The Emerald Storm

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Authors: Michael J. Sullivan
Modina.
    Despite its grandiose new title, her office was a small chamber, nothing but an old desk and a pair of bookshelves. The room was cold, damp, and sparse—but it was hers. It filled her with pride each morning when she sat behind the desk and pride was something Amilia was unaccustomed to.
    “Are those more letters?” Amilia asked.
    “Yes, I am afraid so,” Nimbus replied. “Where would you like them?”
    “Just drop them on the pile with the others. I can see now why Saldur gave me this job.”
    “It is a very prestigious task,” Nimbus assured her. “You are the de facto voice of the empire as it relates to the people. What you write is taken as the word of the empress and thus the voice of a god incarnate.”
    “So, you’re saying I am the voice of god now?”
    Nimbus smiled thoughtfully. “In a matter of speaking—yes.”
    “You have a crazy way of seeing things, Nimbus, you really do.”
    He was always able to cheer her up. His outlandishly colored clothes and silly powdered wig made her smile on even the bleakest days. Moreover, the odd little courtier had a bizarre manner of finding joy in everything, blind to the inevitable disaster that Amilia knew lurked at every turn.
    Nimbus deposited the letters in the bin beside Amilia’s desk then fished out a tablet, looked it over briefly before speaking. “You have a meeting this morning with Lady Rashambeau, Baroness Fargal, and the Countess Ridell. They have insisted on speaking to you directly about their failed petitions to have a private audience with Her Supreme Eminence. You also have a dedication to make on behalf of the empress at the new memorial in Capital Square. That’s at noon. Also the material has arrived, but you still need to get specifications to the seamstress for the new dress, and, of course, you have a meeting this afternoon with Regent Saldur.”
    “Any idea yet what he wants to see me about?”
    Nimbus shook his head.
    Amilia slumped in her chair. Certainly Saldur’s visit had to do with Modina berating the clerk yesterday. She had no idea how to explain the empress’s actions. It was the only time since her speech that Modina had muttered a single word.
    “Would you like me to help you answer those?” Nimbus asked with a sympathetic smile.
    “No, I’ll do it. Can’t have both of us playing god now can we? Besides, you have your own work. Tell the seamstress to meet me in Modina’s chambers in four hours. That should give me time to reduce this pile some. Reschedule the Ladies of the Court meeting to just before noon.”
    “But you have the dedication at noon.”
    “Exactly.”
    “Excellent planning,” Nimbus praised. “Is there anything else I can do for you, before I get to work?”
    Amilia shook her head. Nimbus bowed and left.
    The pile beside her got higher each day. She plucked a letter from the top and started working. While not a hard job, the task was repetitious as she said the same thing in each.
    The Office of the Empress regrets to inform you that her most serene and royal Grand Imperial Majesty the Empress Modina Novronian will not be able to receive you due to time constraints caused by important and pressing matters of state.
    She had only replied to seven of the letters when there was a soft knock at the office door. A maid popped her head inside hesitantly. It was the new girl. She only started yesterday, but she worked hard and quietly, which Amilia liked. Amilia nodded an invitation, and wordlessly the maid slipped inside with her bucket, mop, and cleaning tools, taking great pains not to bang them against the door.
    Amilia recalled her own days as a servant in the castle. As a kitchen worker, she rarely cleaned rooms but occasionally would fill in for a sick chambermaid. She used to loathe working in a room with a noble present, always so self-conscious and frightened. You could never tell what a noble might do. One minute they might be friendly, the next they were calling for you to be

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