The smell of death hovered in the air. The ruler of the planet Haduron sat on his throne, dying. An unseen, unknown killer had slowly turned the once handsome man into a skeleton. His body used to be as solid as the very mountains of Haduron. Now a simple touch would knock him down. Skin once smooth and pale was marred with wrinkles, and a multitude of lurid colors. No one had found a cure. His fate was sealed. Soon the King would take his last breath.
His raspy wheezing was the only noise heard through his chamber. Only family and personal servants were allowed to be with the King in his final moments. Doron, the King's eldest son, knelt at the foot of his father's throne. He bowed his head to hide the grin that wanted to creep across his face. Soon all would be his.
Out the corner of his eye Doron glanced at his mother. Hair as black as night flowed in waves to the center of her back. Her skin was as golden as the desert floors of Haduron. She looked as if she had never borne children, though she had four sons. Queen Adura was the epitome of beauty. Yet, she was a fool. Just look at the love and sadness in her eyes as she held onto her husband, waiting for him to take his last breath. Undying love and devotion, Doron thought contemptuously. His own loyalty was just as total. Loyalty to himself.
Kneeling on both sides of Doron were his two younger brothers. He hated both of them. His father adored and respected his brothers and hated him. But soon it would not matter. Even the mighty Haduronian King could not change the birth order. He knew of a planet with three suns, exposed to a never-ending, parched glare. It seemed a good place to exile his brothers. He cut his eyes to the servant girl who had been avoiding him. Never mind, he would soon break her in.
The king spoke. "I sense you're restlessness." Each word was a labored breath.
Doron looked up at the old man. Why wasn't he dead yet? "Father?" he feigned sincerity.
"I. . . ." The king gasped for breath, wheezing as he exhaled. "Am. . . not dead. . . yet."
"And I am so thankful, father." Doron saw his mother's glance. Did Queen Adura hear how easily the lies flowed from his mouth?
"In my final. . . " the king began, but his color changed and he labored for his next breath.
While the king struggled to continue his statement, a stranger entered the room. His stride bespoke power. He was cloaked in black, but only another King would be allowed into the King's throne room at his last moments. The stranger bowed to the Haduronian King. "Old friend, you will not suffer alone. I am here until the last moments, if you will allow it?"
The King and Queen both seemed surprised, but nodded their approval.
"I am glad. . . " the King managed only a low whisper, but with the silence it could be heard by all. "that you are here. My final decree. . . ." He paused, struggling. His head sagged onto the Queen's arm.
Doron repressed an impatient fidget. Would the old man never get his dying over with?
The King's eyes opened. "Therefore, my second son, Willik, shall inherit the throne."
Doron's head jerked up, fury radiating from the core of his being.
"Should he die before he has a son," he wheezed, "Edrek shall be king." His eyes moved to his eldest son. "You are not ready, Doron." That was the last breath of the Haduronian King.
Willik placed his hand on Doron's shoulder "I am sorry my br..." He never finished the words. He had one moment to register shock before his lifeless body fell to the ground. Doron wrenched the knife from Willik's heart and turned toward Edrek, his mother's screams a mere echo in the background.
Edrek was prepared. He jumped back, raising his sword. Knowing his brother was a better swordsman than he, Doron threw his knife directly at Edrek's head. Deflecting it with his sword, Edrek charged. Doron scrambled to draw his own sword, but Edrek stumbled and fell to the ground. The man in black stood behind him, his sword protruding out of Edrek's back. Blood poured from the wound.
Queen Adura grasped the sword from her son's back and charged the cloaked man. He dodged her blow effortlessly, knocking the sword out of her hand. He pulled her close to him, pinning her to his body. He smiled at Doron. "It looks like you are now King of Haduron." As Queen Adura struggled he increased his hold on her.
Turning his back on his mother, Doron walked up the stairs, pleased with his new accomplice. He sat on the throne, hard with power. "I decree myself King of Haduron," he proclaimed.
"Why stop at just Haduron?"
Doron jerked his head in his helper's direction
"You are a mighty planet. Only one planet can defeat you, Atlzo. They are a peaceful planet. Conquer everyone else, and then worry about them."
"What about Wekari? They are as strong as us, if not stronger."
"They are not as strong, if I pledge my allegiance to Haduron."
Doron smiled at the man in black. Now he knew who this stranger was. He didn't fully trust his new friend, but with his army, Haduron would be unstoppable. "Then war it shall be."
"And your mother?"
Doron glanced at Queen Adura, crushed against the other man's side, his arm clamped to her neck. He considered. He couldn't trust her either, of course. "Don't kill her. After all, she is my mother." Adura visibly relaxed. "But," Adura tensed, and Doron smiled again, beginning to enjoy himself. So this was what power felt like. "You can take her," he decided. "Consider it my way of saying thanks."
If looks could kill, Doron knew he'd be dead. He didn't care. His new ally seemed very pleased with his gift. .
The man cloaked in black saw the power hungry look in King Doron's eyes as he thought about conquering the galaxy. The kid wanted power at any cost, but a thinker he was not. If he were smart, he would have questioned why he suddenly had an accomplice. And why that accomplice would be so willing to help him to conquer a solar system that included his planet. The kid had never even wondered how he knew exactly when to come. Doron was an idiot. He would rule by fear and that alone would cause everyone to obey. As he walked from the room, dragging his victory prize, he was happy. Everything had gone according to plan.