Pendragon, 2010 a.t.b.
Everything felt so surreal to him even now as he slowly made the walk from the opened doors of the audience chamber to the man who sat like a God upon his ornate throne. In a way, it was an apt description of the man. From that throne, the world held bated breath as his very word could change the entire world in an instant, where a single man could order an entire third of the world to render hell upon his enemies or those who dared irritate him. From that throne, he had forged an Empire that few dared to challenge, and even fewer dared to fight. God Emperor indeed. After all, his Empire was holy, was it not?
Yet for the small boy who strode towards this God with righteous indignation, the man before him was neither God nor Emperor, he was his father. A father who had not seen nor talked to his son or daughter after his wife, their mother, had been brazenly gunned down by terrorists in the very home that was believed to be secure second only to the Imperial Palace itself.
This was a father whose daughter, his precious sister, lay in an induced coma in which the doctor's were not even sure she would awaken from. And if she did, she would never be able to walk again.
This was a father who seemed to care nothing for the motherless children who now had no one to turn to. Instead he sat upon that throne without a single damn sense of dignity to say anything on the matter.
That was why he was here, he would make that man see, and he would bring him to task. There was no way he and Nunnally could survive in a family that had more in common with sharks than human beings. He had to act! He had to make this man see!
Yet he was the one to see exactly how it was as he continued striding towards the man who would not fulfill his duty as a father. The hushed whispers, the razor-sharpened verbal barbs muttered amongst the nobles, it made it so blatantly obvious there were no allies here, only wolves who watched as an impudent pup dared challenge the alpha male of the pack. They spoke words of disgust, for him, for his family, for his friends. He hated them, he wished they would all vanish, scurry away back under their rocks like the insects they were. All he wished was for this man who wore the mask of his father to do SOMETHING...ANYTHING...for him and his sister.
He stood before the God-Emperor now and knew once and for all as he noted the man's bored expression he would get none of that, that there was a strong possibility he would only get the ruler who would damn himself and Nunnally as weaklings, death in all but action.
Which meant that he, Prince Lelouch vi Britannia, seventeenth heir to the Imperial throne, must make him see the error in his ways!
"Hail Your Majesty, my mother the Empress is dead."
"Old news," the God-Emperor rumbled, "what of it?"
His small fingers dug into his palms hard enough to draw blood. How DARE he!
"What of it?!"
"You sought an audience with the Emperor of Britannia simply to inform me of that," his head turned to an aide ready to dismiss his misbehaving son like the child he was, "send the next one in, I have no time for these childish games."
He wouldn't have it; he refused to let it be that. He refused to be dismissed by that man, not before he had his answer. So instead of meekly taking the dismissal, he charged up the stairs, causing that man's honor guards to begin interposing themselves between this threat, ridiculous or not.
A raised hand stopped the two men as they came to attention, shouting the signature "Yes, Your Majesty," that had been bred into them since birth.
He could feel his rage boiling, he could feel the adrenaline rushing, yet he had no weapons, only words, and words could be weapons in their own right. Like an archer aiming to strike the heart of his target, the words he used now must be aimed true. Maybe it would be through that way he could reach that man.
"Why didn't you keep Mother out of harm's way? You're the Emperor, the greatest man in this nation, if not the world, you should've protected her and now you don't even visit Nunnally," he shouted, eyes trembling as he beseeched the man who was his father, yet wasn't.
"I've no use for that weakling."
"That weakling," he staggered over those words, a mixture of shock and apprehension clouding his judgment, shock that his father would call his own flesh-and-blood a weakling, but the words were like a nightmare as they slowly trickled into his mind, because they were the words that doomed his sister, who had never hurt anyone, to a life-filled death.
"That is what it means to be royalty," the older man responded, as if the mere explanation were enough to clarify everything. Instead it only left him enraged. He had nothing, if Nunnally was doomed to death, then he had no one left, no reason…
"Then I don't want to be your heir, I give up my claim to the throne," those words, filled with such rage and indignity escaped his lips without any conscious thought, they were the very words of his heart, a dying heart that had nothing left, and even as his mind grappled with the weight of those words, the core of his being approved of them. He wasn't this heartless beast son, who wore the skin of his father, he was Lelouch vi Britannia, he was Marianne vi Britannia's son, not this bastard's!
The gasps girded him, they filled him with the pride that he had struck a blow into the facade of this indignity. Of this false justice his false order. It was nothing more than a sham, a playground of jackals. And he cast the stone that cracked the pane of glass that housed this monstrosity, and he could only continue on, his heart demanding he continue.
"I'm sick of the fighting and scheming over who will succeed you Father, I have had enough!"
"You are dead," the God-Emperor declared, his eyes narrowing in barely congealed fury at his audacity, "you have always been dead to me, dead from the moment you were born. Who gave you the fine clothes you were and the comfortable home? The food you eat and your very life? All of those I have given you. In short, you are nothing to me because you have never existed. Yet you dare speak such foolishness to me?!"
As he rose from his throne, Lelouch felt every urge to flee this man, yet he couldn't. He wouldn't. He refused to show his back to this false father, this monster, so he stared with all the defiance he could muster at the man who leered down at him as he continued his denunciation.
"Lelouch, you are dead, therefore you are not entitled to any rights. I am sending you and Nunnally to Japan, as Prince and Princess. You will serve as bargaining tools."
There it was, death by exile, even he at his tender age knew exactly what would entail in Japan, sooner or later his father would grow weary of Japan and invade it, more than likely he would have them killed. It was just like this man to torture them more, to give let them suffer a slow death by living, it was something that fit his cruel and sadistic streak, that much was obvious now. This man had never been his father. He was merely a monster who could do anything he pleased because he had the power.
As the guards moved towards him to carry take him away, he simply stepped forward, a gasp ringing through the chamber.
"No," he spat with all of the hate, indignity, and rage that coiled within his being. He would not be dismissed by this man! We would make his stand here, where there was only victory or death, and he would not stand for a life in which he was already dead, not from him!
This caused the God-Emperor to blink in disbelief even as everyone held their breath. What was happening was beyond the pale, to defy the Emperor so blatantly was something you just DIDN'T do, not in Emperor Charles zi Britannia's reign. Not if you valued your life.
"I refuse to obey your command," Lelouch continued, it was all he could do, that in itself was a hidden reservoir of strength for him.
Just as the guards were upon him, the Emperor held up his hand, stopping them as he stared at him, as if deciding what to make of this display, and for a moment, Lelouch could have sworn he saw the twitch of his lips in a smirk.
"Why," was the sole word that escaped the God-Emperor's lips a mixture of amusement and curiosity tingeing that heavy word fraught with so much meaning.
"I am already dead to you," he declared, his violet eyes not leaving the deep purple of the God-Emperors, "therefore I have no purpose to exist. Being sent to Japan as a political toy is beneath me! I would rather die a king in my own right than a pawn in your game!"
The entire room was on life-support now, not a single word was uttered, not a single breath breathed, everyone was too shocked by the event before their eyes, as Emperor and son stared each other down for what seemed like an eternity. Two egos clashing with one another for dominance, where if anyone blinked, they would miss something that was forever being etched into their minds.
And then like fine china dropped to the ground, it shattered, as the Emperor started to chuckle for quickly turning into full-throated laughter, his voice booming through the audience hall.
"Maybe I was wrong about you," he declared, standing up and walking towards Lelouch, towering over the young Prince, before reaching out and placing his hand upon his shoulder. For the life of Lelouch, it was the only time he had something this personal transpire between the two of them, yet the bridge was already burned, they did not stand as father and son, instead, they were Emperor and Heir, "I rescind my decision. There appears to be some use for you yet."
Then the contact was gone as the God-Emperor withdrew his hand and started back towards the throne, his cape fluttering behind him before he settled back upon the throne, his eyes lowering themselves back upon Lelouch.
"Lelouch, remember this moment in which I have shown you leniency. The next time you come here, it will either be as a victorious general or as a warning to future generations that some cases of audacity are merely the ravings of the weak. Now, begone from my sight!"
So that was it, he thought as he bowed, for Nunnally to live a happy life, he must wage war upon the enemies to her happiness.
His eyes darted one more time to the God-Emperor who sat upon the throne looking down upon him.
Japan, August 21st, 2010 a.t.b.
She was scared, that was the only thing that ten-year old Kallen Stadtfeld could understand as several men dressed in military uniforms angrily yelled at her father. Everything was so loud and moving in such a blur, it hadn't been so long ago when she had been playing happily with Isabella and Morgan. Now her father had been trying to drive them across Japan, saying they had to get to the Tokyo Embassy. There they would be safe, he had said.
She didn't know what war was, she had only heard of it when it was murmured by her mother and father when they thought she and Naoto had been sleeping. Even Naoto had been mum to talk to her about it, saying it wasn't something she should be concerned with, that war wasn't something that was going to happen. All of the grown-ups were saying that "cooler heads would prevail" and there would be peace.
She still remembered the sirens as her mother came running into her room, getting her up and hurriedly dressing her, saying they were going on a trip. She knew it was a lie, her mother was terrified, something she had only seen when she had done something dangerous. It was like the world had been put upon its head.
And so they had fled, fled into the foothills where father had kept a cabin and they had waited there as the world seemed light on fire.
She still remembered the skies lit in the middle of the night with orange. Naoto had said they were fires, while mom and dad had said nothing, only looking worriedly in the distance. She had listened as peopled talked about "news of the war" and how "Britannia would prevail", they had no meaning other than they were from the land she faintly remembered, a place that was so different than the land they lived in now. The sounds of grand explosions like fireworks filled the night off and on, the lightshows beautiful to her, even as a part of thought it was the end of the world.
And then suddenly, it stopped. The lights on the horizon hadn't, but the booms had. And so they had waited another day, she had slept fitfully on a stomach full of her mother's cooking, as her parents read a story to her, it was both the happiest and most worrisome day for her. It was a day mommy and daddy weren't fighting and arguing.
The next morning they had decided to pack. Her father had said that his friend hadn't come here yet, that they needed to go before things got worse. He said that they could get someplace safe, that his nobility would protect them. They just needed to get to something called an embassy. Her mother hadn't even argued and they all got into the car and set on their trip back. Naoto had tried to keep her distracted, but she saw what the fires were, she saw the people who looked so sad and so lost, she wanted to help them, but mom and dad insisted that they couldn't that they had to make it to safety.
And then they had stopped all of a sudden, her mother speaking really quickly to father before turning back to both her and Naoto and telling them to be quiet. She had looked to see a group of men in weird looking clothing and scary masks approaching the vehicle with what looked like guns.
She was scared, mother was scared, and Naoto looked angry as her father started talking with the troops who had their guns pointed at him. Suddenly the one that didn't have a mask on starting yelling at her father. She couldn't hear what was being said but he sounded angry as her father tried to talk. And suddenly the man struck her father, before looking back and yelling at the others.
The men then started forward and her mother looked back at them.
"Get out, we need to get out," she said, panic in her voice as she got out of the car, she could only follow her mom's orders as she got out of the car. In hindsight, it would be the worst mistake that could have be made.
"Captain, I assure you, I am an Earl, all I ask for is that you take a moment to look at my identification again," her father demanded.
"Identification that can be easily fabricated, too many instances of false identities flying around the last day," the man sneered, before his eyes moved towards the three of them as they entered the car, but they were more focused upon her mother after quickly scanning all of them.
"I knew it, you're smuggling Japanese," he snarled, before backhanding her father again.
"Elend," her mother cried out, but was grabbed by two of them.
Her father reoriented himself and waved at her to be quiet.
"Captain, you are making a big mistake, she is mother of my children, and as Earl-!"
"I've had enough of this shit," the Captain muttered, unholstering his pistol and proceeded to shoot her father in the chest.
"FATHER," she screamed, the entire world becoming slow-motion as she watched her father, a man who was one of the nicest people she knew, could only drop to the ground, his eyes wide in shock at what had happened, before they looked one more time to her, she could see the life leaving his eyes in that brief contact and then he was gone, slumped on the ground.
"If he was an Earl, we found him on the side of the road a victim of these Japanese savages, got that men," the Captain called out.
"Yes, sir," the five other men responded.
This couldn't be happening. Father and he. What was this? Why was this happening? They hadn't done anything wrong. So why? WHY?!
She didn't know how she missed it, or why he even did it, but Naoto suddenly became a blur, barreling into the nearest man as she stood stock still, the taller man yelling before it became a gargle, a flash of red flying away as his throat was slit.
Everything became a blur as the men started shouting, yet, it all ended just as abruptly with the loudest sound she had ever heard, like the sound of a gigantic firecracker going off so many times that she felt the need to clasp her ears and scream, and then it was silent again and the world reverted back to its normalcy. Only that normalcy was hell itself as slowly walked towards the scene before her.
"Mother…Naoto," she breathed as she looked upon the scene, Naoto lay completely lifeless, his eyes unseeing, so many spots where blood was pouring out, while her mother was just the same, but instead of being lifeless, her eyes were locked upon her, as she mouth moved as she tried to say something that would not come out.
She dropped to her knees, feeling hot and sticky liquid cling to her knees as she tried to process what was going on in front of her, but nothing could be understand. All that could be done was to see and to hear.
"Goddamn fucking kid," one of the men snarled, "how did he move that fast?"
"Who the fuck shot the kid and the woman? I was looking forward to getting a piece of that."
"Maybe if you actually took your marksmanship certifications you dumbass."
But she didn't want to hear anymore of that, she could only see as her mother smiled at her, as if reassuring her everything was going to be all right, and then she was gone, and she was alone. She wanted to cry, but nothing could come out, she couldn't feel anything in her to even cry, all she could feel was…numb.
Then she was wrenched back to her feet and she found herself looking into the face of one of her family's killers, his leering face enough to fill her nightmares if not for this. There was just an evil glint in his eyes as he looked her over .
"Still, at least there is something left," the man said expectantly.
"Ah man, you're into that kinda shit, I really didn't need to know that," came a response from one of the others.
"Man, you know Sanders, if it has a hole…"
"Whatever you want Sanders," the Captain called out, "that little smuggler and his little monkey cost us a man, seems only fair we send the little shit to hell broken."
That was all the man needed to know as he gave one of the most evil smiles, like a monster had been unchained to feast upon its meal.
"Right-o," he then proceeded to start paying at her and ripping her clothes away and her mind came crashing back as she began to scream as he overpowered her futile attempts to break away.
It was then what sounded like a hundred tires squealing began to pick up in pitch until it was near unbearable for her ears. It then stopped as its source came to a stop before them.
There were three of them, tall metallic giants that glistened in the dying sunlight as they loomed over the gathering. For her feeble-mind that was trying so desperately to make any right of the world, they were the most menacing things she had ever seen, and they looked ready to eat them all.
It was then that the back of one of them opened up and a lone figure rose out of the back to a standing position.
"Captain, what the hell is this," the figure demanded, the man standing there, she couldn't make out any of his features, the sun to his back, but she quickly ripped herself away from the man and tried to cower back into the car. The car would protect her from this.
"Uhhh, Colonel, this is uh…we stopped this man," he pointed towards the deceased form of her father, "for attempting to smuggle Japanese and using false identification. The woman and the boy put up resistance killing Private Chalmers and we shot them as well."
"And what, pray tell, are you doing to that young girl," the man growled, his voice carrying even though it shouldn't in this type of situation.
"Uhhh, Private Enders was checking her for any contraband, sir."
"Is that so?"
The man then lowered proceeded to disembark his unit, lowering himself on a winch as he stepped forward towards the group, but instead of walking to the Captain, he walked towards her. Her!
She scrabbled inside the car, hands grabbing the door and slamming it shut. She just wanted this to end! She wanted to go back home! She wanted to go back to the cabin! She wanted to wake up!
The man then came to the door and stopped at the window, leaning down and allowing her to get a good look at him.
He was an older man, maybe as old as her father, with brownish hair and hair on his face around his mouth. If anything, he looked like a dashing hero from one of the stories her mom used to read her at night. But that seemed so long ago.
"Hello," he greeted, even as she tried to make herself smaller, she just wanted all of them to go away.
He didn't say anything more as he stared at her for the longest time, as if he were trying to reach her through other means. She almost felt like he was trying to reach into her soul, then it was gone as he stood up and stepped away.
"Commander," he called out, before snapping his fingers.
Suddenly the other two metal giants lowered their weapons and proceeded open fire, gunning down the men around them like rapid animals, leaving the Captain the only one standing.
"Colonel what the hell are you-!"
"It's called an on-the-spot execution," the Colonel stated caustically, "it is a sentence carried out for those who have killed a noble without any due process. The man you accused of smuggling and killed was Earl Elend Stadtfeld."
He didn't allow the Captain to answer, as he reached up to snap his fingers again.
"Don't," she cried, "please don't. Stop the killing."
The man stopped himself as he looked down to her before looking back up.
"Captain, take this…animal into custody, if he resists, crush him."
One of the metallic giants moved forward and interposed itself between the Captain and herself as the Colonel focused upon her. She didn't know what to feel, she wanted the man to suffer for taking away everything, but she also wanted the Captain dead.
"I'm sorry," he said, leaning on the roof of the car as he looked in, "I didn't mean for this to happen to any of you. Can you please come out?"
She looked at him and at the warm expression on his face, and she could feel herself being drawn in. Finding herself moving slowly towards him, her tattered clothing shifting about as she opened the door.
"Thank you," the man said, holding out a hand, with a smile, "I'm Caedron."
"K-Kallen," she murmured, her eyes going back to her family who lay lifeless before him, and then she suddenly found herself being wrapped up in his cloak that he had quickly unclasped.
"Come," he said as gently as possible, as he unclasped his cape and wrapped it around her, the material feeling impossibly warm as she pulled it tightly against herself, "let's take you from this place."
"Wouldn't want you to be here, Kallen. They would want you to keep going."
"But where am I going to go," she asked, trying to fight the dam that was beginning give, the warmth this man giving her defrosting her emotions as she felt the urge to cry.
"Come with me, Miss Stadtfeld, I promise you, for what has happened here, I will help and follow you…wherever and whatever way you wish to go."
She couldn't react to it, but she knew there was truth to his words, but she couldn't tell him that. But there was a fire growing inside her, an angry fire that could only ask WHY? Why could this happen? Who could let this happen? What kind of people could breed these kinds of monsters? And she knew, deep down, that the answers were far larger than anything she could grasp at this moment, the world was too cold and too small at this moment.
But sooner or later, the fire would rise, and when it did, it would consume all of those that she viewed as her enemy.
A/N: And that does it for the Prologue. I hope you all enjoyed it. And no, this is not a declaration I am done with Catharsis & Apotheosis, it is right now a quarter done. I just had this story idea as a dream last night and it was gnawing away at me to where I have pretty much written this in 4 hours. Feel free to review, your input helps me determine if I have fouled up somewhere or maybe something to agitate a few new ideas.
Also, thanks Magery for the assist.
Until the next chapter.