"All my efforts to hold onto anything in life has been like trying to clutch water in my hands. Life is over, yet I go on living. There is no reason left for me to be here. I'm just waiting for my last heartbeat and my last breath."
A knock a the study's door brought Alexander's hand to a halt. He didn't know it when he put the pen down, but this melancholy paragraph was to be the last attempt at poetry he'd ever make.
"Yes? What is it!" Alexander huffed with tobacco chared vocal cords.
"I have an urgent message for the sovereign!" an earnest young man answered through the door.
"Fine, you may enter," Alexander grumbled.
The door opened, and a handsome straight-backed currier hustled into the room, holding a sealed envelope.
"My sovereign,' he bowed his head and handing the envelope to Alexander.
Alexander took it without getting up from his chair.
"Yes, thank you. You're Dismissed," Alexander muttered. The currier bowed again and hurried from the study. His walk was so rigid it almost seemed like he was goosestepping.
The envelope was sealed with crimson wax stamped with the Maravian coat of arms.
Alexander meticulously and respectfully broke the seal and opened the envelope. The message was a brief one:
"To Emporer Alexander Golitsyn III,
It is my sad duty to report to you that King Maravian rightful heir to the Bargalonian throne and the country's one true king has been called to join the only being in the universe whose word even the mightiest sovereign must obey. We will inform your majesty of funeral arrangements once they have been made.
Your humble and devoted servant
-Arch Bishop Tallyrand"
Alexander dropped the note on his desk, sat back in his chair, and stroked his coarse white beard. It had been less than twenty-four hours ago the former emperor had shared a glass of brandy with the former king. The toast was to the respective thrones they would one day soon occupy again.
Alexander Golitsyn, the former sovereign of a once-mighty empire, was living on the precariously thin line between the long meandering phase of his middle years and the relatively short terminus of life called old age. That he was at a point when even looking in a mirror was a grim reminder of his own mortality wasn't helped by all the memorabilia around meant to remind him of his one sole mission in life, to reclaim the throne of a now nonexistent empire.
It was a mission he'd been failing at for nearly forty years if he hadn't won back his family's throne by this point, then when would it ever happen? That was the question the unblinking eyes of the resplendent men in the portraits that hung in every room of the house seemed to be asking him.
Alexander had many moments like this before. He would give up and slip into a depression then after a bit of time had passed rally again and throw himself back into his work. At least for a while.
There was another knock a the door. "Alex, the Grand Marshal, requests your audience." Alexander's wife, Maria, answered.
"Tell the Marshal I have no need for him, and he should consider himself relieved of his duties!" Alexander huffed.
"Well, he came all this way. Have you not a minute to spare?" Maria asked sweetly.
Grand Marshal Radetzky was the supreme commander of Alexander's nonexistent army. The same army he planned to use to reclaim his empire. Radetzky was ancient indeed. Already middle-aged himself when Alexander was deposed, he could imagine no other life, and like Alexander, he had grown old waiting for what was to be again.
As an old soldier, Radetzky knew a thing or two about raising a man's spirits. After a couple hours and a bottle of vodka, Alexander had regained some of his confidence. He was listening to the Marshal's proposal, something about landing men in canoes bought in Switzerland from a secret bank account in Paris. At least that was the gist Alexander got. By the time Radetzky got to the map, he was too drunk to speak.
"But how can we bring cannons in canoes?" Alexander asked with a vacant grin on his face.
"Easy! We'll drag them behind the canoes. They'll float in the water!" Radetzky insisted.
"Wouldn't the canoes just sink?" Alexander asked.
"No, no, they'll float in the water," Radetzky said as he stumbled into the wall.
There was a knock at the door, and Alexander motioned for the drunk Marshal to keep down the volume.
"Yes, what is it?"
Maria opened the door. She was 39 years old. Quite a bit younger than her husband and about two generations removed from Radetzky. She was quite pretty by and standards. She was slender and well-poised, with light olive skin and ebony curls that hung just above her enchanting green eyes.
"Alex-your highness," she began again. "It is late, and I'm afraid the walls aren't thick enough to keep the noise of your council meeting out of the bedroom. Perhaps it is time to adjourn?"
Radetzky seemed to instantly sober up. He stood in stunned silence, shifting his glace back and forth from his sovereign to his wife.
"You presume to give orders to your Emperor?" Alexander asked menacingly.
"I am sorry, but it is a bit late to be up playing soldier," Maria fired back.
Alexander flinched at the words, and Radetzky was visibly trembling.
"Marshal Radetzky!" Alexander barked.
"Yes, your majesty!" Radetzky snapped to attention. His old knees gave out slightly, but he stopped himself from falling.
"You are dismissed. I'm afraid I must remind my wife how to behave as an empress!"
"Of course, sire!" Radetzsky said. The Marshal gave a final salute and quickly left the room. Alex stared silently until he heard Radetzky's heavy footsteps leave the staircase and go out the door, then the old burst into tears.
"Now now it's ok, shhh," Maria whispered as she cradled her sobbing husband.
Once he was done, Maria helped put him to bed. The drunken Alexander fell flat on his back, mumbling incoherently.
"You know you may not have an empire, but compared to most, your life isn't so bad," Maria whispered.
Alexander's eyes fluttered while the vodka carried him off to sleep and into a new day without any purpose.