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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Great (07/06/06)

TITLE: And Grace
By Maxx .
07/12/06


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The room flickered, swaying between the scattered illumination of fire that swept the city below and the deepening shadows of night. Cracks in the palace windows glowed, refracting the tumult, looking like serpentine rivulets of blood against the starless sky.

The Emperor placed his hands on the sill, leaning forward until his face was near the heated glass. Phosphorescent explosions, distant now, painted him, glinting off polished armor. The incursion had been swift, predictably successful. He inhaled, long and slow, as if indulging in the exotic sent of a foreign lover. The rumble of lustful enjoyment reverberated in his body. “I destroy worlds.”

Ricca lurched and stared. Incandescent red licked across the room. “I…” He trembled, young palms clutching straggled hair.

Looking back, the Emperor drew his grin upward, lips twisted. Pinpoint incarnations of flame accentuated eyes black as pitch. “No.” The wavering light wove about the furrows of his temples. “Systems. Entire star systems.” He turned. “Do you believe me, boy?”

“Y—yes.” Ricca blinked between the towering invader and the roiling plumes that engulfed his homeland. “Yes, my…” He swallowed. “…Lord.”

“You’re frightened.” The Emperor stepped from the pane. “Good.” His tone was curdled. “You should be.” He clasped the child’s arm, gloved hand gouging, lifting. “I’ve killed trillions.”

“W—Why?”

The Emperor thrust Ricca away. “Because I can!” He swore, words echoing about the empty hall, underscored by the sound of indistinct screams. The seal on his breastplate rose and fell as the cadence of his breath increased. “I can, and do.”

Ricca tumbled into a heap against the pocked and shattered wall. The floor was dark there, stained with blood where his father had been tortured, murdered. Never broken.

The man exhaled. “I wasn’t much older than you when my parents were assassinated.” The edges of his words became hazy. He reached. “I understand.”

Ricca’s throat burned. “You killed my…”

The Emperor swung, open handed, connecting on the boy’s cheek. “Anyone that stands in my way! Anyone!” His eyes narrowed. “Don‘t forget.”

Ricca raised his arms, falling away, his voice a whispered mutter. “I can’t. No good. No good from this.” He smudged welling tears.

“You see me as a monster, hmm?” The Emperor straightened, shoulders squared, chin lifted. “War, destruction. These things aren’t simply the purview of the damned. Your God’s a warrior, yes?” He moved near. “A lifetime of combat. All I comprehend.” He swallowed, gaze darting. “I never had children.”

The boy bit his lip, muscles quaking. Memories of his father shuffled in the murk. A sob tore through struggling lungs.

The Emperor‘s countenance grayed. He spun, robe flowing behind in the pulsating dim. “Quiet!” He thrust a damning finger across the gap. “I’ll staple your throat shut.” Veins on his brow distended. “I abide no tears in battle or home.”

Ricca lifted the tunic, pressing it to his face, desperate prayers arcing from ingrained faith. “Strength, trust, promise.”

“You judge me?” The Emperor growled, dragging him to the window. “Your devout race.” He spit with escalating thunder. “Like the weak everywhere, always babbling about Divine retribution. Eternal justice.” The corner of his mouth twitched.

“And grace.” Ricca choked.

Gloved hands pressed the young frame tighter. “See your world? That’s what I do. I’m The Mighty Sword. Emperor of all. Who are you to convict me?” He squeezed until his fingers shook. “I’ve brought down races, realms you never knew existed, alliances spanning galaxies. And you dare condemn me?”

“No, no. Save you.”

The Emperor released his grip and unsheathed his dagger.

Ricca collapsed, breath gone.

“Do you realize what it’s like to have a billion legions at your command?” The Emperor paced. “Kings kneeling?” With a clenched fist he beat against his armor, voice rising to a shout. “I’m the greatest warrior in history! The most powerful ruler of all time! The expanse of the universe cowers before me! Me! Me!” He circled, teeth bared, chest swollen as he glared toward heaven. “I’ve taken it all! Everything! There’s nothing left to conquer…” He jabbed the dagger at the flaming city as laughter reeled from him in spasms, his body glazed by the luminous conflagration. “Nothing left…”

The boy struggled to his knees as the room slipped into stillness.

“And when I die…” The Emperor’s voice sank, lost in the folds of purple about his collar. “…meaningless.” The dagger fell, clattering across the tainted marble.

Ricca stood. “Meaning comes from hope. There’s something greater.”

The Emperor raised his brow, extending his hand.


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This article has been read 1198 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Melanie Kerr 07/15/06
The Emperor seems to personify all that is bad about greatness. The recognition that for all his greatness his life is meaningless is well made.
Lori Othouse 07/17/06
Wonderful descriptive writing, truly a case of greatness gone bad. This really drives home the point that power with no higher purpose is, as you said, meaningless.
Rita Garcia07/18/06
Masterful writing! Another example of why your BoB!!
Jesus Puppy 07/18/06
Power corrupts, and Absolute power corrupts absolutely.. Yet there is that which these cannot stand against... Hope in eternal salvation. Well done Maxx.
Sandra Petersen 07/18/06
I lost my original comment in cyberspace, so I'll start over. First of all, the title, while simple, sets the reader up to look for grace somewhere in what follows. I'm glad you chose the attribute grace, because the Emperor did not appear to believe in mercy for anyone.

You described the whole scene very well. The part I kept trying to figure out was the time in which this took place. I'm thinking, because you mentioned solar systems that the Emperor could destroy, that this is in the future. Yet the Emperor wore armor like in the medieval times and they had their conversation in a castle.

The dialogue, of course, was excellent.

Just a couple of typos that slipped by: "the exotic sent" (scent) and "He spit with escalating thunder" (perhaps spat to match the past tense of the rest of the article?)

Great intensity, as usual, Maxx.
Suzanne R07/19/06
I thought I was reading someone else's but it didn't take long to clue in that this is a Maxx entry! Brilliant wordsmithing, as usual. One sentence I especially admire is: "Pinpoint incarnations of flame accentuated eyes black as pitch." Wow! You're a true master!
Brenda Craig07/19/06
I in no way feel qualified to comment, except to say it is riviting and intense. Wonderful descriptive language. Wow! I loved it.
Trina Courtenay07/19/06
My eyes were glued to my monitor! Great work as usual Maxx.
T. F. Chezum07/19/06
Very well done, as usual. You always paint such vivid pcitures with your words.
George Parler 07/20/06
Wow ... Did I say wow? Wow ... I couldn't have stopped reading if wanted to. Good job Maxx.
Jessica Schmit07/22/06
Is it just me or do you use two words for your titles of the stories that deal with the "darker side of life?" Just an observation.

Well, I love reading your stories. You have an amazing way of bringing a fictional setting to life and allowing your readers to take what they want from the story. My favorite line was this one, "The floor was dark there, stained with blood where his father had been tortured, murdered. Never broken." NEVER BROKEN! Wow. Powerful. One of those lines that speak HUGE volumes. A beautiful depication of the corruption of greatness and what truly is great. You make the reader think. I want to hear your thought son this piece.