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Author:Linternet
IP:larch.faXXXX
Date: 12/16/04 07:12
Game Type: Other
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This site's sister forum recent held a creativity contest in a show of "latent homosexuality".  I wrote a fantasy short story for it that nobody seemed to like but nobody gave me any feedback for either.  So I am posting it here in the hopes of getting some responses so that I can improve myself.  If you don't like me posting this here blame Keanu. He opened the door, I'm just stepping through :).

Aftershock

The end was finally in sight. The actual fighting had been finished for about a month. Today’s execution was merely the public representation of the victory that the rebellion had won against the arrogantly named Divinity a scant few weeks ago. The Commonplace Alliance was no longer a rebellion. Victory had granted them status as a fledging new Empire replacing the old one. General, no, Emperor Connor Mason needed to adjust to the new order of things.

Rising from the large four post bed in his private chamber Connor stretched the battle hardened muscles on his six foot two inch frame and traversed the cold marble floor to the wooden table located next to the room’s double oak doors. His clothing had been laid out on that table the previous night by palace servants after he had washed himself. The black pants and red tunic with gold trim around the sleeves and down its center did not sit well with the warrior in him but, as his Chief Minister constantly reminded him, his enemies were now political and the weapons to be wielded were those of words and image. Dressing in the colors of the as of yet unnamed Empire he ruled was a part of that image. For all of the power he now wielded he had far more control over his destiny during the war.

Being Emperor did have some advantages. For example from the moment he entered his private chambers at night until the moment he opened the doors NOBODY was to disturb him. He had jested that if the Archmages regained their powers, returned in force, and were burning down the Empire it would be a much kinder fate than he would visit on the person who dared to invade his privacy to tell him about it. His guards were fiercely loyal and Connor hoped that they didn’t take him literally but at the same time understood the value he placed on the tiny amount of private time he had.

Once fully dressed, he took a deep breath, straightened out his curly brown hair and reached for the door handle. He had risen early and hoped that nobody would be waiting outside giving him a few extra minutes before the havoc of the day began. He should have known better. Aside from the two guards permanently stationed outside his door, his short, and scrawny Chief Minister, Tillis Gataw was waiting outside along with a servant holding his breakfast tray.

“Don’t you ever sleep?” Connor asked of his long time friend.

“I had to oversee the final preparations for the proceedings today. I will sleep tonight when this is over.”

“I think the entire citizenry will sleep soundly this night eh? Come in.” The Emperor stood aside and held his arm out indicating that Tillis should enter. Tillis looked exhausted. His face showed a thin film of sweat and his eyelids were nearly closing over his green eyes. His matted blond hair was disheveled. Connor felt bad that he had left the logistics of the execution to Tillis, but Tillis was frankly more efficient than he was. The servant took Connor's invitation to extend to him and he walked in the room and placed the breakfast tray on the table that previously held the Emperor's clothing.

“Thank you Mark.” Connor said to the liveried servant who bowed and left. Connor went over to the tray and began nibbling on some fruit. “So what can I do for you Tillis?”

“My Lord, I need to go over your schedule with you. After your morning appointments we need to finalize the name of the Empire, as this evening’s speech is the opportune time to unveil it. As the door finally slams shut on the old regime the new one stands strong in its place”. Tillis stated.

Connor nodded. “Call a meeting of the council, but schedule it for after lunch, I have a stop to make after my morning appointments. And call me Connor. ‘My Lord’ just doesn’t sound right coming from you.”

“You are the Emperor now, My Lord, the formality is necessary.” Tillis replied in his perpetually business-like tone.

“Your names for me were far less respectful than Connor when we were two kids that got drunk and courted women at the local inns together.” Connor sighed. “I don’t suppose it would do me any good to order you to call me Connor.”

Tillis didn’t answer that. Looking at the friend he had grown up with and started the rebellion with Connor knew there was something else on his mind.

“Is there anything else, Tillis?”

“May I speak freely My Lord?” he asked tentatively.

“What good are you to me if you don’t speak freely? Of course you can speak freely. What’s on your mind?”

“I think you should reconsider your decision to pardon mages who had no official position in the hierarchy of the Divinity. The proposal is drawing tremendous opposition from those who suffered while others with the power to do something didn’t. At the very least you should approve the suggested investigation regarding potential levels of collaboration.”

The mention of the former regime’s name made Connor shudder. His frame of mind shifted to the self-assured and uncompromising demeanor of the General in him before speaking. “People assume that simply because someone was magically active that they somehow had the power to stop the persecution, exploitation and outright slaughter of those who were magically inert. It’s true that they were better able to defend themselves against another mage, but speaking out against the regime or even giving any appearance aside from unfettered support was as much a death sentence for them as being born magically inert was for us. I have to give people the benefit of the doubt where I can. Otherwise we risk becoming what we fought so hard to defeat.” Connor said with finality.
Tillis thought for a moment. “Then my suggestion is that you announce that Councilor Rebhur’s proposal has given you second thoughts and that you are delaying your decision until you have considered his stance. Even if you have no intention whatsoever of considering anything it gives the other councilors the impression of having power.”

“Tillis we are all on the same side. I did not deceive my people as their General and I will not do it as their Emperor.”

Now it was Tillis’s turn to lecture. “During the rebellion our common enemy drowned out all other concerns. With the threat gone people are scrambling to establish their place in this new order. The people are united around you but you are not the only one with influence. The Empire is in its infancy. Too many people have the power to destabilize it. Do not give them any reason to. By allowing the investigations to commence and delaying your decision you project a very cooperative image, in turn making it much easier for you to consolidate power.”

Tillis was making sense. He had always been a political mastermind and was responsible for the bulk of the rebellion’s early recruiting. People had legitimate and often competing views on what was best for the Empire and that might very well make them political adversaries. Connor had always been merciless when it came to his enemies but he simply couldn’t and wouldn’t view the people that he had fought, bled and wept with as his enemies. They deserved better and so did the citizens that Tillis apparently wanted to exploit. “At what cost Tillis? The people that I want to presume are innocent will have their lives torn apart by these investigations that will be, in practice, anything but civil. Also, delaying a decision when I have already made up my mind will destroy my credibility. I will not come off as indecisive and weak.” Connor said. He made sure that his tone settled the matter.

A fleeting look of frustration appeared on Tillis’s face and was almost immediately replaced with the familiar look of quiet dissatisfaction.

“There’s obviously something else friend.” The Emperor said questioningly.

“I want to renew my objection to this execution. It’s too soon for it.”

Tillis had argued against the execution because the Empire hadn’t even written the laws for the crimes they were charging former Emperor Imorum with. Eradicating the unprovoked arrests and summary executions of Imorum’s regime was a founding principle of this Empire. Connor and many others in the Empire believed that no matter what crimes someone had committed they deserved to be treated fairly. He had already agreed to postpone the execution of Imorum’s top aides just to ensure that due process had been established and followed. The mastermind of their torment, however, was an exception. The populace needed to put the past behind them as quickly as possible. The victims of his reign needed to rest easy knowing he was dead and those who secretly supported him needed to know that he was not coming back.

“No.” He said simply.

“May I ask why not? My Lord?”

“Our people need a sense of closure to move on. His execution is a necessary first step in the healing process”.

“Is it our people that need the closure? Or you personally?” Tillis’s tone was clearly an accusation.

Connor felt a stab of anger but it quickly passed and he was almost relieved. THIS was the honest counsel he was accustomed to receiving from his friend turned Chief Minister. Let him save the ‘yes mi lord’ rhetoric for the chambers of the Citizen’s Council. Connor needed the full weight of Tillis’s political mind and he was glad to have it back.

“This is definitely personal for me! But have you taken the pulse of the public lately? It’s personal for them too!” Connor’s voice became filled with passion as he spoke. “They won’t gather in large groups for fear of consequences that no longer exist. People jump at knocks on their door fearing it’s one of Imorum’s Death Sentinels. My servant Mark watched his ten year old brother have his arms and legs magically torn off because he was in sight of a mage who had just discovered his wife cheating on him. I still have nightmares about my wife and son being executed for trying to educate him after we were forbidden to do so. Half of my home town was magically immobilized and taken somewhere that they never came back from. Imorum has to answer for all of the wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children that he crushed without a second thought, and he needs to answer for it now.”

If Connor's tone didn't settle the matter, the fact that he stormed out the door to get to to his office and his morning meetings certainly did.

********************

"And so my Lord you can see that I did all that I could to make delivery on time. It was completely out of my control.”

Connor looked at the old woman from behind his polished wooden desk. He remembered back to when he approached her to sew the the standards of the rebellion. He thought that her gray hair, hunched appearance and wrinkled face had looked old then and she looked positively ancient now. "I was promised a shipment today Madam Nomel. Can you deliver me nothing but excuses?"

The old woman's face turned first to shock and then to anger. Age had not diminished her wit, nor the seriousness with which she took her work. "In fifteen years I have NEVER failed you. You WILL have your uniforms as soon as I have the materials. I cannot be held accountable because my suppliers weren't ready to clothe the entire army!"

"Very well Madam Nomel. I shall expect your goods sooner rather than later." Connor said.

They both rose and after giving him an insincere curtsie she was on her way. The Emperor's office was small and sparsely furnished containing a desk, two chairs and a filing cabinet. Madam Nomel's black flag with a centered red falcon hung on the wall. Connor preferred to keep his meetings as informal as he could. Finished with his appointment Connor had to meet with one of the few people in the usurped palace that could not come to him. He exited his chambers and received far more convincing bows from his guards as he made his way downstairs. In truth he had no cause to chastise Madam Nomel. If she couldn't produce on time chances were that nobody else could either. He had let the stress of the day get the better of him. He would have to apologize later. Tillis would tell him that the Emperor should never apologize. That the appearance of perfection, despite the reality, was important. Connor, however, saw it differently. It took strength and conviction to admit you were wrong – so long as you worked to correct it. It was a mark of a good leader.

"...mand my lord"

Connor hadn't realized that he had arrived. He turned to see his guardsman standing stiffly at attention. "Excuse me Captain?'' He said smoothly while trying to remember the man's name.

"I am yours to command my Lord"

Tall, thick, muscular. Brown hair, brown eyes, big ears. Ears! EARnie! Ernie Latame! Ernie was one of the latecomers to the rebellion. Capable and fiercely loyal, Ernie had agreed with the rebellion's cause early on, but his nature made it difficult to convince him to take action.

Once committed, he was invaluable. "At ease Ernie, you're making me nervous. I am here to speak with the prisoner." There was no need to specify who 'the prisoner' was.

Connor was not looking forward to this meeting. He was reminded of how uncertain he was that this execution was the right thing to do at this time. He was, however, going through with the execution and would not do so without meeting the man face to face. He had seen him briefly when he was captured as the Rebels sacked the capital city of Artonia, but had ordered him taken away immediately. Now he had to face what he was about to do.

One of the first actions Connor had taken as Emperor was to order new dungeons constructed. They were not ready yet and they were forced to use the dungeons already in place by the Divinity. Connor winced at the memory of this place. A single entrance followed by three long hallways of cells. There was no sunlight and the floors were bare earth. The cells were short on surface area with high ceilings to make the prisoners feel both compressed and small. Anything not directly related to preventing prisoners from escaping was never repaired and though he had ordered latrines dug and maintained, the stench of feces had never quite left the place. Enemies of the Divinity had called the palace dungeons 'The Graveyard' with good reason - you were never supposed to leave alive.

Yet here he was, having done just that – and he was staring at the man responsible for this animal pen that passed for a jail - from the outside of the cell!

Stripped of his magic and behind bars Aromus Imorum was sleeping in his cell on a bed that he would not have provided to prisoners during his reign. Though an imposing figure the Divinity’s former Emperor was simply a man who slept, breathed, needed food and water to survive and bled like anyone else. It was hard for Connor to fathom that this man had, not long ago, killed people with a thought and enslaved millions.

Connor turned to walk away. He wanted to have his conversation when Imorum was fully awake and alert. He was about to tell Ernie to have somebody get him the moment Imorum woke up. Then the evil genius spoke up.

"I have labored furiously" began a loud, commanding, and supremely confident voice. "And I still cannot fathom how you possibly defeated me."

Having risen from his bed Connor was left wondering if Aromus had truly been stripped of his magic. His reason knew better and he at once remembered who he was dealing with. This man was truly superior to others. Over six feet five inches tall and muscular he had decapitated men with a stroke of his sword. His potential in magic exceeded most others of the time and nobody was more practiced with it. Most dangerous of all however was the man's intelligence and it showed in his piercing grey eyes. His knowledge of strategy and tactics was extensive and he had an uncanny ability to glean the truth of a situation from very little data. It was likely he knew of Connor’s presence from his smell or the pattern of noise his boots made.

"I didn't defeat you" The Emperor said, trying to keep the uneasiness out of his voice. “You defeated yourself." There was no modesty in Connor’s voice. It was simply the truth.

"My kind is to yours as yours is to ants. That you've managed to temporarily shrink us down is of no consequence. It cannot last forever, and your crime of cutting off the flow of magic is far greater. You have stunted the growth of mankind and deserve a fate far worse than death because of it."

Aromus was referring to how the rebellion was won. The Mages of the Divinity were too powerful for the rebellion and while they had managed to convince many mages that Emperor Imorum was wrong in what he was doing, most of them were too afraid to stand against him. In the end they had devised a method by which the world’s magical energy would flow into gigantic ‘receptors’ thereby cutting off the source of magic before it was accessible by people. As there was no way they could hide a project that large, they built the collectors in the guise of temples devoted to the greatness of the divinity – saving the critical columns of “magic rods” for last.

"Nothing lasts forever - as your downfall has proved. You disappoint me. I took you for a man above useless banter." Connor retorted.

The former Emperor laughed humorlessly. "That is one of the many things you are wrong about. So, if not to gaze upon your better, why are you here? Never mind. You don't have the courage to execute me yourself, so you show up here in an effort to convince yourself of your valor. And don't give me your advisor's line about how an emperor cannot be seen executing a prisoner. I personally eliminated more criminals than I can count.”

"That you consider the murder of an 8 year old child the execution of a criminal speaks to the reason you find yourself here today."

This time Aromus’s smile had the look of utter pleasure to it. "Yes. I have been told that I ordered the execution of your mate and offspring. As I mentioned, dear 'emperor', in those cases I was merely squashing insects." Aromus goaded.

Connor took the bait as fury overtook him. He somehow kept his voice calm as he spoke. "Today we 'insects' are going to deliver a fatal sting." He stormed out of the room barging in to Ernie's private office. He slammed the door shut, punched the wall, and broke into tears, not from the bone in his hand that he shattered. But from the memory of a child who would never have the chance to grow up.

********************

Connor stood at the podium and surveyed the crowd. There had to be thousands of people there to watch the execution of Emperor Imorum. Tillis had tried to write a speech for Connor but speaking off the cuff with genuine conviction was the Emperor’s strength and he refused to give it up now. Besides, this one would be short and to the point. He took a deep breath and let his voice project to the crowd:

“We are not gathered here to celebrate our freedom - for we had that the moment we decided to fight. This is not a celebration of our victory - for that was assured the moment the temples denied magical energy to our enemies. We do not act against our former oppressor out of bloodlust or a need for vengeance - for we would become those we so valiantly fought. As you watch justice dispensed, reflect that taking a man’s life is never something to be celebrated. We take this man's life recognizing that his departure from this world ensures the safety of millions of others. We execute him to grant our murdered loved ones the justice they deserve. His death is a statement that the value of one's life is not determined by the abilities you were born with and that we will not tolerate someone who acts otherwise. Bring out the prisoner!''

Connor once again looked out at the crowd. Most people were cheering at his speech, but some were standing there in what appeared to be stunned silence. They might be people who abhor the taking of any life. Perhaps Tillis was correct and they feared that his Empire would be no different than the last. What really worried Connor, though, was that these were magic wielding citizens of the previous regime who had done no wrong or had even tried to help those regarded by the condemned as no more than vermin. Here they were with their magic, a part of them, stripped away, much as someone might pluck out Connor’s eyes - and for no reason. They would bear the new emperor no favor and Connor could not blame them. It was a moral dilemma he had often wrestled with.

After a few minutes without seeing Imorum a worried murmur swept though the crowd. It intensified when Tillis came running up to the podium, his worried expression telling Connor all he needed to know.

Former Emperor of the Divinity Amorus Immorum had escaped.

********************

For security reasons the Emperor had ordered one of the palace wine cellars cleared out and a table placed in it for his emergency council meeting. The room was easily defensible and nobody would expect that the Emperor’s council of advisors would be meeting there. The councilors were already there when he arrived though Connor wouldn’t have waited for them anyway. He was furious and had no patience to deal with anyone.

Tillis sat quietly at the right of the table's head. Next to him sat Janice Conto. The black clad, young, dark haired, Intelligence chief. Highly capable, she was ruthless to a point few members of her gender ever approached. The Emperor's staff was male-dominant but the Intelligence Division was the exception. The upper echelons of power in the Divinity consisted exclusively of magic-sensitive men. The few magic users who supported the rebellion were too valuable in battles to risk on espionage. Therefore the only way to infiltrate the Divinity’s upper ranks was to do it in the comfort of a one-sided passion where some tantalizing tidbit of information might slip. In some ways those women sacrificed more than some of those who had given their lives. Death on the battlefield was often easy. Many times you didn't have time to think about it before the fatal blow struck. These women though had to sacrifice their bodies, day after day, sometimes for nothing at all. Their true lovers had to watch them go to work every day with the knowledge that they would come back violated, touched by someone else. More than one marriage had ended due to the chosen vocation of the wife. The entire Empire owed their victory to these women, and it was a debt he could never repay.

Seated next to the undeniably attractive intelligence agent Janice was the equally unattractive General Zarmp. Short and heavy with a lazy left eye, he had a way to make you immediately forget his physical deficiencies the moment he opened his mouth. His confidence in his abilities was contagious - and his successes on the battlefield spoke for themselves. He was Connor’s Senior Colonel during the rebellion and took over the army when Connor became Emperor.

Continuing counterclockwise, on the other side of the table, Challas Denfro was trying, unsuccessfully, to not stare at Janice. One of the few magic .users who supported the rebellion, Challas became the defacto leader among those few who did cross over. When the temples were finished, many magic users, suddenly cut off from the abilities they used to define themselves, lost their minds. Challas had adjusted easily and served as a source of strength for his peers who also found themselves handicapped.

The meeting's final member was the rebellion’s foremost scholar Messarin. He never gave a last name. His research uncovered the process by which steel and Villium were combined to attract and draw magical energy. The others at the table had critical roles in winning freedom for all, but none of it would be possible without Messarin. Eccentric and brilliant, his potential was cut off only by his social weaknesses.

Connor stood at the head of the table and began speaking, though screaming was a more appropriate description of his tone. “I don’t need to tell you how much of a disaster this is. That we look incompetent is bad. That the citizenry is already in a panic that is just going to keep cascading is worse. The biggest catastrophe of this situation, however, is that the knowledge and ability to pull this off rests in this room only. It’s possible that you leaked critical information to an aide or spoke a bit too loudly to one another in the hallway but the more likely scenario is that one of you is a traitor. I will find out who it is! For now, however, I have to trust you to do your jobs.”

“My Lord I think…” Tillis began.

“The first priority is to secure the temples. General double the guard and rotate them more frequently to keep the troops as alert as possible.” Connor pretended that Tillis had never interrupted him.” He looked every council member in the eye. Both his tone and his stare were accusatory. Nobody would mistake his sentiments.

“Yes my Lord.” The General responded.

“Tillis , I want active search parties organized. Comb the entire city and never stop looking. Search by torchlight if you have to but find Imorum.”

“Janice. Every single resource of yours is to be pulled from whatever they’re doing and devote every ounce of their talents to the search. Interrogate prisoners, squeeze Immorum’s former staff, visit the inns to pick up information. Do whatever it takes. Until Imorum is found and recaptured they have no other assignments.”
Janice simply saluted in acceptance of her orders.

“Challas, are you able to access your magic? Have the temples already fallen? Was that how Amous escaped?”

“No my Lord. I am still cut off from the flow.” Came Challas’s swift reply.

Though it would certainly mean his death and a return to sub-human status for millions, Connor almost hoped that magic had somehow been restored. It would be more palatable than the probable treason of one of his must trusted friends. He nodded.

“In that case help Janice. You know this man better than any of us. I want you to tell her everything you know, and I mean EVERYTHING. Every detail you left out as unimportant Janice needs to know about.”

“As you command Emperor Mason.”

“Messarin start working on a way to make our new prisons as escape proof as possible. I want your designs on my desk by the end of the week.”

Connor done with his orders stood in silence. Nobody dared to say a word.

“You all have your orders, stop wasting time sitting here.”

Connor stormed out of this room as quickly as he stormed out of Immorum’s prison cell earlier. This time his anger did not turn to tears and he made his way to his private chambers flanked by his guards. He desperately needed some time alone to think.

********************


Lying on his bed Connor just couldn’t make any sense of this. He had seen the Emperor and inspected the prison just hours before the execution. Everything was in perfect order. Immorum must have been able to escape for days and was just waiting for the perfect time to do it. The possibility of magic again crept into his mind but it just wasn’t possible. Someone had to have betrayed the Empire but why? Challas was Emperor Mason’s first suspect. Perhaps the loss of his magic was too much to bear. Everyone else on the Council would have eventually died at Amorus’s hands eventually. The only flaw in the theory was that if Challas wanted to destroy them it would have been best for him to do it before his magic was cut off. He could have killed the whole council and half the army with no effort. Instead he had defended them countless times and hidden them from magical searches. If he wanted to side with Amorus why would he wait until they were both on even ground with the rest of them.

He laid on his bed trying to puzzle this enigma out. If not for his battle trained peripheral vision he'd have been beheaded where he lay. Connor rolled off of his bed away from his attacker, smoothly came up on one knee and stared across the bed. Amorus Immorum, his wavy black hair partially over his face from his failed strike held a one handed scimitar and was staring intently at his usurper. Connor used the presence of his large, four post bed to keep some distance between him and his opponent. He screamed for his guards and Amorus smiled wickedly when no answer came. Now his first became getting armed. He kept a sword under his bed but couldn't risk reaching for it without somehow buying himself a little bit of time. With no real time to reason out the best course of action he took a chance. He bent down and flipped his mattress into his enemy and immediately ducked under his bed to grab his broadsword. He rose with his weapon to see Immorum just having shaken off the mattress. Connor stepped to the side of the bed and Amours matched him. They both stood there for a moment appraising each other. There were no words to say, they both knew how professional the other was and that taunting would only waste precious breath. Amorus had been a well-paid mercenary for twenty years before discovering his immense magical potential. His survival for that long at that trade spoke volumes of his skill with a sword and he didn't let his knowledge of magic diminish his fighting skills. Connor was a born soldier, joining Immorum's army as a teenager before rebelling against him. Connor gave up three inches of height and about thirty pounds, but, on even ground, without magic, he wouldn't allow himself to lose. Amorus made the first move with an upward slash of his sword which Connor met and spun himself to the weak side of his opponent. Knowing he lacked the brute strength to win this fight, Connor went for speed, slashing and getting out of his enemy's longer range. He had to win the fight quickly or he'd run out of stamina.

Connor quickly learned that the former Emperor was extremely fast, especially for a man his side and he didn't stop pressing his attack. Connor was barely dodging and backing up to the wall – a mistake for any sword fighter. He needed to move in a circle but could only barely manage to parry the blows that continued to rain down on him. Back against the wall it was time for this to stop. He ducked, much as he did when he grabbed his sword and scored a glancing blow on Amorus''s leg while getting to the outside and starting to press his own attack. If his blows were difficult to parry Amorus didn't show it and he quickly got back to the offensive. Turning Connor towards the door.

Connor was doomed. He was losing energy and without his speed there was no way to win. His spirit wouldn't let him quit and he continued to parry blows hoping to spot a mistake that he knew would never come. Amorus had him backed up against the door now and Connor didn't think he had the energy to parry another blow, much less counter it. Amours smiled, sensing victory and poised himself for the final strike. At that moment the door opened and Connor spilled out into the hallway where he saw his guards lying dead. He looked up and saw Tillis standing there with a crossbow and fired a shot that caught Amours in the eye. The stunned, condemned, prisoner fell right where he stood finally ending the life of history's most brutal tyrant.

Connor breathed a sigh of relief and looked up at his rescuer one again owing his life to his best friend. Tillis smiled down at him, then reloaded the crossbow, pointed it at Connor's abdomen and fired.

Connor had been in enough battles to know that he was dead. The pain in his abdomen, however, was nothing compared to how much the betrayal hurt. He looked up at his friend and with the tremendous loss of blood that had already taken place he managed to squeak out only one word.

“Why?”

Tillis looked calmly at him. “I am sorry my friend. This is not personal and I take no pleasure in it. I decided long ago that my first devotion would be to our cause and you are simply not fit to be Emperor. Your skills at making war are exemplary. You are... I'm sorry, were, sorely lacking in the skills necessary to run an Empire. You were too popular with the people to step down, they would lose confidence in our government. I couldn't let you continue as Emperor, your political enemies would do to you what you did to your enemies on the battlefield. Killing you outright would be worse than you stepping down. The solution, was for you to die saving the people from the enemy they most feared. Once again I am sorry. I hope that you meet your family in whatever awaits you.” Though it didn't reflect in his voice, a tear rolled down Tillis's face.

Connor understood. Tillis was truly the only one he had shared the entirety of his plans with. Tillis had counted on Connor not being able to believe that a man as close as a brother to him would betray him and it paid off. He had orchestrated the escape, and probably told Amours to wait a certain amount of time so that Tillis could kill the guards. He probably offered to share power with the former Emperor. A promise he had no intention of keeping. The sad part was that his friend was probably right. The utter trust he placed in his people was a dangerous thing for an Emperor and he probably had no business in the position. It had cost him his life. Connor closed his eyes and took his last breath, knowing at least that he had killed the man who had murdered his family.

Tillis looked down at his victims. When Connor finally died he picked up the broadsword and stabbed it through the crossbow wound in the eye of Amour's corpse. Then he picked up Amorus's sword and did the same with Connor's abdomen. He then carried Connor's body out into the hallway. It would look as if Amours had killed Connor's guards, fought with Connor and lost. Connor, grievously wounded by his victory would have tried to make it to help and never get there. Tillis would give him a ceremony dubbing Connor the greatest hero of the Empire and then position himself as his replacement. Tillis ditched the crossbow and started running downstairs to get help. He had an Empire to start running.


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