Tarius sat on a chair next to the bed he once shared with his wife. He had arranged private chambers for himself ever since she had fallen ill. Her breathing was shallow, and she had not opened her eyes for over a week. Her condition had taken a turn for the worst. It was only a matter of time before she passes.
Varian had taken to sleeping next to his mother these days. Tarius had assumed that the boy wished to be closer to his mother. She would most likely pass while he was away. He did not want to leave Varian alone at this time, but alas, it could not be helped. The peace he had fought so hard to achieve came crashing down several days ago when a message arrived from General Marcus:
To His-Excellency, His-imperial-majesty, Emperor Neo Alexander Vox Gilises,
A great tragedy has befallen the vassal state of Gillia.
An agent of Fiondan has assassinated King Kellin.
The murderer was none other than the knight-commander of Fiondan’s rune Knights.
As expected, the knight-commander proved quite difficult to apprehend and has, regretfully, escaped our grasp.
I patiently await your instructions.
Your humble servant,
General Marcus Valva.
Only a few weeks before, Tarius had spoken out aggressively against starting a war with Fiondan. He was unable to speak to his father in private, but he had managed to calm the Senate and had them agree to draw up a non-aggression pact with Gillia’s neighbour. An imperial emissary was to travel to Fiondan a few days from now to seal the agreement with King Algon.
Now it was all for nothing. Instead of an imperial emissary, Tarius himself would be sailing north with the imperial legions at his back. He would be crossing Gillia’s borders and laying siege to Fiondan’s towns and cities. The Senate had finally got what they had wanted all along.
Tarius was sceptical about Marcus’s message. It seemed much too convenient that an agent of Fiondan would assassinate Kellin just as the non-aggression pact was ready to be delivered to Algon. Without concrete proof, however, he had no choice but to put on his battle armour and prepare for another war.
Tarius stood up from his chair and looked out of the chamber window. This room had an incredible view of the Imperial Capital. He could see the bright lights shining down below and the bustling of the citizenry as they prepared for their evening of drinking, dancing, and debauchery. The people of the empire lived good lives. Yasida was the only nation in the world to have advanced several centuries ahead of the era.
This was all thanks to magic and the great minds from all over the continent. It was a nation where the people worked very little and spent more time having sex, gambling, drinking, dancing, and wasting the vast resources of the empire. Most of the work was done by enchanted pieces of metal known as “Machines”.
As it were, the greatest scholars of the empire had begun research to figure out how they could incorporate these Machines into the military. If they succeed, the empire would be unstoppable. They could conquer Fiondan in less than a day with only minimal losses. It was a frightening thought for Tarius. It would also be a dishonourable way to fight.
Compared to Gillia, the people of Yasida seemed to have no morals, integrity, gratitude, or self-control. These people didn’t have a care in the world. Tarius turned away and observed his sleeping son. Varian spent the entire morning sitting and watching his mother. He now lay next to her as they both slept. Tarius walked over to his son and kissed him on the cheek before quietly exiting the chamber.
As Tarius made his way to his private chambers to retire for the evening, he heard a girl laughing from behind one of the other chamber doors. Suddenly, a girl burst out of the bedchamber while still giggling. It was Lady Freya. She was completely naked except for the nightgown she held to cover the front of her body. Freya turned to look at Tarius and gave him a flirtatious smile and curtsied. She then ran off and made no effort to cover her exposed backside from the Imperial crowned prince.
Tarius walked into the open bedchamber and found his brother, Mario, lying on the bed. Tarius picked up a pair of black breeches on the ground and threw it at his younger brother. “Put these on!” Tarius demanded “NOW!”
Mario got off the bed with a smile that would not fade anytime soon.
“Must you always ruin my mood brother?”
“How dare you sleep with a girl before marrying her!? Have you no shame!?” Tarius was livid.
“Come now, brother!” Mario laughed “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everybody does it. You should too! It might loosen you up a bit. I mean when was the last time your wife-”
Mario was on the ground before he could say anymore. Blood flowed down his mouth as he held one of his teeth in his hand. He spat out more blood and got to his feet.
“If you wish to keep the rest of your teeth I suggest you think very carefully of what you say next” Tarius spoke softly but with serious intent.
Mario was no fool. He could read the situation and have decided not to aggravate his older brother any more than he already did. “Forgive me, Lord Brother,” Mario said with a bow “I spoke out of turn.”
Tarius rubbed his right hand as he spoke “You are not everybody. You are an imperial prince of the greatest empire in the world! There are certain expectations of how you conduct yourself.”
Mario laughed as he cleaned his mouth with his white linen shirt “Ah but not the crowned prince.”
Tarius did not respond to that last remark but instead stared at his brother intently.
“When you left to fight the war against Gillia I was so worried. I had hoped that you would return safely back to me and father, back to your wife and your son. Now, however, I do not want you to return from Fiondan. I wish you to die there. That is my hope.”
Tarius narrowed his eyes “Where is this coming from Mario?” he asked calmly.
Mario sat down on the edge of the bed and looked up at Tarius “I love her, brother. I want to marry her and make babies with her! She means everything to me.”
“Yes, my beloved Freya. She is so perfect in every way…but how can I be the husband she deserves when all I’ll ever be is the second son.”
Tarius stared cautiously at his younger brother but did not respond. Instead, he walked out of the chamber and slammed the door behind him. Mario’s infatuation with Freya was undoubtedly a problem; however, it was a problem that had to be addressed upon his return from Fiondan.
Later that evening, Tarius sat by his wife’s bedside and held her small hand in his. “My family is falling apart,” he said softly “I feel as though I am the only person that sees sense and it weighs on me. I just wish I knew what to do…”
Tarius stared at his wife’s face and stroked her forehead with his finger “I wish you were awake…you always knew what to say”
The next morning, Tarius marched to the imperial harbour with a contingent of bodyguards and boarded the Dreadnaught. An imperial battleship armed to siege heavily fortified coastal cities and the lead vessel of over several thousand imperial battleships.
It was time to go to war again.