An emperor with an agenda of peace walks on a razor’s edge. Convincing seven loosely connected star systems and all their adjoining neighbors to get along, agree to common ground rules, and most importantly stop killing each other is a monumental task. When diplomacy is met with all-out war, the challenge increases exponentially.

Emperor Volodymyr Oblast succeeded in ending a thousand years of galactic fighting. Only a ceremonial technicality stood in the way of his dream of peace.

Nuirka Oblast, the daughter of the emperor, came of age in a time of war. Her mother Empress Kalia Oblast, a Zorr of epic beauty accused of whispering songs of peace into the ear of her husband, became a martyr to the cause on a charity mission to her home planet.

The dowager, Onzaga Oblast, mother of the Emperor, mentored Nuirka in the last years of her childhood. Onzaga had no interest in anything other than family and luxury. The death of her daughter-in-law gave her back her son and allowed her to attempt control over her granddaughter.

On the deck of the Imperial flagship, Onzaga watched the antiquated ceremony, her conservative side met with the conflict of love for her son.

The brutish Gastraddars were the last to disavow war. They held out on their homeworld and would have fought to the very last. King Øvdin was captured in a daring planetary raid by the Emperor’s most elite troops, the Woad.

The stone covered Woad giants dropped behind enemy lines, deposed the Gastraddar king, and brought him to his senses. With the surrender of his massive military, a whole sector fell into line, including the Klandar system, who hated the Emperor for his choice to marry a Zorr.

Øvdin was a hulking creature with dark forest green skin, bulging blue eyes, and long jet black hair put into braids for the occasion. Being a warrior king, Øvdin wore his old and dented battle armor with pride. He stood in the center of the flagship’s great hall.

The surrounding windows provided beautiful light rays from the Grandor sun as well as a fantastic view of Grandor Prime floating in space like a big blue marble. Ships with representatives from nearly every advanced planet in the explored galaxy hovered outside.

New trade routes were already open. Travel between systems was safer than ever. Exploration returned to center stage and a new age of enlightenment and prosperous optimism filled the minds of all in attendance.

Opposite panoramic windows at the back of the hall was a wall of glass with the ship’s internal sea behind it. The clear water sent dancing shimmering light across the room. Three galactic sperm whales floated on the other side of the glass. The leviathans, suspended in liquid, watched the Emperor and the war-ending ceremony closely. The center whale was the Captain and pilot of the flagship, the other two were Admirals in the fleet.

Between the Emperor and the wall of water sat eleven Warriors of Woad, mostly for show, but also to intimidate the Gastraddars. The giant beings did not move nor speak throughout the entire proceeding. Reverse zebra-patterned stone quartz covered their bodies, black in color with lines of white rock layered throughout. They sparkled in the sunlight like exotic mineral sculptures.

In front of the Woad and much more humanoid in size stood the Emperor. He was gray-skinned with perfect posture and the soft slightly slanted eyes of a Grandor. His complexion was smooth and pale. His earthy hair and beard were thick and shaggy, yet well-groomed. He wore a simple blue formal military jacket, white pants, and tall black boots. A ceremonial sword hung from his belt.

The Emperor was surrounded by the regional governors from twelve Grandor worlds. They were all similar-looking, though some had third eyes, more than one flaunted golden teeth, and two were clearly from frozen icy worlds.

To the Emperor’s right stood his mother and daughter and with them two female Varans. The slender lizards resembled upright Komodo Dragons and couldn’t have been more different, one with bright sky blue scales and intense crayon red eyes, the other completely devoid of any color. She could’ve easily been mistaken for a black and white photograph. They were deep space explorers and representatives of the Varan government, keepers of the great RokoVokoR wormhole that was advancing travel across the galaxy.

A third more ancient lizard traveled with them. Three large horns grew out of his head and resembled a moderately sized dinosaur. His race, called the Kovo, was from the other side of the wormhole.

The Viceroy of the Zorr system and his entourage stood to the Emperor’s left, his old gray-blue dreadlocks were tied up neatly behind his head. He’d been a friend to Volodymyr for over fifty years.

King Øvdin was accompanied by two other Gastraddars; his greatest warriors and heirs. They stood in formation behind their king. Øvdin strode forward.

“We offer the surrender and eternal allegiance of Gastraddar.”

Then the Emperor moved toward Øvdin. He removed his sword from his side and held it high in his left hand.

“Never shall a system ignore the needs of Gastraddar. My arm of war will never darken your world again.”

Volodymyr reached out his right arm and grabbed hold of Øvdin. He raised his sword in the silence of the room. Then he brought it down and removed his own right arm below the shoulder.

His family gasped. The arm fell to the floor. Nuirka took a single step toward her father, only to be held back by her grandmother. Tears welled in their eyes.

Øvdin spoke in a deep gravelly voice, “your dynasty will be respected by the Gastraddar.”

The Emperor stood there bleeding. Øvdin stepped back and bowed low. Being a full meter taller than Volodymyr, their faces met for the first time. Øvdin gave a look of deep admiration and trust. He lowered his head completely.

“Goodbye,” muttered the king.

The two Gastraddar warriors raised their jagged weapons and brought them down in succession decapitating King Øvdin. His head joined the Emperor’s arm on the floor and his body followed with a crash.

The elegant blue scaled Varan representative stepped forward, a bright red hood of skin the color of her eyes surrounded her face, a primitive fight or flight response. She spoke with a hiss.

“Let a new age of peace-sss immerge.”

The new king of Gastraddar raised a bloodied fist into the air.

“Hail Oblast! Long live the Empire!”

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