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A Sublime Tragedy

Justinian the Mighty

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My life has been preordained. Every moment of my waking life has been planned by those seeking to control me, but I just want nothing more than to be left alone. I was very young when I ascended to my position. As a boy only 17 years old the reigns of government were the least of my concerns. However there were some people who sought to control my mind and soul in order to achieve their own selfish goals. Little did they know I carry the traits of my forefathers, stubbornness the highest among them.

I have often wondered what purpose the individual has in this vast and unforgiving universe. Many people have asked this question and I have spent that last ten years trying to answer it. When I ask others what they think my purpose is they tell me such fantastic things. They tell me that because I am the Tsar I am the father of the people and a symbol of the nation. If such lofty tales were true then this land would be a virtual utopia.

On the eve of my coronation this was divided. The country had not seen such division in nearly 100 years. As I stood on the dais draped in my imperial regalia, placing the crown upon my own head I suddenly realized that for as long as I life I would never see another peaceful day. My childhood and the life I once lived were gone. The scepter I held represented the chains that held me to my office for life and the orb represented the heavy burden of my station. The people cheered me as I walked out of the cathedral and onto the red porch the jubilation was deafening, but for me there was infinite uncertainty.

My journey to the throne started several months earlier in St. Petersburg. I was more innocent then and life easily gave me joy. I planned to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors and enlist in the Cadet Corps. Despite my place in line to the throne I expected neither favors nor special treatment. I wanted to one day be able to serve the country which had given me so much, but the powers that be had different plans for me in mind.

I awoke one cold December morning to the sound of bells and a crowd of people outside the gates of Peterhof. That same day I was visited by the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Duma. Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister did not strike me as odd, but Vasily Tsereteli, the Chairman of the Duma was an old cadaverous man with piercing eyes and a menacing smile. I did not know what to make of these men at first, but when they bowed to me my worst fears were confirmed. Naturally I assumed my poor grandfather Emperor Grigori I, had passed, but there was something much more sinister at work here. The Chairman proclaimed that my grandfather had abdicated and that I was now the Emperor of Russia. One weight was lifted only for another to be dropped on me.

“God protect our Holy Orthodox Tsar!” he said bowing deeply to me. “May his reign be long and glorious” he added. I admit I was confused by him he made every attempt to be genuine, but his enthusiasm was lost on me.

I signaled for them to rise and they did, but Tsereteli continued to shower his praises on me. I asked him to stop, but he did not. He told me that we must go to Moscow immediately; I must appear before my court. And so began my search for purpose.

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We left for Moscow the next day. I insisted on taking the train, but the Leib Guards insisted that they could not ensure my safety if we traveled commercially. I reluctantly agreed to charter a private jet to take us an air force base near Moscow. They said we could take the train from there, which I hardly considered a compromise.

We were greeted at the Kremlin by the ringing of the bells of Dormition Cathedral. There was a portion of the wall that was blackened and debris had been piled up. I learned the reason for my dear grandfather’s abdication and my new situation. A right wing political group spent three days trying to storm the Kremlin and assassinate my grandfather. The Chairman of the Duma convinced him that the only way to save the monarch was to abdicate. Since I was only 17 Chairman Tsereteli was to reign in my place as Imperial Regent.

After observing a class of graduating cadets I was taken to the imperial apartments in the Grand Palace to get cleaned and dressed. The attendants brought me a dark teal uniform to wear. It had a bright red chest cover and red cuffs with gold epaulets and intricate gold inlay. The buttons shone intensely in the sunlight and nearly blinded one of the men as he adjusted the tunic. I slipped on a pair of boots that smacked the ground with my every step.

After I finished dressing Chairman Tsereteli paid me another, unexpected visit. I sensed that he wanted to gain my confidence. When I talked I could see he was sizing me up. He was calculating, carefully determining whether or not he could count me as an ally. The old man spoke very harshly about Mr. Putin he went as far as calling him a German agent. I could not understand neither his hatred of the Prime Minister or of Germans. When I asked him why he hated Germany he said, “The Germans exert their control over the Slavic people. We fought the Great Patriotic War for nothing.”

He also shared his philosophy with me. He told me the country was weak, that democracy had feminized Russia and that it was my job as the Emperor to restore the country to its former glory. He said if I always followed his advice then Russia would be whole and glorious again. I disagreed and told him my first duty was to my people. He scowled at me, but quickly started to shower me with praises again.

Not long after that the chairman escorted me to a hall filled with people. I was told they were the senior members of my household, chief attendants, bodyguards and others. I walked to the front of this procession and met Count Lvov the Minister of my Household. He was old and his face was withered, but he had the energy of a young man. He knocked on a pair of large golden doors which then seemed to open by themselves. We entered the successions of halls with my entourage following me. Each hall was more magnificent than the last. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people flanking the halls and they all bowed as I walked past. The entire experience was surreal. As we entered the last hall, St. Andrew’s Hall I could see my family waiting at the end and a throne had been positioned for me to sit on.

As I walked toward the throne I heard someone bellow my name from within the crowd. I was immediately caught off guard by a figure who then leaped over the velvet dividing ropes and tackled me to the ground. As he neared me I saw a gleaming blade in his hand. My heart jumped into my throat and I wrestled on the ground with an unknown assailant until I unmistakably felt blood on my hand. In our struggle I realized the man had attacked me with a piece of glass was bleeding heavily. Our struggle continued until he was finally dragged away by the Leib Guards. Although it lasted only a few seconds to me it felt like forever.

Afterwards Chairman Tsereteli whispered in my ear. “You see, this is why you must take my advice.” I could not discern if his words were sagely advice or a veiled threat, but I would soon find out.

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