In the past…
My gait sways like dying pack mule.
They look at me, look past the scars of pursuit and crusted blood. They do not see like men. They see like hunters; I am the boar impaled on their spear. A demon born of the steppes, felled by the power of numbers and brought to their gleaming city weighed down by silver chains. I must march alongside them or face the metal rods they brandish. No more swords—now that my spirit is broken and my hands bound, I am a prize for their entertainment. Thinking me wholly ignorant of their hideous tongue, my captors revealed my fate to me in their arrogant fits of taunting. I do not understand all, just enough:
Gladiator. Combat. Arena.
I am no war prisoner. My father told me of their practice, told me it is better to die in the escape than be captured alive.
I have been captured alive. I know what waits for me. I have heard stories from travelers able to walk inside those looming white walls—a beacon of misery amidst the empty plains. I will be fitted with armor if I am lucky, sent for judgment under their watchful eyes. Who will be judged depends on the victor—either my opponent or I. Cheered on by gods whose mercy wanes in a face that does not reflect their own.
The last stretch of road appears before our party. My eyes strain as they drink in the sight of the walls, sunlight bouncing off their surface, as if the gods themselves cannot touch their majesty. I recall the moments preceding the raid, the crackling fire blazing at the hub of our temporary settlement. We were at peace. We secluded ourselves in the steppes. We heard of the armies marching through the plains, and like complacent fools we dismissed the threat.
Their numbers overwhelmed us, swarming as locusts do through our camp, throwing spears, perched atop their stallions like the Pale Rider come to collect our heads. I lost my family in the scuffle, a fact weighing heavier than the chains wound round my neck. I will shed tears in private, not in front of the monsters whose greed robbed me of everything.
Commands are screamed all around.
And they do, screeching on their massive hinges and exposing to me the gilded cage in which I will live out the rest of my days.
You know, I never really enjoyed having information thrown at me. Those huge blocks of text always used to irritate me, because they were always very detailed, dumped a lot of information on me, but they rarely gave me a reason to care beyond “This happened, so you should.” I don’t mean to say I didn’t find a way to care about them, I just found myself relying not on academics, but people sharing their stories. Sure, they don’t drop fancy words that give your ego a boost every time you recognize their meaning without the aid of a dictionary, but I found the subtle glimpses of their lives and their struggles more rewarding.
So, I present an idea. Analyzing and critiquing is fun and all, and you will probably see a lot of it here as well, but I would like the focus to be on something more worthwhile to me. I don’t have access to a lot of diverse individuals, being the introverted homebody that I am, but I do like to think myself a halfway decent writer of original fiction. That is what you see above. An installment, one of many stories I have planned to convey what Empire means to me.
When I hear that word, I remember pictures I saw in history books of gladiators and maybe Nero playing his lyre as Rome burns, but to say those two images encompass the whole of its connotations would be narrow and probably a little stupid of me. That cannot be all Empire is, after all. That is why, when I think of Empire, such words as imperialism, conquest and glory claw their way to the forefront. To me, that seems to sum up the concept pretty well, except I risk excluding the deeper workings of the system, and worse I risk being called out on it. This is where the whole story bit comes into play. I could just talk about Empire. I could lay down the facts, pick them apart, give an opinion and call it a day.
Yeah, I just don’t see the fun in that. Inevitably, it will happen, but for the most part, I want to tell stories. These idiosyncratic tales will draw on Empire’s influence, obviously, otherwise I will miss the whole point of this blog. Some will connect, others won’t, but that is my failing as an author with the attention span of a dog in a room full of toys.
I can only hope the reader will enjoy them anyway.