Chapter 58: A Man's Love Runs Deep

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They were surrounded, Dux was, along with the rest of the crew. The rebels corralled them. Those that had chased Regis and followed at Tyrannus' heel. No matter how much Dux chopped, no matter how many bodies Regis felled with his sword, they kept coming. Until at last Dux found himself pressed back to back with the guardsmen. Spears were leveled against them.

Dux bristled up for a tense moment as he imagined those spears driven through him. It wasn't the worst way to go but when it came to dying, death by impalement was still pretty bad.

"This looks pretty bad," Regis pressed into Dux's shoulder, gripping Giantsbane in both hands. A steady stream of blood pattered off its razor edge onto the cobblestones. "Think we could charge through them?"

"Too risky," Dux scanned the rebel lines. "Wait for my signal. They aren't attacking us, which can only mean one thing."

A familiar voice called out from the crowd. "Captain Dag!"

"Somebody wants to monologue," Dux watched as the rebels parted. Tyrannus stepped into view with Custodia at his side. A thick sheen of sweat covered the Minister's brow. Dark bags tugged at his eyes, one of which was twitching.

"You look like shit," Dux said.

Tyrannus gave a half hearted smile. "So do you old friend. This little war of ours has taken its toll on both of us it seems."

Dux glanced over at Custodia. She didn't even acknowledge him. Her gaze was distant, hard and glassy, as if she were dreaming. "What have you done to her?" He demanded.

Tyrannus tilted his head and smiled as he laughed amusingly. "Dear Ira here has shown her true colors at last. She thought herself loyal, but the Emperor foresaw the treachery in her heart. He tested her and she failed. It appears she loved you more than she loved the Empire."

"I said, what have you done to her?" Dux repeated himself, his voice razor sharp this time.

Tyrannus rolled his eyes skyward. "I have done to her as I have done with everyone else here," He guided a hand over the crowd. "I reminded her of where duty lies as a Minister of the Contanis Empire."

"You brainwashed her you sick bastard."

Tyrannus tisked. "Dag, Dag, Dag. You make it sound as if I stripped away her freewill. I haven't done anything of the sort. I merely," And he tapped a finger to his chin. "Gave a compelling argument is all."

"That's sick Marus. Even for you," Dux spat on the ground. "She's not compelled. She's a god's damned puppet."

"She's a god's damned traitor is what she is," Tyrannus exploded, losing all composure he had before. The air around him began to ripple like heat in a mirage. A wave of nausea came over Dux then and it took everything he had not to vomit. "Look at us Dag," Tyrannus said, composing himself. "At all this. Look at what our glorious empire has become. We're squabbling like children while the Usurper sits on her throne laughing at us." Dux merely glared at Tyrannus, too tired and too angry to debate with the man any longer.

"Please Dag," Tyrannus pleaded, sounding almost genuine. "End this foolish brigade of yours already. Your loyalty to the Empress is misplaced. She will be the death of you. The death of our Empire." He held out his hand. "My offer still stands. Join me,  join the Emperor, and together we can fix this once and for all. Your men will live. Ira will be yours once more. Join me and all this suffering can end."

Dux felt the eyes of his men upon him. It would have been easy to say yes. Ever since he'd begun his crusade against the rebellion, he knew it wasn't right. But Tyrannus was wrong on one regard. The sickness that had overtaken the Empire had not started with the Empress. No, the Empire had always been rotten to the core. All things great end as such. It had happened to the Emperor, to the Empress, and worst of all, it had happened to him.

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