When Jaganatha woke up he grabbed a piece of rusted metal that could be fashioned into a spear, leaped to his feet, ran for several miles and secreted himself in a cave above the river. At night he crept out of his lair hunting for food and news of the emperor. It was our job, me and Claudine to tell him there was no emperor any more and had not been for a thousand thousand years.
The Emperor must have been a malign force indeed for the incredible energy the ancestors put into making assassins for him! Some of them were adults before they were put in suspended animation, taught of his crimes, trained in martial arts. Some of them were embryos with brains designed to respond to the word “Emperor” with homicidal fury. Some of them were actually tribes of people with a mythology that was deeply anti-imperial and a vague sense of mission, that some day in a barely-imaginable future they would sacrifice all for the perfect child, the promised One, the man who would kill the Emperor.
Claudine and I when we were first dating would go down by the river — this was where the fighting was heaviest, where the imperial satraps perpetrated their most atrocious crimes — and search for the pods. We became something of experts at disinterring them and at the analogous task of disinterring their minds as gently as possible — proving to them that there has not been an emperor for aeons.
-No we are not his agents.
-No we are not his foes testing you and your resolve before the mission.
-No we are not the minsters of his successor or Diadochos, seeking to enfief you to consolidate power
For he has no successor; his throne is beyond empty, for the world has forgotten the word “throne”.
He is just gone. Time has done your job for you. You are free to go.
What then for the assassin created to kill an emperor when there is no emperor?
Sometimes he will try to kill himself. Sometimes he will try to kill us. Sometimes he will come up with a metaphorical interpretation of his mission. “You know there are other Emperors other than just the Emperor. Injustice. Cruelty. Ignorance. The belief that the purpose of our lives is to kill the Emperor — that is itself the Emperor that needs killing.”
It has not escaped my suspicious mind that I myself must be one of those assassins whose metaphorical impericide has transformed for my own good, supposedly, into the mission of helping my peers transition into a post-imperial world.
Yet sometimes just before I fall asleep I catch a look in Claudine’s eye that reminds me of one who commands not just men but kingdoms and I wonder whether I have been lured from my duty by love, or some force or tendency more seductive still.