Emperor Edward VI’s personal chambers were not particularly larger than any of the other rooms in castle at Gotharc, but he took special care in making sure it was extravagantly decorated. Gold spotted all of his furniture, including his bed, chair, and the gold and silver plated chest that contained his most valuable items. A fireplace was built into the plastered walls, and his doorway was marked with the Lion Empire’s banners, red and gold. A bleached white rug sat on the floor, outlined by a crimson border.
Merely a prince when he was born into the room, he transitioned to King of the Middle Lion Kingdom soon enough, and on his deathbed would die as Emperor of the Lion Empire. Despite this, he was wracked with misery and regret for all of his life’s accomplishments.
The hour must be drawing near, thought High Priest Patrick. His breath is shortening, and he looks more ghastly than he did yesterday.
Patrick shook his head slightly, the gray cap of the High Priests wiggling slightly on his head. This could have been avoided if not for that worthless wretch of a son he has. If he had sent for the apothecaries, or even a doctor within the city, the emperor might still live. The little maggot thinks he can so easily extinguish his father’s influence. I’ll be the first to prove him wrong. A volatile leader will not be able to drag down this dominion. Not after all this work.
Emperor Edward VI coughed loudly, convulsing violently in his loose white tunic. His face and head were nearly completely bald, a symptom of the illness he had contracted. All that was left of his formerly jolly face were his expressive eyebrows, but those had grown gray and wispy as well.
“Patrick, come to me.” The emperor rasped. He beckoned with a bony hand for the red priest move, and the cleric obliged.
“My lord, what is it that you need of me?” Patrick asked, frowning. The smell of decay was evident this close to the dying emperor, and images of Prince Thomas flashed in his head. I will be the death of you, you little worm. Your violence and trickery will not make a coward of me.
“I have written my final wishes on this document.” The emperor removed a small envelope from the top drawer of his bedside bureau with considerable effort. He handed it to Patrick. “Do not stray from what I have written, Patrick. I trust that you will be able to do I dictate, even when I am passed.”
“Of course, my lord.” Patrick said confidently. However, the red priest was more than confused on the inside. Why did he write a final will? It is evident enough that Thomas is to be his heir, as awful as it may be. Unless…
Patrick’s thought was cut short by a fit of the emperor’s coughing. Patrick cringed as the emperor propped himself up on the feather pillows on his bed. Although his illness was not contagious at this point, Patrick still flinched.
“Patrick, I must express something to you.” The frail royal began. “You have always been faithful to me, and for that I am thankful. You were there to aid me in my times of struggle, and dared not to oppose me. In my dreams of vast power as a youth, you were there to aid me. Throughout my conquests, you stood firm beside me. I thank you, Patrick, High Priest of the Lion Faith.”
“My lord, it was nothing than what I was expected to do. My honor and loyalty are derived from my service in this grand empire you have formed. There is no need to thank me.” Patrick humbled himself, surprised by the showering of compliments by Emperor Edward. Edward was by no means a harsh man, but he was not one to throw around comments without substance.
“Dare I say it, Patrick, but this task I ask of you now is most important of all. You mustn’t fail, for it involves the future of the Lion Empire as well as the restful peace of my soul in my ascension to the phantasmal land.” The emperor said, before coughing violently for some time. When he was finished, Patrick began to speak.
“My lord, what is it that you mean? Your soul will be at rest, for you lived an honorable life, and have accomplished much-“
“Do not lie to me, Patrick!” the emperor wheezed. “I have lived a life of brutality, of greed and violence. You know it in your heart and mind, but your duty was above that, and thus you obeyed me. I am no honorable man, like you. “My final wishes, though, I hope will atone for my crimes against the peoples of the Nortlen. I have learned the error of my ways, although I fear I learned them far too late. It is up to you, Patrick, to deliver my penance. Without it, I will die forever tortured with eternal misery.”
“My lord, I swear to you, on my honor, that I will prevail in the task you ask of me.” Patrick said, the valor of his words echoing in his hard eyes, which promised nothing but servitude. Perhaps he is delirious. Nonetheless, I will obey, as I had always intended to.
“Thank you, Patrick.” The emperor slumped into the bed, his eyes becoming watery and clouded. “I believe it is time, High Priest. I feel myself slipping away.”
Straightening, Patrick began the rites promised by the Faith to those dying. “Have no fear in the face of death, for you are promised eternal existence in the phantasmal land. May the gods forever hold you dear in their majestic forms, cradled within their paws. Rest now, and be at peace.”
Edward VI smiled for the last time before ceasing to be, a look of delight on his withered face. The crown still sat on his head, dwarfing his skeletal being in its grandeur.
Patrick felt a cooling emptiness in his mind. Although the man before him was dead, his mind thrived in the small document he held in his hand. The final surviving thoughts of Edward VI.
Patrick unfolded the document and began reading, just as a few soldiers came into the room. They noticed the emperor was deceased and clambered to take his crown, exiting just as quickly as they came. Thomas’ crows, Patrick thought sourly, come to loot the body of its identity.
Turning back to the document, he read slowly and carefully, so as to not miss any hidden details. He missed none, and the message before him was clear as day. As blunt as it was, the content of the letter left Patrick speechless and shaking. This cannot be, he managed to think, amidst a myriad of screams within his own head.
More photos on Brickshelf. This is the eighth chapter of my story, A Lion in the Wyvern's Nest, of which the other chapters can be read here. As always, C&C welcome.