April Fools Chapter by Gavin Williams
Kilthanis waited in the dark, shivering with fear and cold. His face was swollen from their fists, and his wrists chafed under the ropes they'd constrained him with. How had he gotten into this ridiculous situation?
Just a few days before he'd been leading his men in battle. They'd held the line well against the attack, though smoke had obscured their view of the enemy line. He'd been ordering a squad to flank, when he'd been grabbed from behind. There had been a tussle but he'd been over-powered. There had been several men, of that he was sure. He took some solace in the knowledge that he'd broken someone's nose with his flailing limbs, he'd heard the bone crunch and a man's grunt of surprised pain. They had put a bag over his head, tied him up, and dragged him away from the sounds of battle.
He'd spent a stomach-churning journey on the back of a griffin. Kilthanis would know the sound of beating wings and that unique smell anywhere. The journey had taken a few days, they had stopped for food and sleep more than once. He'd been kept blindfolded the entire time, and fed only a thin gruel with a bowl held to his mouth. They wouldn't untie him even to go relieve himself, they were taking no chances. Once they'd landed, he'd been dragged to this darkened room, and now he had to await his fate. Who was behind this?
Kilthanis heard the sound of the door being unlocked, and then it dragged across the stone floor as it was opened. He sensed rather than saw the light on his face. "Who is it?"
They did not answer. Instead, they grabbed his arms and dragged him to his feet. He half-walked, half-shuffled along. Kilthanis was tired from lack of sleep, and lack of nourishing food. He'd been in cramped conditions for days. At this point he just wanted them to get it over with.
"You are cowards," he taunted. "Attacking a man from behind, instead of in open combat. You have no honor."
In response, he was smacked again. His head rolled on his neck as he felt a pounding headache start. His ear stung and he wondered if it was bleeding or just bruised.
"Kneel, fool. Show some respect for your Emperor," a voice hissed. He was pushed to his knees on a stone floor, and gritted his teeth. At least he knew who was behind this.
"Leave us," a voice rang out. But it was not the voice he expected.
Someone undid the blindfold. Kilthanis shook his head and blinked his eyes, letting them get accustomed to the sunlight that streamed in through the ornate windows. He looked up, his vision hazy, and waited for his eyes to focus on the figure on the throne.
"Laris?" he rasped through his dry lips. "What are you doing on the throne?"
"I should thank you, Kilthanis," the new emperor grinned. "You helped put me here, after all."
Kilthanis tried to think. How had this happened? His thoughts raced as he tried to connect the dots. "You killed your own blood, didn't you? It was you behind this all along. And you used me as your pawn."
Laris's only response was to laugh.
"What do you want from me now?" Kilthanis asked.
"Join me," Laris said. "I have foreseen it, this is your destiny."
Someone untied Kilthanis and he looked back. Yokir, the Emperor's servant, offered him a wry smile. Then the older man threw a sword down on the floor in front of him. It rattled and clanged, but Kilthanis found the strength to wrap his fingers around the handle, and heft the blade.
Laris spoke ominously. "The alliance... will die. As will your friends. Good, I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the dark side will be complete!"
"I'll never join you," Kilthanis growled. He leapt to his feet to attack, but Yokir was faster. The older man appeared in front of him, blocking Kilthanis' thrust with his own sword. They parried and countered, circling each other in the throne room.
Sore and tired, Kilthanis felt his strength flagging after only a few rounds of attack. Yokir was much stronger than he had expected. He dodged the next strike and ran off into the shadows cast by the decorative pillars in the room, leaning up against one while he caught his breath. He heard Yokir as he walked in search of the younger man, breathing hard himself. With each huff and puff the older man grew closer.
"You are unwise to lower your defenses," Yokir snarled, and then he struck. His sword slashed up against the pillar where Kilthanis had been standing, but the younger man deftly rolled out of the way just in time.
"You don't have to do this. The Emperor is insane."
"The Emperor fears you. We have the power to destroy him, join me and together we could rule the galaxy!" Yokir grinned.
"No, I'll never join you!" Kilthanis shouted. Yokir struck him in the chest with one arm and then slashed with his sword, hacking off the younger man's arm. Kilthanis screamed in pain.
"Obi-wan never told you what happened to your father..." Yokir said incomprehensibily.
"You're not making any sense," hissed Kilthanis as he leaned against a pillar, cradling his bloody stump of an arm against his chest.
"No, I am your father!" Yokir pronounced.
"Can we get on with this?" The Emperor called out. "You're mixing up dialogue from two different movies."