This is part of the FIRST draft of chapter 2. I wanted to rewrite it for this assignment but unfortunately couldn’t find the time.
Generals Aryas and Cugarta return home to the Imperial capital Arka after a three year campaign against the Elves that they have just won for their Emperor. Unbeknownst to Aryas, Ziara, one of his slaves is waiting for him on the docks.
Ziara was standing on the docks, wind blowing through her blonde hair, her blue eyes gazing around the bay impatiently for his ship. Cinnabar had docked hours ago, so where was Aryas? She was dressed in the simple clothes of a slave, a straight brown dress with a ribbon around the waist and old leather sandals. Her pointy ears and several horizontal creases across her nose betrayed her race. She smiled at one of the many Halfling slaves working on the docks. The Halfling did his best to smile back at her. They were far worse off than she was. At least her master was nice to her. Halflings were considered the lowest of the low in the Empire.
Ziara spotted a massive Imperial ship sail into the bay, around which many of Arka’s architectural achievements were built. Cugarta and Aryas stood at the bow of the deck, shoulder to shoulder, both taking a deep breath and savoring the sweet smell of home. The ship rocked with the gentle waves. She couldn’t believe the size of the thing, it looked so majestic.
The bay was touted as one of the most marvelous views in the known world, for anyone! It was decorated with temples, statues of heroes, and large impressive buildings. Birds were flying high above the bay, as if to admire the grandeur from above, from a much better perspective. All this beauty was a testament to the marvel and power of the Empire of which this was the center. Over the years Emperors had taken great effort and expense to build temples, statues, docks around the bay. Right at the center of that bay was a wide road leading straight to the Palace Square.
But with this absolute power inevitably came corruption and decadence. Conquered nations were subdued into bondage. High and low both became Arkan slaves as the Imperial military seemed unstoppable. In the mind of anyone within the Arkan Empire there was no other nation that could topple them.
Ziara hid behind a stack of crates as the ship got closer. She trembled thinking of how long it had been since she’d seen her master. Was he still the same, or would he be more stern like Cugarta now? One of the sailors threw a thick rope to the dock to have the ship moored properly before the friends could disembark. The two men clasped each other’s arms and laughed, setting foot on land as soon as the plank was extended.
Cugarta jumped on land right away, Aryas paused a moment at the end of the plank, then put both feet on the ground carefully. It was the first time in almost three years they had touched Arkan soil. “Ah, the undisputed seat of the One True Light, and everything else we hold dear in the Empire!” Aryas commented appreciatively.
Smiling in agreement with his friend, Cugarta retorted, “Long live the Empire!” as the slave ships congregating at the dock caught his eye. “I see our loot is already being unloaded and likely taken to the market as we speak. Arka will put the Avarrian survivors to good use!”
Aryas remained silent, the sea winds blowing his hair over his face obscuring his vision some, as he brushed the offending hair strands away with annoyance. Aryas continued his scanning of the harbor and noticed the people near the docks, some sitting haphazardly on the bales and begging for money. Grunting with distaste he complained, “You know, now that the war overseas has been won, we might use our victory to fight the one here at home.”
Cugarta glanced around quickly, making sure no one had heard this careless comment, putting his hand lightly on Aryas’s shoulder. “Patience, old friend, this is not the time. You should be more careful, the Senate has ears everywhere.”
Aryas lied, “I do not fear them”, his eyes betraying his worry. Suddenly he caught movement out of the corner of his eyes. Ziara ducked away quickly. “Ziara?” he asked wondering. She poked her head over the crates gingerly as she realized she’d been spotted. She stood up and walked to him, bowed her head and kept looking at the ground “Master”. He slowly tilted her head up with his hand and studied her, noticing how much she’d grown. She realized he was inspecting her head to toe and blushed.
“What are you doing here?” he said sternly. But Ziara could see the twinkle in his eyes.
She stuttered “We… heard about the ships that returned today. I wanted to come and see…”
“It seems your slaves have forgotten their proper place” Cugarta interjected.
“I didn’t mean for you to see me here master” Ziara quickly defended herself.
Cugarta’s jaw clenched in agitation “You think that makes it any better?”
Just as Aryas was about to speak, a Roman Praetorian soldier on his horse arrived at the two generals. He stretched out his arm and with crisp precision, he executed the Imperial salute. “Hail Cugarta and Aryas, in the name of the old emperor, emperor of Arka and the Pontifex of Light.”
Ziara carefully stepped back into the shadows of the large crates hoping not to be noticed by the soldier.
The generals nodded and stretched out their arms as a sign of respect. “Hail!” they both replied in unison. The Praetorian looked down at them with a smile and gave them a sealed scroll. Aryas accepted it right away, broke the seal and quickly read what it said. “It seems our victories are spoken of throughout the city, we are ordered to report to the emperor at once.”