Doriam's Widow

The procession was the greatest that had ever been seen. Not only the hundreds of warships silently standing outside the station, but the thousands of Imperial paladins, priests, and dignitaries that formed the vanguard. It was a grand display of Imperial might. But it was not for the Empire. It was a worthy exemplification of the power of the Imperial throne. But it was not for the Emperor.

It was all for one woman. Jamyl Sarum. Soon to be Empress Jamyl I - for though her reign had begun in practice, it had not yet begun in name. As the gilded doors to the grand hall swung open, nearly all eyes turned to watch her enter the room. Even had she not been the focus of all the grandeur that had come before, most eyes would have turned to look at her. She was striking, not only in her beauty but in her presence as well.

Only one pair of eyes did not turn to see her. This pair continued to stare out the windows at the awesome fleet. They belonged to a woman who - before Jamyl - could have legitimately called herself the most powerful woman in the Empire. She was born Malada. She was known to the cluster as the wife of Emperor Doriam II.

As part of the Emperor's Family, she had a duty to be there. Not only was Jamyl becoming Empress, she was also officially becoming part of the Emperor's Family. What did that make her to Malada? A sister? A cousin? A daughter?

The heads of the Theology Council bowed before Jamyl. Malada tried to watch, but after a scant moment, she had to turn away.

She remembered when her own husband had been coronated. It seemed like only yesterday; in an Imperial time span, it had been. His reign had been even shorter. His death had been a stab to the heart of the Empire. The past two years had been a festering wound.

But Malada couldn't stand to see it bandaged. As the crown of Amarr was placed upon Jamyl's head, Malada was the only one not staring. She was grateful that she was not the only one who wept.

Empress Jamyl I's speech would be replayed thousands of times in the coming days. Its words would be dissected for hidden meanings; every nuance plucked apart for secret commands. Malada hadn't heard it. She had left before the speech began.

The action had not gone unnoticed.

Now she knelt before Jamyl Sarum's feet. "To what do I owe the honor of your summons, my Empress?" she said, her soft voice quivering just enough to be perceptible.

Jamyl did not immediately answer. When she finally spoke, it was with the same gravity that echoed through her every command. "I am nothing if not a merciful Empress."

"I have heard many tales," Malada answered. "Am I to be a recipient of your mercy?"

Jamyl's lips curled in a tiny smile, invisible to Malada from her lower position. "I greatly respect the traditions of the Emperor's Family. Hundreds of times in the past, the new Emperor's family joins with the remnants of the old. It symbolizes the unity and continuity of our people. It shows that though one may fall, the core of our Empire forever remains strong."

Jamyl stopped, awaiting a response, but receiving only silence. Jamyl's lips pursed slightly. "I am without a husband, have no children, nor brothers or sisters of consequence. My family is bound to me not by the tenuous ties of blood, too readily broken for personal gain and pride. My family is made of those who have devoted themselves, body and mind to my service. It is a family who would die for me and whom I reward with my life."

"You are blessed to have such devotion," Malada said quietly.

"Do you hate me?" Jamyl asked, suddenly.

Malada did not hesitate. "I do not hate you, no."

This gave Jamyl momentary pause. "And if I were the one to have ordered the death of your husband? What then?"

"There is no point in considering what is not true," Malada replied. "So I cannot answer that question."

This made Jamyl laugh. "Your words are vague, but precisely chosen. I see why Doriam married you. You perfectly compliment his ways."

"I do not deserve such words, majesty."

"I think it would be best if you were to retire to your estates on Kor-Azor Prime. Though popular opinion is that your son has mended his ways, the guidance of a mother would do much to help him through these troubled times."

"Wise advice," Malada said. Finally, she let her eyes rise to the face of Jamyl. "I think I shall take it."

Jamyl did not disguise her smile. "Then we are done here. You may leave."

Malada slowly stood, remaining bowed, and backed out of the room.

"Your Majesty, the transport taking Malada Kor-Azor home had a catastrophic failure. It was lost with all hands."

Empress Jamyl paused at the news. She lowered her head and closed her eyes. "The Empire has lost one of its treasures." All who heard her speak would not doubt the sincerity of her words. But a moment later, she returned to the pressing business of the Empire and the matter was forgotten.

"Your Majesty, the transport carrying your mother home had a catastrophic failure. It was lost with all hands."

A tear rolled down the cheek of Aritcio Kor-Azor. "My dear mother," he said. "What a tragedy, to have both parents taken from me so soon. But my pain is nothing compared to the suffering faced by my subjects every day. I can't rest to mourn, not even a moment."

All of his servants would speak even more highly of him after that day.

"The transport returning Malada Kor-Azor, widow of the late Emperor Doriam II, was destroyed when its engines suffered a catastrophic failure. All hands were lost, including Malada Kor-Azor herself."

A man turned to a woman sitting beside him. "A shame, isn't it?" he asked. "The Empire's lost its last connection to Doriam II's reign."

The woman, wrapped in black veils, turned. "Yes, it is," she said in a quiet, slightly quivering voice. "The Emperor was a wonderful man. I hope people do not forget all he did for us."

The man nodded, pleased with his insight. Then he turned back to watching the news, which had already moved on to another story.

For years to come, long after Doriam II had become little more than a footnote between the reigns of Heideran VII and Jamyl I, once a year on a day late in May, a woman swaddled in black visited Doriam's tomb. She knelt silently before his entombed body. No one bothered her, for often, she was the only visitor. Few even paid her any notice.

Fewer still ever realized she visited on the anniversary of Doriam's marriage to his wife Malada.

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