Welcome to a new chapter of Imperial Struggle, the story of the young Emperor Marco, and the struggles he has with his new imperial position. Imperial Struggle is my first web novel, so any feedback is welcomed. This is chapter 17, so if you want to read from the beginning please click here
In the Grand Hall was quiet. Everybody wanted to hear the story of this brigand that somehow managed to become one of the Emperor's personal guards, a position that meant a high level of trust in him.
Scilla was standing in front of the throne, with the eyes of everyone on him. He was a warrior, not an orator, so he was nervous in front of so many people.
“Come one, speak already” someone from the side of the southern nobles could be heard.
“Silence!” the voice of Marco was heard. “Give him some wine, ” he ordered the servant nearby, that hurried to give a cup of wine to Scilla.
Scilla took the cup of wine and empties in one move. The wine filled him with a warm and somehow give him a little courage. He started to speak.
“I was a soldier in my youth. I enrolled in the army during the Northern Invasion, when the Empire was attacked. I fought under Grand General Zaran at the battle of Cedar Plains” he made a military salute towards the Grand General, when he said this. Grand General Zaran died in that battle, but he managed to win that battle, and thus defended the Empire. Scilla continued his story.
“I was lucky to survive the war, unlike many others. I returned home, in the south, where I was born. I was sick of war, sick of death. I wanted to transform myself into something else. I’ve managed to build myself a house and I rented some land from the lord de Assar, the noble of the area. The time flew, I got myself a wife, beautiful like a flower. I still don’t know why she married me. We had two kids, one girl and one boy. They both grew up. The boy was strong like me, the girl was beautiful like her mother.” Scilla stopped for a while, it was visible in his voice and posture that these memories were painful.
He made a sign for more wine, gulping another cup.
“One day, we were visiting the town market, to buy some gifts for the children. They were browsing the wares, when they met with the young lord de Assar. Lila, my little girl, caught the eye of this womanizer and he tried to make a move on her. Because she didn’t want to give him any attention he became furious. How could a commoner not give him any attention? He tried to grab her by force and get her to his inn. My son intervened and the whole situation caused a commotion, attracting the attention of everyone in the market, including myself. Eventually, I stepped in as well and the young noble left my daughter alone. I thought that was the end of it. How foolish I was.”
Scilla took another break to ask one again for more wine. It seemed that only wine would make him move forward with the story.
“A week later, I was out in the fields, working as every day, when one neighbour arrives hastily and tells me that there is trouble at home. I left the fields immediately and run home. I found it burning. I was thinking of the safety of my family. I hoped that they were safe. But in the yard, I found my son beaten to death and my wife and daughter missing. I tried to patch my son how best I could with the little knowledge that I had from the war. I run with him in my arm to an old woman in the village that knew some things about medicine. I begged her to help me and left the boy with her.”
“I asked around who did this and I found out the perpetrator. It was the young noble de Assar, who couldn’t stand the fact that some commoner girl didn’t want to go to bed with him when he ask. He couldn’t stand the fact that someone had had the audacity to refuse him. So he took my wife and daughter, beaten my son to death and burned my house.”
Scilla took a deep breath this time, trying to hold in the tears. He didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of these noble. He didn’t want to give them this satisfaction.
“I was enraged. I went mad. I went and dug up the sword and armor from my military days, that I buried in the backyard of my house and went to rescue my girls. In my rage I wanted to attack the lord mansion by myself, wanting to cut my way in. But my neighbours stopped me. One of the women that worked in the mansion told me she would find news about them first. They were afraid that I will enrage the lord and the retribution will come to them as well. Hypocrites.”
“I tried to take care of my boy, waiting for the news about by girls. But my boy didn’t manage to survive. Their wounds were too vicious. And soon I found out that my wife and my child killed themselves by biting their tongues. They didn’t want to be sullied by that filthy noble. So they choose death. I knew at the time that de Assar family had to pay. They had to feel the same pain that I had.”
“So I became a brigand. Scilla the Red Brigand was my name. I terrorized de Assar family every day, burning their properties, stealing their money, killing guards. Some people joined me, we were brothers in arms. The hate for de Assar united us. After a few months we made the plan to attack the de Assar mansion. That night we managed to kill that son of a whore that kidnaped my wife and daughter, but the lord de Assar survived. He asked for help from de Sar family and other surrounding nobles, because he couldn’t handle us anymore. They attacked us, they were too many, we knew we will die. So we tried to kill as many as we could. We fought bravely. But we lost.” Scilla stopped. For him this was the end of the story.
“I found that battlefield” Marco continued in his place. “It was a carnage. We didn’t know what happened there, but we tried to find survivors. Scilla was still breathing so we decided to save him. He survived.
And he swore allegiance to me. Scilla the Red Brigand died in that forest. He was reborn as one of my friends. Does anyone here have a problem with that?” Marco asked in a cold voice, looking over everyone present.
Nobody dared to answer the Emperor. The story of the former brigand was shocking as well. They knew that this kind of things happened in the small nobility. Children too pampered by their father’s, overzealous nobles, things go out of hand sometimes.
“You all know that this kind of stories all over the Empire. Today was supposed to be a day where we were supposed to talk about the future, to talk about the course the Empire would take, but now we have to look at the past. Think, my dear nobles, how these stories affect the mind of the people that we are supposed to lead. Have you looked at the beasts in the wilderness? Have you looked at what the leaders of the packs and herds do? They protect them, not abuse them. So why do we humans abuse the members of our packs? I ask you, why do you look the other way when this kind of situations happen? Shouldn’t we punish the abuser and not the victim?” Marco said in one breath.
He was like a parent scolding a child. The nobles were a little bit baffled about this. Why the Emperor was admonishing them like that?
“My lord, what do you mean with this question?” Marquis de Sar asked with a smile on his face. Seeing Marco like this he was thinking that somehow he managed to enter the Emperor’s mind. “Do you mean we should punish our vassals because of the commoners? Isn’t that a little bit over the line? We are nobles, we are their lords, in your eyes aren't we more important than them?”
“Marquis de Sar” Marco raised his voice at him. “I will consider that I didn’t hear that. You are nobles yes, but that doesn’t grant you the power of God over the people. Don’t forget that the base of an Empire it’s his people, not their nobles. Every noble family has risen from a commoner background at one point. Don’t forget that, my dear Marquis de Sar. Consider yourself lucky that you said this to me after I became the Emperor. Because of my position I can’t act recklessly like before. Two months ago I would have wiped this whole Grand Hall with that smile of yours. Don’t you ever forget who I am.” Marco said with a fire in his eyes.
The whole nobility was shocked at Marco’s threat towards de Sar. They never thought that Marco would have the nerve to threaten him like his. Even though they knew Marco’s attitude from before he took the throne, they thought that he will quiet down since he became Emperor. It seems that this Emperor won’t be so easy to handle like they thought.
In their corner, Darius and Armando, rejoiced this display of power from Marco. This was what they were expecting as well. That Marco would show his prowess in the Grand Council so that more nobles would rally behind him.
“That’s it for today” Marco said. “This entire situation has worsened my mood. We’re leaving, ” he said to his guards.
“Your highness” Scilla suddenly said. “Ever since you choose us to become your guards, various rumors and comments were spreading because of this. But what pisses me off, it’s that the people think that we don’t have the power to protect you. Especially those from the Imperial Guard. I want to say that we welcome a challenge from anyone from the Imperial Guard, if they think they could do a better job than us.”
“That’s a great idea, Scilla. Commander Abruzzo, please arrange three Imperial Guards to challenge my guards. We will hold the duel tomorrow. Wouldn’t that be fun, by dear lords? To see some great warriors changing points and proving their might?” Marco said with a smile.
“Three?” Abruzzo asked, confused. “Your Highness, shouldn’t that be four?”
“Oh, I thought it was obvious. Since Captain de Sar wanted to know more about my guards, he will be the fourth one. I suggest a fight between him and Scilla.” Marco said with a smile leaving the Grand Hall of rites, together with his guards.
What do you think of Scilla's story? I've tried to create a good backstory for him and I have to be honest it was a quite hard to write it down. I've tried not to make it too grim. Also, what do you think about Marco's display of power? How will the nobles will react to this, and what will be Marquis de Sar next move? Next chapter we get to see some actions as the guards of Marco clash with the Imperial Guard in a duel.
Thank you for reading and thank you for support this story. If you liked the chapter and want to know when the next one will be up, you can follow me @sstefan