"The men…will obey…me!"
"No, my emperor. The men will obey their generals. That is how war is always conducted."
The eyes of the Emperor Napoleon widened in shock. It had not occurred when he had realized that his Grand Army was doomed in the wastelands of Russia. For the two years after that defeat, he had resisted as all of Europe, his Empire, had risen up, against the principles of the Revolution and French supremacy. Now, in the year of 1814, Paris had fallen at their combined hands. Englishmen, Spaniards, Russians, Germans, and Austrians, all of them had united to finally defeat the man whom they viewed as a madman, a conqueror who endlessly sought blood, and he had still nearly won.
Defeat in Russia had not stunned him. The loss of Paris had not either – these were setbacks, temporary, and he knew that he would have a way to regroup and reach for his destiny among the stars. But now, his marshals, men whom had fought with him for at least a decade, were telling him that it was over.
The Emperor sighed and glanced out the window. He had retreated to the palace of Fontainebleau, an ancient and decrepit castle that he had renovated shortly after his coronation. It was in this place that he found himself cornered.
Michel Ney, one of the marshals whom had been standing across from Napoleon, cleared his throat, treating the silence of his master as a signal to continue.
"It is not just us. The Senate has clearly indicated that you will not be able to rule. They have voted the creation of a new government, led by Talleyrand. They are calling you a criminal, for implementing excessive taxes and using conscription to bleed our young men out in faraway lands."
Napoleon's eyes had originally been scheming with an air of desperation, like a chess player desperately finding a way for his king to escape checkmate. But now they flared up with hostility, and his voice dripped with rage.
"I should have had that worm assassinated at least five years ago - Europe would have remained mine if not for that simple step. But the Senate? What business do they have calling me a criminal? They backed me every step as I implemented those laws and never murmured a word of opposition. None of them would have power if it wasn't for me. If I am a tyrant and have betrayed the Revolution by spreading it throughout Europe, then they are also equally guilty."
Ney remained silent to these statements. Perhaps Napoleon was right. It was not for him to decide, and it changed nothing about the fact that the Emperor must abdicate. And everyone in the room knew it as silence reigned for the next few minutes.
Napoleon sighed and rose up from his seat.
"I will abdicate, to save my Empire and France. But my son will retain control, with the Empress as regent. Go, inform the Allies of this proposition, and leave me alone. I will compose my memorandum to leave the throne."
As the marshals departed, Napoleon looked around at his study. Fontainebleau may have been the creation of the great Valois king, Francis I, but he had never been one for personal extravagance. It was a sparse room, filled only with that which he deemed necessary. Now he sat at his desk and began to write a letter, the letter that would be the end of his Empire. Napoleon was no fool after all – even if he had ordered his marshals to state that he would abdicate in favor of his son, he would be shocked if the Allies actually accepted those conditions. The boy would never be a ruler, but would probably be raised by his wife's Austrian father, while he himself would live out his days in jail or exile. Meanwhile, the Bourbons, those fat slobs who had ruined France and had acted like the world belonged to them from the moment of their birth, would come back as Europe and would lie around, doing nothing. The thought of what they would do to the land in which he had resided for most of his life utterly disgusted Bonaparte, but now there was nothing he could do.
He idly tugged at the pouch draped around his neck. It was filled with poison, something which he had obtained as he retreated from a burning Moscow. That had been the moment when he had realized the peril that his army of 300,000 was in, and he had obtained the pouch for his own protection. Death was not something to fear, but he had no intention of being captured or humiliated, especially in front of a man as mercurial as Tsar Alexander I. Even now, the odds were not completely zero - a miracle could occur to save him and his Empire. When it did reach that number, then he would end his own life.
A sound occurred from behind him, and at first Napoleon wondered why Ney had returned so soon. But there was no one there, and the only indication of change was a peculiar humming sound in the air. Napoleon abruptly had a strange feeling, that something that should not have been there was indeed there. And as the hairs on his back of neck stood up, he turned around.
There was a blue circle of some kind, with an emblem of a star in the center. Perhaps it was the way it just floated as if the laws of gravity did not apply to it, but somehow Napoleon knew instinctively. This circle was not part of his world. Especially when the circle opened like a door would, and Napoleon was able to look inside.
Inside that door was blackness. As he gazed at it, Napoleon could feel its immensity. For all he knew, it stretched without end, going on and on to somewhere else. But as he puzzled over the mysterious circle, a feeling bubbled up in his chest, one which he realized he had not experienced in a long, long time.
It was the feeling of discovering something new, of excitement. Rulers didn't have time for such things, especially ones whom had been fighting for the world like he had spent the past 15 years doing. But hadn't Napoleon just decided to renounce his throne? Was he not pondering his death anyways, the ultimate abandonment to this mortal plane? Had not his generals and people betrayed him? Were not all the armies of Europe, those who had been his enemies for years upon years, preparing to march upon and capture him once and for all?
Then what did he have to lose by jumping into this circle and heading to a new place, maybe a new world?
He slowly left his desk and moved a little closer to the circle, but then he stopped. As he looked at that blackness, there was something else Napoleon thought about. If he went through the circle and entered that darkness, he would most likely never return to Europe. If he walked in, he would possibly enter someplace horrifying and dangerous. Perhaps this circle, as innocuous as it looked, was the entrance to the gates of Hell.
It didn't matter. This was an escape from this world, a refuge, and perhaps, Napoleon thought, the beginning of a new adventure. And so, with lightness in his step that had not existed since he was a young man traipsing through Paris, he walked through the circle, into the blackness, and looked back on his palace and room. The circular door closed upon him, and now he was left in a place without light or sound. Napoleon was enveloped in a world where the concept of nothingness had complete supremacy, but despite that there was no room for fear in his heart. He looked as far as he could and murmured to himself.
"Now, let us see what Fate has decided to grant me."