The Solitude of Death, Part 1

Night fell over the city of Selorin. There was a time when the noise and bustle of the great capital of the Trisitanian Empire was unfazed by the time of day, but that time ended three years ago, when the Senate Hall and all of its occupants were destroyed by terrorists. Now the Empire was at war, and Selorin had become a somber, even grim, place.

Emperor Embamor II stood on a balcony of the Imperial Palace, looking out over the deathly quiet city. The years of his reign had not been kind to him. All of his hair was gone now, his nose was redder and puffier, his gut was larger than ever, and his posture was stooped, as if he was slowly being crushed by the burden of ruling the Empire. He was reflecting on everything that had happened in the past three years, but there wasn’t much positive to reflect on. Somehow, Fangalin had been able to build a massive war machine right under the Empire’s nose, and the Imperial Fleet now found itself woefully outmatched. In three years, the Fleet had yet to score a victory against their enemy. But that wasn’t even the worst of it.

General Embamor Etralis had proclaimed himself Emperor in order to provide stability in a time of crisis, but so far he had failed miserably. Two other generals had also proclaimed themselves Emperor a few months after Etralis did, and although their forces weren’t as powerful as Embamor’s, they still were a distraction when the Empire needed to focus all of its might on Fangalin.

But there was more. A year ago, a collection of provinces led by the powerful and wealthy province of Hadramoris had seceded from the Empire and formed the Republic of Hadramoris. The governor of Hadramoris, Eregon Fadlamis, had been elected President of the Republic, and one of his first acts was to declare war on the Empire. So Emperor Embamor II found himself in the unenviable position of fighting a war against four different enemies at once.

The one consolation in all of this was that all of his enemies were fighting each other as well. The so-called Emperor Neminatrix IV was sending his forces against his rival Emperor Valador I, and both were attempting to reconquer the Republic, while all of them were getting hammered by the massive and well-disciplined Fangalin fleet. It was a mess, but it was the kind of mess that Embamor II excelled at dealing with. If only he could establish some semblance of order over the provinces that he supposedly held.

He heard the door to his chambers open and turned to see his chief advisor, Adlamor Finegal, enter the room. Finegal was short, with greasy brown hair and a long, crooked nose. His eyes were heavily lidded, so he looked like he was half asleep at all times, but in reality he was always closely observing everything around him. He had a photographic memory and phenomenal attention to detail. He was also immensely ambitious, and Embamor had no doubt that Finegal would stab him in his sleep if he thought it would be to his benefit. Regardless, Embamor found his talents to be incredibly useful.

“A report just came in from the military for you, your majesty,” Finegal said with a bow, handing a tablet to the Emperor. Embamor took it with a scowl that deepened once he read its contents. He swore and tossed the tablet back at Finegal, who caught it without looking.

“This is just great,” the Emperor said with disgust, “Yet another province lost to the terrorists. I swear a week doesn’t go by without us losing a province to one of our enemies.”

“It certainly does seem as if we are losing this war,” Finegal said blandly. Embamor cast a withering glare at him, which he ignored.

“Is there anything else, or are you just here to annoy me with news I can’t do anything about?” Embamor asked.

“There is actually something else,” Finegal said with a bow, “I didn’t want to put this information on a tablet, as it is somewhat sensitive.” He paused, and Embamor glared at him impatiently.

“Well?” he exclaimed, “What is it? Spit it out!”

“Sire,” Finegal began, and paused again, “I have received disturbing information of a Fangalin plot against your life.” He stopped, and Embamor stared at him, and then burst out laughing.

“Is that all?” he roared, “I wouldn’t concern yourself too greatly about that, my dear Adlamor. Even I know that I’m probably the most ineffective person to ever sit on the Imperial Throne! I don’t think the terrorists would bother knocking me off as long as I’m doing more to help them than harm them.” He chuckled to himself and turned back to the balcony.

“As you say, your majesty,” Finegal said with another bow, but his customary ingratiating smile was replaced with a cold frown. “Even so, I would highly recommend doubling your bodyguard.”

“Very well,” Embamor said with a dismissive wave of his hand, not even turning to look at Finegal. “Are you done now? Or do you have another pointless tidbit to waste my time with?”

“That is all, your majesty,” Finegal said, still staring coldly at the Emperor’s back.

“Then get out of here,” Embamor said. Finegal bowed and withdrew silently. Embamor sighed wearily as the door slid closed. He probably shouldn’t have been so harsh, but he just couldn’t make himself like Finegal. Finegal reminded him too much of himself.

Not for the first time, he found himself thinking about Ven Aganar. Aganar had been a lieutenant and Embamor’s aide when the terrorists first struck, and he had quickly become the Emperor’s closest advisor. Aganar had been wise beyond his years, and would have made a much better Emperor than Embamor ever could. Two years ago, Embamor had promoted Aganar to General and given him command of an operation to retake a key province from Fangalin. It was a brilliant plan, and if it had succeeded, Embamor was planning to abdicate in favor of Aganar. Unfortunately, General Aganar was killed during that operation, and without his leadership the task force fell apart and was decimated.

Unfortunately, Emperor Embamor II also relied heavily on General Aganar, and without his steadying influence, Embamor had become more unstable and also returned to his heavy drinking habits. Embamor knew that he was a failure as an Emperor, and he yearned to give up the throne and leave the Empire in more capable hands, but unfortunately, there were no more capable hands. Everyone who might have been an effective ruler had died in the Senate Hall three years ago, and Embamor had no desire to just abandon the Empire to its fate. In some ways, he hoped that Finegal was right about Fangalin’s plot to kill him. Death would be preferable to life at this point.

To be continued…


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