Gremlaw continued the conversation he had begun with the armored leader of the squadron, embellishing the facts at his disposal to try and wreak some kind of havoc against the vile Zha Quin, “According to the women who have now managed to escape from his captivity, Zha Quin here became more than personal with them,” Gremlaw stared into the even wider eyes of Zha Quin as he added, “On a number of occasions.”
“Filthy Trathlainian!” Zha Quin almost screamed, “You never admitted to having knowledge of Lavashian!” Gremlaw tilted his head to one side and replied,
“Then, in fairness, Zha Quin, in all the times you were beating me, you never asked.” Zha Quin started to splutter as the commanding officer barked a series of orders to his men,
“Take the Trathlainian and have him cleaned for presentation to the Emperor! Arrest Zha Quin. We will present him to the Emperor also.” Gremlaw was dragged roughly towards one of the buildings as Zha Quin had his weapons taken from him and a pair of metal shackles attached to his own wrists. Even though Gremlaw had concluded he would never escape Lavash alive, he was glad to see Zha Quin taken by his own people.
After a dousing in painfully cold water followed by a vigorous scrubbing, Gremlaw was deemed clean enough to be given a rough towel and some clothing common to Lavash. He was watched, hawk like, as he dressed himself, completing his ensemble with a pair of shoes as comfortable as any he had ever managed to steal. He was led into another area, bounded on all sides by buildings constructed from the sandstone common to the region and held by four guards who applied a pair of shackles to his wrists.
Only a few heartbeats passed before the remainder of the squadron formed up around him, dragging Zha Quin along with them. The journey through the vastness of the Imperial capital was seemingly endless as the moon rose slowly into the sky, casting a pale glow which altered the shadows around the small group into deep hiding places. Gremlaw was tempted to slip into the alternate vision allowing him to see negative space but he was so hemmed in by the troops around him there would have been no point to the exercise.
Eventually reaching a wide thoroughfare, which surrounded a marble clad building whose size and opulence astounded Gremlaw into stillness, out of which he was pulled when he received a hard shove between the shoulder blades.
If he was stunned by the exterior of the Imperial palace, Gremlaw felt as if he had shrunk into insignificance at the sheer size and luxury of the inside. Everywhere he looked, the young man saw examples of opulence and splendor unlike anything he had ever dreamed of. The palace of Trathlain was a large building but it was nothing in comparison to this and certainly nowhere as decadently dressed.
Their trek continued through halls and corridors, past fountains and gardens, all of which were guarded by soldiers in the same garb as Gremlaw’s escorts; in a complex of this size, Gremlaw thought, there must be hundreds.
Half of the squad of men split from their commander, dragging Zha Quin off to some different location while Gremlaw was led into a large room hanging with silks and furnished with massive, velvety cushions. A single figure commanded all Gremlaw’s attention, sitting, cross-legged in a nest of puffy cushions. This, then, would be the Emperor.
Although the man who sat staring impassively into Gremlaw’s eyes was known to be cruel and merciless in his drive for dominance both within the Empire of Lavash and in his dealings with foreign countries, Gremlaw was surprised to note he was a frail looking individual. Emperor Haz-Tchin-Kavash was rake thin with grey-white hair and beard.
The squadron approached the throne and as if on cue, each man dropped to the floor, leaving Gremlaw to wonder if he should do the same. Kavash looked upon him with something like intrigue as the young man inclined his head slightly while maintaining eye contact. If he was going to die, Gremlaw thought, he would do so with dignity rather than fawning to this man.
“Rise Commander,” The Emperor’s voice was deep and powerful despite his thin frame and Gremlaw began to reconsider his initial impression. “Report.” He ordered. The man who had arrested Zha Quin spoke at length regarding all he had learned since meeting Gremlaw, including the allegations of abuse concerning Fitlock Haguana’s family. Kavash made a single movement with his hand, dismissing the squadron and its commander, who left Gremlaw and Kavash alone.
“So, Gremlaw,” Kavash said in almost accent less Trathlainian, “How is my old friend Wattiern DeLarouge?” Gremlaw had been expecting the man to have some kind of intelligence regarding his situation which could be used to shock answers from him.
“I haven’t seen the old boy for quite a while,” Gremlaw replied flippantly, in perfect Lavashian, producing no reaction from the Emperor. The older man stood, his already wide eyes widening further as he stared at Gremlaw, as if scrying answers from his form.
“You have been identified as a spy, an enemy to the great Empire of Lavash. You have hindered some of my plans for the Kingdom of Trathlain and ruined any future dealings with the Durana Trading Company. Have you anything to say?” Gremlaw raised his shackled wrists slowly towards Haz-Tchin-Kavash, Emperor of Lavash and said,
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