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Gratian II. Ironside

Gratianus Flavius Antoninus Severus. Ninth Emperor of the Fourth Hegemony

Obscure. Overlooked. Acknowledged only in asinine propaganda pieces. For all he did to try and save the Hegemony, it has proven an ungrateful mistress.
— Amelian IV.
 
I am not entirely sure why I am writing these lines. Perhaps it is the vague sense of a nearing doom. Or maybe just the attempt to escape the choking atmosphere of the imperial palace. I do hope that you, dear reader, will not be too bored by this account of the life of Gratian II., current Emperor of the Hegemony and author of these lines.  

Last of a Dozen

  What can I say about my life that you haven't heard a thousand times? I was the youngest of five, part of a family branch already far away from any prospect of power. I expected to inherit nothing, and nothing was expected of me. A life free of burden but also without direction. I had my own teachers and all the material a young mind could need to prosper. And I did not care for it at all. It is a time I now look back on with a strange mix of envy and regret. Envy at the freedom I had. Regret at how I wasted it. Without a doubt, the best, and perhaps only good, thing to come out of that era is my son Arcadianus. Thankfully, he seems more sensible than his father.  

A Title I Never Wanted

  Contrary to many of my countrymen, I do believe in gods. Not in the way Vitellian did. Something was very much wrong with him even before he turned into a zealot. No, I do think that the Gods exist, for how else could the joke that is my current existence be explained if not by cosmic mockery?   At 16, I became Emperor of the greatest nation under the sun. A nation in the midst of a titanic war, which we were losing horribly, and on the brink of civil strife. And I had no idea what a ruler or general should do. I could have declined. Refused the throne and let one of the generals take it. It would have been so easy. Why didn't I?   I never took responsibility before. But, as when confronted with fatherhood in the form of Arcadianus a year earlier, I hesitated. Running seemed wrong. I am still not entirely sure why. Familial obligation? Simple pride? The sense that for once, I should actually strive toward something greater than fickle satisfaction? No matter what it was, my decision stood. I took the purple and rose as Emperor Gratian II.  
In Peace

First, I had to untangle my realm from the madness that was the great Dance. A folly so huge, I still cannot comprehend its full idiocy. I ended it. I brought the Legions home and took the Heronians in. That is all that mattered. The price I paid was of no importance. Peace was. For peace means time to rebuild. And as long as that is possible, there is no price too great to pay for peace. It is a policy that I have continued since then, much to the chagrin of some of my soldiers.
In War

Sadly peace did not follow me. At home, I was greeted by two Usurpers. Halfwits thinking themselves born to rule and a barely adolescent Emperor an easy target. I showed them that it was not so easy. Would not have been possible without a trusted friend to teach me and loyal soldiers to support me. A good dose of luck helped as well. I made mistakes and lost many battles. But I threw the Usurpers back, killed one and forced the other into peace. And peace is what we truly need.
 

Never a Minute of Rest

  They already call it the "Poisoned Peace". The division of the Empire and elevation of Leontinian to the position of Emperor. Say it is the ultimate proof of my inability. A fool's choice. What do they know? Nothing. Fighting that war would have left nothing but another hundred thousand bodies in the ground. And made the realm a corpse.   True, I do not rule my entire realm. And that arrogant fool in the east clearly eyes the rest just as greedily. But the realm occupies him. How can he think of overthrowing me when his own borders are under constant threat? When his own officers try and do the same to him as he did to me? Let him choke on his poisoned prize.   For every day he spends occupied is a day I grow stronger. Problems abound, but I squash them one by one. Setbacks come and go, but I remain, rebuilding the army, training Arcadianus to be a good ruler and preparing for the day that the east returns to the fold. The time for rash action has long passed. I have learned to be patient.  

A Moment Approaches

  And patience brings reward. Leontinian is dead. Bastard choked on his prize. Same as his son. Now his grandson sits on the throne in the east, an oaf half as intelligent as his predecessors and with not even an ounce of their skill. Any day now, I expect his army to try and cross into my half of the Empire. He thinks me weak. Heh. I will gladly leave him to that thought. Let him try. This time I am prepared. Sixteen years of work will finally bear fruit. My family's realm will be reunited. And maybe, just maybe, I will be able to sit down for a moment and simply enjoy the fruits of my labour. Soothe my spirit in the presence of Arcadianus and his young family. Maybe...
 
It was not even two weeks after he wrote his account that Gratian II. died, struck down by a random arrow in the thick of battle. A cruel joke of fate that robbed the realm of its best chance for peace.
— Lucius Amenes, Senior Archivar
Ethnicity
Life
2997 DA 3033 DA 36 years old
Circumstances of Death
Killed in Battle.
Children
Aligned Organization
Predecessor: Vitelian I.
Successor: Arcadianus I.
Keep calm, my son. A little impatience will spoil the greatest plans.
— Gratian II.
  A Cosmic Joke  
I keep hearing the name "Accidental Emperor" thrown around. A moniker that I am actually quite pleased with as it perfectly explains the way I attained my throne. Fifth born son of a fifth born son, I had twenty-three people ahead of me in the line of succession. All in good health and of reasonable age.   And each and every one of them managed to get themselves killed within a year. I do not even want to try and ponder on the chances of this. Battle, disease, a thrice-damned staircase on one occasion, food poisoning, spontaneous combustion... And at the end, a throne for me.
 

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Character Portrait image: by Jue 'Leo' Li

Comments

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24 May, 2022 18:40

What a great bio! And I personally love the ending - fate comes to us all.

Sage Timepool
Garrett Grace Lewis
5 Jun, 2022 08:14

I appreciate the flavor you've given this by making it written by Gratian II himself!