A Song of Sorrow, Part 9

Veshryk Jilorin emerged from the command tent to find a sea of humanity waiting for him. It heartened him to see so many people ready to stand up and fight for justice, but at the same he realized that this sea was a fraction of the size it had been a few hours ago. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He thought this would happen, but he’d hoped against hope that he would be wrong.

Still, he believed the words he’d just spoken to his friends. Even if he was the only one willing to storm the gates of the Imperial Palace, he would still go. He wished the entire city would rise up to overthrow those who would usurp the Imperial Throne, but he would make do with what he had.

“Citizens!” he yelled out in a loud, clear voice. “We are here to restore the Empire to its people, to take back the Throne from those who think it is a plaything to be seized by force! The forces of evil and corruption are laid out against us, but we will meet them head on, and we will prevail!” Massive cheers broke out as soon as he stopped speaking. He thrust his fists into the air, and the crowds arrayed before him responded in kind. And then, the march began. With him at the head, the mass of humanity gathered in the plaza moved as one toward the gates of the Imperial Palace. Toward victory, or death.

They didn’t have far to go, as the Citizen’s Plaza was situated right next to the wall that ran around the Palace. The Palace itself was massive yet beautiful structure, a masterpiece of art and engineering, the pride of the Trisitanian Empire. Legend said it had been built by the heroes of the First War, Fealdor, Alaram and Meshara, forged from pure Nexus energy to symbolize the victory of humanity over the Dark Lord Malachi. Jilorin didn’t know if that was true, or if any of those legendary figures had even existed, but there was no denying that the Palace was a marvel.

The crowd surged toward the gates and quickly began pressing up against them. The gates themselves were 20 feet tall and 40 feet wide, and made from a mylium and arvinium alloy, the same material that was used to construct starship hulls. The sheer mass of the crowds pushed on the gates until the hinges started to strain, and then, with an ear-splitting shriek, the hinges let go and the gates crashed to the ground.

The crowd charged forward into the courtyard in front of the palace. Jilorin allowed the momentum of the mob to carry him along, but he felt apprehensive. Now that the gates were down, he expected the heavy machine gun turrets mounted on the walls of the Palace to open fire. He was still near the front of the crowd, so he knew that once the shooting began, he’d be among the first to fall. He steeled himself, waiting for the end to come.

But it didn’t.

Jilorin was confused by this, but he didn’t have much time to think about it. The doors of the Palace, which were made from the same mylium/arvinium alloy as the gates, were sealed shut. Jilorin cried out, hoping the get the attention of the people around them and keep them from crushing themselves against the unyielding doors, but it was no use. The crowd had built up too much momentum now. There was no stopping it.

Fortunately for Jilorin himself, he had managed to move closer to the middle, and so he was in no immediate danger of being crushed, but that wasn’t true of the people in the front. Blinded by their rage and their burning desire for victory, the horde charged forward, intending to smash down the Palace doors with sheer weight the same way they had knocked down the gates. But the doors were too strong for that, and their mingled shouts of anger and excitement turned to screams of pain and terror as they were slowly crushed between the doors and the inexorable mass of the swarm behind them.

Jilorin tried desperately to get the attention of the people around him, to get them to stop their forward momentum. Here and there, he saw others doing the same thing, and slowly but surely people started to understand what was going on and stopped trying to press forward. But the damage had already been done. As the crowd slowly backed away from the doors, a grisly scene became visible. At least two dozen people were dead, their bodies bleeding and broken. A sort of quiet horror spread through the crowd, as the seriousness of what they were doing began to dawn on them.

“Citizens!” Jilorin called out into this quiet. “Mourn for your fallen comrades, but do not linger! We need to find another way into the Palace! No force we possess will bring these doors down!” There was a few more moments of silence, and then a quiet murmuring began to spread through the crowd. People began moving in all directions throughout the courtyard, searching for another entrance that wasn’t so tightly secured. Jilorin was saddened to see some people headed back through the gates, but he wasn’t terribly surprised. Part of him was even tempted to join them. For all his bravado, he wasn’t really ready to die. But he couldn’t bring himself to turn on his back on his ideals, and more importantly, on the people who followed him.

More to the point, he was puzzled as to what exactly was going on. Obviously the Legion was aware of the situation to some extent, hence the lockdown, but why weren’t they shooting? Jilorin could see several remotely-operated heavy machine gun turrets mounted on the walls from where he was standing. Why were they silent? Something strange was going on, and Jilorin had a sinking feeling it couldn’t mean anything good for his people.

To be continued…

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