Chapter Seven, Part One

It took no effort convincing Demuzi to bring him back to the palace. The rambling secrets of spies weren't meant to be waited upon overnight, and Samael simply followed Demuzi to some flying vehicle of sorts, the likes of which Samael marveled at but said nothing, and accompanied the old man west, over steep ridges and jagged terrain, dotted with pale yellow and orange lights. The farther west they flew, the more vehicles they passed, keeping a safe distance from them; despite Demuzi's aging frame, he maneuvered the ship quite well.

The capital city of the Aramier Empire, Aravot, lay within a steep and narrow valley, the city being built almost vertically upon itself. Tall buildings alit with sparkling yellow and blue lights jutted up, and the higher the altitude of the city, the less dense and the larger the buildings were. At the crest of the soaring mountainside rested a massive array of buildings, splendidly and regally laid out. These, Demuzi flew directly to. They hadn't uttered a word to the other since leaving the monastery.

They arrived in the docking station and the controllers there greeted Demuzi with a hand signal, peering at Samael and hardly second-guessing Demuzi's dismissal at the individual of their questioning eyes.

They passed through a series of halls, galleries, a wide spiral staircase, encased catwalks between buildings, through more halls with an overwhelming amount of closed doors upon each side, and on turning to a set of double-doors with two guards at each side, Demuzi introduced Samael as a guest of the emperor. They obliged, and now Samael stood in something of a sitting room. Dark windows bowed in a semi-circle from floor to ceiling to his right, and considering the layout of this room, Samael felt that half of it was built within the mountain. Demuzi promptly left him, going through another set of double-doors at the end of the long room decorated in forest green accents and dark grey fixtures.

"Be quiet and dare not attempt to leave," was the only words Demuzi said to him before leaving.

Samael ambled leisurely to the glass windows. The city swept down below him, a brilliant display of lights and shadows, discernable if stared at long enough, but at this height, it felt as if he were looking down upon a miniature maze. Horizontally moving lights suggested several flying vehicles. A clever method to compensate for the unique landscape of Aravot. The design of this city was amazing, and he felt surprised when he found himself equating it with the size of Paradís. Certainly, Aravot was nowhere near its size, but considering -- he toyed with the marble in his pocket -- the size and scope of the Aramier Empire, Aravot was considered one of the greatest cities of the world. The mountains were black silhouettes against a dark periwinkle sky, the stars miniscule and distant. White lights flashed in slow intervals upon the mountain peaks in every direction he could see. A warden network of sorts, he presumed. Despite the hour, more small lights moved across the horizon, some of various colors, while others flashed intermittently. More flying ships in the distance, coming to and going away from the city. No shortage of activity here. He rather liked this place.

The door opened and Demuzi appeared, solemn.

"You may speak to the Emperor."

A smile came to Samael's lips and he approached Demuzi, stopping as the old man stepped out into the waiting room, letting the doors come to a close. He gave an annoyed look at Samael.

"You are an insult to the mendicant orders, and know that you will be duly punished for it."

"For killing a spy? By whom?"

"By me," Demuzi snarled.

Samael scoffed. "Open the door. Your sense of duty precedes you, Demuzi. Your faith has left you long ago and you would only be insulting the one you so foolishly swore your life to."

Demuzi stared back at him, his grey eyes widening, then narrowing. Samael merely looked down at the old man, and after a moment, took a step towards the door and opened it himself. He found himself in a long room with similar darkened windows -- the other half of the semi-circle -- and this room was as sparsely decorated as the previous room. A desk as long as two men was at the far end of the room upon a dais, and behind it sat a man. A man Samael instantly found enchanting, almost glowing effervescently with a twisted aura of malevolence. The man was not all right. On the surface, he was most likely thought of as good-looking: he was relatively young, he held himself as one of intelligence and profundity, but inside was a spirit that could not be contained, a mad spirit that spilled into his physical appearance.

Samael glanced back at Demuzi, clear grey eyes still slits, trying to analyze, to understand, exuding apprehension and something that looked like fright.

"Come," the voice from the table beckoned, and Samael turned his head, striding slowly and confidently to the man sitting at ease. The desk was void of any papers, the smooth onyx glistening under recessed lights. He intuited Demuzi enter after a moment, but he didn't turn his gaze until he stood a few paces from the dais.

"So I understand you murdered my spy," the man exclaimed. His voice was clear, not very nasal, and tremendously serene. The expression on his face betrayed neither anger nor amusement, instead, a detached guise that anyone would have found disturbing and terrifying.

"He asked too many questions."

Without warning, the man threw his head back and laughed. Loudly, heartily.

Demuzi stepped up beside Samael, scowling upon the man with the black hair and crystal green eyes. Samael looked down at him, but Demuzi refused to meet his gaze.

"Too many questions!" A smile that exposed a clean row of snow-white teeth and curiously inimitable incisors, the man regained his composure to something more relaxed than before. He placed his two hands upon the table surface and leaned forward, looking at both men. His eyes glittered with amusement.

"Demuzi, my oldest and wisest of friends, claims that you strangled him with your bare hands. Tell me, how does a monk kill a man with his own hands?"

"I broke his neck, if I could have the privilege to correct such an assumption."

The man grinned, never taking his eyes off of Samael. "Even better! Tell me, is this the first time you've killed a man?"

"This is true."

"Excellent. How did it feel?"

"I felt nothing."

"Ah," the man sat back in his chair, still looking at Samael. "Demuzi?"

"Yes, my lord."

"You told me this monk is a murderer, yet, he was only protecting the Empire. I find the act quite justified."

"My lord!"

"Quiet!” The man stood up. Though the dais was set only a few inches higher, the man was still significantly taller than Samael. Like looking upon an oversized ivory statue. The man bowed slightly, smiling at Samael. "I, Emperor Varsala, do most kindly thank you, Samael, for your service to the empire."

Samael bowed for a long second, glimpsing the contempt in Demuzi's eyes.

Before he could raise himself back up, Demuzi cried out: "My lord, he has murdered an innocent man!"

"Demuzi," Varsala reclined in his seat. "I'm surprised. Is your senility playing tricks on you again? Surely, you possess the keenness of mind to know that the spy worked for a traitor."

A moment later: "Eansevat?"

Varsala nodded gently. "But we don't have to think of him any longer." He pressed an indent in his desk near where he sat, and to Samael's amazement, a small square portion of the desk lit up in blue-outlined buttons. He pressed a few of these buttons then turned the image off by pushing the same indent. "The words you recited to me, Demuzi, only confirm my assumptions. Eansevat is rousing the Bergwaan and secretly arming the Gravuans. Getting rid of him will be easy."

"My lord," Demuzi exclaimed, bowing.

Varsala chuckled, turning his eyes to Samael. "A traitor never truly succeeds, does he?"

"Never, Emperor Varsala," Samael smiled.

"Please," Varsala waved his hand. "By my name only, I know I am emperor and I don't need a man of your making calling me thus. It gets repetitive after a while."

"My lord," the crotchety whine returning to Demuzi's voice. "As a man of the faith--"

"One who is known as such," Varsala waved his finger.

Demuzi frowned. "Despite the spy's depraved and unfortunate role in life, I cannot look upon this monk without a strong sense of justice."

"Should I hang him? Chide him for doing what you yourself should have done?"

"You may mock me until the day I die, my lord, but as a man who shares the same habit, I could not let him remain unpunished for such an unsacred deed as the killing of another man."

Varsala rolled his eyes and waved his hand. "Ten rites, Samael. Repeat your ten rites and fifty Hallowed Horafah prayers, and your sins will be justified."

Varsala smirked at Samael while Demuzi sulked.

"Where do you come from, Samael?"

"I am of Cartratus, from the Iermlor Monastery." His chest burned. Varsala was taking a liking to him, and that was a good omen. Nearly halfway through his excursion into the human realm, he felt a little distressed that things were working out just right. An obstacle would be pleasant. The human world was incredible, and humans were almost as devious as deamons. To be let loose upon this plane would be pure ecstasy, at least until the evenors caught up with him. And what other conventions would be unloosed, pacts broken that would cause havoc the likes of which this human realm had never seen. It was so tantalizing, so possible.

"Cartratus? My home town is not so far from there, just a day's travel north. Etreria, have you ever been?"

"I have not had the pleasure," Samael lowered his head. The glow surrounding Varsala clearly indicated that he was the man designed for him. This man, emperor of the Aramier Empire, the perfect and willing victim. He hadn't believed it when Nashachiron spoke of it to him, because frankly, taking a god's word for it would be quite foolish and suicidal. But perhaps the god hadn't lied to him. Perhaps Varsala was the man of power. This would be more interesting than he imagined.

Two knocks upon the door. Varsala called the visitor in, and both Samael and Demuzi turned to gaze at the man that entered.

He wore steel from neck to toe, held his helmet inside his arm, gripped by gleaming gauntlets, and a red sash gilded in gold and silver draped from shoulder to waist. His blonde hair was cut close and dark brown eyes quickly scanned the emperor's guests. He strode towards them quickly, coming to stand beside Demuzi.

"My lord." He bowed in a hurried manner then returned to his rigid stance.

Varsala nodded.

"The rumors are indeed true. They have cut off the lines from Ursmades, and just yesterday, the Domori line as well. The word from Ursmades was stated from such a time, that I believe Phaethon is at Morra, or very soon will be within the day."

Varsala nodded, finger tapping his lip as his eyes wandered thoughtfully.

"Take on the mountains with a company. Halifaxis will go with you. Leave for Morra now, and I trust that you will create something worth bargaining for before making your presence known there."

"My lord," the man bowed. "I will send news as soon as possible."

"And another matter, my dear Aethos. Have Leureth take care of Eansevat."

The man blinked once, twice. "It is true, then?"

"It has just been confirmed beyond measure," Varsala glanced at Samael.

Aethos kept his eyes upon the emperor. "His wife and children? Contacts?"

"All of them."

"My lord." Aethos bowed again.

"That is all. Make haste to that charming empire across that great expanse of water. I will not have an invasion without knowing why."

Aethos turned on his heel and left the room, closing the door behind him. Samael watched him go, and as soon as the door was shut, Demuzi spoke out.

"What of the Dalathould Empire's problems interest you, my lord?"

"Ah," Varsala smiled knowingly. "Everything. Are you well, Samael?"

The marble was burning, burning, and he involuntarily clutched his chest, squeezing the marble in his hand, the cloth between them hardly making a difference. And as quickly as it had come, it went cold. He looked at the emperor, ignoring Demuzi stepping away from him and looking disapprovingly.

"A mild pain, it's nothing," Samael exclaimed.

"Demuzi, take this young man to a room where he may rest the night. As for you, know that I hold no ill will against you. You may take your time to make penance for yourself." He gestured at him, as if shooing him away. "And Samael, you will expect a call in the morn, is that fair?"

"Fair, Varsala."

Demuzi looked up at Samael in the most condescending way a hunched arthritic man possibly could.

The End

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