Friday, March 4, 2011

Chapter 58 - ON GUARD

I was now a member of the High Guard and I was guarding the emperor. It’s amazing the number of things one man can come in contact with during the course of a day.

The papers he was constantly being presented with was probably the most difficult for me since I needed to read them before I could remake them, but I learned a different way after a little experimentation; it wasn’t appropriate for a guard to read the emperor’s correspondence. Ultimately, I learned to filter out just the impurities from all the papers that came to the emperor’s desk; that was after I remade the desk and the contents of all of its drawers every morning.

I wasn’t here a full week before I diverted my first attack against the emperor. It didn’t reach the emperor though. A young woman succumbed to a poison that had been dusted onto a sheaf of papers she was bringing to the emperor. I was able to extract the poison from her system before it killed her, but she was very ill for several days. The emperor and the other people in the room only saw that she had collapsed and the doctor was summoned. The emperor didn’t know what I had done until he read my report, something I submitted to him at the end of every day. He was impressed that I had been able to save her. I was disappointed that I couldn’t do more; she was newly pregnant and she lost the baby.

The next attack came in his private chambers a couple days later. It was my job to escort him to his apartments at the end of the day and then ‘clean’ the place before he touched anything. I could tell by the way he paced the floor while I did this that he resented that such measures had to be taken, but it was fortunate that I did this because his sheets had been dusted with the same poison that had almost taken the young secretary.

The next attack occurred nearly a week later also in his private apartments. I had just finished cleaning and clearing the apartment and had barely closed the door on my way out of the room when an explosion occurred inside. I rushed back in to find the emperor had been knocked to the floor, fortunately with only a few minor cuts. Someone had flown a small remote control plane up to his window where it detonated against the screening. He had just passed that window; if he had paused there for just a moment, the explosion could have killed him. As it is, I had to remove a small bit of glass that was embedded in his face all too close to his eye.

After that, I stayed in the emperor’s room with him. I usually sat leaning in a corner where I could allow my body to rest while I expanded a guard perimeter of awareness around us both. The first time I did this (the first night), the emperor asked, “Liam, are you awake?”

“Partly,” I replied, as I pulled myself back to full wakefulness. “Do you need anything?”

“No. I’m just not accustomed to seeing my guards dozing in a corner.”

“I need some rest. You’re still guarded. Creg is starting to snore and Lucas is just passing your door. There are . . . three swallow nests in the eves above your window and . . . two guards in the yard below . . . one of them is smoking a cigarette.”

The emperor got out of bed to look out the window. He craned his neck to spot the nests and even found the glowing ember of the cigarette in the dark, he didn’t comment on my method of rest again.

Many evenings, I would end up telling him stories about some of the things my friends and I had done. The stories were many and varied. The ones he liked best had to do with my magic. He especially liked the one about my taming my basilisk and would ask to hear it time and again.

He had a room redesigned especially where we could go and exercise. He prompted me to flex my magic in whatever way he could devise, and then he would watch me attempt what he described. In the process, I tried to teach him how it might be possible to counter what I was doing. After that, we would enjoy a large breakfast. With the almost constant drain on my magic, I was eating a lot.

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