A companion piece to The Son of Light Awakens and thematically linked to Nick Brooke's Yolanela Spurned.
Long grey fingers - the first slivers of morning - pierce the silvery mantle that rides, ever-present, above the City of Dreams and, though they say that city never sleeps, the marbled halls, the gilded colonnades, the richly furnished salons and chambers lie still and empty at this time, but for the Masked Watchmen doing their rounds, and the little bats, fluttering in dark corners of cold galleries.
From across the halls it comes, causing bats to flutter and watchmen to smirk beneath their hoods: the Lord of the World, Moonson, the Father of his Country, is still about his business, and the encouraging, congratulatory acclaims that accompany his grunts indicate his Presidium is around him, in council. Indeed, there is even a smattering of deferential applause, as councillors bid to outflatter each other and so win Moonson's special favour.
But soft! The council chamber is empty! Its tasselled chairs are all vacant. Their plump cushions (stuffed, mind you, at stupendous expense with the finest napes of herd-child yearling) are inviting, comfortable, ideal receptacles for wearied buttocks to sink into as the great affairs of Empire are deliberated upon, yet lie unsat upon. The kalestan, the throne, that baroque affair of jewel-encrusted silver (parvenu rubbish sniff the antediluvian Dara Happans, to themselves), rides mutely at the head of the great chamber, alone, unoccupied.
Dear Reader, to find the source of these sounds, I must take you from the Presidium Chamber and up to the Emperor's personal apartments. Let us not take either of the Grand Staircases of State but instead leave the chamber through the secret alcove behind the throne, leading up to that private suite where Moonson can disport himself at leisure, all the while watching through a grille the council at their business, ever uncertain Moonson might be observing them.
GRUNT GRUNT GRUNT
The Emperor's Voice, Mikos Theokonos, too sometimes watches at this grille, sometimes at the Emperor's ear, sometimes alone, taking notes, carefully assessing the shifting currents of loyalty. Who to promote, who to depose? Who to "kick upstairs", as the jocular phrase goes - the glittering prize and the final insult to many an Imperial career, a ceremonial post in honourable retirement on the Moon.
But tonight, Dear Reader, Mikos Theokonos is elsewhere, in attendance at the Emperor's side, in his closet. A surprisingly small room by City of Dreams standards, one made even smaller for the Presidium crowded into it. Joining the Privy Councillors are eager physicians - "We're trying the Kralorelanstonight", Mikos notes to himself, without any confidence - one, armed with hoses and pumps, the other with a curious auger-like arrangement of his own devise. Also, red-haired serving girls, dancers, and a small orchestra, playing alternately soothing and then suspenseful tunes, building up to an almost orgasmic crescendo about every half hour, sometimes with evident, palpable success, regrettably usually not.
GRUNT - AHH!
The Emperor, Lord of the World, Moonson, is confined to his closet with constipation.
"Sod this", says Great Sister, suddenly up and leaving, entourage in her wake. Only She, a Great Sister of such advanced age and superior lineage, could breach protocol so brazenly and desert, unbidden, Her erstwhile younger brother, the Living God of the Lunars.
Though many secretly yearned to follow the cranky old bitch, none dared, for here, at the - shall we say - the other throne, was the government of the Empire carried out, with increasing frequency and for longer durations each time. Some contented themselves by examining in great detail the lurid frescoes that had recently been painted about the room, in classical style, but all cunningly devised to encourage bodily evacuation - nymphs and satyrs voiding themselves in ferny glades; cheeky trollkin dumping in unsuspecting wizards hats; tender princesses, atop turretted towers, petitely despoiling amidst silks and muslins. The dancing on the other hand, following the same theme, was far too 'modern' and certainly much to graphic for Mikos Theokonos's conservative tastes.
GRUNT! - plop - Ka-Chee!!
The drummer strikes his cymbals - a tacky touch, thinks Mikos as he towels the weary Emperor's brow - however Moonson, smiling weakly to all around, likes it, and that, my Dear Reader, is all that counts.
"Another fig, Living God?", Mikos offers, as the Presidium applauds politely. Moonson gazes at the salver, the gall rising in his throat. "It is coated in finest dwarven grease", the Voice prompts gently, "and Doctor Ko-Lon assures me that his treatment has prodigious purgative proctological potency."
"Moonson!" The Bellex Maximus has finally summoned the courage to interrupt, his fear finally overcoming his frustration, having waited these six hours to deliver his Southern Front Situation Report (and all bad news that must be urgently acted upon). But Moonson has again gripped the bars, the urge once more upon him, and the Imperial Warlord's impudent interruption, one that would have once certainly cost him censure, maybe even his head, is passed over.
"Hmm", thinks the Emperor's Voice, looking at his naked master, squatting over the commode; this wreck of a man, this ruin of a god. Could it be that his once glorious lord, that grinning youth who rode into Boldhome in triumph, garlanded in victory, but who has since spent the spoils of victory in a decade of feverish, fervent dissipation, could it be that he is - and therefore always has been - nothing more than a Proxie? Is it time - yet again - for the Mask to pass on, to another?
He moved over to the fuming Bellex. "Imperial Warlord, a soft word in your ear..."
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