Jimalin Redlamin was in the middle of his morning prayers when an aide informed him that the Emperor was dead. Redlamin had no need to ask which Emperor; on Bliddle, there was only one. The others were mere pretenders. Redlamin listened to the aide’s news in silence, and then he added the soul of Embamor Etralis to his prayer.
Once he finished his prayers, Redlamin stood up and asked the aide to follow him. Redlamin was in his private chapel, located directly behind his office. He was of moderate height and moderate weight, with a shaved head and a close-cropped goatee. He was in his mid-50s, and entirely nondescript, aside from his eyes. His brown eyes burned with the fiery intensity of one for whom religious faith was the only thing that mattered.
Redlamin was the governor of the Imperial Province of Bliddle, and had been for nearly 15 years. Bliddle was one of the oldest and most powerful provinces in the Empire, which made Redlamin one of the most powerful men in the Empire. He had never thought of himself in those terms, though. In his mind, he was merely a servant, of the One and of the people of the Empire.
He sat down at his desk and fixed the aide with his burning gaze. “So,” he said, “tell me more of this news.”
“Well,” said the aide, clearing his throat nervously, “a group of Fangalin terrorists broke into the Palace and assassinated the Emperor. They attempted to escape, but were killed by the Legion of the Heart before they could do so.”
“Hmm,” responded the governor, “Unfortunate that the Legion was unable to carry out its duty, but at least the terrorists were caught and punished. Is there more, or is that all the information you received?”
“No, sir,” the aide replied, “We also received word that Adlamor Finegal has taken Embamor’s place on the Imperial Throne. He has declared himself Emperor Preclonus IV and asked all citizens of the Empire to pledge their loyalty to him.” There was silence in the wake of this pronouncement. The governor stared at the aide, his expression utterly blank aside from the fire in his eyes. The aide lowered his eyes and began fidgeting uncomfortably under such scrutiny.
“This news is most unpleasant,” Redlamin said finally, “I shall have to prayerfully consider what to do. This tablet contains all the relevant information?” he asked, gesturing to a tablet that the aide had brought in with him. The aide nodded. “Then you are dismissed.” The aide hastily got up and practically ran out of the room. Redlamin did not notice him leave. He had already turned his gaze inward.
Everything that Jimalin Redlamin did and thought was filtered through his conception of his duty to the One and the Empire. His devotion to the old Empress, Emella II, had bordered on fanaticism, and once the Empress died and the Empire erupted in civil war, Redlamin had thrown his support behind Embamor II. Redlamin did not approve of Embamor’s drunkenness and general laziness, nor did he approve of the way that Embamor had seized the Throne, but he believed that the Empire needed unity above all, and so he was willing to subdue his misgivings and follow the one claimant who actually held the capital and the Throne.
But that had been a mistake, he realized now. The Empire needed strength and righteousness more than it needed unity, and Embamor II had provided neither of these things. Adlamor Finegal would not provide them either. The terrorists made greater and greater gains with each passing day, and the pretenders to the Throne and other traitors were growing in confidence and power as well. The Empire needed an Emperor who would put the interests of the Empire as a whole ahead of his own selfish interests. Redlamin had only met Finegal a few times, but he was confident that Finegal’s only interest as Emperor would be to enrich himself.
The problem was that the Empire was still in uncharted territory. There was still no Senate, three years after the Senate Hall was destroyed, and without a Senate there was no generally and legally accepted way to chose an Emperor. Redlamin would have gladly followed whoever the Senate chose to lead the Empire, but that simply wasn’t an option right now.
Redlamin was the type of person to carefully consider every course of action open to him, but once he made a decision, he acted on it quickly. He contacted his closest advisor, a priestess by the name of Haleita Ilem, and asked her to come meet with him as soon as possible. Then he withdrew into his chapel to pray and await her arrival.
About an hour later, the door to his chapel opened and Ilem entered. She was older than him by about 15 years, and short. She had the wizened and bowed look of someone who had spent her entire life in study and prayer. Her hair was gray and wispy, but her hazel eyes were still clear and full of life. She knelt down next to Redlamin without a word. After a few minutes, Redlamin looked up at her and spoke.
“Haleita, my friend,” he said, “I am about to embark on the boldest and most dangerous gamble of my life, and I need guidance.”
“That is what I am here for, my son,” she said softly.
“The Empire needs strong leadership,” he said, “A leader of faith and courage. I fear that the One is calling me to be that leader.” Ilem looked at him intently, unafraid to meet his intense gaze with one of her own. After a few minutes, she nodded.
“Yes,” she said with conviction, “You are quite right. You are the sword of the One, the Chosen to lead the Empire out of darkness and into light. You must do what you will.” Redlamin nodded, and stood up. Prayer was the most important thing a man could do, but there was a proper time for all things. Now was the time for action.
To be continued…