THE EMPEROR’S WILL • by Eddie D. Moore

Emperor Tatius led the victorious Tattooed Legions down the cobblestone street, surrounded by joyous celebration. Many people waved palm branches above their heads signifying victory while others scattered the branches upon the Emperor’s path to welcome, at long last, the arrival of peace. After seven years of war, those who had dared to attack the empire were finally conquered and subjugated. Flower petals danced in the breeze as they rained down from the tops of tall buildings, and the citizens of Avitus chanted loudly as one, “Tatius! Tatius! Tatius!”

When the Emperor raised an arm in greeting, he caught a glimpse of his scarred palm, and he thought back to the formation of the Tattooed Legion. He recalled drawing the dagger across the palm of his hand as the sorcerer Sergius had instructed. The blade was sharp and cut deep. Blood poured from the wound and mixed with the ink while the sorcerer uttered incantations and stirred the cauldron. Smoke hung heavy in the air filling the valley and engulfing the soldiers as Sergius worked his magic. Tatius soon noticed as he breathed the smoky air that his breath streamed from his mouth and mixed with the blood red ink.

The artists had worked for three days and nights tattooing the shaved head of every soldier. When the work was finished, the Emperor was elated by the savage and fierce appearance of his armies. The tattoos were placed with precision and wrought with intricate detail. The soldiers took great pride in their new unity, and they followed their Emperor to battle in high spirits.

The advantage gained by the magic was unmistakable on the battlefield, and the Emperor often found himself smiling as he watched his armies battle. Sergius warned the Emperor not to allow his emotions to burn too intensely during battles or he risked losing control of the soldiers. The Emperor watched the battles from nearby ridges, high hills, and tall towers built by his soldiers. As he studied the battles, his armies moved at his will. When he saw a weakness in their defenses, the soldiers sensed his desire and acted accordingly. He soon discovered that the stronger he felt the need and the harder he pushed his will the more intensely his soldiers fought. The more he invested himself emotionally in the battle, the fiercer and quicker the Tattooed Legions reacted. Army after army fell bloodied and devastated to the will of the Emperor, and Sergius’ warning was soon forgotten.

As they approached the palace gates, the Emperor lowered his hand, and blinked several times as his mind returned to the present. He glimpsed an object that arced through the air unlike the fluttering flower petals. As he turned his head, a single half-rotten red fruit struck the edge of his chariot and splattered against his armor a moment before his chariot passed through the gates.

Inside the palace, he wiped off his armor in frustration, wondering who dared such public contempt. Anger raged inside him as he grasped the side of the chariot with white knuckles until he managed to master his emotions. He released a long slow breath, shook his head, and allowed servants to wipe the splattered fruit from his armor. He waved them away as they finished and marched off to sleep in his own bed for the first time in years.


Late that night, the Emperor tossed and turned on his bed fighting ghastly dreams. Instead of being greeted by the cheering masses and falling flower petals, the citizens of Avitus pelted him with scraps of food and named him a murderer. The Tattooed Legions sensed his will and moved into action. They fell upon the riotous crowd with swords and spears, executing the Emperor’s will upon the ungrateful masses.

Tatius halted his chariot, raised a fist, and shouted, “How dare you assault your Emperor! After all I have done to protect you! You dare disrespect me!”

Blood ran in the streets and buildings burned as he allowed his emotions to consume him, driving the execution of his chastisement to ever greater heights. Once he felt the citizens had been adequately punished, he attempted to calm his emotions and subdue the Tattooed Legions. The slaughter continued unabated. Chills ran down his back as he remembered the sorcerer’s warning. His blood ran cold as he tried again to regain control of the army and failed. The soldiers continued to grow in their blood lust. He saw the elderly, women and even children put to the sword and building after building began to burn until the entire city was ablaze.

He drove his chariot as fast as the horses could run and charged through the palace gates. The Tattooed Legion attacked the palace guards as they struggled to close the gates. Fear overwhelmed him as he ran for his personal chamber, and his desperation drove him to run faster.

The hall seemed longer than he remembered, and he risked a quick glance behind himself. The tattooed soldiers had fought their way past the palace guards, and they were running in his direction. Anyone in their path died, and he knew without doubt that they were coming for him. He dove into his bed as soldiers grabbed at his feet. Suddenly, he was falling; long seconds passed until his back hit the floor and breath left his lungs. He opened his eyes — alert, awake, and frightened on the floor.

A blade bit deep into his belly, followed by a quick second, and a third in his chest. He locked eyes with one of the soldiers standing over him, and he saw fear and panic in the man’s eyes. As the Emperor tasted his own blood, his eyes lost focus, the soldiers ceased their fear-driven rampage, and Emperor Tatius surrendered his will to death.

Eddie D. Moore travels extensively for work, and he spends much of that time listening to audio books. Find more on his blog:

If you want to keep EDF around, Patreon is the answer.

Rate this story:
 average 3.2 stars • 30 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    The qualities of earnestness and sincerity are, unfortunately, hindrances to good storytelling. A very nice premise here but I think a brutal editorial hand is required to trim away all the dead weight. Two stars.

    • Carl Steiger

      I enjoyed it more than you did, but I would direct the brutal editorial hand to the second part, because I knew how it was going to end the moment I came to the scene shift.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        I wanted to like it more; it was vivid and creative; but the writing didn’t equal the concept for me.

      • The funny thing is that the original piece was 200 words shorter. The editors requested that I add to the story.

        • S Conroy

          I agreed that the idea is a good one but that it could be a
          much better story with an edit. It’s not so much the length. For me
          there were things that jarred and stopped the enjoyment of the story. I’m not sure if you’re interested in examples. If not, stop here.

          For instance I found the first flash-back a bit forced and wondered if it might have worked better in a chronological order.
          The phrase “and mixed with the ink” came a bit out of the blue. It took too much time for me to work out that the ink was in the cauldron. I wondered why you didn’t write “and mixed with the ink in the cauldron”.
          The sentence “he notices as he breathed the smoky air that his
          breath streamed from his mouth” reads a bit clunky.
          Fantasy isn’t really my genre so I might be compensating by being over-picky on the language; it would be unfair to vote.

          I did enjoy your story Living Ink and found the writing more fluid.

        • Carl Steiger

          That IS funny.

        • I just read your byline. I’d be happy to offer you a free audiobook in exchange for an HONEST review. I’d actually offer that to any EDF readers who see this and message me directly on my website’s contact form. mdthalmann dot com

  • Ej Shumak

    I’m never been big on high fantasy sword and sorcery pieces. Perhaps that’s why I really enjoyed this it seems to me that the concept and execution were both superbly handled.
    I am joyed the set up and felt with the ending brought a solid fruition for a story that could have been either predictable or twisty, and I hate twisty. Even the word is disturbing. This piece was interesting and ultimately satisfying.

  • Not necessarily your fault but you wrote “solder” instead of “soldier”.

    As for critique. Due to this story arriving after I’d read my morning mail I decided to have it read aloud to me by my text to speech app. My mind was wandering, so I read it for myself. It was the same result. The entire story is exposition. There is one item of speech in his addressing the crowd, which technically is speaking, but not really breaking the pattern. The chanting, though in quotation marks, was yet more exposition. ” Blood ran in the streets and buildings burned as he allowed his emotions to consume him,” is cliché and again, telling instead if showing.
    The premise is good, and your exposition is well formed in spots. But I bore easily when I don’t get to use my imagination while reading.

    I just gave you a five star rating with a slip of the thumb while trying to scroll up to copy and paste that bit above, but in all honesty I was going to give it two.

    I’ll bet if you created scenes for the large chunks of exposition it would be a great story, albeit likely too long for flash.

    • Trollopian

      Michael mentions a commonplace occurrence with EDF, the “accidental rating.” I too have sometimes given more, or fewer, stars than I intended, because the menu is so hypersensitive to touch. (In my case this varies with the device; a slip-up is likelier with my tablet, less so on my laptop.) It’d be nice if the system asked us to confirm our rating before submitting.

    • Joseph Kaufman

      The solder/solider/soldier issue has been remedied to read correctly now.

  • Needs editing. Too much repetition, clumsy sentences, over worked ‘to be’ verbiage, cliche dream sequence. I could go on, but… Two stars, mostly for effort. Edit, edit, edit. Got to learn how to kill your babies (I mean that strictly in a literary sense). Keep writing.

  • First sentence first paragraph after the shift has the emperor in his bed. First sentence second paragraph has the hapless man on his chariot. The disconnect brought me up short because I was interested in the story. Definitely could use a 20% edit. You could have used that space to show us what happened to the legion after their leaders death.

    • “show us” being the take away, there. 🙂

      • The entire story is pretty much told instead of shown. It was the only way I know to fit it into a 1000 words. Maybe it would of been better as a longer story, but the end was going to be obvious from the beginning, so I went short. I’m rather proud of the story, but there will always be more people that dislike a story than like it.

        • I think you should be proud and don’t think anyone intended insult in their critique. For the most part this site has told all of us something that we didn’t want to hear. But we needed to hear. You got paid to publish a story, that’s huge. And I think the story itself is still good, like I said in an earlier comment, it probably isn’t a flash story at it’s core. I’ve started a dozen pieces of flash or more that ended up being a short story instead. Sometimes to do justice to the story, you have to accept the fact that it doesn’t fit within a word count.

          I don’t think that it’s true to say that more people will always dislike a story than like it, I think you should just consider that the age old advice for writing to be showing not telling is for good reason and not just lip service. I get a lot of writing critique from my other writers groups that is simply lip service. Like saying that a run-on sentence ruins an entire story even though there are Pulitzer Prize winning novels with run-on sentences. However in the case of exposition over scene creating I believe that the advice is founded in the fact that “telling” reads like a technical manual and someone who isn’t already deeply interested in the story or topic is going to gloss over, while “showing” involves the reader to envision your world.

          Keep doing exposition, but you must earn it first.

          • Thanks Micheal,

            I agree that showing is almost always better than telling, and I do try to practice that. This story is an exception. Like most people my initial response to criticism is to fold my arms and mumble under my breath. I usually have to go back later and read it again for it to soak in. 😉

          • A true artist’s reaction!

          • S Conroy

            Know the feeling! By the way, I liked your other story “Living Ink”. Think I spot a pattern :-).

  • Paul A. Freeman

    There was a lot of repetition (4th para, 4 variations on ‘battle’ in first three sentences) and cliche (‘flower petals dancing on the breeze’ and ‘raining down’) in this story, though I found it a strangely engaging read.

  • There’s a veil between me and the character (and action) through most of the piece. I did like the premise, however. For me, the experience of being part of a story trumps (speaking of would-be emporors!) being told about a story idea. I don’t think it’s a matter of cutting words and repetition, but of experiencing the scenes more fully. Your mileage will vary, though, so consider this one opinion.

  • dannyh010

    Two stars only because it was well-written. After the third paragraph, I stopped reading. You have to hook your reader in the beginning, either in the first few sentences or at least the first paragraph, especially with stories this short. Start at the height of the action, the turning point when things are about the change. If the reader engages emotionally and has a reason to stick around, you’ll lead them through to the end. Hopefully, my critique helps.