At third watch, Chancellor Gao climbed the eighty steps to the throne. Brass braziers lit his passage, the smell of incense heavy in the air. The moon was hidden behind the clouds. An auspicious omen.
Emperor Leung sat beneath a canopy, wearing a mian guan with jade tassels.
“Lord of Ten Thousand Years,” Gao said as he kowtowed, presenting the alchemists’ latest attempt at the immortality elixir.
The emperor drank. The chancellor waited.
The clouds moved, and Emperor Leung’s remaining ear fell off.
Gao withdrew, smiling, kissing the floor. “Your forgiveness, Son of Heaven. I will have them try again.”
Author’s Note: I took a course on ancient Chinese history recently, and learned about how certain emperors were obsessed with finding the fabled elixir of life. Unfortunately, a lot of the potions that were offered to them were made from toxic ingredients.