‘Mornings.’ The emperor looked out from his palace balcony at the city below.
‘Your majesty?’ Pelgrin sighed. It wasn’t going to be one of those days, was it? The emperor had once glanced at a couple of pages in a book and therefore occasionally fancied himself an intellectual.
The emperor turned as if he was about to impart some great pearl of wisdom, but – in turning – he must have forgotten what he was about to say.
Pelgrin exhaled in relief. The last thing the Sun Empire needed was an emperor who believed he knew what he was doing, or worse took an interest.
Ruling was the civil service’s job. The emperor was there to wave and – if necessary – take the blame.
Pelgrin could see the emperor’s point though, mornings were a great deal of trouble. Mornings were usually when things went wrong. Or, more accurately, mornings were the time when Pelgrin was made aware of what had gone wrong – which amounted to the same thing. Nothing happened in the empire without Pelgrin knowing about it, and if he did not know about it, it had not happened.
The knack was making sure the emperor never heard about it – whatever it was – in case he took it into his head to try to do something about it.
Pelgrin had read the histories of the Sun Empire. He knew what a mistake it was to let the rulers rule. Far better to let them just stand on the balcony of the palace and wave as the occasion demanded it.
‘It is on mornings like this that I feel I should be doing more for my people.’ The Emperor waved airily towards the open balcony.
Pelgrin glanced that way.
The language of the Sun Empire had 47 words for rain, but only one for sunshine. Today it was mizzling down. Mizzling was a mixture of mist and rain – more rain than mist, of course. After all, this was the Sun Empire. Mizzle was a metrological condition that could get you soaked to the skin in moments while technically it was not raining as such. The air was just so dense with moisture that the rain had no room to fall and so just hung around in the air like an unwelcome guest at a party.
‘Do more, Your Magnificence? How could you possibly do more?’
‘One feels that the people… expect something of one.’ The Emperor wandered over to his plants on the edge of the balcony where they were kept out of the rain. They were exotic foreign plants too delicate for the damp of the Sun Empire.
‘No, no, your Radiance. You already do more than anyone could expect. After all, by the afternoon, are you not already worn out, needing your rest?’
The emperor thought for a moment and then nodded. ‘True, the affairs of state do weigh heavily.’
Pelgrin thought that maybe a few score fewer wives would help in making the emperor less weary, but then the more wives – and the subsequent children – the emperor had, the less he interfered in the running of the empire. Instead, he sat worrying which wives, and which children, were conspiring against him to take his throne.
Not that they were conspiring, of course, but it suited Pelgrin to have the emperor believe the entire royal family was conspiring against him. It gave the emperor something to do and kept him out of the way.
After all, Pelgrin had an empire to run.