A Sword of Ivy, Part 14

The next thing Hana knew, she was waking up in a tiny cell that she recognized as being in the dungeon beneath the Great Hall. Everything on Numoris was relatively new, as the planet had only been settled about 50 years earlier, but these dungeons looked as if they’d been there for centuries. They were dingy, smelly, musty…pretty much every stereotype you could think of to describe a dungeon, these dungeons fit. They were designed to demoralize Fangalin’s worst enemies, and its most reprehensible traitors. Hana couldn’t imagine why she was here.

She didn’t have to wonder about it long, though. Almost as soon as she woke up, as if her conscious state was a cue that someone had been waiting for, the door to her cell opened, and two burly guards entered. She tried demanding that they tell her what was going on, but they ignored her, grabbed her by the arms, and began dragging her out of the cell. She attempted to resist, but there wasn’t anything she could do. Skilled assassin or not, both guards were at least twice her size, plus she was handcuffed. Not only that, but she felt strangely weak. She began to suspect that she had been drugged.

She was dragged roughly into an interrogation room and flung into the hard metal chair in the middle of the room. She tried to get up, but one of the guards held her down while another shackled her hands and feet to the chair. She screamed in impotent rage, but the guards just chuckled roughly and left the room. The chair she was in was bolted to the floor, and she was secured to it with steel restraints. She thrashed and struggled for a few moments, but it quickly became clear to her that there was no escape, so she gave up and tried to preserve her strength instead.

As soon as she stopped screaming, the door opened, and Ven Ron stepped inside. “Well, well, well,” he said with a smug look on his face, “how the mighty have fallen. The great Hana Lodimeur, slayer of Emperors, hero of Fangalin… Now awaiting execution for the murder of the Supreme Commander. How deliciously ironic.” Ron was a tall, muscular man in his early 50s, with short, graying brown hair and hazel eyes, and if Hana hadn’t known him, she probably would have found him handsome. But his reputation preceded him, and now Hana couldn’t look at him without feeling anything but disgust and hatred.

“What are you talking about?” Hana asked with a scowl. “I didn’t murder the Supreme Commander. I was trying to save his life!”

“How convenient,” Ron replied, his smugness growing deeper. “Of course, that excuse ignores the fact that you were the only one in the room with the Supreme Commander when he was poisoned, not to mention that you were the only one who had the opportunity and the motive to eliminate him.”

“Motive!” Hana exclaimed. “What motive!?”

“You were angry that he had removed you from command of Starfengt, and you believed that by eliminating him, you would usher into office a Supreme Commander who would be more amenable to your desires,” Ron said calmly, his smug look morphing into a smug little smile.

“You’re insane,” Hana said, glaring. “Nobody’s going to believe that.”

“It doesn’t really matter what anyone believes,” Ron said with a shrug. “I’ve already been elected Supreme Commander by the Grand Council, and so my word is law, now.” The smile on his face deepened at the look of horror on Hana’s.

“You killed the Supreme Commander,” Hana said, her eyes widening. “That assistant of his. Velenoth. He poisoned Calabane’s wine, after I’d already scanned it for toxins!”

“Oh, yes. Morken has been a loyal servant of mine for many years,” Ron said with a nod. “And he’s already been well rewarded for his efforts. The Councilors have already voted to add him to the Grand Council in my place.”

“I knew it!” Hana snarled. “Oh, Calabane was so convinced that Velenoth was loyal to him! That arrogant idiot!”

“Yes, indeed, but that worked out in my favor, now didn’t it?” Ron said, his smile growing wider and more unpleasant.

“You’re not going to get away with this, you know,” Hana sneered. “You can’t murder a beloved Supreme Commander and expect there to be no consequences.”

“My dear Hana, I don’t know who you think is going to complain,” Ron said, spreading his arms out wide. “Everybody but you, me, and the Council thinks that you killed Dren Calabane. You may have been the Hero of Fangalin once, but now that you’ve, as you put it, murdered a beloved Supreme Commander, your name is now mud.”

“We’ll see about that,” Hana said through clenched teeth, but Ron just laughed derisively.

“Oh, I don’t think we will,” Ron said, still laughing. “I’ve already scheduled your public execution! In three days you will be beheaded in front of the Great Hall, and everyone will see how Fangalin deals with traitors.” Suddenly, his laughter cut off, and he leaned forward with an intense look on his face. Hana instinctively tried to lean back, but she was kept from doing so by her restraints. Before she could do or say anything else, Ron seized her by the shoulders and kissed her roughly on the mouth. Hana, acting on instinct, bit his tongue hard. He yelled angrily, recoiled, and then punched her hard in the face.

The blow was so hard that it would have knocked her to the floor if she hadn’t been chained down. Pain such as she had rarely known enveloped her, and stars swam in front of her eyes. She wanted to groan in agony, but she wouldn’t give her enemy the satisfaction. Instead, she spat blood out of her mouth, his and hers mingled together, and grinned up at him viciously. He stared at her for a moment, and then a nasty smile of his own spread across his face.

“I should teach you who wears the pants around here,” he said, spitting out blood himself. “I should have taught you a long time ago. There’s a reason that only men are allowed to rule in Fangalin. But you aren’t worth the effort. In three days, you’ll be a headless corpse, and I’ll be sipping Dren Calabane’s wine and toasting your memory. Enjoy the few wretched moments of life you have left.” And, after spitting in her face, he turned and left her alone in the interrogation room.

To be continued…

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