As a bonus, here’s a singleton scene I wrote a little while back, set close to 1,000 years after “The First Sacrifice”. (If you’ve read “The First Sacrifice”, you’ll recognise one character who appears here.) One day, I hope to expand this, but for now, enjoy the snippet!
Fiat justitia et pereat mundus. – Let there be justice, though the world perish.
The Vermilion Empire has endured for hundreds of years.
But now, the conquered nations grow restive.
The emperor lies dying. He has no heir.
There is but one man, Grand Duke Koh, acceptable to all.
If anything should happen to him…
Conjuring up Nemesis: The Scholar Tian Kizo
Tian Kizo met the spirit in a desert, under a blazing hot sun. The ruins of battle surrounded the two men: swords and bows and guns, discarded shirts of mail glittering so brightly they hurt his eyes. Though he still reeled from the vision heâ€™d seen, it was the other manâ€™s words that were his focus now.
â€œYouâ€™ve seen my story,â€ the spirit â€” Artorius, that was his name â€” spoke. â€œYour turn. What do you want of me?â€
â€œJustice.â€ For all Kizoâ€™s rehearsal, all his careful thought, the words came tumbling out. â€œMy son is dead. Murdered. Iâ€™m no warrior â€” but you are.â€
â€œYou have no magistrates in your empire?â€
â€œHah!â€ It was a short, bitter laugh. â€œNone who would arrest the greatest lord in the land.â€
â€œAh.â€ That was all Artorius said. He folded one arm across his chest, the fingers of the other tapping on the hilt of his sword.
â€œPlease. Help me.â€ Kizo could hear the desperation in his voice. â€œYou ended your mortal days when you were betrayed. Murdered. Your wife, too. You must know how I feel. Donâ€™t you want to deliver justice?â€
â€œJustice.â€ Artorius stretched out the word. â€œAt what price? The world is not a fairy tale.â€
â€œIf it were, my son would still be alive!â€
Artorius held up a hand. â€œListen to me. What will happen if I kill your empireâ€™s greatest lord?â€
Kizo breathed deeply. He had to stay calm, convince the spirit with his logic. â€œI have a plan. With your help, I can summon another spirit â€” the Phoenix Prince, the founder of the empire. No matter if one lord dies â€” the people can rally to the Prince.â€
Instead of replying, Artorius gazed off into the distance. Kizo felt sick. He could not tell what Artorius was thinking, not under that hard veteranâ€™s mask. This was by far his best chance for justiceâ€¦
â€œThe world is not a fairy tale,â€ Artorius repeated. â€œIâ€™ll be damned if I make it worse. All right, Iâ€™ll help you. And the name of this man I should kill?â€
Let Kizo never again look forward so much to another manâ€™s deathâ€¦ â€œGrand Duke Koh.â€