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 27, so if you want to read from the beginning please click here
To understand the reaction of the nobles present in the Grand Hall you would need to understand a little bit the history between the Empire and the tribes of the Grand Desert.
The Grand Desert was the home of several warring tribes, which were never able to unite themselves under one banner. They were always fighting for scarce resources that the Desert had. From time to time, they would raid the fertile lands of the Empire for food and slaves, making the southern border of the Empire to be always on the watch against raiding parties. There were many campaigns led to pacify and conquers the tribes, but all of them ended in defeat because they generals were too confident in themselves. The latest campaign was led by Gustavo, and only after months of begging, Augusto agreed with his son foolish plan.
This is why seeing a desert barbarian, as the Empire elite loved to call the desert inhabitants, in the middle of the Grand Hall was such a shock to them. There was a lot of bad blood between them and the desert tribes.
Saladin was amused by this reaction and his smile was covering his face from ear to ear.
“How dare a dirty barbarian to stand in front of the Emperor!” angry voices were heard throughout the nobles.
“Sigurd, you corrupt merchant, you have broken the trust of the Emperor. You should be trialed for treason.” others blamed Sigurd for bringing Saladin in the Grand Hall and brokering the meeting.
“Now, now, let’s calm ourselves. Prince Saladin, first of all I’m glad to be your acquaintance. Second of all, as you can see, the nobles of our Empire are quite displeased with your presence here. This is why I would want to ask the reason for this audience” Marco voice calmed the angry shouts of the nobles, but their attitude still remained hostile.
“Indeed, we have a reason for this, your Highness. But before I would say my proposal, let me give you some a gift.” Saladin said and made a sign to the one of his followers, who brought a map and laid it on the floor.
Marco raised an eyebrow, looking at the map. He realised that the gift wasn’t the map, another thing. But on the map, you could see only the Grand Desert.
Loud noise of mockery was heard from some of the nobles.
“Let me explain you a little bit about this map. Up North” he circled around the map, reaching the top part. “Up north is the Empire. This is your southern border. Up until now you’ve encountered only the marginal tribes of the Grand Desert. There are the tribes that are the scum of the earth, most of them are thieves and mercenaries that would betray their own father if the payment was high enough. They are the ones that were doing raids towards your borders. I will admit that there are some larger tribes that dared to cross the border, but that happened only when their situation was dire and they needed your resources.”
Saladin returned back to his original position and looked at the map, pointing toward the center of the Grand Desert.
“Beyond the marginal tribes, there are the 3 nations or caliphates as we call them. We used to be once a great Empire, but after the last Sultan died 500 years ago, the Empire was divided by his sons. The Grand Desert has plunged into chaos and we didn’t manage to recover ever since. Now the 3 caliphates are holding the Desert into some kind of balance, but this balance is very delicate and wars are breaking from most childish things sometimes.”
“The reason why we have come here to the Imperial Capital of the Eldobal Empire is to propose an alliance between the Empire and the Azhari Caliphate. “ and with this Saladin stopped talking to see the reactions from those present.
And as you would expect, an uproar soon started.
“How could a lowly barbarian tribe expect to have an alliance with the great Eldobal Empire”
“Guards, arrest these barbarians and prepare their execution”
“An alliance with you would be an insult to our Empire”.
Many of the nobles started to curse towards the Azhari delegation, while Saladin was receiving all of these with a smile on his lips. He was looking only towards the throne, because, in the end, only Marco’s word was the one that mattered.
“Silanceee!” Scilla voice was heard over all the chaos that occurred in the Grand hall. Seeing that the crowd of nobles transformed into a mob, Marco ordered Scilla to make the nobles to shut up.
“Now that we have calmed ourselves, let’s continue. Prince Saladin, I don’t think you walked the Grand Desert just to present us with a map and an alliance proposal. Because if you bring only this to the table, you should know that the balance doesn't sway too much in your favor.”
Saladin showed once again his great smile and made a sign to his followers, which brought up two small pouches to him.
“Your Highness, you are very sharp. The Caliphate wouldn't dare to send on in front of you if we didn't think that what we will add to the table will not peak your interest. What we will bring into our alliance is this” and dropped the content of the small pouch into a bowl, prepared beforehand by another of his followers.
“Is that… “ some of the nobles started to whisper amongst themselves. Some guessed what was in that pouch, but didn’t dare to voice out their hunch.
Saladin emptied the small pouch in the bowl. From afar, you could guess that in the pouch was sand. Even the sound that it made sounded like sand. And the guess wouldn't be wrong, because it was a kind of sand.
Saladin took out a flint and flashed a few sparks over the bowl. In a few seconds, a big flame aroused from that bowl, the fire dancing from the fire sands.
“Nobles of the empire, this is black sand, the sand that can burn and bring fire. This is the biggest resource that our Desert could hand it over to you and we will bring a big share, if our alliance will come to fruition.”
Black sand. These two words fell on all those present like a hammer in the back of the head. What was black sand? It was sand that could burn, it was a great resource and it could be transformed into a great weapon. The Empire never managed to get their hands on a great quantity of black sand, but scarce pieces from here and there. And now, a Prince from a desert nation arrived proposing an alliance, having the black sand in the middle of it. What kind of fool would refuse this proposal?
But Marco knew that this wouldn’t be just a simple proposal. This Saladin smiled now, but he didn’t seem to be a simple man. No man that dares to stand in front of the Grand Council with such ease and play with their minds would be a simple man.
“Prince Saladin, we will have to consider your proposal. Until we find an answer you will be considered my guest. We will accommodate rooms for you and your companions as soon as possible”.
Saladin arrived with a proposal. What will Marco do? With the black sand entering the game, how will this affect the future of Marco's rule and the future of the Empire?
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