Valerius sat alone in his dimly lit office, surrounded by stacks of parchment and the scent of ink. His quill scratched against the surface, each stroke deliberate and measured, echoing through the silence like the hushed whispers of finely honed blades.
Fifteen more minutes, he thought to himself. Just fifteen more minutes, and the reports would be completed. Then he could proceed with his regular evening inspection before retiring for the night. Efficiency was the guiding principle of the Empire. The art of meticulous planning, logical maneuvers, and rigid schedules. Predictability, order, and tranquility were the pillars upon which the vast expanse of the Empire stood. To govern such sprawling lands, spanning nations across the sea, forests, and hills, a firm grip on numbers and a tightly controlled fist were necessary. Nothing more, nothing less.
A sharp knock suddenly resounded on his door, interrupting his thoughts. Unscheduled interruptions were an affront to efficiency, and the messenger should have known better than to enter without permission. Valerius let out a sigh. Human nature was inherently inefficient—spontaneous, unpredictable, and often driven by emotions. Such interruptions were an occasional inconvenience that he had to manage.
“Come in,” Valerius commanded, his voice rasping with an artificial metallic tone, a result of his augmentation, concealing any trace of the emotions stirring beneath his mask.
The messenger hurriedly pushed open the door, deposited a letter on Valerius’ desk, saluted with deference befitting the imperial protocol, and swiftly departed. The seal on the letter bore the emblem of Tenebra – a golden sun eclipsed by a black mask.
Valerius set aside his quill, taking hold of the letter with deliberate slowness. Breaking the seal, he unfolded the hastily written script inside, his eyes scanning the words.
“Belitsa has risen. Cells of rebellion have sparked an uprising. The nearby reserve battalion was ambushed and scattered. Brutus is dead.”
Brutus is dead. Valerius read those words over and over, his heart pounding against his chest. There was no reason for the report to deceive. For the first time in countless years, an icy chill snaked its way down his spine. They had the Weapon.