The Lord-inquisitor looked out across Khadon.
As the administrative centre of the Korachani empire, Khadon was bereft of the manufactories and industries that plagued most imperial cities, though that was not to say that the air there was clean. A thin blanket of smog lay over the streets. Through the pall he could just about make out the network of blurry flickering street-lights. He’d been to many cities across the High-empire, and none had this number of lights. Few other cities were worthy of such cost.
Few other cities were of such importance, or had such a high number of dignitaries, ambassadors, and administrative workers. It existed on a level above other imperial cities. It was home to concert-halls, theatres, and art-galleries. The best operas of the empire had come from Khadoni composers and, millennia after their introduction, continued to be played by the imperial orchestra before audiences of the most important patricians, shapers and ecclesiasts.
The Lord-inquisitor reached out to his phonograph and allowed needle to slide over waxed cylinder. Immediately it started playing Toraszma’s Ascension of the Archpotentate, in G Minor. The Lord-inquisitor closed his eyes, laid back and allowed its powerful strings to take him away from the city. He was reliving the passion and ascension of the Archpotentate Malichar, following his trials across the Kharkharadontid desert before his eventual death and apotheosis to otherworlder.
Unthinkingly, his arms had fallen off the couch’s rest and were waving in the air, mimicking the conductor’s gestures at the podium. They lowered as the music lulled and lifted again when the winds erupted into life as the Archpotentate Malichar battled with the demon Abezethibou.
Thought escaped the Lord-inquisitor as he lost himself in a story retold for over three millennia, detailing the birth of his homeland, his god, and its undying ruler. It was one of the most powerful pieces ever recorded and had earnt Toraszma his place in the annals amongst the greatest of imperial heroes. His tomb in the countryside outside Khadon was topped by a 100-ft high marble eidolon that had been venerated by patrons of the arts since his death. So popular was he that he’d been canonised and was now the patron saint of music. And rightfully so, for his works had inspired crusades into heathen lands and countless other acts besides.
Not least of which were the actions of the Lord-inquisitor.
He remained in his reverie long after the music ended and the needle of the phonograph was working idly. He sat up and moved the cylinder back to the starting position and replayed the masterpiece.
He stood, picking up some dates, and walked over to the edge of the terrace. Over a mile away, he could see the gigantic dome of the Basilica. Another of the empire’s marvels.
He put a date in his mouth and bit through its sugary flesh. He winced as the sweetness rushed through his mouth, but appreciated it for what it was: a delicacy that few of the workslaves beneath him would ever experience.
He stared at the heart of the empire, and thought absently of the many vassal-states and far-flung colonies across the surface of Elyden. Without the Korachani empire to protect them they would surely falter, their economies collapsing, their millions of people unable to stave off the world’s slow waning.
A new crescendo in the music banished his thoughts, and he allowed the music to coset him again as his eyes drifted over the ancient iron-clad palaces and verdigris-encrusted domes of embassies and ministries.
He was in the otherworld again, enveloped by the music, his shoulders unburdened, if only for these few minutes at the end of his day. He needed these moments to remove him from the drudgery of his life. He gave his all for the empire. He loved his work and would not change it for all the riches in Venthir, but the weight of importance had taken its toll on him. He was lucky to get six hours sleep a night and he had precious little time left to himself anymore. Moments like these were luxuries he could afford only rarely.
Which might explain the expression of trepidation on his lesser’s face when he disturbed him.
“What is it,” said the Lord-inquisitor, his steely voice belying his anger.
“Sorry to disturb you at this hour Lord-inquisitor, but the Seven have called a meeting.”
At this hour, he thought? “Where?”
“The Theatre of the Covenant.”
Lord-inquisitor Varragh’s face dropped. The covenant was an ancient structure, dating back to pre-imperial days where the elders of the peninsular tribes would gather. When Malichar had toppled the old ways and united the people of Korachan he’d laid the foundation stone to what would become his palace and the home of his government atop the old amphitheatre. In his wisdom he’d chosen to not destroy it, knowing that its memory would serve a greater purpose. Over the years it had been swallowed by the monolithic palace, with vaults and dungeons beneath it and countless halls and offices above it, not the mention the Archpotentate’s residence and the Chamber of the Seven. Few knew its exact location and fewer still were those to have participated in activities there.
Lord-inquisitor Varragh had only been there once before, and it had been a precursor to major movements within the empire. He could scarcely imagine what would follow his visit there a second time.
“Send word I will be there presently.”