Marking of the Daysby Sincline Koutaishi
A Few More Days
In the days that pass before Hanta's return, the majority of the 102nd returns to the barracks of the central palace. The human Alliance is becoming tense, seeing our troops withdrawing from the borders. They are sending hundreds of communications to the Information Ministry, seeking any hint of what is happening. Banrek is doing a fine job of telling them to mind their business.
I have moved into the guest wing of the castle after having the bomb squad certify that it is clear. My troops move in with me. I send them to work down in the barracks, cleaning up the place for those who will be remaining there. My long sleep there has been enough to convince me that it is in despicable condition down there... I am not sure why I bother.
Thousands of soldiers from all branches are still returning to this place as ordered. The landing pads are full, craft are littering the ground as far as the eye can see and the sky is filled with motion. The barracks–though becoming cleaner now–are packed tightly with life.
After making the best of my remaining uniforms, I have the tailors in to do their work. I would rather just find a lower ranking uniform and be done with it but know that it would not be well received... Would be counterproductive to what I am trying to accomplish here. My patience for them is low and I know that I will only get a few things out of this meeting before sending them on their ways. They are nervous. The entire castle staff is nervous, made so by my curt behavior with the medical staff and in the vaults, all of which has been broadcast quickly through the place. They are not certain of what to expect next and I capitalize on this greatly.
My father's ashes are brought to me in a metal container. I marvel that such a huge man has fit into this small thing... Reduced to this. He now fits in the palm of my hand.
The jewelers and treasurers of the royal vaults have produced the gold tablet I have requested. The commander of the castle guard brings them and they leave it with me, looking horrified still that I have demanded this of them. I am pleased with myself beyond compare and smile at the two things where they rest on my desk. They make the mass of tedium that comes from running an empire quite tolerable. The administrative work is not unfamiliar to me, I have done it for many years. Only now I can do it in my own way, making my own decisions, altering agreements and creating new ones. I thrill at small changes that I know would cause my father heartache and headache. Every once and a while I find myself showing these things to the container, grinning and telling him of what I have done or undone.
"What? You say you do not agree? Well then, that is truly a shame, father... You are dead! Keep your opinions to yourself." I grin like a madman. It is truly beginning to settle with me that he is gone for good.
The news feeds that filter in from across the galaxy are wild with conjecture and this fills me with some excitement. The rumors are flying. The questions are coming. And Hanta has found her way to my new chambers at last amidst all of this. I feel a smile growing on my face and stand from my work to bow to her.
"Welcome back, Hanta." I lift my eyes to her again.
She just scowls. She has never been fond of flight and she is not fond of me either at the moment.
"Everyone out!" Shilne shoos the few sergeants out of the room and closes the door. "Now, we can finally end this mystery." He takes a seat again, "How are you, Hanta?"
"Angry." She doesn't turn to look at him, just keeps her gaze locked on me.
"Noooo..." He scoffs and draws her attention finally.
"You are not helping matters." She comes over and smacks him on the head, "Why am I here?" She casts her scornful gaze back upon me now.
"You are here because you are the best at what you do. You are also my trusted friend, regardless of how you feel about me at the moment." I smile for her, "Would you like some wine?"
"I am not here to drink. Hurry up and tell me why I am here aside from your flattery."
"Very well... Hanta, my father will no longer be harassing you."
"Oh? What could possibly stop him?" Eyes roll up toward the ceiling.
"He is dead."
Her gaze snaps back to me, "What??"
"Dead and gone to ash... Literally." I push the tin toward her, "There he is. Neatly packaged."
"Are you serious?" Her eyes are enormous, her mouth agape.
"Very. He passed of illness."
"That was long in the making! You must be thrilled."
"And so? I am hearing all kinds of things from the news feeds. What is the truth of the matter?"
"The truth of the matter is that now that he is gone I am King by right of ascension. And I do not wish that made public. At least not to the Alliance. I would like for them to believe my father lives so they may continue in their plots against him, leaving me to run the empire in my own way. Father did me a favor without knowing it.. He and his ego did not wish to have anyone know he was failing and so he threatened the lives of the castle staff to keep quiet about it. I have carried on his threat for the time being."
"How will you do this? They are going to find out eventually. This kind of news does not hide itself for long... They are frantic with worry right now and so they will be digging for information."
"And it will be theirs in abundance. But it will be information that I want them to have. I will not be addressed as King, I will retain a public title of Prince. When the Information Ministry speaks of things they will refer to 'the king' without ascribing a name. There will be two news feeds from here on in. As we have all seen in the past, the humans tend to believe just about anything that is broadcast. They love to listen to our news as much as we love to listen to theirs."
"I see... And then what? Why are your troops all being recalled?"
"We have much to do. I have to let them all know how things will be from here on in... These so-called 'border wars'... Are over."
"How do you mean?"
"I mean that we will lock down and patrol our borders and defend the territories that we have reclaimed from the humans and we will not be pursuing any further conquests in their territories. We have back the worlds that were ours. There is no reason to press our borders further. We have to concentrate upon maintaining the empire and growing it from within. Perhaps it is time that we focused upon economics instead of military might."
Hanta smiled, "I may like this... But why do you need me?"
"You are an advisor... So advise me!"
"I advise you to keep your voice down and your temper in check." She clicked her tongue and shook her head. "You are not off to a good start."
"I joke with you." I smirk and sip my wine, "The first thing we are going to do after I make this announcement to the troops and do some shuffling of those in charge, is destroy this castle. All of the empire's operations will be moved to Forth. That should make you happy, no? The palace of Manaleh will be inhabited once again. And your husband will keep his job and you will teach again at the Royal Academy of Namida."
"Perfect." She smiled and clapped her hands then stopped smiling suddenly, "Where has the old witch gone?"
"She is incarcerated. Father managed it somehow. Found something that distracts her from her concentration so she can not use her powers and so has kept her prisoner in the dungeons below. I will have her transferred to Avandon before we level the castle. I simply have not yet been of a mood to face her."
"There is a mood in which one would want to face her?" Shilne laughed.
"Mmmh... Not really."
"Why are you going to destroy this place?"
"It's a death trap... And an eyesore... Father ruined this world. Nothing will grow again in this sterile land." I look about the room at the way the walls curve in their strange way, "This place makes me ill. It is a reminder of all that my father was and I will see it wiped from this universe along with his name. This I vow... And now I need for the three of us to set to work."
"For a change I am glad to." Hanta bows to me.
And so we set to making plans. Hanta is invaluable as usual and after a long day many things are arranged. I find that this is greatly relieving my mind, having the goal set and the path to it beginning to be laid.
Shilne is snoozing where he has settled in a chair by the fire. I am amused by Hanta as she is talking to my father's container, telling him off for all the hell he has put her through over the years that she has been acting as my advisor and attendant.
"And... And... You are ugly!!" Her favorite thing to say. "I am glad you are dead!" She pulls back as if to strike the container and I realize that her drama has gone too far.
"Yai!" I grab her wrist before she can knock it over, "Hanta! Settle! I have plans for my father. It won't do to have you spill him all over the flooring!"
"That would have felt so good." She softens and smiles at me. "You must think me quite insane!"
"No, for I have been talking to him a great deal myself. It is rather therapeutic to tell him at last what I have thought of him. So I do understand." I let her go now, "Yell as much as you like, yet do not spill him." I laugh.
"Mmh... Ah, and speaking of ugly.... Look at Shilne sleeping. He can be cute when he is unconscious."
"Cruel woman." I sit back down and now watch her go to his side and smooth back his dark hair.
"Well he was quite adorable when he was young, when first his uncles had sold him to you. I wonder what happened along the way?" She smirks.
"By Gods you are a mean thing." He mumbles, eyes staying shut. "Is our late meal here yet?"
"Why don't you make yourself of service and go find out what is keeping it instead of being evil to me?"
"That would not entertain me as much." And then the doors opened, my guard allowing some of the castle slaves to bring in our food.
They leave the room happily as soon as the food is laid out and we enjoy our meal to the continued picking of Hanta at Shilne. They seem to enjoy this taunting of one another and it always makes me smile.
Eventually one of the slaves comes back to see our progress. She is human and terribly nervous as she clears some things away. My eyes follow her. She has been in this place for at least 5 years. I seem to remember having seen her since we took back Mycenea from the humans. We had taken a number of the invaders as our slaves, sending the rest of them running back into the Alliance territories. I take her by the arm as she passes by me, causing her to gasp and try to pull away.
"Calm yourself." I speak in human words to her.
"Sire..." She shakes from her fear.
"You came here from Mycenea, yes?"
"Do you like it here or would you like to leave?"
She shakes her head, tears forming in those strange brown eyes. She can not seem to find her tongue to reply.
"Speak it, woman. And tell me truth. What is it that you think of this place? Do you want to go back to Mycenea where my people once again live? Would you like to go back to your own kind?"
"Please... I have children who need me. Do not kill me."
"Rrrhh... I am not going to kill you. I am asking you a question. I want to know."
"I... I don't care where I go... I just don't want to be here. You frighten me." She weeps.
"You would go back to Mycenea or human territory?"
"I do not know... I have always lived on Mycenea. I don't know anywhere else."
"I see." I let her go now, thinking of the rest of her kind that inhabit this place.
"What is on your mind?" Shilne asks as the young woman gathers her wits and continues to clear the table.
"Upsetting more people as I have become so good at lately." I rise from my seat and again cause the little human to gasp. "By gods you are a nervous thing." I take her arm again and lead her over to the fire, sitting her down and putting a glass of wine in her hands, "Sit still and drink until you find yourself more relaxed."
Now her concerns are changed and she clutches at her clothing, staring at me with wide eyes. "Please... No."
"Woman, I am not intending to take you for my pleasure. I simply wish you to calm down."
"Yes sire." She gulps.
"On that same subject..." I return to my chair, taking my sword up from where it has been resting, "Shilne, I am off to visit my father's harem. Care to join me?"
"Shame upon you." Hanta clicks her tongue.
"Yai, not for that!" I scowl at her for her accusation, "Those women have had enough torture in their lives... Serving my father... I will set them free of that further worry."
"I would like to see this." Shilne smiles and rises from the table.
"Hanta, see to it that she rests until she is actually calm and can work without breaking everything from her shaking."
And with that we leave and wander through the halls of the castle, accompanied by guard as usual. As we head down the hall that leads to the harem my guard seems to be smirking, thinking that they may be in for a treat. The castle guard needs to readjust its thinking... As we approach the doors that lead to the main hall, those that stand guard move aside, bowing. Two more push open the doors and the eight of us enter. The women inside seem to huddle together for safety as they see us. The master and keeper of the harem approaches me, bowing low and then standing and smiling for her new King.
"My lord, have you come to taste the sweetness we have kept for your father's pleasure?"
"No." I growl at her, "I have come to set them free. You and your staff are hereby unemployed. Return to Forth on the first available craft and see if you can make your way there in some other work."
"Highness! You can not mean this!"
"Can't I? Try my patience and see how far it will take you." I move toward her, in no mood to debate with her, "Get OUT!!" They run before me, shrieking in shock as I draw my sword. I drive them out to the hall for a way and then stop, watching them go out the doors, hopefully straight for the port and the next flight to Forth.
Behind me I hear a cheer and applause. I turn and raise an eyebrow at the group of women who are clapping for me. I look upon their numbers as they grow, others coming from the surrounding chambers to see what is happening. There are all different types here. Many humans. And Iwho am suddenly their savioram not innocent of these crimes myself. At least I have ended my fascination with such things a good while ago.
I return to stand beside Shilne, watching the group bow down before me. "You are the hero of the harem." He remarks.
"Mmmh..." I return my sword to its sheath and step forward, "All of you are free of this occupation if it is your choosing. These doors will be locked permanently once the last of you has departed. If you wish to continue on with this, then go to where you will find such employment. Many of you are neither human or part of the Empire. I do not know the circumstances of your arrival here but I will take care to see to your departure, to whatever world you may have come from. Those of you who are Imperial citizens, you will be sent to Forth or to which ever territory you choose. Humans, take yourselves to the slave quarters for the time being. You have two days to clear out your belongings. Identify yourselves to these two here so that we may have record of you all." I offer up the services of two of my personal guard to see to this task and turn to them, "The Gods help you if you touch any of these women." I snarl at them.
And again they applaud as I take my leave.
"Now what? Who will you make question your sanity next?" Shilne jokes.
"No one. I have a bed that needs me to be in it. Perhaps tomorrow I will continue my fun. I hope that I am entertaining you." I clap a hand on his shoulder.
"That you are." He nods and sees me back to my chambers, taking Hanta away with him, telling her of what happened.
I take my time with bathing, half cooking myself in the hot water and then fall into bed, "Sleep well, father." The next few days will be busy indeed.
The next morning I watch as arrangements are beginning to be put in motion for all of those I will need to speak to. It is no simple process to address so many people in so many groups. Hanta is working with the castle attendants and staff to see that everything runs smoothly. We have opened the channels of communication to this castle from the galaxy at large and the messages come flooding in. Now I know what Banrek has been contending with back at the Ministry of Information. The information officers come and speak with me in the afternoon, asking for advice.
"Do nothing. Just let them message. Be entertained by their curiosity but say nothing unless it comes from inside the Empire and it pertains to comings and goings associated with the meetings of the next few days." I put my hand to my head, exasperated that they cannot follow a simple order.
"Yes, sire... But it is not just the Alliance itself that is messaging."
"Ah? What of it?"
"The Alteans have been sending independent messages. They've been in queue since we shut off the communications center. And they still keep coming regularly."
"Mhh... They are not part of the Empire, officer. Did you not understand my..." I stop, rethinking my next words, "Forward those messages to my Comm."
After the 30th hail comes in through my Comm from Altea, I could no longer ignore them... But I could not bear to face them myself. I decided to let Shilne answer in my stead, staying out of view of these people, but watching. Morbid curiosity? Shilne dressed himself in his best uniform for the occasion and smiled proudly as he settled in a large cushioned chair to take the call. Shortly there is a viewpoint on the screen from the castle on Altea. I fold my arms across my chest and dig my fingers into them.
"Forgive us for intruding, however we are concerned with what we are seeing happen." The Altean Minister was indeed looking concerned, the Princess standing a bit behind him.
"We thank you for your concern, Minister. Please do not worry for us." Shilne has snapped into formality, doing his best to speak to them in their own words.
"You've withdrawn your troops from the borders of Altean space and we have seen that your King's palace has been suffering from explosions."
"This is true." He nodded. "Neither of these things do we wish to commenting on." He almost winces at his own grammatical mistakes.
"Will you at least tell us if everyone is all right? Is the Prince safe?" The Princess was inquiring. It sent a wave of emotion prickling up my back. It must have spilled over onto my face as Shilne regarded me strangely before replying.
"The Prince is quite safe. Everyone is safe."
"Oh, that's good." She sighs and my fingers make their ways deeper into my flesh.
They bother Shilne for a while more before he decides he is tired of playing the part of diplomat, "Excuse me, but I will not be answering your questions. The royal family appreciates your concern, and yet invites you to keep mindful of your own affairs and clear of ours. Thank you." And with that he abruptly cuts the transmission. "Ahhllll.." He slumps back in the chair, hand going to his face.
"Ah, that will certainly ease their curiosity." I mock.
"Perhaps not, but remember you are the one who made me do this!" He gets up and looks at the last image captured of the callers, "The King needs a Queen." He said, "Perhaps we should make a trip to Altea for you once things settle out, sire."
I look upon that face that has haunted me for a good while and then shut off the Comm center completely, "No. That will not happen." I turn away from the screen, "We will offer that world protection from the pirates, but trouble them no more."
"Has your fascination with the Altean Princess ended so abruptly?"
Tongue-tied, I scowl at Shilne and leave the room without responding.On to 6-7