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For among the battle-hardened youth there shall rise the Foretold, the Greatest Emperor, scourge of our enemies, commander of a host most devastating. And the Empire shall be made whole.

Background

500 years ago, a warrior named Taius united the fractured martial clans and swept down from the north, crushing Scholar Empire. He named himself Emperor and established his dynasty. He was called the Masked One, after the silver mask, he wore to scare off his enemies.

The Augurs saw in their visions that Taius's line would fail one day. When that day came, the Augurs would choose a new Emperor through a series of physical and mental tests also known as the Trials. Taius did not appreciate this prediction but the Augurs managed to assure him. On that account, the Augurs raised Blackcliff and began training students.

The Blood Shrike

The Blood Shrikes is the main enforcer of The Empire and is the 2n most powerful person in the empire, and directly above him/her is the emperor. He or she can not defect or he will be slain, but if the Emperor allows it he is able to be free.

The Blood Shrike in An Ember In The Ashes name is unknown but we know he would write down information about the people in The Empire and keep them in files. He would later be slain by the emperor Taius XXI because he tried to defect his position.

In most of the series, Helene Aquilla is the Blood Shrike

An Ember In The Ashes

A few centuries later it was told that Taius line was failing and that the augurs would initiate The Trials to pick the new emperor. Emporer Taius XII would then in response go down to Blackcliff with the Blood Shrike to kill all the masks. On his way there the Blood Shrike would defect from his position and would be killed by the king because of it. At the end of the first book, Mazen and the Resistance would kill Emperor Taius and news spread to Blackcliff by a messager would tell the news. At the time of his death, the Fourth Trial was happening at Blackcliffs amphitheater. The victor of the fourth trial was Marcus Farrar who then became emperor and Helene Aquilla became his Blood Shrike and Elias Veturius was sent to execution. Elias would then escape with Laia and become their number one targets.

The Empire would search for Elias mostly by Helene, and at the same time, a civil war was imminent because of the new emperor. Their reason for this was because Marcus was a plebeian (commoners or the lowest class). The Illustrians Paters who were rebelling were swiftly put down after the death of Pater Rufius and others by Blood Shrike Helene Aquilla who were thrown off Cardium Rock by Marcus.

The Scholar Rebellion and Genocide

The Scholar rebellion in Serra during the beginning of the second book was destroyed quickly by Keris Veturius. This inspired an uprising in Silas which just like its Serran counterpart was taken down by Keris. The result of these uprising was the genocide of the Scholars across the countryside which was led by, guess who, the Commandant. At the end of A Torch Against The Night, Laia of Serra destroys Kauf Prison freeing the Scholars and the other prisoners who were trapped there. The now free scholars fled to Marinn.

The Trials

Known as Trial of Courage, this Trial puts a strain on Aspirant's personal fear. Elias Veturius fears bloody war, therefore, he is sent to the Great Wastes where he encounters the haunting vision of his future. Helene Aquilla fears of height so she is sent to an altitudinous vulture's nest. Marcus and Zak Farrar fear water and tight spaces respectively. Their destination is Blackcliff's belltower and the Trial ends during sunset on the seventh day. The winner for this Trial is Marcus Farrar and the prize given is a dagger.

Otherwise known as Trial of Cunning, this Trial tests Aspirant's wits. The location of this Trial is at Blackcliff where they fight with various enemies such as wraiths, legionnaires, scorpions, viper, and wights until dawn. The key to survive is to find the enemy's weakness. The winner for this Trial is Helene Aquilla and the prize given is a special armor crafted by the Augurs.

This Trial stretches Aspirant's strength, ergo it is named Trial of Strength. They are each given a platoon of men to fight one-to-one among themselves. The rules are no battle armor and the battle will end when one defeats or is defeated by the leader of the opponent. Elias's opponent is Helene while Marcus's is his own twin, Zak. This Trial is won by Marcus and Elias. However, despite the rule, Helene did not die in the battle because of the non-detachable armor given to her after winning the second Trial. She is thus disqualified from the third Trial due to an honest error.

This final Trial is known as Trial of Loyalty. This Trial takes place at Blackcliff amphitheater where they race to execute Laia in front of the crowds. Once the Augur tells them to proceed, Helene knocks Marcus out so that Elias can kill her. Instead of killing Laia, Elias defends her. Marcus who has gained his consciousness, on the other hand, takes the chance to put her to death. Due to this, Marcus Farrar is the official winner for the fourth Trial and therefore the Trials. He is then declared as the new Emperor, Helene Aquilla - the Blood Shrike and Elias Veturius - the loser.

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