If any man felt differently, something other than sheer joy or triumph that night, it was Elias Wynn. He helped forge that empire too, and for many months he questioned how proud he felt becuse of it. Many had died on their road to conquest, he thought, and the ease with which Roman spoke of it tonight troubled him. But there were many things about Roman Kahn that had troubled him
Several months ago, his own entry into the Circle of Kahn seemed all but a guarantee. But it never happened. Throughout his career, Elias had craved the honor as much as any Ceorpian soldier. Yet when the time came, something stopped him. It no longer felt right. He declined. Instead, it was Hector who joined Damien and the General, followed shortly thereafter by the young scientist, Roy. In the days that followed, he would joke silently to himself on the matter, ‘It took two lackheads to fill the one spot reserved for me.’
Elias was an older man. He was wise enough to see the crucial element in leaders, and the difference between pure ambition and something else, something darker.
Regarding these concerns, Elias had confided in one man. A junior senator whose star was on the rise, who aspired for a seat on the revered Senate Tribunal. One evening, the senator listened intently as Elias spoke to him about their future king. Roman Kahn was not fit for kingship, Elias insisted to him. The position itself was dangerous and would clearly undermine the authority of the Tribunal. But the young senator dismissed it. Roman Kahn was a hero.
That discussion was several months ago. The two had not spoken since. Now, Elias trusted no one. All he had was his wife and daughter, Sara. The light of his life.
The ceremony had been over for a few hours when Elias returned to his apartment, not far from the capital building. He hadn’t been home for months. It would be nice to sleep in his own bed again. To see his beloved wife again. He wondered if she’d watched the ceremony. It was unlikely. She would wait at home for him as he had told her. Besides, a large crowd like that would be unsuitable for their baby girl.
The three of them were to leave Ceorpia Totem tomorrow night, and go to Kiralta of all places. Perhaps it was third-world but what did it matter? It was away from everything. Away from the capital. From Roman. That alone added to the planet’s natural beauty.
Elias reached the doors of his apartment and stepped inside. Torches lit the hallway leading to the kitchen and dining area, where he suspected his wife and child awaited him. He could smell dinner cooking. It truly was good to be home tonight, he thought. Ceorpia Totem was a hot, rocky planet, so the coolness inside was refreshing. Soon he would live in those green fields of Kiralta, and raise his daughter where the air was always crisp and rewarding.
“Good evening, my love,” he called out as he walked down the hall. The torches were burning very bright. No reply came from the kitchen, though he did hear the laugh of his infant child. The flames were unusually high and suddenly the air no longer seemed cool.
“Is that my darling child I hear?” He thought of his daughter’s smile. Then he thought of his wife. Her beautiful olive skin and her long brown hair. “Darling, I–”
Elias stepped into the dining area and what he saw sent a shiver down his spine. Sitting at the candlelit table was his wife who looked back at him, too terrified to speak. Pleading to him with her eyes. In the corner of the room stood Hector Kahn holding his baby girl, tickling her playfully as he looked back at Elias; a wide, sinister smile across his face. Roy stood at the other end of the room next to the young senator Altair, who stood there with his head hung miserably and his face badly bruised. That said it all. Finally Elias looked to the man sitting beside his wife, at the table. Roman spoke quietly.
He didn’t hesitate. Elias reached for his sword immediately. “Hector, unless you want me to cut them off keep your hands off my daughter.”
Hector’s face darkened. He looked to Roman, who nodded his approval. Hector gave the infant back to her mother, his stare never breaking from Elias.
“Please sit,” spoke Roman again.
“I want you out of my home.”
“Oh we won’t be here long, my friend” he said as he rose from his chair. “But first there is some matter I’d like to discuss.”
The General walked over to face him squarely. Elias was ready for him. Roman spoke slowly, venomously. “Did you really think that I wouldn’t find out?”
“I don’t care if you did.”
“Oh you will. You will come to care very much.”
“I spoke to a senator, yes. Itold him that no one can be trusted with kingship. There’s never been a king in our history. So why now? For the sake of order? Order for what? We conquered lands across the stars all for the sake of order. For unity. Glory. And we got caught up it. We believed in those ideals and thought that’s really what we were fighting for. But what was it really, Roman Kahn?”
The two warriors stood facing eachother. The room was silent. Elias looked deep into the General’s eyes.
“You know something, you truly are a master. The way you’ve manipulated an entire people. You talk so much about what it means to be human in this world. There is nothing human in your eyes tonight.”
Roman turned away from him and walked slowly to the other side of the room. Elias looked to the horribly wounded young senator.
“You’ve beaten this poor boy merely for information. It’s frightening you already, isn’t it? The weight of all that power. Be reasonable. What do you think is going to happen when the Tribunal finds out? What do y–”
“I am the Tribunal.”
Elias’ throat was try, but he did not waver. He stood strong. There was never any turning back tonight. This was now far greater than protecting his honor. “Of course you are.”
Roman turned back around to face him. He drew his sword.
“No!” His wife screamed. “Elias, don’t. We’ll leave here, we won’t tell anyone what’s happened tonight. We’ll go to Kiralta. Far away from everything like we planned.”
The General spoke once more. “You’re a fool, old man. You had everything in front of you. I offered you glory, and you spat in my face.”
The two clashed swords. Roman was of course a skilled swordsman, but so was Elias Wynn. One of the greatest in history. Also, he could be sure that Hector and Roy would not interfere in the duel. Sacred of all things to a Ceorpian warrior was his honor, therefore Roman would accept no help.
This was Elias’ chance. He could kill Roman now and end everything, though he himself would go to prison, and be branded a criminal. It didn’t matter. His country would be saved from a tyrant’s hand. Back and forth the two warriors fought. Elias fought like he never had before. Suddenly he had Roman on his heels.
Then Roman swung back hard. The blow was enough to send Elias reeling. The two stood facing eachother as they had been moments before. Roman smiled. “You’ll be charged for treason, Elias. Your family will be destroyed. I sent Damien to assemble the police to arrest you. They’ll arrive here any minute. I am going to lead our country into a future brighter than any we’ve ever seen. I’ve come too far to face any resistance. I’ll do what I must to see that we move forward. Even if it means the death of one of our greatest.”
“Yea you’re right, YOU have come to far. You will have to kill me.”
Roman smiled again. Suddenly his eyes turned to his lieutenants and then back to Elias. Then he nodded. “Ok then.”
What happened next happened so fast. It was Roy. A knife has been thrown into Elias’ side. He doubled over. His wife screamed again. Roman moved quick and knocked the sword from his hand. Then he beat him ferociously. Finally he drew the knife back out.
Elias struggled to maintain counsciousness. It wasn’t possible, he thought. Roman cheated. He tried to gather his thoughts. He had to focus. His wife. His child. They were being taken away. His baby girl was crying now. Elias struggled to stand but instead he was pulled across the room and thrown to the other side of the wall.
He lifted his head and saw everyone facing him now. Hector was holding the baby again. Roy had grabbed the senator captively by the arm and held him at his side. Roman held his wife savagely her hair.
“L-leave tham,” he said. It was difficult to speak. “Take me. This isn’t their fight.”
“You’ve made it their fight,” said Roman. Now I’m going to kill you and have your famiy watch.”
Suddenly his wife spoke. Her voice was more stern now. She’d found a bravery that was unlike any her husband had ever heard her speak. “You might kill him,” she said. “But even in death he’ll be twice what you are.”
Roman looked down to her and stared. Elias knew exactly what the General was thinking. Instantly he ran to them but it was too late. Roman killed her where she stood, and knocked Elias onto the floor. Everything faded to black.
He could hear more troops gathering outside, and the fading echo of his daughter’s cry as they poured in from the hall. Roman stayed a moment longer to whisper into his ear. “Elias Wynn, you and your wife have been charged with treason. She died tragically in resisting arrest. Tonight I allowed you to live, so that you die each day as you rot in the darkest prison. But don’t worry, we’ll take care good of your daughter.”
“I will stay alive,” he said as he closed his eyes. He heard nothing but the echo of his own words, as he spoke once more. “May He grant me vengeance.”