I watched a hawk circling the distant mountains and smiled, envying its freedom.
But, I survived, learning day to day how to cope with my cage.
Stifling a yawn, I turned to the bed and prepared for one of my many naps.
The lack of activity made me want to sleep all of the time.
Few people came to visit except for the maids who came in for cleaning, and there were no one in particular who came in to mess with me during the waiting time.
The maids were sometimes annoying, but it wasn’t a big deal.
I had drifted off when sudden voices echoed from what I thought had been a dream, but realized were men approaching the chamber.
“We’ve waited too long.
Five months is enough, so make sure the supplies are ready.” The emperor approached, to my surprise, during the day hours.
I sat up in haste and smoothed out my clothing to appear presentable.
“But, Your Majesty, it takes two months for the supplies to make it here from Eidman.
If you want to have a stable distribution of supplies, going to battle by the fall will be difficult.
Wouldn’t next spring be a better option” Though I had not met him, the other voice must belong to the emperor’s aide, Raven.
“You want to go to war in the spring time, when the harvest hasn’t grown Who will be responsible for the food then” The emperor did not speak as if in a good spirit.
They had been planning the conquest of Lucretia for months.
I waited, patient and demure, as they entered.
I tried to keep my gaze averted to the floor, as is proper, but this had been the first time I had seen the emperor dressed in formal attire.
When we first met, his clothes had been stained with blood.
The blue jerkin he now wore was simple and not decorated with any embellishments, but with his hair swept back into a long tail, his face was enough to make hearts skip a beat.
I could see now why all the girls of the Empire scrambled over each other to catch even a glimpse of his form.
He stopped as he entered the room, realizing that there was an occupant.
“I forgot, Lily is in my chamber,” he announced to Raven.
“Gather all the documents that need signing and bring them here.”
“Are you going to see the political affairs here It’s all confidential.” Raven was bold, questioning the emperor’s order.
The emperor’s face darkened.
“It is only Lily.
There is no concern.”
The comment had also been directed at me, out of warning.
A reminder that I was nothing more than a doll, one that could be removed should I overstep my bounds.
Raven glanced at me, an untrusting look in his eyes, then bowed his head to the emperor and left the room.
I stood silent, a bead of nervous sweat tracking an uncomfortable path down my back.
The emperor sat behind his table, spreading the military documents he had brought in front of him.
Of all the rooms in the palace, why did he need to come here Could this be a test of my loyalty, or a rare punishment for my sloth during the days
He studied the maps and strategies for a few moments then looked up, as if he had forgotten I had remained.
“Lily, forgive me for this intrusion.
I find this chamber to be my only solace of peace.
An emperor attracts an enormous amount of attention wherever he goes and it can be quite suffocating.
Please, be comfortable”
It sounded like a bit of an excuse.
I had learned from the staff that he had not been the intended emperor.
He wasn’t trained in imperial protocol since birth, as is tradition, and had to rely on his presence to instigate authority.
I couldn’t understand how he had risen to such power, and created a nation at the peak of its strength, all by will and command.
I sat on the edge of the bed and watched in fascination as he worked.
He read the documents with a discerning eye, dipping a quill in a pot of ink and scribbling notes with great care in the margins.
I wanted to know every little detail going through his mind.
My only knowledge of him was the man who shared his bed with me every evening.
For once, I saw the emperor as a ruler, a strategist, mighty in power and focus.
For once, I saw the complete man.
The harsh, intimidating creature who first met me, in bloody clothing and a hard glare, had retreated to the back of my brain.
It was still there, as there would always be that side of him, but it remained only one facet of a complex individual.
A knock on the chamber door broke my study of this new man I knew nothing about.
I stood once more, in proper obedience to receiving the visitor.
“It’s Raven, Your Majesty,” came the call from the corridor.
“Enter.” The emperor did not raise his head from his work.
Raven entered, pulling behind him a cart piled high with official documents.
He left them next
to the table, bowed, and removed himself from the chamber.
My mouth was agape at the amount of work that had been presented to him.