The Sun God
Dying amaranthine rays swelled over the mass. He wore a loose purple dalmatic whose sleeves hanged low. The cap’s embroidered gold and burgundy lapets draped over thin shoulders, reaching down to an exquisitely decorated silver belt.
They climbed up the stairs, solemn and deliberate, each step grave. Men wearing bronze thoraces flanked the procession, an indomitable wall reaching from ground to the massive marble temple that loomed over the mountainside.
He breathed deeply. Today, his former life would cease. From glorified ashes he would arise, reborn as Divine, no longer as Man. He extended fine bony fingers towards the dwindling sun, one last salute. After all, Athelis would never see Him again.
An ominous silence hung over the crowd. They watched as lesser men would crown their Emperor a God. Thousands of incense sticks were spread across the area, the usually relaxing smell now sickening.
Butterflies ravaged his stomach. His hands trembled; no man in the world would have been calm. After all, wasn’t Akete the world? Out of all its people, they chose him. His word would give birth to another. His hand would kill.
Athelis’ eyes stung. His breath caught in his throat. The clergy would be here soon. Ten steps, perhaps twenty. He couldn’t judge from atop his dais. He wanted to sit down, to relax. Once he was reborn, he would sit on his throne and stand watch for the night, as was customary.
A pair of vibrant green eyes swooped over the mask he carried. Those eyes were his own. Many told him his eyes were the only pretty part of him. His chin was sharp, but his jowls hung low. His lips were too big for his face. The Emperor was beautiful. Why wasn’t he?
But the Emperor was not long for this world.
The High Aulic stood before him, his shaky hands barely holding the sun-shaped mask. When he met his eyes, the priest looked away. Athelis hoisted his arms up and the legionnaires set fire to the braziers surrounding the throne.
The last rays of the sun were hiding behind the horizon now. The sky was tinted a rich purple from where the Emperor stood, but he knew that from behind him, darkness was encroaching. Akete had no borders; it stretched north and south, west and east.
Akete is the bastion of civilisation. Akete is civilisation. His forefathers brandished sword and flame, cutting a blazing swath across the known world. Abrud is theirs; and in a hundred years, every man and woman would be a child of the Sun.
The robe was uncomfortable; not the silk itself, which felt like an ethereal breeze caressing him, but the cold pressing against his bare skin. The Emperor kept the cold away, and shone the glow of the Sun upon their heads. What would happen, he wondered, if the flame would die? His gaze wouldn’t dare match the Emperor’s.
The crowd rustled. Five men in crimson robes stood at the foot of the stairs, whispering to the ones in the front what was happening at the temple. “The Emperor has turned into a Phoenix!” a child was saying. “The High Aulic will anoint him, and he will become the Sun,” one old man was muttering.
And so, it was to be. Athelis’ eyelids drooped over his deep blue eyes. He breathed the brazier and incense smoke deeply, trying to control his nausea. Fight fire with fire, he was taught. He wanted to puke, he wanted to cry and yell. The whole world’s mantle would rest on his shoulders. And was he any special?
The High Aulic tried to relax. He was never so nervous. When they named him the father of the clergy, did he falter? When he was told Akete’s spirit would rest within his body, did he doubt? “That’s foolish,” he told himself. “This is not the same.”
It was getting cold. The wind blew harder with each passing minute. The people in the crowd shivered, they huddled closer to one another. Thousands of men, women and children all stood, as in rank and file, at the foot of the stairs that led up to the [Temple].
“Do it, now!” his mind echoed. The golden sun mask slipped from sweaty fingers, the metal clinking against stone reassuring. “Forgive me, Emperor. Forgive me, Akete.” he spoke in a shaky voice as his hand darted inside his robe and pulled out a needle-thin dagger. The point thrust into the Emperor’s neck once, twice.
Athelis opened his eyes. He felt a trickle of blood run down his neck. He rubbed at the wound with his bony fingers. The High Cleric’s gaze matched his, those deep green eyes staring into his soul. With this, the flame would die.
The guards watched in astonishment as the priest stood over the body of the Emperor, crying. A crown of scarlet blood circled around the Emperor’s perfect head. His blonde-red hair soaked in it.
The Cleric’s mouth trembled, his eyes drowned in tears. “Forgive me Akete.” he was muttering, over and over, as if trying to convince himself. “What I do, I do for you.”