His name was Laurentius, and he served the emperor.
“Wine!” a voice echoed across the marble floors. “Wine, you useless son of a barbarian whore.” A milder insult than usual. The ruler of the world was not that drunk. Not yet, at least.
Laurentius moved swiftly, but not to the cellar. Instead, he scooped an ember from the central fire, carried it out to the balcony, and lit a brazier. Light blossomed invitingly in the cold night.
Was this how he served his emperor?
No time to contemplate. Laurentius descended to the cellar, retrieved a wineskin and carried it to the bath chamber. He poured it into the emperor’s cup himself and took the first sip.
“Some nights I wish it was poisoned,” the emperor declared, “and then I’d finally be rid of you.” Laurentius inclined his head politely and exited.
The general was waiting in the hall with a detachment of soldiers. At a nod from their commander, the men moved swiftly into the bath chamber.
Screams in the night.
Meanwhile, general appraised servant. “So, you’re the traitor?”
A bow. “My name is Laurentius, and I serve the emperor.”
The general smiled grimly and drew his sword. “Not anymore.”
* * *
Story by Gregory M. Fox