Skip to main content

At State Expense

The Emperor's secluded island palace was a grand labyrinth connected by marble corridors gently lit by evenly spaced rows of candles. Antonious the master of the imperial treasury was being escorted by a silent guard of soldiers armor molded in silver and trimmed with gold. They walked in step, the rhythmic echo of their footsteps blended with faint moans of lust and sudden squeals of pain that emanated from the walls.
Inside the Emperor's depraved sanctuary, there was no restraint on any of his impulses no matter how debased and cruel. In all the Empire this is where his rule was truly absolute, and the master of the house subjected all inside to pleasures and torments unmatched by anything outside those walls. Antonious dreaded this place.
The palace guards didn’t lead Antonious to a grand hall for his audience with the Emperor but to a small room. The ruler didn’t sit on a throne. Instead, he sat cross-legged on the floor at the head of a short-legged table covered with a decadent feast. The old man's table was surrounded by children who hungrily devoured the food.
Antonious greeted the Emperor with the customary bow.
“Ah, my master of the treasury,” the Emperor's smile flashed a row of blacked teeth from his wrinkled face.
“Wise Augustus I am afraid-
The decrepit Emperor banged his fist on the table with surprising force making all the children jolt with fear.
“Rise and pay your respects to the master of the treasury you urchins!” The old man growled.  “Forgive me. They don’t have much experience behaving around nobility such as yourself,” the Emperor explained. “Once my little fruits have sufficiently ripened. I'm going to consume their youthful essence and infuse their blood with my own."
Antonious ignored the implications of that last statement and started again. “The treasury is nearly empty,” Antonious said curtly. “There are no more funds for the campaign in the east.”
The Emporer scratched the white whiskers on his chin in contemplation.
“You're the master of the Treasury think of something to tax.” He said dismissively.
“There is already unrest in the southern provinces, and the garrisons are too weak to put down a general insurrection.”
Antonious’s warning petered out when he noticed the Emperor's vacant eyes leering at the child sitting closest to him.
The aristocratic Antonious finally became impatient enough to disregard protocol. “The state is bankrupt!” he blurted.
“If the issue of coin is so pressing, then I will do my duty as master of state and start looking where expenses might be curtailed.” the geriatric Emperor muttered.
Antonious had no words. He didn’t need to though. The clanking sound of armor was reverberating in the hallway. The Emperor's ears seemed to perk up like a scared animal.
“Not the general,” he whispered.
The mighty form of General Thrax filled the doorway. The imposing General adorned in gleaming armor far more ostentatious than anything else Antonious had ever seen paid no attention to the imperial functionary. Antonious jumped out of the way as the General marched up and cast his hulking shadow across the Emporer's tiny table.
“Oh, mighty Ceaser,” Thrax said with a half-hearted bow. “I’ve come to request your audience on the matter of bonuses for the legions under my command.”
The octogenarian Emporer was visibly trembling in his purple toga. He glanced over to Antonious.
“General,” the Emporer said with a shaky voice. “The master of the imperial treasury has just informed me there are no available funds at the moment.”
Thrax sighed “That’s unfortunate. Hopefully, this has no effect on morale and therefore on the loyalty of the soldiers. Well, you’re a descendant of Venus. I’m sure fortune shines favorably on you.”
The elderly man's jaw fell open. He was silent for a moment before clenching his teeth and looking back over to Antonius.
“Do whatever you have to do to find more coin for our fighting legions!” He snarled.
“Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention General. The empire values its soldiers above all else.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On the Eve of Extinction

The river was like a massive indigo snake coiling in the shadow of the canyons its eternal flow cut out of the very earth. Somewhere along the watery corridor, settled human life grew out of the muddy banks. The tribe sustained itself on the arterial river, steadily expanding and contracting with the rhythm of its flow like a beating heart. As far as anyone in the tribe knew no other arrangement had ever existed. The river had birthed them, molding sand and clay into flesh, and infusing the husks with its life-giving waters. Life under the desert’s smooth turquoise sky seemed safely stagnant. There was no inkling, no deciphered omens, absolutely no hunch of the approaching cataclysm lurking just out of sight obscured by the landscape’s jagged ridges. Not far from the isolated patchwork of green and brown earth settled by this tribe, the scion of ancient god well into his twilight years was on the cusp of fulfilling his divine purpose. Harmakar was sitting in the dust staring into t

In the Blink of an Eye

 Until now, the gears of history had ground at such a slow pace our perception of it was like a puzzle. The constantly shifting pieces created an eternally changing picture inhabited and shaped by generations. Progress made it possible for the change to arrive in the form of a flash just a millionth of a second long with a blinding light and the pain of flesh-searing fire that burned away the world I knew as if it were covered in lighter fluid. For us, there were no blue skies. Daytime was just when the sun was shining bright enough to penetrate through the acrid black clouds that had consumed the sky and mingled with the distant glow of the burning horizon, painting the atmosphere with blood. For an indeterminate number of hours, maybe as long as a day, it was the only thing I saw. The constant screams became white noise; as I spiraled into death, my perceptions continued to dim until there was nothing left but fear and pain. Every hour the world became dimmer, and I saw everything t

Concubine

 Himari lay in bed on her side, staring at the barren wall with dry scarlet stained eyes resting her head on her small delicate hands. Her spent, and tired body was still as a statue. The royal child left her womb, and everyone followed it to the home of her masters, and he would be raised as one of them, and she would be nothing more than just another subject. This wasn't the only child Himari had given to her imperial lord, but the first boy hadn't lasted a week before dashing his father's hopes for a worthy progeny.  When she was with child, a stupid part of her started to forget how it would inevitably end. Once the golden boy left her womb, what happened to her wouldn't matter much after.  Even after enduring the pain of childbirth, she wouldn't be given the catharsis of cradling the fruits of her labor in her arms. That had been the hardest part the first time. Watching her baby get carried away was just the first shock, though. The little prince had clawed ou