• THE CASTEAN EMPIRE by, Jamie1317kast

    “To choose what is difficult all one’s days, as if it were easy, that is faith.”
    ~W.H. Auden

    “Baron Gabriel, sir!” A nervous guard saluted. “We’ve brought the prisoner, as you requested.” At first it seemed as though the man sitting on the high, marble throne did not hear the guard. But when he cleared his throat to speak again, the Baron cut him off.

    “I heard you quite clearly the first time.” His quiet, yet chastising voice sent shivers up the guard’s back. The Baron ran his dark fingers through his even, chin-length, white hair. “Now bring it in.”

    “Y-yessir!” The nervous guard saluted again and managed to walk calmly until he was out of the Baron’s line of sight, at which point, he fled to the dungeons to fulfill his duty. It was very difficult to be around the Baron without feeling jittery and afraid; he was a very powerful man.

    Baron Gabriel von Seraphim leaned back against the cool marble. “Cardinal?” He asked, picking absently at his white, military-cut coat.

    “Yes, Baron?” Cardinal Ramses materialized next to Gabriel’s right hand. He was a Mage of great prestige in the West Continent, and he wielded more than enough power to oversee all those who decided to take on the priestly profession. “How may I…be of service to you?” His voice was all oil and slick, every syllable greased to please and pronounced with care. His years devoted to learning the languages of magic had colored his voice with a peculiar accent.

    At last, Gabriel opened his needle-box red eyes, staring out at pillared courtroom, empty except for a few guards. “Earlier, you were protesting my desire to see the only surviving prisoner. Why, I wonder, is that?”

    “Ah, dear Gabriel, that is a simple question.” Cardinal Ramses smoothed down his long, black robes, smiling. “I simply did not wish for such an uncivilized creature to disturb the peace and sanctity of this hall.”

    Gabriel frowned, a motion that did not suit the delicate handsomeness of his dark face. “May I remind you, Cardinal, that not only do you stand in my hall, but that I outrank you?”

    Stepping back, the Cardinal’s unfathomable brown eyes read again the tattoos below the Baron’s accusing pupils. “Forgive me, Baron von Seraphim.” A lesser-learned man would have spoken through clenched teeth. “I… forgot my place.”

    “You would do well to remember it, Cardinal Ramses.” The single dot, the royalty crown, and the smaller, five-pointed crown that marked Gabriel as Baron stretched a little when he narrowed his eyes. These tattoos were more than simple decoration. They were a barcode of sorts, a brand, an identification tool; and the tattoos adorned the face of every man, woman, and child in the Castean Empire. The single dot meant that Gabriel was a first son, the straight three-pointed crown meant he was of royal blood and the crescent-curved five-pointed crown marked him of current lesser nobility as a baron.

    Cardinal Ramses, on the other hand, had four dots, a feather and a book. He was a fourth son, though no one knew what tragic fate had befallen his siblings, held the rank of cardinal, and he was a book mage.

    A sudden, keening shriek split the air, causing the Baron to start a little with momentary surprise. “What… what is that?” Gabriel said.

    Cardinal Ramses looked down at him, smiling smoothly as if the argument’s victory had been his. “I believe it’s your prisoner, Baron Gabriel von Seraphim.”