Welcome to a new chapter of Imperial Struggle, the story of the young Emperor Marco, and the struggles with his new imperial position. Imperial Struggle is my first web novel, so any feedback is welcomed. This is chapter 10, so if you want to read from the beginning please click here
Marco rose from his table and started to walk through the garden. He looked lost in deep thoughts. The people from the garden didn’t dare to interrupt him. Now with the meeting over, Armando and Sigurd looked at each other, wondering why Marco told them to remain behind.
“What do you think it’s wrong with our Empire these days?” Marco broke the silence. And then continued to slowly walk through the flowers.
“I don’t think I understand your question” Armando mustered some courage to answer. “You are acting really strange, asking weird questions, Your Highness.”
“My dear brother, as long as we aren’t in an official meeting, you can call me Marco, as always. It’s strange to hear from my older brother calling me on my imperial title all the time. As for my questions, I’m trying to figure out what exactly I need to do with this Empire. Father was a good parent, but a really bad ruler. He wanted to please everybody and this way lost his grip on a lot of things. This is why I’m asking what is wrong with this Empire. Because I want to fix it”.
Silence covered the small garden once again, for a few moments.
“Don’t look at me, young boy, ha ha!” Sigurd Tennessee laughed hardly. “You know that beside my business I don’t really care about anything.”
Sigurd Tennessee was the maternal uncle of Marco, Mario and Maria. The Emperor Augusto met his little sister at one banquet. She was a very beautiful lady, catching the eyes of many young lords. But the Emperor took fancy of her and so she became one of his wives. From their union the current Emperor was born. Before Marco became the Emperor, he used his uncle's connections many times in his adventures. You could say that their relationship was a very good one.
“You’re shrewd as always, you old bastard. How could your guild merchant have survived until now if you didn’t take into consideration the Empire situation.” Marco answered his uncle with a big smile. “But enough with all these riddles, let’s be straight from now on”.
“Father was a pacifist and didn’t want to go to war with our neighbours. They knew this and took advantage of the situation, probing our borders more and more. Because of this we had to enforce our border armies to have a better protection. But the nobles weren’t happy with only this and they started to arm themselves, raising more and more soldiers, more over the limit that the Imperial law says. But father didn’t do anything, because he wanted to appease the nobles. Now the nobles from the border areas, especially those from the south, have large armies and have started to not listen to the Empire anymore. Afraid of rebellion, the Imperial court didn’t do anything and at the moment the situation is dire.”
“I don’t think the situation is that bad” Armando intervened. “Father did what he could so the Empire would be at peace. Although the nobles of the south are a bit racy I don’t think that they would rebel against the Empire. The power of the Empire is still strong”
“Ah, my dear brother, you are so naive. You stayed at the father's side that much, that you think the same as him. We lost our influence so much in the last 100 years that we rule only in name. It takes only one internal war to overthrow our family. And the nobles from the south needed only one reason to rebel. And father gave them when he named me Emperor and not Gustavo.”
South of the Empire there was a vast desert, where lived various tribes, barbaric and vicious. From time to time, they would raid the Empire southern territories, killing, raping, stealing women and children. A few years ago, Gustavo persuaded Augusto to let him deal with the barbarians. But he failed miserably, losing almost all of his army in the desert in front of the tribes. The response of the tribes was swift and deadly, destroying several cities, burning them to the ground. Because of this, Augusto closed his eyes when the nobles from the south started to arm themselves in the name of protection.
“What do you mean by this?” Both Armando and Sigurd asked, making big eyes
“Gustavo always pestered father to name his successor, and tried to convince him that he is the right person for the job. He had the support of his army buddies and that of the southern nobles. By supporter size only, he should have become Emperor. He had a better backing that even you, Armando. But father had other plans. And now I’m afraid I might have a rebellion on my hands.”
“Impossible” Armando couldn’t help to gasp. “Now that you said it out loud, it makes sense. When father was ill, many nobles already thought that Gustavo will be the next Emperor. He even started to act like one those days. Wait… father's sudden illness couldn’t have been provoked by someone, right?”. Fear could be sensed in Armando’s voice.
“Indeed! We suspect that someone poisoned father”. This time Maria was the one that spoke.”Marco handed to me a sample of father's blood, but I couldn’t conclude exactly the type of poison that was used. Whoever did it has vast knowledge in this art. I think someone exposed him to this poison for a long time, because it seems it’s a slow acting one”.
“How did you even suspect that father was poisoned?” Armando almost shouted. He felt like he was going crazy right now. He knew that Empire situation wasn’t that good and dangers were at every corner, but this was too much for him.
“He told me” Marco quietly said. “That night he told me that he suspects that he was poisoned. This is why I acted so strangely these days. I had to know if this was true. I had to know in whom I could place my trust.”.
Once again silence covered the small garden. Marco took a sip of the cold tea that was on the table and looked at the sky above him.
“There is less than one month until the Grand Council. Armando, I will name you then my Prime Minister. I hope that you will accept this task for me.” Marco looked at his older brother.
“I obey the Emperor’s will” Armando answered immediately, without a second of a doubt. A big smile appeared on Marco’s face when we saw Armando kneeling in front of him. He knew that he gained another ally right now.
“I will want to make a big proposal at the Grand Council and I hope that you will help me to gather enough support for everyone to accept it.” Marco started to reveal his Grand Council plans. Everyone present listened carefully.” Until now, only the nobles could become knights, create knight orders and thus become officers in the Imperial army. I want to remove this rule, by creating a new system of allowing the people to become knights. I want to make a Knight Council, that will manage all the knight orders and the freelance knights. Each year, there will be a test of knighthood, where anyone who wants to become a knight recognized by the Empire will have to take it. The details can be refined later, but you get the main idea. What do you think, future Prime Minister. Do you think it’s possible to make it?”
“It will be hard. But if we attract the right people, we could make it.” Armando answered.
“That’s good. Try to attract as many people possible behind the idea. Uncle Sigurd, I hope that you could help us as well”. Marco smiled to his uncle, who nodded back to him. “We will have a lot of work in the future days, but I know you will be able to pull it off.”
And with this the meeting ended.
Thank your reading and thank you for supporting this story. Marco finally revealed his plans for the Grand Council. How do you think the nobles will react to this proposal? Will Armando be able to gather enough support to pass it?
More importantly, we finally managed to find out who is the suspect of poisoning Augusto. Will there be a battle between brothers in the future?