The parley has gone down in history for its sharp exchange between the two adversaries, who actually met face-to-face to discuss terms. Hierophant Maryam, whose followers fought for what they perceived as a holy cause, offered what he considered to be generous terms:

“If His Majesty the Crimson Emperor consents to surrender his imperial capital,” Maryam said, being careful to use the submissive and courtly language to which the Emperor was accustomed, “and take up the mantle of the New Order, His Majesty will retain his throne and his former lands will be restored. He will be as an earthly vassal to the New Order, which takes its divine orders from the skies above.”

“In other words, if I give you what you have not yet been able to win by conquest, you will permit me a gilded cage,” said Emperor Seleucus IX. “It is not for me to decide the fate of my people based on my own personal comfort, and not for me to dictate that they accept your heresy.”

“If His Majesty chooses to see the offer that way, that his his prerogative,” replied Hierophant Maryam. “However, conquest by the troops of the New Order should be the least of His Majesty’s concerns. For you see, with your city blockaded, His Majesty stands vulnerable to an attack from my two most powerful allies, General Hunger and Major Sickness.”

“I choose to see only what is actually before me,” huffed Seleucus IX. “If you are so sure of your officers General Hunger and Major Sickness, let them meet my allies Colonel Wall and Colonel Castle and see who is the stronger.”

The two men never met again. Seleucus IX died nine months into the siege of the Crimson City of a plague that swept through the defenders. It fell to his son and successor, Seleucus X Ultimus, to lead the Crimson Empire to its final defeat at the end of the siege, cut down in his throne room leading the last of his personal guard against the besiegers. Hieropant Maryam, for his part, was killed by an assassin three days after the city was captured; the assassin’s brother had starved to death among the New Order troops during the hard second winter of the siege.

The reorganization of the former Crimson Empire into the Dominion of the New Order was left to Maryam’s chosen successor Hierophant Isak, who proclaimed the Dominion from the Emperor’s former balcony. “Let us not forget that hunger and sickness, wall and castle claimed even the lives of the most prominent among us,” he said in his address, “and go forth into the future resolved to be united as one body in the Duality of Argna the Protector and Atneps the Destructor, reserving warfare only for the furthering of Their sacred mission to bring Their New Order to the four corners of the globe.”

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