art by Shane M. Gavin
Dark Roads for the Eternal Ruler
by Eric James Stone
Your Imperial Majesty,
Humble though my current condition is, I am proud to write those words to you, for today they are true. The day of your coronation is joyous for the Empire. Most of your subjects believe that you are the prophesied Bringer of Perfect Justice whose reign will be eternal in fact, not just name. Gods grant it be so, if they will still hear the prayer of this, your servant.
Servant? Yes, even imprisoned, I still serve you. For if I--whom everyone knows to be your right hand, your voice, your beloved--if I am not spared from your justice, no one will be. But it pains me that I, your first and most loyal follower, was not able to see you crowned, though I heard the cheers from my cell. I had hoped to stand beside you as Imperial Sorceress (and perhaps more), but I am glad that my condemnation has proven that your justice knows no favorites.
Who could doubt it? Yet there are still some who do. They will seize any opportunity to turn the people against you. And, as you said when you sentenced me: If the people do not believe in your justice, it would not be just to rule them. Fortunately, the crimes of which I have been convicted occurred before I met you, and thus your enemies cannot use them against you.
Was that truly but fortune? Alas, no.
Your sentence is just, but did you not think it strange that my offenses, ten years past, only recently came to the memories of my accusers? Did you not think it strange that I stand unaccused of more recent crimes? Perhaps not. In the goodness of your heart, perhaps you counted my offenses as youthful folly, and attributed the revived memories to my newfound fame as your right hand.
Right and left, both my hands were yours. And more than that: my eyes, my ears, my lips, my heart. But oh, that I were worthy of such good thoughts!
Hand to my heart, the truth is that the accusations are but beginning. Many will be true, for many are those I defrauded before I met you. And for each, I wrote a spell to make them forget what I had done, activating the spells with the town magistrate's seal I stole from my father. But alas, the term of a magistrate is only ten years, and thus the spells expire in their time. I walked in dark roads all my life until I met you, who walks only in the light.
Shall I tell you that, from the day we met, I walked only in the light? But that would be a lie. I did change that day--I had committed many crimes to benefit myself before we met, and I never did so again.