FictionLong Live the King

Long Live the King: Episode 20 – Incarnate

Previously: Long Live the King: Episode 19 – Death

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The King was caught off guard, and Fadel is fast, but because Fadel is wounded, the other has the upper hand. With a single kick to Fadel’s weak leg, Fadel howls in pain as he falls to the ground. Seeing the blood flow out of his wound makes a scream erupt through me.

So I attack, my fists falling relentlessly on the man I had thought would be far larger, far stronger – but he’s nothing but a man – and before I could think, I hear the crack of bone as the King’s head snaps.

Fadel had used the King’s distraction with me to kill him swiftly from behind.

No, no, no. He was supposed to suffer. He was supposed to burn alive the way my brother did.

Too fast, too easy.

Fadel limps to me, cradling me, “You’re okay, you’re okay,” he repeats, over and over, and I hold him – I hold him for dear life because this foolish boy wasn’t supposed to come back for me, because he did anyway. “He’s gone. It’s over. We’re okay.”

Still, as we walk out of the room, I let my lighter fall to the ground. The carpet ignites first, then the wooden table where gas had spilled, and as I leave, it goes up in flames. The scent of death follows me as I leave the floor, down the stairs, and even as I step outside, but I feel no guilt.

***

“The King is dead,” I announce and pause, my voice projecting to the crowd. All of them; beaten up guards, riled up rebels, and my dearest friends, stare in awe at the Royal Palace as it burns. “We will have a life made anew. We will start from scratch and fight and build with all our might, all our energy – but we will succeed. We will choose who is fit to rule us, we will have a say in what this country is to be. His reign of terror has come to an end.”

Gleeful shouts erupt, so loud and so abrupt that I can hear nothing else but them. Not Fadel, who had tended to his wounds and was standing by my side, as though ready to catch me if I fall. If only he knew. I don’t even hear the burning house for a moment, or the sound of bone cracking that keeps rewinding in my head, and not even my thoughts.

Then, suddenly and out of nowhere, they begin to chant my name. Those fools, after what I have done? They can’t possibly be looking up to me, can they? I shouldn’t be a hero, not with all this blood on my hands. No, the things I have done cannot be undone.

***    

It’s dark, so undeniably haunting in the dead of night, but I make my way through the wreckage of the Royal Palace. After almost twenty-four hours, the Palace has not yet been searched or even approached. I’m afraid it would take a while for order to be restored, for things to start functioning properly again. All day, the entire country had been celebrating, despite the casualties. Even the elites who had everything they could wish for during the King’s reign were glad to finally be rid of him. It turns out that some of them did indeed acknowledge his cruelty but were too fearful to act. As for the guards, they were arrested, to be tried and then convicted. The casualties – all eleven of them, who were shot and killed during the riot, were named heroes.

The smoke has dulled, but it’s still intoxicating as I make my way towards the place I had been standing in only hours before.

By instinct, I turn away from the sight of the burned bodies, feeling sick, but I force myself to look. They deserved this. They had it coming.

Eventually, I find myself standing on top of him. I only recognized him from where he lay, for the burns had peeled off his skin and gotten to his flesh. My hands tremble as I touch him, tucking them beneath his arms to move him out of the room, and out of the building.

***

“Was it a fitful sleep you had, Your Grace?” I speak in barely a whisper, but I spit the last two words.

His eyes fly open.

It was such a difficult decision, but I knew it was the right one. The fake vial was never given to Sarwat; it wasn’t even of any real use. It was just a ploy to have everyone believe that there was no real danger.

There the King was in front of me, bound like a thug with all his pride. He tries to speak, but it’s too painful for him to do so.

“You see, my King, there are worse things than death,” I say and I find myself grinning.

Slowly, I crouch down to see him eye-to-eye. “Immortality is a cursed thing, you should have known,” I say. “People spend their whole lives waiting for the moment it would end, and for good reason. Living is suffering. But since it’s what you wanted, it’s what you got. You’ll never rise again to power; what is a once powerful man without his influence?”

His eyes stare at me, because it’s all he can do, but then he looks sideways, suddenly noticing the rocking of the boat. Behind him, the ocean seems far too peaceful to know what evil lurks atop it.

“You’ve filled me with sorrow almost my whole life and will for the rest of it. Do not think I will not carry this burden forever, don’t think I had nothing to lose. I sacrificed my humanity for this – but it is what needed to be done. You made so many suffer, for so long. It’s only fair that you got just that in return.”

He opens his mouth to speak, and barely audible, he utters a single phrase, and it takes him ages to finish it. “You – are no better… than I am.”

“I’m not,” I confirm. “That’s why we both get our fair share of suffering.”

I push his chair and the metal weight strapped to him a bit further, and the movement alarms him and pains him – which only delights me more. When Fadel snapped his neck, he only knocked him out cold. The King was indeed immortal. I had wished he would be awake for the burning, but at least he agonizes over its consequences now.

“For now, my King,” I say, pushing his chair so he’s half out of the boat. “How do you feel about spending the rest of your days drowning – wishing for the life of you that you could breathe for only a moment, but can’t?”

He would suffer, just as I do.

I find myself smiling. “Long live the King.”

His staring eyes are the last thing I see before I push him overboard.

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