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Chapter 25


Imperial Knight

Kronus’ plans are carried out successfully – Drakonia strikes South Africa –A new Drakonian coin is minted – A new coin is minted – The Regent and Seti-Kahn lead secret plot to kill Kronus – Kronus is honored by the Emperor and receives a new rank – Troubles in Rome – The Emperor of Rome puts a price on Kronus – The Stazzi are ordered to guard Kronus – Kronus returns to Yoshibeth, and prepares for the coming of the Emperor – Words of love between beloveds

 

1  Drakonus Maximillius, Emperor of Drakonia, First Lord of the Realm, did order with firm resolve that the plans of Kronus hold sway; and all those which stood in authority did rush forth to obey.

2  And all which Kronus said did come to pass, for Sulla did land upon the frozen shores of Antarctica, and there fell the next day upon him, a fierce and raging storm which beat harshly and without relent upon the armies of Rome.

3  And in the third day of Sulla’s landing, when his ships were far away, and he himself lay stranded in the midst of a cruel and bitter storm, then did Drakonia strike with sudden and unexpected fury against the city of Herculeum;

4  Laying upon the city and garrison a ferocious bombardment from the sea and air together, causing the very land to shake and rumble beneath the dreadful roar of heavy guns and bombs.

5  Sending upon the city an endless stream of rockets and missiles which did scream and shriek in a mighty rush; to fall upon the inhabitants of the region even as the rain, being filled with fire and steel and choking death.

6  Thus did the garrison of the city, fearing the onslaught of some great invasion, call unto the whole of South Africa to rush forth to aid them; and there came in swift reply, the garrisons of Lyconium, Niccocea, Mordredia, Praetoria, Phillippi, Ostia and Praxus.

7  And rushing forth to the beaches of Herculeum, the garrisons of South Africa entrenched themselves in preparation, to meet in fearsome battle the soldiers of Drakonia; yet were they themselves pinned down by so great and fierce a bombardment.

8  By such a ploy did Drakonia plunder the treasures of Rome, sending into the cities of Lyconium, Niccocea, Mordredia, Praetoria, Phillippi, Ostia and Praxus, a strike force of heavy lifters, and there was met but little resistance to stand against them, for the garrisons of the cities had rushed themselves away.

9  Thus did there flow into the treasuries of Drakonia, an overabundance of wealth; for there came out of the cities altogether some nineteen million talents of gold, four million talents of platinum, fifty-four million talents of silver.

10  And unto all these riches was there added also some 236 tons in diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals, topaz, amethyst and a great many pearls besides.

11  Now when the treasures of Rome had been carried all away, then did the forces of Drakonia withdraw themselves speedily; and when Sulla came again into South Africa with the whole of all his armies, then did Drakonia slip in behind to make secure and fiercely guarded the regions of Antarctica.

12  And the Emperor, being overjoyed by all his gain, did mint a new coin altogether; being made of platinum, most valuable and rare; having for itself an exchange rate of ten golden crowns.

13  And in the center of the platinum coin, on one side, was there found the golden likeness of Drakonus Maximillius; while on the other there was seen an eagle of gold with wings outstretched, bearing in its talons a great many lightning bolts.

14  Now the Emperor gave to every great commander a good many gifts and honors; for in the sacking of South Africa had Drakonia lost but some three hundred men; and every man of power within the empire did stand amazed at so great a victory, to hold in fearful awe the cunning of Kronus Maximillius.

15  But in the places of power did there grow a secret plot to kill Kronus, being led by the Regent and Seti-Kahn together; and throughout the city of Trajenium did their agents move most stealthily, seeking here, gathering there, such information as might prove to their advantage.

16  Now the Emperor was himself most greatly pleased at the increase of all his wealth and power; for in the midst of conflict and war had he bested the might of Rome, to shame it before the nations.

17  And the Emperor to himself did speak, saying: “I shall honor this Kronus above all other men; for in the whole of all my kingdom is there none which can prove his equal, to match him wit for wit, or cunning genius; for this Kronus is himself the greatest prize of all.”

18  Thus did the Emperor muse quietly to himself, and giving forth his command, he convened in solemn assembly the men of greatest power; that before their gathered might he might honor Kronus, to convey upon him the office and rank of Imperial Knight.

19  And not this only, for the Emperor appointed Kronus the duties and obligations of First Imperial Councilor, causing that Kronus should advise the Emperor in all matters of state; to wear about his neck the symbol of his office, being itself a gold and platinum medallion upon a heavy chain of gold.

20  And unto this did the Emperor give unto Kronus a thousand talents of gold; and unto the House of Kronus did the Emperor give still further, yet another fifty women, being themselves young and filled with life.

21  Now there followed after all these honors, a great feast filled with rough and drunken merriment, and the Emperor leaned himself to the ear of Kronus, saying: “Know you fair Kronus, how great the wealth we seized from Rome?” And Kronus answered him, saying: “I know not fully, Your Majesty.”

22  And the Emperor spoke again, saying: “In the halls of Rome is it reported that we have seized through violent cunning up to one half of all their wealth and power; causing the very throne upon which Commodus sits, to shake and tremble because of it.

23  Watch therefore, and guard you well the whole of all your house; for in Rome do the mighty gather to seek your life, while in Trajenium do the men of power seek against you some accusation whereby they might cast you down.

24  Take care, therefore, the things which you shall do; for there are many which favor the whole of all your doings, while yet others would drink your blood; yet are both camps filled with smiles and friendly banter whereby you might not know one from the other.

25  Wrap yourself in silent cunning, and watch with knowing eyes; for there are many which would play you false, to make as ruin the man I value most, seeking through some hidden treachery to pull you quickly down.

26  Walk, therefore, carefully and lightly tread in the halls of power, for intrigue is ever waiting and the shadows quickly gloom; for the treacherous man is ever waiting, being himself most watchful and filled with care; seeking but that single moment whereby he might cast you into death.

27  Yet hear me well Kronus and do not mistake, for I care only that you serve me rightly and not amiss; for I know that in you shall I make my name greater than all other Emperors before me;

28  Causing those which follow after to despair continually because of me, being unable themselves to match or fully equal such might and glory as I shall gather round about me.

29  But on that day when I shall see in you no advantage for myself, then shall I take swiftest measure to guard well the name and image of Kronus Maximillius.

30  For in that moment when I perceive the falling of some shadow upon you, I myself shall kill you swiftly and in secret; for I will have no man to think you fallen or filled with shame.

31  For in name and reputation shall you glow most brightly beneath me, causing that I shall draw from the brightness of your genius, the glory I seek for myself alone; to rise in glory to the very stars whereby I might stand apart as the greatest of all the emperors.

32  Guard well, therefore, the things which you shall do, lest lesser men through intrigue and cunning plots make wreck the labor of all your years; for there comes that certain moment when the myth of the man is greater than the man himself.

33  And in that moment shall I kill you swiftly, to give birth to some greater legend which will but serve me still; for in myth and legend shall you rest beyond the reach of lesser men; being yourself made immortal and ever present in the minds of those who rule.”

34  Thus did the Emperor speak unto Kronus midst the revelry of his court; and there midst the clapping and jesting of quick and mighty men, Kronus spoke unto his Emperor, saying:

35  “I shall guard well, Your Majesty, to do as you instruct; for in all my days shall I give faithful service unto you; and if perchance you deem it right that death itself should guard me, to save from ruin the name of Kronus, then shall I most happily yield, that in the grave I might serve you still.”

36  And the Emperor, hearing this, was made to marvel at the grace in Kronus’ word; and he set round about Kronus a guard of mighty men to watch but not intrude; and there was placed in command of the guard the man, Manegus Acquilla.

37  But in Rome did the Emperor tremble, while the Senate was filled with rage, being made together all embittered against so great a loss as they did bear; for all of Rome did boil and seethe against their shame and disgrace at the hands of Drakonia.

38  Yet did Commodus move swiftly, for he desired that the blame should fall on others and not himself; for this cause did he drag in chains before the Senate, the man Sulla Cornellius, and did himself bring charges against him.

39  And Sulla was heaped with scorn, and every man did curse the name, to pass on him a cruel and bitter fate, to crucify him upon the walls of Rome; and not this only, for all the sons of Sulla, from the greatest to the least did they crucify also; and every woman which bore the seed of Sulla did they impale upon the stake for all to see.

40  And upon all this pain did the Emperor add still further; for he seized by violent force all the men which did plan and execute the invasion of Antarctica; and those also did he crucify upon the walls of Rome, and beside them also writhed in agony the sons of their loins; and all the women which bore their seed did he likewise impale upon the stake.

41  Yet, notwithstanding all these harsh and bitter things, still did Commodus fear for his life; for within the Senate and the palaces of power did there burn a great bitterness, filled with loathing and contempt against him.

42  For in Commodus was fear and folly together mingled; for the Emperor did increase the burden of all his taxes, to seize from those of wealth and power, a heavy portion of all their treasuries, whereby he might restore the empire’s loss.

43  Knowing then that all Rome did burn against him, Commodus sought further to appease the men of power; for it was reported that behind the cunning of Drakonia’s might stood the shadow of Kronus Maximillius.

44  For this cause did the Emperor of Rome seek to take captive, the man which Drakonia valued most of all, to offer him before the Roman Senate; being hopeful that by such a means he might lessen the rage against him; for in the halls of all his power did the Emperor tread most lightly, fearing in the shadows of the palace itself, the lurking of some assassin.

45  Thus did Commodus place upon the head of Kronus a sum of one million gold sestersies; and throughout the city of Trajenium did the agents of Rome seek for themselves the man Kronus Maximillius; hoping themselves to take him bound unto Rome whereby the Emperor might offer up as ransom the life of Kronus for his own.

46  Now when Seti-Kahn heard the fullness of Rome’s intent, he thought to betray his son to them; to rid himself forever of the man he feared most of all; for he thought it better to shield his intent behind the designs of Rome whereby he might stand blameless before the empire.

47  But the Stazzi were ever vigilant and ruthless, and all these things did they reveal to Drakonus Maximillius; and the Emperor gave orders that the Stazzi should guard through subtle means, the man Kronus, even as they would most secretly guard the Emperor himself.

48  Thus did there walk with Kronus, the guards which all could see; being themselves commanded by the fierce and dreadful Manegus Acquilla; but behind the guards which all could see moved the guards which no man saw, even the men of the Stazzi.

49  And over all these things which could be seen, or which themselves lay deeply hidden lurked the shadow of the Emperor himself; for of all the men within the empire was the Emperor alone most cruel and cunning above all the rest.

50  Now Kronus returned to the place he loved most of all; and entering again the lands of his estate, there rushed out to meet him, the First Woman of the House; and Yoshibeth did fall upon him with many kisses, speaking into his ears words of soft endearment filled with many passions.

51  And Kronus did lift her into his arms and with a mighty roar did kiss her hard and deeply upon the lips; and he brought from out of his cloak, a gift of silver slippers, finely made; being themselves heavily embroidered with threads of gold.

52  And he spoke to her, saying: “Go quickly, my Love, and gather to me the women of my house and the chief steward also, and bring them into the arbor; for I would speak to them of things which must shortly be.

53  For in eight weeks time will there come unto us the Emperor himself and all his court to feast in the House of Kronus and Yoshibeth; and all things must we make quickly ready.

54  For I remember well my mother’s dreaming and have prepared myself to bring to pass the whole of her intent; seeing that even now do I have the Emperor’s ear in all things.

55  Thus shall I gather in one the sum of all my cunning whereby I might lift in joy and light the heart of every woman, to break in pieces forever, the fear and pain which does but break the gentle heart.

56  Go then, my Love, and gather unto our bosom, the women of our house; for it is needful that we make ready to receive in festive manner, the Emperor which would dine beside us; for he alone can bring to pass the dreams of all our heart.

57  For this Drakonus Maximillius would himself be greater than all the emperors which came before him; causing all which would ascend the throne hereafter, to remember well his name above all others.

58  Thus shall I lay before him the means by which he must attain a fullness of his heart’s desire; to place before his eyes the surest path to fame and glory, and if he choose to walk therein, then shall we but change the world forever.

59  Only, my Love, do not fear, but rest your heart in me; for I would give birth in you of that certain confidence which would guide the whole of all your actions concerning the days ahead, to fill your mind with sweet assurance.

60  For in the feasting of the Emperor shall I gamble the greatest daring, to bend the Emperor to my will through cunning reason for the sake of all my mother’s dreams; which if he will do, will gain for him the fame he seeks, while for women it will prove some great advantage.

61  And if perchance I should fail, then let us lay together down, to rest in sweet repose; that in the grave we might hide ourselves away, to rest in each the other in love and joy forever.

62  For in that moment when hope shall flee itself away to rest in the heart no longer, then is death more to be sought than the dregs of some bitter life; and the silence of the grave more preferred than the violent ways of small and angry men.”

63  Such did Kronus speak, and Yoshibeth spoke softly upon his bosom, saying: “In life and death I will cleave myself to thee; for you, my Love, are the sun and I am the moon, and round and round we shall but seek each the other midst fiery stars and gentle days.

64  Fear not then for my sake, for I shall ever stand beside you, to press my heart to thee; that in this life or in the grave, we shall but prove the joy of each the other.

65  Come then, my Love, and I shall go and bring to you the women of our house, and the chief steward also; that you might speak to them the sum of all your heart.” And so saying, Yoshibeth went unto the manor, to gather unto Kronus, the whole house together.

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