NationStates Jolt Archive

The Decline and Fall of the Divine Imperium (FT)

04-03-2007, 00:16
Lord-Emperor Caurentin Aeron Lariel Charoum Israfil Baal Drakharn (to be known in the outside world and to most Roanians as Aeron) sat uneasily on the throne of the Divine Imperium. He hadn't expected the Diadem to pass to him so quickly, or so quietly, but here he was, in the Arena of Imperial City, in the obsidian throne of his ancestors. Or, at least, the Obsidian throne of his father, and of the Black family dynasts before him. The Black family... he glanced down at his paperwork, and then up again. "Do you have anything to say in your defence?"

Damien Churiel Black, current Head of that most ancient of Great Houses, shrugged from where he was standing on a podium in the middle of the arena. "I'm reasonably confident that for me to have a defence, I should be accused of something first."

At Caurentin's side, Grand Duke Simeon Aiel Darquis rose slowly to his own feet, his hand resting on the podium in front of him. "You are accused of that most grevious of crimes, Damien, as you well know. You stand accused of consorting with inferior beings!"

Caurentin murmured, "Surely the death of my father is a higher crime?"

"Oh. Well, of course, My Lord. You stand accused of consorting with inferior beings in a fashion that led to the death of your Lord and Master!"

"Determined old male, isn't he?" Caurentin said, loudly enough to be heard along the benches. The other members of the Private Council all obligingly tittered, Lady Ai the loudest of them. Sycophantically the laugh passed down the ranks through the seated members of the High Council, and then across the arena to the Popular Council and Cabinet, none of whom had heard a word of the original line.

Damien frowned and reached up to tap his hand to his chin, only for it to be pulled back by his chains. "Well. That is troublesome. By 'Lord and Master', do you mean the former ArchChancellor who ascended to the throne that should rightfully have belonged to me through vicious, underhanded manipulation of facts and opinions?"

"It should have belonged to," Simon, an old Roanian, knew how the game was played and had no intention of giving his old enemy the satisfaction of getting him in the dock next to him, "the man whom the Councils and Light chose, naturally."

Aeron leaned forward again. "So, do you confess?" He inquired. "You took action against the will of the Light and your master? And you do not show remorse?"

"I confess wholeheartedly." Damien said, glibly. "And my only remorse is I didn't think to get you and your bitch of a sister, too." Aeron's knuckles whitened. "Though I suppose she would have made a fine consort... slut that she is, she probably knows all sorts of tricks..."

Simon gripped his Emperor's shoulder tightly. "My lord, don't rise to him. It's what he wants..." Truthfully, the Grand Duke was slightly concerned. Damien didn't seem to be his usual self. There was a strong tradition of Inquisitor and Church service in the Darquisi, and something about the whole thing seemed slightly off. He brushed the feeling aside, deciding that the stress was revealing the fatal madness in all the Black family.

Aeron pushed the older man away, almost shoving him over the wall. He drew himself up to his full height, rage crackling. "Don't you talk like that about my sister!" The Emperor shrieked, his face twisted in animalistic rage. "Don't you dare talk that way about my sister!"

Simon got himself back up, and nodded to his cousin, Duke Nicademus Oren Darsalin. Nicademus was a frail man, already tired out by the pleading for his own sister, but between the two of them they managed to pull the Lord-Emperor down into his throne. A murmur was running around the arena. Nicademus squeezed Aeron's shoulder. "My lord, calmly, calmly..."

The Princess in question slipped down to sit next to her brother on the seat that would once have belonged to the unfortunate Roanian in the arena. She looped her arm around his and whispered something in his ear. Aeron shuddered, then nodded. "Your words merely prove how right I was to take this next step." The Lord-Emperor hissed. "High Priest Gabriel?"

The other members of the Private Council looked up. None of them had been told about a next step. The ancient High Priest of the Light slowly rose to his tottering feet, and raised one of his hands. "Damien Churiel Black, I consign your soul to the Darkness and your memory to the Void." Then he sat down once more. An even more excited thrill buzzed along the ranks.

"Your Majesty, you never told me about this!" Simon growled. Down below, even Damien seemed slightly staggered.

"We must have our secrets, mustn't we?" Aeron said, a little giggle leaving his lips. "Oh, we must. Yes. Nathaniel! Bring them in!"

Nathaniel Cheruv, Head of Middle (leaning to Great) House Cheruv and elder brother of a certain businessman in Darsalin Base, rose to his feet and picked up his ceremonial staff. It had been a certain coup for him to be made Great Chamberlain, and he never lost a chance to show off his new 'authority'. He dropped down to the ground before the Imperial Pavilion and pulled open the big wooden door. Damien flinched, expecting a monster to be released with intent for eating him. He didn't expect his family and servants to be herded into the middle with them.

Caurentin slowly rose back to his feet. "I hereby declare Great House Black extinct. Its honours are removed, and its name is, from henceforth, null. Your property reverts to the state. Your property reverts... to me." He lifted his hand, and around the arena Legionnaires of all stripes appeared on the wall. "Fire!" There was a moment where some safeties were unlocked, and the assembled Blacks, men, women and children, froze on the spot.

But no one fired. Simon frowned and shook his head. "Sire, you can't... the only guilty party is Damien, you can't order his entire house anathematised.." He paused, and then glanced at the High Priest. "Can he?"

Gabriel VII shrugged. "If people are willing to follow, then we may assume the light is with him."

Aeron was on the verge of an apoplectic fit. "Shoot them! Shoot them now!" He demanded from the soldiers surrounding them, stamping his feet and shrieking. Then he suddenly grabbed something from his belt. "I'll do it for you!" The Lord-Emperor hurled the object right for Damien's wife, Lilian Darsalin. She stared at it for a long moment, and then turned it around in her palm. The detonation when the timer in front of her hit zero surprised everyone.

A shocked murmur ran around the arena. No one lifted a hand, though. The soldiers looked across at one another, and then down at Caurentin. If someone had started something, perhaps the arena would have exploded against him. Perhaps not. Rebellion wasn't in the Roanian vocabulary. And perhaps more pertinently, the Blacks had never been particularly popular at any point over the past millenium. The general feeling seemed to be more one of relief.

In the Council Box, though, Nicademus had slowly slipped to the ground in a faint at the death of his sister, his eyes rolled back in his skull. Simon's expression was very distant. "Well...well done, Sire." The Grand Duke mumbled. "And what of their armsmen and bondservants? Shall we have them killed too?"

"Oh, no. That would be too cruel, I feel." Caurentin rose to his feet. "We should let them go." He held out his hand, and his sister scurried to take it, a little grin on her face. Malissa leaned up to whisper into his ear. He nodded slightly. "To Mars. We shall exile the remainder of the Black Family's retainers and armsmen to Mars."

"You...are most wise, sire. If I may so, Your Majesty... The time has come for you to take a wife..."

"Do you have a suggestion?"

"Well...yes, actually. My youngest daughter Eilasa..."

"She'll do."

"Don't...don't you wish to see her?"

"Oh, she's just for providing an heir. She could be as ugly as she wants to be and I'll be able to get the job done!" Caurentin made an obscene gesture the Grand Duke effected not to notice. The Darquisi were well known for their lack of sentimentalism, and Simon would give his right arm to put someone with his blood on the throne.

"Lady Eilasa is reportedly one of the most beautiful women in the Imperium..." Malissa murmured, for the first time that day speaking loud enough for someone besides her twin to hear.

"Not as beautiful as you, of course." Simon hurried to answer. "I'm sure no female in the Imperium could replace you."

THe Imperial Twins looked at eachother, and then laughed, as if sharing a private joke. Caurentin grinned. "No, I expect not. Still, I'm sure she'll be honoured to marry me."

"If she knows what's good for her." Simon promised, and then he hurried to his waiting car.

"Oh. Simon, I have a job for you. We'll discuss it after the wedding tomorrow, hm?"

"T-tomorrow, sire?"

"Yes, why not. I'll go and tell the Patriarch. After all, a wedding isn't all that an important thing when it comes to your heart, aye? Why waste time." Caurentin swept off with his sister at his side, into his waiting limousine.

"And what do you think of today's festivities, Simon?" Nicademus hissed, his face even paler than usual. Even at the height of the Darsalin Family Illness he had never looked so pale.

"I think..." Simon nodded to his chauffeur, who closed the door, and then he waited two minutes as somber Praetorian Salamandri stalked past. "That Lord-Emperor Caurentin... does not think things through."

"I think he's worse than Alexander." Nicademus scowled. "And I don't care who hears it, Simon. I nearly killed myself going to the palace to plead for my sister. She was a fool, but she didn't deserve this. And then to be dragged along to see her execution, the death of my son-in-law..."

"Ah, yes. Well, we're well shot of the Blacks, I believe. They had a good run, but Caurentin made the right choice. Can't have them around if they'll keep stirring up trouble against the new Dynasts."

"You're only saying that because he agreed to marry your daughter." Nicademus snarled, something a Roanian can do quite well. "But be careful, I'm sure he'll be coming for us next."

"You do expect the worst of people, Nicademus." Simon said, pleasantly. "Have a good trip." He looked up at the other man's litter, flanked by its Salamandri escorts. "And see that your...servants don't dump you in a ditch somewhere."

The lead Salamandr hissed at him, but otherwise paid no heed. Nicademus, a man long used to the pettiness of the Darquisi, shrugged and climbed aboard, then buried his face in his hands. The litter drove off, leaving the man to his misery.
08-03-2007, 20:24
"Did you enjoy the wedding?" The Lord-Emperor asked his loyal Grand Duke while they were walking through the tunnels that lead from the palace to the House of Government.

"What there was of it, sire." Simon said, walking deferentially behind the younger man. "I'm sure you'll both be very happy together." In actuality, Simon was unsure of any such thing, but his determination to put a Darquis on the throne overruled any parental objections to either the speed of the 'courtship' or the shortness of the wedding, both of which were quite out of the ordinary for the Imperium's highest office.

Simon quieted his nagging discontent much like he had earlier directed his friend Nicademus to do, through focussing on the fact that as Lord-Emperor Caurentin was quite within his rights to act as he pleased. The fact that past Lord-Emperors hadn't made use of that ability could be dismissed as tradition. The fact that even the thrice-accursed Alexander II Dark had stuck within rigid limits to his depravities could be written off as a whim on his part. Yes, that would do.

Simon had never heard of the Chinese philosophy of Legalism, and would have rejected any comparison with a human thing if he had, but this was strikingly similar to one of the prime points of that theory, which was that the Ruler should be obeyed simply because he was the Ruler, and all misdeeds committed by that most August Person, even those which would lead to the execution of another male, would be tolerated.

The Grand Duke, of course, would simply say that this was the way it had always been, and always would be. Most Roanians don't do much introspection when a surface inspection would suffice. So, when Caurentin opened the door to the warroom and took a seat at a table where the newly departed General Staff were slouched in their chairs, Simon simply pushed a corpse over and took a seat on his own. "You're a loyal man, Simon."

"I try, my lord." Simon dipped his finger in the pool of blood and brought it to his lips. 'Gunpowder residue.' He dabbed his lips with a handkerchief, then carefully polished his small fangs. "How may I serve you?"

"I'll be blunt. Recently, the Divine Imperium has, through the folly of previous administrators, lost many of its territories to pitiful local insurgents and the green menace. It's time to reverse this." Caurentin rose to his feet and pulled out the starcharts of the Imperium. "And I want you to do it."

Simon opened his mouth, and then closed it again. "And what was the opinion of the General Staff?"

"They suggested that the planets be destroyed, and that claims be reestablished through the creation of satellite stations." Caurentin reached forward, grabbed one of the corpses by the head, and squeezed tightly. The skull shattered, blood spattering over the two aristocrats. "This is unacceptable. No, Simon, you will lead a full war against anything in our way. A task in tune with your ancient heritage." Caurentin leaned forward, clutching the corpse tightly with his gauntlet. A mad look appeared in his eyes. "Unless you disagree?"

Simon stared straight forward. His response was distant. "And who suggested me for this...honour?" The Grand Duke inquired, recalling that as martial as his ancestors might have been, the closest he had ever come to combat was a history book he had thumbed through in the academy.

"It was my sister, as a matter of fact."

"I...see. Yes. Well, since you brought her up... I am rather concerned that your sister...that is, the public perspective of your relationship with your sister... that is... it is to say..." Simon paused. "That is to say, that some of the nobles are concerned that your obvious, and perfectly acceptable, reliance on your sister over more...traditional advisors, could damage your popularity..."

"There is nothing wrong with my relationship with my sister." Caurentin hissed, his eyes narrowing into dangerous points of light. "Don't you dare accuse my sister of doing anything wrong."

"Of...I was doing no such thing, my lord." Simon slid back. "My life and service are always at your disposal, and that of your honourable sister."

"Of course they are. You're a loyal man, Simon." Caurentin patted the other man on the shoulder. "We can rely on you to do the right thing for the Imperium, right? Not like those traitors the Blacks or that weakling Darsalin. You're a good Roanian. An example to us all."

"Ah. Well. Thank you, sire." Simon found himself flattered despite his best efforts to avoid it. "Perhaps Nicademus just needs to be...tied down. Maybe your sister should marry his son?"

"Oh, I don't see any reason my sister should marry yet." Caurentin said, a strange expression on his face. "Will you take the job?"

"What jo...oh... yes, sire. I'll...I'll need men and ships, though."

Caurentin quietly handed him a piece of paper. "This afternoon my ArchChancellor is proposing a universal conscription law. I'm confident it shall pass the lower council, and I'm sure I can rely on you to support it in the higher one. Hm?"

"Absolutely, sire. I'll go and make myself ready." Simon rose to his feet, bowed, and hurried from the room at top speed.

Caurentin sat there, smiling at nothing. A moment later, he looked up. "Are you there, sister?"

Malissa slipped out from the door she had been listening in, and walked behind him, placing her arms around his neck and kissing him on the cheek. "Hello, brother. Your 'wife' is settling in nicely. She's not that filthy tramp on Mars, but I'm sure she'll do."

"Mmph. Neither of them are suitable for the Lord-Emperor. Only the highest value of blood and purpose could possibly prove of worth." He reached for her hand. "You agree, don't you?"

"You know I do." She squeezed his hand and leaned over his shoulder once more.
15-03-2007, 03:18
Simon walked along the hallowed ramparts of Star's Gate Military Correction Facility. His escort trailed along behind him, not wanting to interrupt their master's private thought. 'Lord Captain General of the Holy Legions... there's a title in keeping with my position as second man of the Imperium.' The aged Roanian was delighted with the way things were going. Not only was his grandchild going to hold the Imperial Diadem, but the accursed Blacks were removed from competition for honours.

The one fly in the ointment, so to speak, was that while the 200 million citizens who had been called up to serve could be supplied, armed, and, with a stretch of the facilities available, trained in a reasonable timeframe (as Roanians judge time). But satisfactorily officered? No, that was difficult. Which was why he was here. He had exhausted all his options in calling upon retired officers and promoting from within the ranks, and he still didn't have enough.

So, he was here. Risking an international incident, yes. Perhaps endangering morale amongst his Martian troops. But Simon believed that it was their duty to serve, and serve they would. They would serve, as he would serve. He opened the door. "Lord Captain Commander Ananel Hyaz Dumara. Your Emperor needs you."

The prisoner looked up and smiled his toothy smile. "I knew he would." He rose to his feet. "Why should I answer his call?" Ananel looked ragged now. His hair, shockingly for a Roanian, was askew, and it appeared as if he had barely been preened his wings at all since he had been imprisoned. Ananel looked down at himself, noticing Simon's repulsed gaze. "They don't allow me much comforts here..."

Simon sniffed. "We cannot have a Lord-General of His Divinely Illuminated Imperial Majesty's Holy Legions so...scruffy." To a human or an elf, Ananel would have looked shockingly well-groomed for a person in prison on a serious charge. But to Roanian eyes Ananel's appearance revealed certain signs of madness. The Grand Duke held up his hands. "I certainly hope that now that you have been pardoned and promoted you will attempt a reasonable level of personal hygiene." The Grand Duke hurled the pardon to the ground. "Do I make myself clear?"

"A Lord-General? On what command? Am I to return to Mars?"

"You will serve under mine." Simon said, lifting his head up and showing the bright blue star on his new uniform. "And you will, Light Willing, find redemption through service on this new endeavour."

Ananel dove for the pardon and clung tightly to it, looking up at the stern aspect of his new commander. "I swear my loyalty." He whispered, his eyes dimming.

"You already have." Simon said, turning to go. "This simply reinstates your oath as binding."

"No, Grand Duke. I swear my loyalty and fealty to you." Ananel touched the patch on his uniform where his House Insignia had once been displayed. "I desire to serve Greater House Darquis."

Simon froze. This was unexpected. Never in his lifetime had someone requested such a step. The Darquisi had never taken clients from houses that weren't already dependent on them. That was the prerogative of the Lord-Emperor. Though of course it wasn't illegal... Tradition, which always weighed heavily on the Grand Duke, beat down on his shoulders now. He shook his head slightly, then just reached out and placed his hand on the other male's head. "I accept your oath." He pulled back. "Come, there is much to be done, Ananel Hyaz Darquol Dumara." After all, he reasoned, was he not the father-in-law of a Lord-Emperor and grandfather of more? Was it not right and proper that he should not have the loyalty of one of his own Lieutenants?