Written by Benjamin Wesley – Instagram: benjaminwesley74
Every crown on Emperor Azan’s wall represented a nation conquered.
It had been the crowns that had kept Azan on the throne of Ladel for so long. They were a symbol of power to the rest of the world, a symbol of the conquered. Whoever held the crowns held the world itself.
The king of kings sat in his windowless chamber, gazing upon the wall, reminding himself of what he’d gained. He remembered the wars, the clever diplomacies, the assassins, and the crown thieves. In the end, his hard work had brought him over two hundred crowns. Not all had belonged to kings, of course. In fact, most belonged to minor dignitaries and princes that he’d cheated or bribed out of royalty. In the end, he ruled over all their lands.
Azan’s personal guards lined the edges of the room. Each man was a master soldier hailing from a different kingdom around the world and was loyal to a different crown on the wall. The soldiers were what had given Azan strength throughout the years, what had allowed him to succeed in his conquests when others failed. And they were all fiercely loyal to the crown on Azan’s head.
But now that he was in his later years, what was he to do? Years spent conquering had left him without time for women and certainly without time to raise an heir. That was an important matter he’d been neglecting throughout his reign, and his advisors were disappointed by it. The throne would likely pass to a cousin, now.
A knock on the door sounded, disrupting Emperor Azan’s meditation. Not bothering to hide his dissatisfaction, he waved to a guard to open the door. A small serving girl stepped in, wearing dirty brown robes and carrying a platter with coffee.
“You’re late,” the Emperor informed her. “Coffee is to be brought as soon as I wake.”
The serving girl nodded, not speaking as she poured him a cup. Azan’s nose wrinkled, taking a sip. It wasn’t the right brew at all. Barely even warm. He looked up, preparing to tell the girl off.
She was standing next to the wall of crowns, inspecting them.
“What are you doing, girl?” he demanded, standing to his feet and waving for the guards. He barely noticed as the coffee spilled across his lap. “Stop her!”
The serving girl turned, one of the crowns from the wall in her hand. It was made entirely of rare southern sea glass, different colors swirling and sparkling around each other like flames. She held the crown high above her head. “Take a step and I’ll drop this,” she said. The guards halted, looking to their Emperor for instruction as the girl whipped out a knife that was more cutlery than a weapon.
Azan threw back his head and laughed at the insanity of the moment. A serving girl with a dinner knife was threatening him, the greatest king, in his personal chamber filled with his personal guards. He laughed for a long time, remembering all the thieves and assassins that had broken into the room in an attempt to steal his crowns.
He laughed until his gut hurt. “This room has faced countless crown thieves, fool. And I’ve thwarted each one of them. What is your plan? Throw all two hundred priceless crowns into a bag and carry them out?”
The serving girl met his eye for the first time. “No, Azan. I haven’t come for the wall crowns. I’ve come for yours.” With that, the serving girl plucked the crown off the Emperor’s head and placed it on her own. “Take him away.”
The laugh died in his throat as he realized what she’d done. “This is foolish,” he sputtered, stepping away.
“I said arrest him,” the girl repeated. The Guards finally seemed to wake out of their confusion and they moved forward.
“What is this? Why are you listening to her?” Azan demanded as they grabbed his wrists. “Traitors!” He aimed a kick at one of the Guards, but the younger man simply stepped out the way.
“Don’t bother struggling,” the serving girl said with a smile as the former king was dragged from the room in disgrace. “I’ve heard they’re the best soldiers in the kingdoms.”