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A plain looking man sat at the large wooden desk. His head was round, almost impossibly round and that was exacerbated by the aggressive state of baldness he seemed to be experiencing. Other than his greying eyebrows, the only hair on his head was in the form of a neatly cropped beard. He looked well into his later years, but not so far gone that he was waiting for Yix’s blade.

He chatted benignly to the small boy who was sitting on his lap. Their conversation was maddeningly confusing and mostly about the merits of horses based on their colour. Punctuated with with laughter and questions.

The room itself was much like its occupant, plain and unadorned. Furniture was minimal and served a specific purpose. On either side of the desk, there were two very homely and well worn chairs, the one occupied by the plain man slightly more cushioned that the other. Everything was all ordered and in its place – the bookshelves, pack to bursting, were away from direct sunlight or lamps, but the desk was well lit constantly.

Bastian Urquhart cleared his throat as he shifted about in his seat. Had Urquhart not known this plain and round man was the Emperor, he would have commanded that he vacate his seat before his superiors arrived. Yet there he sat, Emperor of Taradien, Brennus the First of His Name.

‘Settle, General,’ his voice just as nondescript as his features. ‘We will talk in a moment.’

‘Of course, your Imperial Majesty,’ Urquhart made a seated bow and settled in for more horsetalk and childsplay. Luckily, it did not last for long.

‘Run along little Bren, I’ll see you shortly.’ With that, Brennus the Second of His Name gathered his toys, kissed his grandfather’s hand and shuffled off. ‘So, General, how is our guest?’

‘Cahden Joudaar lives,’ Urquhart failed to hide his disappointment. ‘His body clings to life. We feed him every fourth day. He is bathed once in a tenday. All in all, the traitor lives better than most of the Empire.’

The Emperor stood and leaned on his desk, fists clenched. ‘Has he been tried? Have the Inquisitors met with him? Have you forgotten our ways? Our customs? Our Imperial Laws?’ With each question his voice grew louder. With each question he appeared less plain and grandfatherly and more imposing.

You would do well not to forget that this is the Emperor, Urquhart swallowed hard and murmured a string of apologies. 

CW SY 2013

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