“The Empire is holding it’s breath” two men stood in the vast courtyard as the sky was growing dark as the servants had begun to light the torches and braziers set around the courtyard. “The Black Apostles can only be held back for some time before our armies crumble under the strain.” The man speaking was dressed in the grey and white military uniform, several medals adorned his chest, and a long sword hung at his side. Armour was attached to his left shoulder. He also wore decorative silver gauntlets inlaid with gold. He held his helmet under his right arm it too was silver and decorated with gold. He had short black hair and stunning brown eyes. A scar gleamed from his left eye as it cut through his eyebrow to below his eye. “I have prepared my soldiers for the worst scenario should they reach Theanon.” the man in the uniform walked away down the gravel path through the gardens and out the gates then disappeared from sight. The other man sighed and strode into the courtyard sitting down on one of the many stone benches he looked up towards the sky. It was shrouded in black clouds heavy with rain. Moving his hand above his head he moved it in a rubbing motion as if wiping glass. The clouds immediately parted to reveal the stars which shined down on him in thanks. “Aratha is that you?” he turned his head and looked towards the voice. Aratha stood and bowed “Yes your highness it is me.” The newcomer walked into the light of the courtyard. He was dressed in elegant red robes with a small golden dagger by his side. “You’re Highness.” Aratha repeated and bowed again. The Emperor gestured towards the stone bench and they sat. For some time neither spoke as they watched the stars the only noise was the light trickle of water from the ancient fountain in the centre of the garden. “I just hope the war can be won.” The Emperor said out loud. Aratha looked at his old friend. “The Black Apostles have never been a threat before. A few minor victories five months ago have made them bold and rash in their tactics. Only outnumbering us is their only advantage.” The Emperor looked slightly more cheerful at this statement. “If they take Arca they will march on Theanon and nothing can stop them.”
Alone in the garden Aratha watched the stars from his stone bench. The Emperor has left some time ago. The soft sound of the ancient fountain and the crackling of embers in their braziers kept him company. The stars were still bright above him as he heard the soft clash of iron come from within the Golden Palace. Standing he turned to look towards the Emperor’s private chambers. The noise came again. Aratha pushed his senses to where the Emperor and his wife slept. He could feel their dead lifeless bodies and the presence of four other beings. One of them died as he attempted to find their identities. Yet the thing had not died from his touch but from one of the Emperor’s Guard. Holding his arms away from him Aratha allowed his power to flow freely from it’s warren as he propelled himself upwards and above the Golden Palace, his anger knowing no limit.
The assassin moved from the chamber where two of the Emperors Guard lay dead yet his other brethren also joined them. The Emperor’s Guards superior abilities were no match for the assassin’s skills. Even himself had only managed to slip one of his daggers into the remaining Guards skull and even then he had to twist the mans head in almost a full circle before he died. More shouts from the corridors had been carried out of the Sanctum and on into the Palace grounds. He kicked from the floor and up onto the ceiling beams were he jumped form beam to beam to reach his exit, a small opening in the roof to let the water enter a small garden inside the Sanctum. He reached the opening as two Guards entered the room at lightning speed their cloaks flapping around them from the speed they ran into the small chamber. He unlocked four small round discs and flicked his wrists as the small discs hurled towards the Guards. The moment they should have hit the Guards they should have collapsed dead under the weight of their own armour. But they didn’t, the Guards moved with incredible speed, at first away from the discs, then towards the assassin. He pushed up with his feet and dived up through the window as a heavy mace smashed into the beam were he was crouched. He didn’t stop on the roof. Here he was more open to archers and the deadly Harlequins that had surely been alerted to his presence. As he ran forwards as fast as his legs would allow him his senses told him to stop but he ignored them and continued. The roof from below him blew upwards with a great force that threw him into the air, across the distance he had covered and landed heavily on his back. His ears rang with a single shrill noise he looked upwards and leant up slowly to see a figure in black robes and a grim golden mask rise from the hole in the roof. The figure illuminated the sky around the palace looking for him. The assassin knew he had been caught and now he would pay with not just his life, but his soul.
“General Ruki. Commander Tanith requests that the 14th march on Theanon immediately.” The messenger was soaked in head to toe from the torrential downpour. General Ruki looked up at the man from her maps. “To what end?” she demanded “He did not say madam. He just ordered the march on Theanon.” Ruki waved her hand. The messenger saluted and left the tent. “CAPTAIN!” Ruki shouted “Yes madam?” a tall man walked into the tent, his armour dripping noisily on the floor. He saluted “Prepare the army to move immediately. Our destination is the capitol.” The captain snapped to attention, saluted and ran from the tent bellowing orders.
After news of the Emperor’s assassination the entire city had gone into mourning. The streets were deserted and shops were closed. To the people Emperor Rourne was greatly loved and cherished as a benevolent ruler. The funeral for the Emperor was to take place at the enormous Imperial Cathedral in the centre of the city. Thousands flocked to the Cathedral to pay there respects to the deceased Emperor. Aratha stood at the head of the Cathedral sat in his throne along with Supreme Justice Rellion and Grand General Tanith. As heads of state it was these three that now ruled the Empire until Aslander came of age to become Emperor in a few months time. Aratha was dressed in his full priest robes. He held in his right hand the Staff of the Imperial Light, a symbol of his authority and a relic of power from the old Crusades. Tanith was dressed in his full Imperial battle armour, a claymore sword in his right hand its point touching the floor. Rellion was also dressed in full Imperial battle armour yet held in his right hand a large black tome, the Law of the Empire. After several hours of waiting for the Imperial citizens to pay their respects to the Emperor the Cathedral was closed as the Emperor’s body was prepared for burial. In Theanon and her Empire burial was outlawed because of the ancient Necromancer Wars. Yet within the Imperial City it was secure enough to bury the bodies of the Imperial Royal Family deep within the catacombs of the Cathedral.
After the funeral Aratha found Rellion stood by an open window. The few other guests were dotted around the room either stood in silence or whispering to one another. Rellion was a tall well built man. His black hair and thin lips identified him as a Theanonian. Aratha stood next to Rellion to look out of the window. They were in one of the Golden Palace’s many chambers which was used to entertain guests and other dignitaries. From the window Aratha and Rellion could see the entire northern districts of the city along with a faint glow on the horizon which appeared to be coming from the main road to the city of Zent. Rellion was watching the glow very carefully. “What is that?” Aratha asked. “I am not sure.” Rellion turned to look at Aratha. A whole head height taller than Aratha, Rellion was a very intimidating figure and one of the best to lead the Inquistion. “I have sent a dozen or so of my Judges to watch the main roads from the major cities. Theanon has no major defence apart from the Praetor Guard and the Emperor Guard. I don’t think they would be much use against the trained and effective Imperial Armies.” Aratha looked at Rellion with wide eyes then looked quickly at Tanith who stood talking to one of his Generals. Rellion placed a hand on Aratha’s shoulder. “Calm my friend. If my prediction is right then Tanith will soon leave to meet with his 1st Army and hence lay siege to Theanon until we accept him as Emperor.” “I will not let him leave Theanon alive.” Aratha clenched his fist and could feel his power vibrating within them. “You must. To kill Tanith in the view of the citizens would let them see how fragile the next few months will be without an Emperor. The Empire would fall into open rebellion.” Rellion led Aratha from the window and into an adjoining room. The wind was throwing the rain hard against the windows preventing anyone from over hearing them speak. “What do you have in mind?” Aratha asked while Rellion poured two gold and diamond glasses with wine. “I intend to send several Harlequins after Tanith. As soon as he has left Theanon they shall stalk him until he reaches his army. “I hope you succeed. If you don’t then we can expect to be under siege within three days time.” A gong sounded in the other room and the other guests began to leave through the now open double doors. “The Feast of the Dead, why did Emperor Oviron have it named so?” Rellion muttered under his breath