Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Emperor and the Monster

Terix regarded the human standing in front of him. The crown upon his head, which he denied was enchanted. The ring on his finger, worth more than the towns most of his subjects lived in. He looked at the sword hanging from the Emperor's belt. It was ornate, but it would be useless in an actual battle. Finally, Terix considered the man himself.
He was reaching the point where he could no longer be considered young. He was tall, and had a mixed complexion. The result of half a millennium of interbreeding between powerful families of a half dozen races.
The Emperor wore his hair short, and was clean-shaven, as was the style in New Etor. Terix was still amazed that powerful men wasted their time on such triviality.
But, at that particular moment, the Emperor's most noticeable feature was his facial expression. It was a combination of regal arrogance and utter indignation to which most men could only aspire. Terix wondered if the Emperor practiced such things in his spare time.
It was useless, of course. Terix wasn't a man. Human body language meant nothing to him. But it was interesting to watch.
"You mean to tell me your master butchered one of my monasteries for the shear pleasure of it?"
"His motivations are not your concern."
"You're right. My concern is that he killed my subjects."
"You fight another war every year. Your subjects die by the thousands every day."
They stood in one of the palace's dozens of meeting rooms. It was richly appointed, to be sure, with goods from around the world. But by palatial standards, it was a small room far away from the centers of attention. The Emperor wanted it that way. He wanted to keep these little conversations between him and his blackmailers... separate.
"This is different."
"This is someone who claims to be my ally sneaking into my country and murdering my people without my consent."
Terix considered reminding Anaxus that Koteph had never claimed to be his ally. That, rather, Koteph was his master, and could do whatever he pleased. But he sensed the human ruler might take offense. He also considered pointing out that Anaxus hadn't created these humans. They weren't connected by a true bond, like the one between Koteph and Terix. But he sensed that would not go over well either. Instead, Terix decided on tact. "My master meant no disrespect." This was technically true. His master didn't care. "He was simply conducting some business. Removing a vestige of magic from your kingdom, as it happens."
"He still should have consulted with me."
"My apologies."
The human seemed to place a great deal of significance on this half-hearted apology. "Good. Now, there is the matter of the treasure of the Tower. We will let you have all scrolls, books, talismans, and other purely magical items. But anything with intrinsic value, even if it is also enchanted, is ours."
Terix contemplated the Emperor's use of 'intrinsic'.
"You will cleanse these items of all enchantments, and they will be incorporated into the treasury, or distributed among the soldiers as loot."
"Of course."
"We will execute all of the sorcerers on sight."
Terix doubted the Etoran army could accomplish such a task. "Very well."
"Oh, and I want my soldiers to know that I am in command, some some night-dwelling monster. So you will make it clear during all stages of the conflict that I recruited you as allies, not the other way around."
This gave Terix some pause. Koteph had pride. Would he be willing to take part in the Emperor's little pantomime? "I will speak with my master on that matter."
"Very well. Go speak to him." The Emperor left their little meeting room. He left Terix to do whatever black rituals would return him to his master.

Terix allowed himself to picture the aftermath of their eventual battle. The scattered corpses of sorcerers. Of monsters and human soldiers again. He hoped Anaxus would still be alive. He would demand his paltry human payment. Terix would advocated that he receive it. Then, as the gold and treasure was piled before the Emperor, Koteph would release Ochekol'kan. She would tear through the walls of the Tower. Stones that hadn't been scratched since before the first human drew breath would shatter before her. She would roar. A sound no man had heard, but every man would understand. Her mouths would spit forth fire and poison. Her tentacles would tear the flesh off one man, and snap the bones of another. The ground would shift like the sea in a storm. Fire would rain from the sky, and monsters would spring first from the ground. That would be the last thing Anaxus would see.

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