(Originally written 08 July 2012 as part of a “What If” writing prompt on Twilight Empire’s website; All dialogue spoken by Senator Reesee Terrison written by the player of that character)
Imperial Soldier Matasuntha walked up the steps to the guildhall’s platform and took up position where she had been for the weeks following Empress Aerana Dantay’s assassination—Senator Reesee Terrison’s right side. Of course, the Senator’s locking away of herself in the late Empress’s Dalaran chambers, standing by her side had not been quite so literal as it were today. Instead, Matasuntha spent most of her time brooding in the Legerdemain Lounge, and occasionally leaving food and drink where the Senator could easily find it. The portions she returned to the Silver Enclave’s kitchen were barely touched, but that was to be expected from a person deep in the midst of grieving…or scheming.
Soldier Matasuntha’s private excuse to General Katelle Larmont for her absence from military functions, and indeed Imperial functions on the whole, was that she was keeping tabs on Senator Terrison. This was not necessarily a lie. After the vision of the Senator ascending to power after the Empress’s death, General Larmont, who had also been present at the scrying ritual led by Senator Tinox Smartgear, shared Matasuntha’s suspicions that Senator Terrison may have been involved in the plot. The General may not have thought she was completely behind the assassination as Matasuntha suspected, but she was wary enough to soon thereafter have at least one soldier discreetly keep track of her. The draenei had volunteered for the job, offering to escort or guard Senator Terrison whenever she required it. Publically, however, Matasuntha was busy escorting Yurei’s caravan, which had, in all actuality, increased its mercantile runs.
Waiting patiently for the gasps at Senator’s appearance to settle so that she could begin her speech, she stared over the heads of the shocked, yet still gloomy Imperials. She was clad head to hoof in a black armor set she had specifically commissioned Ebon Hold’s Master Siegesmith Corvus to forge. She had ditched her fashionable draenei headband for a sable one. The only splashes of color on her attire were the blood red rearing and roaring lions of the Empire engraved into her chest plate that had been deemed appropriate substitutions for the gold-accented Imperial tabard given the current circumstances. Even the runeblade sheathed to her back was crafted from reinforced obsidum ore. Combined with her usual black hair and facial markings and her icy death knighthood, the black ensemble made her the personification of the Empire’s mourning.
“Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and prayers in this difficult time,” Senator Terrison began when the noise settled enough. “And I wish to apologize to those who worried about me in my absence. The Empress’s death was…,” she paused not long, but certainly long enough to further confirm Matasuntha’s theory, “unexpected and shocking to say the least, and I’ve needed this time to come to grips with the situation, and to figure out where we go from here. After much thought and deliberation, I have personally decided upon a course of action, and I ask both the Senate and the Empire at large to support this initiative.”
More murmurs spread through the crowd. She wondered how many people suspected Senator Terrison to be the person behind the assassination. She imagined most were still in a state of shock too potent to form such accusations, but she knew at least Citizen Sumner shared her concern on some level. She spotted the red-cloaked mage in the crowd, but his hood obscured his facial expression. While the Senator waited for the gathered Imperials to become silent again, Matasuntha once again went over the justification of her suspicions.
Hidden behind a dippy disposition was a bold and calculating woman, the death knight was convinced. How else could Reesee have essentially become the acting Empress when Aerana was still alive?
The clandestine use of the Imperial military also raised flags as red as the blood that had flowed from the Empress, and consequently the Empire itself. Matasuntha recalled how Senator Terrison had asked her and Akinetosh to detain a House Ravensong member she was convinced was guilty of an attack on her person. She sincerely doubted neither the Empress nor the Senate would condone using two death knights as arms of the Imperial law. And had she not said to use whatever means necessary to detain the alleged attacker? Matasuntha narrowed her eyes. Whispers were still circulating through the Imperial ranks, the Senator waiting calmly to resume speaking.
She returned to her thoughts, remembering the illicit package Senator Terrison had asked the Imperial military to secure. The contents were never revealed, and to this day remained a mystery. Perhaps it contained blood money? Matasuntha would never know, and it was really too late for speculation. What had been done had been done. The future was laid out before the Empire, and not the rippling future of magical clairvoyance, but the grim one of a house that was sure to be divided in more pieces than two.
Enough of a quiet had fallen across the assembled Empire for Senator Terrison to start talking again. Matasuntha listened raptly as she unveiled her plan for the Empire, her words washing over her like a purifying rainstorm.
“…the Empire has always strived for peace, though we girded ourselves for war, knowing full well that many within the Horde would oppose us. But what of those within the Alliance who refuse to see the error of their ways as they perpetuate this senseless conflict? Shall we prepare to do battle with them? The answer is yes. They’ve made it clear that so long as they remain in power, this world shall never know true peace…”
So that is what she has been planning, Matasuntha thought when the Senator paused after she mentioned declaring war upon the Alliance. The thought was not a product of shock or fear. It was neutral, at least at first. Then thoughts were quickly whipped into fervent, silent support of the Senator the more she spoke, the rainstorm showering Matasuntha transforming into monsoon.
The more words Senator Terrison eloquently annunciated, the more Matasuntha felt that she had ordered the assassination of the Empress to drive the Empire to its full potential. And why not? The death knight had always figured the Empire was above the Alliance. If forces within the Empire wanted to keep the endless war alive between the factions, then they were as much the enemy as the Horde who refused to submit to the Empress’s ideals.
No, they were no longer the Empress’s ideals, and had ceased to be so even before she had died, for, in fact, the Empress had practically been invisible for quite a few months prior to her murder. Ownership of ideas can no longer be attributed to a person who is no longer present to take possession of them. This absence seemed to be a habit of Aerana as Matasuntha recalled that the Empress had been largely missing from Imperial forefront for as long as she could remember being involved with them.
What kind of leader was that? Certainly not the powerful, driven one hidden behind a façade of innocence.
And with that, Matasuntha silently pledged herself to Senator Terrison and listened to the rest of her speech. When she had finished, she accompanied the Senator to the side of the platform. She knew she could easily raise her blade against Alliance members, be they armed or unarmed, men or women, adults or children. She knew because she had killed her own lover, Niizari Ebonrose, to prove her loyalty to the Empire. As Senator Donnelly Keithson began blabbing about how the Empress would not have wanted the Empire to engage the Alliance, Matasuntha, with a but a flicker of remorse, recalled how she had slain Niizari.
In the midst of a powerful climax, the night elf had not suspected the powerful kick that sent a hoof directly into the center of her face, shattering her nose. As putrid blood spurt from the crushed tissue tainted with unholy energies, Niizari let out a banshee wail. Whether as an intentional audial assault to stun her treacherous lover or merely a reaction to the intense pain and betrayal, the scream failed to affect Matasuntha as the Imperial soldier had already encased herself in a neon green, anti-magic barrier. Thus, the insect swarms that responded, either on their own accord or by the will of the screaming night elf, who rolled in the Zangarmarsh soil cupping her ruptured olfactory organ, bounced harmlessly from the shield.
Knowing the anti-magic shell would not hold long, Matasuntha rushed a safe distance away from the writhing kaldorei, still singing her agony. A light blue rune on the draenei’s upper thigh dulled as she lashed Niizari to the ground with chains of ice. Not even a second after the cold ropes secured the struggling night elf, a putrescent green unholy rune greyed when Matasuntha ordered the power of death itself to rot the ground under which Niizari twisted against her chains, the once powerful crying now the quiet sobs of a forsaken lover resigned to her fate.
The rot spread from the ground to the night elf, enveloping legs, arms, and torso just as Matasuntha’s green shield flickered. A plague insect lunged through the dying barrier, but the draenei snatched it from the air and snapped it in half, its jaws still chitterling as it joined its guts underneath a swift, hooved stomp.
Niizari’s screams rose again, piercing through the weakening shell and tearing into the Imperial’s ears. The sound unyielding, Matasuntha felt her knees buckle and eyes close. This was it. She was going to fall to Niizari’s blight swarm, two damned lovers finally taking the permanent sleep together.
Suddenly, the cries were squelched. Matasuntha opened her eyes and noticed three things in rapid succession: firstly, the world was not bathed in bright green; secondly, attracted by the rot, the plague swarm was descending upon the night elf; thirdly, Niizari’s blackened throat inwardly caved.
The rest had been a blur of devouring insects and blasts of frost Matasuntha had conjured to kill the insects that came after her when they had finished eating Niizari’s bones. As she had donned her clothes, and then her armor, she looked at the rotted patch of earth and sighed. If only Niizari had placed value in the Empire… Matasuntha had stopped the thought from continuing. Yet, the night elf had shown nothing but blatant disrespect to Imperial personnel. Matasuntha did not wish to associate with someone harboring such detrimental sentiments. They not only offended her, but put her at risk for being labeled an antagonist, or perhaps even responsible for the fateful assassination. She would never tell the Empire that she killed Niizari, and had since blamed the Scarlet Crusade for her death. After casting one last glance at the desecrated ground, she had left wishing things had been different between her and the night elf that loved her so deeply.
Senator Donnelly’s shouts brought her from her memories: “For Aerana! Twilight Empire forever!”
Imperial Soldier Matasuntha remained motionless by Senator Terrison’s right side, her neutral expression concealing the rising hatred for the fools that would still remain loyal to the Alliance. The Empire would live on, yes, but, as the future Empress had declared, it would do so in darkness.