Short Story | ‘The Usurper’ by Martin Hooijmans, Illustration by Lars de Ruyter
“Let me kill my King.” The wish still echoed in the warrior’s mind, as strongly as the moment he had spoken it. As he entered the chamber, a fear grasped his heart. What if it wouldn’t come true?
“Brons!” the King shouted out, standing up from his throne. “Commander of my guard, what news do you bring?”
“News of the utmost importance, my King,” Brons said, performing a respectful bow. This always felt strange to a warrior accustomed to the weight of his arms. No one who appeared before the King was allowed to carry even the most harmless of weapons. This was strictly controlled, and all visitors were required to strip bare before being allowed entry to the throne room. Even with this precaution in place, however, a pit of the utmost darkness and depth separated the King from his subjects. The distance could not be leaped, and a fall would mean certain death. Even the best assassin agreed that their ruler was the one impossible target.
Brons looked around, searching for a sign, for a weapon, a path. There was nothing.
“Well?” the King insisted.
The warrior did not even hear him. His mind wandered, searching in every corner for the tool he so craved. Cold sweat stood on his forehead, breathing turned to short gasps and his nails deprived his palms of blood. “Where is it,” he began whispering to himself. “Where is it, where is it.”
“Brons?” the King sounded concerned, stepping closer to the pit. “Brons!”
Brons looked up, his eyes wild, half-mad. He faced the King for a brief moment, then threw his head back and screamed out. “WHERE IS IT!”
The chamber answered. Stones fell as the ceiling cracked. The floor shook and threw both men off balance. A heavy pillar missed Brons by a hair’s breadth. Dust filled the chamber, as well as the heavy echoes of rocks tumbling into the depths. Then it ended.
The warrior stumbled back to his feet, leaning against the heavy pillar that had come close to ending his dream. Tracing its path, he realized that it now directed his dream, all the way across the pit. He climbed on top of it and felt his way through the clearing dust, catching a glimpse of the throne at the far end. Behind him, muffled voices came from beyond obstructed doors. No one would disturb him.
Brons looked down and saw the King, desperately grasping the edge of the pit that had protected him for so many years. Suspended over the darkness like that, he suddenly looked very old, and very little.
“Commander, pull me up!” he pleaded. Fear was evident in his eyes, and Brons wondered how many men who had done so had been struck down by this warmongering tyrant. So he watched as the old man slowly lost his grip, slipping further and further until the blackness took him along with his fading screams. It was done.
The King was dead. Brons, as his slayer, was now the new King. He had known that would happen, he had known that his rule would not be easily accepted and he had known that he did not want it. The nation would only crumble further under the rule of a usurper.
Brons knew one more thing. A King could not lay down his rule. It was a bond only broken by death.
He stepped off the edge, feeling calm.
The darkness embraced him.
Illustration by: Lars de Ruyter