Choose Your Own Adventure 128: Facing Emperor Kaev
You’ve made up your mind almost before Lehhev has finished his description. Something about what he has said resonated with you. You can almost feel the invisible marks on your skin, throbbing gently with your pulse. Dread and anticipation mingle in your chest.
“No. We’re going to end this.”
“Good, good, I’ll… what?”
You give him a hard look. “Do you think the Emperor will ever leave us alone? I might never have come back to Alederik if he had simply let me be. He’ll follow us to the frontier and back if he has to.”
“What are you planning to do?”
“Stopping him. By the only means I know I can carry out.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea… regicide…”
“Tough. It has to be done.” A thought crosses your mind. “Besides, did you know that the orders to the guards had changed? They were supposed to just kill me, rather than take me in. I think they found a replacement target. Someone easier to contain than me.”
Lehhev stares at you. “You don’t mean…” He gulps. “I thought I was just going to be exiled.”
“You wish.” You sigh. “There isn’t enough time to discuss this. Hide yourself, and follow me.”
Lehhev slowly raises his hand in the initial gesture for his series of spells. “But your illusion… it’ll never fool the inner guards.”
“I don’t expect it to. Cover me as we go, but I’ll handle the heavy hitting.”
He nods, once. But he looks nervous. You’re not sure how much you can count on him — he is a scholar, not an assassin. You stand watch while he finishes the spell, and note with satisfaction as he disappears from your senses. As a final touch, you close the door to his cell.
Then you go back up the stairs. Hopefully, Lehhev is following in your wake. You can’t hear him, either way.
What you do hear is the sound of boots coming downwards. You glare at the incoming guards. They are only the lesser palace guards, not the more heavily trained Black Hands of the Emperor. You begin a lecture before they can even speak. “Idiots! You were supposed to keep this area under heavy guard! The prisoner is a known illusionist! I just checked his cell — I don’t see him there. We’ll need to bring in an expert to check whether or not he’s still there. You, and you! Organize a search of the grounds, in case he has escaped. I’m going to have to report this to the Emperor, and he is not going to be pleased!”
The last line may have been a bit over the top, but the group scurries to carry out your instructions. With any luck, this will keep them distracted for the few minutes it takes you to rage through the palace complex. In these, the outer, more public areas, or those frequented by many servants and officials, a single Black Hand walking rapidly, angrily down the halls during an uproar. Most people just get out of your way.
Most, but not all. Your course is slowed by a pair of guards, both Emperor’s Hands, who stand watch before the private sections of the palace. Places where you once came and went unmolested. The first guard says, “Beleyaev, any report on-” He is interrupted by his companion, who cries through the spells of perception wrapped around him, “That’s not Beleyaev, that’s-”
You don’t let them finish. A pair of spells you prepared as you came down the corridor are enough to knock them both to the ground. Then you blow through the door, and keep going. You ignore the shouts and running footsteps in the rooms behind you.
You tear through three more guards — the first by a spell as he takes down your illusion, and two literally, as your spells and theirs are equal, but their swordplay is inferior to your own. The instructors must be getting soft, with the younger recruits. A pair of servants flee before you.
Eventually, you reach the door you want. One you had walked through many times before. Welcomed as a favored servant.
Sent out to your own certain destruction.
You have a few moments of time, enough to finish a more complex spell. You choose it more for its effect than its practicality, but it is convenient that you do not need to break down the door. Instead, you speak a single, final, harsh word, and the stone walls around the door collapse into a fine gray sand.
Within, the Emperor stands on the plush red carpet you remember, sneezing impressively due to the fine layer of dust now settling on his large nose. Dark circles mark his eyes, likely from a lack of sleep. He wears the red and black of his office, though not the full finery that is seen in his official appearances. Behind the plush chairs, his small desk is covered in papers, and a familiar book lies open on top of them. Echoes of memories flicker through your mind. Your skin itches.
“Dleshan Kaev. You are something I thought could never be… an Emperor working against his Empire. This must end.” Your stolen sword is still in your hand, a few drips of blood from you last encounter still sliding off of it.
He nods tiredly. “I should have sent someone else. But I am working for the Empire, not against it. Will you at least hear me out?” You can hear the dust mixed in with the honey of his voice.
Option 130: This was a bad idea. Back off, flee the palace, skip town, leave the Empire… it’s too dangerous to stay mixed up in all of this.
Option: 131: Wait. Let the Emperor speak. Perhaps you’ll finally understand what he’s planning on doing with Oblivion. Or perhaps he’ll at least show his motives, somehow.
Option 132: This is no time for dawdling! Or letting the Emperor yap. Just kill him and have done with it.