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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Art Of Losing Archives
Men Without Souls: Part 27

Interlude: People Get The Leaders They Deserve

“The North Wind calls this meeting to order. As we all know, the issue of succession is the imperative one.”

“What of Vestrin?”

“The chair recognizes the West Wind.”

“I’m the East Wind, sir.”

“Whatever.”

“Since the death of the Emperor and the sudden disappearance of her fiancé...”

“Fiancée.”

“Whatever. Since then, the nation has been rudderless. Our secret cabal needs to take action. We can’t have the greatest country on Ataniel ruled by an absentee Regent. We need a new Emperor.”

“I recommend we appoint someone we can control. Anjra was far too... independent minded.”

“Indeed! Reclaiming the Shadowlands? Reversing the Exodus Inward? Liberal hooey.”

“I... may have a candidate.”

“Chair recognizes the East Wind.”

“West Wind.”

“Whatever.”

“The Rykiryniyi family maintains two members of the royal court. As you all know, that bloodline has produced seven emperors, two of whom were actually vaguely successful.”

“The Rykiryniyis are a lot of effete inbred wastrels!”

“Your point, South Wind?”

“Uh, none, really. Just wanted to mention that. Sounds good to me.”

“Then we are adjourned. West... uh... East Wind?”

“No, you had it. West Wind.”

“West Wind, use your position to make it so.”

“Oh, I shall indeed,” said Anjra’s former chief of staff, the West Wind, Proregent of Diaria.



“Greetings, Regate Rykiryniyi.”

“Please, call me Farliyn.”

“Farliyn, then. Please, sit. Have a biscuit. Do you know why I have summoned you here tonight?”

“With all due humility, milord Proregent,” said Farliyn, taking a bite of the fresh biscuit, “would it have to do with the succession to the throne?”

“Your ears hear much, Farliyn Rykiryniyi. It is true that the Emperor needs a new mouth with which to speak, and new hands with which to rule. After much careful deliberation, it has come down to the esteemed family Rykiryniyi. Tea?”

“I... am beyond honored, Proregent. Yes, please.”

“As we all know, your elder brother, Yykriynyin, has proven himself to be somewhat... unstable.”

“Mad is the word, Proregent. I am familiar with his condition.”

“That leaves you as our first choice, Farliyn. Your psionic abilities and upstanding record of duty to your court superiors both show you to be an excellent candidate. Do you accept this position for your family, here under the eyes of Rekzyr?”

“I do, and with much pride, Proregent.”

“So the appointment is made,” the Proregent declared, and the Imperial Thoughtstone glowed a bright green.

“Tha--hackack--kck--kk-kk--” Farliyn coughed and grabbed at his throat.

“Medic! Chiurgeon!” cried the Proregent.

“Kack--hackack--kk--” hacked Farliyn, falling to the floor clutching his throat. The half-eaten biscuit and glass of tea fell to the floor. The Proregent rushed to his side, but it was too late.

“Biscuit...” said Farliyn Rykiryniyi, his eyes glazing over.

“No wondering about that last word,” the Proregent frowned. He looked up at the Imperial Thoughtstone, which still glowed. “You couldn’t have choked to death before the damn appointment, could you?” he yelled at the dead body, kicking it once.

The kick apparently dislodged the piece of biscuit, which fell out of Farliyn’s open mouth.

“Get me Yykriynyin Rykiryniyi,” the Proregent sighed.



“Do you, Yykriynyin Rykiryniyi, accept the responsibility of the Imperial Seat of Diaria?”

“Yup,” said Yykriynyin.

“Do you accept upon yourself the identity of Lord Emperor, the Undying Ruler, Eternal Guardian of the Diari people?”

“Sure.”

“Do you promise to do all in your power to advance the Diari race and protect it from outsiders?”

“No.”

“Do you--what? Did you say no?”

Yykriynyin Rykiryniyi leaned sideways in his chair in the Imperial Chamber, putting his feet up on the other end. “I mean, all in my power? I was thinking more along the lines of, oh, say, eighty-eight percent.”

“It is the responsibility of the Emperor to devote his entire being to his people.”

“So, just pretend I’m a smaller being than I look,” Yykriynyin said, drumming his fingers on the tight velvet crotch of his pants.

“Please, Lord Yykriynyin, just answer yes to the question.”

“Sure. Yes. One hundred percent,” Yykriynyin said, crossing three of his fingers.

“I think we screwed up here, West Wind,” one of the nobles in attendance whispered to another.

“East Wind,” corrected the East Wind. “And I think you’re right.”



“The North Wind calls this meeting to order. Who have we still got?”

“Uh, just me, North Wind.”

“West Wind, is that you?”

“Why, yes, actually, it is. East Wind was reappointed to, ah, the new Diar Island embassy...”

“Oh, lord...”

“And the South Wind was invited to the Inauguration Bacchanalia, and hasn’t been seen since.”

“Dead?”

“No, from the moaning, it sounds like they’re all... copulating.”

“This is not good, West Wind. Yykriynyin Rykiryniyi is beyond our control.”

“But he was duly appointed Emperor. We cannot stand against him!”

“He may be Emperor, but he is psiblind, remember? It will take him a long time, untrained, to connect to the Imperial Power. In that time, perhaps he can go the way of Anjra.”

“Assassination.”

“The rumors around the court were that the Brotherhood of Gila was behind Anjra’s death. Perhaps they could be contacted.”

“This... does not sit well. Plotting control is one thing, regicide is another.”

“Do you want our Imperial Court to become the whorehouse he is making of it?”

“No. No I do not.”

“Then we are agreed. The Emperor must die.”



“Die? Did I say die? Your spies misheard, Emperor... I said, uh... vie! Vie for the people’s good will! Vie to become, uh, the greatest Emperor ever!”

“Servant,” Yykriynyin Rykiryniyi said, “bring in the biscuits.”



“Good people of the Imperial Council,” the Emperor said, “it is my pleasure to introduce you all to your new member, Mr. Puppet Head.”

“Hello everyone!” the Emperor said in a falsetto voice, his hand in a sock opening and clothing like a mouth. “Boy, am I glad to be a member of this august assemblage!”

“You wish your... hand... to become a senator, Emperor?” someone in the back called out.

“My hand?” the Emperor asked, looking at his unsocked hand. “Are you mad? My hand is a part of the Emperor, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Mr. Puppet Head here is one of my finest advisors! He will make a wonderful addition to your parliamentary body!”

“I vote that we kick him out of office!” said Mr. Puppet Head.

“All in favor?” the Emperor asked disinterestedly.

Every hand in the Imperial Council went up.

“Yer outta here!” the Emperor cried, and guards entered the chamber to escort the ex-councilor out. “Talk to the hand!”

(Excerpted from the Dyaromn Street Journal)

According to our latest poll, the Emperor’s new mandate outlawing the use of psionics in Diaria has been met by a groundswell of support from the working and military castes. Many of the people interviewed cited great pleasure in the elimination of what was once a unique gift, but of late has become a widespread imbalancer. At last count, over eighteen percent of the Diarian populace was actively psionic, a percentage that hearkens back to the days of the Rule of Pysyri, what many people believe set Shadow against the Diarians so many years ago.

“It’s just not fair,” one worker said to this interviewer. “Since the latest awakening, psis have been taking all the opportunities, all the jobs. I’ve got a degree in xenobehavior, but because I didn’t have a psitalent, I was passed over for foreign service in the Emperor’s last Exodus.”

Recent announcements from the Imperial Palace claim that the Emperor himself has eschewed the use of psionics, to better come into accord with the common Diarian. Will this finally return Diaria to the equal state it was before the Return of Pysyri seven years ago? Or is it the beginning of a new age, unlike any we have ever seen?

All this reporter can say is that for the first time, his mind is clear of worry.



“Sir, this map leads to the middle of nowhere.”

“Do you dare to question your Emperor?” Yykriynyin demanded.

“Yes, do you dare to question your Emperor?” asked the young man with his head in the Emperor’s lap.

“Hush. Make yourself busy,” said the Emperor, pressing one hand down on the boy’s head.

“I just... I wished to know what it is that we’re supposed to look for out in the middle of nowhere.”

“There is a cave there,” Yykriynyin said. “I want you to seal it up. Surround it with psiblocks. Make the entire area a dead zone.”

“But... why?”

The eyes of the Emperor flashed with anger.

“Because. I. Say. So.”

“Befaufe ee fayf fo,” the young man agreed.

The general knew better than to stay one second longer. He fled the Imperial Throne Room, map in hand.

“So, Yyrkie,” the boy asked, looking up, “what is there?”

“Just a bunch of dead Emperors who need to be shut up,” Yykriynyin Rykiryniyi said. “Now get back to work. I still feel so... full.”



The emissary arrived by horse into New Lianth. It was nothing like he expected. The rumors were that the city had been reduced to wreckage, but here buildings of all designs fit together in an eerily beautiful eclectica.

There was no obvious sign of a palace. “Excuse me,” he accosted a burly man playing a flute on a nearby park bench. “I come from the Emperor of Diaria. I seek an audience with King Thrayn.”

The kiljhac chuckled to himself. “There is no such man.”

“I was told that Randall Thrayn ruled this city?”

“No one rules this city.”

“Look, can you just direct me to Randall Thrayn, please?”

“I’m Randall Thrayn.”

The messenger seemed taken aback. “I... I come to summon back to Diaria all our people here in your city, then. The Emperor wishes all his people to return to their home.”

“Ask them, then,” Randall Thrayn said, shrugging.

“Their servitude to the outside is ended,” the messenger said eagerly. “They’re free!”

“They were always free,” Randall said.

“So, you’re not going to be any help at all here, are you?”

“I can tell you where there’s an address directory,” Randall offered, pointing to a booth in the marketplace. “You can look them up there.”

“Can you at least mention the Emperor’s invitation to any you see?”

“Sure,” Randall said. “I’ll talk it up.”

The emissary trudged over to the booth. He wished he had been sent to Tobrinel.

All across Ataniel, the word went out. The Diari were welcome back home.



“Well, that went about as well as could be expected,” the North Wind said.

“Ah, shut up,” the West Wind said, and shifted slightly in his chains.

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