Dark Mercenaries
Author: Neil Evans

Chapter 2
An Emperor's Plea

    As Emperor Leon Jur knew, he had no troops. No military. No navy. Nothing. He needed his troops trained before Emperor Noir's men came from the mountains, wielding swords and bows, to take his empire. He had an urgent need. At most, he had three days. Three days to get men trained. Even then, Leon would not force people to fight. He sent a group of horsemen to spread the word. They were to post his message on the bulletin boards of his new military program. All who came gained money, once the war was over.
    At the same time, he sent a letter to the Empress of the Cari.

Dear Empress,

I am unsure whether or not this letter will get through to you in time. I truly apologize for any inconvenience it may cause and I apologize for the formality of this letter. I have not the time to make this letter. Currently, a group of troops is coming to raid my villages; burn any supplies; steal whatever is needed and take what they want. They will kill all of the occupants--young and old, male and female, black and white--unless something is done. All that I can do, is hope for my men to help the empire in its time of need. The problem with this: my empire has never been to war before. We know not how to wield swords, how to fight, or even how to be stealth. We have always lived in peace.
Your empire is different. You have magicians, you have fighters. I know this because the area your empire is located upon is where two empires used to be. I forget their names, again, I apologize. I ask that you please, bring two instructors to my empire. They will be treated like royalty from the very second their feet touch the ground to the very second they board a boat to leave.
I--no, the empire itself will be in your debt forever. If this war is to be won, I can promise you any amount of money you could ever request. But, as of this moment, I cannot give you anything. I attach this letter to the royal family's eagle, as my men are unable to get to your empire. I must again apologize. Sending a bird for something so important must sicken you, but I have no other option.

                                                                                                                          Emperor Leon Jur

    Leon tied the note to the family bird and sent it away, hoping for it to find the wanted destination. As luck would have it, the bird flew directly to Cari. The bird flew to the palace in the middle of the empire without interference. The palace was of great proportions, made from golden bricks. The bird was first spotted by one of the maids: Karen.
    Karen was cleaning the mess hall when suddenly the bird flew in from an open window. Attached to its wing was a note. Karen looked up, dropping her utensils. Without warning, the bird perched itself in her hands. It looked up at Karen and cocked its head to the right. Karen smiled.
    "Hold still," she whispered. With one hand, Karen slowly untied the string from the bird, making the folded letter drop to the ground. Karen stared at it for a moment. As she did so, the bird jumped from her hand and flew to the top of a nearby shelf. Startled, Karen looked up. She felt a desperate need to swipe at the bird, get it out the window and then take the letter. However, a more strong thought made her want to keep the bird safe. To ensure its life. She felt that the empress may need it.
    She looked back at the note. Scribbling on the front gave a time. The note had been written but two hours before. At once, she unfolded it. She read as far as "Dear Empress," and refolded it. She ran to down the halls to the throne room. Inside, Empress Abagail Fisher sat was writing a new decree.
    The Empress was different from many others before her. Abagail had raven black hair that tickled her shoulders. Eyes like emeralds and a smile that seemed more sincere than thought possible. Whats more, she was only at age twenty-seven. The Empress before her had died through a heart attack. To Abagail's surprise, she was in the will to become next Empress. This was a shock because Abagail had only been a maid, and not a very good one at that. But no one questioned her.
    Without looking up, the Empress said, "Karen. You forgot to announce yourself again." She glared from the paperwork for a moment. "You know it is very important for a woman like yourself to do so."
    "Yes Empress, I apologize," Karen said.
    The Empress sat up and looked at her, giving one of her inviting smiles. "It is okay Karen. I was similar to you before. Every time you apologize I feel guilty; a 'yes Empress' would suffice. Now, what is it you need? Did you forget where the storage area is again?"
    "No Empress," Karen replied. "It is just . . . as I was cleaning the mess hall, I left the window open--you know how stuffy it can get in there--and a bird flew in. Instead of it flying around and making a fuss, it flew right to my hands. Attached to its wing was a note. No initials or anything like that. On the front it said 12:03, and I . . . I," Karen looked at the floor guiltily, "I opened it without thinking."
    "The letter was addressed to me?" Asked the Empress.
    "Yes. I didn't read it, I closed it instantly. I know the rules of opening mail for another, but I couldn't be sure. Please Empress understand. I didn't mean--"
    "Calm down Karen," the Empress said. "This was not a letter. It was attached to a bird, not personally given to you. No harm has been done. Now, let us see this note." Karen walked to the Empress and handed her the note. As the Empress read, she tensed. She read the note at least four times before finally saying, "Get two horsemen. One should retrieve that arena boy, Uskusto. And, the other has to be General Darell. Get Darell to retrieve Him. Both are to report here. And get that bird back, I don't care how, but hurry."
    "Yes Empress," Karen replied, and she was off.


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