FREE Excerpt from Book 1 – Reckless Ambitions!

One day after Prince Nordan’s defeat, on Sunday September 1st, 481CE, Medford summoned a war council in the throne room to plan what he hoped would be the decisive battle to end the civil war. Sporadic reports of local rebellions had begun arriving from all over the Palamaran provinces. Medford, Tenisal and Armand were still trying to recruit as many men as possible for the “Palamaran Imperial Grand Army,” to oppose Prince Philip Canalon’s and Arch Cleric Simon Samelek’s newly formed and proclaimed “Crusader Army for the Liberation of Palamar.” The rainstorm outside only encouraged gloomy and foreboding thinking and Medford was determined to ensure a quick, decisive victory. September was here, and autumn appeared to be arriving quickly.

Everyone was assembled including the Lord Mayor, Earl Nestor, Count Neshal, Colonel Armand, and several other officers. Even Dr. Andrew Numil had come from the Palace gardens at Medford’s behest to advise them. Abigail observed the scene from one of the spy holes behind the walls facing the throne room as she heard Medford begin.

“Gentlemen, it seems that Arch Cleric Samelek and Prince Canalon are both cooperating to commit foul treason. Who would have thought this possible three months ago? I wish to commend Colonel Armand again and admit that he was right. I should have ordered Prince Canalon’s execution the moment Armand and his men seized him at his estate just before the Night of Zemelon Flame. Our best reports describe this ‘Crusader Army for the Liberation of Palamar,’ at over eighty thousand strong, and our own Imperial Palamaran Grand Army is approaching that size. It seems that both sides are recruiting from every province in the Palamaran Empire and our population is almost equally divided. Now that the rebel Nordan’s forces have been crushed or incorporated into our own army, our main task should be confronting Samelek and Canalon’s forces as quickly as possible.”

“That is not our only problem,” Robert interjected. “Everyone endured Nordan’s siege well enough and damages to the walls and buildings are being repaired but many citizens are weary of continuing rationing, curfews and minimal commerce. Rumors abound that Prince Canalon has organized civil unrest with several local thieves and assassins guilds who are ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. If our main Army marches away to confront the Crusader Army now, I do not believe the remaining City Constable Cohorts will be able to prevent citywide looting and rioting.”

“You certainly have your work cut out for you, Lord Mayor,” Medford observed wryly. “I may be able to give you a hundred Imperial Guardsmen to reinforce the City Constable Cohorts but you will have to improvise from there. Every able bodied man available is sought after for the Army. Perhaps you should speak with some of your old friends currently residing in the Coliseum sector of the city. There is an idea for you.”

“I am not sure what I may be able to offer them,” Robert replied. “Many gladiators now view me as an aged sell out. May I offer them complete freedom and pardons for previous offenses as well as employment opportunities? Otherwise some of those fighters would most likely gleefully join any rioting mobs for loot, plunder and rapine within the city unless they had something to gain for helping us. There are some who might be willing to help us to preserve their reputations and ‘heroic’ status saving the city from destruction but relying on gladiators would be extremely hazardous.”

“You are ordered to make the attempt, Lord Mayor. I am opening the entire Palamaran Imperial Treasury to finance our Imperial Palamaran Grand Army so feel free to offer these gladiators what you will. Rouse them with promises of future glory, riches, freedoms and women if you have to. Offer them commissions in a new Praetorian Guard. Over the past few months, the Imperial Guard has grown too large to serve its original function. As the nucleus for our Imperial Palamaran Grand Army, our Imperial Guardsmen are invaluable as highly trained, combat veterans who will continue in the permanent professional military that I am now establishing. For the first time in Palamaran history, I propose the creation of a permanent professional military force to maintain peace and order. Enlistment will be for a minimum of twenty years and these forces will be honorably employed full time for the foreseeable future.”

Everyone present gasped. A career, professional military force answerable only to the Emperor and his officers was a vast and realm changing policy. Noblemen would now devote more time to martial pursuits and careers and would compete with each other more for the best military commissions and assignments. For the first time, military officials would become more powerful than civilian politicians and corruption as well as freedom would be diminished. Perhaps these consequences were the price for improved order and security. Earl Medford certainly appeared more grim and determined as he spoke and this frightened all present, including Abigail, who was still watching from her spot behind a wall near the throne.

Tenisal sighed, shrugged, and smiled. “All this sounds great to me as I am a General. But what do we do now and how do we proceed against Samelek and Canalon’s Crusader Army?”

“We may have two to three more weeks to continue mustering and training soldiers. Then it will take an estimated two to three weeks for both armies to converge and set up positions somewhere south of here,” Medford predicted. “Sadly, the provinces of Wakefield, Colchester and Phoremus are centrally located and the final battle will be in one of those areas. Everyone, including ourselves, has been recruiting within Phoremus for men, supplies and other resources while ignoring their neutrality wishes. That young Count Albert DeGrayson has fled to join the Crusader Army. My daughter has told me that Countess Jennifer DeGrayson has given birth to a healthy son and has openly declared her loyalty to our cause. But what is our cause? My Lords, Gentlemen and Nobles all present, there is no other choice.”

Earl Thomas Wilson Oakley Medford now proceeded to do what would have been unimaginably rank treason while Emperor John Cardillion III was still alive. He strode over to the dais right before the Palamaran Imperial Ruby Throne, paused in prayer for just a moment, and ascended to the Ruby Throne. He turned, faced everyone, and slowly sat down making his formal claim as his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Palamar.

There was a stunned silence. Everyone gaped. This had been completely unexpected. After a pregnant pause, General Paul Tenisal, Earl Nestor Pannonia of Kalchidus, Colonel Armand and the Lord Mayor Theosoar all went down on one knee while removing their hats and helmets. All began to shout, chanting, “LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR THOMAS IV!!! LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR!! LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR!! LONG LIVE THE EMPEROR!!”

When he realized what was happening, Captain Matthew Theosoar ordered ALL soldiers within the Imperial Palace to the throne room to swear loyalty to their new sovereign. Other castle servants sent word that every church and temple bell, gong, horn and trumpet be sounded throughout Paladon City. Abigail rushed down through the castle tunnels to find Christina to inform her that she was to become an Arch Duchess and eventually Empress. Theatrics or not, Christina swooned with the news, though Susan and Abigail both smiled, thinking to themselves, “It is about time.”

Meanwhile, religious clerics from the Temples of Epona Twilight and Celeste Clearwater were sent for to immediately perform the coronation. The Cleric who arrived representing Love Goddess Celeste Clearwater appeared more like a high class prostitute than a religious figure so they had her welcome gathering nobles as a social ambassador. Priestess Ivanova Skylaurid, much more dignified and clerical, quickly arrived with her vestments along with her familiar dog Sparky in tow and was informed that she would have the honor of actually crowning Emperor Thomas Medford IV. Almost unnoticed, Sparky hid in the shadows right behind the Imperial Ruby Throne to take a nap. “Why humans think these silly ceremonies so important is beyond my imagination,” Sparky thought to himself.

Proclamations for all citizens within and outside Paladon City, ordering everyone to swear loyalty and fealty to their new Imperial Majesty, were written by scribes and sent off in all directions. After the coronation ceremony, General Paul ‘the Hammer’ Tenisal, with the new Emperor’s permission, left the throne room, mounted his gray mare, Dixie, and rode immediately towards the Smoky Hills outside Paladon City to proclaim the new Emperor to the Imperial Palamaran Grand Army.

When the news reached the troopers, every soldier cheered, drew their swords and began banging them on their shields. The rain, which had been decreasing over the last hour, suddenly stopped, the clouds parted and dazzling sunlight beamed down upon the Imperial Palace, signifying divine favor. The Palamaran Imperial Throne Room, with its stained glass windows and Ruby Throne itself reflecting multihued lights everywhere, woke Sparky up and he quickly darted behind a line of adoring aristocrats unnoticed. For a brief moment, all fears and uncertainties were forgotten and the Palamaran Empire had an Imperial sovereign Emperor again. Some moments are worth killing for. And when one plays for power, one had better play to win.

Once permitted outside, Dr. Andrew Numil went straight to the Imperial Palace central sun garden and ordered his whole staff present to bow together for a moment in homage to honor their new sovereign. He also smiled to himself thinking that now all was as it should be. When the moment was over, his workmen resumed repairing one of the battlements on the east wall and Dr. Numil picked up his shears to continue trimming his rapidly growing azaleas.


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