Antiach: An Empire of Legends

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Well, for one thing, Hebridan isn't ruled by a High King. It's more Scottish than Irish.

PrinceOfShapeir:
Well, for one thing, Hebridan isn't ruled by a High King. It's more Scottish than Irish.

Ah. Well, is it still rule by warlords in Herbridan? If so, my sheet is fixed easily enough.

Alright, Antiach will begin relatively soon. Probably tomorrow if I have the time. The RP will remain open from the start of the Prologue until the beginning of Act I, but there will be periods within the RP when fresh players will be allowed.

Antiach: An Empire of Legends
Prologue: The Gilded Cage

From even the most hostile perspective, Rome was a magnificent city, sprawling white stone stretching as far as the eye can see and surrounded by colossal walls of thick granite, wide enough for thirty mento walk side by side and easily a hundred feet high. At nine points, facing the nine directions, was a great tower - more than a tower, a castle rising out of the wall. Innumerable watchpoints dotted the unimaginably long wall that stretched across the great city. At various points atop the wall, large ballistae and catapults could be seen. Up close, arcane runes covered the stones, forming a great, elaborate design.

The walls didn't surround all of Rome. Outside the walls, another city had formed. Instead of the grandeur of the inner city, it was a place of abandoned hopes, the people of the outer city only alive because of the whim of the Emperor and the Urban Cohorts. Thousands upon thousands of people living in ramshackle homes against the river, living off what little they can eke out of the land, most hoping to somehow prove themselves worthy to Rome and become the servant or even slave of one of a Senator or Legate.

And deep within the city was the Imperial district. If the city was a place of wonder and luxury, the Imperial District was far grander. Filled with Temples, statues, and monuments, the great Colosseum, the massive, ornate theater, music halls, bathhouses, feasting halls, and brothels. Every pleasure imaginable could be found in the Imperial District, among the mansions of Senators, Legates, heroes, powerful merchants, and priests. At the center of the District were the most important buildings in the entire Empire, facing into the great Forum - The Curia Lucia, where the Senators of the Empire met to confer on the laws of the nation with the Emperor, The Temple of Vesta, where the Vestal Virgins safeguarded the piety of the Empire and the Sacred Fire eternally burned, and most importantly the Domus Titus, the Emperor's Palace.

Within the colossal palace dwelt a small army of servants, slaves, and courtiers, along with the Praetorian Guard and the Emperor and his family. In addition to these were 'Honored Guests', hostages taken from the breadth of the Empire to insure loyalty. They are free to enjoy the splendor and pleasures of Rome, all the while aware of a knife at their throat.

Life in Rome is about to change.

* * * * *

"The Emperor requests your presence at dinner this evening." A message left in the rooms of six hostages - Khalid Al-Sharid ibn Hassan, Zhang Mingmei, Jochi, Rika Kazanko, an unaddressed message left in the room of a man known as Shump, and Tsuchi Ukihashi.

Khalid examined the note and scowled. It wasn't the first time he'd received a 'request' like this, and it wasn't really a request either. If he tried to refuse, he'd find himself seated at the dining table, his feet shackled to the chair. At least if he went willingly, they'd give him a knife to eat with.

Bastards.

Forced to choose between pride and dignity, Khalid chose dignity. He'd attend the dinner willingly. He felt anger burning his throat, bile rising from his gorge, and walked through the palatial room he lived in, feeling disgust at the Roman architecture. He had done his best to make it feel like home, bring some of the sights and scents of Assyria to Rome, but it only blunted the disgust he felt for the fluted columns and white stonework he seemed to see everywhere. Finally, he snatched a plain black book off the shelf, opening it to a page detailing the construction of a djinn bottle, the careful runes that needed to be etched into the container, whether it be a flask, a jar, or a lamp, to properly chain the djinn and prevent it from tearing you apart. He felt his rage subside as he studied the complex designs, replaced with just his simmering hate.

Rika did not like the fact she had to see the bastard that locked her up. "Oh god like I'll go see him. Screw him and Rome." she said sitting on her bed and crossed her arms tightly. "I don't care if I'm dragged out of here I'm not going." Rika said shaking her head.

She wasn't about to go willingly and nor was she going to give him the satisfaction of humiliating her.

Jochi read the summons, having just returned from checking on his horses. He quickly grew adgitated as he thought about just what this 'dinner' might entail. Particularly, he recalled the last time he had been requested to a meal; it had been some wealthy senator who was entertaining some friend and had clearly wanted to show his influence by demonstrating his power over others. Most of the evening had been spent with the others commenting on Jochi's smell and his people's 'savage natures'. Jochi wondered if this was to be another such trial.

For a moment Jochi smiled at a thought. Perhaps he should give them what they wanted; get some of his course furs out, go roll in the mud a bit, only sit on the ground. He wondered how they would react to that.

"What do you think Tyuaa?" Jochi asked the small hawk that eyed him from it's wicker cage. He already slouched slightly and had an animal gleam in his eye as stalked over and slipped the bird a strip of dried meat. "Shall I show them a bit of the beast of the north?"

Enkhtuyaa quickly swallowed the meat before fussing with it's feathers for a moment and giving a quiet caw. In Jochi's ears though he heard as clearly as if spoken too: "Preened feathers good for flight."

Jochi chuckled a bit; the bird clearly didn't understand half of what was going on with all of this, but that didn't mean that the advice was bad. There was no real good reason not to seem his best for whatever the Emperor had planned.

Jochi still didn't quite understand the Roman obsession with cleanliness, they seemed to take it to an illogical level, but well... when in Rome...

Seeing that he still had some time left, Jochi set about getting his best cloths ready and heading to the bath. He would change these people's minds on his clans one way or another.

Tsuchi looked at the messege sent to him with confusion. He had never been invited to anything in Rome before, for reasons unknown to him. He shrugged as he put it down, going to pick up Ame-no-nuhoko for the journey, he certainly wasn't going to go to anywhere without it. It had yet to leave his sight or side since he was in Rome, as he didn't trust that nobody would want to steal it. He didn't care if The Emperor's guards tried to stop him from taking it in, he was not going to let their filthy hands touch it.

He walked outside and looked at the area around him, the bustling people everywhere pushing and shunting in order to get where ever. Tsuchi shook his head, these people had no respect for each other. He began to head where he was requested, keeping one hand on Ame-no-nuhoko should anyone think themselves able to steal it.

Shump looked up from the Cantonese tome he had been studying.  A note had been slid under his door and joined a small pile of letters.  This one was different, instead if being written on plain  papyrus parchment, this one was written on paper, embossed, and instead of ink the words were written with bits of gold stamped right into the paper.  It stood out enough that Shump left his studies and picked it up, scanned it.  Then casted a side ways glance at the other letters.

Due to his appearance the guards and servants tried to avoid him as much as possible, when they communicated with him it was through notes pushed under the door.  Shump usually ignored them entirely, only bothering to pick them up when he needed to get a fire going.

He doubted he'd be allowed to ignore an emperor's summons.  He gave a bit of thought to what he'd wear, probably his usual clothes, if they complained, he'd go naked.  He grabbed Herald, his sword, and began the process  of cleaning it.  He didn't think he would be using it, but the guard at his door didn't need to know that.

Mingmei stared at the note, not really caring for it. She could deal with the dinner easily, ignoring the little jabs at her home country and concerning herself only with the emperor and his dealings. After all, if she knew how he worked and how to appeal to him, she could appease or manipulate him into releasing her country, currently trying to work on the "it's a blight on the empire so you should just cut it loose" angle. She hoped thgat her angle would work but feared that her argument would instead force the emperor to go in and try to force her country to improve itself by force, something that she knew wouldn't work, so she would refrain from trying that angle for now.

She looked down and started rubbing her head, she didn't need to start thinking about that now, she just needed to cool down. In the meanwhile she would have time to kill before she was due in the evening so she started to tinker with some of the things from her land, maybe she would play her flute(the xaio) or something like that.

One by one, a heavy knock came to the door of the six hostages, opened to reveal two men clad in the peculiar banded armor of the Romans, the purple plume in the helmet showing that they were members of the Praetorian Guard. "If you would come with us." It wasn't a request. They were taken - or dragged - through the palace into the heart of the immense building, finally coming into a great banquet hall.

Even for Rome, the hall was breathtaking to behold. A massive table of polished black wood filled much of the room, easily large enough to seat two hundred. To either side, massive, fluted while marble columns, so large around that even Shump couldn't wrap his arms around them. They seemed go up into infinity, the ceiling painted cunningly so that it appeared to go up into infinity, a diffuse bright light shining down from above. No doubt some trick of magic or the Roman's technological wizardry. On the floor was a massive carpet that covered most of the polished marble floors, the carpet a deep black that seemed to have a red glow, like looking into the bowels of the earth.

Khalid, despite his disgust, was impressed. Also puzzled. Previous dining arrangements, they had wanted him to sit in the Roman style, reclining on a divan like a whore. Quite distasteful. Now they were actually seating like normal people. Peculiar.

Seated at the far end of the table was a man, flanked by four others in the armor of the Praetorian Guard. The man was clad in clothes that recalled the design of the Praetorian Guard armor, marked with broad purple stripes. On his brow was a wreath of laurel leaves. His dark hair was thick, his eyes a stark, pale blue. He smiled as they entered, rose to his feet.

None of them had ever met him before in the flesh, but even so, they knew who it was. Lucius Augustus Caesar, Emperor of the Roman Empire of Antiach.

"Welcome, guests! Welcome to my home!"

Mingmei looked around, awestruck at the sight and and a little envious at the roman's wealth. While they sat here, drowning in there own wealth, her nation was still trying to recover from their onslaught. even outside their own capital, there were people just trying to survive and-

'Okay, Ming. Calm down. Your getting too worked up about things you can't even affect right now. Just cool it and stay chill...', she thought to herself and soon, she had put it in the back of her head and was more focused on the Emperor. To be able to see him in person was a feat...but she got the feeling that something was up. It's not every day your allowed to see the emperor this close...or have him greet you...

"Thank you for having us, your majesty." she simply said before seating herself.

Tsuchi looked at the Roman Emperor with anger in his eyes wanting shout aloud at him, blaming him for his guards taking away Ame-no-nuhoko while they were in the dining hall. He hated this man for many reasons but was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, 'was' being the operative word seen as he had taken his precious heavenly nagitana away for him however temporary it was. That was unforgivable.

"Hello, your 'greatness'." Tsuchi said, obviously being sarcastic and disrespectful to the Emperor. "You grace with your magnificent presence..." He clenched his fists tightly, creating a sound as he did, and stared menacingly at the emperors guard. He wasn't completely stupid though, he wasn't going to run up and punch the emperor in the middle of his own palace. At least not at the moment.

He sat down rested his head on his right hand, leaning his elbow on the table disrespectively.

Shump took a look at the great hall, it would be to easy for him to dismiss it a prime example of Roman vanity but his studies had taught him better. It wasn't just a display of wealth, but of power, it was a silent message, " This is what we can build, with the worlds resources at our disposal, with the backs of thousands working for us." This room could not exist if the Romans didn't rule Antiach. The wood for the great table was imported from the farthest forests. The carpet was made with imported cotton. The great pillars would have taken an army of slaves and mountains of technical expertise to pull up right. The banquet hall was much more subtle than a legion marching on the horizon, but it's message was the same. " We rule the world."

Which made Shump have a difficult time believing this all belonged to Emperor Lucius. Somehow even with his laurels, and gilded armor, he still seemed to small and too mortal to be incharge of all of this. Shump nodded to the emperor, saying nothing, which was the norm when he adressed a roman. In fact as far as his captors knew, he didn't even understand Latin. He then moved to the table and took a seat between Tsuchi and Mingmei.

Khalid gritted his teeth in anger. Carpets like these were only made in one place - Assyria. Just another insult, another subtle but all too obvious mockery. He stepped forward and took a seat at the Emperor's right, across from the Jianghuan woman who had already seated. He nodded to her curtly, glancing at the other 'guests' periodically, trying to understand what they had in common. Non-Roman, probably hostages like himself, with no love for Emperor or Empire.

Interesting.

"Yes, I do, don't I?" The Emperor smiled at Tsuchi. "Please, relax, make yourselves at home." He snapped his fingers and a wall panel slid aside, a woman of Mughal origin clad in a white tunic with a heavy iron collar around her neck entered, holding a bottle of a deep red wine, followed by four other women dressed identically, apparently from various parts of Jianghu carrying crystal goblets, which they placed in front of the chairs. The first woman poured the wine into the glasses.

"Drink!" The Emperor took a deep draft of the wine. "From the finest vineyards in Gaul. Truly magnificent." He glanced at them. "I am, of course, Lucius Augustus Caesar, Emperor of Rome. You have been guests in my palace for some time, but I do not believe we have had the pleasure of meeting. What are your names?"

"I am Khalid Al-Sharid ibn Hassan."

"Ah, yes! How is my dear friend the Sultan? I understand you and your father serve him well!"

"I wouldn't know, I have not seen him in many years."

"Such a pity! You must write to your father. The prefects tell me what happens, but they give it no soul! Rebellion this, famine that, plague here, drought there. There's no soul to what they tell me!"

Rika refused to eat anything but touched the wine that was placed in front of her. "What the hell am I doing?" she said to her self watching the Emperor. She didn't want to be there at all but knew she'd rather be there then dead.

If she had hear way he would be dead and the lands would be free but she wasn't able to do that at this time.

Khalid stared at the Emperor, too flabbergasted to even speak. The Emperor curled an eyebrow, then shrugged and turned to Rika, giving her a broad smile. "Please, enjoy the wine! It's most fantastic. You have a lovely bearing. I believe you are from Edo, are you not? I have heard many stories about the wonders of that nation. Is it true your swords are capable of cleaving through steel armor without notching the blade?"

"Yea that is true Emperor and I thank you for the complement but your comment means nothing to me as your rule means nothing. I have fought to stop you yet you drag me here and force me to see your face. What a fool, if I was armed you would be dead." she said calmly.

"And yet you aren't armed, and I'm not dead!" The Emperor laughed. "You are a funny girl. Would that I did not have the duties of the Emperor on my shoulders, I'd chase you like I was a young man of thirty again." He laughed. Khalid furrowed his brow, examining the Emperor. Thirty? The Emperor looked no older than his early twenties. Hadn't Lucius become Emperor thirty years ago?

"Enough with this shit. What is it you want from us and why the hell are we here? This is ridiculous, we are your prisoners yet you feed us and treat us as nobles. If you're going to kill us do it now." she said standing up almost yelling.

"Why would I want to kill you? Vesta's hymen, you're my guests, I would never want to harm you. I want to drink food, eat wine, enjoy pleasant company! Sit down, sit down, the first course will be out in moments. Tell me about yourself, please!"

"If we are guest then let us go. You should know what crimes landed me here yet you wish to have me near. I'll tell you who I am, I'm a proud member of Edo and I wish to see them free from your rule yet you insult me like this." Rika said slaming a fist on the table.

"Well, that's unfortunate for you. You see, you are my guests and thus you will remain my guests until I say otherwise. And Edo will never be 'Free' of my rule. Rome is here to stay, and we will not relinquish a single inch of the territory we fought for. You live in it because Rome allows it, we could have exterminated your people down to the last child if we had wanted to. But we were merciful, and so you live on."

The Emperor's jovial tone suddenly vanished, replaced with cold, merciless anger. Then it suddenly was gone, and the merry good humor was back as the slaves returned bearing platters laden with food - platters of a hundred different fruits, bowls filled with green vegetables, loaves of a dozen varieties with deep bowls of butter and honey. Last of all was the centerpiece, brought out by two slaves - a furred, half-man, half-wolf beast on a platter, a blade embedded in it's back and an apple in it's mouth. The creature slowly writhed, but seemed almost entirely helpless.

"Werewolf flesh is the most succulent meal I have ever tasted. It's somewhat more difficult to carve because the meat must be cut while the creature is still alive, but the added effort is well worth the month-long wait between." The creature was lay down on the table. He took up a knife and began slicing into the flesh, cutting off a long slice of meat and lifting it onto Rika's plate. "Please, enjoy!"

Tsuchi nodded when Rika spoke. He watched as the food was brought in then as the werewolf was his jaw dropped. "Is that not... Canniblism?! That used to be a man! Are you suggesting that we eat a man?!" His eyes caught the fruit and he suddenly felt hungry. No! I must not eat this! To do so would be like eating the fruit of Yomi, I'd be condemned! What a dislikable man...

"Ummm I would rather not but thank you. I'm a beef person my self." she said pushing the plate away from her and voted to take an apple instead then took another sip of wine eying the emperor but sadly it seemed like she was eying him for more romantic reasons.

" People go mad eating such things," Shump muttered. Stories were told of those who ate the flesh of their fellow man, where driven made by their gods as punishment. I doubt wolf-men are an exception . There was that, and the fact that the meat was raw. When Shump was served his portion of were-wolf flesh, he backhanded the plate away and sent it flying, where it then shattered against one of the pillars. Shump stood up and growled, " You insult me! All of us here! I can accept that the Romans won our lands in combat, I can accept you wanting us here to keep the nobles in lines, but now you feed us raw meat! From a still living creature! As if we are feral dogs! Animals! And prance about like this is a great honor on our part?" Shump was roaring now " Emperor Lucius I have played your game, I have surrendered when the law of my people says I should have killed my self, I have left myself at your mercy, but now," Shump briefly glanced to the door, behind which Herald was held. " I shall ensure, you hear my name."

"Not cannibalism, you silly man. It's a Werewolf. Even when they look like us, they aren't one of us. And when they're like this, they're just another monster." The Emperor laughed like he'd been told the most hilarious joke in the world. "Calm yourselves! The meat is not raw, the beast has been cooked. It's an amusing fact, but a Werewolf can only be killed with silver, even placed inside an oven for an hour at incredible heat only makes the beast tender and delicious." The Emperor sliced off a piece and bit into it, juices running down his chin. "Aaaah, truly magnificent."

"Mister...Shump, I believe they call you? Settle down, settle down, we can hear your name loudly enough when you speak it. However, if you would like to test your mettle against the Praetorian Guard, you are free to do so at any time you desire! Of course, Hebridan will be greatly punished for your insolence, I believe I will send my legions to a few small hamlets, designate one of every ten for crucifixion and everyone else for enslavement, but do as you will! I care little. Just make sure your bold last stand is somewhere I can watch."

Argyros was currently in the courtyard, using the plant life as cover so as not to be seen. He had built a small device out of the parts of his gilded cage. It would give him the angle of his location to the walls, and he knew how far he was away from the walls from a previous attempt. Once he had this last piece of information he would know but the height of the walls and the distance from the top of the wall to his position. He knew he wouldn't escape today, but if his calculations were right he would be able to escape some other day.

The patient man escapes and survive, the impatient man escapes and dies. he thought as he used the device to get his angle.

72 degrees, wonderful. Now I just need to build something to get myself up there and no farther. If I can do that I will have more to get back to my homeland with. Next will be to get my weapons back and figure out how to get myself and them out. Ah well, for now though it is time to act suspiciously enough to be put back in the cage.

With that he stood up and took angles of everything from the walls themselves to the balconies on the palace. Even the Praetorian Guard would be smart enough to realize he was being suspicious.

Shump gritted his teeth and snarled. It was a violent gesture but ultimately an impotent one. As much as he hated to admit it Lucius was right, his armies were already occupying the best strategic locations in Herbidan. With an order he could have the entire populace put to heel. Which is exactly the thing Riagan had ordered Shump to avoid. And Shump wasn't exactly going to disobey his Chief's orders, and cause the deaths of thousands of his people over a bad meal. He sat back down, staring daggers at the emperor. He glanced at the werewolf, and considered taking the knife from it's stomach and stabbing it through the heart, simply to spite the emperor. He waved the thought away. He didn't want to push the emperor to the point of taking action against him.

Before Shump assumed the Emperor simply ambitious, but now he could see how mad this man truly was. Even if we played the whipped slave, and played Lucius's games, he doubted Herbidan would be spared much longer, it would only be a matter of time before the emperor gained a taste for Celtic Virgin's stewed in woad.

Jochi sat quietly stewing in disgust. At first, he had been half excited by the meeting of the other apparent guests; several of whom he could clearly identify as from Jianghu. He had been hoping to get to know them better.

However, those thoughts were quickly squashed as thing after thing ignited his agitation. First the slaves. Now slavery was nothing new to Jochi, his own people were well known for taking captives as servants, but there were still differences that Jochi had quickly learned of when he had first come to Rome. Khanate slaves were still people despite their status, and were expected to be treated as such; a dignity never afforded to Roman slaves who might as well be pieces of furniture for their whole life.

The meat was another thing entirely. Jochi's sat untouched in front of him. Unlike some of the others he knew that a Werewolf was really just a beast rather then a man. In addition, he acknowledged the reality that food was food and that sometimes a true survivor might need to eat anything it took to survive.

However even if it was necessary to survive, no scenario existed where keeping such a being alive and suffering would ever bring anything but pain. Pain that would surely be reflected back upon the causer. Man, beast, monster; it didn't mater as Jochi had been taught; pain without purpose blackened a soul darker than most any other crime.

The outbursts of the others didn't do anything to relieve his mood either. Jochi was stunned by their lack of awareness; the fact that the Emperor had to even state his threats for them to be reminded of them. For Jochi, the possible fate of his people and land was always chewing at the forefront of his mind should he try anything foolish. It was exactly that witch kept him from jumping up with the others.

Instead Jochi's only outward sign of stress was the death grip he seemed to hold to the small eating knife that was beside his plate and his furrowed eyebrows as he looked at the pathetic beast that still squirmed on the table.

"Ah-hem." Jochi cleared his voice before he spoke. "Lord Emperor," he was hardly above a bit of flattery to get what he wanted, "perhaps a live beast at the table ruins appetite for good conversation and food." He nodded at the werewolf, "I'm sure that everyone would feel better without such a sight." He said diplomatically trying at minimum to steer the conversation away from the slaughter of populations.

Mingmei had reserved herself to sit back and listen to what was going on. She was somewhat disturbed with what the emperor said, but the most important thing to her was what he said about releasing any of the nations and the fact that he expected them to eat the meat off of a werewolf. She looked down at her plate and quivered. She didn't know where she drew the line between man and beast but to her it didn't matter, it was alittle too close to the line for her tastes at the moment. If she had to eat it then she would but right now...she didn't need to eat.

More importantly was his attitude towards letting her nation go which was...less then optimal. It seemed that if she brought her arguement to the emperor now, it would probably incite him to wipe them off the map. Not the best of plans and certainly not what she wanted so she would rid herself of such a plan for now. Still, this meeting gave her cause to be alarmed about her nation under his rule; his threats and his demeanor spelling out the fact that he very well could destroy any of the nations on a whim if he liked.

She looked around at the other guests, some of them up in arms about the meal, others like herself sitting back and not ingadging in the conversation unless they really needed to. She heard one request to have the werewolf leave, feeling that it was disrupting the table. While she didn't really agree with that idea, but it wouldn't hurt to try it to calm everyone down.

"I will have to agree, your Majesty. It would make it easier to enjoy this dish without the eyes of one of those whom this meal comes from staring at us while we eat it.", she said, trying to calm down the table, feeling that this arguing would cost them all in the long run if it kept up and really not wanting to agrivate him enough to attack a nation and wipe it out.

"Well, that would be all well and good, except when you kill a Werewolf, it and all it's meat returns to it's false Human form, and that would put all of us off!" He smiled. "But I see what you mean." He snapped his fingers, the slaves coming out. "Take the beast back to the kitchen and properly cut the roasts, then bring them out. And make sure it doesn't die until the meal's done."

Immediately the Praetorians had spotted him and put a sword at his throat. Argyros responded by simply raising his hands, knowing the soldier would not kill him so long as he did not resist.

"If it were not for the orders of the emperor himself, I would kill you where you stand." The guard said as he grabbed the tool which he could not identify. It was obviously not a weapon, but what purpose it did hold he had no idea.

"Well you have captured me and I will be gracious in defeat. I assume standing orders are to confiscate any equipment I have and return me to my cage?" Argyros responded calmly.

"You are half right Athenian." The soldier replied in a tone that implied that, at least to him, being an Athenian was below all else. "I am to disarm, then I am to take you to the banquet you missed the invitation for. It seems today you get the honor of meeting the emperor himself."

"Meet the emperor myself you say, well then I guess I shall have to apologize for being late." Argyros jokingly said.

"That you shall, now move." With that the soldier immediately lead him to the banquet he was supposed to have been attending apparently. Arriving just in time to see what seemed to be a werewolf leaving the hall.

"I found your guest looking at things near the walls with this." The soldier said after kneeling at the side of the emperor and holding up the object while looking down. The soldier did not dare look at the emperor's face out of respect to the point of almost reverence.

"My apologies for being so late and missing your summons dear emperor, but I simply needed to take a walk and appreciate the beauty of Rome. Hopefully this banquet has not ended without me." Argyros said calmly as he waited for either the emperor or his Praetorians to tell him what he should do. He knew there would be no escape in this case, so he may as well cooperate.

"Escape? Escape, my boy? Why would you ever want to escape? It would be such a pity to have to punish your kin for your failure to cooperate." The Emperor giggled, then snapped his fingers, the slaves emerging. "Take this meat back to the kitchens and cut it properly, then bring the cuts back out. Be swift, I grow hungry!"

The slaves quickly grabbed the platter with the maimed werewolf on it and carried it back into the kitchen. The Emperor chuckled. "Pretty things. So which one do you think I should have bitten by the Wolf before we finish it off? Need to prepare for next month's banquet!"

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