Of Martinets and Monarchs
The gentle wind blows off the sea to caress his cheek. The feeling is almost maternal, or so he muses as he overlooks the stretch of his Stygian Empire. Not that he had experienced something akin to maternal for years now. The endless expanse of the night sky creates an ebony blanket with diamonds embroidered within. This blanket is only interrupted by the milky expanse that stretches across the sky in three stripes, known only as the Ring. Often seen as the home of their ancestors, the Stygian people often send venerable prayers for safety, wisdom, guidance, or wealth. Ever the pragmatist, the Emperor himself does not delude himself to such fantasies, rather, he relies on the strength of his armies and the devotion of his people. Especially now.
Behind him, the sound of heavy, wooden doors creaking steadily open brings him out of his reverie. He can almost hear the deferential bow that the nameless servant offers. The Emperor waits for a long minute, nearly feeding on the fear that pours off this poor soul, before he deigns to face him. He must refrain from wrinkling his nose in disgust at the servant’s grovelling, instead, his face must remain impassive. After all, a self-proclaimed deity cannot afford to show such human emotion to even a lowly servant such as the one before. Presentation is everything. “Speak,” the Emperor’s voice is smooth and devoid of emotion; it resonates through the servant’s mind as if to hold him in a trance.
“The Monarch’s ambassadors have arrived, your Eminence. They await your presence in the throne room,” the servant’s forehead glistens with a thin sheen; he must have sprinted the near half mile from the throne room to the Grand Lanai that overlooks the Stygian Sea their Empire was named for.
“Very well. I shall be there shortly to greet our Amaranthine guests.”
As the servant backs away in fever and closes the door, the Emperor allows himself a small smile. “You can come out now, Master Martinet.”
An imposing figure emerges from the shadows from seemingly out of nowhere. The leader of the mythical Stygian Martinets does not bow or offer any sign of recognition. The shadows themselves seem to bend and twist around he man to conceal his true form. Every hint of light seems to flee from this silently powerful man. Of his face, only the virescent color of his eyes are visible. Any other man would cower in fear at the darkness that surrounds the man, but not the Emperor. “Has the Martinet I requested been sent?”
“I’ve sent my best, your Eminence. It will be done,” the legendary Martinet’s voice is slightly above a whisper.
The Emperor does not relent, “I will not tolerate failure.”
“Nava Khoury is my finest. She was trained from birth and is strong with the Shadows,” the leader of the Martinets does not take offense to his Emperor’s prodding; he himself had questioned her loyalty incessantly prior to this very important task. He would not tolerate failure either.
“I don’t care for petty religious dogma or ideology, Martinet. I care about cause and effect,” The Emperor pauses for a moment, internally sighing, “Master Martinet, do you know why I would shake hands with the Monarch’s ambassadors on the same day I send an assassin to his front doorstep?”
“I do not presume, your Eminence.”
“The snake that appears to be the dragon is the most powerful and dangerous of them all,” The Emperor draws himself higher, “Sometimes, justice must be served under the guise of trickery or subterfuge. The wise man understands this.”
“Do you see yourself as a snake, your Eminence, instead of a god?” The Martinet’s empty voice is as near amused as it can possibly be.
“I see myself as your Emperor, Master Martinet. That title comes with many responsibilities and faces. You understand.”
The Master Martinet bows slightly as he backs away into the shadows, no doubt to return to his sanctuary, the Emperor thinks. “Of course, My Emperor. Justice will be served tonight.”
“After all, how can one defend themselves from a myth, your Eminence?” The whisper sounds from all around him, he exact location impossible to pinpoint.
The Emperor suppresses a grim smile, this Master Martinet was the only one of his subjects to be able to display such presumptuous behavior. Perhaps that was the reason the Emperor placed so much value on their strange relationship. At the very least, it provided him with some measure of amusement.
Before the Emperor allows himself to exit his Grand Lanai, he adjusts his ebony colored armor. The rich folds give his already broad shoulders an elongated appearance. His blue cloak, securely clasped underneath the armor, folds itself around him regally, and the black folds in front of his armoured legs are outlined in the same blue color that glows in several points on his armor; one on each shoulder, glove, and in front of his stomach. He knows his appearance helps him to achieve the visage of regal power and near godship. With a quick flick of his opulent cloak, he turns to make the journey from his porch to his throne room, where a part of his destiny awaits. Tonight, one way or another, everything would change.
The grand doors swing open at a single knock and the Emperor schools his features to be emotionless, untroubled by any worldly concerns. His personal guard, the elite from the Ospore branch of his army, enter a defensive formation around their leader although he remains visible in the front. After all, this was a show of strength, not a defense against an impossible event. Their well oiled armor, designed to be similar to the Emperor’s own set, barely makes a sound as they glide into their various positions. The Emperor begins his walk forward, the movement setting forth a chain of events that would change the world.
The Monarch is of such an average height to claim so much power, Nava Khoury muses. It paints a very different picture than the horrible tales that always had him looking down upon the enemies of the Amaranthine Kingdom. However, if Nava were to believe all the tales of the horrid Monarch, she would very likely not be standing in the middle of his palatial bedroom as he slept. As his chest softly rises and falls in the mimicry of life (for how could one so heinous claim to have a heart), she cannot help but smile silently, her white teeth flashing in the ebony of the shadowed corner. Her people will finally be avenged.
She allows her intricate, silken, sable cloak to fall to the floor in a soft pile. A tad dramatic, she knows, although she supposes her line of work is similarly so. Her exposed arms, tattooed with the swirling black vines of an Stygian Martinet, are stark white, almost giving her a ghostly appearance. Her leather boots are deathly quiet as she stalks forward, the epitome of grace.
Nava slinks from the shadows, graceful and silently powerful. As she enters the dim light and releases the shadows around her, the Monarch grunts slightly, his weathered face contorting into a near snarl. His pale face, not different from her own skin color, relaxes as she freezes mid step. A moment passes, and Nava allows herself to move forward yet again. Her hand fingers the sleek, metallic hilt clipped to her belt. It soothes her nerves as she approaches the legendary monster before her. She pushes away the fear and allows the anger to fill her mind. Zaina, Garrett, Aidan. Their young faces, marred only by their blood, flashes forefront in her memories. Nava’s smile returns. Finally.
Nava allows the pointed tip of her sword to drag along the ground, making a shrill scratching noise. With a start, the Monarch bolts awake, his eyes landing on her with the speed of one experienced in locating the most dangerous person in the room. She knows he can see her face despite the darkness of the room. Before he can shout, she silences him by simply putting a finger against her smiling lips. “Nothing you say can save you now, your Majesty.”
“Am I correct in assuming my guards did not survive?” His royal Majesty’s voice is grave and firm, the deep echo of it nearly resounding in her chest.
“My quarrel is with you, not them, of course” she admonishes.
“You must excuse me, my dear. I had assumed an assassin would not discriminate.”
“You are fortunate, then, because you have obviously never encountered an assassin in person. We tend to be particular,” Nava stands erect, her sword arm holding the sword pointed straight down; it is a relaxed position meant to deceive the Monarch into allowing his guard to be lowered.
His Majesty chuckles deeply, “Perhaps. My honor guard typically catches any possible perpetrator before they get close. This is quite a feat, might I add, managing to infiltrate the most heavily guarded palace in the Amaranthine Kingdom. I’m impressed.”
“You try telling a legend that something is impossible,” Nava’s grim smile draws the Monarch’s eyes and he freezes in horrible realization. His somber, gray eyes roam her exposed arms tattooed in swirling vines, then her sable, leather armor, lined in oceanic blue that encircle her slight frame. An elaborate tattoo, shaped in the likeness of a sun with a crescent moon hidden within its depths, rests between her eyes on her forehead. Finally, his eyes land on her sword, a hilt the color of the ocean and a blade the color of the deepest ebony, lined with the blue of the ocean and sharpened to a very lethal point. “Impossible…” he mutters.
“Actually, quite the opposite. The Martinets are very much real, as you are about to experience firsthand. I’ve been waiting for this for quite sometime,” Nava derives a strange sort of pleasure from unsettling the normally unshakeable Monarch.
The Monarch moves to stand and Nava quickly brings herself into a defensive stance, her feet squared with her shoulders and both hands gripping the blade in front of her body. He makes no move to acknowledge the sudden shift in the room. “Martinet. I was wrong, it would seem. Discounting your order as a myth, some dark story concocted to spread fear, was a mistake.”
“Only one of many you have made.”
The regal leader refuses to acknowledge the jibe as well. “I will not fight you. If even half of the rumors are true, it is as you said, nothing will save me now,” His large frame turns to face her, his full height nearly twice that of hers, “It is only the natural way of things. Monarchs and Assassins, or Martinets, if you will, have always had their destinies intertwined. However, I do have a proposition for you.”
“Did you have one for Zaina as well?” Nava’s voice is dangerously silent, the shadows around her seem to lengthen.
The Monarch, to his credit, does not back down nor does he show confusion. However, the blink is all Nava needs to know the Monarch does not remember her lost friend. Before the Monarch can continue with his proposal, Nava continues, “How about Garrett or Aidan, your Majesty? Did you have a proposal for them? I expect not. Instead, you murdered them in an unprovoked attack on our sovereignty. They died, along with the women and the children and the men. There will be no proposal.”
“It was never unprovoked! The Stygian Empire invaded us and broke the treaty and killed our people! We never killed any mother or child! Don’t pretend you are innocent in this!” The Monarch’s voice raises quickly in his ire, attempting to speak over his assassin.
A sudden lunge quiets the Monarch, and he stumbles forward, eyes wide. The soft sound of metal sliding against leather is thunderous with the authority of fate itself, and Nava’s following whisper is equally so, “I don’t pretend I’m innocent. I’m not the liar in here,” a simple, silver locket lands gracefully in front of the Monarch’s face as he falls to the ground, “But they were.”
A guttural growl, followed by a harsh whisper of wind, “So were you once.”“So I was.”