I had just turned eight when they came for me. I knew what was going on, even though my parents tried to hide the truth from me – children always know much more than their parents realize.
Father told me that it’s a great honour. I was to be taken to the Emperor’s palace. Common people never went there.
“Only special children are chosen. You will get an education anyone would envy you on. It’s a great opportunity”, father kept talking. I suspect he was trying to make himself believe in his own lies.
The truth was, just as all the other families in our town, and probably all the other families in the Empire, my parents had a choice to make. One of their children had to be sent to the palace, to be trained to become a loyal member of the Emperor’s army. It could be any child, the only rule was that it had to be younger than ten. Among the four children in our home, it’s not hard to deduce why I was their choice. Father would never give away his firsborn, my older brother. He was too proud of him, of how similar they were and how quickly he learned all that father taught him. The twins, a boy and a girl, even though they were already six-year-olds, were still the babies of the family. Mother and father were very protective of them. All things considered, I was the logical choice. Were I in their place, maybe I would have done the same. But still, a cold feeling grew in me, a feeling which wasn’t disappointment, or anger, or sadness. It was neither of those familiar emotions but at the same time it was all of them.
When it came to this, I turned out to be the child my parents loved the least. Many children feel this way and grow jealous of their sibling. Those feelings are mostly obvious overreactions and secretly even those bratty youngsters know that parents love all their children the same. However, my case was different. I knew how my parents felt for a fact. They thought about it, and they decided it themselves.
I shouldn’t blame them. They had to do it. One of us had to be sacrificed so that the others could continue to live. There was no doubt the Emperor’s people would come and slaugher us all if my parents had disobeyed his orders. And everything might end well, after all. The Emperor said it himself, those who prove themselves (after they survive the harsh training and the destructive wars that would follow) might even return to their hometowns. The parents might be able to see their lost children again.
I decided I would be the one of those who would survive, but I don’t intend to go back home. In his lies, father said one thing that was true – this was a great opportunity. And even though they don’t think that, I am special. The Emperor wants to train young children because he wants them to become loyal to a flaw. He wants to be worshipped and that’s what he’s going to get. I know how to pretend, just as I pretended that I believed my father when he created the silly little story to comfort me.
My parents decided to give me up, and that’s how it’s going to be. They will never see me again. I will never live in a silly little town, I won’t be one of those weak people. I will surpass all of my peers, I will become a somebody, I will make the Emperor notice me. In the end, I might even surpass him. He will not be able to confuse me, to make me one of his minions. I have a mind of my own.
The only problem is – there may be other children like me, more people with similar ideas. They should not be a huge problem, though. I will know how to notice them, and once I detect who they are I will be able to deal with them. No one will be better than me.
And I know that, one day, I will not be the one who follows orders anymore. I’ll be the one giving them.