Records of the Varian Empire
A new emperor
Blondsun was lost in a book of magic spells when his friend Sunray distracted him from a very convoluted passage. Blondsun was relieved for the interruption, as concentration was giving him a headache.
He was twenty-five, but geing Genn he was barely out of adolescence. Although his innocence had ended three years earlier when he had stolen the Varian Emperor’s life with a spell.
He had been considered an adult since, also because his family had all moved to Issanda. The Governor of Jinxie had welcomed him into his household and he had become a good friend of Sunray, but sometimes he felt he was living a second life. Locked in the ghetto that was the last Genn city, able to see his adoptive brother only because he was a magic user and could travel without Human means.
“Not the same reading experience of Benedetto Black’s novel, right?” Sunray commented as Blondsun stretched his limbs and closed the book of spells. “Is it true you personally know the author?”
“Yes,” Blondsun grinned getting up from his desk and following Sunray out of the room. “Busy writing the second book.”
“Hmm… why do you hide pronouns when you talk about him?” Sunray asked as they walked towards the Governor’s office. “He’s good for a Human, he has a wild imagination, but also did some thorough research…”
Blondsun guffawed. “Yes, and she’s actually a woman,” he said, unable to keep the secret from his best friend anymore.
Stunned, Sunray stopped in his track as he processed the information, then groaned. “I should have known!” He shook his head, resuming his walk towards his father’s office. “Why does she use a male pen-name?”
Blondsun chuckled. “Because she’s Human, she’s a woman and her family thinks she’s dead.”
“She’s proven smarter than many of her peers, even if your adoptive brother had to save her in the end,” Sunray said, amused. “Anyway, I’m curious to read her latest fantasy.”
“Keep her real identity a secret, though, we’re too close to Havenstock to let it leak,” Blondsun said, serious.
Sunray nodded as they entered the Governor’s office.
“Did something happen?” Blondsun asked, worried.
The Governor – Sunray’s father – looked at them, serious, and signaled them to sit down. His desk was covered with manuscripts and parchments, both sealed and unsealed.
“Prince Vario turns sixteen,” he said. “He will be crowned Emperor.”
So?” Twenty-nine-year-old Sunray stared at his father, puzzled. “He won’t lift the ban, Father! And we can’t go to him.”
“No, but the Sila can,” the old Genn said patiently.
The Sila had always been closer to the Genn than the Humans. Yes, they worked for the Varian Emperor, but they were of a Magical Race, like the Genn, and preferred dealing with their pointed-eared brethen than with Humans.
“Is Winged Liam here?” Blondsun asked.
The Governor smiled. “No, he’s flown to Xendaria and looks forward to your meeting with your adoptive brother.”
Blondsun grinned. “Thank you, Skydreamer.”
Kurt Allistairson was the only Human friend the Genn had left in the Empire. Kurt, his wife Beth, and their children – at the moment a little girl called Penelope who was almost two. They lived in Xendaria because Jinxie was too close to Havenstock, Beth’s hometown.
“Why has he gone to pick up Kurt?” Sunray asked.
“He can be our ambassador too,” his father answered. “He’s Human, he can travel freely – unlike us.”
“But he refused to serve Vario X;” Blondsun said, frowning again. “Why should he serve his son?”
“We all hope he’s different, better,” Governor Skydreamer replied. “I think he should really pay homage to the new emperor, even for his own good.”
“Yeah, so Vario XI can outlaw him as well,” Blondsun muttered, knowing his adoptive brother’s temper.
“Is he still such a poor diplomat?” Sunray teased. “He should have learned something – he’s an adult Human, isn’t he?”
“Of course, but he’s also a warrior, even if he now lives as a merchant.”
“Maybe his life could go with him?” the Governor suggested.
“Beth is pregnant.” Blondsun shrugged. “They didn’t even go to the Gladius Games this year.”
“Empress Reika knows him as Gladius Champion.” Governor Skydreamer pondered. “She could receive him. He’s been Champion twice already.”
“The first time with Vario X,” Sunray observed.
The second time the Imperial grandstand hadn’t seen an Emperor, only the Regent Empress and the underage heir. Prince Vario had commended Kurt’s prowess, but hadn’t asked him to join the Imperial Guard.
“Prince Vario admires the left-handed warrior,” the old Genn said. “He would probably listen to him.”
Blondsun wasn’t sure his adoptive brother had acquired any diplomatic skills, but promised to talk to him before he went to the Capital to meet the new Emperor.
Kurt reached the Capital the day after Vario XI’s coronation, transported by Winged Liam who deposited him directly in the gardens of the Imperial Palace.
Both requested to meet the newly crowned Emperor and the presence of the young Sila probably helped them to go through the many levels faster than any common Human visitor.
Kurt had already met the Emperor when he was still prince heir. Vario was blond like his father, but more good-looking. Even if he was only sixteen, he was aware of his personal charm and the fact he had become the most powerful man of the world.
“Your Highness.” Kurt bowed to the boy who was merely eight years younger than him. He didn’t envy the responsibility that had just landed on those still frail shoulders.
“Rise, Champion,” the Emperor answered, his eyes bright. “I hoped to see you again at the Gladius Games this year.”
“My wife is pregnant and we couldn’t afford the journey,” Kurt explained.
“But you’re here, the day after my coronation,” Vario said, sounding like the excited teen he indeed was. “Did you come to pay homage?”
“Of course.” Kurt bowed again with a smile. “And I hope your reign will be better and longer than all your predecessors’.”
“I wish to follow in my father’s footsteps and keep the peace in the Empire,” the boy announced gravely.
“Your Highness, I’m here on behalf of the Jinxie’s Governor.” Kurt decided it was useless to postpone his message. “The Genn request to be admitted back to the Empire, or at least to lift the ban and allow them to travel freely without being killed on sight.”
For a moment Vario looked just like his father as his eyes narrowed and his lips thinned in anger – an Emperor with an angel face capable of genocide.
“Right, you’re the Genn’s friend,” the boy said coldly, his enthusiasm for the Champion gone.
“Your Highness, the Genn saved my life more than once,” Kurt tried to reason with him.
“And now you want to return the favor,” Vario said. “But I’m not going back. The Genn have no more rights on these lands and I will not revoke my father’s edict.”
“Why?” Kurt asked, nonplussed. It couldn’t be a teenager’s tantrum, Vario sounded way too serious and determined.
“Because I think, no, I know one of them took my father’s life,” the young Emperor said, staring at Kurt who was stunned into silence.
He couldn’t tell Vario that he was right, that his adoptive brother Blondsun had indeed killed Vario X to avenge the unfair death of Silverstar and Penny. Only him, his wife and Governor Skydreamer knew that secret. How Vario could suspect the truth was anyone’s guess.
“Have you ever had a Genn friend, Your Highness?” Kurt managed to say at last. “Have you ever read their books or studied their culture?”
“No,” Vario snapped, frowning at him.
“Of course not, your father wouldn’t let you,” Kurt said. “How about the Sila?”
“I like Winged Liam.” Vario smiled briefly at the Sila who stood one step behind Kurt with a worried look on his face. “And he likes me. I know Genn and Sila are very close, they’re both Magical Races, but nobody will convince me the Genn are not demons. If this is what you came for, Kurt Allistairson, you might as well leave.”
Kurt sighed. Damned boy, he was more stubborn than his father! How could he convince Vario to revoke the anti-Genn edict?
“Your Highness, allow me to spend a few days with you to tell you about the wonderful family who raised me,” he begged. “I’m from Xendaria, I had never seen a Genn until the day I was orphaned and Sunriver’s family saved me from death…”
“No,” Vario said, determined. “I don’t want to hear about the Genn! I told Winged Liam already – keep your stories, the Genn are doomed!”
Kurt left, frustrated by his failure. He doubted Beth could have done better.
“He’s stubborn, huh?” Winged Liam said. “I didn’t dare telling Skydreamer, but I knew your trip would be useless.”
“You’re his friend, right?” Kurt asked.
“Yes, he’s a good boy, with some limits,” the Sila shrugged. “He was raised into hating the Genn, Kurt, he won’t forget. Reika never really liked them, and Vario adores his mother.”
“Will you do your best to change his mind?” Kurt asked, depressed.
“Of course, but I doubt I’ll succeed.”
“Thanks anyway.” Governor Skydreamer couldn’t refrain from sighing.
“How long can you go on?” Kurt asked, feeling a complete failure for not convincing the young Emperor. The Varian pride was already too strong in the sixteen-year-old.
“Until they chase us from here. We do have a place to go if things go too much down the hill for us.”
“It’s time you go back to Xendaria,” Blondsun added. “Your second born is on its way. Give a kiss from me to Beth and little Penny.”
Kurt hugged his adoptive brother, then Winged Liam brought him back home. His wife welcomed him with a serious expression. She expected the son to be as ruthless as the father and confirmed she couldn’t have done any better. But little Penelope was oblivious of the politics of the Empire, and she rushed in her father’s arms with a squeal of delight. Kurt relaxed as he cuddled his daughter, happy to be at home.
A few days later Sarah was born. Master Kurt’s shop was still heirless, but the young merchant was very happy to be surrounded by women. The left-handed warrior had been buried after his wedding, when he had gone back to his father’s trade for the safety of his family. Sometimes he missed his few adventurous years traveling the Empire with Blondsun – and smiled when in his wife’s book he found autobiographical events masked as fiction.
Beth had managed to write that novel she had had in her head for years – although to circulate it she had to sign it Benedetto Black – and was now writing another, while nursing her daughters, cooking and keeping the house and shop clean and loving Kurt more and more.
They were a happy family. Kurt hoped soon Blondsun could be happy too.
end of part 1 – continues next Wednesday