The Darkest Heart, Part 28

Considering how much was at stake amidst the Senate’s deliberations, the actual proceedings were remarkably dull. The reality was that the Senate’s decisions were usually made behind the scenes, in back room deals. There were forms that needed to be followed, but every senator had already decided which way he or she was going to vote. The speeches by the candidates and by each candidate’s supporters were just a formality.

It was actually somewhat ironic that there were so many formalities around the Senate’s election of a new Emperor, considering that in the thousand-plus year history of the Empire, it had only happened twice. When the Empire was first founded, after an Emperor died, the Throne passed to his or her closest living relative. It was only when the Empress Trillinia I lost all of her children in a terrible battle that a deal was made whereby the Senate would choose her successor. Trillinia hadn’t had any siblings either, and there had been no precedent around who would inherit the Throne in such a situation. Rather than allow the Empire to fall into civil war after her death, Trillinia had preferred that the Senate make the decision. From then on, if an Emperor or Empress died without any surviving direct descendants, the Senate chose a successor. It was a plan that had worked well after Trillinia’s death, but several hundred years later it had led to civil war, when there had been so many candidates that none of them had been able to gain a majority of the votes. Unlike the current situation, that war only lasted for five years. Things used to be so much simpler.

This would be the third time in history the Senate elected someone to sit on the Imperial Throne, assuming that nothing tragic happened before the decision was made. There were no worries that one candidate would be unable to secure a majority, considering there were only two candidates this time, but Kryla still wasn’t convinced that Belfamor would happily accept the will of the Senate, even if Emelien won a sizable majority. No, if Emelien won here tonight, the result would almost certainly be a further splintering of what was left of the Empire. And Kryla couldn’t get Emelien to see it! For the first time, Kryla wondered what would have happened if she had submitted herself as a candidate for the Throne. If she hadn’t just suffered a pretty spectacular defeat at the hands of the Hadramorans, she might have thought of it earlier, but it was unlikely that the Senate would elect somebody who’d just lost a major battle. Belfamor and Emelien could both rightfully claim that they’d had nothing to do with that debacle.

Something jarred Kryla out of her thoughts, and she looked around the theater for a few moments, trying to figure out what it was. As soon as she realized what had happened, a small rueful smile appeared on her face. There was silence in the theater. Nobody was giving speeches anymore. The senators were voting for their pick to sit on the Imperial Throne. A candidate needed to receive two-thirds of the available votes in order to become the new Emperor. If Emelien or Belfamor won two-thirds of the vote right now, then the process would be over, and the Empire would have a ruler once more. If not, there would more speeches, more deliberation, and more back room deals, and then another vote would be held.

It only took a few minutes for all of the votes to be tallied, as each senator voted on their tablet, and the votes were counted by computer. It was not a secret ballot. The votes would be a matter of public record, but they were tallied this way to save time. And so, Kryla watched and listened as Senator Merdogan stood on the stage in front of the all assembled senators and other dignitaries, and announced that Emelien Fanas had been elected the new Emperor.

The reaction was immediate and intense. Nearly everyone in the room leaped to their feet and started cheering. Everyone, that is, except for Belfamor Hemetal and his retainers. His face a stormcloud, Lord Hemetal sat in his box and glowered at the celebrating senators, as if planning out how each and every one of them was going to die. Kryla watched him for a moment, tempted to go ahead and order his arrest, regardless of what Emelien thought. She was still convinced that there was no way Belfamor was going to accept serving Emelien as SCIAF, or in any other capacity, for that matter. There was going to be trouble if Belfamor was allowed to walk out of the Ilumaza Theater tonight, but Kryla just couldn’t bring herself to disobey a direct order, especially when she couldn’t be a hundred percent convinced that Emelien was wrong. Belfamor would never agree to be Emelien’s SCIAF, but that didn’t mean he would start a civil war.

Emelien had already left the box and was strutting onto the stage, waving and smiling his broadest smile. The man was definitely in his element, confident and proud. He approached the podium and continued waving, acknowledging the continuing applause from the senators and other dignitaries. For a few moments, nothing happened except for Emelien waving and smiling and the senators continuing to clap and cheer. Finally, the applause began to die down, and Emelien began his speech.

“I cannot tell you what an honor it is to be selected to serve our great Empire in this capacity,” he said. “I can assure you I will do whatever it takes to restore the Empire to its ancient greatness, and end this pointless war that is tearing the galaxy apart. Today, we stand on the threshold of a new era of greatness. We will reunite the Empire, and put an end to the so-called nations that have carved out pieces of our territory. I will not rest until the Empire is whole again!” As soon as he finished speaking, an eruption of jubilation burst forth that made the earlier applause sound like someone clapping alone in their living room.

To be continued…


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