trial-by-combat in the court of calamities


mind, i totally fucked killian up for the rest of forever, but that’s my job as a writer, yeah?

nb: killian and imogen are what are called hierocosphinxes; although, killian is owl-headed instead of falcon-head like he’s supposed to be because I’M A WRITER I DO WHAT I WANT.

yep, punchy has occurred.

In the Court of Calamities, physical strength is the currency by which a Scion Oppositional Parliament is determined, and those who are of a more arcane bent are—usually not with the surviving of the trials.

The Court of Calamities looked rather unfavorably upon those who wielded magick in general. Another one of those long held (since the beginning of fucking time) prejudices that formed and informed the overarching culture that permeated the Court of Calamities.

Considering Killian was both a scrawny owlet and of an arcane bent, there wasn’t a whole lot of likelihood that Killian would win the trial-by-combat to become the Scion of the Court of Calamities, and since Killian was born to the ruling family, Killian didn’t have a choice in participating.

So—Killian didn’t have a whole lot of expectations for the length and breadth of his life: no plans—made because why would he—no real interest in anything because, again, what was the point when he wasn’t going to live to see adulthood.

When one’s life-expectancy was basically no existent, one only did what one wanted to do.

Over his brief childhood, Killian learned how to wield their arcane abilities—abilities that were actually rather paltry and almost not worth learning to use—but another thing about having such a short life-expectancy, people were willing to indulge basically everything that Killian wanted, so Killian received their training, received books and scrolls and tablets that had been buried and basically forgotten about those few previous Oppositional Parliaments whom had wielded the arcane, learned from their grimoires, read of their adventures and conquests and their time spent amongst the Euigilans Somnium where magick had been tolerated and even venerated.

Killian learned everything that they could because there was something about knowing about so many different things that made Killian realize that there was so much that he didn’t know that he wanted to know about and caused Killian to actually want: want to know, want to be, want to be better, want to live.

Killian could always run—go into hiding, live on the run in the Euigilans Somnium—but he didn’t have much faith in that because, while Killian lived undefeated, his twin’s—the falcon-headed Imogen—rule would never be seen as stable and secure.

And, that meant that Mad March Grey would be sent to find and eliminate Killian—if Killian were lucky.

It was more likely that Mad March Grey would drag Killian back to Calamity, and Killian would be publically executed after being tortured for being a traitor.

So, yeah, good times.

Yet, maybe there was a way that Killian could survive without running while securing Imogen’s throne, and maybe—just maybe—Killian could become something more than the Scion or a corpse.

It wasn’t unprecedented.

But, the times that it had happened were also few and far between.

There was just—too much expected bloodshed and death that was attached with the Scion Trials.

But, maybe, there was a way if Killian spoke to Imogen—strong and stalwart and the favorite to win Scion and, therefore, fighting unchallenged except for Killian—maybe they could come to an agreement.

Fight Killian. Hurt Killian. Win the trial. Let Killian live.

Allow Killian to go into exile in the Euigilans Somnium.

It was a chance, and a chance was more than Killian had ever had.

So, Killian had spoken with Imogen, and Imogen had agreed, and Killian had plotted, planed, and colluded with his twin who had always been an extension of his self and Self despite Killian’s surety that Imogen would one day have to kill him—and wouldn’t hesitate in the least because duty came before family.

But, Imogen had agreed—had sworn upon the great Hierocosphinx Ker who had born Calamity forth—that if Imogen could spare Killian’s life, they would.

And, like a naïve, faithful, lacking in common sense fool of an owlet, Killian had believed Imogen, had placed in faith in their word.

Placed his faith in their bond as twins.

The day of the Scion Trial came, and Killian was dressed in armor that made no sense to wear because Killian lacked any ability to fight hand-to-hand. The blade in his hand little more than a dagger since one of those damned rules was that the contestants had to declare their weapon, and Killian, understandably, had chosen magick since it was the only weapon that Killian could wield with any proficiency despite only having a paltry ability to fight magickally.

But, tradition said, and no one had show any indication of caring to buck tradition so far, so armor Killian wore, a dagger Killian held, and magick Killian would wield.

A great, roaring cheer emanated from the gathered audience as Imogen stepped out into the arena in all their golden-bronzed glory—practically a god in their heavy plate armor and heavy double-headed axe gleaming bright—looking serious and resolute and—

And, like they were planning to murder Killian.

…that was a worry.

That worrying became more of an OMG, FUCKING PANIC when Killian realized that Imogen was not going to try not to kill Killian.

Killian wracked his brain trying to figure out what could have possibly caused Imogen to break their oath as Imogen came bearing down upon Killian—swifter than Killian though that anyone wearing full-plate armor should be allowed to move—and swung at Killian with full force and velocity.

Which, Killian barely avoided—well, “barely” meaning that Imogen’s axe grazed Killian’s armor and sliced a long, deep wound down Killian’s forearm, cutting away the leather vambrace that was the only thing that had kept Killian from losing his arm right there and then.

Killian seethed, vision dimming in rage and betrayal.

This was the person who had sworn to do everything that they could to ensure that Killian survived.

This was the person who knew that Killian had no ambitions towards the Scioncy.

This was his twin, and yeah, Killian didn’t expect much—welcome to Calamity—but Killian did expect Imogen to keep their promise.

They had sworn. They had sworn upon Ker.

And, as Imogen can around with another swing, Killian did the only thing that he could do: he cast a spell.

He cast a shield, a shield that had never managed to deflect more than an orange, a shield that—just deflected the axe strike of the most impressive warrior of a generation and flung them across the arena.

Well, fuck. That was unexpected.

As a holy, glowing darkness that Killian recognized as the shield settled and anchored itself to Killian, another spell came to Killian’s mind.

Killian cast fire.

The flames swarmed out of Killian’s hand like fireflies and surrounded Imogen in a fiery circle; Imogen panicking as the fire singed their feathers and scorched their fur. The pungent smell filling the arena, a mutter of unease cresting in the silence that accompanied Killian’s attack. Before the fire-made fireflies could actually touch Imogen, Killian twisted his hand as his mind twisted too, transforming the wreath of moving fire into a clutch of invisible, unbreakable force.

Imogen was trapped, unable to move.

Killian had won, except—

Except for murdering his twin.

Killian couldn’t. Just because Imogen had betrayed him didn’t mean that Killian could betray them.

Walking across the arena—slowly, aware that Killian needed to show that he was the one with the power, was the one in control (because Calamity)—bared his dagger to the crowd. Killian turned to face Imogen and saw that there was actual fear in Imogen’s eyes, something that Killian had never seen before. “I am sorry, Imogen.” And, Killian sliced a shallow cute across Imogen’s left cheek. Turning back to the crowd who were waiting with a hushed silence, Killian showed them the bloody dagger. “Bound by blood—BOUND BY THE BLODD OF MY OPPONENT—I have won. I am your Scion.”

The crowd roared.