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Succession by JJ van der Merwe
Thus he stared back, and nodded.
"You have a name?" the Emperor asked
The Emperor crossed his arms; though he had started to run to fat with the indolence of imperial splendour the soldier he had been remained, in hiding.
"The name I have is Aerrelsigles"
"That is not a name!" the Emperor said.
"No, sire. That is what is written."
"Sire..." Opporimao interrupted. "Sire, that could be... Arrelses"
The Emperor glared at his segures, but the soothsayer began to nod. "A good decipherment, sire. Young Stelene names one of your enemies."
"They are an insignificant family. What threat pose they to my majesty?"
"One of them poses a grave threat, sire" the soothsayer continued. "This... Aerrelsigles... the signs suggest he will try to take your throne if you do not act. Look, see this mark upon the liver..." he held the sliced organ up, his fingers drenched in gore.
"I see it!" the Emperor exclaimed, his eyes widening "Who is this Aerrelsigles?"
"Ialgo Arralses!" Opporimao said.
"Yes!" the Emperor's pupils were feverish in the light of the braziers. "Yes- Ialgo Arralses! A minor noble scion of a minor house, by the Almighty! He is the threat?!"
"Yes, sire" both the soothsayer and the segures said at once.
In his heart the Emperor did not believe such a lowly man as this- he had met him once, at court, and he seemed a nobody- could be a threat to him. But he knew it was unwise, once counsel was called for, to pay no heed. Furthermore, perhaps it was time to give the nobles another lesson.
"Opporimao... take three of your men and kill him."
"Sire..." the segures, a young man with a babyish face which belied the blood on his hands, bowed and left the Imperial presence.
The Emperor stared across the black water to the city, its lights reflecting shimmer off the obsidian, glowing over the night sky. That place was a nest of vipers, its spires nothing but nightmare visions to him.
Ialgo Arralses was sleeping on a couch on the ground floor of his house when he was shaken awake by his young, dissolute country-cousin Pekat.
"What? What is it?" he gasped, rising.
"Cousin... cousin, grave news, cousin... I've heard... worse..."
"Calm down, Pekat... think before you speak..." Arralses rubbed his eyes. These things are sent to try us. He took a handful of grapes whilst he waited for the wastrel to catch his drink-soaked breath.
"Oh cousin, I was down by the docks..."
"What were you doing down there?" Arralses laughed. "Whoremongering?"
"Cousin, please... a boat came in from the Imperial Villa. I saw... I saw Opporimao."
Arralses chuckled again. "Come, Pekat, I know he's a terror, but really..."
"He went to collect seguri!"
"So bad news for one of us... the Emperor has no quarrel with me, by the Almighty. Why are you so fucking afraid? Too much drink?"
"The boatman asked him where he was going... and he told him here!"
"To the house of Ialgo Arralses, he said. Oh cousin..."
At first he thought Pekat was drunk, but the fear he showed could not be faked, he realised suddenly. He never imagined this might happen.