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A Kingdom Deserved
by Landgren


The king supported himself on his staff, breathing heavily. He watched carefully as the girl in front of him slowly lowered her shield, steam still rolling of it from the wizard-king's last salvo.

She was young, barely more than a child, yet she had seen more death and violence than any man should have to do in a lifetime. There were scars in her face, and her eyes were as hard as her laconian armour.

In another life, they would have been friends. He would have helped raise her, teaching her the ways of politics and preparing her for the day when she would be the queen of Algol. They would have lived together in the royal palace in Camineet. She would have called him 'uncle'.

In another life, they would not have been trying to kill each other.

The battle was coming to an end. The girl's companions were of no concern any more. The great warrior lay wounded in the middle of the room, and the genderless esper was on it's knees desperately trying to stop the tremendous stream of blood. The man's catlike pet was by the girl's side, but hardly able to stand, let alone fight. Fire had ravaged it's golden fur.

But the girl was still standing, seemingly shaking all wounds aside. And she would have the king's life.

He knew this. He had drawn to deeply from the dark powers, there was nothing left. And now his unnatural age was beginning to take it's toll. His last attacks had been all but illusions, merely fancy fireworks. And the girl knew this too.

With a feral cry she lunged forward, not even caring about the electric crackle which emitted from the king's fingers and earthed itself in her armour.

She knocked him to the ground, and seated herself on top, like a savage lover. With both hands she raised her sword, it's tip pointing towards his heart.

For the last time in his life, King Lassic locked eyes with Alis Landale, and saw nothing but dark hatred. And in the place where his soul should have been, the black beast laughed and laughed and laughed…

-----

Pain.

Everything was white, blinding pain.

Pain of not being able to breath. Pain of having no skin, muscle or tissue. Pain of being blind. And pain of having no mouth with which to scream.

The skeleton which was Lassic shook uncontrollably as sinew and flesh was slowly, hideously slowly growing back onto it.

After an eternity of agony there were enough muscle to allow it to writhe in pain.

After yet another eternity there were even lungs, so that it could howl.

As eyes grew into empty sockets it screamed in horror of it's own body.

Skin crawled over the writhing body, followed by a flow of cloth.

King Lassic lay on the floor of his throne room, hyperventilating and staring with wild eyes into the ceiling. Beside him, his sceptre crumbled into existence.

After a few seconds and a year, the king dragged himself onto his feet. The horror and the pain was forced away by an immense feat of willpower, and his sanity remained intact. For now.

Lassic slowly inspected his surroundings. The girl was gone. How much time had passed? The castle was utterly silent, and he did not sense the presence of his servants.

He walked over to a window, and looked out over the courtyard and his kingdom beyond.

He stood still, feeling nothing what so ever. Behind him, he knew that the black beast was watching.

"You kept your promise." he said bitterly.

"Of course. I do not lie."

No, of course not. But it hid the truth well. This was his reward, his eternal life.

"What of my kingdom?"

"Your kingdom? Oh, you are for all future the undisputed ruler of Palma!" The black beast laughed, a disharmonic sound tearing at the fabric of one's soul. It disturbed Lassic nonetheless.

He watched the debris floating outside and around the castle. Gravel, mountain-sized rocks and the occasional wreck of a worldship was all that remained of his once proud homeworld.

How fitting.

A dead kingdom for a dead king.

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