Episode 60: Orlaith gets a title and Percy gets a job

They wound their way to an open plaza on the upstream end of the city. There, the Emperor and two more of his guards waited. He pointed to Arthur and beckoned him.

After Arthur and the Emperor had spoken for a minute, Arthur pointed to Orlaith and waved her over to them. Orlaith joined them and quickly knelt. The Emperor laid his hands on her head, and a golden aura briefly surrounded her. She stood.

Arthur made his way back to the others, ignoring their questions. He placed his hand on Percy's shoulder. "C'mon, kid; we're getting you a job." They left the increasingly confused section of the squad not summoned to the Emperor's side and took their place in front of him. Arthur presented Percy to the Emperor. The Emperor spoke, and Percy stepped forward and took a knee. The Emperor drew his sword, said something, and dubbed Percy gently on each shoulder. Percy stood again and was formally presented to Orlaith, who nodded. Then the entire group, Emperor included, joined the remaining squad members.

Isabelle did not want to be rude in front of her Emperor, but some questions just needed to be asked. "Sorry to interrupt, but what just happened?" She looked at each of them in turn, unsure whom to ask or who would answer.

Arthur opened his mouth to say something, but the Emperor held up a hand to silence him. Then the Emperor smiled, seemed to relax, and explained, "Control of the Imperium is a key part of every Emperor's claim to Divine Right. Therefore, others directly manipulating the Imperium is a threat; it could even lead to problems of succession." He shrugged. "So we simply adopt them." He grinned at their shocked expressions. "Honorarily. Of course, even honorary stepchildren of the Emperor need protection and are entitled to every royal's right to a Knight Protector. Percy was well-trained and needed a job, so I appointed him. I owe him for his family's service and what happened to them, anyway. . . ." He paused and switched gears. "Now I want all of you to come meet the king of all crime in the Empire."

This time it was Arthur's turn to be surprised. "HIM? You dragged me out here to see someone I've said I'll kill if I ever get the opportunity?"

"No killing! This is a matter of Imperial security, and I expect you to respect that."

"I will, but I don't promise to like it."

"I want you there and not killing him in order to impress upon him the importance of working together on this. At the same time, if he decides to pull something at the meeting . . . like you said, you want to be the one to kill him."