The emperor's quarters Item in Imperial Soulmates | World Anvil

The emperor's quarters

Welcome to Imperial Soulmates! In a gigantic and futuristic fantasy empire filled with solarpunk magitechs, Hélène is hiding that she's one of the emperor's soulmates. However, to lift the legal curse on her best friend, she will have to blackmail the emperor himself... Come read about her plans, and the world in which she lives!
Introduction to the story | Hélène | Soulmates | Novel upcoming

Table of Contents

As soon as the door closed behind the emperor and his soulmates, Hélène let her expression slip and her fists clench. Damn it and damn all the Sanniens! Her plan and its several back-ups had been perfect, and she should have been able to rescue the emperor without revealing her status as one of his soulmates!   And now she would be thanked for her generosity and selflessness by being imprisoned for the rest of her life in the imperial palace...   But she would have time for despondency later. The first few hours of her stay here would be key in determining the trajectory the rest of her life would take; she had to quickly decide how to behave, and for that she needed information. Being alone in the emperor's quarters was an opportunity she could not afford to pass.   Hélène forced herself out of the bed, ignoring the tender skin of her recently healed injuries.    

The emperor's bedroom

Emperor's bedroom.jpg

This was obviously the emperor's bedroom in the keep tower that rose above the imperial palace.  
The bed
Obviously the place he uses to rest. The room was sparsely furnished beyond the luxuriously comfortable bed—an enormous bed, undoubtedly designed to be shared by half a dozen individuals.   People's imagination always went crazy when thinking of the emperor having access to all of his soulmates and what they had to obviously get up to together, never mind the realities of the often tense relationships between them... Whom among their soulmates was her emperor close to?  
The bedside table
Hélène's bare feet sank in the thick carpet as she stepped around the room to look at all corners. The bedside table was welcoming the newest model of light-tree species and it only barely reach the height of a forearm. The drawers were filled with notebooks written in plain magicless code that she had no hope of deciphering.  
The room & its decorations
Slippers were waiting for her at the foot of the bed, and she hesitantly put her feet in them before moving on to explore the rest of the bedroom. One of the walls was entirely made of glass overlooking what had to be the private imperial garden. The other wall was covered by a huge wardrobe with sliding doors. A big cupboard stood by the side, and that was it.   The only incongruous things were the cats. Because they were everywhere in the decorations: in the landscape painting hung above the bed, on the bed linen themselves, on the carpet under the bed, and as a statue above the cupboard. Everyone knew the emperor liked cats since he had one, but this? That was oddly... sweet and too human for him.   Hélène looked away, disturbed. The rest of the furniture had to be antique pieces that had already belonged to his predecessors, because they were all covered in gold leaf and had classic, elegant imperial flower patterns.  
The wards
She sighed and resumed her investigation by heading towards the cupboard. After a moment of hesitation, she put her hands on the handle of its first drawer and opened it effortlessly. Of course, knowing that she was one of the emperor's soulmates was one thing, but the reality of how none of his wards could differentiate between her and him was quite another.   The concept of soulmates might be considered incredibly romantic, but in practice the lack of protection and privacy was just chilling. For someone as powerful as the emperor, this sudden weakness had to be galling. Impossible for him not to resent them, and the recent events would not help at all...  
The jewellery cupboard
The contents of the cupboard were unsurprising. Each shallow drawer was filled with precious jewellery that radiated magic. Hélène only paused briefly at the sight of the chain of lucky coins—her fingers brushed over them curiously until she identified Grandmother's magic.   The coins were recent then, and not from previous imperial generation.
She briefly examined their symbols—all fancy commemoration coins without monetary worth, coming from each region of the empire and undoubtedly filled with the magic of each of their local ruler.   No region was missing, of course, regardless of their real feelings for the emperor and the empire, but some coins certainly had a lot less magic than others. Undoubtedly an attempt to limit the "luck" offered to the emperor, no matter how weak the coins' magic was, anyway. Barely enough to fill their wearer with confidence and send good vibes to people nearby to make them look positively at the wearer.   Carving one of the simple lucky runic designs and filling them with magic could be done by anyone, and while they were normally only offered for very special occasion to valued family members and highly respected individuals, an imperial elite not offering one to the emperor would be a huge political snub.   Another reason why Hélène had left her family rather than join them in playing with politics—gifting the emperor with a piece of their shared magic would not have been very conductive in hiding her status as his soulmate...   The bottom drawer of the cupboard contained a few labelled boxes filled with coins. Less prestigious private citizens wanting to earn the imperial favour.   Hélène moved on without pause to instead look at the enchantments on the most interesting pieces of jewellery. Quite a few of them contained her own magic—the emperor's, of course. Him doing his own enchantment was unexpected. Their high quality even more so. Of course, his mastery diplomas were well-known, but one would think that all the politics would hardly leave him enough time for such crafting hobbies.  
The wardrobe
Hélène regretfully abandoned the fascinating jewellery to move on to the wardrobe. Its door silently slid opened as soon as her fingers brushed them and she cautiously poked inside.   The robes that hanged there were absolutely luxurious, with magnificent embroideries filled with magic and made in the softest fabric imaginable. A lot of the latest magitech trend, with lime fibres bioengineered to contain elaborate clothes wards. Just the content of the wardrobe had to be worth more than some of the regions of the empire...   Was this merely all just clothes thrust at the emperor by a stylist so that he could look fashionable? Impossible to be sure, but unlikely if he was already taking the time to craft jewellery enchantments.  
The cat
Something suddenly jumped at Hélène from inside the wardrobe. She startled away and threw a protective wall of magic around her before she could get a proper look at the culprit. She swore. That was the emperor's infamous black cat.   What was the animal even doing hiding inside the clothes wardrobe? Rumours that the emperor was dotting on him and letting him rule over the household suddenly sounded a lot more credible...   The animal look at her haughtily before turning his back on her and heading for the bed. It jumped on top and proceeded to settle comfortably right in the middle. Right. Little king of the palace indeed.

The emperor's drawing room

Emperor's drawing room.jpg

Hélène cautiously opened the two doors in the bedroom. The first one led to a luxurious bathroom in which she did not linger, and the second one to what had to be the emperor's private drawing room.  
The novel bookshelves
The first thing that hit her was the mass of books that covered an entire wall of the room. She headed straight there with the finely honed instinct of a bookworm. She rose a hand to let her fingers skim over the book spines, her head bent sideway to decipher the titles.   Uh. That was the latest sci-fi novels, written in Ambroisian and Ilarian and a bunch of other languages. Lots of other classic sci-fi too. And were these books over there not some well-known thrillers?   The emperor's love for novels was certainly not something that was known. If anything, Hélène would have bet on science nonfiction, given how much he loved knowledge, although sci-fi was and techno thrillers were kind of on the same theme—Oh! A few nonfictions were actually over there, next to the music boxes—very eclectic style those, but most seemed to be songs popular in from the emperor's home region.   Well. Hélène stepped back, a bit bemused. That and the cat deco also present in this room—especially on the massive painting hanged on the wall—really highlighted that the emperor was a man like any other.   A commoner even, before his ascension to the throne, and not even a noble raised cut off from the rest of the population and taught to scorn their tastes and anything unrefined—like Hélène herself had been until she had run away.   So, cats and science?  
The workshop
Hélène reluctantly turned away from the books to look at the rest of the room. The chaos of the crafting tools and materials left on top of a cupboard and peeking out of its shelves was much more expected after seeing the jewellery, if out of place in the emperor's personal quarters.   She moved towards them to poke at them curiously. Unsurprisingly, all were high quality—Hélène's own had hardly ever been poor, and she had been a very successful enchantress on her own, but being under the protection of the emperor from now on would certainly let her splurge without restraints.
Living bookshelves
Next to the cupboard was a living tree bookshelves set—lime for sure. And judging by its size, one of the first one made after organic magitech had been invented a few decades ago and gifted to the then emperor to gain his blessing for the new tech.   Hélène placed a careful hand on the trunk of the tree. Was that time magic? Fitting for living furniture. Then, it had to be magic that would artificially age the artefacts placed on its shelves, to make them accumulate and retain more magic. An incredible advantage allowing for the combination of high power with the latest magitech science!   Unsurprisingly, the shelves were filled with artefacts—artefacts with Hélène's magic, proving again that the cupboard tools were not just there for show. Most of the items were jewellery anchoring personal wards, and their styles were familiar enough from all the depictions of the emperor's soulmates.   Was he the one crafting them and looking after their protection? If so, it was more than a little alarming! Was this because he could not trust anyone else to do them? Surely, with the high consuming job of emperor, he himself could not find the time to craft a dozen extremely complicated state-of-the-art artefacts!   ... Or did some of their soulmates help with that? That was certainly something for which Hélène could show herself useful too! A good option to easily gain favour without too much troubles—although she would have to be careful not to offend her soulmates by behaving as if her skills were superior to theirs.   She would have to explore that idea later...  
Sitting area
The rest of the room was just taken by a small sitting area, with a couple of chairs and sofa surrounding a low table on which a couple of unfinished artefacts had been left...   Oh, and what had to be one of the latest group communion stone that allowed several people to access the communication hub to views memories together. Mmm... Would it also be one of the artefact controlling the entire fungal network?   Well, jumping the queue and being able to see in priority any newsworthy event in the empire would be nice, at least.

The emperor's private office

Despite her curiosity, Hélène resisted the temptation of playing with the artefacts and risking getting caught before she was ready to talk to anyone. She also ignored the huge garden door-window and instead went to the last door.   The next room was an office. Not the emperor's official one, of course, since no one but the soulmates would be invited here regularly. Still, it felt more showy than the other rooms.  
Here, bookshelves took one entire wall too, however this time they were used to expose things to visitors. Weapons mostly. There were a few battle staff, one of which had to be the ancient staff that had belonged to the first Arboisian emperor—so useless now, beyond its historical value, given how much magitech science had evolved in the millennia that had passed.   The second battle staff, however, certainly looked modern. And given its place of prominence, it had to be the one the emperor used himself during his glory day in the army and his successful conquest of the territory west of Sanne. The pointy dagger nearby also had to be from that time.   Though this certainly could not be all of the emperor's weapons. Given how he had assassinated the previous emperor, he had to be ready for someone else getting the same idea about it. Any potential tentatives had not been advertised throughout the empire through the communication hub or the newspapers, but that meant nothing.  
Diplomas & awards
The weapons were not the only thing exposed. Hélène leaned closer to the series of mastery diplomas and awards from his pre-war academic career. There was certainly more than enough to be proud of, no matter how he had gone on to with winning a war and a crown.  
Below all the exposition shelves were more practical, though still elegant, storing boxes. Hélène opened one and picked up one of the paper inside to briefly leaf through it. As expected, it was some of the emperor's famous files.   His knowledge of everything going through the empire, his hands-on approach to politics and the swift way in which he dealt with any issues were well known and as admired as they were reviled.   She put everything back in place and moved towards the elegant desk nearby.
The painting
It was standing just below another enormous piece of art—no cat this time, but something more suitable for viewing by people other than the emperor's soulmates: an enormous reproduction— unless it was the real thing?—of the official portrait of the emperor and his soulmates.   Although, there was still a cat in fact, with the emperor's being painted on his knees, a choice that had left most either cooing or sneering.  
The desk
The desk itself also had some cat statues—and the big carpet in the room was even covered in cat patterns! Clearly, the emperor's care for appearances had its limits in those rooms...   Beyond all cat stuff, there were a few letters left on the desk, and more hiding in its drawers. Hélène moved them around carefully to skim over them. They were written in almost of the languages of the empire, the authors' names all ones she recognised from the imperial elite families. And all were filled with flattery, begging for favours, and invitations to prestigious events.   Hélène sneered. All useless stuff full of lie and hypocrisy. She would know, having written quite a few herself under Grandmother's guidance.  
The snake
She stepped back with a sigh. Well. She had certainly learned a bit more about the emperor's characters, and she had already known a lot beforehand from the way she had followed all news about him in an entirely not-paparazzi-like manner. So what could she...   A hiss startled her and made her jumped away from the desk. She bit back a swear and hissed herself in annoyance as an enormous blue-green snake stirred from under the desk and slither fully into sight.   The damn semi-sentient construct crafted by her family in the name of the region of Ilara for each emperor to wear during ceremonies and to symbolise imperial status and characteristics: patience, swiftness to seize opportunities and strike at enemies, deviousness, and "diplomacy".   The animal would not attack her when she shared magic with the emperor, but having its eyes fixed on her was still unnerving. Hélène grimaced and finally let herself succumb to the temptation and escaped outside through the door-windows.

The imperial gardens

The stroll
The summer heat hit her as soon as she left the walls of the buildings, although the wards of the palace still muffled the worst of it. The pebbles crunched under her feet as she walked the winding path of the imperial garden. Her shoulders relaxed and her pace slowed as soon as she was away from the windows.   She allowed herself to wander aimlessly through the trees and let the fragrance of the flowers to act their magic and mentally cut her from the external world and all the stressors associated with it. She ended up in a small hidden cove among the trees, with a bench strategically placed to look through an opening in the vegetation giving onto a pound.  
The plants
This was the perfect place to waste the rest of the afternoon and strategize while looking at quarrelling ducks. She could almost forget where she was if not for the overabundance of water and every single plant around her resulting from some genetical experiments.   Of course, the emperor would be gifted with all of the latest bioengineered plants, and this was evidently the dark cupboard in which he shoved them all out of the way if not of sight. She frowned at the sticky plants that covered the banks of the pond and was rather unsuccessfully attempting to climb alongside nearby trees. Seeing domi moss in the wild was never a good thing...  
The ducks
Wait, did the ducks actually eat the thing? She snorted. No wonder they looked weird and were suspiciously aggressive. What a way to get around the ban on mutating animals... Common magic with the emperor or not, Hélène better stayed away from them.  
The decisions
So. What had she learned today? Better play nice with the emperor's cat—hardly a struggle. Small talk would be more successful if about the latest magitech developments. Wearing artefacts she had crafted could get her invited to the emperor's little workshop sessions and earn his favour. And the palace was likely to be very dangerous and she had better stay on her guards.
Just fantastic.   Well, her soulmates would all be very wary of her and, worse, insulted by her having kept the secret of her soulmate status. The fact that she had the most noble birth of them all and her family's political power was feared through the empire would not help. For all that she had run away, Hélène would not betray her family.   This meant she had better stay away from politics or the imperial soulmates would all isolate her and the court would imitate them. Better not act too haughty and distant from them either to cement the insult she had already dealt them. So, amiable, interested, but not pushy or begging for their attention. Skilled and capable of intelligent conversation and of helping them when asked, but not overly enthusiastic.   Hélène sighed.   She had also better request access to the communication hub to contact Julie and Grandmother; she had a lot of explaining to do... Though the dreaded upcoming conversation with her soulmates would come first...  
The night
When the light started to fall, the trees slowly lit up with an eery bioluminescence. Hélène observed them warily for a moment before deciding that it was her signal to leave. No need to give them the opportunity to demonstrate what other kind of mutations had affected them by eating her.     To be continued in the novel...    

Réglisse the cat
Related articles


Author's Notes

This article was also submitted to Tillerz's unofficial unofficial duck challenge.

Please Login in order to comment!
Feb 23, 2024 14:19 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

I want to read that conversation with the soulmates. Loving how disturbed she is about the cat decor. XD

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Powered by World Anvil