‘The Emperor is your friend, your family, your leader, your god.’
Imperial Propaganda Campaign 174
The Blademaster began his assault against Saxen for the fourth time; Saxen quickly deflected the blow and feigned an attack of his own. The Blademaster fell for the move and lost yet another duel. Saxen was good with a blade, his best pupil. He had learned quickly and at the age of fifteen had already surpassed the Blademaster’s fifty years of training. “Good work today, I can see improvement in your attacks. Lessons are over for today, I will see you back here again tomorrow at the same time”. With that, Saxen quickly picked up his cloak and left the training grounds. After twelve hours of intense training he was very hungry and was ready to sleep
Ever since Saxen was a child he had served the Blademaster. The Blademaster was the emperor’s personal bodyguard for thirty years and was now the groundskeeper of the Imperial School of Warfare. Only the best students in the empire were allowed into the school and those who made it sometimes committed suicide before the first week was over. Training was harsh and once there you were not allowed out until you turned twenty and when you did you were forced into serving the emperor. Anyone who tried to escape was normally tortured by the Inquisitors until they were begging to be thrown into the meat grinder at the local butcher to end their misery.
Saxen was one of the schools special cases. He came from a family of peasant farmers who had less than two copper coins to their name. At ten years old he was taken from home by the Inquisitors, the emperors personal agents who carried out jobs no one else would touch. Before taking him they had burned his farm and brutally tortured his father in front of him. He was taken into custody by the inquisition with his mother, who was never seen again. He was then thrown in a dungeon and locked away for a month before he was released and forced into the service of a duke, who had him killing rats in the kitchen and cleaning. He got into a lot of fights with the other children and was always the victor; this was noticed by a very important man in the duke’s court. The Blademaster bought this slave from the duke for fifty silver coins and returned to the school, it had been five years since that day.
Saxen walked into the schools main hall and grabbed a platter of meat. He returned to his room only to find a note on his desk. ‘Report to my office immediately. –The Blademaster’. Saxen ate his food than got up and began walking to the office nervously. He walked in and saw fresh blood on the wall, a man in a black hooded robe was standing by the dead body of his former master. “I thought you would be here sooner child. You are late and that has cost your master his life. You are no longer a student of this school, as of right now you are under arrest and property of the inquisition. Do not pack your things, you have no property. You will be forgotten by whatever friends you had so do not bother saying goodbye. You effectively no longer exist.
2. Rebellious Acts
‘Trust no one but your own two hands when in combat. The man guarding your life could just as easily put a crossbow bolt in your back if you miss a payment.’
“Who the hell are you?” Asked Saxen as he stared at the body of the only person he had come to trust in five years.
“My name does not matter. In the name of the emperor you are ordered to come with me, resist and you will die.” Saxen reached for his blade and seconds later a pain shot through his stomach and he fell onto the concrete floor. The pain was released and the dark mage towered over him smiling. “I told you not to resist. I have an offer for you but you will not receive this offer if I see one more action such as this. I can be your friend or your enemy; it is your choice to decide. Will you come with me or do you want to stay here and die slowly, the wraiths will never let you leave without permission from the man lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood.”
“I will come with you, only because I have seen what your kind has done with the people have resisted the emperor.” They left the school and never looked back.
The Inquisitor took off his robes once out of the school, revealing a dark red robe with a black flame in the middle; the mark of a rebel. “That whole inquisitor act was just to fool the wraiths. My name is Markus Horatian; I am a recruiter for the Council of Six. We are the true rulers of this kingdom; the tyranny of the emperor must come to an end. He has lived for far too long without anyone standing up to him. Join us and revenge your family. Join us and save your mother.”
“What do you know of my mother?” Saxen was now turning red. “I know that she has been forced into the emperor’s personal service as one of his many vessels of pleasure. She is not treated like a human in his service and has been addicted to powerful drugs for years in order to escape what she saw the day she was taken from you. We need your help to take down the emperor and save thousands. This is the only way you will ever see your mother again.”
“I will join your order. If you really know where I can find my mother I will owe you my life.”
“Great, you have already passed your first test. I will tell you the rest of what you need to know when we get to the temple.”
After an hour of traveling they arrived at the gate of a massive stone temple dedicated to Rothgaar, the god of changes. They stepped inside the barred doors and were assaulted by the smell of cooking fires and freshly harvested produce. The temple was set up like a fortress, once inside the doors immediately locked behind them. The guards approached Saxen with caution before seeing Markus and returned to their posts.
“Welcome to your new home. You are untouchable here and it is from these walls that you will begin planning your revenge. Revenge the death of your father and save your mother, once this is done we can come to power and make this land a better place for the people of the empire.
For the next three years Saxen trained and plotted with the Order until he could defeat anyone in the temple during a fair fight. During this time he attempted magic training and learned the basics of how to detect and disarm magic traps but not much else. On his eighteenth birthday everything changed.
3. Death in the family
‘Please, don’t kil…’
Last words of an Inquisitor before losing his head to a rebel ambush
The birthday celebration was short. After four hours there was a banging at the temple door followed shouts from outside. The door splintered open as fifty imperial troops armed with crossbows swarmed inside and surrounded the group. Markus had already escaped and Saxen was on his own as one by one every rebel troop and five of the six members of the council were cut down by crossbow bolts. Saxen drew his blade and charged at the left flank of the attackers, killing ten of them. The confusion that followed allowed him to kill twenty more with swift blows before the remaining soldiers retreated. Markus came out of hiding and yelled to him to chase after the attackers. Saxen quickly ran out the doors and followed his attackers.
He followed them for five miles before they finally arrived at an outpost. He snuck inside posing as a laborer and followed the remaining attackers to the military section. Once there a group of five inquisitors walked towards them and began questioning them about why they failed. Nineteen of the twenty remaining soldiers were executed on the spot and the captain was tied up by the inquisitors who than began to recite a spell under their breaths. Once the final spell was complete, the captain’s skin began to boil and he began to scream out in pain. “You have failed us greatly. The emperor requested nicely that you get the boy and you insulted him by losing your entire unit and accomplishing nothing but killing off some criminals. Your service is no longer required and you are now permanently relieved of duty”.
With that, the captain screamed more as his body began to disfigure itself to the point that he was no longer recognizable as a human. If he could, he would have slit his own throat by now and if someone nearby had the courage they would have put a bolt through his heart to end his suffering. No one did. Saxen saw an opening as the inquisitors went into a trance while performing a death spell he had witnessed perform before. He quickly jumped out and interrupted the spell with the removal of the leaders head. This caused the remaining inquisitors to break off the spell and turn towards Saxen, who was now confused at what to do next since he didn’t even think the first plan would work. “You are the one everyone has been looking for. It is so kind of you to walk right into our little camp and turn yourself in, now drop your weapon or we will bind you here until the emperor arrives. He wants to have a talk with you.
Saxen walked over the head of the inquisitor he had slain and than to his body; the body of his father.
4. Imperial Greeting
‘War is like a game of cards with less cards and more blood.’
The emperor arrived at the camp and walked towards the area where Saxen was being held. He walked inside and sat down in front of the confused man and began talking to him. “I am your emperor. I know what you have been told by your current friends but I can assure I am not evil and my men did not kill your parents. You were arrested for your own safety and you have become a great weapons master. I see that you have become acquainted with your father already so I won’t need to introduce him to you. What I have to say is important; the cult of Rothgaar is using you, they know that you have skills that surpass any warrior, and there have been prophecies that foretold your birth and spoke of how the one to command your loyalty would win control of this empire. You must join us before it is too late and the cult of change kills millions. You must return to the temple and kill the rogue inquisitor Markus Horatian before it is too late.”
“How can I be sure that you are not lying to me to gain my trust? I know what you are doing to my mother.” “Your mother has been held in the rebel dungeons since Markus attacked your home and tortured your father in an attempt to force him to join The Order. I should have known he would use her as bait to make you try to kill me. Go back now before it is too late.”
Markus was supplied with a horse and a new sword. He rode through five miles of familiar forest until reaching the front steps of the temple. The sky was the color of blood and the bodies of former cult members were lying outside the temple in flames. Markus was crouched on the roof of the temple and watching as his friends burned when he saw Saxen approaching from the forest line and ran inside. Saxen stormed through the temple doors and drew his blade when suddenly he felt like the weight of the entire building had been placed on top of him. He fell to the ground and was unable to get up as Markus walked out of a door that he had never seen before. He was followed by a familiar woman who looked like she hadn’t seen the sun in ten years.
“If you swear an oath to serve me, she will live and be released. If you do not she will hang as you watch before I slit your throat and leave you on the emperors steps. I hope you choose wisely”. “I will never swear an oath to server you and your god. You lied to me, murdered a friend of mine and caused me to kill my own father. I will not fight for a man who claims to fight for justice to cover up the fact that he is really just a madman who takes pleasure in killing in the name of a false god. You will not have my oath and you will not kill my mother. Take my life first if you can.”
Saxen broke the bond and charged at the priest sword drawn. As he drew near the priest disappeared and was behind him with a poisoned dagger, which Saxen deflected easily after receiving a small scratch on his chest. He swung his sword in rage and killed the air in front of him as Markus cast another spell and appeared ten feet away. Saxen breathed deeply and made a final charge with unexpected force that caught the priest off-guard. He cut off both of his hands and tied him down.
Laughing, Markus lied there in his chains. “You will not live out the night. If I die, you will die as well, I have the only cure for the poison that I cut into you. Let me live”. “I am not going to kill you, just make living the rest of your life extremely painful”. Saxen drew a dagger from his belt and forced the priest’s mouth open before cutting out his tongue. Markus screamed in pain and choked on blood as he was forced to swallow his own tongue. The pain alone was enough to knock him out and soon his eyes were closed. Saxen began to stumble and the poison began to take affect. His mother ran over and tried to help him but it was too late, he died shortly after the fight had ended.
The thoughts of Markus Horatian after waking up in an imperial jail cell
The streets were lined by thousands of mourners as the funeral procession began. Once they had reached their destination, the body of Saxen, his father and his mother were all placed on the funeral pyre and the flame was lit. As they burned the emperor spoke to the crowd.
“The people before you today served the empire with great courage; all three of them former peasants have become heroes worthy of the history books. Saxen has killed the rogue inquisitor and leader of the cult of change, Markus Horatian, who has kept me in hiding for all these years. From the day forth you will see more of me. The empire is once again safe and the civil war has come to a close. Markus Horatian is imprisoned and his followers have all been slain. With peace comes a great price though. These people lost their lives to save yours, I ask you now to pay your respects to them”. The next day Markus Horatian was hung and the citizens of the empire rejoiced. A week later the emperor had a crossbow bolt in his back.