Echoes of the Mage-Emperor
Echoes of the Mage-Emperor is a story by Maegan A. Stebbins. It is to be released online periodically in chapters. The story focuses on the clerk Zacynthos Arcadian and his fateful encounter with some ancient, dark magic and the Mage-Emperor Ildrius.
Centuries ago, the Achaean Empire was ruled with an iron fist by a man named Ildrius, the Mage-Emperor. He imprisoned innocent men and women, enslaving some for hard labor and subjecting others to cruel and twisted experiments. In some regions, the very land became tainted by dark magic wielded by he and his underlings, the Mage-Lords who enforced his rule. Life for the citizens of Achaea was a nightmare. Many felt the gods had abandoned the world, giving way to the whim of a new deity: one who sat atop a throne in the form of a mortal, but wielded all the powers of a god.
The Empire reached a new height of power, but at a terrible price. The magi were untouchable; no one could stand against the power of magic. One sorcerer, well trained and experienced in his art, could crush entire armies at a whim. Rebellions sprung up across the kingdoms, but all were quelled with seemingly a mere flick of a Mage-Lord's wrist.
But the time came that one common man cast down that ruler - when an ordinary mundane peasant defeated one of the most powerful and dreaded figures in the history of all the Achaean Empire. The man who came to be called Sir Durand, the First Inquisitor, raised an army and ended the reign of the Mage-Emperor Ildrius. After Ildrius's fall, the Empire was restored to a new era of peace - a time of rebuilding, as the Achaeans tried to reclaim the glory lost in the swath of terror created by the Mage-Emperor. His cruelty remains unforgotten - and unforgiven.
Emperor Ildrius died in the war. They say he was killed by Durand himself, and never again would his evil plague the mortal realm. They say his body burned to ash, and his soul now rests in Hades, tormented for the rest of eternity by demons of Tyranny.
They say a lot of things.
In the city of Artorius, life goes on as it seemingly always has. There are chores to be done, taxes to be paid, crops to be harvested, armies to be trained... and books to be copied. The Empire has existed for many years now under the peaceful reign of Emperor Doraius I. It is this peace that one simple clerk has grown up his entire life knowing. Not that, deep in the halls of Artorius's royal castle, it makes much difference to him who rules the Empire at large. He has a simple job, and as long as King Rickard Artorius I maintains the throne of the kingdom, it does not involve as much politics as one might imagine. In fact, it doesn't involve much of anything other than reading and copying books and scrolls, but at least that makes him more educated than most, even if it keeps him a little cut off from the rest of the world - or so people tell him.
But something is about to happen that will change his life, and potentially alter the fate of the entire Achaean Empire. For, hidden deep beneath Artorius, are secrets of a much older time, of the darkest era in the history of the Empire - secrets that, as fate would have it, are stumbled upon by the unlucky clerk. Some secrets, especially those involving the blackest magic arts, are best left buried. But they seldom stay that way...