-Strange – 2 Pages –
The room was white. The walls, ceiling and floor were white. The man sitting at the white table was dressed in white.
The door opened. A robot entered.
“Your Highness, Emperor Napoleon.”
The man looked up and nodded imperially at the mirrored-face. “Warden Friend,” he returned sternly.
“I hope you are well rested,” said the Warden.
Emperor Napoleon looked at his reflection in the face plate of the Warden. The bags under his eyes looked particularly heavy, but otherwise his tight expression revealed nothing inappropriate. He breathed calmly.
“And now to business,” began Warden Friend with an approving nod. The Warden’s voice whirred soothingly. “As you know Emperor, we are to receive Queen Valencia’s trade delegation from Norway later this week.” The Warden tapped the side of the table and information bloomed across the surface. “All of the particulars have been worked out. The only item lacking is the seating arrangement for the State Dinner.”
Napoleon moved some of the sheets aside to expose the Official Menu. Food was the Emperor’s passion and his guests were always impressed with his selection.
Or so he was told.
Imagine, meeting one of them! he thought with distaste. There was a pause as a new thought occurred to him. Would they look like me? Or like Warden Friend? Napoleon inadvertently looked up, catching his own eye in the Warden’s face. He immediately looked back at the table.
How will that be interpreted? Submission? Fear?
Warden Friend made a note on his tablet. The Emperor resisted the urge to watch. Instead Napoleon kept his gaze locked firmly on the menu, gritting his teeth. In a harsh voice he scolded himself, Besides, am I not Emperor? Why should I want to leave the room?
Emperor Napoleon rallied his dignity. He willed his arrogance to return. “Will Czar Antonov be present?” he asked sitting straighter in his chair.
“Not this time, Emperor.”
Napoleon glanced at Warden Friend, genuinely irritated. “And why not? Did he not find the gift of 1000 peacocks to his liking? Send him 2000 then,” he said with a flick of his wrist.
The Warden paused for a moment, calculating. “Czar Antonov sends his regards for the peacocks, your Highness. They were well received. However, his First Minister of State has wired to inform me that the Czar is not well and cannot travel at this time.”
The Emperor sat back and pondered this new detail. Would that mean that the Czar wouldn’t be paying attention to his eastern boarders? He made a note to contact Shogun Su.
“Shall I arrange a further 2000 peacocks to be sent as a get-well gesture?” the Warden probed, pen ready.
The Emperor considered for a moment. “No, that would be excessive. Get something out of the National Archive. Something small that won’t be missed.”
“Very well, your Highness.” The Warden made a note, and then called up the seating plan. Napoleon scratched absently at a seam in his paper clothing, scrutinising the arrangements.
“Are you uncomfortable, Emperor?”
“No, not really. It’s just this seam is making me itch something terrible.”
“Please let me take a look, your Highness.”
“It’s nothing,” dismissed the Emperor, absorbing himself in the delicate seating plan. Fascinating…so many decisions…
“Please let me take a look, your Highness.”
Napoleon looked up irritated. “Hmm? I don’t want you to look. I told you it’s…”
“Please let me take a look, your Highness,” the Warden repeated, tightening its grip on the pen.
Something fluttered in the Emperor’s mind. For a second he watched his eyes widen in the Warden’s reflection.
“Fine!” yelled the Emperor, standing up and pulling down his paper trousers. The area he had been scratching was red and irritated. The Warden looked at it for a moment, made a note on his tablet and replied, “I will get you some medication for your wound, Emperor.”
“It’s hardly a wound…” he began to protest.
“It is a wound Emperor. Our Emperor must not suffer ill health.” Warden Friend stood up to leave. “I will return with some salve. Your Highness,” the Warden said bowing out of the room. The door closed. It never locked.
“Hardly a wound,” muttered Napoleon, pulling his trousers back up. He laid down on his pallet, shaking slightly. Matters of state were so mentally exhausting.
The room was white. The walls, ceiling and floor were white. The boy sitting at the white table was dressed in white.
The door opened.
“Your Highness, Emperor Napoleon. I hope you are well rested.”