The Darkest Heart, Part 27

The tension in the Senate Hall was palpable as Kryla watched the senators file into the large chamber and take their seats. There was an enormous sense of being on uncertain ground, and understandably so. The Senate was still in the process of being rebuilt from scratch after the devastating attack by Fangalin 20 years ago. So slow had the process been, that the building the Senate was meeting in was not the actual Senate Hall. The real Hall was still a massive crater in the ground, because no Emperor in the past 20 years had made rebuilding it a priority. Therefore, the Senate had commandeered the Ilumaza Theater, several blocks from the Imperial Palace, to serve as a temporary meeting place until the Senate Hall could be rebuilt.

If any of the senators present had been senators before the war began, they might have been offended at having to meet in such a place. Not that the Ilumaza Theater was inadequate in any way. It was a huge space, with all of the modern amenities, one of the newest and fanciest theaters in Selorin. Even so, there was something undignified about having to meet in a temporary space, no matter how fancy and new it was. Fortunately, none of the senators had been senators long enough to be overly concerned about the dignity and gravitas of the body to which they belonged.

“I hereby call this meeting of the Imperial Senate to order,” announced the chairman of the Senate, Losvic Merdogan, Senator from Cortaris, as the last few senators entered the hall and took their seats. “We are gathered here today to carry out the most important and most sacred duty of the Imperial Senate, choosing a new Emperor to govern and serve the Trisitanian Empire. We, the gathered representatives of the people of the Empire, are here to use our wisdom and our knowledge to choose the one who will best uphold the sacred task of ruling our great Empire.”

Kryla tuned out as Senator Merdogan droned on and on about duty and wisdom and whatnot. It was important for senators to make long-winded speeches, because otherwise they might feel like they didn’t serve any purpose. There certainly was no reason for her to bother listening to the whole thing. She had too much on her mind to pay attention anyway. She had done what she could in the past few weeks, contacting senators and making the case for why they should vote for Emelien Fanas. She had done what she could, and it was all in the Senate’s hands now.

In a way, it would almost be better if the Senate elected Belfamor Hemetal instead. Not that Belfamor would be a good Emperor in his current mental state, but at least his election wouldn’t plunge the Empire into civil war. Fanas would certainly lose his position as SCIAF, and possibly even be arrested. Kryla herself might be arrested as well. There was certainly no way she would remain in her position within the Imperial Fleet. Belfamor would not be forgiving if he did succeed in sitting on the Imperial Throne. But that was a price that Kryla was almost willing to pay if it would keep what was left of the Empire whole.

As if thinking about him was a summons, Belfamor Hemetal himself entered the theater as Senator Merdogan continued his interminable speech. Even though the theater was large, and Belfamor and Kryla were on opposite sides of it, Belfamor’s eyes met hers almost immediately, and Kryla could feel the murder in his eyes even over that distance. She gazed back at him impassively. Even though she wasn’t willing to start a civil war if he was elected Emperor, she had no intention of sitting around and waiting for him to extract vengeance. She had a plan to deal with him.

Kryla looked around as Emelien Fanas entered the box she was sitting in. He looked impressive, decked out in his best military uniform, from head to toe a picture of command. He certainly looked the part of an Emperor.

“Well?” he said as he took his seat.

“I spoke to as many senators as I could, nearly half,” she replied, handing him a tablet. “Most of them committed themselves to voting for you, and the rest seemed at least favorably disposed.”

“Good, good,” Fanas murmured as he looked over the list she had given him. “Assuming they all keep their word, this combined with the senators my other allies have spoken to should give me a commanding majority.”

“I’ve also thought some more about the other matter we spoke of,” Kryla said, lowering her voice, even though there was no one around to hear.

“Oh?” Fanas said, still looking over the list.

“Assuming you win the vote here tonight, and that seems like a distinct possibility at least, I think you should order the arrest of Lord Hemetal as your first action,” Kryla said. “I have loyal troops placed all throughout the building. If we place him in custody and keep him out of the way, it will give you a chance to consolidate your rule before he has an opportunity to gather his allies and retaliate.” Fanas frowned at her for a moment, and then shook his head.

“No, I don’t believe that would be wise,” he said. “If I do win by as wide a margin as I’m projected to, Belfamor will have no choice but to accept my rule. It would be better if I could win him over and make him an ally. After all, the wealth of House Hemetal would be very useful in the days to come. I suspect that if I offer to make him SCIAF, that will be too tempting for him to refuse.”

“You can’t be serious,” Kryla said, disbelief painted on her face. “The man hates you! Completely and utterly irrationally! There’s no way he will agree to become SCIAF!”

“I have made my decision, Admiral,” Fanas replied, in tones of finality. “I do not want to hear any more discussion about it.”

To be continued…

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