ARTABANOS: DANGEROUS, DELUSIONAL, DEFECTIVE, OR DOWNRIGHT DREADFUL?
By Sophie Brierley
For the last three years, the Imperial Palace has been inhabited by one of the most peculiar creatures Inimicus has seen since its founding. Emperor Artabanos, former Duke of Terra Praestoris, has occupied the Emperor’s Office for forty months now, and throughout His tenure He has shown remarkable resilience, unyieldingness, political aptitude, and a dangerous tendency to plotting in dark corners, behind closed doors. In His most recent stunt, Emperor Artabanos has called a general election to supposedly justify His democratic mandate – which has never existed in the first place; and I will explain why.
In fact, Artabanos’s life and career, even long before the Emperorship, has been riddled with mischief, backstabbing, plotting, and a general attitude of disregard towards any authority other than His own. Before being elected to Terra Praestoris’s Provincial Assemby for the Teluminan Monarchist Party, or TMP, in 2005, there are very few records of what Artabanos did, where He lived, what His profession was. He served as Assembly Member for two years and was then suddenly bombarded to the Ducal Residence in Astro, where He lived a comfortable life far enough away from central power to be safe, but close enough to exert real influence. As Duke, He enacted several popular reforms and facilitated the rise of the Militant TMP, which eventually started the Inimician Civil War in 2011.
Even here, six years ago, Artabanos’s political fox-likeness showed already. His covert hiding of many TMP loyalists and party officials after the group had officially been declared renegade by the Republican government showed He knew where power would go. As a matter of fact, a source close to the Praestoris Ducal government told me they were certain Artabanos regularly attended the Republican government at Telum and was a personal friend of many Republican administrators. This source also confirms Artabanos deliberately kept a low profile during the Civil War, yet met with William Jameson, the later Emperor William, almost every day.
The same Emperor who was later assassinated by environmentalist extremists in early 2013. Or was He? Because CCTV images show Artabanos arriving into the Imperial Palace an hour or so before the explosion that killed His Imperial Majesty took place, and also shows Him leaving, accompanied by a hooded man, fifteen minutes after the blast. Furthermore, there was no independent autopsy of Emperor William’s body, and there are no records of interment at any public morgue or hospital, despite official reports saying the Emperor only died a day after the explosion. Could it, therefore, be the case that Artabanos smuggled William out of the palace, and faked His death? If so, William must still be out there.
Consequently, I went looking for the former Emperor. Traces were very thin and sources very reluctant to state anything, adding to the mystery of this case. Eventually, I was led to the countryside of Terra Rosarum, not far from Orbis Terrarum. As I was on my way to a location I had been told may house political refugees, I was suddenly pulled over by an army of Imperial Guardsmen, who summarily arrested me without charge and brought me to Patricio, where I was held for two days. During my captivity, I was subjected to mental and physical intimidation and torture, including waterboarding, regular beatings, and dehydration. I was instructed never to release anything to the press about where I’d been, and never to return anywhere near it again.
So is William still out there? If so, He may be joined by political outcasts such as Lord Gerard Sergent, Ann Moszkowicz, Rita Fortuyn, even Nicholas Benfield, all of whom fell victim to Artabanos’s plays over the years.
But what would Artabanos’s motive have been for faking William’s assassination? After all, He did not stand in the consequent Imperial Election, and retained a low profile for at least a year after the explosion. It appears from evidence, however, that He may have simply been paving the way for a smoother transition to power. During Emperor Hugh’s reign, Artabanos continued to attend meetings with Palace officials, Parliamentarians, military officials, and major lobbyists and donors, who all appear by their tax returns to have donated vast sums of money to the Artabanos Foundation in 2013 and 2014.
But that is far from all: during the remarkably short period of Emperor Hugh’s sickness, Artabanos’s visits to the Palace increased. Moreover, from records it appears the Imperial Physician was dismissed two weeks prior to Hugh’s sickness announcement, and replaced by Thomas Ewell, not even a doctorate holder. What he did hold, however, was a position in the Praestorian administration, having worked closely with Artabanos the four years prior to Hugh’s abdication. An unfortunate case of chance? I think not.
Moreover, I consulted several physicians and GPs on the effects of Crohn’s disease, the illness Hugh was supposedly diagnosed with, and all said there does not have to be any real impact on a person’s day-to-day life as a result of Crohn’s. Dietary adjustments and certain drugs help alleviate symptoms, and there would certainly not be any reason for the vast, vast majority, if not all Crohn’s sufferers, to appear in a wheelchair, or exceptionally frail. As Hugh did.
And who appeared behind Emperor Hugh, behind His non-physician, when the Emperor’s abdication was announced? Yes, Artabanos of Astro, supposedly in his capacity as Chairman of the Ducal Council – another office which I would like to know more about, by the way; it seems to be more influential than many think, even though it hasn’t appeared in any news outlet for years.
There is ample evidence, meanwhile, to suggest Artabanos used intimidation and limitation tactics in key voter areas to manipulate the election result of 2014. These include the closure of seven voting centres in predominantly Green areas (as Judy Speller, the Green candidate, was Artabanos’s prime opponent for the Emperorship) on the grounds of terror threats, the pressing for the inclusion of 17-year olds in the franchise (younger voters were massively pro-Artabanos at the time); the manipulation of postal ballots (records show at least 65% of postal votes went to Artabanos, a disproportionate amount); manipulation of in absentia votes by pro-Artabanos officials (of all proxy votes, 71% were cast for Him by a relatively narrow selection of people who all cast the limit of 6 proxy votes per person); and, most importantly, ballot box stuffing. According to various sources, evidence of ballot box stuffing was present in well over a third of voting centres across the country.
Yet none of these aspects, which were reported by voting centre officials and returning officers, were properly investigated. Moreover, and worse still, CCTV footage of the Ducal Palace in Astro shows that Artabanos hosted a party for returning officers and voting centre chairpersons just days before the vote, reportedly to “celebrate democracy”, but I would suggest this was no more than a ploy to recruit election officials to stuff more ballot boxes.
The same tactics were repeated in the Imperial ‘by-election’ of September 2014, a reincarnation of which we are seeing this year. Indeed, election fraud was made even easier by Artabanos being in a position of power: intimidation, disinformation, and the release of artificial votes, are easier to achieve when one is pulling the strings. I have little to no doubt that the same tactics will be used this September.
In terms of internal disputes, the evidence is rife, too. Twice we have seen the evidence of armed insurgencies in the Imperial Palace: the most recent was the antecedent to a conflict that brought the nation to the brink of civil war. The earlier, however, was dismissed as being a training exercise, with explosions credited to a multifold gas leak. What exactly happened on the 23rd of October 2015 has been covered up by an incredibly thick layer of political maneuvering, including a complete scrapping and restructuring of Inimicus’s executive, ridding the country of a Parliamentarily accoutable cabinet. Just under two months later, Keith Carmichael ‘conveniently’ caused a media-drawing row by assassinating two of Inimicus’s Cardinals, which turned the public eye from the Imperial Palace to the Vatican and the consequent diplomatic tensions.
In February 2016, we suddenly saw proceedings of the National Imperial Council appear on the Inimician Broadcasting Company’s Palace channel. IBC Palace commenced immediate broadcasting of an Article XXV procedure, which would see the NIC attempt to depose the Emperor. According to a Skype interview I conducted with Rita Fortuyn, who has gone into hiding after being hunted by the Emperor for moving a motion against Him, when it became common knowledge in the inner chambers of the Palace that Article XXV was going to be moved, the Emperor and His cronies started buying and intimidating Imperial Councillors. According to Fortuyn, this culminated in an armed conflict inside the Council chamber – inside our democratic legislature! – between pro and anti-Imperialists. This is surely one of the grossest insults to Inimician democracy by the very man who is bound by Constituional oath to protect it.
Meanwhile, Artabanos was spotted dining with a stranger on a supposed ‘sick day’ on 30th May 2015. Who this stranger was, was kept a secret for years. But Fortuyn could also provide some clarity here: she says the unknown man was Artabanos’s lover, and was presented to the Council two weeks after the dinner as His fiancé. The Council was sceptical, which resulted in more Imperial pressure on and intimidation of Councillors. Key allies to the Emperor included, and continue to include, Wilfred Cocx, Marquis Maximillian de Barrington, and Lord Christopher Strathclyde, who all apparently helped Him restrain Councillors’ opinions.
These are just some of the extremely apparent examples that make clear to me, and should make clear to every sane Inimician, that Artabanos is far from the benevolent ruler He wants us to see Him as. He is not only mean-minded and evil, but will also stop at nothing to achieve His goals; His tactics include murder, intimidation, fraud, and corruption, and there is no point in sight where He’ll stop. The upcoming election is a play: but a play that can backfire on Artabanos if we all vote with our consciences. Vote tactically for the runner-up, and we may yet beat the Emperor and strike Him from His Throne. However, if His Imperial Majesty wins another landslide – possibly or probably because of electoral fraud – we may yet see the end of democracy in this country within ten years of our gaining it – if we haven’t lost it already. Don’t fall for it.