Joffrey Lauvergne reclined in his throne in the central hall. Towering pillars of rough-hewn stone, from which hung silvern banners bearing his royal seal, a crimson red crucifix, flanked him. There were no windows; he found the glare of the sun to be unbearable, and he preferred to view his kingdom through the eyes of his subordinates. The only light came from flickering torches, illuminating the stone walls in a warm orange light. He knew the old king Marjanovic enjoyed quarters in the highest tower, but he preferred it here, underground. He took a sip from the goblet in his hand and wondered if the remains of Duncan and Marjanovic rotted still in the dungeons or if they had been picked clean by scavenging rodents.
He smiled slightly, thinking again of his usurpation of the throne, when he was interrupted by a pair of his servants dragging in a shackled and stumbling man.
“Dejounte!” his voiced boomed throughout the cavernous room. “Did I not tell you I would deal with the intruder myself? He is already weak and bloodied!”
Dejounte Murray flinched, but returned his gaze to the king. “My lord. The heathen Jokic was resistant to be taken. We had to use… harsh measures to subdue him and bring him to you, as you commanded.” he said as Davis Bertans, who stood on the other side of Jokic, stared at the floor and tried not to be noticed.
Joffrey sneered. “Very well. Tell me, Davis, how many points did I score tonight?”
“T-t-twenty-six, your majesty.” Davis stuttered, still looking at the floor.
“What was that? Louder, so everyone can hear!”
“Twenty-six, your majesty!”
“Twenty-six indeed.” Joffrey set his goblet on the table and stood up from the throne, rising tall above the other three on his dais, his black vestments giving an aura of unassailable power. “Leave Jokic here with me. He will see what happens to those who dare to impinge on the sanctity of my holy kingdom.”
Davis and Dejounte quickly backed out of the room, disappearing from sight as Nikola Jokic, no longer being held up, collapsed to the floor. Joffrey stood and considered the man now lying on his floor, reddening the stone with heathen blood. He felt the familiar anger rising in him at this pathetic sight, at the sight of a godless man in his sanctum, but attempted to keep it in check. For now.
“Arise, and face me like a man!” he commanded. Jokic remained motionless.
“Do I need to give more encouragement? Arise!” he descended the few steps to where Jokic lay and delivered a hard kick to his midsection. Jokic moaned and lay still for a few seconds more, but slowly got to his knees, and then to his feet. He wobbled uncertainly, looking as if a wisp of smoke from a torch could send him down again.
“That’s better. Tell me, how many points did you score tonight?” Joffrey feigned a friendly smile the belied his anger.
Jokic’s eyes seemed to go in and out of focus as blood from a cut above his right eye leaked down his face, and he didn’t respond. Joffrey was about to repeat the question when Jokic managed to croak out an answer in a voice that was little more than a whisper.
“Twenty-three, yes. A worthless and pathetic point total compared to the…”
“In a triple-double.” Jokic interrupted, a small smile touching his lips.
In a flash, Joffrey’s ring-studded fist connected solidly with Jokic’s face, sending him crashing to the floor. His eyes were wide with fury.
“A TRIPLE-DOUBLE?” Joffrey’s voice lowered to a menacing rumble. “Do you think I care about such things as rebounds and assists? As the Lord decreed, only points can represent one’s true skill! And in my kingdom, there can be none who challenge me. Especially not a sniveling peon like you, you, who are not fit for even the dungeon rats to feast upon!”
Jokic lay motionless, his ragged breathing marked by the sound of blood bubbling in his mouth.
“Davis! Dejounte! Take the intruder away!” Joffrey shouted, then turned and sat back down on his throne. Knowing his servants, scared as they were of him, were now far out of earshot, he unsheathed his sword and began idly fidgeting with it, the orange torchlight dancing off the shining steel. He would give Jokic some time to recover, and then the night would truly begin.