and his men were able to chase Nik and the rest of his men out of the kingdom.
Five battles and thousands of dead men later, they decided to finish it once and for all. After all, if everyone is killed who would the standing king rule over? So they chose to end it in a dueling match.
"To the death." Nik had said after challenging the King. There in front of everyone.
Zik couldn't pass on the challenge, especially not in front of his people. He could not afford to look weak. Moreover, he was tired of all the bloodletting and needed to finish it all. Himself.
"To the death." He agreed sadly.
Word had spread like wildfire of the impending duel, hence the jam packing of the arena where it was to hold.
The arena was a simple field with a wooden fence round it. It had two entrances; one for each dueler. The field was designed to cater to events like this.
Soon, a trumpet sounded, signalling the arrival of the King. A hush fell over the crowd, snuffing out the chatter like a candle.
Zik was not on his horse, he walked in with his usual amour and sword. Through the other gate, the Prince walked in, similarly dressed. While the King's face was covered in sadness about what was about to happen, the Prince's was covered in rage.
The people watched as the brothers walked across the field towards each other. Stopping a couple paces from each other.
"All these is not necessary, Nik." Zik pleaded to his brother, "do we have to fight?"
"Can you abdicate your throne?" The Prince asked, the tip of his sword pointed at his brother.
"No, I cannot do that."
"Then I will take it from your corpse."
Nik charged, sword raised high. Zik took a defensive stance and parried the deadly blow that would have severed his skull in two. There was a collective gasp among the crowd. Sparks flew off as their swords collided.
"I do not want to kill you!" Zik rasped, shoving his brother away, "this is madness!"
Nik ignored, raised his sword and charged again, his strikes were fast and brutal, the king was only able to dodge and block them. Stepping backward as he did so.
"Why are you not fighting back?" Nik screamed in fury, making a swipe at his head. The king blocked it and with a deft movement, knocked the sword out of his brother's hand. Then he slammed the hilt of his sword against Nik's head.
"You seem to have forgotten I am your better at swordsmanship." Zik reminded Nik as he fell back, rolling on the ground. Using the movement to mask his hands, he pulled out a dagger and drove it straight towards the King's stomach.
Zik parried the blow at the last moment, instead of plunging into his belly, the blade only cut into his flesh, letting blood flow.
He cried out as the pain flowed through his system, blinding him momentarily. He chopped the wrist of his brother with the edge of his palm so the dagger fell to the ground. Then he slammed a blow into his throat, choking him. And with his free hand, the King grabbed his brother by the neck and slammed him into the wooden fence.
Somewhere, in the recesses of his mind, he could hear the chants and calls of his people. He ignored them as he focused on his brother now lying on the ground.
"Please, stay down."
"You are not my King." Nik pushed himself back to his feet, his face twisted in intense pain. "I am a better king than you will ever be."
"You want to know the difference between us?" Zik moved closer so they were toe to toe, "while you are fighting for the throne, I'm fighting for the people. You want only the throne and the power it gives. But are you also ready to give what it will demand from you?" He shoved at Nik, "do you think the throne is only a seat of power? It is also a seat of responsibility. And you are not fit for such. And I swear on our father's grave, you will not be king."
Nik let out a savage cry and charged in once more. Zik dove out of the way, so the Prince hurtled past him, then he pulled him back and shoved him to the ground once more.
Stars exploded just behind Nik's eyes as his head struck ground. The pain disoriented him.
"Give up Nik, concede defeat." Zik begged him, "I am the victor already. Please, this does not have to end in death."
"And I will live the rest of my years in exile? Or as a prisoner in the kingdom I seek to rule? You better kill me." Nik cried out, getting up once more, "kill me! Or as long as I live I will keep coming for your throne. And all who try to stop me will fall by my sword. The first will be your family, yes, the royal family. I will start with your wife--"
Emotions did the rest. Zik had no idea when his hand drew back and plunged the sword into Nik's chest, stopping his threats cold.
"Forgive me, brother." Zik muttered, catching him as he fell and gently laid him on the ground.
Nik jerked once, and lay still.
"I hope you find peace."
The crowd began to rejoice, the brave king had won another duel. He had saved his people again.
But the King was not happy, he did not celebrate his victory. He had just killed his brother, how could he recover from that? At times like this, he hated the crown that brought him such a burden.
And slowly, like the king that he was, he climbed to his feet, his bloody sword tight in his fist. He could see his wife and children. Then he remembered why he had done what he did. Why would anyone want to destroy something so beautiful? To protect his family, he would do anything. No matter the cost. Even his betrayer of a brother's life.
As he looked at his Queen, not just of his kingdom but of his heart as well, he felt strength seep into his veins. And he knew then he would be able to go on.
Regardless of what else came.
Thank you for reading.