Siege of Atmari
General Xenograg kathu-Darelir leads his horse at a walk beside the Emperor of Demodar. The two men, old and young, are out for an inspection of the siege of Atmari and a private talk. The vassal city-state's prince has failed to send any tribute and acted as if he were autonomous. The Imperial Army now stands poised outside the walls of the great city itself, the last bastion of resistance after a punitive summer campaign.
Xenograg is here by Imperial Command to share his insight on the city and its ruler. Thirty-one years ago, he commanded the Imperial garrison of the then-recently conquered city. He was present during the initial reconstruction of the city and its defenses. Prince Harumtau was then twelve years old, and Xenograg had spent time with the boy to impress upon him how his inheritance was to be governed. Xenograg's personal knowledge of the place and the person is now invaluable.
"So whom should I appoint to once again rebuild this fine city?" comes the emperor's intentionally obvious question.
"Anyone but me, Sire," Xenograg replies with a smirk and a half-jesting gesture for mercy.
"It would bring a degree of continuity here," is the monarch's rebuttal. Xenograg now begins thinking seriously to fend off this unwanted post.
"Perhaps, but continuity with the past is not as important as with the future. The viceroy you place here has years of work ahead of him. More years than I have left, Exaltedness." The young emperor grunts and frowns, evaluating that statement for truth. Xenograg hopes his answer has won the point of discussion. He looks at the city again: its walls and the smoke rising up from the interior where fires continue to burn. 'Such a shame. Such a waste,' he thinks.
"Two days," is what he says aloud.
"What? Ah, you mean until the last assault towers are finished. Yes," confirms the emperor. "That position is also yours if you want it."
"I do not want to deprive General Grimblade…,"
"…Of his butchery?" interjects the emperor with disgust. The perpetual antagonism between Xenograg and Grimblade is a great annoyance to the young King-of-Kings.
"I was going to say 'glory,' Sire," Xenograg confesses. The emperor grunts again, its tone this time conveying that veiled annoyance. "To be truthful, General Grimblade is the best commander for the assault. Atmari must be made an example of. I would sack this city the same way, regardless of how much it pains me."
The emperor nods. "Then I will not burden you with that task, either."
"I am grateful once again, Sire."
"Will you someday tell me what it is that keeps you so busy in Arra?"
"I would tell you now, My Lord, but for the vows of silence I have taken in our god's service," is Xenograg's response.
"Is the emperor not also a high priest?" he asks rhetorically and humorously.
"Yes, Your Holiness." Both men chuckle, enjoying the humor which has momentarily washed the past and future carnage from their thoughts.