“The fleet report, Caesar”
Muffled click. Knock on the door.
The grim face of Lucius Balbus, the Dux Marum, appeared. “Ave, Caesare. I bring grievous news.” Gaius titled his head to one side, and leaned back into his chair, his long legs in front of him. “I’m all ears.”
Lucius cleared his throat, and took up a denouncing gone. “I bring a charge of direlection of duty, disobedience, and treason against the empire, against the Legate Felix Mehemii, commander of the Tenth Legion.”
Gaius Cornelius Caesar, the Empire of Valkoria, sighed softly, hissing through his nostrils. “And what evidence do you have that corroborates this charge?”
The Admiral has been expecting this. “As Dux Marum, you charged me with leading the war against the Roklavs. To this end, I established a network of spies, double agents and the like, none Valkorian obviously, in the North. My spymaster made his report not an hour ago. During the Legate’s sojourn in the north, on his mission assigned him, to wit, to assassinate Valentina, he met with a friend of his, Vadim Moroztev. He was planning on using him to get close to Valentina, to carry out his mission.”
Lucius drew a breath. Gaius gestured at him. “I know all this. Go on.” The Dux nodded.
“It was at this time that fate took over. Valentina was assinated first, by a Roklavian murderess hired by the local crime lords. Vadim naturally attempted to take revenge, and Felix, to keep up the ruse, aided him, killing most of the killers, the murderess included.”
“This too I know. Get to the point Admiral…”
He nodded. “Yes sir.”
“Some years back, before the Roklavian Revolution, a cult of blood magicians held some sway. Now few remain today. After the fight, Vadim and Felix were rescued by one of these…blood doctors, during which time Felix received his unique talents. BUT. Vadim attempted to resurrect Valentina, with the help of the blood doctor. At the very end, Felix himself gave blood to Vadim, saving his friend’s life, as well as returning Valentina to beyond the grave! This constitutes treason, as well as aiding of the enemy, sire! This man must not go unpunished!”
NOW Gaius understood. “Yes…he and Vadim are very close, I could believe him doing such a thing in his desire to save his friend. I cannot allow this to pass, however.”
He stood up. “Guard!” The man looked through the door. “Find the Lord Numitor, he is still in the city. Tell him to take as many men as he needs, and place Felix Mehemii under arrest for high treason.” “Yes sire.” He man hurried away.
Caesar turned back to Lucius. “Thank you, my friend. The trial shall be held three days hence. Prepare your witnesses. Note: there will be no trial by combat, or any such sort. It would not be a fair means of settling such a charge, especially considering Felix.”
Felix’ room in the Grey Tower, an hour later
“Felix! Come out!” Titus pounded on the door with his fist. Don’t go out, you idiot, he means harm! Shut up! Get out! The door opened. “What…?”
“Felix Mehemii! I place you under arrest for treason, collaboration with the enemy, disobedience, and dereliction of duty! I’m sorry, filius.”
Felix was too stunned to resist, as two legionaries cuffed him to their wrists. Then with a roar, he flipped one through his door. Zzzzing…Swish! Numitor’s sword slid from its scabbard, and hung at Felix’ throat in a heartbeat. “Don’t. Go quietly, you’ve just put a comrade in hospital…”
Three days later
The great throne room was crowded, but alarmingly silent. Guards clad in shining armor lined the sides, while nobles and their families clustered around. Gaius day upon his throne, while the judges sat on chairs to either side of him, slightly lower on the dais. Caesar motioned with his hand. The Centurion of the Watch nodded to his men, and the prisoner was brought in.
Felix has gone quietly, but had immiediately attempted to break out. The attempt had left quite a dent in the bars of his cell, before Numitor had had him kept under surveillance by the Steel Guard. After that, he spent his few days staring at the wall, while the voice in his head raged about his stupidity and weakness.
“Legate, you know the charges. What have you to say in your defense?” asked the senior judge. Careful now, fool. You can’t fight your way out of this one…
“The Dux speaks the truth. I did enable Vadim Morotsev to save Valentina Arloven, an enemy of the state. I have disobeyed both the civil and martial laws of Valkoria, and an left defenseless. I ask only that my service to Valkoria be remembered when I am judged.” Felix bent his head.
The judges rose, and left the room to confer. Lucius had brought to bear two witnesses, a pair of agents who had been shadowing the Legate, both of whom said they had seen Felix on the table, with blood going from him to Vadim to Valentina. Unable to deny it, Lucius also brought in his spymaster, who spoke of many tavern rumors and tales concerning Valentina’s resurrection. “And many of these stories speak of a tall friend who aided the brave Roklav, Vadim.”
After a few minutes, an enter it’s for Felix, the judges reentered the room. Walking slowly back their places, trying the patience of the entire room, the senior then rose again, and slowly turned towards Caesar.
“The man this charged, is found guilty, by his own account, and by the words of these witnesses. The penalty for these crimes is death, by beheading, according to the rights of citizenship.”
Caesar rose, his sword in his hand, ready to pronounce the final sentence, form which their was no appeal. The silence in the room was deafening.
“Legate Mehemii, you are hereby sentenced to death, for crimes against your nation, ruler, and unit. May the Seagod accept you into his halls, if he so wills. Your sentence will be carried out immiediately.” Gaius turned, and strode from the hall. A brief moment, and then the place burst into pandemonium at the final pronouncement. “Take him away!” called Numitor, and the Legate was marched off, to the field outside the military camps.
Half an hour later
Numitor stood, his greatsword point down in the grass in front of him, as Felix knelt before a chopping block, surrounded by soldiers.
“Bow your head.”
He did so.
The grass was bright, different shades of green melding together, the smell of flowers everywhere. He felt the blue sky above him, heard the eagle scream overhead. The shrill of the executioner’s blade as it slid from its scabbard was not frightening, it was a familiar, almost comforting sound. He drew back his blade to strike.
Numitor felt his heart wrench as the executioner prepared to snuff out the life of his de-facto son, when he noticed the terrible expression on Felix’s face. The pupils of his eyes had widened, until only two black dots gleamed from the eye sockets. He began to rise, and even as the executioner swung, the blade whistling down, Felix flipped backward, and the ground exploded all around them.
Flame and smoke and ash suddenly materialized, a dense cloud of black smoke whirlingly around in the blink of an eye. The watching legionaries cried out in fear, as a terrible figure of darkness grew, casting a shadow of a black beast with wings. Numitor staggered to his feet, and began pushing through the smoke and roaring wind which somehow appeared. He could almost hear the roars of a ancient creature, awakened from a long slumber, as if a dragon had suddenly come down and wreaked havoc. Then Felix, who the figure was revealed to be when Numitor got a little closer, looked up at the sky, and let loose a answering call to the creature that Titus had thought he heard.
”IN VIA TEMEBRIS, SEQUID TE!”
Felix vanished. A whirling chunk of dirt and rocks came flying and smacked into his uncovered forehead, and Titus know no more.
The docks of Valkora.
A great pallor of ash and smoke drifted over the city. No one walked the streets, as Gaius surveyed the fields form the Tower. A great patch had been torn up and burned, and the trees were ripped and tattered, burned branches still smoldering. Felix had vanished, and when Numitor staggered back to give word of what happened, he collapsed, a terrible wound in his temple.
But down by the docks, a tall, hunched shape dragged itself from the water, and clambered on board. Two long objects were strapped to it, and the figure itself was clad in black and grey garments, a burnt cloak thrown around it. Felix clenched his mouth, and painfully snuck into the cargo hold, where he covered himself in a pile of old blankets. Steam rose form his clothes, as he huddled underneath the meager warmth.
Ten seconds later, he passed out, and his mind strayed from Allura to places far away…
The ship weighed anchor, and began sailing north, it’s cargo of smuggled Valkorian cloth and one mostly dead soldier headed for Roklavia, slipping past the Valkorian fleet.