Marking of the Days

by Sincline Koutaishi

A Good Long Talking To

Shilne has never been one to leave well enough alone and takes this incident as an opportunity to showcase his skills in this arena. He follows me to my new chambers to pester me further, unbuttoning his formal topcoat and throwing his braids onto the desk beside my father's tin home.

"Get out." I growl at him, hunting for a bottle of wine to drink from, or anything for that matter.

"No!" He laughs. "Look at you!" He throws up his hands, "You are a mess over this girl. And you refuse to talk about it."

"I am going to cause you some grave harm in the next few moments if you do not shut your mouth and leave me be!!" I set my teeth, growling at him and pounding my fist on the table, anger boiling up.

But he ignores my yelling, "Vark... Beating on me will not take away this thing." He pulls up a chair, turns it about and plants himself upon it backward, resting his arms on the back of it, "If you love the woman you should do something about being with her."

"Shilne..." I begin to warn.

"Yai yai, stop your posturing." He interrupts, "Talk to me man to man. And do not lie to me that you do not feel for her. I know that you do. She has a power over you that brings expression to your face that no one could imagine you wearing. I saw one of those mere moments ago when the Princess asked if you were safe. She asked if you were safe."

"What of it??"

"You are on her mind... You are a King in need of a Queen. She is royalty—though human in the making... And you are obviously moved by her in ways that even you don't know... I remember when you first laid eyes on that girl. By Gods she worked a powerful spell on you. She made you shut your mouth. An enormous feat! You loved her from that very moment I would wager... Granted you didn't show it very well at all." He frowned, "But things are different now... And when things settle out here I strongly recommend you put on your kindest face and go tell her how you feel."

And at the end of that sentence I have had enough of him and I yell, rushing at him and tackling him and the chair he sits on, sliding across the marble floor into the fireplace. There we struggle until Hanta arrives, having heard my cry down the hall. She rushes in and grabs me by the hair, pulling.


"Get off of him!!" She shrieks.

I let him go to turn my attention to getting her off me instead, grabbing her by the wrists, "NEVER do that again!" I growl into her face. She is startled only for a moment.

"You are acting like children, the both of you!" She shakes loose and then I feel the sting of her palm against my cheek, "Act like the King that you are!"

Being chastised so by Hanta is enough to quell the rage that had taken me. I sink down heavily into a chair by the fire, still feeling my skin burning. Hanta is busy helping Shilne to his feet.

"Are you alright?"

"I am fine. We were just having a good scuffle." He smiles for her.

"Just like brothers." She sighs, "It used to be that he was like a father to you. And now you've turned into brothers." Patting Shilne's cheek, "You shouldn't provoke him so, Shilne. He is under a great deal of stress right now."

"I was trying to help." He casts his eyes upon me where I am slumped in my chair.

"Please leave me be." I urge out of myself, suddenly so tired.

"Come find us when you are ready." Hanta takes Shilne away with her.

The silence is worse than the noise, left here alone with my thoughts and staring into the fire until my eyes water and ache. I finally sleep there for a while. When I wake I go looking for the two. They are in Hanta's rooms, playing a game and talking about my behavior. I wait outside the door for a few moments.

"...You have to leave him alone about that." She was saying, "Maybe one day it will happen for him. Perhaps it will not."

"Eh, you know me. I am a fan of true love." He laughed.

"Yes, everyone knows about you, farmer Shilne." She laughed back, "Any luck with finding yourself a nice farm girl to give you hundreds of children?"

"Not yet. But I am dedicated to working on it. It is too bad that you are taken."

"No it is not. I love my husband... And I think you are ugly."

"Me?? I am gorgeous. You simply have no taste."

"No, I have taste. You are ugly. I have never been much for you blue-haired boys as it is. I love my husband's white hair. Now he is handsome!"

"Ahhll." He makes a face at her as I finally let my presence be known. "Ah, well, should I run?" He asks.


"Feeling any better?" Hanta gets up from the game and brings me a glass of water, "Drink up. You look dried out." She presses my hands around the glass.

"Thank you." And I take a long drink then yawn.

"Now there is that big mouth we are used to." She pats my arm, "Sorry about yanking out your hair."

"No troubles. It was well deserved." Stretch, "Tomorrow I meet with the 102nd in the throne room. I am looking forward to this... As I understand it from your listings, I will then be meeting with the Ministry of Information to let them know what they may begin to say... I can not wait to see their faces when I tell them I will be destroying this castle." And I smile, thinking of how nice it will be to see this place a pile of rubble. "How will the men feel about being my enforcing agents, Shilne? They will become the highest force in the Empire."

"I believe they will be pleased and take to it with great passion, as they do with all of their tasks. You need not worry about that. I will be sure that the troops are the one thing you will never have to be concerned about."

"I am pleased to know this is true." I regard Shilne for a good while. Hanta is right. He has become more like a brother than a child to me now. My trust in him has been deep and warranted. He has never gone against me regardless of the stupidity I have wrought across the days of my life. He has tried on occasion to make me recognize when something I was trying to accomplish was not a good thing. And on rare occasion I have listened to him. "Shilne..."

"Yes, highness?" He is formal as I am talking about affairs of the Empire.

"I thank you for your concern and for what you tried to do earlier... But do not bring that up again. Understood?"

"Understood but not with perfect agreement. I will do as you ask but I will not like it."

"Good enough." I nod. "And now we will discuss the remainder of the addresses. I will be talking a great deal over the next two days."

"It is a good thing that you like to hear your own voice." She jokes with me briefly and then falls to her task of advisory and attendance.

Hanta has been working well with the royal attendant and protocol staff to ensure that all arrangements are made for the groups that must be spoken to over the next few days. It is her job, and she does it well, to arrange things and take the burden of detail away from such events. Her extended work is to be sure that I do not look or act like too much of a fool. She would be the first to say that this portion of her job has been difficult, as I am wont to speak my mind regardless of the consequences. She will advise me if my words are poorly laid out in written text or speeches, and even tell me what it is that I should wear to address certain groups. Her expertise in these matters has made her renowned across the empire. I have been fortunate to have her service over my life. It still makes her laugh that she earned her Mastery as a result of having me as an ongoing project during her years of education. And I have appreciated her more than I have bothered to tell her directly, especially her confidence and lack of fear of confronting me even when I am enraged. Her Mastery was well deserved.

The Games Begin

In the morning I am glad to meet with my own troops in the throne room to let them know of their new positions. It is no surprise that they cheer when I tell them my father is dead. They have absorbed my venom for the old bastard over the years that I have led them into battle. I let them know of their promotions and that we will be actively recruiting more members for the divisions to fill the slots that have been vacated. I trust that they will be good judges of new members for they know what it is to serve and depend on one another for their lives. They will not choose new members recklessly.

I speak with great joy and seriousness to the newly promoted men who bow before me, "If you are not yet prepared to lead others into battle, do not hesitate to let your superiors know this. There is no shame in not yet being ready. There is great shame and disaster to be had if you know that you are not ready and lead your troops to death... Now bring me the 53rd... Every one you can find. Shilne, bring me Namden... GO!"

My troops are happy to oblige and thunder out of the grand hall to find our own internal enemies... And we wait.

"I hope you know what you're doing. This doesn't really match with protocol." Hanta breaks the silence with a sigh where she stands behind me.

"This is not protocol. This is revenge and discipline. That is why it does not make sense to your training." I grin to myself, thinking of what I have in store for the commanders and sergeants of the 53rd.

"You are not going to kill anyone are you?"

"I hope so." I laugh, still grinning at the prospect, "It may not be necessary."

"Gods, how can you enjoy this so much?"

"Stop being squeamish, Hanta... Ah, here they come now." My men come spilling back into the hall again, driving members of the 53rd before them like herd animals. They are thrown onto their knees before me. A wonderful sight... And my smile grows further. The event is now being broadcast into the barracks and hangars, every corner where military personnel might be. I want them all to know this is happening. That is why I have brought them all back to base, so that they can witness this change in power and understand that it is not to be questioned. Finally my objective is reached... The 53rd is surrounded and subdued by my men then Namden is brought forward by Shilne and thrown down on the steps to my new throne.

"Bow to your new King!" Shilne bellows at Namden and the cry goes up from the men. They want to see his blood almost as much as I do. My grin fades into a snarl, my teeth set in the presence of this old enemy who is now helpless before me. He is still full of fight though...

Namden rights himself in the commotion and turns on Shilne who responds gladly with a sharp blow to Namden's jaw. He staggers backward.

"Show your respect! NOW!" Shilne presses.

"I will have your head you bastard!" He spits at my commander only to be struck again.

It is important that Namden yield to me or that he die for refusing. All eyes are upon us now and there can be no mistake made. The 53rd realize they are in a bad position and are holding to their places on the floor. I can almost hear Hanta wincing behind me. She hates this. I live for it.

"Bow your head!" Shilne demands of him again.

"Never!" He holds his ground, enraged and ready to kill, if only the odds were not so far out of his favor.

That last refusal is enough invitation to me and I move down the steps to stand with Shilne and confront him myself, "I am your King, Namden. My father is no more. You will bow to me... Or you and yours will find you have no more home within the Empire... So bow."

"Never! Murderous child of your father's whore!"

His words send a rage through me and I fix upon him, drawing my blade, sending it flying at him. Off comes the top of one of his ears and part of his scalp. His cry of pain fills my ears, "I will take you apart piece by piece, Namden! And I will love the sounds of your pain as they come to my ears! It will be like music to me and I will make your song carry on for days upon days! BOW TO ME!!"

He was shaking now, realizing that this is no joke being had with him at all. I am deadly serious and will not tolerate his refusals. He will not save face before his men this day. He growls at me, clutching the side of his head as it bleeds through his fingers and onto the marble floor. "I will kill you the first chance I get." He hisses at me and slowly goes to his knees before me. I realize that this will not be easy, much as it is entertaining me to cause him embarrassment.

"Bow your head!" Shilne commands him and slowly he does so, jaw set with hatred.

I smirk at the sight, I laugh, and I turn to my men and the men of the 53rd. I let them see my ego at the conquest of my foe, throwing up my hands in victory... and then I hear it. The sounds of a man intent upon a kill, the drawing of breath, the movement of the air... Namden is on his feet and lunging at me, sword drawn. I had not sheathed my sword for good reason and now I put it to work, turning and slicing through Namden's body. The look on his face is one of great surprise as he is frozen in the realization that his life is over... And that I have taken it from him. He drops his blade, the sound of it echoing in the silent hall, and stumbles forward. I grasp him by his throat as he falls forward, looking into his face as he gasps, his eyes staring at me.

My smile returns as I look into the face of this dead man in my grip, "You thought you would kill me... Fool. How does it feel, Namden? To have your insides spilling out of you? Surprising isn't it?" They were indeed spilling out, slicking the floor beneath my boots. His face is growing pale from the rapid loss of blood as I watch and I am amused to be the audience for the last moments of his life.

He thought that it would be the other way. That I would be dying before him. He had said as much so many times... And now I drive my blade through him again, feeling the heat of his blood upon my hand and watching as the last bit of his life leaves him. His muscles are no longer holding him up, only I am. I can feel the pulse in his throat as I clutch him. It grows weaker and weaker, his eyes become empty and though they still are fixed on me in a surprised stare, he sees nothing. I tighten my grip, causing one last sound to come from him and then release him, feeling great satisfaction as his butchered body goes crumbing to the floor.

"Is anyone else interested in sharing his fate???" I cast my eyes over the room and the rage turns to pleasure as his troops bow to me and call me their King.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Hanta up by the throne, hand over her eyes. It certainly hasn't been the best way for her to start her day, but in some way I believe that this is what she expects of me and I would have disappointed her if I hadn't killed him.

At my command, the 53rd is absorbed by my troops and driven off to the fields for some exercise. They will drive those ego-softened creatures until they drop. Their division will be no more. I will split their numbers amongst those who are loyal to me and break their will to defy me, or they will die as has their commander. Those who have not returned to see this will be rounded up piece by peace and absorbed as well.

"I hope you are happy with yourself." Hanta grumbles after the transmission is cut.

"I am." I smile up at her as she shakes her head and leaves the room. "Ah Hanta... No sense of humor..." I regard the blood on my blade with a sense of deep satisfaction and then eye the body on the floor at my feet. No rag is about to clean my prized weapon and so I use part of his uniform that is not stained by his innards then kick his body over so that he stares at the ceiling.

"You and you... Hang him on main landing pad. NOW!" I bark and watch a few of the primaries carry off Namden's body, trailing pieces of him behind. This should make a fine visual treat for the Ministry of Information when they arrive. I wander out onto the balcony and watch the fun below as my troops drive the 53rd to breaking. Shilne comes and stands beside me as I am sheathing my blade once again.

"Three down..." He remarks, "You had better clean up before the Ministry of Information arrives."

"Mmh?" I look down and see what he means. Bits of my conquest have soiled my uniform and boots, "Ahhh... I kill him and still he makes me angry!!" I march off to my rooms to change, disappointed that I have this to interrupt my watching of the53rds humiliation.

Hanta is there in my chambers when I arrive, looking a very pale blue, sipping at a glass of water and trying to settle her nerves. She grimaces at my appearance, "Gods... Get out of my sight!!"

"Just a little blood, Hanta." I laugh.

"A little!! GO!" She looks away from me in disgust.

I retreat from her wrath to the safety of the bath and clean up, finding fresh clothing that she has laid out for me.

"I see you do not want me in uniform again..."

Clothing that is more royal than military will not stay my hand if the moment calls for death. She should know that by now. Apparently she still has her hopes for me.

"Tell me you are not going to kill any of them." Is the first thing she says to me when I immerge.

"I do not know what will happen, Hanta."

"Then I am not going to go with you. One a day is all I can stand."

"Come now..."

"I am being serious. I am not here to watch you gut your troops and government personnel. You are behaving just like your father..." She shakes her head.

"Rrrhhh... I will not kill any of them." I agree and then come forward, face to face with her, "And I am not being like my father... I am offended that you would say so... Certainly in my position he would have also killed Namden... But he would have also slaughtered the entirety of the 53rd instead of releasing them to be absorbed by other loyal troops." And I smile neatly at her, "Satisfied?"

"For the moment." She finally comes and picks at my clothing, making sure it is arranged properly, "Hold still." She brushes out my hair and pulls it back in a leather tie. "Now you are somewhat presentable. Hold your temper as best you can with these people. They will be your voice to the galaxy and you want to have them on your side."

"Banrek is doing a fine job of being friendly with them." I smile and then stop it as she is positively glaring at me.

"Banrek has never been described to me as 'friendly'." And her glare became worse.

"Settle yourself, woman." I chuckle.

"Move out, soldier." She points towards the door. "March!"

"You are not quite as threatening as Shilne."

Now she smiles in an evil way at me, "We will see how you feel after an evening with the tailors. You need some more clothing."

"Something to not look forward too." And off I go with her to my next meeting. In the adjoining hallway my guards join our march and shortly we arrive in one of the smaller meeting rooms.

No one here yet and so I ask my guard to stand down. I offer Hanta a chair but she elects to stand as usual. She has said that standing helps her to focus her thoughts. I choose to sit and after a while I pull out my dagger, tapping the blade on the table absently, thinking of how to threaten these people enough without killing any of them. It should be simple, as they are a more civilian group and my father has often set the fear of the gods into them.

Hanta snatches the blade from me on an upward bounce and I scowl at her for breaking me from my thoughts.

"No weapons." She scolds.

"It is just a dagger."

"No... Weapons." She slides it into her belt and comes to rub my shoulders, leaning down and whispering in my ear, "Do you know, I liked you a great deal as a child... When I simply taught you different languages. You told me how you were upset with the humans who were taking over our worlds. You were so cute then. You were angry that you were learning their speak but they would not learn yours. You said that the humans were arrogant and that you were going to win our worlds back for us... Little did I know you were telling the truth."

I laugh, "Ah the good old days."

"Yes, when you were simply a warrior in the yearning... Learn to be calm."

"Mmhh.. You ask a lot."

"I know." And with that, she stepped back as the doors opened and the Ministry of Information representatives enter along with 10 of the sergeants from the 102nd and Banrek. I stand from my chair and glower at them. They seem to be shaken. My decoration at the main port must have impressed them. And they bow to me, addressing me as King. This will work perfectly. Yes, they are more civilian than military and a small display of strength is enough to set them on edge.

They agree to my terms and hurriedly lay out a plan to separate the internal Imperial news from that which is filtered out across the galaxy. Banrek will be left with them to make certain that they keep to their word. He is pleased with this assignment beyond compare. The first news release constructed, I send them on their ways to do what they do best.

I next call the commanders of all the contingents and divisions together to speak their minds of what has happened on this day. They are surprisingly relieved. The 53rd had not been a thorn in my side alone. Their egos earned them a poor reputation across all divisions. The Emporer's High Guard no more, they will be subdued and reduced in rank. The High Commanders are pleased with the challenge of taking them all back into the fold of the regular armed forces. No ill will is held from the last conflict between my ranks and theirs. If there is, it is hardly apparent and I will have to keep watch. I prefer to trust in the honor of the High Commanders to keep their loyalty to me until I see good reason not to.

Pride and duty are often great assistance in these matters and I have worked long and hard to restore the honor of our troops and the warlord clans. Finally this is appreciated openly.

"The border wars are over. I will need all of you to be of service and defend our territories. We are closing our borders to them as of this day. This is not a sign to the humans that we are backing down. And if they attack I expect you to be merciless in your response. There will be no more Myceneas. I will also need your support to defend our carriers as we rebuild the Empire and our commerce paths... To push back the pirates who have been attacking our western borders and the trade corridors. If you have any concerns or objections to this, speak now so that we can resolve things and move forward."

Surprisingly the questions were few and to the point. No one objected to the killing of the 53rd commander. No one has objected to the closing of the borders to the humans and supporting the internal growth of the Empire. Strange...

And then after many more such a meeting with numerous government bodies, comes my torture... Standing still for the tailors while they attempt to replace some of the clothing I have lost to the depths of my chambers. Hanta enjoys this to no end—her face on the verge of laughter the entire time as she watches my discomfort. I insist that I have had enough and she tells me to be still, that she doesn't want to have to repeat this exercise any time soon. It goes on for far too long.

After this long day has turned well into night I go to my bed, still amazed at how well things have gone so far. I can hardly close my eyes and so I find a few leaves of tavisk and chew on them, letting their soothing effects take hold and force my relaxation.

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