With the assassination of Emperor Kova, the absence of his heir to the throne and the disappearance of the Empress Rose, the Kingdom of Rosemador now belongs to the three former generals of Emperor Kova. The former throne that once held two seats for Emperor Kova and Empress Rose now has three throne chairs. All remnants of the former Emperor have been removed from his enormously magnificent palace. Mere mention of his name has been decreed punishable by death by Atrius, Rayke, & Kem.
The former campaign of expanding the empire and perpetuating a war machine has returned to the armies of the Emperors Atrius, Rayke, and Kem. A bounty has been placed on the head of young Kova II and his mother Empress Rose should they ever return to Rosemador. Their escape from certain death was not well received by Atrius and his cohorts. Rendu leads Empress Rose further away from Rosemador into a secondary neighboring borderland full of wild forests and agrarian cultured inhabitants called Goldell.
It is in this obscure and peaceful land that Rose settles into raising Kova II as Emperor Kova instructed. She changes both their names so that they aren’t recognized or reported to the spies, servants and armies of Emperors Atrius, Rayke, and Kem. Rose continues to practice the “Nine Deadly Arts” in secret within the confines of a modest home and at times deep in the forests of Goldell. She begins teaching Kova II at age 5 whom she now calls Esoteric while she goes by the name Reina. Rendu is known to Esoteric and Reina simply as Uncle Visnor.
The scrolls containing the teachings of the “Nine Deadly Arts” are well hidden and kept secret by Reina who studies and practices them with Visnor secretly. It is unknown by their neighbors that they possess any fighting skills whatsoever only that they keep to themselves. They only venture into the center of the town for certain goods that they don’t grow themselves consciously limiting their contact with the outside world.
15 Years Later…
Esoteric is an above average height, young and powerfully built man. He is the spitting image of his father Emperor Kova. Esoteric has knowledge of eight out of the nine deadly arts mastered and spends most of his time helping his mother with chores around their dwelling and training in the forests both building his body and mind while learning about the environment.
Rose maintains a unique garden full of various herbs and flowers she uses to make all manner of potions and remedies. She cautions Esoteric not to venture beyond the borders of the forests or the town near to where they live. He questions her as to why? “Mother, I’ve always obeyed you but I ask you why do we live like this?
Why do we live as if we are fugitives? We have no friends, we live in the forests, we toil with the earth and train in techniques that you say are ancient and sacred yet we have no need to use them. Where is my father? What happened to him? I remember we didn’t always live here. We once had a nice home. Tell me.”
Rose with a strained look on her face asks her son to take a walk with her. They begin their walk in the forest while Visnor is in the town trading for some goods they need. “My son, you have many important questions that do deserve answers. I’m sorry I’ve kept them from you all these years but it has only been for your protection.” They stop in front of a stream and take seats against a large tree.
Esoteric looks at his mother and waits for her explanation. “Many years ago when I was a much younger woman I lived peacefully in the kingdom of Rosemador. I was poor much like most of the inhabitants there. We knew nothing of war and spent our time living from hand to mouth. Our king was not an evil man but he didn’t really care much about the plight of us the impoverished.
The nobles, and elites who had wealth, had his ear and were favored in the king’s eyes. Power was given to them and we the poor continued to suffer indignation, and poverty with no voice and little to no redress of the king. This was just the way it was. Then one day a warrior clan lead by a general came to our lands. They were a ruthless group. They dispatched many with impunity. The king and his troops fought against them but were no match and were quickly vanquished as one would a cask of beer. All the wealthy elites had their wealth taken from them, their homes taken, and in many instances their lives.
They were made to see that they weren’t special, that they were in fact the same as us the impoverished, the powerless, the voiceless and they wept bitterly at their displacement. The general of this great warrior clan became an Emperor and all of his conquered kingdoms were folded into the current empire. One day while in the local markets my path crossed with that of the Emperor as I was out searching the market for cloth to make a quilt.
Emperor Kova was walking through the markets with some of his soldiers and happened to look upon me a young maiden. He came to me and asked me my name. I thought it prudent that I answer but, fear kept me from opening my mouth in reply. One of his soldiers raised his hand as if to strike me for my silence saying with a raised voice “Answer him wench”. The soldiers hand was stayed by that of the Emperor who apologized on behalf of his soldier before dealing him a blow that dropped him to his knees before me. I was startled and the soldier apologized through clenched teeth from pain of the blow he’d received. Emperor Kova asked me if I knew who he was.
I replied that all I knew of him and his warriors was that they were our new rulers. He introduced himself as Emperor Kova leader of the Onsed Warrior Clan. They were a nomadic clan of hired mercenaries. Fighting wars for whomever paid the highest price. They held territories through the strength of members of their clan holding stakes in various kingdoms allowing for their influence and power to be felt wherever they sojourned. The key to their power was held due to their unmatched excellence in the art of combat and the mastery of “Nine Deadly Arts”. Only one from their ranks had complete knowledge and mastery of the “Nine Deadly Arts” the general.
He also told me that he’d not seen a more beautiful woman in all his travels. I blushed at his words and almost collapsed when he invited me to dinner at his home that evening. I humbly accepted as I wasn’t sure I could refuse him. From that day on my life was changed forever. Emperor Kova fell in love with me and admittedly though not at first, I with him. Emperor Kova opened up to me about his life as a warrior with all the battles, the killings, the conquests, and spoils of war. It had worn on him and he wasn’t particularly happy.
He told me that he began to consider his life and what he’d accomplished. He no longer wanted a life of mercenarism. He decided to make Rosemador his permanent home and I his Empress. You my son were born several years after we were married. Our happiness was complete upon your birth but there were those of your father’s clan who were not happy. They desired more power, more travel, more conquests, more spoils, and settling into Rosemador was not an idea that suited them. They entreated your father to allow them to continue their war machine but he’d changed. His focus was no longer on amassing more. He was content and they… were not. As time went on your father’s health began to fail him and this worked to the advantage of those who would seek to disobey him.
In our last days in Rosemador you and I were your fathers only thoughts and happiness. You were the darling of his eye as you would play in your father’s room jumping up and down on his bed and playing with all the joy of boy.” A tear forms in Rose’s right eye. “Your uncle Visnor is actually the loyal former right hand of your father. His real name is Rendu. He was instructed to flee with us in the event of an attack on the palace as our safety was your father’s first concern. The unique knowledge of the art of war and fighting techniques known as the “Nine Deadly Arts” is your heritage. It was mastered by your father who taught very few of his warriors more than a few of them. I brought them with us when we fled and have taught you from them as you have grown into manhood. This has been to prepare you for your eventual return to your rightful place as Emperor.
Your father’s fate was not known to me after we fled but I heard through rumor that he was beheaded and dismembered by the current Emperors before they took the throne from him and you. To defeat the current Emperors on the throne you will need to have mastered the “Nine Deadly Arts” as these three treacherous dogs are formidable by themselves but as a triumvirate they will be exceedingly difficult to beat. Rendu and I will continue to prepare you. You are known in these lands as Esoteric, but in reality you are heir to the throne of Rosemador it’s rightful Emperor and your name is Kova II.
Kova II looks at his mother with tears streaming down both his cheeks. He bows his head and says “Teach me”.
To be continued…