Capture – Empire of Sand and Stars
The Emperor sat in shadows, watching the play of starlight on the floor before him. His throne was at the top of a grand temple, his throne in the black of an overhang. He glanced up at the stars, careful to avoid their light, speaking the names of the other men and women that claimed the title of Emperor in the Empire of Sand and Stars.
Like him, none of them stood in starlight. He would have seen them if they were, seen the things they had done or the places they had been, but the stars could show him nothing he had not seen before. For ten long years, he and his rivals all had waited in the darkest places, listening for the whispered secrets the stars would share with all of them.
He sighed, choking on the tomb-air, listening to what those closest to his rivals had been doing. Those of royal blood were careful, so careful to avoid even the slimmest sliver to silver light falling upon them. He remembered what it had been like, to stand naked in the silvery light, to know all the past and the present that the starlight could touch. Ten years since the last ended, since this holding pattern began.
Footfalls kicked up dust in the chambers around him. He turned to watch those that served him, the slaves and the guards both, letting his eyes rest on disappointment after disappointment, his hand idly cupping the cheek of a slave that had fallen from his favor years ago. The slave pressed his cheek against the Emperor’s calf, his hands bound behind him.
Ten long years. He frowned and wondered if he had possessed this slave so long, decided he hadn’t. A different Emperor had ruled then, a man that had proved weaker than he.
He looked to the night for answers, wished he could touch the stars as the oldest Emperors had. Lore spoke of how the stars had taken lovers from among the people, how their children had given birth to an Empire that had nearly claimed the world.
A sudden sense of things claimed him. A change in the stars, a shift in the present.
“Look to the stars, slave, and let us look upon you,” the Emperor said, kneading the man’s bald pate. The man whimpered, shuffling forward on his knees, those limbs not meeting the Emperor’s approval tended to by the Gentle Consortium. It was no surprise, then, that the slave was a horror to look upon, but the Emperor did not look away.
An Emperor could not look away from horror and remain Emperor.
The slave’s tongue had been curled within his mouth, his vocal cords atrophied, but the Emperor did not need such a thing as spoken words to understand the slave. All he needed was starlight, all his kin had ever needed was starlight. He and his kin, born of earth and blessed by the stars.
The former Web Walker opened his Spider Eyes, blue-white light flickering to life in front of his features. The Emperor ignored the joy that the slave felt, ignored the slave’s tears. The slave was only a tool to be used and nothing more.
He could not see as the slave did. That was not within the purview of his power. The Emperor could listen to the secrets of past and present, however, the stars sharing a perfect understanding of anything happened or happening within the shadows of night’s kingdom. And from watching, he knew.
“Another Wonderworks,” the Emperor breathed, slipping free of his clothes and stepping naked into the starlight. He needed the feel of that gentle glow, needed the strength that came from his ancestry. Shadows painted his body, the tattoos of the signs that had birthed him glittering on his body as he faced his subjects.
They fell to their knees, one and all. They pressed their foreheads to the floor, their arms limp beside their bodies, palms up. The divine stood before them, clothed in the flesh of an Emperor.
“Outsiders come, their names uncertain,” the Emperor whispered, knowing his rivals would hear tell of this and not caring, for they would know as he did soon enough. “We must learn their names. You here will tell all of our wanting, and you will find us what we desire.”
Whispered prayers and shuffling bodies. The Emperor looked upon them. Ten years since the last Wonderworks, since the last batch of Outsiders with all the powers and potentials that they brought with them. Only one of his rivals had managed to enslave an outsider, and that Empress ruled far too much territory. With an Outsider of his own, he could challenge her as an equal and take from her what should have been his.
He turned back to the stars, spreading his arms, engorged on light and shadow as he threw back his head and laughed. A Wonderworks come, so much quicker than any could have expected.
The whispers filled him as dust glittered silver in the dark. Those who ruled the past would rule the present, and none knew so much lore as he and his kin.
STORY AND CONCEPT BY AARON GOLDEN. PICTURE TAKEN FROM PIXABAY, AND YOU CAN FIND IT AND A HOST OF OTHER IMAGES LIKE IT BY CLICKING HERE. CAPTURE UPDATES EVERY TUESDAY AND THURSDAY, AND YOU CAN READ THE VERY FIRST CHAPTER BY CLICKING HERE OR THE NEXT CHAPTER BY CLICKING HERE.