The Emperor’s Temper
Meanwhile, deep in the Black Fortress within the throne room of the Emperor, the Emperor sat on his throne gazing at a soldier crossing the floor with a box in his hands. The soldier bowed as he approached the dais. “Rise and approach,” the Emperor said coldly. The soldier rose and climbed the dais, standing a few steps from the throne. The Emperor looked with curiosity at the box and saw the grim look on the soldier’s face. His countenance fell and he asked with a hiss, “What report have you from the Passage? Are Beowulf and his people taken?”
The soldier began to tremble with fear. “No, sir,” he replied in a shaky tone. “The outlanders were encountered in the ruins of Cariias, and they decimated the regiment on patrol there at the time.” The soldier opened the box and removed the leader of the unit’s head, holding it by the hair before the Emperor. “When we got there, there were only two survivors who told us what had happened before dying of their injuries. They also told us that a rebel band, which disappeared into the forest just before we arrived, helped the outlanders. We searched everywhere, but they were not found,” he added as sweat beaded on his forehead.
Rage boiled in the Emperor as he witnessed the head and heard the report. As the soldier finished his report, he put the head back in the box and cowered on his knees before the Emperor, awaiting his wrath, knowing that fleeing was useless. The Emperor’s face reddened and his eyes began to glow eerily with power and hate. The veins in his face and neck started to show as the Emperor rose from his throne deliberately, stepping toward the soldier, who knelt cowering, looking at the floor. He knew his life was about to be snuffed out by the Emperor’s wrath. The Emperor stopped in front of him and gazed down at the soldier with his face contorted in rage and hate. He stooped down and, with one fluid motion of his huge hand, snatched the soldier by the neck like a doll, picking him up so he could look the soldier in the eye. The soldier didn’t resist. He merely hung there, gasping for breath as the Emperor looked him in the face. “You dare to bring me this report!” the Emperor roared. “I will not accept failure, especially a failure of this magnitude!” He squeezed and the soldier’s eyes rolled back in his head as the Emperor crushed his windpipe and then broke his neck, killing him instantly. The Emperor hurled the dead man across the throne room with one hand. The body landed thirty feet away, rolling to a stop. “Kronos! Get in here now!” the Emperor bellowed, kicking the box with the head in it across the room.
Kronos burst into the throne room and saw the dead soldier on the floor near the door. He rushed by the body, immediately bowing at the foot of the dais as the Emperor stood at its edge, gazing down at Kronos with all the anger and hate of hell. “Did I not make myself clear? Did I not say not to come back without Beowulf and his people? Whose idea was it to bring this kind of report to my attention?” the Emperor hissed venomously.
“Your majesty, a failure of this magnitude is not acceptable. I accept full responsibility for it. Those who’re in charge of Solomon’s Passage shouldn’t have underestimated the outlanders. They’re being punished as I speak,” Kronos reported humbly as he remained bowed before the Emperor. “But there are a couple of interesting developments with this. First is that this Beowulf seems to have some kind of elemental prowess, sire. He killed one with what appears to be some kind of powerful telekinetic strike that exploded him. Secondly, it appears two of Beowulf’s companions are giant cats like those the legends speak of. None could stand before their fighting prowess.”
The Emperor ignored Kronos’ last comments as he glared at him. The Emperor’s eyes glowed red as he stretched out his hand against Kronos. Kronos suddenly began to writhe in pain as he levitated off the floor. He cried out in torment as the Emperor snarled, “You’re right about one thing. Those who’re responsible are being punished.” Kronos floated ten feet above the floor, writhing in pain as the Emperor tormented him sadistically with nerve-induced pain for nearly five minutes. Suddenly, the Emperor lowered his hand and Kronos fell in a heap. He lay there motionless for a few moments, and then managed to roll on his side to look up at the Emperor as he growled viciously, “Let this be a warning, Kronos. I’ll not tolerate this kind of failure again. Now get out of my sight! Beowulf has been allowed to join with the rebels because of this incompetence. I want everyone who was part of this foul-up dismembered and their heads brought to me. I also want all of the rebels wiped out now. I don’t care what you have to do in order to do it. Go into the deep areas and exterminate every last one of them. Burn them to ashes along with their precious lands. Lay waste to every hole they think to hide in…do whatever it takes. They will not defy me any longer!”
“As you wish, my Lord Emperor,” Kronos wheezed through the residual pain of his torment.
“Guards!” the Emperor shouted and two guards appeared. “Get him out of here.” Then to Kronos, he said as the guards gently picked the vizier up, “Do not fail me again, Kronos. You have used up your only chance with me. There will be no more blunders. Do I make myself clear?”
“Transparently, your majesty,” Kronos said as the guards held him up.
“Good!” the Emperor hissed and then waved for his guards to remove him. They gently carried Kronos out of the throne room as the Emperor sat on his throne, stewing over the failure.
“Make them pay for their incompetence,” the Black Prince whispered in his ear. “Show them who the master is. Send in your elite guard with the new armaments. Utterly destroy them and the world will be yours for the plucking, and then the galaxy.” The Emperor heeded the thought and a hideous grin came across his face.