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Chapter 12


Kronus Maximillius

History is made – A special Standard is given – The Emperor honors the son of Seti-Kahn – The Emperor’s own ring – The son receives a name and rank: Kronus Maximillius, Imperial Tribune – The Emperor whispers to Kronus – A secret meeting occurs between the Regent and Seti-Kahn – The Stazzi – “What weakness can bring down this youth?” – Foxes and the wolf

 

1  Thus did the son of Areta stand supreme and highly favored among the cadets of A’Kontay; and in his second year as a senior was he appointed again unto the captaincy; and in that year also did the Emperor’s Standard go a second time unto A’Kontay.

2  Which thing caused that even every commander of the academy should cast their favor upon the son of Areta; for at no time in the history of the empire had any academy won the Emperor’s Standard twice.

3  Yet did A’Kontay win the Standard two years together; and in the third year did the commanders of A’Kontay, in the midst of great ceremony, appoint unto the son of Areta, still again, the captaincy of all senior cadets.

4  And all cadets did raise a mighty and tumultuous shout, to carry upon their shoulders the greatest of them all; to see in such honors as they would cast upon the son of Areta today, the shadow of some future honor for themselves likewise.

5  Thus in the third year of his captaincy did A’Kontay compete most fiercely; placing upon the fields of battle some three hundred senior cadets; and all that year, week by week, did they compete most strenuously and without relent.

6  And the whole empire did wait anxiously the coming of the Great Game; to see, perchance, if A’Kontay could again prove itself worthy to stand; and in the closing of the year did the Academy of A’Kontay win for itself, a third time, the Emperor’s Standard.

7  Thus in the achievement of the third consecutive Standard did the whole empire stand in amazement of A’Kontay; to set every tongue to wagging in constant wonder at so great a feat;

8  Causing every man, whether they be military or civilian, to speak in awe of the man who had captained so great a victory; to see in him the fulfillment of all their dreaming; causing that many should envy him so bright a future as he might make for himself in his service to the empire.

9  Now it was the Emperor’s wish that he show some special honor unto the Academy of A’Kontay; and he sent forth a great many orders and decrees; and when all things were made ready, the Emperor brought unto the imperial city of Trajenium, the commanders and senior cadets of A’Kontay.

10  And in the outer courts of the palace did the Emperor, Maximillius Drakonus, gather beside him the sum of all his councilors and advisors; and there gathered also from afar the five Caesars of the empire, being attended also by their councilors and advisors.

11  And there was also assembled the greatest of all the noblemen, being themselves the governors and administrators of every province, region, and state; being led in solemn procession by the kings of every nation; which kings did but serve the Caesars, even as the Caesars were made to serve the Emperor.

12  So was every level of government and power made to come unto Trajenium, to bend the knee before the Emperor; being organized and arranged in accordance to their rank and standing; being each one dressed in the richest and finest of tunics and uniforms.

13  For in the presentation of the third consecutive Standard unto A’Kontay was there created a deep and stirring excitement within the very heart of the empire; causing that the Emperor should declare a day of special holiday; having arranged before the throne and around the court, the cameras and reporters of the Office of Propaganda and Order.

14  By such preparation was it ensured that every man within the empire should see for themselves the might and splendor of the Emperor which ruled most harshly over all their lives.

15  Now there gathered in formal dress, the senior cadets of A’Kontay, standing at attention midst fearful expectations; and there stood in the center of the first rank, the captain of all those which fought most fiercely for the Emperor’s Standard, even the very son of Areta.

16  And there stood between the Emperor and the senior cadets, the Chief Commander of A’Kontay, Manegus Acquilla, and on his right and left stood the foremost instructors and centurions of A’Kontay.

17  Yet before all those assembled did the Emperor sit most solemnly and aloof, having on his right the Regent of the empire, while on his left there brooded the Supreme Commander of all military forces, Seti-Kahn.

18  Now the Emperor sat upon a golden throne and under his right foot was there placed a golden globe which did but bare the likeness of the whole world upon it; and in his right hand did he hold a scepter of ivory and gold, having engraved upon it the symbol of Drakonia, being in the likeness of an eagle with wings outstretched.

19  Thus did there commence the honoring of the son of Areta midst all manner of pomp and solemn ceremony; for the Emperor gave unto the Academy of A’Kontay a choice and special Standard which was gold, having in its center the likeness and image of Maximillius Drakonus, being bordered in the purple of the Emperor.

20  And in the giving of so great a Standard did the Emperor declare before the whole empire, that the Standard should remain with A’Kontay until that day when some other academy should win through blood and struggle, three successive victories against all other academies within the empire;

21  Causing that A’Kontay should be declared the greatest of all other academies; having gathered to itself the favor of the Emperor and empire together.

22  When therefore the Standard was presented, the Emperor did call up before him the chief commander of A’Kontay and he gave unto Manegus Acquilla a third gold chevron to wear upon his tunic; and from that day did Manegus Acquilla swear most secretly unto himself to serve the son of Areta.

23  Now when the Emperor had honored both the academy and its commander, he had brought before him an ivory box dressed in gold, being heavily laid with emeralds and rubies; and within the box was there placed a ring of victory for all those senior cadets which had survived the year’s competition.

24  Beginning, therefore, from the least to the greatest did the Regent of the empire call to stand before the Emperor, every cadet, whereby he might receive his ring from the Emperor himself.

25  Thus did every cadet but one receive the prize most cherished by all; but when the Regent called for the presentation of the son of Seti-Kahn, the whole assembly grew most still and silent, for they desired to see more closely the one which had captained so great a victory.

26  And stepping forth briskly and with sharpness, the son of Areta did present himself before the very Emperor, and the Emperor did but smile, being filled with cruel and deadly cunning; for he delighted in the honoring of the son;

27  Knowing that by so doing would the heart of Seti-Kahn be filled with fear and hate together; for the Emperor did delight in tormenting those men of power which served him;

28  Being anxious to see for himself whether or not this great one, or that great one might not break beneath the weight of all his cunning; causing that men of power should tremble most constantly in their services and duty to the Emperor.

29  Thus did Maximillius Drakonus look upon the son of Areta with most inward glee; and closing the ivory box, the Emperor spoke unto the whole assembly, saying:

30  “What ring could I give that would prove worthy of so great a captain as the son of Seti-Kahn? How shall I honor so brave and cunning a man as this?

31  For such rings as I have given throughout the years of all my reign do seem but pale and paltry before so great a one as this; for such rings as I have given already unto his peers do but fail to shine as brightly as the youth which stands before me now.”

32  And hearing this the whole assembly and court did smile and laugh at the jesting of their lord; and even Seti-Kahn did laugh most heartily, lest he offend the Emperor before the very empire which he served.

33  And the Emperor, hearing the laughter of all his guests, did most wanly smile in the midst of all his might and power; and rising from the throne, he stepped forth and laid his hand upon the son of Areta, saying:

34  “This ring alone have I found worthy enough for you, my son.” And in that moment did Maximillius Drakonus take from off his finger, the Emperor’s ring, and he placed it upon the finger of the son of Areta.

35  And the whole assembly, being found in every Caesar, and king and chief nobleman, when they saw this thing for themselves, even they did gasp in wonder; and the air was filled with murmuring and deadly speculation.

36  But the Regent of the empire, when he saw this thing, even he did brood most darkly against his father, the Emperor; for the whole assembly and court knew most fully that the son of Areta had the Emperor declared his own.

37  Thus did the Regent, being most anxious within, yet appearing all calm without, even he did cast forth a cold and hateful eye; and he did find the face of Seti-Kahn brooding darkly beside the throne;

38  And holding forth his attention, the Regent did nod most subtly before Seti-Kahn, to signal some dark and bloody intent, to seal between the two of them, the death of that son which the Emperor would honor.

39  Yet did the Emperor continue before the whole assembly; and holding up his hand to quiet them, he drew from his tunic, a scroll of parchment; and turning to the son of Areta, he spoke, saying:

40  “By the decree and law of the empire do I now give unto the son of Seti-Kahn, both name and rank; for this day shall he be known as Kronus Maximillius, being made to hold before me and all those assembled, the rank and office of Imperial Tribune.”

41  And turning to all those assembled, the Emperor spoke loudly, saying: “How say you unto your lord and master: Will you assent unto my law, and receive as worthy and most deserving of all these honors, Kronus Maximillius?”

42  And with one voice the whole assembly rose to their feet with mighty shouts, yelling with all their might both approval and assent, stomping with their feet and clapping with their hands the sum of all their favor.

43  But when the Regent saw all these things, he rose from off his throne and gathering his cloak about him, he cast the symbol of his office upon the ground and stormed most angrily away, to go again unto his own place.

44  Yet did Seti-Kahn smile at so terrible a sight, for he believed most firmly that he had secured for himself a most powerful ally against that son which he feared so greatly.

45  Now the Emperor gloried greatly in the approval of all those which were assembled before him; and drawing closer unto Kronus, he smiled with deadly intent; and he spoke softly unto the son of Areta, saying:

46  “Serve me well and I shall honor you; fail me and you shall die. Give unto me such victories as I shall demand of you, and I shall give you power beyond your dreams. Add to me and I shall add to you; decrease me and I shall decrease you, to crush you beneath my foot.”

47  Such were the words which Kronus, alone, did hear of his lord and master, Maximillius Drakonus; and with a sharp salute, Kronus answered, saying: “I serve and obey, my lord.”

48  And the Emperor, being pleased, turned again unto his throne; and seeing Seti-Kahn brooding darkly, he spoke unto him with wolfish cunning, saying: “You have sired for me a great and remarkable son, Supreme Commander; perhaps greater than even you yourself.”

49  But unto this did Seti-Kahn smile and say: “Yes, Your Majesty, the boy Kronus has proven himself, thus far, as being truly remarkable in his victory over school boys. But it is yet to be seen how he shall do in fighting men of fierce renown.”

50  And hearing this, the Emperor laughed most heartily; and slapping Seti-Kahn upon the back, as some good fellow, the Emperor spoke, saying: “Well said, Supreme Commander. Perhaps you can find some other means by which to test the true worth of so great a man as Kronus.”

51  So spoke the Emperor midst all his knowing; and all that day was the Academy of A’Kontay feasted and honored before Caesars, and kings and governors of the empire; and on the morrow did the senior cadets return again unto A’Kontay, whereby they might prepare themselves for the day of their commission and posting.

52  But in the fortress palace of Titus Germanicus did Seti-Kahn and the Regent of the empire meet most secretly; believing themselves secure from the watchful glare of the Stazzi, even that secret and most feared of all police.

53  For the Stazzi were made the eyes and ears of the Emperor himself; being in their zeal and devotion most fanatical and deadly; seeking within the very shadows of the empire such men as might betray their rightful lord.

54  For the men of the Stazzi were drawn from the lower classes, being in themselves most cruel and hateful towards that nobility which was made to serve the Emperor;

55  Having trained from the days of their childhood to serve the Emperor only; to give unto him a fullness of obedience and high regard; and before such men as these were even the most powerful of the nobility made to shudder in fear and dread.

56  For the Emperor did ply with pleasures and gifts of every kind, the men of the Stazzi, that they might serve the Emperor well and without hesitation concerning the innermost security of the state.

57  Yet in the fortress of Titus Germanicus did the Regent and Seti-Kahn feel themselves safe and secure; and in the secret chambers of the fortress did the Regent rage most violently against his father, exclaiming with bitter words, saying:

58  “Have you not seen for yourself Seti-Kahn, how my father would dishonor me before the empire; to set in place of me this boy which you alone have sired?” And so saying, the Regent flung his cup at the statue of the Emperor, to strike it full force upon the face.

59  But Seti-Kahn did smile, and he spoke, saying: “My Lord, we must not lift our hands against the boy; for Kronus now bears the Emperor’s ring. But there is a weakness in the boy which I, alone, do see.”

60  And hearing this, the Regent spoke, saying: “What weakness can bring down this youth which bestrides the empire? For he has proven himself already as some great one.”

61  Yet did Seti-Kahn answer most soothingly, saying: “The boy, Kronus, loves his mother above all other things, and will himself suffer dishonor and death before he would consent to harm her.”

62  Thus throughout the night did the Supreme Commander lay before the Regent, the fullness of his intent; and when he was completed, the Regent did but laugh and dance about with bitter glee, thinking himself most benefited by the cunning of Seti-Kahn.

63  Yet despite such precautions as they did take between themselves, still did the Emperor hear word for word the plottings of the Regent and Seti-Kahn together; for there was hidden in the stones of the fortress, a great many listening devices.

64  And the Emperor spoke unto the men of the Stazzi, saying: “Let the little foxes yap and play about, for the wolf is not asleep; and in a day they think not of, I shall leap forth upon them to tear them to pieces; that at my leisure I might devour them.”

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