Robin Langerak – Regicide
Like every morning I checked my regimeter the minute I woke up. Number 6381 today, 17 less than yesterday; not too bad but not the best result ever of a day’s hard work. The regimeter is under my pillow when I sleep, so it is always close by. I wouldn’t have known what to do if I hadn’t been able to check it every morning. Yes, that meant I would have had to bring it with me if I would have slept somewhere else, so I never did, afraid to be ridiculed over it. I was married once, but when my wife asked me to keep the regimeter out of our marital bed I had to leave her. I left a son behind and I haven’t spoken to him in years. But that is the price you pay for ambition.
I got out of bed, took a shower, shaved and put on new clothes. The shirt I had worn the day before was soaked with blood, so I had to throw it away; those stains would never wash out. The throne was still way off, but you could not get used to looking royal too early.
As a precaution, I left through the backdoor. I did not fear being targeted this low on the list, but I couldn’t guarantee I was perfectly safe either.
A ping announced activity on my regimeter and when I looked it had turned to 6382. Someone in the palace or in the inner city had apparently given birth to a kid that had a higher succession rank than me. There was nothing to worry about: kids were born constantly but people died of natural causes as well. So there was always some fluctuation on the regimeter. It only strengthened my resolve.
I ran to the inner city wall through abandoned alleys that were littered with refuse, broken furniture and sometimes even bodies. It wasn’t a pleasant journey but I had to make sure that no one was following me. When I came to the inner city I used a rope to scale the wall. I could have used the gate but people would have noticed me. The fewer people could remember I had been there, the better.
I climbed across rooftops like a thief. People were still asleep beneath my feet and although they were probably all potential targets I moved on toward the palace. Traveling this way was much slower than it would have been on ground level and I didn’t reach the palace grounds before noon. There was another wall there, but this one was lower and therefore easier to climb. Once I had reached the top, I drew my hood. No one here would recognize me, but better be safe than sorry.
The main palace hall was larger than I had expected. The king was holding court: a great opportunity because a lot of people with a higher succession rank than me would gather. Of course the king himself was protected by transparent screens on all sides so I couldn’t harm him.
I loaded an arrow into my crossbow and picked a target. I chose carefully because as soon as I had taken someone down, the panic that would break out would make a sure kill difficult. I steadied myself and aimed, but just before I pressed the trigger I noticed the huge chandelier that hung above the gathered crowd and that provided light for most of the hall. I shifted my aim. Hitting a chain from this far was a long shot, even for an expert marksman like me, but if I missed there would have been no harm done: the arrow would probably strike the far wall and no one would notice.
I let the arrow fly and to my amazement it hit the chain that held the chandelier. Unfortunately, its force was not enough to break it. Instead, it ricocheted and disappeared silently into the corner of the hall. I cursed louder than I had meant to and returned my attention to the target I had picked. I readied another arrow, but before I could even aim, a noise high above me drew my attention. Apparently, my arrow had caused enough damage to the chain for the weight of the chandelier to do the rest. Agonizingly slowly it came loose and landed on top of a group of courtiers. My regimeter was going crazy. I counted over thirty pings and that wasn’t even taking into account those who would succumb to their wounds in the coming days. The pings were so loud that I feared they would draw attention from the guards, so I quickly left and made my way out of the palace.
I managed to follow the same route back that I had used to get there, even though the world looked differently from this angle. All the while my regimeter kept on betraying my position, so I didn’t dare stop and look back until I was out of the inner city. I breathed deeply and resisted the urge to check my rank. At this rate I would be king before the end of the year but that was just wishful thinking: I wouldn’t be this lucky every day.
I lifted my hood and looked around, for the first time in a long time happy to be in a city so full of potential. Suddenly I heard a thud behind me and before I could turn around something hit me in the back. I felt the arrow take out vital organs. It didn’t hurt, but a strange numbness quickly spread to my limbs. With the last of my strength I turned around to see my attacker. I hadn’t seen my son in years, but I recognized him immediately. “Why?” I said with bubbles in my throat, but he didn’t have time to answer.
He didn’t have to. As my soul left my body, his regimeter pinged.