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Chapter 2: The Imperial Court






The lawyer reading his petition before the Great Court was droning on and on. It was a petition on Milk Price Supports. Which the emperor had not the slightest control over, since it was the province of the Ministry of Agriculture, which was under the Parliament and the Chancellor.


He supposed it was important. Farmers were looked on as the backbone of Pangean society. Don’t let them kid you, farming is the oldest profession not the other one.


Theoretically the Emperor could decree that there should be price supports on dairy products---but if he did that would launch of storm of protest from all the other segments of the farm industry. So it was best to let the Chancellor take care of it.


But that didn’t mean that the Emperor was not required to hear the petition read aloud in the Great Court. The rules required that the petitioner read it all and that the reading be entered into the record.


So the Emperor Toreus I Rhann sat on his throne in the center of the Great Court, in the palace of the Capital City of Karzhadnarr, and listened, as his Capronean lions sat to his right and left. But his mind and heart were elsewhere. Beside him sat the Chancellor—old weasel faced Jhanis Gharvhan. And opposite the Chancellor sat the Empress Cassandra—his wife and the mother of his eight children. Actually one of the two lions was hers. He never sat in court without the lions and his wife. She was his source of comfort and wisdom.


Not so much Gharvhan, the head of the government and scion of an old powerful family from the time before the empire. Translation: he really believed that he should be emperor and not Toreus.


Well, thought the elder Toreus. I did not fight to unite the kingdoms of Pangea only to have it all come a cropper at the hands of the men whose ancestors had screwed the pooch. His power might be severely truncated by a constitutional monarchy but he was not totally powerless.


But such was the business of government in Pangea. Most of it was handled by many little departments and courts. But the grand court—a carryover from ancient times—still remained because of its ceremony more than its usefulness as a tool of administration. It gave the people a chance to see their emperor at work and that was the main point.


Most of the people lining up here were lawyers. One really had to hirer a Doctor of law to read their petition before the court. It had been a long time since a common ordinary person could read a petition. Lawyers had a monopoly on government,


All around the room floated bot cams—little machines that recorded the pageantry for posterity and allowed the common man with any interest in government and politics to view what h=was happening on the nets.


The Emperor gave a hard sidewise look at the Chancellor. Gharvhan was a lawyer. Yes, of course he was.


Another reason that Gharvhan felt that he should be ruler Pangea.


None of this would have bothered the Emperor one jot had it not been for the problems brewing in Arcadia. Problems that he could not in good conscience ignore. And problems that he had to deal with in secret, using his own personal resources and that of volunteers and mercenaries.


If only this droning fool could get done with his petition. He was the last of the day.

These are the prices that we pay for the blessing of democracy, thought the Emperor. An absolute monarch can do anything that he wishes to do. And often they have been known to do the wrong thing—over and over again. A constitutional monarch must obey the will of the people and the people’s elected representatives. Even if they are fools like Gharvhan.

So the emperor settled down and waited—patiently.

Trying not to think of the grand violations of these principles that were occurring in Arcadia at this very moment. And about the seed of his loins who had volunteered to go and risk his life to try and put things right.

That was the hard part. Allowing one’s son—the heir to all this—to go into harms way. While he sat here and listened to a speech on milk price supports.

***

Eventually the court adjourned and the Emperor departed to attend his meeting with the Privy Council. He walked down the hall to the Privy Council chamber with Cassandra and the lions by his side.

He could tell that there was much on her mind and he could guess what was foremost. He had known this woman for a long time. She was like a part of him.

You concerned about Junior, he thought-cast to his wife.

And you are as well, my love, she cast back.

He’s a well trained warrior, the Emperor said, by way of denial. He can take care of himself.

She said nothing to that. She had been a warrior’s wife for too many years. She was used to it. Though not necessarily happy about it.

They entered the Privy Council Chamber and found the Council waiting for them. All looking grim. It was as if they had entered a funeral viewing.

Supreme Marshal Kothar Khonn, Chief Military Agent of the Empire, and the father of Kothar Khonn the junior, was there. Kothar was the emperor’s closest friend. The Khonn’s had been aligned with family Rhann for centuries. It was said that where there was a Rhann there was a Khonn. Always.

That relationship had been tested drug the Second Pangean War under Ulysses Rhann and the First War under Ulysses father Odysseus. Trying times had tested harshly that alliance and proved it again and again.

And now might well be the beginning of such times again. Toreus knew he would need Kothar and his son and namesake at his side. And that his own namesake would be put into the center of the test of fire.

Next to Kothar Khonn sat David Greystone—namesake and descendant of the original General David Greystone. His ancestor had been a hero of the Trongoroth Incursion and David was the head of the Pangean Secret Service, known as The Lion Claw.

And next to Graystone sat Regis Dell, the chief of the Imperial Security Service and General Lucas Tull, of the Pangean Special Forces Command—a Thuvian Ranger whose great cat—Lineaus—sat by his side. A lion man is never far from his bond mate.

As the Emperor entered a cloaked figure turned from the window and looked in his direction. Arenjun Sarkhon, the ronin time sorcerer, and one of Toreus’ oldest allies. A tall man with intense, piercing eyes and a white beard. Even if they were you friends one never got used to time sorcerers. Like most Atlanteans they were a strange and eldritch breed of human—if indeed they could be considered human at all.

And according to the Guild Treaty that long ago ended the war over Terra Prime amongst the Elder Races no Time Sorcerer was to hold property or rank on the sphere. So everything that Arenjun did here was unofficial, off the record, clandestine. Officially he was a rogue member of House Sarkhon—a leaderless ronin. But who was to say how much truth that description truly held.

All Toreus knew was that the Time Sorcerer and some of his kin had often come through with valuable help for the House of Rhann,

“Welcome, Your Majesty,” said Kothar as the Emperor and his wife entered. Everyone stood, except Arenjun, who was already on his feet. Time Sorcerers did not seem to like to sit. Always in motion were the Sorcerers. Always on their feet. Men and women who were clearly aware that every action affects the future.

“Our agent has arrived in Arcadia,” continued the Supreme Marshal.

The Emperor and Cassandra exchanged looks but not thought casts. The agent was their eldest son.

They both had misgivings about their son putting his life in danger in this mission. But there was no stopping him. The younger Toreus had grown up admitting the adventures of his father. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Not just merely to succeed him as Emperors but to make a difference with his efforts. And the troubles in Arcadia ere the perfect opportunity to make a difference.

The Emperor took hi seat at the head of the table. Cassandra sat to his right and the lion took as divan behind them.

The time sorcerer took a seat at the opposite end of the table.

“Sir, David,’ said Kothar. “Would you begin the briefing?”

The head of the Secret Service stood, looking down at the PAD in front of him.

“As you know, several weeks ago, the Duke of Hardiman, Nathaniel Taylor, spoke out against the continued erosion of civil rights under the reign of Radu Wallace.”

Sir David waved his hand above the PAD and the image of a tall, handsome man in his forties materialized above the holostage in the center of the table. Duke Nathaniel.

“For his effort he was arrested and put in the Tower of Arcadopolis. Where he currently resides.”

He waved his hand again and a beautiful woman appeared with two young boys. They all had the almond eyes of Akaians—that south most continent of Arcadia plate.

“To add insult to injury, Radu put out arrest orders for the Duchess Lois and the ducal heirs, Nathan and Leonidus. Luckily a loyal servant of the Taylor Household was able to ferret them out of the ducal estate and hide them with an ally in the city.”

“Is there any chance of getting the Duke out of prison?” the Emperor asked.

Kothar shook his head. “Not without large scale military intervention. To Tower is in the most heavily policed and militarized part of the city. A Special Forces team could liberate the prison but they’d never get out without the help of larger regular forces.”

“And we cannot do that without permission from the Parliament,” said the Emperor. “Which is not forthcoming. There must be no overt Pangean military intervention in Arcadia. What does that leave us?”

“We think that we can get the Duke’s family out,” said Arenjun. Al heads at the table turned toward the Time Sorcerer. He smiled tightly and then and only then did they all notice that he had a cat on his lap. Sarkhon time sorcerers were seldom seen without their familiar. The Soul cat that kept a constant vigil over the upload of their persona.

“Then we get out the Taylors and hope that we can get the Duke out some other way,” said the Emperor. “As long as the heirs are alive then they can oppose Radu and his trash clan. I wish for once we were allowed to put our forces to a just cause. Not just police actions guarding trade—the only thing that the Chancellor and his crowd will not oppose.”

Arenjun smiled. “If we can get the Duchess here to Pangea perhaps she can put a word or two in the right ears. Drum up support for the Taylors and others who wish freedom and justice in Arcadia. That woman and those boys may be our best hope.”

“Those boys are not my greatest concern,” said the Emperor, patting his wife’s hand.

“Your son is capable of handling any situation he might encounter,’ said the Time Sorcerer.

“As long as he doesn’t get reckless,” said the elder Toreus.

“He has his father’s caution,” said Cassandra.

Was I so cautious at that age? The emperor thought cast to his wife.

No, she admitted. But he also has his mother’s wisdom.

“My son has much faith in the Prince of Thuvia,’ said Kothar. “And I have every faith in my own son’s judgment.”

“And what do you think, old friend?” asked the emperor of his Supreme Marshal.

“This is a dangerous enterprise no matter how you look at it,” said the old soldier, grimly. Then his face broke into a smile. “The kind of thing you and I used to get involved in—once upon a time.”

“yes, old friend,’ said the Emperor. “I still have scars to remind me of those adventures.”

His eyes met those of Arenjun and the Time Sorcerer smiled. He’s been involved in quite a few of those adventures himself. In fact he had been the architect of more than a few of them. Though it was doubtful he carried any physical scars.

“Very well,” said the elder Toreus. “We proceed with the mission to rescue the Taylor family. It is the least that we can do.”



***

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