Excerpt for My Brother, My King Part I - Betrayal by , available in its entirety at Smashwords







My Brother,

My King


C.L. Mozena







This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Copyright 2018 C.L. Mozena


All rights reserved


E-book edition January 2018







Part I


Betrayal

1It wasn't fair. The crown was Devon's birthright, not Mark's. So how come his little brother was going to be king? Devon paced back and forth on the third floor balcony overlooking the great hall. Servants below decorated for the coronation tomorrow. Mark's coronation. It should be Devon's.

What was Mom thinking? Mark was three years younger than Devon. Still a boy. And he acted like it, too. He was more concerned with playing some sport or other with his friends than studying. Devon, on the other hand, studied day and night. He knew how the kingdom operated and who was who in the upper class. Mark couldn't care less. But Mom said Mark had 'leadership qualities' that Devon didn't possess. Whatever that meant.

"It means that she doesn't have a real answer," Dad would always say. "It means that she loves Mark more because of that flea-bitten, filthy piece of trash. That 'piece of trash' was Philip, Mom's current husband and Mark's dad. She married Devon's dad first. And gave birth to Devon first, but they were barely a part of the family. Devon was nearly invisible to Mom and looked down upon by Philip. The only connection he had was his little brother. "Half-brother," Dad would remind him. Dad didn't care that their ties to the family were paper-thin. He didn't care that Mom remarried and had another son. All he cared about was that that other son stole Devon's birthright. Devon had to admit, it made him rather angry, too.

But it wasn't Mark's fault. Nothing was Mark's fault. Mark was, well, Mark was Devon's little brother. That's all. They grew up together; got in trouble together. Like the time they found Mark's giant birthday cake down in the kitchens. In less than an hour, the cake was all over the floor, the walls, and the boys. Devon's jaw stung for a week from Dad's belt while Mark got a slap on the wrist. That was okay. The cake was supposed to be Mark's, anyway. And Devon should have known better.

"Hey, Dev," Mark appeared on the balcony flanked by two of his friends. His so-called bodyguards. They were assigned to follow Mark the day after he and Devon decided to go horseback riding. In the woods. At night. Alone. Yes, it was stupid, but it was fun. They were punished for it. Mark got bodyguards. Devon got a black eye.

"Shouldn't you be getting ready for tomorrow?" Devon stopped pacing.

"I am ready," he shrugged. "Or as ready as I'm going to be."

"Right." As if his little brother would ever be ready to rule the kingdom. No matter how old, he'd never be able to handle that kind of responsibility. Devon leaned on the railing. Mark joined him.

"Like a nestful of bees." Mark watched the servants work.

"Mmm." Devon looked down, but the servants didn't matter.

"You remember, don't you?" Mark turned to face Devon with those piercing blue eyes. Devon's eyes were blue, too, but much darker. Mark leaned one elbow on the railing. "That bee's nest we snatched right off the tree?"

"And brought inside." Devon shook his head and chuckled. "How many times did we get stung?" He looked sideways at Mark.

"I don't remember." He frowned. "But I do remember you limping for a long time after that." Devon tensed. That limp wasn't because of the bees. "Hey, you're not sore, are you?" Mark smacked Devon's shoulder. "I mean, about tomorrow?"

Sore? Of course Devon was sore. He was mad. Furious. But not at Mark. "No." Devon managed a half-grin. "You're my little brother. How could I be sore at you?"

"Thanks." Mark turned back to watch the servants again. "You know, I was really surprised Mom picked me as her heir and not you." So was Devon. And Dad was so shocked at the announcement, he couldn't speak for three days.

"Yea, well. You'd better do a good job." Devon ruffled Mark's short blonde hair. Mark ducked and swatted at Devon's hand. Devon smiled. It was easy when they were boys. Nothing mattered except having a good time. No matter how painful the consequences.

"Eh," he shrugged. "Shouldn't be any harder than a day of studying." Mark smiled. It just wasn't fair.

"Jerk-face." Devon pushed Mark's shoulder.

"Butt-head." Mark shoved back.

"Dip-stick!" Devon grabbed Mark's wrists. He squirmed away.

"En garde!" Mark jumped to one of the suits of armor that lined the wall and grabbed its sword. He held it above his head.

"Whoa, now." Devon held his hands up, palms out. "Those are real swords, you know."

"I know." Mark swung at Devon. Devon ducked and grabbed his own sword. The blades clanged as the two exchanged blows. It took every bit of concentration not to get hit by Mark's sword. Devon's arm ached. When did his little brother get so strong? But Mark acted like they were playing a game. He didn't let up. No way was Devon going to let his little brother get the best of him. Devon thrust forward. Mark blocked. Clang! Bang! The swords swung to the side and hit one of the suits of armor. The pieces trembled and fell. And hit the next suit. And the next, on down the wall. Dad jumped out of the way of the crashing armor. "Oops." Mark chuckled. Devon's blood ran cold.

"Klutz." One of Mark's friends shook his head. The other laughed. Dad furrowed his brows and bared his teeth.

"Uh, gotta go." Devon dropped the sword. "See you at dinner." Devon trotted away. Dad joined him. Ever since the divorce, Dad stuck around and adopted the role of Devon's bodyguard. Every prince needed one, and they were lucky Mom agreed. Devon and Dad went everywhere together; did everything together. Sometimes Devon wished he could do something by himself. Go somewhere alone. But, whatever.

"What was that?" Dad frowned as they reached their private chambers. "I could have been impaled! Or crushed or-!"

"Sorry," Devon flipped the lights on. The room was bathed in red light. Dad's favorite color.

"Sorry? You're sorry?" Dad's voice grew louder. "I'll show you sorry!" Dad raised a fist. Pain exploded in the middle of Devon's face. He scrunched his eyes and covered his nose. He took a step back and bent down on one knee. Something warm ran through his fingers. He opened watery eyes and saw blood. But he didn't say anything. He willed the tears to stop as he stood back up. He gritted his teeth and took short breaths. He would not cry. "Go clean yourself up." Dad turned his back.

Devon splashed water on his face. It mixed with blood and tears in the bowl. Why did it have to be this way? He gazed in the mirror. The wound could have been worse. At least his nose wasn't broken. Just bloody. And his lip swelled a little around a small split. He wiped the last of the mess away and re-spiked his brown hair. Maybe he'd get some respect if he was king. As if.

A golden, two-headed snake slithered to meet him as he stepped out of the washroom and wagged its tongue at Devon. He bent over and picked it up. A double-mutated wonder, the snake was Devon's pet. And it was friendly, not like the exotic venomous snakes he kept. This one was his pride and joy.

"I hope you learned your lesson this time." Dad huffed. "Stay away from him."

"He's my brother." Devon let the snake slither from his hands and wrap around his shoulders like a scaly scarf.

"No, he's not." Dad stood in front of Devon and crossed his arms. "He's a dirty thief. Remember what he stole from you."

"I know." Devon sat down on one of the fancy couches in his chambers and put his feet up. Why did he have so many places to sit? It's not like he had any friends. Just the snakes.

One of his pet's heads tickled Devon's ear with its tongue. Devon rubbed the top of that head until the animal settled down. The snake loved him, if snakes could love. His little brother loved him, too. More than Dad and Mom, anyway.

"Devon, are you paying attention?" Dad stood over him, a prominent scowl on his face. Dad always scowled. Like he hated everything.

"Sorry. What?" Devon looked away. Dad could be rather intimidating when he wanted to be. Too bad Devon didn't inherit Dad's muscular build.

"I said, I have a plan to get rid of that blonde mongrel once and for all."

"Mark's not a dog." Devon said under his breath. Whap! Pain exploded in Devon's cheek the same time as he hit the floor.

"Don't you dare contradict me, boy!" Dad stood over him with a fist raised. "If I say Marcus is a mongrel, then he's a mongrel. Got it?"

"Yes, sir." Devon rubbed his sore cheek and picked himself up off the floor. It didn't matter what Dad said. Mark was still Devon's little brother. And he still stood in the way of Devon receiving his rightful inheritance.

"Good. Now, here's what we're gonna do. Tonight, after dinner, you will invite Marcus here to celebrate his 'coronation'," Dad waved his first two fingers, "and one of your snakes is going to 'accidentally'," again, the fingers, "escape from its cage. And we won't be able to catch it until after it bites Marcus."

"Those snakes are venomous." He picked his pet up. "Most are deadly."

"That's the point." Dad crossed his arms.

Devon's breath caught in his throat. Did Dad really suggest what Devon thought he suggested? "You're going to kill Mark?"

"No," Dad got that glimmer in his eyes. "You are."

"Huh?" Devon fell backwards onto the couch.

"A king has to be strong. And do what's best for the kingdom."

"But he's my brother."

"He's not your brother. He's a dirty rat. And your snakes are hungry."


Dinner came too quickly. Devon barely touched his food. He couldn't get past the vile taste in his mouth. Mom and Philip chatted merrily about tomorrow, but Mark stayed quiet. Butterflies, no doubt. Devon had butterflies, too, but for a different reason.

"You boys okay?" Mom smiled. "You didn't eat much, Devon. Aren't you hungry?"

"Uh, just nerves, I guess." Devon stole a glance across the table, behind Mark. Dad stood against the wall. His lip curled for a moment, then relaxed. Devon's heart hammered.

"I hear you!" Mark laughed. Or tried to.

"And just what do you have to be nervous about, Devon?" Philip raised an eyebrow. "Tomorrow is Marcus's big day. Not yours." Devon gritted his teeth. Not once did Mom or Philip ask how Devon got a swollen lip. Perhaps it was for the best. That way, he wouldn't have to make something up on the spot.

Time to change the subject. "Hey, I got a great idea. Mark. How about a little pre-coronation celebration in my chambers, if you know what I mean." He winked and elbowed Mark in the ribs.

Mark grinned. Genuinely. "Sounds great."

"Don't stay up too late, boys." Mom tapped her lips with a napkin. "We all have a big day tomorrow."

"We won't," Devon grabbed Mark's wrist and pulled him away.

"Yes, we will." Mark grinned. "Won't we?"

Devon raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips. "I don't know what you're talking about." Mark chuckled.


Five bottles of wine later, both boys were laughing in Devon's chambers. "D'you 'member when I stripped down and jumped in the fountain?"

"Unfortunately." Devon rolled his eyes. Mark was only seven. They had been playing ball in the courtyard when a sudden gust of wind caught the ball and dumped it at the top of the twenty-foot fountain. Mark said he'd get it, and then proceeded to remove his clothes and jump in the freezing water. He was lucky he didn't get sick.

"What kinda party is this, anyways?" Mark raised his glass. "Where is everybody? Where're the girls?"

"Your friends don't like my snakes." Devon rubbed one of the two-headed snake's heads. "And, uh, the girls'll be here later."

"Whassup with this red light? We run outta white? Hic!" Mark grinned from ear to ear.

"I like red." Devon sipped his drink.

"Howzzat?" Mark downed his wine. "Hic! Got anymore?" He held his glass towards Devon. Empty again. Devon hadn't even finished his second. But getting Mark dead drunk was part of the plan. That way, he couldn't fight back.

"Coming right up." Devon snapped his fingers. Dad appeared with a fresh bottle on ice and popped the cork. Mark drank it up as soon as Dad poured it, so Dad poured him another. He cleared his throat and put the bottle back in the ice. That was the signal. Devon took a deep breath. He set his glass down and pulled his pet off his shoulders. His heart raced. "Be right back."

"Where ya goin'?"

"Uh, to get the girls." Devon winked.

"Good. I want a brunette. And two gingers. Make sure they're pretty, 'kay?"

"Anything for my little brother." Devon hopped up and followed Dad around the corner.

"I don't know about brunettes and gingers," Dad raised an eyebrow. "But he's gonna get a female. Snake that is."

"Is this really necessary?" Devon peeked around the corner. Mark poured himself another drink. But most of the wine fell on his lap and the floor. So he gave up and drank straight out of the bottle. He was such a child.

"You're not getting cold feet now," Dad grabbed Devon's shirt collar and lowered his voice, "Are you?"

"N-no! Of course not." Devon pushed Dad's hand away. "It's just..."

"You want to be king, don't you?"

"I guess so."

"Don't you?" Dad scowled.

"Yes."

"This is your kingdom, isn't it?"

"Yes." Devon frowned.

"That thief has stolen it from you."

"Yes."

"And you want it back, don't you?"

"Yes!"

"Then take it!" Dad held a black mamba by the neck. The snake's mouth was wide open, revealing the reason for its name. "See that Marcus gets bit on the ankle, then put it in the empty tank.

"What's wrong with the tank it's got?"

"It broke. That's how the snake got out. And you managed to catch it after Marcus got bit, but you were too late to save him. Got it?" Dad held the snake out to him.

"Got it." Devon squeezed the snake just below the head with both hands. Dad nodded. The snake wrapped its body around Devon's arm. No big deal. Dad would help get it off later. Devon held the snake in front of him and walked over to Mark. He was splayed out on the couch in a puddle of wine. Great. The floor would be stained forever. Maybe he'd have the floor replaced.

"Hey, Dev," Mark's eyes barely opened and a sheepish grin spread on his face. "Got any more wine? Hic!" He chuckled.

"Sorry, bro. That's all there is." That wasn't true. There were lots of bottles hidden in the depths of the palace, and Devon could snap his fingers for a servant to fetch another. But Mark was drunk enough and Devon didn't want to risk him throwing up.

"Oh. Hic! Too bad." Mark sat up and set his glass on the table. And knocked it over. "Oops." He grinned. "Whatcha got there?"

Devon squeezed the snake harder. It squirmed. "A black mamba."

"Looks like a snake." Mark tilted his head. "But I thought your snake had two heads."

"It does."

"Okay." Mark closed his eyes. "Thanks for the party, Dev. You're the bestest brother ever." He flopped over and snored. Devon stood over him, a deadly venomous snake and his destiny in his hands. Devon was the eldest; he was meant to be king. He had to be king. For the good of the kingdom, Devon must be king. And in order to become king, Mark had to die. In his mind's eye, Devon saw Mark, three years old, sitting in a patch of grass and crying. He had just tripped on a loose stone and scraped his knee. Mom and Philip were both next to him with hugs and kisses to calm him down. If Devon got such a little scrape, Dad wouldn't even bat an eye. He'd probably smack Devon for making such a fuss.

"Now's your opportunity." Devon jumped and nearly dropped the snake. It thrashed in his hands, but he regained control. "What are you waiting for?" Dad growled behind him. "Hold that nasty thing near Marcus's ankle so it'll bite 'im and be done with it." Mark twitched in his sleep and a smile spread on his face.

Devon's heart rammed against his ribs and his breaths came in gasps. He trembled. His knees wobbled. His blood ran colder that the deadly creature in his hands. Just one bite. One moment and it would be over. A drip of spittle leaked out of Mark's mouth and ran down the scar on his jaw. Mark got that scar when he was six, climbing that tree Mom told him to stay off of. He fell, broke his arm and busted his jaw wide open. Mom was hysterical. She loved Mark so much. So did Devon. Would he be able to live with himself knowing that he murdered his little brother?

Another memory surfaced. Mark was ten. Devon had just gotten his mutant snake for his thirteenth birthday. It was so tiny, and Mark was afraid. He clung to big brother's arm, despite assurances that they were safe. Devon promised he wouldn't let Mark get bit. Not ever.

"Watch that snake!" Dad's voice shook Devon out of his thoughts. He almost dropped the black mamba! He tightened his grip. Mark still slept. With that stupid, drunken smile.

Not ever.

He took a deep breath. "I can't do it."

"Whaddya mean, you can't do it?" Dad's eyes narrowed and his lip curled.

"I can't." Devon shook his head. "He's my brother."

"He's not your brother!" Dad slapped Devon so hard he lost his footing. Don't drop the snake! He kept both hands firmly around the snake's neck as he stumbled. He fell and his head banged on the glass top of the table. "Fool! That," he pointed at Mark, "is the mongrel son of a flea-bitten, filthy-."

"He's my little brother! And I'm his big brother! He's family. You are not!" Devon gritted his teeth. His eyes watered and his blood boiled. "You don't care about me; you never did! All you ever cared about was ruling the kingdom through me! I hate you!" Devon jumped up and thrust the snake at Dad. He threw his arms in front of his face. Snake fangs sank into flesh.

"Aagghh!" Dad jumped around and shook his arm as hard as he could. The snake's body whipped around, but it didn't let go. "Get it off me! Get it off!"

Devon froze. The doors burst open and a pair of palace guards rushed in. One held Dad still while the other grabbed the snake and pulled it off. Along with a chunk of skin. Dad cradled his wounded arm and fell to his knees. "Devon." His voice was barely audible. One guard tried to help Dad while the other chopped the snake to pieces. Another dark stain on the floor. "Son." Dad struggled to keep his head up. "My son..." He fell on his side.

Satisfied that the snake was dead, the guard screamed out the door, "Snake bite! We need a medic in here! Now!" But it was already too late. Devon's blood pounded in his ears. He could barely breathe. What had he done?

A noise behind him made him jump. Only Mark, still asleep on the couch and snoring like a bear. He'd have no idea how close he came to death's door. And he never would.


Devon stood off to the side on the platform in front of the throne. Mom and Philip stood dead center. Mark walked down a red carpet between thick crowds on either side. He was a sight to see, all decked out with no expense spared. He knelt at the top of the steps while Mom placed the dazzling crown on his head.

"Presenting King Marcus!" An announcer cried. Mark stood and raised a hand to the masses. Everybody cheered. Devon sighed. It should have been him. It could have been him. He took a deep breath. Did he make the right decision? No one would ever know the truth. Dad died a hero. He was bitten by the black mamba as he tried to catch the deadly creature, saving Devon's and Mark's lives. His death would be celebrated. And Devon would never be king.

"Hey." Mark stood in front of Devon. His eyes shone and his chest swelled. Devon's little brother never looked so mature. He certainly wasn't a boy anymore.

"Hey." Devon struggled to keep his eyes level with Mark's and off the golden crown.

Mark threw his arms around Devon's shoulders. "Thanks."

"For what?"

"For being the best brother ever."

Devon smiled and returned the hug. Philip, Devon's stepdad, put a hand on Devon's shoulder and Mom wiped her eyes. Forget the crown. Devon's little brother was worth so much more.


###








My Brother, My King Part I – Betrayal


The crown is Devon's birthright, not Mark's. And Devon will do anything to get it back.


My Brother, My King Part II – Assassin


Dad wasn't the only one who wanted Mark dead.


My Brother, My King Part III – Truth


To tell or not to tell. Keeping this secret will save Devon's life. Or it'll drive him insane.












About the Author


C.L. Mozena lives in southeast Ohio. Originally from the big city, she enjoys the laid-back way of life that the country offers. She spends her days working on her latest novel and writing short fictional stories for the newspaper. On summer weekends, she participates in The Living Word Outdoor Drama in Cambridge, Ohio.


CLMozena.weebly.com








Other books by C.L. Mozena


Miracles:

Lester's Story

Shannon's Story

Steven's Story


Suburbian Christmas

Suburbian Christmas 2012

Suburbian Halloween


Rise of a Legend

Legend of the Irdisae (King of Legend, 1st ed.)

King of Legend


The Bestest Christmas Ever


Limadra: Dragon Man






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