AN: Not bothering with a disclaimer. It's on my profile page. Please note that this chapter's length is not indicative of future lengths-that's why it's a prologue.
But before we do start, I just wish to give credit to Minstrel Knight, whose work, "Tyrant," is the prime influence for this story. I only hope that this story can live up to its spiritual predecessor.
EDIT: Please note that this story follows a non-linear timeline. This chapter is the prologue, but could also pass off as the epilogue. Subsequent chapters will deal with the events that led to this chapter.
EDIT August 27, 2012: As stated in Chapter XIX: A Question of Loyalty, I've edited this chapter to reflect a broadening of the story's time frame.
EDIT July 20, 2013: As stated in Chapter XXX: Midnight, I've edited out the date until the story actually gets to this point. I'm kinda tired of having to keep going back to fix it.
EDIT February 25, 2014: As stated in Chapter XXXIII: Coastal Dawn, I've rewritten the prologue. However, this is merely to test out a newer version. Please inform me if this is more to your liking or not via reviews, PMs, or the poll.
No man is truly great who is great only in his lifetime. The test of greatness is the page of history.
- William Hazlitt
Hogwarts Valley, Albion, 20XX…
The city by the lake was quiet, for the first time in many years.
Once the bustling capital of the Republic of Albion, the great experiment of the Mage Republic, its odd shaped houses and rich magical culture lay in ruins. Where once proud bells had rung at the Clock Tower at the Central Square, now lay a ruined tower, its copper bell resting where once the statue of Dumbledore had been, now toppled over and broken into pieces.
Its citizens, once proud witches and wizards, were now long gone. Some dead, some evicted. No humans resided in the Valley anymore.
The Empire had seen to that.
Throughout the city, its soldiers continued their work in bringing down the mage capital brick by brick, stone by stone. They had their orders, and they carried them out with heartless disregard for the culture they were annihilating. None questioned it. Albion was the enemy; an enemy of a lifetime, and it needed to disappear for the Empire's rise to be complete.
Yet for all their diligence, the soldiers' minds were not on their task. Their attention wavered, as they glanced up to the proud castle that still dominated the Valley. Hogwarts Castle. The once-proud School of Magic. The birthplace of the mage rebellion. The seat of Albion. The most important building in the Mage Republic.
And today was its final day on this earth.
But for now, it hosted a cadre of conquerors, who took pleasure in roaming its empty halls, revelling in the fact that their enemies were defeated, their pride crushed. As an insult to the defeated foe, they hosted their victory banquet in the Great Hall where once students and teachers had communed in daily celebrations of magical culture. Where the Albion government had ruled.
It seemed appropriate.
But while the conquerors enjoyed their victory feast, one woman restrained herself, preferring to write in a nondescript notebook. Unlike her colleagues, she did not revel in the insult paid to their foes, but rather sought to understand what had led to this. Her books could only tell her so much; people would always be biased. No one account could be trusted, and with the Empire's monopoly on the truth in Europe right now, she wasn't sure anything published was remotely true.
So she had sought elsewhere, and as she observed the final days of Albion, had chosen to reflect on what was lost through the ages, and what was gained. For though her heart and spirit were soaked in the colors of the Empire, she understood that only by knowing the truth could one begin to understand reality.
Scratching feverishly, a pen streaked its way across the dull, brownish paper of the weathered diary, her thoughts began taking material form in the form of letters and words.
Some men…live simple lives. They sleep, they eat, they breed, they love, they work, and then, at the end of the day, they sleep once more.
Others, however, possess a fire within them that threatens to engulf the whole world.
I do not claim to know for certain when it was that the fire within our Emperor first burned—perhaps he had always had it, destined from birth to change the world around him to his image; to crush his enemies in the earth, the mud, and snow. Perhaps not.
For the truth is, we have lost as much as we have gained in these wars. My...Emperor insists the world has changed for the better. Has it? I am forced to question his assertion, as I cannot recall a different world, and stories are forged in the biases of mankind. Who's to say what is right? What is not?
I want to know. A fool's errand, undoubtedly, but I must at least try. I have been fortunate, as those who surround me can yet recall their experiences throughout the Empire's rise. But even these stories will not be the truth. I must remember that, as I detail these stories. I must take care not to believe what is said blindly, as so many do, and learn from what has brought us to this terrible moment, when we bid goodbye to another culture...another nation.
Did it deserve to die?
I cannot tell. I can only look back, and hope the past gives me an answer. Where to start? Where do I even begin to recount? Do I speak of the Americans' failed experiments? With their ill fated invasion of Japan? Do I start with the bitter hatred between Germany and France during the Cold War? Or with the rampant militarization of Europe as a result of it? Should I begin with Franco's death? Or the rise of the Ultranationalists in Spain? Where does one begin? Where did all things change?
Perhaps the spark does lie with the Emperor. Perhaps his story is the best starting point.
But not at the Civil War. Not when the cobblestones of London and the British countryside were stained with blood. Not when the defunct United Kingdom tore itself to pieces in the wake of terrorism and factionalism. Not when the Northern Sun arose from the ashes of the old, and began its journey on the path to Empire.
The beginning. The true beginning.
The Emperor's beginning.
But to understand his beginning, we must understand our past. We must understand what allowed him, and no one else, to become the leader he is today. Decades of war had ravaged Europe and the world. By the end of the forties, Europe had pulled the world into two global wars that left millions dead. In the decades that followed, wars raged on every continent, in a seemingly unstoppable wave of violence and hatred based no more on race, but on thought.
But then, in 1991, everything changed as the Soviet Union fell, and peace, however brief, was had.
To our great misfortune, however, peace was too late. The peoples of the world had seen so much death, had dealt it too often to be able to carry on normally in a time of peace. Paranoia was still endemic, and conflict seemed to bring out an instinctual need to inflict violence rather than demand for reasonable compromise.
In France, hatred for the crimes of the Germans fueled such distrust that neither side could tolerate each other well enough for constructive negotiations.
In Italy, the ravages of war left the nation broken-spirited and shamed for having supported the fascist Mussolini, even if it was decades ago.
In Russia, once a global superpower, the collapse of its nation in 1991 drew the large country into a severe economic downturn, the likes of which no other country has ever seen.
In Spain, the flames of war were fanned higher still as the vile Franco was killed and democracy restored, only to find out that Franco's successors were much more persuasive than he was.
It was not a question of whether there would be war or not, but when.
And it was in this time that my...Emperor was born.
The young woman looked up and saw a grizzled man in uniform look down at her, stern concern on his face. Undoubtedly, he had seen her writing away in her notebook again, and had fretted over why she did not participate in the revelry. She couldn't. She never could.
"Thank you, Ford," she thanked the war veteran. The man nodded somberly and took a step back, allowing her to retrieve her things and get up from the table. Without having even realized it, most of the other men and women who'd come to the feast had already left. She didn't mind. Most of them knew she could barely stand this sort of thing, and left her well enough alone.
"We should hurry. His Imperial Majesty will want you at his side when he begins," Ford informed her.
She nodded. He was right, of course. The Emperor had been insistent about her presence at his side these past few years. She rather wished he didn't.
In silent companionship, the two made their way out of the Great Hall, though she took a moment to commit the place to memory. She could barely withstand the thought that by tomorrow, none of it would remain, despite the intricate, almost impossible architecture. Nothing but ashes, stone, and smoke.
When they reached the specially designated area, across the lake and a bit aways from the castle proper, she took note of the pleased faces of most of those present. Like her, they wore the blue overcoats that denoted their Military Mage status. Only a few seemed as glum as her.
"There you are!" She started in surprise as someone came up to her and grabbed her by the arm. One of the Emperor's aides; which explained why Ford hadn't put them into the ground for acting this way with her. "His Imperial Majesty was beginning to worry you wouldn't make it!"
She bit back a retort. It would've been inappropriate, and ultimately futile. The Emperor's entourage of aides were, for the most part, utterly brainless. They did as they were told and asked no questions. It was fortunate he took counsel from none of them. Only the Emperor's inner circle of friends and advisors ever reliably had his ear.
She was ushered into the largest tent in the area, and instinctively bowed her head, as she was taught.
"Really now," the Emperor's familiar voice noted amusedly. "haven't I told you that's not necessary?"
"You are the Emperor," she replied simply. "It would be...undutiful of me not to," she added, with a tinge of resentment.
The Emperor sighed, predictably. She knew her attitude bothered him, but that was fine with her. The things she'd found out about him, about what he'd done...even if it did usher in a better world, as he claimed, she could never condone any of it.
"I really wish we could get beyond this," the Emperor said sadly as he moved towards her and clasped her shoulders. Undoubtedly, he hoped to get her to raise her head to meet his gaze, at the very least. She steadfastly refused to do so. "I wish we could go back to how we used to be."
She wished so, too, but they couldn't. And they both knew it. She would always respect him, even love him, but never forgive him.
She felt him cup her chin and allowed him to raise her head to finally meet his gaze. Jade eyes met jade eyes. Ambition stared down ambition.
"You have your mother's temper," he said with an exasperated smile. He then let go of her chin and patted her on the head, as he used to do, all those years ago. "And her spirit."
A part of her desperately wanted him to keep patting her, to make her forget why she could barely stand to be in his presence. But before she could voice her feelings one way or another, she felt the hand leave her head, and heard him move away. She opened her eyes and turned, seeing him already by the tent flap.
"I know what I've done is unforgivable," he told her as he stopped at the flap. Outside, they could both hear the event's current speaker rousing the crowd of Military Mages and soldiers into a frenzy. "I know I may never regain your admiration."
She watched him tilt his head up, no doubt reminiscing on his life.
"But everything I did, I did for your mother, and you, Katerina."
Katerina looked away. She hated that he had said so. She hated that she knew he wasn't lying, because that meant she was the root cause of this misery.
"Don't come to the event, if you don't want to," he told her then. "I won't hold it against you. I know how these things make you feel."
It was the first time he'd acknowledged that, and as such, she felt it was the first time he'd warranted an appropriate response.
The future Empress wasted no more time, as she heard the roar of the crowd outside grow to fever pitch at the grand entrance of their conquering monarch. She went for the tent flap, brought out her book, and watched as her father took to the stage, looking as regal and composed as ever.
The Emperor of the European Empire. Her father, Henry, born Harry Potter.
"My friends…" she heard him start. "My friends, I thank you for your presence here tonight. It has been a long, and difficult road we have travelled, and we have lost many friends and comrades along the way. Tonight, we do this in their memory."
She watched him raise a clenched fist. "Tonight, we mark the end of an era of constant, wasteful war. Of pointless factionalism and nationalism! Tonight, we bring an end to the last bastion of institutionalized racism and discrimination! Of a world that tore itself asunder by means of ignorance and hate!"
"When we began this journey, how many scoffed at our ideals?" he asked, spreading his arms invitingly to the crowd. "When our country broke apart, how many said we would lose? In the ancient halls of Spain, how many said we could be swept aside? In the gilded streets and coffee shops of France, how many crowed victory over our cause?"
"Now they rest silent, a monument to our resilience. To our destiny, as a nation. Be proud, my friends, for we have done the impossible. We have conquered EUROPE!"
A roar of approval tore through the air, making Katerina look away. How many of them knew the human cost of that conquest? How many lives could've been saved by avoiding the path of most bloodshed?
"What lies behind me is the last remaining monument to the old ways!" her father continued, either unabated or unaware of his daughter's discomfort. "When those with the gift of magic hid away in castles and behind wards. When bigotry and discrimination were rife in an entire society, hidden away, as though shamed by their gifts!"
She watched the Emperor sweep out his hand towards the castle in the distance.
"So I say, tear it down!" he roared. "I say, begone with it! Let the world watch as the old order collapses, and a new era begins now! An era of peace! of justice! of freedom!"
Katerina watched as, slowly but surely, fires began taking form at the base of the castle. The Emperor's dictate was being carried through, much to her chagrin. She turned away, and began writing in her notebook once more. She now knew where to begin. She only hoped she could do the story justice.
"Let it burn! And may its fires herald the beginning of our time!"
The time of the Empire.
Post-AN: To ensure maximum understanding of the political situation at the beginning of "Emperor," allow me to outline a few changes in human history that are relevant to the development of the geopolitical situation in this story.
1. After World War II, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was never formed in 1952 owing to the failure of Robert Schuman and his colleagues in convincing the French government to cooperate with the Germans. As a result, neither Luxembourg, Belgium, nor Holland attempted to form the covenant with West Germany in order to not piss off their French neighbours.
2. As a result of the failure of the ECSC to form, the European Communities were not formed either, and the Western, democratic world was kept in check primarily due to American pressure on its allies to behave.
3. In Spain, the government of Francisco Franco was toppled a good ten years before it did in real life, via the assassination of Franco and the rapid democratization of the state with the help of American and British armed forces. As a result of these foreign presences, a massive backlash in ultranationalism erupted throughout the state, though for the rest of the Cold War, these did not even attempt to get into power, merely bidding their time and spreading their propaganda.
4. Italy, having never been part of the ECSC, took a lot longer to recover from World War II, as did Germany. As a result, France is the dominant industrial and economic power at the fall of the Soviet Union, but neither Germany nor Italy possess good relations with France.
5. The loss of India in 1947 and the subsequent decolonization movements around the world left Britain vastly underpowered, and as a result of the failure of the European integration systems to form, it has bullheadedly pushed itself back onto its feet via a mix of planned capitalism and socialism (ala India's Five-Year Plans). Furthermore, with Europe still so harshly divided, it was rebuilt its military force such that when Argentina tried to invade the Falklands in the 1980s, it wasn't even necessary to send a fleet, as the standing garrison and fleet had been buffed up so much that the Argentine forces failed to overwhelm them.
6. As a result of British militarization, Northern Ireland is little more than a military state at this point, and the IRA have failed to hurt the British much in what today would be the remarkably effective "Irish Troubles."
Hope the overview helps a bit. Look forward to the next chapter!
As always, review!