The Final Hours of PeaceFebruary 17th, 4907 YDC (Yllendyr Dynastic Calendar)Ylleria, Capital of the Imperial Yllendyr Sovereignty
Temdra awoke from her slumber at the sound of banging on the door. "What on earth is it," she mumbled to herself. She opened one eye to the clock on the wall. Four AM. Of course. She had quite enough of these stuffy nobles and their sense of entitlement. They couldn't be bothered to find any of the maids on duty, so naturally they would rap on her
door. She begrudgingly rose, throwing on her uniform as fast as possible before answering the door. What she expected was some drunken nobleman, but what she saw instead was one of her fellow maids, Idedri.
"Temdra, I'm sorry to bother you so early, but they called for all of our attendance." Temdra's eyebrows shot up in surprise even before the next words came out of her mouth. "The Emperor is dying." The elderly king had been sick for a long time, so this shouldn’t have surprised her, but still, it was a shock.
Temdra stood alongside Idedri and the other maids at the edge of the room. It was the royal bedchamber, a place Temdra had only before dreamed of seeing, as personal maid to the Fifth (and last) Prince, Nidrak, a young boy of sixteen years old. The old stone castle walls were adorned with the personal sigil of the 75th Emperor, a basilisk on a yellow shield. There in the center of the room, the wizened old king lay in the ornate silver-framed bed, speaking softly with his wife the Empress. The two twin brothers, the Second Princes, Olarth and Ecruir, sat on opposite sides of the bed next to him, and for good reason. The two had been rivals ever since they were born, since some maid had mixed the two up sixty years ago and it wasn’t sure which one had been born first. They were convinced they both couldn’t be second, which meant one of them had to be third. The two’s bitterness was born in those early years of their childhood, but it only grew more intense over the years as they competed for their father’s favouritism. Only their father’s imminent demise calmed the two enough to not fight while in the same room. They couldn’t resist occasionally directing a stray glare at the other, though. The Fourth Prince, Filadi, sat at the end of the bed, crying.
Missing was the Crown Prince, Vomlur. He was a handsome, strong, confident man, the man no one doubted would rule powerfully in his father’s absence. He mourned his father’s sickness when it began, but a gleam had begun to shine in his eyes for the last few days. It was clear he relished the thought of his reign beginning after so long standing in the background at official events.
The absence of the Crown Prince had begun to disturb the Empress. Empress Madessi called Temdra over, and she hurried swiftly to her side.
“Do fetch my son for me, I have no idea what he is doing but it surely can’t be more important than this.”
“Yes, my Empress. At once.”
Temdra quickly scurried out of the room, as a mouse might when commanded by a lion. She had never before even been spoken to by the Empress, and to have been issued a task like this was a great honour. She retraced her steps back down the royal hall, towards the Princes’ rooms.
Arriving at Vomlur’s door, she reached out, and then trembling, hesitated to knock. That brief seconds-long hesitation was just long enough for another sound to ring out.
A cry of terrible pain. A cry of death.
Temdra jumped in surprise, and slammed the door open. “My prince, what happene…”
Before her, lying in a pool of blood, was the Crown Prince himself.
It took some time for Temdra to collect herself, and then she sprinted. Sprinted to the royal bedroom, because she had to tell the Emperor before –
The Empress was crying. The Emperor lay lifeless, eyes closed.
And at this moment, Temdra became the first person to realize that the Imperium itself was about to die with him.
Empress Madessi turned to her. “Where is he? Where is my son?”
“Assassins… someone killed him.”
At that exact moment, you could have heard the tiniest pin drop. The Empress’s face fell, and the tears flew down her cheeks. And the two men in whom the future of the Imperium rested looked up at each other. A look of challenge, and a look of hatred.
Olarth spoke first. “It’s necessary that someone step forward to lead this nation in this difficult time. Clearly we need someone with maturity to handle that task, so my brother obviously doesn’t fit the role.”
Ecruir rose from the bed and stepped around it. “Maturity, you say. What kind of maturity do you show, sleeping with human harlots desperate for a chance with dark elf royalty, exactly?”
Olarth visibly bristled. “My personal choices do not impact my ability to lead this nation. I have consulted with many of Father’s advisors about the business of state. Whereas you have done what, exactly? Played with your toy soldiers and swords in the business of war which has been obsolete for sixty years?”
“Perhaps it impacts the nation, indeed.” A fire blossomed in Ecruir’s eyes as he approached his brother. “How many filthy halfbreeds have you brought into the world, polluting our nation’s blood with that of pale-skinned savages? The last thing we need as a monarch in this country is a disgusting human-lover.
” Ecruir spat on Olarth’s shoe.
Olarth looked utterly in shock. “Fine then, if it’s a battle you want to play at, it’s a battle you’ll get.” He pulled his sword from his waistband. He gestured for his guard to move up alongside him.
“Gladly.” Ecruir did the same. They appeared about to leap at each other, when their brother, the Fourth Prince, shoved his way in between them.
“Stop! This is madness! You’re literally fighting over our father’s dead body! Do neither of you have any shame?”
Ecruir growled. “Step out of my way, right now, or face the consequences.” Filadi crossed his arms and shook his head.
“So be it.” Ecruir skewered his younger brother, to the shock of everyone in the room. He pushed his body to the side, and waved his rapier disdainfully. “Less competition.”
“You’ll pay for that!” Olarth leaped at his brother, and the first shots rang out. Temdra, fearing for her life, hid under the nearest table. “Idedra, get under here!” she shouted at her fellow maid, standing stock-still and frozen, right before crossfire ripped through her chest and she fell to her knees.
Guards were shooting at one another, the two princes were dueling, and all the while the now Empress Mother wailed at the carnage that had taken two of her sons and her husband alike.
Temdra, during a brief respite in the fighting, leapt out from under the table and bolted out the door. Her first thought was to warn the Fifth Prince. She didn’t want to get him caught up in all this. But when she opened the door, she was surprised to see the boy already packing.
“What are you doing?” Temdra asked, dumbfounded.
“What does it look like?” Nidrak shook his head at his maidservant. “You never were particularly good at this sort of deductive reasoning, were you?” He smiled. “Do you think I’m just going to wait around for one of my brothers to kill me because I might be a threat? I need to get out of here as fast as possible.”
He grabbed his bags and just before departing the doorframe, added: “Ecruir probably killed the Crown Prince to have a shot at the throne, and I certainly expect he won’t have second thoughts about killing me.”
“But where will you go?” Temdra replied.
“Anywhere. It has to be better than here.” The sound of gunshots reverberated down the hall, and pricking his ears, Nidrak nodded. “Thank you for everything.” The boy ran the opposite direction, towards the entrance to the Vermillion Citadel and the city outside. Temdra ran to her room to gather her things and do the same. On the way, she ran past Olarth, wounded and being dragged by the Empress Mother, with her bodyguard providing cover fire from the troops after them.
The fate of a world had been set in chaos by a single knife. Not a soul outside of the Vermillion Citadel knew it yet, but the world was about to change… forever.February 17th, 4907 YDC (Yllendyr Dynastic Calendar)Outskirts of Treaty Port of Nilrandell, Otomazu Shogunate
It was fairly cold, cloudless night in the camp, just outside of the city walls of Nilrandell, the full moon shining brightly in the otherwise empty sky. The city had been built as part of the surrender terms of the Otomazu Shogunate, as a provincial capital from which the Yllendyr could do business and oversee the country, and was home to many different species, much like the inhabitants of the camp itself.
This was the 27th Auxiliary Legion of the Imperial Army of the Yllendyr, a dignified name for a group of recently cobbled together recruits from the various provinces. The army was mostly human, dwarf and ork, with a few others mixed in and of course the Dark Elf officers.
One such of these officers, likely one of the lowest ranked in the entire camp, sat idly on her bunk, polishing her revolver and swinging her leg back and forth. She was waiting for dinner. It was her last month in the Army, having served nearly all of her five-year term, and she could feel her sense of impatience surrounding all things growing. Her name was Lunastri Gamma; as an orphan discovered in the Hrothgrad Dominion she was given a letter last name according to the number of that dominion, in this case the third.
A bell rang in the distance, a bell every soldier knew by instinct: it was time for food. She heard the sound of boots plopping into the sand all around her, and after a moment’s hesitation, she followed along.
It wasn’t long before she arrived in the queue at the mess hall. The centaur in front of her was complaining loudly about the quality of the food being unfit for him, so she quickly tuned that out. Hoping for a good conversation, she glanced behind herself only to be met with the glare of a Yamato man. Okay, not a particularly wise idea. She sighed, resigned herself to dinner alone, and grabbed her food as it came.
Sitting down at a random table, she slowly and reluctantly consumed the corned beef in front of her. The seats around her rapidly filled up, and strangely, there was a lot more silence than usual, other than the usual murmuring of the radio. She tapped the shoulder of the human next to her. “Hey, do you know why everyone’s so quiet today?”
The human looked at her dumbfounded, like she was some kind of weird bug. An ordinary Yllendyr would slap him across his face for his insubordination, but she just let it go. “So? What is it?”
“You haven’t heard?” He gestured at the dwarf radio operator across from him. The dwarf pulled it out of his satchel and placed it on the table in front of him, turning it on. “It’s some right unpleasant business, that's for sure.” The dwarf shook his head.
“-for our listeners just tuning in, the Imperium is formally in a state of civil war, a war that observers are terming the ‘War of the Twin Emperors.’ The 75th Emperor Naerzo is dead of natural causes at the age of 162, and the Crown Prince has allegedly been assassinated by hostile foreign spies.”
Lunastri gasped in shock.
“The twin Second Princes, both claiming legitimacy to the Sovereignty’s throne, have both been crowned as the 76th Emperor. Ecruir has been crowned in the Vermillion Palace, and Olarth in the major southern city of Altairis. The War of the Twin Emperors has sharply divided the nation, as various territories of the Crownlands have declared for either side, and several dominions have as well. The followers of Ecruir claim he is the legitimate heir, having been officially sanctioned and receiving coronation in the Vermillion Palace, and the followers of Olarth allege that Ecruir is responsible for the death of Filadi, the Fourth Prince, and that his rule is illegitimate. Initial skirmishes between the two opposing pretenders have already broken out in the Crownlands.”
“As follows, these Dominion governments have declared for Emperor Ecruir: Evrimalar, Anhr, Cragenland, Vaspen and Otomazu. For Emperor Olarth: Vershellen, Hrothgrad, and Avalia. The remainder of dominions have chosen to remain neutral thus far. As well, the Order of Imperial Sentinels has declared neutrality in this conflict. When a representative was contacted for comment, he replied, ‘The Order’s role is to serve the one true Emperor or Empress. If there are two Emperors, there is no true Emperor. We will not intervene until one is found.”
“News of this succession war has given way to massive protests and riots in cities across the Imperium. There are rumours of especially severe unrest in Vaspen and Otomazu, and chaotic and conflicting reports of military clashes in Avalia. The Imperial Auxiliary Legions are being deployed to quell unrest from counterimperial, barbarian forces. The Securitariat is advising all citizens to remain in their homes to avoid this dangerous..."
"Well, there goes my bet on getting out of the army without ever having to fight a war." Lunastri grimaced, and stabbed the beef in front of her in a futile expression of rage.
When she had finished her meal, Lunastri wandered outside to look at the moon, as she often did. Her fingers wandered to the crescent shape on her neck, touching it idly.
"Eluna, you know I'm not a praying woman, but... if you exist, please help me. Please save my world. Do something."
She looked up for several minutes, but the moon did not much more than glow in response, much as she expected. She sighed. She went to clean her rifle, since she was almost certainly going to need it.