THE LION, THE EAGLE
AND THE SERPENT
THE EMPEROR’S MADNESS
‘Changes are made from decisions’
- Melchior Weinervalt, Archmage, Inventor, Philosopher
It takes just one word to picture the Great City of Myrcalia, capital of the Empire of Arcadia right now. Buildings were reduced to rubbles, fire and smoke everywhere, and the air reeks of rotting dead – people and undead. Here and there, the soldiers and citizens pile up and burn the undead and collect the remains of their comrades to be identified and buried properly.
Women and children come out from the bunkers, underground shelters or anywhere else safer, searching out for their relatives and family members. Soon enough, wails and screams echo throughout the city.
Mankind paid a great price that day – Day of the Devil. Many have given their lives to finally prevail against the Dark Forces. Brave heroes have fought and fell, and no one grieves Arcadia more than the loss of their future Emperor, the greatest of the Twelve Paladins, the Crown Prince of Arcadia Alexis Deveraux.
Marcus Deveraux, Emperor Sage the Fourth rushes into the room where his son lays. His heart is as though stopped abruptly on that deathly sight, and he collapses. Marcus’ second son, Cristophe Deveraux quickly comes to support his father.
The next time Marcus opens his eyes, he finds himself in his bedroom. He wants to get up, but he’s still too weak from the shock.
Father Bernides the morbit healer comes to him, saying, ‘Nak, nak. Please don’t get up, Your Majesty. You have been passed out for two days, so you need more rest.’
‘NO! I must see my son, Alexis! He must’ve been hurt from all that fighting. The devil, the war… I must see him and congratulate him for the successful defense, for saving our lives. Of course, the other Paladins helped too, but no one can match my son’s strength! He never lost a fight, Alexis, my dearest, dearest son…’
Still mumbling, the Fourth Emperor of Arcadia forces himself to get up and walk. He stumbles and Bernides supports him, waking with him, saying,
‘Let me take you to him, Your Majesty. Nak, nak.’
Bernides guides the Emperor on the long walk along the corridor.
‘Lo, aren’t we going to my son’s room?’ says Sage, confused.
‘No, he’s not here. Just go along with me. Nak, nak.’
Sage follows helplessly. Bernides sees his face and knows what’s really going on in his mind, so he just walks on, saying ‘Nak, nak’ sadly every now and then.
As they reach the chapel, Sage becomes excited again.
‘Ooh, is he in here? Praying to Vadis as thanks for our deliverance, maybe? Or meeting with the Bishops to restore the citizen’s morale. He is such a resourceful man, so fitting to be the next Emperor – Sage the Fifth, the Protector of Arcadia. Don’t you all agree?’
Sage talks to all people in the chapel, but they are looking back at him with dread and worry on their faces.
‘What are you all doing? Aren’t you happy that my son is the greatest of the Twelve? The future Emperor of Arcadia? Careful what you act, or you all will get capital punishment!’ Sage retorts, walking straight to the altar.
‘And what is this coffin doing in the middle of the altar? I demand you to get rid of this at once! We should celebrate our victory, not grieve upon some…’
As he takes a good look on the crystal coffin in front of him, the Emperor is stunned. There he sees in the coffin, his own son Alexis Deveraux. Wearing full armor, holding a decorative sword on both hands. Various, colorful flowers surround his body. His face looks peaceful, yet deathly pale.
Here he is. The Emperor, taking the second shock. Apparently, all this time he’s been trying to convince himself that it was just an illusion, a nightmare, a fabricated enemy trick that his favorite son is dead, gone – and all his expectations with him.
‘No, this can’t be… My son Alexis is very strong. Yes, very, very strong. Hey, this is just a joke, right? Because it’s a sick joke. Not funny at all.’
All the people there: the royal family, ministers, civil and military officers and the Paladins don’t respond. Some even mourn in silence. No one raises a voice. No one dares to contradict the Emperor in that state. They just knew one thing: another hero is lost. Not just the one in the coffin, not the one who has lost his life, but the one who is unable to be a hero or anyone anymore because he has lost his mind.
‘Alexis Deveraux! I want you to get up this instant! It’s an order! It’s no time play. You are a man now. A Prince, a warrior, the future Emperor!
When you lost the war against Lore, you showed your strength by recovering so fast from your stress and rebuilding the army. When you were lost to your brother, you stayed calm, open-heartedly let him claim the Arsenal of Light and the Princess of Lore. You are still the Crown Prince, nonetheless.
Are you just angry with me, Alexis, my son? Let me tell you one thing: Just let Cristophe be Vadis’ Heir, and you, you are the Emperor of Arcadia!’
The dead cannot respond – it’s obvious. The Emperor knows that, but his pride and principles are too strong, preventing him from seeing the truth. His mind refuses the information from his senses. The more truth and information he receives, the more his mind conflicts with his senses. His perception, his actions are in contrary from the truth – and that is what we call: insanity.
Finally, Sage comes to the boiling point. He shakes the crystal coffin and tries to open the lid.
‘GET UP! You are the true son of mine, the pride of Arcadia! ON YOUR FEET! Stand now like a true Emperor!’
Andreas looks at Bernides, and the morbit looks back at the dwarf with a nod. And then, Bernides comes forward and says to the Emperor, ‘Pardon me, Your Majesty. Palpetrcerebron!’
A jet of white light hits Sage. The Emperor drops forward, unconscious on top of the coffin. The spell only works on the brain in weakened, confused or distracted state as he is in now.
Prince Cristophe moves to carry his father again, but Carolyn prevents him. ‘Let the medics carry him to his room. It’ll be less risky for you.’
No one can guess how Chris is feeling now as he sees the soldiers carry his father away. He doesn’t even notice his wife, Eloise sitting in a corner, looking somewhat depressed. He just walks out from the chapel.
Cristophe goes to one of the towers of Levides Palace where he usually spends his time alone. There, he pours all his anguish and sadness.
I’ve lost a brother, and now my father lost his mind too. All because of that man’s doing – a man whom I used to call a friend!
He hits the wall so hard, his knuckles bleeding. Now Chris tries hard not to lose his mind too.
I’ve sworn, I shall not rest until I kill that traitor, Robert Chandler! He must’ve been hidden somewhere with Algaban, and I shall go to Mount Hvalgarr and challenge them both if I have to!
Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door, disrupting his chain of thoughts.
Chris shouts, ‘I’ve told you! Don’t disturb me!’
‘It’s me, Eloise.’
‘What do you want?’
‘I need to talk to you.’
‘Sorry, Eloise, but I want to be alone right now.’
‘I’m not here to console you or anything. I just need your help, as your wife. So help me, make me feel like one.’
Chris doesn’t answer. He just falls silent for a while, then goes and opens the door. Eloise is there, looking somewhat depressed and frightened.
I might be torn apart, but I better not destroy her and lose a family of my own, the family I just built.
With that thought, Chris curls a smile. Seeing that, Eloise clings and hugs Chris as though a heavy burden was just lifted from her heart. She cries tears of relief.
‘Now, now, what’s the matter, my love? I’m just being sad, that’s all.’
‘Your oath scares me, Chris. I don’t know whether Robert Chandler has killed your brother and made your father lose his mind, but he is a Lorean, just like me. I was afraid that you would pour your vengeance upon me and all Lore because of a traitor.
Honestly, I don’t believe Robert would jeopardize his country and me as a Lorean, unless he was framed or he is truly Vordac’s Heir. If so, he did it as an individual, and Lore has nothing to do with it. In fact, if he is the Dark Heir, all Lore will hunt him down.’
‘For your sake, I hope you’re right. Robert is a traitor both to Lore and to the Fellowship of the Paladins. He has been caught red-handed, but escaped. Don’t worry, Eloise. When King George, your father knows about this, he shall regret knighting Robert and hunt him down for sure.’
‘Oh, thank you, Chris. I love you. Oh, hey, your hands are hurt.’
Chris stares at his bleeding knuckles and answers, ‘Oh, it’s nothing compares to…’
Eloise doesn’t wait. She just kisses Chris’ knuckles and rubs it gently to stop the bleeding and ease the pain. Though it’s a vain try, it’s enough to move her husband’s sympathy.
Cristophe kisses Eloise, with a kiss so deep and warm, drifting them further, drowning them deeper into the sea of their romance.
Meanwhile, in Lore…
‘Robert Chandler, do you swear that you’re not the Heir of Vordac?’
‘I’ve sworn it and I don’t have to do it again. If I am the Heir, I would go somewhere else or kill you this instant, Rael’charon.’
‘Good. Then I won’t take back my words. I still believe in you, Robert, but for goodness sake we must put you in prison until we can prove that you were only framed.’
‘Thank you, Rael. I’m sure you can look through this ruse.’
Sage IV - Marcus Deveraux
Emperor of Arcadia
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