Essom's Wrath: Part Two
Fear is difficult to overcome.
But it can be redirected.
Let us fear something greater than death. Let us fear the eternal. Let our fear be infinite.
And we shall be certain in our fear.
We shall fear God.
He was orphaned.
The Emperor did not wish to lose his warrior, yet blood shall answer blood, such was the way of things. Therefore, for Eshmech's fault, Ramam was doomed to die. If any felt the Emperor was unjust in this, they said nothing. After all, Eshmech was a soldier, and Ramam a slave. This left the child, Essom son of Ramam. The Empress, moved to pity by the child's sad fate, adopted him and gave him over to her servant Haphrish to raise as her own. Thus was Essom raised in the Royal Court.
That he was not her child one could not tell from the way the Empress doted upon him. She had yet to produce an heir for the Emperor, only daughters. A thousand princesses would not satisfy him, and so neither was she. It was whispered that she expressed her desire for a son through Essom. For his part, he regarded her as though he had no other mother.
It was forbidden for slaves to bear arms or wage war, so Essom was taught how to read the stars. The night sky is said to hold many secrets; knowledge of things past, of things present, and of things to come. He delighted his adoptive mother with tales of the various constellations; the Hawk that soars above the peak of Heaven, the Giraffe who ever gazes up at it, the Worm that does not die, and the Dark Road encircling it all. On clear nights when the Emperor was with one of his concubines, they would sit atop the palace while Essom recited the whole history of the world from the First God to the Last Emperor.
As he neared the age of manhood, he attained renown for his abilities. This the Empress encouraged by having him entertain the court through the telling of fortunes. For his part, he turned his studies towards the natural cycles of the seasons, of the sowing and the harvest, of the tides in the sea, of the clouds in the sky, of the beasts of the field, and the kingdoms of men. As each day the sun rises, so did his wisdom grow until his knowledge confounded the eldest sage. Thus, when he completed the rites of passage and became a man, the Emperor appointed him as his chief councilor.
Soon after it was discovered that the Empress was with child. As his first task befitting his position, Essom was charged to divine the gender of the child, for the Emperor was great in years and still without heir. By day he administered potions to the Empress and later examined her excretions. By night he studied the stars and made calculations based upon the times given as to when the child was likeliest conceived. For three days and three nights he strove to uncover the mystery, knowing full well his head would be the price of failure. When he finished, he discovered two things, one of which he shared with the Emperor:
The Empress would bear him a son.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
So it is written.
So it was said.
I say that God is with us, and that God has given us the Word, and that we shall speak the Word.
All that remains is a question:
What shall we say?
The Empire rejoiced.
To celebrate the birth of his son, the Emperor declared a week of festival. The granaries were opened so that the entire Empire might join in feast. Even the slaves were allowed at the table, such was the largess of imperial joy at the founding of an heir. That joy was not limited in origin to the royal family, for memory of failed succession and the strife it entailed still lingered in the hearts of the people. Indeed, for the Emperor there was grief amidst his joy, as the Empress did not survive the birth of her son.
Essom was nowhere to be seen in those days. His love for the Empress transformed to mourning kept him from the gay feasts and merriment. Instead of consolation, he was given responsibility to rule the Empire while the Emperor delighted in his son. This he did with wisdom and fairness, having no interest in his own advancement. While he wielded authority, he remembered his people and life for the slaves was made easier in those days. That the Empire grew in peace and prosperity under Essom's hand, no one bragged, for despite his power, he was still a slave.
When the Emperor's son reached the age of manhood, the Emperor reclaimed authority from Essom. Now secure in his legacy, he turned his attention towards his monument. While all men die, the proud seek immortality through fame, and the Emperor was no different. Seeing the greatness of the Empire after Essom, he swore that his monument would be equally great. Indeed, he called for a mausoleum fully sixty cubits in length, twenty cubits in width, and forty cubits in height. For this great labor he turned to the slaves.
For generations since they were brought to the Empire, the slaves were made to toil over the fields. This they did from the sowing to the harvest, after which they were free to tend their flocks until the time when the crops had to be resown. The Emperor ended this, declaring that upon completion of the harvest, the slaves would cut and lay stone for his monument. This was a great burden to the slaves and their flocks dwindled.
Seeing his people suffer, Essom beseeched the Emperor take pity on them and divide their labor, half toiling the fields and half building the mausoleum, but the Emperor took no notice of his entreaties. This embittered Essom, who began to prophesy against the Emperor and the Empire itself. He foretold catastrophe and searched the skies for signs of calamity and ruin. In his rage, he promised death and destruction to everything the Emperor held dear while the court snickered, comfortable in their derision. Eventually, the Emperor grew tired of his outbursts and sent him away to the farthest corner of the Empire.
He was banished.