It had never occurred to Vor Shen that it was possible to be ecstatic and enraged at the same time. He had always been someone who kept a tight rein on his emotions, and did his very best to avoid emotional extremes of any sort. But the rapidly approaching commencement of the Kingdom of Midigal combined with the increasingly petty treatment that he was suffering at the hands of his king and erstwhile protege meant that his emotions were starting to become as erratic as those of a teenager. Which only made him more frustrated.
The end was coming soon, though. He needed Ventelin until the Kingdom was revealed, and the subsequent battles, but then he would be dispensed with. Every time Ventelin set him on a demeaning task, he just had to keep reminding himself of his plans. It was getting harder and harder to set aside his feelings, though. Just yesterday, Ventelin had ordered him to scrub the toilet in his quarters! Just thinking about it made his cheeks hot and caused him to clench his fists in anger and embarrassment.
Suddenly, Shen’s communicator chirped. His heart sunk as he realized that it was Ventelin, and then he clenched his fists tighter and ground his teeth. Somehow, he just knew that this was going to be bad.
“Yes, Your Majesty?” he said. He was a little shocked at how calm he sounded.
“My back hurts!” bellowed Ventelin, “I need you to come up and give me a backrub!” Shen was silent. He could almost feel his blood pressure rising as he worked through what he had just been ordered to do. “Shen!” Ventelin bellowed again, “Are you there? Come on! Don’t leave me hanging!”
“I’m here,” Shen said quietly, “Your Majesty. I…will be right up.”
“Bwa ha ha ha! Good!” Ventelin yelled, “I’ll be waiting!”
Shen stood up slowly and walked toward the door of his office. He was somewhat surprised to realize that he suddenly felt cold, emotionless. All of the anger and frustration and rage and euphoria and excitement that he’d been feeling over the past few weeks had suddenly drained away, leaving a black void in his soul. He was the Supreme Commander of the Midgalan Armed Forces. The architect and founder of the Kingdom of Midigal. One of the most gifted military strategists and politicians in the galaxy. And now he was reduced to being a masseuse. It was just too much.
As his office door slid open, he stood there and took a long, deep breath. He needed to keep his focus. Ventelin was necessary for right now, but he had plans. Ventelin would soon be removed, and Shen would be back to his rightful place as the true power in Midigal. He just needed to keep reminding himself of that. This situation, the embarrassment, the harassment, the demeaning orders…it was all temporary. He took another deep breath, nodded to himself, and then made his way up to Ventelin’s quarters.
He still felt empty, but the coldness he’d felt was gone as quickly as it had appeared. Instead, he felt calm, like nothing could touch him, either good or bad. He seized that, and clung to it like a drowning man with a piece of driftwood. He would need to be calm if he was going to make it through this ordeal.
He reached the door to Ventelin’s quarters, and the two soldiers standing guard in front of it saluted sharply as soon as they saw him. At least there were some who still respected him. He returned their salutes, and entered the room as the door slid open. For a second, he could have sworn that the guards gave him sympathetic looks. That didn’t do much to make him feel better.
Sure enough, the sight that awaited him as he entered the room was much worse than he’d ever imagined. Ventelin was naked, sprawled face down on his gigantic bed. A quick stab of revulsion bubbled up in his gut, and he ruthlessly shoved it down. He needed to be empty.
“Strip,” said Ventelin suddenly in a commanding voice. Shen stared at him with shocked and angry eyes.
“Excuse me?” he blurted out. Ventelin turned his head and gave Shen a flat look. “Your Majesty?” Shen added belatedly.
“You heard me,” Ventelin said, turning his head back away from Shen. Shen’s mouth worked wordlessly for a few moments, and then he sighed. Empty. He needed to be empty. He started undressing.
“Boy!” Ventelin bellowed suddenly, and Shen jumped. He was about to unleash his rage on Ventelin for this final insult, and emptiness be damned, but then he realized that Ventelin was talking to someone else. Then his face flushed deep red as he realized that there was someone else in the room.
A small figure stepped out of the corner. Short, slight and pale, it was a boy who looked like he was about seven or eight years old, but Shen knew that he was really twelve. This was Granfilon Ventelin, Haasadis Ventelin’s son.
“Get some lotion for General Shen!” Ventelin yelled at him. Granfilon bowed silently and rushed into the bathroom.
“Why is your son here? Your Majesty?” Shen asked, curious yet disgusted and embarrassed.
“Why not?” Ventelin said, “He doesn’t have anything better to do right now. Do you, boy?”
“No, Father,” Granfilon said in a quiet voice as he brought the lotion to Shen. His face was blank, but Shen thought he could detect a glimmer of hatred as he glanced at his father. He quickly retreated to his corner and sat quietly.
“See?” Ventelin said, and laughed raucously. “Now get on with it, Shen. My back is killing me!”
“Are you sure you want me to this, Your Majesty?” Shen asked quietly, desperate to find some way out of this situation, “I’ve never given a back massage before. I’m probably not very good at it.”
“Oh, you’ll do fine,” Ventelin said, “You’ll get better with practice.” Shen fought down another wave of revulsion and climbed up on the bed.
This would all be over soon. He just had to remember that. He had a plan. As soon as the Kingdom was proclaimed and the Empire fought off, Vor Shen would never have to worry about Haasadis Ventelin ever again.
To be continued…