|First printing||March 14, 2003|
Emperor's Fist is the second book in the second Legends cycle. It is the sequel to Assassin's Blade and is continued in Champion's Trial. This book is written by Scott McGough and was published in March 2003.
Honor Tested by War
Though his assassins have failed, the godlike Madaran emperor has other ways of crushing rebellion. He sends the brutal imperial army to rein in the defiant island chain, and the empire is once again plunged into violence.
The emperor's champion accompanies the army, but his loyalty will be tested by the horrors of war. Can the champion achieve honorable victory, or will he and the rebels alike be crushed by the Emperor's Fist?
In Assassin's Blade, the emperor of Madara had ordered the imperial assassin Ramses Overdark to stop the rebellion of the Edemi Islands. Overdark made plans to get his nemesis, the imperial champion Tetsuo Umezawa, involved so he could kill the champion and replace him with one of Overdark's minions.
However, Tetsuo survived and obstructed the other plans Overdark had unleashed on the Edemis. Furious about the failure of his assassin, the emperor now sends in his brutal imperial army, the Kentsu.
The emperor calls his three highest officers to him: the imperial champion Tetsuo Umezawa, the imperial assassin Ramses Overdark, and the highest general of the Kentsu, Marhault Elsdragon. He charges Elsdragon with conquering the Edemis. Kusho must be taken but not razed, while Argenti can be obliterated. He then punishes the other two for their previous actions: Umezawa must learn obedience and he and his entourage are made subordinate to Elsdragon; Overdark must learn to follow the emperor’s orders first and his plans later, and is ordered to stay completely uninvolved in the campaign in the Edemis.
First, the Kentsu send a part of the army to Kusho, led by Jorgan Hage, who is the second in command of the Kentsu, but was made Overdark’s minion in Assassin’s Blade. Among these forces are Ayesha Tanaka, Tetsuo’s armorer, and Kolo Meha, a Bogardan firemage who is on a pilgrimage to rise to the seventh circle of mages. He serves as the Kentsu’s demolition expert. Ayesha is captured by the island's defenders, led by Gosta Dirk, but escapes with the help of Ramirez DePietro. At one point, Meha creates a chasm to prevent Kushoan reinforcements from reaching the battle. Hage, who is an Ærathi brute, wanted the reinforcements to arrive so he could slaughter them, and nearly kills Meha as punishment.
Tetsuo and his healer Kei Takahashi, who was mutated into a half eumidian in Assassin’s Blade, travel to the village of Sekana to make sure its defender, the Nekoru Wasitora, lets the Kentsu troops past. She will if the soldiers stay well away from her newborn kittens. Tetsuo meets up with Elsdragon, and the second fleet of Kentsu forces heads for the Edemis.
After Elsdragon lands on Kusho, he discovers the island nearly empty, save for a handful of defenders and the Kentsu forces. Gosta was only fighting the Kentsu to buy enough time to evacuate the island. The third fleet of Kentsu forces arrives on Kusho, led by Barktooth Warbeard. Tetsuo, Tor Wauki, Kei, and Ayesha are reunited for a short time. Ayesha had developed an addiction to Kushoan blue mana during her escape from Gosta’s forces.
Kei and Tor are left on Kusho to serve in Warbeard’s occupying force. Tetsuo, Ayesha, and Meha are taken by Elsdragon and Hage to Argenti. Before the Kentsu can do anything on that island, they have to take out the Greater Realm of Preservation that guards the island. Elsdragon and Tetsuo meet Overdark on the Meditation Plane and the three of them invoke the emperor, who destroys the Realm just by blinking.
While on Argenti, Ayesha volunteers to lead an attack on the Sylvan Library to distract Lord Magnus long enough for the rest of the Kentsu to reach the other end of the forest and attack Lady Caleria’s castle and the nearby city of Lisu, the capital of Argenti. Ayesha hopes she can use the library to cure herself of her mana addiction and Kei of his mutations. Ayesha takes the library and tries to contact Kei. This doesn’t go smoothly, however: Kei needs to find some evergreen trees transplanted from Argenti to Kusho to make it possible for them to communicate. Ayesha does discover several non-native black mana sources on Kusho that are corrupting the island and are the cause of her addiction.
Elsdragons forces have fought Caleria’s troops to a stalemate. The Kentsu is superbly trained, but Caleria has members of the Clergy of the Holy Nimbus and Ivory Gargoyles in her troops, who can come back from the dead numerous times. Caleria decides to hide back in her castle and Elsdragon begins a siege. But Caleria sends out an Akron Legionnaire, who easily destroys the Kentsu siege engines.
Kei and Tor go to find an evergreen tree, but when they find one it is already torched by Marshal Warbeard. Warbeard tells them he knew the tree could be used by Magnus to contact Gosta, and he doesn’t want the rebels to have good communication. Then he gives Tor and Kei rather vague orders to just walk around the island to look for more such trees and destroy them. Warbeard has been giving more such orders lately, and his troops begin to suspect he is going senile. Kei and Tor take the excuse to go and find evergreen trees to contact Ayesha.
On Argenti, Xira Arien shows up, saying that Overdark wants to help. Elsdragon reminds the assassin that he was ordered by the emperor to stay out of this, but realizes he can use some help against the Akron defending the castle. Overdark sends Lady Orca, who defeats the Akron, eats his heart, and breaks the wall of Caleria’s castle. The Kentsu soldiers cheer, but then Orca turns around and attacks them!
Kei and Tor find the hidden lair of Gosta Dirk, who is now terminally ill from the mana poisoning of Kusho. They also meet Ramirez DePietro, who has been protecting the hidden Kushoans, claiming to be doing it so Gosta will be in his debt later. Ramirez takes Tor into the woods to investigate some sound, while Kei stays behind to try and help the Kushoans.
Tetsuo uses a spell to travel to Orca’s lair, which he destroys, killing Orca. The Kentsu cheer once more and start to raid Caleria’s castle, but in the chaos, Overdark reveals that he controls Hage, and orders the Ærathi to decapitate Elsdragon and seize the title of highest general of the Kentsu. After doing this, Hage fights Meha, both still having a grudge against each other from the beginning of the book. Tetsuo appears out of Orca’s crumbling lair, sees the chaos, and teleports Meha and himself away from Argenti.
Tor is suddenly attacked by Xira Arien, and Kei is attacked by… Tor? The two fighting couples meet each other, and it is revealed that the Tor that attacked Kei is the shapeshifter Halfdane, who was also Ramirez and Warbeard. Halfdane mortally wounds Kei, and Xira poisons Tor. The two murderers head off, and Kei uses his last power to heal Tor.
Tetsuo is disgusted by Lord Overdark’s actions and has never completely agreed with the ways of the emperor, but his title as the imperial champion always prevented him from acting against them. Now Tetsuo finally makes a decision and renounces his claim to the title of champion.
Overdark is overjoyed. The new general of the Kentsu is already a minion of his, and with the champion gone, he can fill that position with one of his followers as well, without the emperor noticing. But the emperor does know, and finally reveals his true self: Nicol Bolas. Seeing the planeswalker in all his glory makes Overdark realize that he could never overthrow him, and now he fears for his life since he disobeyed the Elder Dragon’s orders. But Bolas is not that mad at the assassin, for his actions only prove that the way the empire is ruled is flawed. He makes Overdark the imperial regent, and the two of them set out to round up loose threads like Umezawa before they can remake Madara into a new, grand empire.