"Have Torr bring them in." He bid Vanrey after the page informed him that the traitors had been found. They were caught attempting to escape with the airship they used for their original treachery. The two traitors were Captain Rahz Carbell and Lieutenant Jura Traevin, found guilty of aiding in the release of five Dragon slaves and transporting them to Perosia. Torr brought them in to the Grand Chamber, their heads bowed in shame. Hyu rose from his throne of ice and descended the three steps that led to the floor; honor, pride, and strength. They are all that keep an emperor above his people. Torr forced the traitors to their knees.
"You have turned your hearts from the glory of Frost and betrayed not only the Empire, but the Leviathan as well." Hyu's voice was cold as frost itself. A voice for ruling. "Have you any last words?" He asked them.
Captain Rahz rose from his knees to look the emperor in his eyes, "You're going to bring death to us all with that tree of yours," he pointed a finger at Hyu. "Or do you think the Dragons are blind? They will see it long before it is finished and burn it, aye, and you with it." The Captain spat at Hyu's feet. Hyu stood like ice, never flinching from his words or his actions.
The emperor looked to Jura, "And you?"
"I have no words," he answered, remaining on his knees. Less pride than the other, Hyu thought, it's pathetic.
"Rise, Lieutenant," he waited. "You are weak of heart and allowed yourself to take part in this treason, but fear not, for your heart shall be made strong once more." Hyu placed his right hand over Jura's heart, "Your heart will be strengthened by frost and last eternal. Sadly, you will not live long enough to take pride in it. This will be quite painful, and slow."
The Lieutenant's legs twitched in a spasm of pain and he fell to the floor, his screams echoed throughout the Grand Chamber. The screams soon faded as the strength went from him, Captain Rahz stared at his Lieutenant, his eyes full of fear. "You need not worry, Captain, that is not your fate. You shall serve the Leviathan in the Eternal Guard, perhaps then you will see the glory of Frost. Torr, take him to join the ranks."
"Yes, Your Majesty." Torr pulled the Captain's arm to lead him from the room but he went willingly enough, What pride he had died with his Lieutenant.
"The Tempest Knights have arrived, Your Majesty," Vanrey announced as he came through the Grand Chamber's doors and went to his knees. "They wait without."
"Show them in." The Tempest Knights were the Hyu's elite guard as well as his council on matters of the Empire. Surely there will have been word from Bastion by now, Hyu had been awaiting news of the Artist's successful assassination. It had been a week since he sent Master Artist Bastion Corigg to kill the Dragon, Koen Alrose, but the last report to come in was of his arrival in Perosia.
"What news do you bring?" Hyu asked the Knights as he took his seat on the icy throne. They stood there, the five of them, stiff and silent save the Knight who began updating him on the progress of his tree of frost.
". . . and should be finished within the year," Janko Vollox was saying, "then we can make our ascension, Your Majesty."
"Very well. What of Bastion Corigg, has he returned to Gabrynth?"
"No, Your Majesty, there has been no word from, though rumors of Koen Alrose's demise have begun to sprout throughout the Empire." Ethryl Merish answered, commander of the Tempest Knights.
"Rumors are not facts, Ser, do not bore me with senseless babble from the streets. Find Bastion and confirm the Dragon's death." It was sharply said but in truth, even rumors brought hope. "Have the Bishops arrived yet?"
"Save Bishop Wylar from Fort Tartus. He should arrive on the morrow with his guard and half of his air fleet." Commander Merish seemed to realize the problem without being asked.
Emperor Hyu asked him anyway, "And where might the other half be?"
"Still grounded at Fort Tartus, Your Majesty, on orders from the Bishop."
Let's hope that there is some sense in this. "If that is all, then you are dismissed."
"Yes, Your Majesty," the Knights said in unison as they bowed and took their leave.
"Vanrey, inform the Bishops that I will meet with them at dawn, I grow tired." Hyu said to his page as he retired to his bedchamber. He went to bed alone, as he always did, and closed his eyes to dream the same dream that had haunted him for the past year.
He stood at the base of his tree of frost, snow-white feathers fell from the sky in a flurry as crimson rivers flowed down the trunk of the tree. The tree was complete, reaching so high that it pierced the heavens. He stood alone on the frozen plains of Salis, the blood from the tree began to puddle around his feet. Blood of time, a voice whispered to him.
"A fool's words," Hyu replied, "time has no blood."
But it does . . . Lost . . . it is lost. The voice explained, a woman's voice.
"What nonsense is this? Who dares to bother me with such foolishness? Show yourself now and be spared the wrath of Hyu Frost, the twenty-fifth emperor of the Frost Empire."
Nonsense? The voice scoffed, Sweet fool, you are blinded by ignorance. A white-haired woman appeared before him. Her eyes burned bright like tiny sapphire stars, frost covered her pale ivory skin all over.
"A Whole Frost?" Hyu reached out to touch her, but she vanished.
Blood of time . . . the voice whispered once more before Hyu woke up, sunlight pouring into the room from the window.
Vanrey came knocking at the door, informing him that the Bishops had convened in the Dining Chamber. Hyu dressed in plain black breeches and a turquoise doublet, he draped his wolf-hair cloak over his shoulders, it was navy blue with a cotton trim and a cerulean tree stitched on to the back.
He entered the Dining Chamber, his Bishops stood from their chair while Hyu took his seat at the head of the table. There were nine of them with Bishop Wylar still absent, one to govern each major fortress in the Empire and its surrounding lands. Once every month, the Bishops were called to Frost's Hold to report the conditions of their territory and offer the name of any Artists worthy of the title of Grand Master. Each fortress was garrisoned with over eight thousand Artists and a fleet of thirty airships.
"I'm pleased to be able to meet with all of you once again." Hyu said as he sat down.
"Well, not all of us," Fayn Corigg of Fort Virtue jested.
Hyu ignored it, "Bishop Wylar should be arriving any moment, so we will begin without him. Have you captured Rondera from the Sereps, Fayn?"
"Yes, Your Majesty, and the Artists have begun to give to the frost as you commanded." It was one of the many cities he had ordered captured and completely frozen over, all to forward his plan to restore the Frost to its original glory. He had not yet told anyone of his plan save his Tempest Knights, but today he would reveal his plan to his Bishops.
"We have broken the siege on Fort Bracer and forced the Sereps to fall back to Dalturos. Our forces are in pursuit, freezing the land as they go," Bishop Beriq Torvail announced, "It won't be long before we crush the remainder of their forces and give Dalturos to the frost, Your Majesty."
"You have my praise, Bishop, and my gratitude. I look forward to news of your success upon your next visit." Hyu was quite impressed, the young Bishop broke siege after only four weeks. The enemy host was led by Harael Drollor, recognized as a Grand Master throughout Norica for his victory against Emperor Tryden Frost in single combat. How did he do it? Hyu wondered.
"That may be sooner than you expect, Your Majesty." There almost seemed to be a smile behind the smile the Bishop gave Emperor Hyu.
Vanrey entered the Dining Chamber, "Bishop Wylar Frost," he called out as the Bishop came in. He wore a grey-and-cerulean cumbra with white silk pants, each adorned with black shards of ice. It was that garb that earned him the title of the Night Storm in the last battle of Syree.
"How kind of you to grace us with your presence, Wylar." Sharla Ilvorne of Fort Hollow Mercy said with her usual distaste for him.
"Would that I could have graced you sooner, but those Sereps did not seem to be too keen on dying quickly." Wylar took his seat at the table, the chair to Hyu's right, "We forced them against the High Wall of Fort Tartus but, with those **** archers of theirs, it took some time to finish them off. I saw to it personally that this Cortan Valion, the enemy commander, had his feet frozen to the ground and a tiger ripped his still-beating heart from his chest and devoured it." Bishop Wylar was quite fond of tigers, making use of them in any way possible.
"I'm pleased to hear that, however, I am not pleased to hear that you have left half of yor fleet grounded at the fort."
"All with good reason, Your Majesty, I've ordered the pilots to take flight in a days hence."
"For what purpose?"
"Each airship has three hundred Artists on board, they will fly south and east and west raining frost down on the land." Bishop Wylar smiled at Hyu, "Is that not what you wanted, Brother?"
"As perceptive as ever,I see," Hyu said, a bit irritated, "Though, I wish you would have at least waited until I had announced my plan."
"Your Majesty?" Morlyl Bordridge of Fort Brassingard inquired.
"Now that Wylar is here, I suppose the time has come. As you know, I have ordered several cities captured and given to the frost. I have also ordered the construction of a tree of frost that reaches its branches into the heavens. Upon its completion, forces from Fort Riverrush, Fort Frost Hail, and Fort Flamerot will ascend the tree to assault the Verillian cities in the clouds.
"Frost will rain down from the skies of Norica and the Great Purge that our forefathers sought will be brought to fruition." His Bishops sat in silence, too stunned for words, even Wylar could not have known that he meant to crush the Verillian as well. "Also," the most significant piece of his plan that he had revealed to no one, including his Tempest Knights, "Sharla Ilvorne of Fort Hollow Mercy, I hereby charge you with the task of finding the Sentinel Hyuregahn's resting place."
Emperor Hyu stood from his seat, "So it has been commanded by word of Emperor Hyurego Frost, twenty-fifth emperor of the Frost Empire. Pure-born child of frost, and the first Whole Frost to walk Norica since the Dawn of Dragons." A tree of frost sprouted behind Hyu's chair, growing so tall that it touched the ceiling.
"All hail Emperor Hyurego Frost!" The Bishops all shouted as they stood from their seats, saluting Hyu with their right fist over their hearts.