Terrible Shadow, Part 1

Ahsken Lorovic walked the halls of power as if he owned them, and in some ways, he did. As Director of Security for the Imperial Senate, he had full access to every area of the Senate Hall. Of course, to refer to the Senate Hall as the “halls of power” was something of an exaggeration. Most of the real power in the Empire belonged to the Imperial Throne. The Senate mostly existed to give the Emperor or Empress a sense of what the people were thinking and feeling. However, there was one critical power that the Senate possessed. This was the power to appoint a new Emperor or Empress whenever the current Emperor or Empress died without an heir.

The throne was currently occupied by the House of Melforia, but it’s 600-year long tenure was about to end. The current Empress, Emella II, was 78 years old and on her deathbed. She had no children (indeed, she had never married), and so by Imperial law, the Senate had the authority to chose her successor once she died. The doctors that were attending her had announced that she had no more than a couple of weeks left, so the Senate was assembling so that they could carry out what was perhaps their most important duty.

This made things very busy for Ahsken Lorovic. The last time the Senate had met to choose an occupant for the Throne, almost exactly 600 years ago, the result had been civil war. Neither General Amelina Galrax nor Senator Shellina Melforia had been able to garner enough support in the Senate to claim the Throne, and so they had marshaled armies and fought it out on the battlefield. The war lasted three years, and ended with Senator Melforia becoming Empress Shellina II. This time, the Senate was determined not to let that happen, so the leaders of the Senate had ordered Director Lorovic to beef up security and make sure that the proceedings ran smoothly.

This meant lots of extra work for Lorovic, but he didn’t particularly mind. The death of Emella II was something that he, personally, had been anxiously awaiting. It was a perfect opportunity for something that Lorovic and his companions had been working on for a long time.

Lorovic was a member of Fangalin. About 350 years ago, in the aftermath of the Nether War, a young Nether sergeant named Wellin Votara had been determined not to let the ideals of the Nether disappear, and had founded a successor group called Fangalin, which meant “terrible shadow”. Votara recognized that the Nether had failed because it wasn’t powerful enough to take on the might of the Empire at its height. Fangalin needed to hide in the shadows, and grow stronger, and wait for the Empire to exhibit a moment of weakness. One of those moments that Votara had identified was the death of a childless Emperor.

It was a pretty simple plan, really. The moment an heirless Emperor died, there would be no Emperor and no one readily available to take his or her place. All of the potential successors would be gathered in one spot. Therefore, all that needed to be done was to obliterate the Senate Hall. The entire Senate and many of the top generals and bureaucrats and provincial governors would be gathered there, which would effectively decapitate the Empire in one fell swoop. As Director of Security for the Senate Hall, Lorovic was in a perfect position to carry out this plan.

The plan had been conceived hundreds of years ago, but it was only in the past 40 years or so that the real preparations had begun. As Emella II passed her fortieth birthday without any sign that she was pregnant or going to get pregnant, the Supreme Commander of Fangalin, Zhemeen Fortulis, realized the time was right. He made sure that the Imperial Secret Service was fully stocked with loyal Fangalin operatives, so that there would always be someone in place to carry out the plan no matter when the Empress died. Lorovic often chuckled to himself when he thought about the fact that his boss, ISS Master Dren Folmor, thought he ruled the ISS with a iron fist, when in reality it was Zhemeen Fortulis who really called the shots.

In fact, Fangalin in general had done a very good job over the centuries of laying low. The ISS certainly was aware of Fangalin’s existence, and classified them as a terrorist organization, but they were by no means considered the most dangerous of the dozens of organizations so classified by the ISS. As someone who walked on both sides of the line, Lorovic knew exactly how wrong the ISS was.

Now that the day of the Empress’ death was drawing near, Fangalin was getting ready to emerge from the shadows for the first time in 350 years. In about half the provinces of the Empire, the governor and/or the top generals or other leaders were actually members of Fangalin. Once the Empire was leaderless, these officials were prepared to seize control of their provinces and begin the true war against the Empire.

After all, creating an empire alongside the Trisitanian Empire was not Fangalin’s ultimate goal. No, the ultimate goal was to destroy the Trisitanian Empire and replace it with the Fangalin Empire. Only then would the work of the Dark Presence be complete. This was the mission that every member of Fangalin was sworn to carry out.

Lorovic got chills just thinking about it. His entire life, he had been dedicated to this goal. Coming out of hiding and commencing an open war with the Empire was just one step, but it was a very important step. With luck and the blessings of the Presence, perhaps it would be the most important step. Maybe the Empire would be so crippled by this blow that the war would be over quickly. But even if not, Lorovic and his fellows would eventually triumph. It was their destiny.

To be continued…

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