TO SAVE YOUR LIFE

Erik stood facing the Khanum, his hands clenched at his sides. To his right stood Nadir, flanked and held fast by two of the Khanum's guards.

"You disappoint me Erik," the Khanum walked round and round Erik slowly, "I Ordered you to kill the head of my husband's council, yet I see him still walking the halls this night."

"I will not kill a man in front of his wife and children." Erik clenched and unclenched his fists, worry bubbling below the surface. Worry for the man standing to his right, Nadir was innocent in all of this but he knew why she had him here, she knew of their friendship and that Erik was fond of the older man so she used it to her advantage.

"You have robbed me of the pleasure of savouring that man's death, now I will rob you of something," The Khanum stopped in front of Erik and Looked pointedly at Nadir. Immediately one of the guards pulled a knife and held it to Nadir's throat.

"NO!" Erik shouted, his eyes wide, his heart threatening to burst from his rib cage.

"You wish to save him?" The Khanum raised an eyebrow, "very well, I shall give you a choice. Either he dies or….You take your own life." Here the Khanum held up a vial which Erik knew contained poison.

Erik didn't even hesitate, he stepped forward and grabbed the vial.

"ERIK NO!" Yelled Nadir, a look of horror on his face.

Erik glanced at Nadir then looked back at the Khanum "let me say goodbye?" he asked nodding to Nadir.

The Khanum waved and Erik walked up to Nadir. The man was trembling, clearly in shock at what Erik was about to do.

"Erik don't please…" he pleaded "There has to be a way…."

Erik shook his head and sighed sadly "There isn't." He looked at the vial in his hand, "My whole life has been one of despair, of hurt, of pain, yet there was one ray of light in the darkness, one thing that made my life happier and that was you, you came into my life and you became my friend when no one else would. You were the first person to ever show me kindness Nadir. That is something I can never repay you for, that's why I do not think twice about doing this." Erik smiled sadly at Nadir. "Goodbye my friend."

There were tears in Nadirs eyes as he watched the resignation in Erik. He tried to swallow past the lump in his throat,

Nadir fought to get away from the guards as Erik stepped back and pulled the stopper out of the bottle, he held it up to the Khanum like a salute and downed the lot. It took only a minute for Erik's legs to buckle and for him to collapse sideways onto his knee, then slowly he toppled over and fell to the ground.

"NO!" cried Nadir, he finally pulled himself free of the guards and ran to Erik, dropping to his knees at his side. Gently he cradled Erik in his arms. Nadir heard footsteps of the Khanum and her guards leaving but took no notice, slowly he removed Erik's mask and kissed his forehead before burying his face in Erik's hair and letting his tears fall.

Nadir didn't know how long he sat there just holding Erik when he felt the body in his arms move. He lifted his head and looked into Erik's face and nearly screamed when Erik's eyes popped open.

"Is she gone?"

Nadir could only nod as Erik grabbed Nadirs arm and pulled himself into a sitting position before standing up

"How?" Nadir asked, still sat on the floor staring unbelieving at Erik, stood there like nothing happened.

Erik grinned and tossed the empty vial to Nadir "Sleight of hand, my friend."

Nadir popped the cork and sniffed the contents "Coffee?"

"I switched vials with her when she passed me earlier. I thought she might try something like this and I was right." From his pocket he pulled the other vial that contained the very potent poison. "I am sorry to have scared you old friend, "Erik extended his hand and helped Nadir up.

Nadir was still trembling as he took a few steps towards Erik and handed him his mask.

"What do we do now?"

"Now," Erik placed his mask back on his face and looked Nadir squarely in the eye "We get revenge.

The end.