Belatras Maclanar, also known as Emperor Belatras I, was in one of his usual positions, that is, hunched over a toilet, puking his guts out. He didn’t know why he was sick so much, and he didn’t really care. He had been extremely sickly ever since he was a child, and he had long since stopped trying to figure out why. He was now 65 years old, and he didn’t expect to live much longer. Although, that had also been true ever since he was a child.
Regardless, he had a mission, and that mission was to obliterate Fangalin, and put an end to the 400 year war that had almost destroyed the Empire. There were some, actually many, who believed that Belatras Maclanar had been born for the sole purpose of bringing peace to the galaxy, that it was his destiny. Belatras himself wasn’t so sure about that, but if it brought hope to his people, then he was happy to let them think it.
The circumstances of his birth were unusual enough to befit a child of destiny. His grandfather, Emperor Neminatrix VI, had been the first Emperor to come up with a real plan to go on the offensive against Fangalin, but he had been murdered by Fangalin assassins before he could carry it out. Fortunately, his son, who succeeded him as Emperor Embamor III, knew the plan, and had even helped create it, and thus was able to begin carrying it out.
Unfortunately, Embamor III was hot-tempered and generally unlikable. He was especially contemptuous of the Senate, and his manner gained him many enemies, including a powerful Senator named Trifelis Calafax. So when the Imperial Fleet lost a key province to Fangalin, Calafax seized the opportunity and convinced the rest of the Senate remove him from the throne. Embamor refused to go quietly, and the result was civil war between the Emperor and the Senate.
Embamor soon fell victim to assassins working for the Senate, but his sister, Belatras’ mother, declared herself Empress Trillinia IV. Trillinia was a much milder, more accommodating person than her brother, but by this point the Senate, particularly Trifelis Calafax, was determined to rule the Empire without an Emperor. Unfortunately for Calafax, he made a massive blunder when he left the capital, Trisitania, undefended so he could focus all of his attention on Fangalin.
This had two consequences. One, it allowed Trillinia to seize Trisitania and wipe out most of the Senators who opposed her, and two, it cost Calafax the support of a very powerful Senator, Velchora Maclanar, who had argued against leaving Trisitania undefended. Subsequently, he realized he was on the losing side, and decided to switch his allegiance to the Empress. With Trisitania in her possession and Senator Maclanar on her side, most units of the Imperial Fleet swore allegiance to the Empress, and the civil war was effectively over, although a few units loyal to Calafax fought on for some time.
But Velchora Maclanar was not only a political supporter of Empress Trillinia. He also became her husband. And the child they had together, Belatras, was hailed as a symbol of the unity between Senate, Emperor and people. Small wonder that great things were expected of him.
And he had done his best to deliver. His parents were murdered by Fangalin assassins when he was 23 years old. They had tried to kill him as well, but he was able to escape. Since that day, he had sworn to spend his entire life making Fangalin suffer. A goal that matched up nicely with what his people wanted: peace. Because the only path to peace was to destroy Fangalin and reunite the Empire.
So he turned his mind to the task at hand, the Fangalin sieges of Cortaris and Medradi. These two planets couldn’t possibly have been more different. Cortaris was a temperate paradise, Medradi was an arid desert. Cortaris was the financial heart of the Empire, Medradi was the military heart. Cortaris was heavily populated with civilians, Medradi’s population was almost exclusively military. But they did have one thing in common: they were both crucial to the survival of the Empire. If either one of them fell, the Empire was finished.
Of the two, Cortaris was probably more important. Belatras’ generals didn’t understand this, but that was why they didn’t make the big decisions. Belatras understood the importance of commerce, of trade, of money. That understanding was why he had had such great success in the war. He struck at Fangalin’s economic might, not its military might. Without money, the Grand and Invincible Army of Fangalin would wither and die of its own accord.
The leaders of Fangalin didn’t understand this either. They had heavily fortified their military bases and left their commercial centers exposed. Belatras had been all too happy to take those centers off their hands. But Fangalin had a new Supreme Commander now, one Moregon Grechal. Grechal had clearly studied the tactics that Belatras used, and was trying to use them against the Empire. Of the two fleets besieging the Empire, the one attacking Cortaris was far larger. Belatras hoped that he still had enough smarts and will to counter this threat.
After all, smarts and will were all he had ever had. His body had been weak and sickly ever since he was a baby. His parents had told him that they initially didn’t think he would even survive his first month of life. His memories of childhood were almost exclusively of doctor visits and hospital stays. No doctor had ever been able to figure out what was wrong with him, and on his 25th birthday, two years after he became Emperor, he decided that it wasn’t worth finding out, that he had to devote the rest of his life to serving the Empire. He didn’t expect that service to last very long, but 40 years later, he was miraculously still alive.
All these thoughts went through his head as he was hunched over the toilet, vomiting up seemingly everything he’d ever ate. In reality, the spell only lasted a few minutes, just like every time, but his life seemed to flash before his eyes, just like every time. As he stood up and wiped his face with a towel, he wondered when he would be free of his suffering. He anxiously awaited death, but he wasn’t interested in hastening its arrival. He had too much work to do, and while he knew that he probably wouldn’t be able to finish all of it, he needed to accomplish as much as he could before the end.
To be continued…