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Thread: Tale of the Week 295: Emperor - VOTING THREAD

  1. #1
    Turkafinwë's Avatar The Absurdist
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    Default Tale of the Week 295: Emperor - VOTING THREAD

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    Emperor


    Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte by Workshop of François Gérard - provided by Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

    Keywords Battery
    Eagle
    Island
    Rival
    Victory



    You have ONE vote.

    Submission 1
    Why am I here? Why have you brought me to this place? I am surrounded by chaos and confusion. Bodies everywhere, bodies in constant motion. Yet, I feel alone. I glance to the left, then the right. Nothing but unfamiliar faces staring blankly ahead. I see no life in their eyes and wonder if there is any left in mine. Are we alike, them and I? Do they feel what I feel? Do they think the thoughts I do? Answerless questions pile up in my head, flooding my mind, drowning me. I want to know; am I the only one? A single reasoning individual, like an island in a sea of empty shells. Or could I be wrong? Maybe I am no more alive than those around me. I try to purge my ideas, for they serve only as torment. In the end, it doesn't really matter one way or the other. We are trapped together, regardless of conceived agency. Souls already sold to damnation. Our feet lift and set in unison as we move forward with synchronized steps. Our arms swing steadily, left, right, left, right. We are not human, but a single machine, bound by the eagle's glare under which we march. A mere tool for our master to please his whims.

    And the machine moves on. It consumes. Devours. Everything in its path gets destroyed with equal ferocity. No pardon. None. That is, until it meets its rival. A block of men, robbed of essence, packed shoulder to shoulder. Like us, another machine of cogs and steam. The opposite side of the same coin. We stop and stare at one another. For a brief moment, we share the insanity of the situation. Then darkness falls again. The unyielding, unstoppable, unforgiving darkness. Man the battery! Load the guns! Rally men, rally! Hold the line! This is the time of victory! Victory for whom? Over what? More questions, but still no answers. Just do or die. We lash out with hellish vigor. Like hammers, forged in the most deprived reaches of man's nature, we strike at each other. Blow after bloody blow. The bodies around me shudder and fall. They, who moved so stridently before, now lay motionless on the ground. They are no longer chained. The leash has snapped. They are gone from this world and into the next. They are dead.

    I stare at the corpses and pray for the chance to take my place beside them. The thought is terrifying, but also sweet and so very alluring. I want to leave this field of evil. Then, amidst the sharp crackles, loud booms and the cries of those gone before me, I feel a sudden pain in my chest. My legs give way. I tumble over. Finally, my time has come. Freedom and death intertwine in a macabre release from this prison of flesh. In that last moment, before embracing the void, I see the man who led me here. And I scream his call; Vive L'Empereur!

    Submission 2
    Waterloo, 1815

    Smoke choked the battleground, though it did little to mask the suffering of the men. As the battery on my right let loose another volley of cannon fire, I watched the shot soar through the air, and silently prayed that it would take the head off my rival, Lord Wellington, and bring a swift end to this torrid affair.

    But he was too far away.

    As the cannonball vanished into the cloud of mayhem, far short of the enemy’s command tent, I knew any chance of victory would have to arise from the valorous acts of my men, and not from a stroke of luck. Grunting, I turned my gaze to the men standing proudly behind me.

    The Imperial Guard was unrivalled in its strength and splendour. Ten thousand of France’s finest soldiers stood waiting for the order, the crème de la crème among them hoisting high the Imperial Eagle. The sunlight radiated brilliantly off their polished cuirasses and bayonets, creating a shimmering sheen of gold. It was almost as if they were angels…

    They were my children. The tallest and the bravest, who have been with me from the very beginning. They have survived countless battles, and have made it to old age in a profession where men die young. It seemed almost cruel to subject them to another fierce slugfest…

    But this was what they were trained for. This was what they were born for. This is what they are destined for. My oldest comrade and the bravest man I ever had the honor to know rode to the forefront and saluted me. “My Emperor.” Marshal Ney gestured to the Allied centre. “It has never been weaker than it is now.”

    I concurred. Even through the infernal smoke it was clear that Wellington’s boys were on their last legs. I turned to address my children, but at that very moment a messenger rode in frenetically and interrupted my thoughts. “My Emperor,” he whispered, his face pale and panic-stricken, “the Prussians are in the woods!”

    I dismissed the messenger and immediately tried to suppress the flash of shock that must have appeared on my face, but I was not quick enough, for Ney inched his horse closer and inquired as to the contents of the message.

    “The Prussians are here.”

    “What? We must divert the Guard immediately! The left will –"

    “The left will have to hold, Ney. And by God they will hold. I am NOT going back to that island.”

    Ney was clearly distressed, but we were both seasoned commanders, and I knew Ney would understand. Breaking the Allied centre was the one chance I had to win this battle. The longer this battle dragged on, the more Allied reinforcements would stream in, and the more victory would elude me. After a few seconds, Ney embraced me, steeled his resolve, and returned to his place at the head of the column.

    “Vive L’Empereur!”

    And with that, the angels, my children, all marched to their doom.

    Submission 3
    Ney’s blood was in his hands.

    Auguste de Marmont knew there would have been no use in voting against the death of his old companion. It was one of his lightest burdens. But still, the decision troubled him. For if the world was ruled by the laws of loyalty and love, and not the will of kings and tyrants, it would have been him facing the firing squad. Not Ney.

    When their old friend and emperor escaped his island prison and returned to France, all of them had had to make a choice. Marmont chose Napoleon’s rivals, victory and life. Now he was the last marshal of the Empire still drawing breath. And justice had nothing to do with it. Age had taught him that virtue and honour were young men’s follies.

    In the streets, the children called him “the man who betrayed Napoleon”. What did they know? Had their ears been shattered by the batteries in Marengo and Wagram? Had they bled in Salamanca and Leipzig? No – they had just heard about all of it and assigned him a vile role in the legend. As Marmont entered his eight decade, he saw that his life had become a pebble doomed to circle a comet for eternity.

    He tried to find solace in writing – in carving his own path in the memory of nations. But he knew it was useless. What was ink and paper against blood and eagles? What was a man against a myth? What was Marmont against Bonaparte?

    Submission 4
    At the center of the world, nestled amongst the marble aeries of the eternal city, the eagle stood tall. The crimson standards fluttered and waved in the gentle breezes wafting over the Capitoline hill, and for a moment there was peace. But it was only a moment.

    A scream tore the baked summer air asunder, drawing the senator’s gaze back to the earth below, where he saw the world coming to an end. For two days already, the Goths had burned and wrecked their way through the city of Augustus, of Tiberius, of Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. They took what they would, destroyed the rest, and even now columns of smoke were reaching toward the heavens on all sides, the ashes of unholy sacrifice rising to great Jupiter, who would no longer look on his child, the jewel of cities. All about lay devastation and destruction, the rape of civilization, and the Capitoline mount stood as an island in a sea of blood.

    Since the long-haired Goths first crossed the Alps, the legions had lost nearly every battle, retreating foot by foot, forsaking the lands won by their ancestors, and now they had nowhere left to run. They stood upon the steps of the capitol, and they made their final stand. Looking down upon them, the senator’s face was lighted by a passing smile. They had failed often and without shame, but now, at the end, their actions would send them to Elysium with their pride regained.

    The soldiers knew the rival they faced, for they had faced him too often before, and they had prepared themselves mightily. The marble steps were piled high with overturned ox-carts, market stalls, and other such debris, before which were stacked casks of oil. The seat of Empire had been turned into a battery, which would sooner be blasted to dust than given over to barbarian lords.

    Still gazing down, his brow furrowed with fear, the senator saw the hordes sliding up the streets toward the hill, screams of terror and torture preceding their march. Their feet pushed slowly, hatefully forward, daring to sully the walks of men who had become as gods, but the legion that awaited them did not budge. They remained stalwart.

    When finally the Goths reached the Capitol, they surged forward with unimaginable intensity, a sea of wrath and hatred born on a century of jealousy. They hacked at the makeshift ramparts with their axes, hurled their spears at the soldiers atop them, and soon enough, they overcame that last line of defense. The final bastion of Rome had fallen. And then, with tears in his eyes, the senator did what had earlier been asked of him. He removed a torch from a sconce beside him, thrust it out past the window’s sill, and dropped it. Absent-mindedly, he began to count. One. Two. Thr—

    The blast knocked him off his feet, and he smiled. The barbarians had destroyed the eternal city, but they would not be given a costless victory.

    Chapter XXVII: The Choice
    #JusticeForAkar #JusticeForCal #JusticeForCookie #JusticeForAthelchan



  2. #2

    Default Re: Tale of the Week 295: Emperor - VOTING THREAD

    That was simply a treat. Usually, all entries are solid, but this time every one was a gem. Even the three that somehow managed to focus on exactly the same thing all managed to be unique and touching. I really cannot say enough how happy I am to have voted in this run. These are just perfect stories, and I tip my cap to all of you!
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  3. #3
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Tale of the Week 295: Emperor - VOTING THREAD

    I agree, these are effective and impressive tales!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Tale of the Week 295: Emperor - VOTING THREAD

    Great pieces! Good luck everyone!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11 View Post
    Even the three that somehow managed to focus on exactly the same thing all managed to be unique and touching.
    I find it amusing that we managed to show three points of view on the same subject: the cannon fodder, the master and the subordinate.

  5. #5
    Adamat's Avatar Invertebrate
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    Default Re: Tale of the Week 295: Emperor - VOTING THREAD

    I agree, very good job all around!
    #JusticeForCookie #JusticeForCal #JusticeForAkar #JusticeForAthelchan

  6. #6
    Swaeft's Avatar Drama King
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    Default Re: Tale of the Week 295: Emperor - VOTING THREAD

    Quote Originally Posted by Admiral Van Tromp View Post
    I find it amusing that we managed to show three points of view on the same subject: the cannon fodder, the master and the subordinate.
    Didn't notice that before, this is funny! It seems almost criminal to cast a vote in this round, but I fear I had let my emotions get the better of me.

    Best of luck guys, whoever the winner is this time, it will certainly be a worthy and well deserved one

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  7. #7

  8. #8

    Default Re: Tale of the Week 295: Emperor - VOTING THREAD

    A most difficult choice indeed. Really makes me wish I had more votes.

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