Chapter 1: The Imperial Raven’s Feathers
Part One: Reflections
Ara was sitting comfortably in his chair behind his desk, in his room high up in Zha’til. It was late evening, and no one but him and the night guard were still awake. In his room, it was nice and warm, the flames could be heard calmly burning in the fireplace, the cracking of firewood, and a pleasant smell of hot cocoa which he had prepared himself, a luxury in these parts. Before him on the desk sat his mug, along with a lot of papers.
Documents, plans, and reports of all sorts were scattered all over his desk, many of them outdated, ‘‘What a mess…’’ he thought, but was not bothered to sort any of it, he was not in the mood. He was deep in his thoughts, reflecting on past events, wondering if things could have been done a better way. He was beginning to doubt his actions, as its protector, he sure did get the imperium in a dangerous situation, and it was mainly him who pushed for such actions. Decisions were always made in parallel to his agenda, as he did always have the Archon’s ear. At least she is one to trust him, but now he wonders if that trust was well put.
Ara feels uneasy, but he is unwilling to admit to guilt, as he believes that is what the opposition wants. He sighs, picks up his mug and takes a cautious sip from it before setting it down on the same place, he glances over one of the reports on his desk, it was the death count of the enslavement of humanity within Kleriel, and the revolts that followed. He frowned, thinking ‘‘I didn’t want this…’’, then grabbed the report, crushing it with both his hands, and threw it in to the fire. Watching it burn he remembered the anger he felt at the time, that fury, many times he thought of doing the unthinkable, but he could not, that’s wasn’t him, and he refused to become it. He did not want to cause even more death, it would not solve anything, even if at the time he felt as if he could crush all his foes, but for what? There would be no gain, just lives lost blowing off steam, pointless.
Kleriel doesn’t conquer, it settles, it grows by itself with its growing population, it does not take land from others to expand, it simply spreads. Conquering a town or city would be useless to the imperium, Ara realizes this, as the conquered people could never truly be incorporated in to the Keelish system, nor converted. But if they were to be exported, forced to leave, then the city is empty, and re-settling lots of people of their own there would mean taking them out of their own place in the system in their communes, making life more difficult there for others.
A smile then appeared on his face, though he did remember one branch of humanity that may work well with the Keelish system. He remembered the brotherhood of the yellow cloak, that band of freelancers, refugees, and mercenaries turned legion, and grew in to a state. They had a similar system to their own, those who he had been allied to for so long, now may be forced to turn their backs on them by their neighbors and brothers in allegiance. He thought of his old friend Garias, whom he had not seen in a long time now, and most probably wont for a longer time still. As cynical as Ara is towards humanity, he feels he did make at least one true friend in it.
He returns to his papers, beginning to sort them neatly, archiving the old, burning the shameful, and reviewing the current. Updates on current fortification projects, colonial growth reports, contact with the Mireesh, and active trade deals with the Sapphire League, those from Mon-Taizon. Ara had never done business with them in person, he had not visited their lands either, he interacted with them as the representative of the imperium mainly through envoys and messengers, uninterested in this one small human nation, but in time they proved useful. Maybe he shall decide to journey there for a visit?
As he finished cleaning his desk, he finished his mug of cocoa, enjoying every sip and wiping the desk with a napkin. He then left to his bed, took off most of his clothing and lied down underneath his fluffy winter sheets. One last thought went through his mind before he shut his eyes, ‘‘I wonder if the imperial raven’s wings had been recovered yet.’’ That prized elytra from Ebongrasp that he had sent for to be retrieved from hiding abroad…