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“…Discipline…Obedience…Peace…” -Lord Raton SneedFounder of the Micronation of Siddeon Chapter II ALEXI And the wind was like a slow, howling dream. Puddles soaked the stone walk from where I stood upon the battlements watching as the legions below slammed like a title wave—except each drop that would be a granule of water was a man. “Ladders!” The call echoed down the walls as what appeared to be sticks rose up from the sea of armored men a mile to my right, and repeated along the battlement to my feet. “Alexi!” I felt a hand slam onto my shoulder. “Get out of here!” I was thrown back onto my rear as black arrows, thick as the pouring rain, fell across the men attempting to repeal the ladders, nearly missing my shins. “Barton, I-” before I could finish, an explosion cracked the sky; the concussion slapped my face, and popped my ears, forcing me to move my jaw to regain a comfortable feeling. A mile down the Cassadian Wall rose a black plume of debris. Even from my vantage point could I see the reddish mist of human blood as it drifted higher into the clouds that poured tears from Heaven.

“Get the prince away from here!” Barton screamed, ducking as an arrow glanced off his helmet at just the right angle to avoid penetration. Two men lifted me under my arms, gaining perfect leverage against my protest. The sounds of war faded to a drowning whisper within the walls. “Guard him.” Another said as they dropped me onto the chaise lounge beside a thick-glassed window. One of the soldiers stayed in the room when the other left. I was higher now, able to see the entire section of wall; the men appeared ant-like, zipping left and right like when you kick a hill, and the colony frantically busies to repair. “A view to a killing,” my guard remarked. “Consider yourself lucky.” I said. “Consider yourself lucky.” “Are you mocking me?” He didn’t answer, but I could see his eyes drifting up and down my torso. “I wouldn’t dare,” he finally stated. “You could be one of the dead out there. Instead, you’re my babysitter.” He smiled, and I could tell he must’ve been noble. His teeth weren’t black like the regular soldiers. “You’re of higher blood?”

He nodded, “Aye.” “What do you think of my father?” I knew the question was a trap when I asked it, and I did so intentionally. “I serve your Highness with the knowledge of what awaits me without.” “You dodged the question.” I scolded. “Prince Alexi,” his voice took me by surprise. He suddenly took a holier tone. “Do you know the history of this empire?” “If I wanted a lesson in the histories, I would have asked-” “Now it is you who is doing the dodging.” “I beg your pardon, sir.” “All in good fun, Prince,” he smiled again. “Siddeon is your home, sir…but that does not mean you have to like it here.” I leaned down against the back of the lounge chair and let out a deep breath. Little lines of fire scraped the sky as rocketeers behind the wall ignited their batteries. “He’s a genius, isn’t he?” I asked the guard. “General Barton? He’s been defending your father’s walls for almost a decade.” “A natural killer.” I whispered.

“Aye, but you’ll never meet a kinder man.” “I’ve met some in my twelve years.” The silence between us was filled with the concussion of war sweeping the length of the wall. “How am I to get back to the Citadel? If my father finds out…let’s just say he cannot find out.” “I will try to secure a wagon train once the roads are opened after the battlements are reinforced.” “And what will you do?” I asked him. He looked down and shifted his weight to his other leg. “I suppose I’ll go back to my post.” I picked at the ribbing on my breastplate. “You’re a good soldier. My father doesn’t realize the loyalty below him.” “I do believe he does, Prince Alexi. His Supreme Majesty Vassily has always-” “You don’t have to call him that…not in front of me.” I stated. I could tell that made him uncomfortable, for his eyes squinted just a bit. “His Majesty knows the conditions of which we fight, war is-” “Bull…” I muttered. Screams of the slaughter outside my window rose, and fell,

like tidal waves upon breakers. “I beg your pardon, my prince?” “I hear what the people say about my father’s leadership; about his failedconquest to secure the Eastlands, and his inability to supply the Empire with reinforcements. I’ve been to the Shantyvilles and heard the talk. People hate him.” I hadn’t realized my shouting until I was finished. The guard relaxed his jaw and cleared his throat, his gaze drifted to the ground awkwardly. “I apologize, sir.” I said in a low whisper. “Do not apologize to me, Prince. I have met your father, once, and he is a greater man than I. Talk leads to talk, but it should never undermine your feelings for your home, nor your father. I fight for the King of Siddeon, thus I fight for Vassily.” <> The wagons slinked along the pathways that trailed away from the outer walls like spokes on a tire, all intersecting some ten miles at the Citadel, the capitol. Beside me rode the Royal Guard upon horseback. “It’s a waste you know.” I said to General Barton who sat across from me in the carriage. “What is, your Majesty?” “Soldiers dedicated to my protection.” “You know the reason why,” he said.

“I know it’s a waste of men. I can protect myself.” “They do the protecting for you.” “I don’t want them.” “You need them.” Barton stared a hole into my face. His eyes were gray, but I could see life in them. There are some men whose eyes are gray and absent of that glimmer that lets you know they are human. “Besides, if you had stayed at the Citadel like you were told, then there would be no need to pull forces from the wall.” I suddenly felt guilty. “General?” He looked up at me from his book. “What are you reading?” He flipped up the cover for me to see. “There’s no title.” “You’re looking for the obvious, Alexi. Look again.” He always had a trick, some way to test me. I refocused on the cover. It was leather-bound, and certainly worn. The spine bore three lines in the center. “Well, ‘tis not literature of Science.” “Aye.” “Nor is it a narrative.”

“Because?” I licked my lips trying to remember my studies. “Narratives bear two lines upon the spine.” “And three are?” “Histories.” “Indeed, Little Prince.” “History of what, Barton?” “Many things. Did you know that prior to the foundation of Siddeon, there once was a nation far greater, far more majestic and sprawling than you or I have seen?” “Fibber!” I grunted. “Tis in the book.” he insisted. “What was it called?” I asked. I put on like I was disbelieving, but I knew better than to second-guess Barton. “I think it better for you to discover that on your own. Life is made for discovery and adventure.” “Yet you scold me for fleeing from home.” I said, with a half grin forcing its way onto my face.

“Adventure and war are two different things, Little Prince.” “You sound like Father.” “Your father is right. I saw my first siege when I was ten years old, Little Prince, and I’ve been fighting them ever since.” The carriage rocked more intense as we progressed over the ground pocketed with small craters. Amongst the broken earth the rear guard busied themselves digging trenches and breastworks. “You fought under my grandfather.” Barton scanned my face with those gray eyes, and nodded. “What was he like?” “He was a man, as any man could ever hope to be. He was noble, he was knowledgeable-” “I know that already, Barton. You’ve told me anything a common fool would know. What was he like…as a friend?” “He was gentle, and wise. But he was a ruler. I think you know what that power brings, Alexi. We will leave it at that.” He went back to his reading, leaving me to think in silence. I glanced out the window and could see the wall disappearing in the distance beyond the growing hills. Soon we would pass through the plains filled with tan, razor-like grass, and

beyond that the Shantyvilles that made up the Lowlands. Part of me wished I was living back when our Empire extended so far under the sun that the wooded mountains of the East met with the rock-giants and deserts of the West. Ocean to ocean was the reach, and the only lands untamed were the Eastlands of the northern forests. But those have long been lost, and the fingertips of my father’s reign have been trimmed until now all that remains of my grandfather’s empire is the twenty miles radius, encased by stonewalls. <> “Republic! The people demand a republic, Vassily!” “Senator Greyloom, do not make me remind you again whom you are speaking with.” The aged senator ran his fingers through his balding scalp. “I apologize, Your Highness, but ‘tis rather-” “’Tis rather you remember your place, Senator. My father’s decision to invoke a Senate was merely to keep peace and principal. You do not actually believe you own power, do you?” “King Vassily,” Greyloom continued. Barton ushered me to the side of the room, where I sat down in a small chair beside a decorated table. “…I am simply informing you of the options at your disposal, the High Council-” “The High Council is obsolete in my eyes, Senator. They were formed at the tail

end of my father’s reign, and since the war started to turn for the worse, they’ve been bribed, bought, and betrayed into corruption.” My father nodded to General Barton, who had stood patiently a few feet from me in the center of the chamber. He moved to the great table and sprawled out his maps. “Your Highness, you have advisors, you have help. Your father knew he needed aid before his death, and it secured his empire.” “My father was also a war-monger, Senator. That is not who I am.” The senator rubbed his mouth as if ridding a terrible taste. “Well, Your Majesty, war is upon you, and has been for quite some time. My services remain loyal, but I fear the future of this monarchy…” his gaze trailed to me. There was something in his eyes that sent a cold chill up my spine. It was like looking over a steep edge, and losing all feeling from your hands. As if needles had replaced the regular senses. “You’ll do best to remember your place, Senator. You are dismissed.” Greyloom turned and left. The whole time his eyes remained fixed on me until he hit the main doors, where he disappeared down the long corridor. “Alexi, I shall deal with you momentarily,” my father said. His eyes never looked up from scanning the maps Barton had placed upon the great table. “Thirteenth Battery, Company C is positioned with reserve elements just beyond the northern edge of the wall, my king.” Barton’s fingers danced along the map like a pianist. “Sixth Infantry under General Lander and dismounted cavalry are

stationed on stand-by, ready to repel the invaders should they successfully scale the wall.” My father’s eyes bore holes into the paper; his forehead creased in the middle like it always did when he was deep in thought. My mother told me I get the same look when I concentrate, but I never tried to see the similarity. “So…our walls hold, but yet again a new enemy has fallen into the salient against my kingdom…” “That is…correct, Your Majesty. It seems now that every militia and tribe has joined in the siege. What began as organized warfare is quickly turning into a hellish mix of siege tactics and shadowed raids. I’ve instructed my men to begin construction on the Cassadian Line. Trenches to connect the Citadel to the front. Should we be breached, it’ll be one hell of a fight to secure this land.” I began to feel like my presence was forgotten. My father stared straight at me, but it was as if I was not sitting in the chair. “On what distant land does the sun rise without the blackened clouds on the horizon? What land promises a chance of peace?” “Fear not, my king, we’re still in this fight.” My father’s eyes did not move. “Thank you, General.” Barton bowed and left the room, his boots echoing throughout the corridor. The room was left in silence, aside from the breeze flowing in through the bay windows that overlooked the Citadel Proper, where noblemen congregated around the senate building.

“You went to the wall.” Father’s voice was cold and his stare even colder. “I-” “Silence, Alexi!” The resonance thundered in the hall, causing a small porcelain horse to rock back and forth on the table beside my chair. “You deliberately disobeyed my direct commands.” He rose from the great table and paced toward the bay windows. The bookshelves beside me were filled with literature on Philosophy and the ancient religions of the tribes of North Amerlain. I couldn’t help but feel diminutive. “Alexi, I give you these orders for your safety. You are-” “I am the only heir to the Empire of Siddeon, the only thread holding the bloodline of our future intact.” Father was facing me now, but the distance between us seemed magnified by the way his voice drowned mine out in that great hall. “I’m glad I’ve become clear! Apparently not clear enough. You want to be a soldier, then fine, be a soldier, but answer me this: do you know what a soldier does?!” “He fights!” I shouted. “Ha! He fights, and do you know the risk of fighting?!” His voice thundered off the high beams of the ceiling.

“Glory.” “Death!” He picked at a button on his jacket. “You are negligent, naïve, stubborn, and goddamned stupid at times, Alexi.” My gaze broke and fell to the ground. I couldn’t stop my eyes from watering. My vision blurred, and I grew maddened. “I have a question for you, Father.” He did not reply, and I could tell he was not expecting me to speak back. I looked forward at his blurred figure silhouetted against the bay windows. “Tell me what’s to be left of my kingdom when your reign ends? The Lowlands?” “What did you just say?” his voice was but a whisper. “Come before me.” I hesitated. Thwap! His hand slammed the table with such a force that the small porcelain horse beside me shattered upon the tiled floor. I took the steps to his feet, and looked down. My teardrop hit the toe of his boot, and his palm struck my cheek. I flew unto the table, and slid to the floor, holding my numbed face. The tears streamed unchecked as he stood watching me. The anger in his face was absent, as was any sign of being. He looked cold and lifeless. My breathing shuttered, and I continued to weep as pangs rose up from my chest where I made contact with the stone table. I suppose my cries had echoed far enough down the corridor, for the maidens entered with the flight of tending to a weeping babe. “Take him to his quarters. His mother will be in to see him tonight before the ball.”

<> I sat in the bath, staring up at the ornate ceiling of the room. Mythic creatures— griffins, two-headed eagles, and mermaids—decorated the golden space above. A maiden poured another pitcher of heated water into the bronze tub. I watched her rough hands tremble against the weight of the awkwardly balanced container. She refused to make eye contact with me. “Look at me.” I said in a dull whisper. Still she hesitated, but finally allowed her brown eyes to meet with mine. “Thank you,” I stated. She set the empty pitcher down and bowed before exiting the large room. I leaned my head back down upon the rear of the tub, and suddenly felt the strain in my chest where bruises had already formed from my collision with the great table. Every movement I made in the water resonated off the walls of the room, reminding me of how alone I was. The door to the room opened. In stepped my mother and three of her personal handmaidens. “…And do not wait until the last minute this time. Guests will be arriving within the hour.” Two of the maids nodded, and turned to leave. I watched as my mother paced over to the window opposite the door, across the long stretch of tiled floor. With a swift tug, the curtains flew open altogether, revealing the dying sunset as it faded below the hills beyond the buildings that made up the Citadel. “Stand, Alexi,” she ordered. “You’ve stewed in your filth for long enough.” I rose and lifted my arms, despite the aches from my chest, and allowed the maiden

to wrap a warm towel around my body. Her hair was braided neater than the others whom often served my mother. The towel was as soft as any linen in the Citadel, and I suppose my mother could tell I envied its touch. “It is from the Southlands. Handmade. Far more comfortable than what comes from the textile factories of the Northern boarder, is it not?” she asked with a graceful smile. I nodded, and hugged the towel around my torso as the maiden helped me from the tub. The tiled floor was heated beneath my feet, a luxury I never quite understood, nor grew used to. “Come, my Little Prince. Let’s dress you and discuss some matters.” I followed Mother down the hall toward my bedchamber. Two other maidens were tidying my bed for sleep when we entered, and four more busied themselves with changing the drapery. My sleeping gown was laid upon the lounge chair beside the balcony, where a torch was already burning against the night sky, attracting all manner of moths and flying insects. “Do change, Alexi, before you catch a cold.” I made my way across the giant rug toward my clothing, and expected the room to clear so I could dress, yet not a soul moved. I cleared my throat, grabbing my mother’s attention, and made a face of discomfort as I looked toward the direction of the maidens. “What’s wrong, dear?” she asked. “I’m naked, Mother.” I said, trying to conceal the words in a hushed tone. The maiden with the neat braid had moved to aid in making the bed. She smiled in my direction, slightly.

“Alright, ladies, let’s move along,” Mother said, ushering the help from the room. “Wait, I would like something to eat before bed.” Mother turned toward me, her face frowning in apparent exhaustion. “I haven’t eaten since morning…” “Very well. Tamis, please bring Alexi something from the kitchens. Nothing too sweet, he doesn’t need that before bed.” “Aye, my queen,” said the one with the neat braid. Her wrist held a silver bracelet, peculiar for a maiden, and one I’d noticed before. As they filtered out, my mother began lighting a few candles near my bedside, and snuffing out the ones in the distance of the room. I changed into my gown and walked to where she had seated herself at the end of the bed. “Come, Alexi.” She pulled the covers to my chin, and I pulled them down to my belly, and watched her hand as she brushed the bangs from my forehead. “There was trouble today between you and your father,” she stated. “Yes.” I murmured. “How many times has he said to stay away from the walls?” “Plenty, but it interests me, Mother.”

“One day it won’t be so fascinating. Not when it’s your kingdom.” The night breeze filtered in through the window and caused the flames of the candles to flicker. “Is that why father becomes so aggravated?” “Your father was never a man for violence, but protecting a kingdom means dealing in violence. Especially during a war he inherited.” “Because of Grandfather?” “No, my child,” she soothed. “It began longer than that.” Her fingers began plucking stray strands of thread from the sheets. “Have I ever told you about the day you were born?” I shook my head. Mother’s stories had grown less and less as I grew older. The maiden named Tamis returned with a small dish. “Ah, there she is. Perhaps we will have time for stories later. For now I shall leave you in peace.” She kissed my head, and rose, pulling up the ends of her dress as not to trip. “Thank you, Tamis,” she whispered. “The guests are arriving now, my queen.” Mother nodded, and took one of the candles from the nightstand and exited the

room, her dress trailing behind her along the decorated carpet. Tamis placed the dish beside me on the table. “What is it?” “Pheasant, my prince.” I had never cared much for pheasant. “Thank you.” I said anyway. “Wait.” She paused and looked at me. “Your hands.” “What of my hands, my prince?” “They are fair.” I noted. “Not roughed like the other maidens.” “I have noticed, myself, my prince,” she said, smiling. “You’re not new.” “Not quite, my prince. I’ve been a maiden for some time.” She tucked the blankets in tighter around me. “What aren’t you telling?” I asked, sensing something behind her eyes. “’Tis not-” “You’re noble.” I blurted.

She stopped, almost appearing ashamed. “Correct, Prince. That…that was a long time ago.” “Who was your father?” “You wouldn’t know him.” She continued to tuck the excess linen under the mattress of the bed, constricting the blankets around, sealing in the warmth. “If you must know,” she continued, “he ruled a small kingdom to the West, back when Siddeon reached that far.” “You lost nobility due to my father?” She cleared here throat, changing the subject. “Anything else?” I sighed, knowing I wasn’t going to dig any more out of her. “Yes, in fact.” “Anything, my prince.” “Why were you smirking at me earlier?” Her face repeated the named gesture. “There it is again!” “’Tis nothing, my prince.” “Obvious to me it is something.” “If I may speak freely?” she wondered.

“Of course.” “You weren’t shy after bathing, but here in the room…” she shook her head, a smile glowering upon her face. “Because I knew you.” I stated, realizing what she was getting at. “Those other women were strangers…plenty of ‘em, too. But, I’ve seen you before.” My eyes drifted toward her wrist. “That bracelet I’ve noticed before.” “You’ve nothing to be shy of around me, Prince. I had five brothers.” “Had?” The smile fell from her face, as if the incoming wind took the heat from her body. “Correct, Prince…they did not survive the trek to the Lowlands…after the Fall.” I had read about the Fall in my studies. The year I was born, thousands flocked from the stretches of the empire to the Citadel, fleeing from the armies that surrounded from the one-time provinces. “I am sorry, my’lady,” I forced out of my throat. I felt horrible for making her relive that painful memory. “Don’t be, sir. Nothing you did.” She forced a smile, but her eyes glistened with tears. I watched her rise, and head toward the door. She paused halfway, realizing I never dismissed her, but she continued on anyway, covering her mouth with her hand.

EMPIRE – Chapter II  

After the Fall of Nations, society has relapsed to a period of imperial power. The ill-fated Aaronai Dynasty sees the reaches of its territ...

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