Terrible Shadow, Part 3

In a luxurious bed within a lavish suite of rooms on one of the highest floors of the vast Imperial Palace on Trisitania, General Embamor Etralis was passed out. It was 10 o’clock in the morning and, as usual, he had drunk way too much wine the night before. His aides kept checking to see if he was awake yet, as he had duties he needed to carry out, but none of them dared wake him up. Waking General Etralis from a drunken stupor was a one-way ticket to an assignment scrubbing toilets in the dungeons.

General Etralis was the Commander of the Legion of the Heart, the Imperial Legion responsible for the safety of the Empress and the Imperial Palace. As there had not been a serious threat to the Empress’ safety or that of the Palace in hundreds of years, Commander of the Heart was considered a cushy posting for military officers in their twilight years. General Etralis had risen to that post not through valor or strength or intelligence, but because he was really good at making and exploiting connections.

A particularly loud snore rousted the general from his slumber, and he blearily looked around his extravagant chambers. His connections had been good for more than just obtaining undemanding assignments. He had also managed to amass a fortune through shady business dealings, and he wasn’t shy about showing off the fruit of his labor. He yawned loudly and stretched, and then slowly stood up, rubbing his temples to ease the pain of his sore head.

General Embamor Etralis had the physique of a man who had once been in excellent shape, but had let himself go in his later years. He was tall and still had a vaguely regal bearing, but he also had an enormous potbelly and comparatively skinny limbs. He looked a little bit like a large potato with four toothpicks stuck in it. He had a fringe of wispy white hair around his head, and a large, red, bulbous nose. His blue eyes were watery and unfocused, although he still could muster a piercing stare when he needed it.

He stood in the middle of his room, vaguely blinking and staring off into space, and then he suddenly drew a deep breath and bellowed, “AGANAR!” Almost immediately, the door to his bedroom flew open and a young man rushed in and presented himself to the general.

“Yes, General!” he said, saluting smartly.

“‘Bout time you showed up, boy,” the General said, slurring his words slightly, “It’s almost noon! Were you just gonna let me sleep the day away?”

“Of course not, sir!” the young man said. In reality, Lieutenant Ven Aganar would never have dared wake General Etralis after a night of drinking. But it wasn’t wise to contradict the Commander of the Heart. The General swore loudly, belched, passed gas, and then scratched himself while he idly looked around the room.

“Well!” he said finally, “What’s on the agenda for today, boy?”

“Today is a light day, sir,” Aganar said, “Training exercises at noon, and a dinner with Senator Vorlan this evening.” Etralis swore again and spit on the floor.

“Politicians, eh?” he said, “What a bunch of slimy snakes. I can’t stand the lot of ’em. What does this Senator Vorlan want, anyway?” Aganar’s cheeks flushed slightly and he glanced down at the tablet he was carrying.

“Uh, s-sir,” he stammered, “You r-requested a meeting with the S-Senator to d-discuss security arrangements for the, uh, the upcoming, uh, coronation of the new Emperor.” Rarely did the General stand for having any error pointed out, no matter how minor or insignificant it was, without flying into one of his infamous rages, but this time Lieutenant Aganar was lucky.

“I did?” the General asked, scratching his chin, “Huh. Okay, then.” He scratched himself some more, and stared off into space. Lieutenant Aganar stood at attention, outwardly calm, but inwardly he was shaking with fearful anticipation of the outburst that was sure to come. He didn’t have to wait long. The General started, and then focused his watery blue eyes on Aganar.

“WHY ARE YOU STILL STANDING THERE, BOY?” he bellowed, “GET ME SOME CLOTHES! NOW!” Aganar saluted quickly and ran out of the room. Etralis glared after him for a few seconds, and then his gaze became unfocused again and he belched. He wandered over to his dresser, opened a drawer, and took out a flask of whiskey. He popped open the flask and took a long drink from it. Then he put it back in the drawer and belched again.

His eyes wandered aimlessly around the room. He looked at the rich furnishings and luxurious tapestries without really seeing them. He was trying to remember why he had bothered setting up a meeting with Senator Vorlan. Hesha Vorlan was a Senator from Revlingal, one of the richest and most powerful provinces in the Empire. She was also one of the prime candidates for the soon-to-be vacant throne. But everybody on Trisitania knew that Shayban Drahzen from Nextrafar was almost certainly going to be chosen by the Senate. General Etralis was concerned for his position, and he’d already received assurances from Senator Drahzen that he had no plans to appoint a new Commander of the Heart. So why bother meeting with Senator Vorlan? The General couldn’t remember.

In any case, it didn’t matter. Even if Drahzen wasn’t raised to the throne, Etralis would make the most of the situation. That was his speciality. There had been many times that people had written off Embamor Etralis, and he’d always managed to prove them wrong. Besides, even if he was forced out of his cushy position, he had enough money stashed away to retire comfortably right now. So it didn’t really matter to him who became the next Emperor.

He had thought about making a run for the throne himself, but in a time of peace, it wasn’t very likely that the Senate would choose a military man. Etralis knew that he was good at getting what he wanted, but he also was aware of the limits of his talent. Besides, being Emperor would be too much responsibility. He would rather continue sleeping until noon and drinking as much as he wanted.

To be continued…

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