The narrow streets were lined by men of the Imperial Guard, holding back the crowd with the shafts of their spears. The Lord Commander went in front, heading a wedge of mounted lancers in milk-white ring mail and golden cloaks. Behind him came a golden knight bearing the Emperor’s banner, a golden eagle on a snow white field.
Emperor Stellar followed on a tall grey palfrey, a golden crown set upon his golden curls. Empress Bliss rode a chestnut mare at his side, her thick golden hair flowing to her shoulders beneath a net of emeralds. More golden knights flanked the couple. The others of the Imperial Family followed. All of them shared similar features - pale skin, golden hair, green eyes and aquiline noses. Velvet clothes and glittering jewels adorned their graceful bodies. They looked like what they claimed to be – a heavenly race of deities, far superior to common men.
An announcer followed the Imperial Family. He proclaimed in a loud, resonating voice, “Lesser Creatures of Altos! The Imperial Family passes before you! Bow down to their flawless magnificence and be blessed!”
The unshaven and unwashed people stared at the riders with dull resentment from behind the line of spears. A few of them bowed down as the Imperial Family rode by, but for every man who bent down, a hundred stood straight and defiant.
For decades, the pale and “flawless” family had oppressed them. They had whipped them, robbed them, starved them and completely rejected their identity as humans. “Lesser Creatures” was what they were called. And what was their crime? They were born different from the family. Their color, faith, culture…everything was different.
“Bow down Lesser Creatures! The August Emperor Stellar and Elegant Empress Bliss grace your lowly presence. Bow down so that your noses touch the ground,” boomed the announcer as the party neared a turning. Suddenly, a rotten orange flew out of the crowd and splattered on the Emperor’s face. The brown pulp was caked in his golden hair and had spattered all over the Empress’ legs.
“Who threw that?” the Emperor screamed. He pushed his fingers into his hair, made a furious face, and flung away the pulp. “I want the man who threw that!” A knight swung down from his saddle, and ventured into the sea of ragged men to find the culprit. Those closest to him began to squirm and shove to get away, while others pushed forward to see.
Suddenly the Emperor pointed to someone in the crowd,“I want him!”. “He was the one! Cut through the crowd and bring him—”
A tumult of sound drowned his last words, a rolling thunder of rage and fear and hatred that engulfed them from all sides. “Monster!” someone screamed at the Emperor, “filthy monster.” Other voices flung, calls of “demons” and “tyrants” at the Imperial Family. From both sides of the street, the crowd surged against the spear shafts while the knights struggled to hold the line. Stones, dung and fouler things whistled overhead. “Free us!” a woman shrieked. “Freedom!” boomed a man behind her. “We want freedom from you, monster! We want our rights!” In a heartbeat, a thousand voices took up the chant. “Freedom,” they clamored. “Freedom, freedom!” They broke the line and attacked the Family. They fought for food. They fought for freedom. And most importantly, they fought for their right to be different.
Author: Sai Reddy
Editor: Sanya Chadha