Briella Melforia stood on a balcony, looking out over the vast expanse of Selorin, the capital city of the Trisitanian Empire. Massive skyscrapers stretched thousands of meters in the air, but the vantage point on which the Empress stood towered over them all. The Imperial Palace was the heart of the Empire, physically and figuratively. The Senate liked to think that it ruled the Empire, but the true power was in the hands of the Empress and her staff.
Not that the Senate didn’t play an important role. Every province in the Empire was represented by two Senators, and those Senators were elected by the citizens of the province. The Senate had little real power, but electing Senators made the people feel like they had a role to play in running the government. This, in turn, made them a little easier to control, and a little less likely to rebel.
Of course, power was subjective. Her position as the most powerful individual in the galaxy hadn’t kept the Nether from forming, nor had she been able to prevent an 11 year long war with them. For all her power, she sometimes felt as if she couldn’t do any more to influence events than any other individual.
Briella heard a sound, and she turned to see her husband, Prince Vandin Melforia. Prince Vandin was a couple of years older than her, and where she was cultured, refined, and skilled at the art of saying what people wanted to hear while really saying something else entirely, Vandin Shelagor Melforia was rugged, blunt, and told people exactly what he thought. This habit had made him quite a few enemies among the Imperial elite, but it was that trait which the Empress most appreciated about him. It was important for a leader to have somebody who was comfortable telling her when she was wrong.
“Ah,” she said, “what news do you bring, husband?”
“I have some news from Yebifar,” he said, “An update on the former Nether soldiers living there.”
“Oh really?” she said, a twinge of alarm entering her voice, “What sort of news?”
“Oh, nothing bad,” he replied quickly, “just a minor update. All of the former Nether soldiers are settling into their new surroundings quite nicely. Unfortunately, two of them were killed in a mining accident a few days ago.” He handed his wife a tablet. She scanned its contents quickly, and then looked up at her husband.
“Wellin Votara and Mektemar Felnen,” she said, “Do we have any reason to suspect foul play in this incident?”
“Not really,” Vandin replied, “There was only one eyewitness to the incident, a miner by the name of Trel Solum. Strangely, he disappeared soon after the incident, but the authorities on Yebifar have found no evidence that he was in any way responsible for what happened. Apparently, he was very good friends with both of the former soldiers.”
“Hmmm,” Briella said, “I wonder if it would be worth tracking down this Trel Solum. It seems odd to me that he would disappear if he had nothing to hide.” Vandin frowned and shook his head.
“I doubt it,” he said, “Maybe his disappearance was simply a matter of not wanting to be around a place where two good friends were killed. It’s not like he was told to stick around. Besides, mining accidents happen all the time. The only reason you’re hearing about this one is because it involved two former soldiers of the Army of the Dark.” Briella sighed and returned to looking out over the city.
“I suppose you’re right, husband,” she said, “Maybe I’m just being paranoid.”
Of course, it was useful for an Emperor or Empress to be a little paranoid. After all, the most powerful person in the galaxy inevitably had many enemies. But it was also possible to be too paranoid. Not everyone was an enemy. The trick was finding the right balance.
Her father had made the mistake of being too paranoid. His obsession with obliterating the Black Legion had come close to bringing about the collapse of the Empire. It was good for everyone that he was removed from power. But the generals who orchestrated his downfall hadn’t been paranoid enough. They believed the Black Legion and its ilk were utterly toothless, and so had created an environment that nurtured the growth of the Nether.
How would Empress Briella II be remembered? It was unlikely that she’d be remembered for being too paranoid. But by proclaiming an amnesty for the defeated enemies of the Empire, was she being not paranoid enough? Would her actions lead to a new uprising that her son or grandson would someday have to face? There was no way for her to know.
“Okay,” she said, “I agree that we don’t need to put a great deal of resources into searching for this man. But I do think we should be watching out for him. Order the ISS offices on Yebifar and the surrounding provinces to keep an eye out for Trel Solum. Tell them that they don’t need to go out looking for him, but if they happen to come across him, make sure they detain him. I find it very suspicious that he would disappear so soon after this ‘accident’.” Prince Vandin saluted by placing his fist on his chest and bowed in acquiescence.
“As her Majesty commands, so shall it be, as always,” he responded, with a touch of mockery mingled with respect. Briella glanced at him with a wry smile, and he smiled back. Then he departed to pass on her commands, and she returned to gazing out at the great city of Selorin.
There was no way to tell what the future held. The Empire could last for 10,000 years, or it could crumble in 10. All things were possible, and all Briella could do was play her part. What irony, though. The most powerful individual in the galaxy, and yet she felt as though she had no more power to affect the course of history than a humble miner.