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
While the group of Saladin was escorted to their chambers by the imperial servants, the atmosphere in the Grand Hall was so dense that you could cut it with a knife.
There were a lot of things that made the blood of the nobles to boil. On one hand, you had an alliance proposal from a southern tribe, tribes that were considered a social class lower than even the most common of the commoners of the Empire. The nobles of the Empire were all about order and status and many of them considered this proposal an affront on their dignity. How could they lower this down to be in an alliance with a barbaric tribe, without manners or culture? Of course, this was just snobbism and blatant racism from their side, because many nobles never interacted with the southern, but this was in the common circles of the nobles, the idea that they were superior to everyone else.
On the other hand, despite the resentment for the Saladin and his people, there was the black sand. Black sand, the unique resource of the desert. A sound that could catch fire and even the smallest amount was enough to seduce the minds of some people. Just thinking about the advantages and the possibilities they could have gotten their hands on the black sand was enough to make some the nobles drool.
And here it was the dilemma of the Grand Council. To reject or to accept this alliance? To keep the so called honor and prestige of the Empire or to renounce that and take the black sand. And so a heated argument started in the Ground Council.
Many of the nobles of the south, we're having an inborn heart for the desert people, no matter what tribe. In their eyes, they were all the same. They have lost so many people and loved ones because of the raids. Because, yes, the raids were pointed out to the nobles as well. The tribes weren’t stupid. They knew who were the wealthy people of the land. Why raid a poor peasant village, when you can raid the mansion of a noble.
Some small minded nobles, even proposed to hold Saladin hostage and ransom him for a big batch of black sand. This way they could their hands on the black sand and vent their anger at the same time.
Seeing that the debate was starting to go sideways and nonsensical proposal were added to the discussion, Armando rose from his seat, taking the floor of the Grand Hall, making a sign with his hands, asking the nobles to quiet down.
“Fellow nobles, this debate has already started to take too long, and I think we are already making the Emperor confused with our talks. The matter is very simple, we are agreeing or not with this? The Emperor has already heard everything you have to say, but I would like to ask our Minister of the Right about his opinion as well. Minister de Sar, you are one of those affected by the raids. I know that you must have some thoughts about this. Please share them with us” Armando ended his say and returned to his seat.
Being called out, the Marquis rose from his seat, speaking directly from there.
“Indeed, Prime Minister, I was affected in the past by raids from these people. But the proposal that Prince Saladin brought to us is a very interesting one. Let’s look a little bit further than the black sand. This is just something to appease us. I won’t say that it’s not important, but what we could get most of this alliance is information about the desert. We don’t really know much about the desert and his history. We could learn and discover so many things. This is why, I recommend to all nobles to put aside any resentment and consider accepting this alliance”
After this the Marquis sat down, signaling that he ended his say.
“I’ve heard everything that everyone had to say.” Marco’s voice was heard. “I will have to consider all of what was said here today. And I believe that we still have some important duties to finish today, such as naming the rest of the ministers. But that kind of debate can be taken without my presence. I will let everyone know about my decision regarding this alliance. Prime Minister Armando, please inform me of what is established in my absence”.
Marco rose from his seat and left the Grand Hall, followed, as usual, by the his seven guards. Behind him, Armando conducted the debates regarding the ministers.
Later in the day.
Marco was sitting in the Lily Garden, reading a book. Although Marco was a fanatic about adventures and liked to practice his sword arts each day, he also loved to read books. He loved to read books, because the books were the ones that inspired his adventures and taught him about the ways of the world. Before she died, his mother used to read him before bedtime stories about great knights that saved the princess from dangerous beasts that kidnapped them. He grew up with these kind of stories that set his passion on fire.
“My Emperor” the voice of a servant interrupted Marco from his reading. “Prince Saladin is requesting a private audience with you”.
A smile appeared on Marco’s face. Saladin arrived earlier that he predicted. He expected him to arrive after the nightfall, but it seems that Saladin was eager for a private conversation.
“Let him in. And bring us some tea” Marco instructed.
Saladin changed his traveling clothes and now he was wearing a set of nice white clothes, that contrasted a lot with his darkish color of his skin. He took the seat that Marco indicated him and looked at the book that was resting in Marco’s lap.
“I’m sorry for interrupting your reading. This seems to be an interesting book” Saladin said.
“It is indeed. You don’t have to worry about interrupting me. To be frank, I was expecting you, although not this soon. It seems you are eager to talk with me”
Saladin looked at Marco with his black eyes and smiled. He spent his time outside the dessert quite a lot, trading and learning the ways of the continent, but he never met a person like Marco. Even though he was on the throne, he had a cunning side to him, that gave him a special feeling. He was like a desert snake, that could strike at him anytime. And hearing the tales from the streets, Saladin didn’t have any doubt about the martial prowess of Marco.
“Indeed, Your Highness. I am eager to talk with you. Because I know you have the last say in this matter. With all the hatred some of the nobles might have towards the tribes of the desert, they will be swayed by the promise of the black sand, but you… I want to know what you think about this. Without your blessing, this alliance won’t see the light of day.”
“I glad that we can talk bluntly. I have the feeling that there is more to this alliance. What is your goal exactly. I will need to know the whole truth before I can make a good decision. I don’t want to drag the Empire into something that we don’t need to be a part of.” Marco laid out his terms on the table.
“Sigh, you are indeed tough. But I will tell you the truth. In the desert there are three big caliphates, and while ours is strong, our power is still lower than the other two. Our caliphate is still young. It was established by my grandfather 50 years ago. We are still struggling to survive around those two hegemonies that have direct lineage to the last Sultan. This is why we need an alliance with your Empire. For our survival.”
Marco closed his eyes, contemplating on what Saladin just told him.
“But you still haven't told me everything. I can sense your eagerness. Even though you are saying that you want to survive, I’m suspecting something else. The fact that you are willing to take out the black sand means that you are in need of funds. Your caliphate is preparing something big. Maybe you have sensed a weakness in one of your enemies are you are preparing to strike. But for this you need resources. Resources that you don’t have. And thus, you have come to us with the black sand, trading the black sand for the resources that you need. You want to restore the Desert Empire that died down 500 years ago, right? What guarantee do we have that after your Empire won’t direct his armies toward my Eldobal Empire? The desert tribes are raiding our borders for centuries” Marco looked directly into Saladin eyes while asking this.
“I’m surprised that your sight goes that far. It seems that I underestimated you. If you agree to the alliance, our Azhari family is willing to send our youngest daughter, my sister, to be your wife. This way, we won’t be only allies, but we will be family as well. And we don’t betray family in the desert.” Saladin said with a serious face. “Even more, and this is my personal proposal not from my caliphate, I will become blood brother with you. If you are willing of course. And with this, you will have the guarantee that we Empires will be at peace.”
Marco was taken by surprise. It seems that this caliphate and this prince had big plans ahead of them. He wasn’t sure on how to act now. The proposal was indeed quite tempting.
“Your proposal is quite interesting. I will have to consult with my advisors as well regarding the marriage proposal. Personally, I don’t have anything against it. As Emperor I can have any women in the empire that I want, he, he. But regarding your offer as becoming blood brothers with me, that is something else. Becoming my blood brother means entering a special brotherhood. And my brothers will have a say in this as well.” Marco said this with a smile.
“Let’s see from what cloth he is made of first” Cien voice was heard from within the garden.
This time Saladin was taken by surprise, because he didn’t think that his offer for blood brother would be taken more seriously than the marriage or the alliance. Of course he couldn’t know the relationship between Marco, his guards and the whole Seven Hills mercenaries.
Saladin added another interesting proposal to the table: a marriage and becoming a blood brother with Marco. But as we know, Marco is having a lot of blood brothers. Will they accept Saladin in their band of brothers? What does Cien has in mind for checking what kind of cloth is Saladin made?
Imperial Struggle is an original story written directly on Steemit. Follow @sstefan for the next chapter.