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 9, so if you want to read from the beginning please click here
It’s been a week since the invitations were sent to important people throughout the capital.
Because of the stunt that Marco did, everybody knew who were the people invited to the imperial palace.
One by one the guests arrived at the Imperial palace and from there they were taken by a servant in a small garden, where the meeting will take place.
The garden was one of the smaller ones from the palace, but is one of the favorite places of Marco. In here, he spent his nights as a child, looking at the bright summer sky and dream about adventures that they read about. Now, he was living an adventure, not the kind that he read about where the a great warrior would roam the world and defeat the great enemies. His adventure was much different. He was the Emperor and he was fighting an invisible enemy about which he didn’t know anything.
A total of ten small tables was prepared in the garden, one for each of the people invited. Arranged in a semi-circle position, with the view toward the Emperor who would sit in the middle of them all.
Behind the Emperor, there were five small tables as well. Three for the members of the “Seven Swords” and the other two for his twin siblings, Mario and Maria. Marco was drawing an invisible line between his followers and the rest of the people, telling his guests that his faction was starting to grow.
Marco looked over his guests, measuring each and one of them. In the middle there were his two older brothers, Armando and Gustavo, followed by the five Grand Dukes, the Imperial guard commander, a cardinal from the Church of Light and the richest man in the Empire, the head of the merchant guild “Tennessee”, Sigurd Tennessee. Each of these men present today in this meeting hold enough power into their hands that could change the fate of the empire.
The meeting started with small talk, questions about the family, small jokes. Since this was an official meeting, they had to follow some kind of protocol. It wasn’t courteous to start talking about business right from the beginning of the meeting. On the surface, the atmosphere was good, with everybody laughing and smiling. But with a keen eye, one could see a small impatience that some of them had. They all wanted to get over with this.
Seeing that his guest are starting to get a little bit impatient, Marco made a short cough to gather everyone's attention.
“My dear guests, thank you for answering my call and joined today with me to have this meeting. I assume that you all are familiar with my friend Argento and my siblings. Mario and Maria will be part of my advisor group, on the issues regarding their specialities. I will make the official announcement at the Grand Council, but I wanted to let you know beforehand. The other two are two good friends of mine, as well. The tall one is Scilla, while the bulky one is Escarte.”
The bland description of the two Swords made Argento burst a short laugh, drawing upon himself a short smack on the head from Scilla, who was seated next to him. This move made the other guests quite surprised, because nobody would dare this kind of actions in the presence of the Emperor. Both of them realised that they stepped out of bounds here, so they put their heads down with apologetic looks on their faces.
“Your Highness, does these two gentlemen will be your personal guards like mister Argento?” the Imperial guard Commander couldn’t help to ask. This action of the Emperor made him and his Guard to lose a lot of face in the high circles of the Empire. If the Emperor formed his own group of guards, what was the role the Imperial guard will have?
“My dead Commander Abruzzo, I know that you and everybody in the Imperial Guard are concerned by my actions. But the at ease, beside my own personal protection they won’t have any other duties. Your Imperial guard will still have to continue its duty of protecting the Emperor, the palace, the Imperial family and the capital.” Marco tried to appease this Commander.
“Your Highness, rumors are already flowing that you don’t trust the Imperial Guard. The younger guards are with the moral down and they feel that they can’t keep their heads up anymore” the commander tried to change once again the mind of the Emperor.
“Cut the bullshit, commander” Scilla couldn't hold it anymore and had a short burst with anger.
“Scilla, be nice!” Marco warned Scilla not to go to out of line. This was still an official meeting.
“I’m sorry, little Marco… Your Highness” Scilla realised his mistake and called Marco with the proper title. “Please let me speak my mind. Commander, you say that Imperial Guard can’t hold their heads up? What do you teach your soldiers? What is their duty? To protect the Emperor, right? If the Emperor wants to improve his security, what would that be a reason of anger? I think your Imperial Guard got on a too high horse and they need to see the reality. Imperial Guard duty is to die for the Emperor, not to use his status to conquer maidens in the taverns. Let me tell you this, we will accept any challenge from any members of your Imperial Guard to prove our skills. We don’t use our connection with the Emperor to increase our vanity, we are well aware of our duty. We will die first before something will touch the Emperor. Does your Guard have this kind resolution anymore?
Everybody took a deep breath of air hearing these words from Scilla. They all knew that those words were true, this is why the Commander couldn’t say another word to rebuke Scilla. The Imperial Guard became a way for the noble families to increase one status, rather than actually protecting the Emperor. It was having a ceremonial role, rather than a military one.
Marco took a sip of tea and awaited for the awkwardness to dissipate from the air. Then he began his speech.
“I think I have to let you know the reason why I have called this meeting. As you know, in the last years I’ve spent most of the time outside the capital, going out in different adventure in and outside the Empire borders. I don’t know many things about the workings of our Empire, and I would like to learn more about them.The Grand Council is approaching really fast and I wouldn’t like to make a fool out of myself when debating important matters in front of everyone. Am I right?” Marco asked with a big smile on his face.
Everybody looked at him with a confused look. They all knew that Marco roamed the Empire in the search for adventure, but they didn’t think that we would know so little about the workings of the Empire that he needed the help of this group in front of him.
“What do you want to know more exactly, your Highness?” Armando asked.”The Empire is vast and his workings are very complex.”
“Alright, I will tell you some of my questions. Can you tell me the reason of why in the past 10 years, we had five peasant rebellions against the nobles? Can you tell me why the, although we have a great army, the barbaric tribes from the south still dares attack the southern border?” Marco looked straight at Gustavo when he asked this question. Gustavo always took pride in his skills as a general. Marco didn’t stop here. “Why do only the nobles have the rights to call themselves knights and attend the academies? Why does the Church of Light has the right to punish the non-believers or those who speak against it? Do you want me to continue, or should I stop? Think really well before you answer these questions, because I really want to hear your true opinion on this.”
In the small garden, you could hear a needle drop in that silence. Two birds began to chirp happily. Marco looked at them, while sipping from his cup of tea, while on his face you could read a faint smile.
“Your highness” the Grand Duke of Mar. “We didn’t know that you are troubled by such profound problems. As you said before, the empire is vast and it’s hard to solve all the problems that might arise in a county or another. Every noble is struggling to keep his own land in peace, for the glory of the Empire, of course. This is why they have to be fierce and ruthless over the commoners and peasants. You may not know, but a noble’s life, it’s very hard as well ”
“Grand Duke, this wasn’t exactly the answer that I was expecting. Does anyone have a more satisfying answer? Marco asked, while looking with a piercing gaze at all his guests. Seeing that nobody wanted to speak, he added.
“I took enough of your time. We can call this meeting over. I wish you all a good day, and I hope to see you well at the Grand Council. Armando, Uncle Sigurd pleases remain for a little while. I have words”.
Thank your reading and thank you for supporting this story. In this chapter, Marco started to leak some of his plans to the various factions in the Empire. How will this factions react and what will their answer be? What Marco want to talk with Armando and Sigurd Tennessee? We are only a few weeks away until the Grand Council.