Numerous sheets of paper were splayed out across the table, their contents numerous and varied. The folder of people we had selected for the security was still tucked under my arm, unopened. The first matter on the agenda was the security plans and concerns of the venue itself.
Four particularly large sheets of paper were currently being scrutinised by Julio, while Elysium explained the potential security issues that the venue presented and listed her suggestions on how to eliminate these potential problems. The venue for this concert was to be the Royal Theatre – a completely indoors location, with three floors’ worth of seating. This venue was usually reserved for the aristocracy and the unreasonably rich. Its usual function was as a place to watch various troupes of actors put on plays – long performances that took as their subject matter either works of fiction, or otherwise scenes from history and legend, though these too were often embellished to the point of fiction. It was a very luxurious location, one that most common people would never have the opportunity to enter. The only reason we had even been able to secure this location for Rosalind’s final concert was because the theatre was owned by the Bainel group.
The advantage of picking a location that was built for the rich and powerful – besides the prestige it accorded – was that it was built with the security of its clientele as a key consideration. Each floor was designed to be reasonably isolated from the others. The first floor had four doors, two at the back of the hall and two to the sides, and there were no means by which an individual from the first floor would be able to ascend to a higher floor without leaving the building. The second floor could only be accessed by two pairs of staircases that led outside the building, and therefore it was similarly impossible for anyone from the second floor to access the other floors without first leaving the building. Finally, the third floor could only be accessed by a single door, connected to a corridor that wound around the outside of the building, ending at a staircase that could only be accessed from an area behind the stage. It was hence possible for people to enter the top floor without anyone on the lower two floors being any the wiser – which was perfect for our purposes. Elysium was currently gesturing at the schematic of the 3rd level while speaking to Julio, who listened with his finger placed thoughtfully on his chin.
“So, the plan of movement for that day is thus – we’ll have the Emperor moved to a nearby location about half an hour prior to gates opening – you said you’ve a place in mind?”
“Yes, I happen to own a well-furnished property in the area. It will be sufficiently endowed to keep His Imperial Majesty’s complaints to a minimum, and it is a mere five minutes away from the Theatre by carriage.”
“Alright. So we’ll move him there in secret and have him wait there for some time. I presume you have prepared some means to keep him occupied?”
“No need for concern on that account.”
“Very well. Once doors have closed to the public and the hall has been populated, we’ll have the Emperor taken to the back entrance by carriage, where I’ll leave it to you to direct him up the stairs and toward the 3rd Floor. On this occasion, we have reserved the entirety of that floor for the Emperor and his entourage – he will not be disturbed. Nobody will know that he is there. The moment I confirm that he is seated, we’ll dim the lights, and Rosalind will begin her performance.”
“And how will His Imperial Majesty be leaving the venue?”
“We’re going to have a handshake event immediately after the concert – we’ll use that as a pretense to have the audience wait in the hall for some time, claiming that Rosalind needs time to get ready. In that timeframe, Rosalind will change out of her stage clothes, to furnish our lie, but more importantly, you’ll need to escort the Emperor out of the the building and into your holding location within those ten minutes. After that, the matter of the Emperor’s escort to the Palace ceases to be my responsiblity, and becomes yours.”
“I see. And what if His Imperial Majesty also desires the privilege of a handshake?”
“He’s the Emperor. If he wants to shake Rosalind’s hand so badly, he can just invite her to the Palace.”
“…True enough, though I would advise you to watch your tone when speaking of His Imperial Majesty.”
Elysium gave no reply and simply crossed her arms.
“Yes, Master Julio.”
At Julio’s beckoning, Alpha moved from her position by the door and went to his side.
“Tell me. Do you see any vulnerabilities?”
He gestured at the schematic of the Theatre’s 3rd floor, causing Alpha to scrutinise it carefully.
“The limestone of the railings, along with the height differential seperating it from the other floors, means that it should be impossible to mount an attack from within the Theatre. What of the door? What kind of security will be covering the door and corridor?”
Elysium answered her question, stating what we believed should have been self-evident.
“We’ll station guards just outside the door – a pair of them – and have another group patrolling the corridor itself. We’ll also have guards patrolling the outer perimeter of the building, to identify and detain any suspicious individuals.”
Alpha nodded, then turned back to the schematic.
“If that is the case, it should be impossible to attack His Imperial Majesty from within the building, or from its immediate surroundings. However…” She tapped a finger to the window that stood directly opposite the 3rd floor, above the main stage. “This window concerns me. A sniper could be positioned here, who could attack His Imperial Majesty with either a projectile, or with magic.”
Elysium shook her head and pointed to the paper that bore a schematic of the exterior of the Theatre.
“Not possible. As you can see here, the outside of that window is nothing but a sheer drop down. It is impossible to find any sort of footing from which one might be able to aim at the Emperor. Not to mention, on the day itself, the hall will be close to pitch-dark. Aiming accurately under those conditions should be impossible.”
Alpha nodded her assent, but raised another objection.
“I accept your proposition that it is impossible to aim at His Imperial Majesty from outside the window, but what if the assailant were stationed further away, such as on the rooftop of the nearby house?”
Elysium shook her head again and pointed out another sheet of paper, this time depicting the layout of the district where the Theatre was located.
“I’ve thought of that. The Theatre is the tallest building in the district, and in the direction that the window faces, there are no possible vantage points where one might be able to stand and take aim. A simple visit to the site in question should convince you of that fact. In order for anyone to use that method, they would need to be able to stand midair with a steady footing, while also aiming at a target shrouded in darkness. They would have to do it at a reasonable distance, too, given that the patrolling guards would notice a floating individual very quickly.”
This time, it was Julio who responded.
“And? If such an individual exists, what contingencies do you have for dealing with it?”
“With all due respect, the possibility of such an assailant existing is so low that you might as well ask me if I have any contingencies for the Emperor being struck down by a stray lightning bolt from the sky.”
“I believe I told you to watch your tone when talking about His Imperial Majesty.”
“I don’t recall agreeing to do so.”
The temperature in the room seemed to lower by several degrees as Elysium and Julio stared each other down. Finally, however, Julio decided to relent. He laughed and shrugged.
“Well, I suppose I’ll pretend not to notice your insolence. In exchange, I’d like you to humour me. I agree that the existence of a person capable of what you have described is highly unlikely. But hypothetically, if such a person did exist, how would you handle it?”
“If, hypothetically, such a person existed, I wouldn’t have to worry about them anyway, because such a dangerous individual would be either in your custody or in your employ.”
Julio’s mouth curled upward in a smile.
“You’re a lot more perceptive than you let on. I like that.”
“And you’re hiding far more secrets than most people would believe. I can’t say I like that.”
Julio turned to Alpha again.
“Well? Having heard Miss Elysium’s explanation, what is your verdict?”
“In that case, there should be no possible danger to His Imperial Majesty’s life, barring foul play.”
“Excellent. Thank you, Alpha.”
Alpha bowed deeply and returned to her post by the door. My eyes followed her for a moment, but then I turned my attention back to the conversation. There was a lot about the enigmatic maid that fascinated me, but I had more important matters to deal with. Elysium recrossed her arms and shifted her weight to her other leg.
“Well? Are you satisfied, Chancellor?”
“Yes, very much so. This was very thoroughly prepared. It’s almost as if you’re used to identifying weak areas and creating contingencies for them. It’s a very military-like way of thinking. Between that and your straight-forward manner of speaking, I might have mistaken you for a general of some sort, if I did not know your actual profession as Miss Rosalind’s manager.”
“Alas, I am not a person of such stature. I am merely an ordinary commoner, who has had the immense fortune of befriending a great woman.”
Julio narrowed his eyes, clearly suspicious, but then he cleared his throat.
“Well then. Now that we’ve confirmed those plans, I presume we’re finished here?”
“Ah, not quite.”
Elysium gestured at me. I walked up to the pair and presented the package under my arm to Julio, explaining in Elysium’s stead.
“Lord Chancellor, the documents contained within this package are the profiles of thirty able-bodied men that we intend to employ as guards. They are all accomplished in the martial arts, and have various reccommendations as to their character. We’ve conducted extensive background checks on them and found them suitable, but we decided that it would be best to let you peruse the applications and voice any misgivings you might have. After all, our information is not perfect, and we could well have missed some ill rumour about them.”
Julio looked down at the package in my hand, but instead of taking it, he smiled and shook his head, gently pushing it away.
“I appreciate your work, but this was wholly unnecessary – the security detail will be provided for by the Imperial Guard.”
There was a brief moment of silence in the room, where nobody moved or uttered a sound. Then, in a flash, Elysium closed the distance between herself and Julio, gripping the collar of his shirt and slamming him into the wall.