Imperial struggle - Chapter 1: The next emperor

in writing •  last year

 Chapter 1 - The next emperor

The imperial palace was boiling. Even though it was middle of the night, the place was bright as day. The emperor’s illness was getting worse and the doctors didn’t have a clue on what to do about it. In the last hours the emperor was unconscious and barely breathing. He was 80 years old this year, and hold the imperial seal in the last 50 years, when he rose to power after his father’s death. Before he got ill, he was lively for his old age, and had a childish like temperament, loving to play tricks to his courtiers. Two weeks ago, he suddenly collapsed and was bedridden since then. 

The news that the emperor got unconscious spread through imperial city the courtiers were arriving one after another. Various political factions were starting to make plans regarding the next steps they need to take into the future based on the events of the night. The question on everyone's minds was: Who will be the next emperor, if today the current one dies?
Augusto Eldobar had a 7 children over his 80 years, four sons and 3 daughters. Each one of them had the rights to hold the imperial seal and become the next emperor, but in the eyes of the nobles, courtiers and the other people only three people were the obvious choices.
Armando, the oldest one. He was almost 60 years old now, being near his father all his life. He was a good bureaucrat, holding various important offices in his father’s imperial administration. Traditionally, he should be the next emperor, but Augusto never made any of the princesses and princes the sole heir.
Gustavo was the 3rd child and the second son, born after Isabella. He was a military man, a good general and was supported by all military. Having him on the throne meant more funds for the military and probably more military campaigns. Under Augusto, the military was only for defence purposes and he never went to war if not provoked.
The 3rd obvious choice war Rosaria, the youngest daughter. From early childhood she was attracted by the chants of the God of Light and she wanted to dedicate herself to God. The clergy didn’t let the opportunity of having a princess on their side and they made her a Maiden of Light, an important member of the Church, that had the same status as the Pope. You can imagine what benefits would the Church have with their Maiden on the throne.
The imperial antechamber was full with all the leaders from the all important factions. Everyone was making assumptions on how the things will progress. What it will be of the Empire if the emperor will die tonight. Without a nominated heir, civil war could break anytime because of the hot headed leaders.
The tense atmosphere was suddenly broken down by a young man who entered the room like a storm. A young man, in tattered clothes, with a red face and ravished hair entered the room.
“How is the old bastard feeling? Let me see him! I brought him the eggs of Blue crowned Eagle from the Azure Mountain.” And he headed straight to the Imperial bedroom, where the Emperor was held.
The one that just entered as a storm was Marco Eldobal, the youngest son of Augusto. He was just 18 years old and just like most young men of his age he was a hotheaded guy. A month ago, the Emperor mentioned as a joke that he would want to eat the eggs of a Blue Crowned Eagle. This eagle was a vicious raptor in the Azure mountain range, attacking humans and animals alike, but his eggs were a true delicacy, containing a lot of healthy proteins.
Marco took the Emperor words to the heart and went by himself into the mountains to find a Blue Crowned Eagle nest. Coincidentally, he just was on his way back, when he heard the news on the road that the emperor collapsed and rushed straight to the capital.
“Little brother, the Imperial father needs rest right now and we can’t disturb him. You just come back from the mountains. Why don’t you go an take a bath and take some rest first. At the moment nobody can do anything. Think of father, he needs peace right now”, Gustavo intervened stopping Marco from entering Augusto’s room. Many people silently approved Gustavo move.
Marco took a look at the room and somehow understood the situation. He saw the glow in the eyes of some of the people and could sense the fact that these people were waiting for his father to die.
“Hypocrites!!” Marco yelled, making everyone flinch.”You all are a bunch of hypocrites! You stand there and tell me that MY FATHER needs rest and peace, while you all are waiting for his death. And you Gustavo, you are the worst. I knew that you wanted the throne, but not that much that when your father is sick, you spend your time doing politics instead being at your father’s side. Move or I’ll go through you”. And he shoved Gustavo aside, entering in Augusto’s room. Armando silently followed him.
The room was gloomy, the atmosphere heavy. On the bed, Augusto’s face, once bright and full of energy, was now yellow and skinny. If not for the fact that his chest moved heavily once in a while, one could assume that he was a dead man.
Marco kneeled near the bed, kissing his father’s forehead. Gently caressing his hair, he started to whisper to him, with teary eyes.
“Old man, what happened to you? You were so full of life before I left. Look at you know, waiting for death to visit you. Open your eyes, old man. I’ve brought you Blue Crowned eagle eggs. Open you eyes and eat them”
Marco was crying silently when Armando place his hand on his shoulder.
“Brother, go and clean yourself. Father won’t go anywhere. You smell of dirt and blood!”Being the big brother, Armando was always the voice of reason between his brothers. The fact that he spent half of his life working in his father's shadow as his right hand man had a big impact on his personality.
Marco looked at his big brother, then at himself and understood what he meant. He nodded and headed to the exit, when a quiet voice was heard.
“Armando, don’t send him away. The brat just came back. Did you say you bought the eggs? Give me one to taste it”. That was the emperor’s voice, a voice that seemed to come from a dead man.
Marco stopped in his tracks looking at the bed like he was seeing a ghost. The same reactions of awe had Armando as well. They didn’t expect to see the emperor awake again. All the doctors said that he wouldn’t make the morning.
“What’s with the looks? I’m not dead yet” said the emperor while trying to get his body up.
Marco and Armando hurried up to help him sit in a more comfortable position.
“Call everybody in. I want to say some words” he instructed. “And little brat, I wasn’t joking when I said that I wanted to taste the egg, give me one right now. They are better raw than cooked. Hurry up, I don’t have all night”.
The two brothers didn’t know what to believe. While Marco was cracking an egg up to serve his father, Armando headed to the door to invite everyone in.
When he opened the door all the eyes were on him. By the look on his face, nobody knew what to believe. Armando didn’t know how to put into words either. Seeing that his big brother doesn’t say a thing Gustavo took action:
“Armando, how is father? I hope Marco didn’t bother him too much. Right now father needs rest and… “
“He want’s to see you” Armando finally managed to speak the words.
“Who? Marco? What does that brat what to talk with me?” Gustavo obviously thought about Marco at first.
“Father, not Marco. Father want’s to see all of you”.
If you dropped a needle in the room at that time, you could hear it hitting the floor and rolling around. That was the type of silence that filled in the room. Nobody expected the news about the emperor sudden recovery. They all were expecting the news about his death, then to put the plans of installing a new emperor in place. But now, suddenly the emperor wake up. And he wanted to speak. With all of them. Will he finally name an heir?Armando returned into the room, followed by Gustavo, Isabella, Rosaria and the rest of powerful people that were present at that time.
The scene they saw when entered baffled them even more. The emperor was sucking up from an egg, drinking from it like it was a godly beverage. After he finished he made a sign for Marco to give him another one. In the meanwhile everybody remained silent, looking at the scene with stern faces.
“Everybody, thank you for the coming here. I’ve made you all worry in the past two weeks. And I believe today I gave everybody a good scare. I’m old an my time is going fast. Maybe faster that I would want. Eh, this is the life of men. We are born, then die. And what is between we call it life. I know you are all concerned about the future emperor
“Your majesty, we wouldn't dare” “You will live a long life, your majesty”. Small protests against the statement were heard.
“Enough with the nonsense. I’ve lived long enough! I didn’t appoint an heir until now, because I wanted my children to live their own lives and chose their own paths. Once I named one, that meant that I would choose for them. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted for them to live as long as possible away from the burden of ruling. I know that I was selfish and maybe that didn’t do any good to them either.” tears started to gather in Augusto's eyes.
“But life never turns out as we expected. And this is why I will tell you right now who will be the next emperor. This is my will and I expect that everybody present here will respect it.”
Hearing everybody hearts started to beat up faster. The next words of the Emperor will seal the Empire fate for years to come.
Augusto looked at each of his children with warm eyes. Armando, the faithful one. Isabella, the cold girl that married a commoner against everybody wishes. Gustavo, the wild and hot headed general.  Mario and Maria, the twins that dedicated themselves to science. Rosaria, the sweet girl who became a saint. And the last one, the little one, the young calf that didn’t feared the tiger, Marco.
“My dear children, you are my pride and joy. Of all the things that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud of you. Don’t take to heart my decision. I love you all. But the emperor can be only one. And that will be you, Marco!”. 

Next chapter


Author note: Thank you for reading till the end. This is my first web series and I've decided to write it on steemit. Please let me your thoughts about it in the comments below. Second chapter will arrive in one or two days.

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