Shadow of the Empress 2: The Bedchamber Court 韦后之乱


The Empress seethed upon the throne, supreme yet full of worries- she saw daggers everywhere. A Daoist proverb echoed endlessly in her head: "There is no set pattern to bad and good fortune," -all who is lowly will one day be lift up, and conversely, all who have risen must one day be cast down. Such is the nature of fortune, such is the nature of the universe. It is this thorn within her heart that would instigate one of the most intrigue- filled periods in Tang history. Rather than open warfare and expansionist campaigns- the kind often seen in the early periods of Tang history, this would be a war of shadows, where powerful women vied with each other to reign over the entire realm, of escalating assassinations, purges and counter purges until real blood- royal blood were drawn within the imperial palace itself by thousands of warring guards.


BACKDROP


The year is 705, the august and megalomaniacal Empress Wu (the first Woman "Emperor" of China who founded her own dynasty) had just passed at the ancient age of 81 after 48 years of presiding over the affairs of the Tang Empire. Her death would have seemed to many as a shock, for in an age where the average lifespan was 40, she would have lived so long that she outlasted the lifespan of her many children and many, many generation of enemies. She would have destroyed so many of rival kingdoms that many simply thought she couldn't die.

The Empress' sheer force of personality was so immense that even when one of her sons unseated her power in a midnight coup, the empress simply emerged out of her palace in front of all his generals and soldiers- without any words or gestures, just the fiery gaze of her eyes cowed them all to apologize for rudely awakening her slumber- then returned to her bed in peace. In her final days, though removed from direct rule, Wu still finished her career as an "Emperor," whose edicts are still regarded as the de facto policies of the realm.

The Massive Longmen Grottoes: Empress Wu's face was made into the centerpiece of the universal Buddha, while the chief members of her cabinet were carved into flanking guardian spirits and Arhats. For size comparrison- click here. Wu's megalomaniacal ambition was nothing short of the First Emperor of China or Mao Ze Dong.

In her death- the Empress still casted a vast shadow over the Empire, for many characteristics that existed during her 48 year reign still remained in the political climate of the restored Empire- that of weak, easily manipulated men and a whole cast of extremely ambitious women who wanted to emulate Wu's daring example. To these women- who would be the main players of this scramble for power, even in Wu's ultimate failure, her career only represented a failed experiment, a path to be retrod, a road map to be better charted by themselves. The war over the monumental (literally) power-vacuum once held by the Empress - would be a war of shadows and absolute ruthlessness. To them, their own rise to power would surely eclipse that of the fallen Empress.


THE INNER COURT


I should preface that before I continue with this section that the sexual politics of China during this period was not only peculiar by the generally conservative Chinese standards, but it was also quite liberal in many ways that is still unmatched in the modern world.

I have always described the Tang dynasty in as having the military prowess of a Roman Empire, the high culture and learning of Enlightenment Europe, the depravity and intrigue of both them combined. Because the Tang adhered to traditions of the nomadic steppe races which respected the status of women, Tang women were often highly educated, liberal, and extremely preoccupied with their appearance- thus producing some of the most remarkable beauties and wits in Chinese history.


If one were to have take a look at their giant jewel studded "pompadores" hairstyles, translucent negligee, and form fitting robes which they wore in public, one can easily imagine the great status they not only confidently held in East Asia society (some even married Sassanian royal exiles), but the entire religiously dominated world in the 7-10th centuries. They were a rare combination of the voluptuous classical Greco-Roman beauties combined with the make up, trappings, and the hairstyles of the Geisha- same goes for their highly formalized poetic speech. I say this because Empress Wei and her daughter were both considered two of the fairest in this world of art and intrigue where power and intimacy are tightly intertwined.

And we have already met this daughter. Remember the poor babe named 李裹兒 Li Guo'er (literally meaning "the child that was wrapped") that was born on the bitter road while her family was in exile? When she returned to Chang An not only did she grew up to be an over- confident teenager but also blossomed into: ~according to nearly all Tang chronicles- and even her enemies, the most beautiful Princess in the entire empire.


...And also someone who was by all accounts extremely promiscuous and spoiled. Considering that many of the pampered Tang aristocrats made the highly privileged Japanese court at Kyoto (which was based on the centralized Tang aristocracy) look like a rustic country club- to have many contemporary aristocrats openly stating this is fact shows that this Princess Anle 安樂 (pronounced "An L-ugh" lit. Princess of perpetual happiness) was "spoiled" on quite another level.


When she returned from exile with her family the aged Empress Wu dotted on her and gave her everything she wanted, and after her parents seized power they also gave her the same pampered treatment. She was their favorite above all others, and ever since her full-blooded brother Prince Li Chongrun was forced to commit suicide by her incensed grandmother, she was the only blood link that cemented the relation between Empress Wei and her husband, for (as mentioned above) all of Li Xian's other children were born of other concubines. It was because of this blood bond that the two women next directed their fury at the other member of Li Xian's family.

More than one reports mentioned the two women terrorizing Emperor Zhongzong's other children. Frequently, Princess Anle would instigate mobs of palace servants to carry lacquered staves and break in the quarters of her frightened half brothers and terrorize them in order to exert her dominance- though it could be easily assumed her ego was born from her fundamental insecurity at having to relegate her father's power and legacy to her the children of her mother's competitor's. Other times Empress Wei would join in the torments as well by personally exploiting occasions to "punish" the other concubines for any transgression she perceived- punishment which would have certainly fallen upon their children. It would seem, in all of these occasions the indecisive Li Xian either ignored it or did not interfere with these terrors.

Princess Anle was also an exhibitionist of rather shocking proportions even for the liberal Tang dynasty, she was recorded to have once danced in a long shimmering dress woven from the plumage of hundreds if not thousands of colorful tropical birds called the "Dress of Hundred Birds," composed of feathers made from peacock, crane, macaws, and many other birds and studded with pearls, agate, red coral, gems, amber, and diamonds that costed 30,000 taels of silver, which equaled to one entire year of royal Treasury.

She had two made- and each was tailored to the contours of her body so when she danced, every move she made would flash a rippling shimmer from the sheer volume of prismatic colors from each direction, -one of such dress Anle dedicated to her mother, and loved by the Empress Wei.

In one such instances of unchecked domestic abuse, Princess Anle was reported to have bursted into the room of her terrified half brother Li Chongjun, despite that Chongjun was Zhongzong's Crown Prince (the prospective Tang Emperor) and the oldest male child- thus, by custom in the Agnatic-Primoginiture society, or patrilineal inheritance- he would be more respected than Anle within the clan, in one recorded instance Anle would let her husband assault him while calling him 奴才 -"slave" or "slave garbage" on account of his mother's low birth. 

This wouldn't be the only occasion where the boy was attacked, for Empress Wei also strongly disliked Li Chongjun and frequently accused him of having implicated her own son Li Chongrun's death.


Further, Princess Anle even openly proposed to Emperor Zhongzong (while Chongjun was present) to depose Li Chongjun and instead- make her a "Crown Princess." Even to the liberal Tang society- such concept completely new and unheard of- China since pre- history had always adhered to the patriarchal precepts of Agnatic primogeniture- the right by law and custom of the legitimate, firstborn son to inherit his parent's entire or main estate, to have a daughter declared as the sole inheritor of all the clan's assets and power while the eldest son is alive, filial, and of sound mind was- well, to the times almost unfathomable. Despite the initial rejection of her proposals- Anle would often cite her grandmother as a precedent. 



After months of hearing information discrediting Chongjun and turning a blind eye to Princess Anle's tantrums against him, Emperor Zhongzong finally responded (either out of genuine distrust of his son or in a feeble effort to protect him) and exiled Li Chongfu to Jun Prefecture to serve as prefect. It should be mentioned, though Princess Anle and the Empress triumphed in ejecting the Crown Prince from the palace, in the grand schemes of dynastic inheritance, they've changed nothing. It's the bedfellows they've made that would turn the pair from bitter and vengeful to out right dangerous.



THE BEDCHAMBER COURT

Remember when you were first introduced to the shady lover of the Empress and Princess Anle's ever watchful uncle Wu Sansi? It would turn out this character was at the epicenter of a web intrigues in the heart of Zhongzong's inner court- in turn playing the part of a bored family friend, a pimp, and a whisperer to the Emperor- all while he was bedding the Empress. An eternal flatterer, he survived through flattering his Aunt the Empress Wu and Wu's lovers, first the monk-whore Huaiyi, then the two Zhang Brothers.

A life long aristocratic fop, Wu Sansi would also prove to be one of the most dangerous characters at court

The Whisperer

When we talk of danger, know that Wu Sansi had always been dangerous, and has never- not been powerful. The fact that for 20 years he was Empress Wu's favorite adviser and taskmaster proved his long experience in both holding power and ruthless consistency in purging all of the Wu clan's enemies.

During the then- Dowager Empress Wu's regency, Wu Sansi was made her minister of defense (夏官尚書, Xiaguan Shangshu). Both he and his cousin Wu Chengsi advised Empress Dowager Wu to find excuses to kill two senior members of the imperial Li clan, Wu's uncles- in- law, Prince Li Yuanjia (李元嘉) the Prince of Han and Li Lingkui (李靈夔) after they were killed, Wu Sansi persuaded the Empress to turn on one of her deceased husband's brothers, the princes: Li Zhen the Prince of Yue and Li Zhen's son Li Chong the Prince of Langye- in turn provoking them to rebel against the empress in 688 and for the Empress to kill them all and their families.


But both Wu Sansi and Empress Wu were not remotely done, and took the opportunity to also force Li Yuanjia and Li Lingkui, as well as many other members of the Li clan- including two of Wu's own sons, Prince Li Xian (spelled differently, Zhongzong's elder brother, and Li Hong to commit suicide.)

His power and influence was such that by 693, when the newly made "Emperor" Wu Zetian made sacrifices to heaven and earth, she offered the sacrifices herself first, followed by Wu Chengsi, and then Wu Sansi. In 694, Wu Sansi led a group of non-Han chieftains and erected a massive iron pillar be erected to commemorate Wu Zetian's reign with text on it to deprecate Tang and to praise Zhou, and Wu Zetian agreed, In 695, Wu Sansi was made the Minister of Rites and was put in charge of editing (and whitewashing) the entirety of Tang imperial history. Often, he consorted with the Zhang brothers and give them advise on who they should execute next.


When the Zhang brothers were slain and the Empress Wu deposed in 705, Wu Sansi's influence at court did not skip a single beat. Rather- as he always does, he promptly made introduction of himself to the new rising power and assured them of his usefulness- by introducing the restored Zhongzong Emperor to his lover, the illustrious beauty 上官婉兒 Shangguan Wan'er (pronounced "Wang Er")- who was both one of the most exemplary beauty at court, but most importantly- also Empress Wu's own secretary and Prime Minister (a figure that many said to be the Empress' Shadow for 30 years during both Empress Wu's shadow rule behind her puppet sons, and 10 years of tenure as sole Emperor of China.)

Quiet, bookish, and always had her mind set on the affairs of the state, 上官婉兒 Shangguan Wan'er was probably one of the most capable and simultaneously interesting characters during the reign of Wu and Zhongzong. She was said to possess a naturally pale completion and a keen "masculine" focus. A criminal's brand marks her right cheek. 

The Family Friend

The affair that was kindled between Zhongzong Emperor and Shangguan Wan'er was such that by the time the five loyalist ministers who had acted and restored Li Xian advised him to suppress the lingering power of the Wu princes and instead recruit more loyal Tang ministers, the Emperor took Wu Sansi's side instead- and, as mentioned above, progressively purged them and killed them all. Soon, Wu Sansi was publicly introduced as a trusted adviser of Emperor Zhongzong. Thus, without a single public speech, without an appearance before any armored columns in the entire empire, Wu was able to pimp his way to greater power while completely remaining in the shadows.

Such instances of "wife swap" behaviors akin to swinger couples, were not entirely taboo during the ever- liberal Tang dynasty, in fact, within Tang society it was not uncommon for father and sons to successively court the same woman, nor is it uncommon for mother and daughters to successively become intimate with a man. Historians have attributed this set of behavior to the steppe cultures of the  north, while homosexuality- or as the Tang would have called it "Way of Southern Love," or "Love of Bitten Sleeve" would be a southern habit.

It was a supreme act of irony that this lifelong foe of the Li Clan, of Li Xian's own person, of Li Xian'd murdered brothers, murdered cousins, murdered uncles, and the defiler of the memories of Li Xian's father and grandfathers, a man who never had compunctions turning his back on his long time associates be made a trusted ally of the imperial household- worse yet, an intimate of the literal imperial "house"- next to the very persons of Li Xian's wife and daughters. After his introduction to Empress Wei, they immediately became lovers and would frequently be seen in each other's quarters (Emperor Zhongzong was either unaware of, or implicitly approved of the affair.)


The new imperial household at the elevation of Emperor Zhongzong in 705. Using sexual favors as his trump card, Wu was able to make Li Xian interested in Wu's lover- Shangguan Wan'er, through this favor, Li Xian took lady Wan'er as his new concubine,  as a result of this service, Wu would have been introduced to and become intimate bedfellows with Wei. From this almost incestuous intermingling of the parent's generation, Wu would also have his son marry Princess Anle.

The lateral spider- like maneuvering of Wu Sansi would have quickly established a network of alliances that stabilized the status of the displaced (and falling) Wu clan. This very act would cement Wu clan's hold on power and firmly entangle the bonds of the Wu and Li Xian's family in an alliance. This act would also  irrevocably antagonize the outer court of Tang- loyalist ministers against the inner court and lead all of our characters down an irrevocable path.


Perhaps most importantly- in both highlighting Wu's charisma and Li Xian's susceptibility to be influenced, Wu Sansi's son Wu Chongxun (武崇訓) was married to Princess Anle. To highlight the strange taboo of the entire matter, consider that he- as the father-in-law to Princess Anle, was also simultaneously bedding her own mother while his own son beds the royal princess. However we feel about this character, one must step back and marvel at this man's sheer cunning and charisma, that in the very same year where he could- (and by all means should) loose all hold onto power, he not only maintained his power, but became exponentially more influential, taking the Emperor's ear, the Emperor's wife, and the Emperor's own daughter's hand for his son while massacring all of his enemies.


The very fact that he was able to unite a whole war front of blood bonds against all his enemies and make the Emperor's own clan do his dirty work in the span of months is nothing shorter than...brilliant. What was the saying about power? That it was all but an illusion, a shadow on the wall? It would seem Wu Sansi understood this lesson well- for he seemed to disregard both fate and propriety and merely tap danced like an improviser, a magician. Remember the part where he had accusations that Empress Wei was having affairs posted publicly in Luoyang, then accused the five plot leaders of being responsible for such "slanders?" If the poor Zhongzong Emperor was genuinely not aware that Wu had been bedding his Empress and turned the totality of his anger on the ministers, Wu must've been laughing (with his Empress Wei) at the outcome.


It was said that after news of the five coup leaders' deaths reached Wu Sansi, he simply joked, "I do not know who are good people and who are bad people on this earth. I only know that people who are good to me are good, and people who are bad to me are bad."

During the summer of 706, a court official named Wei Yuejiang sent a report to the emperor charing that Empress Wei had conspired with Wu Sansi in organizing a rebellion. The Emperor did not believe the story and wanted to have the official executed. Later though, heeding the warning of some ministers, the emperor reduced his sentence to a severe beating instead of execution and exiled him to Lingnan (modern Vietnam.) Although- like the case of the five exiled ministers we learned before, the unfortunate Wei was still killed by General Zhou Rengui (who was elevated by Empress Wei for purging the southern chieftains who had slaughtered her clan) under Empress Wei's orders.


Very soon, Wu would hold monopoly on all the reports the Emperor received. He would be influential in the exile of Crown Prince Chongjun, as by now, Empress Wei, Wu Sansi, and Princess Anle and Anle's husband Wu Chongxun would have been inseparable, and all four took turns discrediting and insulting the Crown Prince, even in his exile, Li Chongjun would never forgive the four of them.


MIXED REIGN

In spring 706, Emperor Zhongzong issued an edict that, in an unprecedented manner established staffs for seven princesses—Zhongzong's own sister Princess Taiping; his daughters Princesses Changning (Zhongzong and Wei's older daughter, Anle's elder sister), and Princess Anle, Empress Wei's sister Lady of Cheng, Consort Shangguan, plus Shangguan's mother Lady Zheng of Pei. Great powers were also delegated to senior ladies in waiting Ladies Chai and Helou, the court sorceress Diwu Ying'er (第五英兒), and Lady Zhao of Longxi.


Princess Anle had a particularly large staff, and she frequently sold governmental offices- a policy that began under Empress Wu and worsened during these years, even to merchants who were of low social stations as long as they had the money.

Because the offices she sold had their commissions sealed in envelopes that were sealed in a slanted manner to indicate that they needed not to be approved by the examination bureau of government (門下省, Menxia Sheng), they were known as the "slanted-sealed officials" (斜封官, xiefeng guan). It was said that at times, she would even draft edicts for Emperor Zhongzong and then, covering the text of the edicts, ask him to sign them—and that he did so willingly.

In fact, most of the seven openly accepting bribes and were able to recommend several hundreds of people to be officials without approval from the legislative (中書省, Zhongshu Sheng) and examination (門下省, Menxia Sheng) bureaus.


During these years Princess Anle would often compete with Princess Changning in their extravagance, building mansions that were even more luxurious than imperial palaces. At one point, she asked Emperor Zhongzong to bestow on her the imperial pond Kunming Pond (昆明池) -- a request Emperor Zhongzong denied on the account that many commoners fish at Kunming Pond to feed themselves.


Li Guo'er, in anger, seized much private property to create a pond of her own, known as the Dingkun Pond (定昆池, i.e., "the pond that would compete with Kunming"), with many wondrous features that were intended to exceed those of Kunming Pond. She spent enormous amounts of money adorning her private pleasure park, having workers excavate a sixteen-mile circumference lake, dig out a river in the form of the milky way, and pile stones in the form of the sacred Mount Hua. Carpenters also made walkways and pavilions.

By 707, the thousands of newly recruited "officials" would have been little more than loyal wags only loyal to their benefactors- even less of them had any experience in acumen and governance. The civil service system was said to be so overrun with corruption that it was near the brink of collapse.


Despite Princess Anle's overture and rhetoric to open up the offices to members of all stations- Anle had no problem quickly destroying anyone who contradicted her, in 706 when she again requested that she be made "Crown Princess" of the realm- bypassing Li Chongjun entirely. Emperor Zhongzong took the advise by the senior chancellor Wei Yuanzhong and refused her, stunned by this disappointment, Princess Anle very rudely interjected her father and said:

Wei Yuanzhong is simply a carpenter from east of the mountain (east of modern Sanmenxia, Henan), and he has black feet. What does he know about the affairs of state? If that Wu woman (Wu Zetian) could become the Emperor, why cannot the daughter of the Emperor become an Emperor?

It should be pointed out, that when chancellor Wei angered Princess Anle again, she would have him progressively demoted, exiled, and nearly executed- for he died on his way during exile just like the five conspirators.

On a religious note, both Empress Wei and Princess Anle imitated the extremely Buddhist Empress Wu by building many Buddhist temples. Even today, there are still several temples that were built and named during the years of their influence.


However, as ill luck would have it, natural disasters would plague Zhongzong's reign, the Grand Canal and the Yellow River both flooded during 706 and 708, further depleting the state's treasury through the relief funds. For the superstitious Chinese, who had enjoyed relatively peaceful and prosperous lives- with very little taxes throughout the five decade of deft rule under Empress Wu, sections of the population began to openly doubt the regime's capabilities, even worse, to question its legitimacy to rule at all.


The only exception comes consistently from the camp of Lady Shangguan Wan'er. And just like when she diligently ruled as China's first female Prime Minister under Empress Wu, lady Wan'er never stopped governing China even during these years. At her suggestion, Empress Wei submitted formal proposals to Emperor Zhongzong to require the people to observe three-year mourning periods for their mothers who had been divorced by their fathers (previously, such a mourning period was not required for a divorced mother) and reducing the period where a man was considered an adult male (and therefore subject to military and labor conscription) from the ages to 20 to 59, to the ages of 22 to 58, in order to try to gain the people's gratitude. Emperor Zhongzong approved the proposals.

Later Zhongzong established an imperial academy with four imperial scholars, eight assistant scholars and 12 associate scholars in an attempt to select officials with literary talent to serve as the imperial administrators. He often held feasts that would also serve as literary competitions, and he had Shangguan Wan'er- perhaps the best poet of them all to serve as the judge at these competitions.


THE RETURN OF THE PRINCE


The exiled Prince Li Chongjun had grew up into an erratic and paranoid youth, constantly terrified of assassination attempts and still harboring extreme resentment over Li Guo'er's repeated attempts to displace him. On August 7th 707, his anger erupted when he marched on the imperial capital with the ethnically Mohe (ancestor of the Khitans) general Li Duozuo and Emperor Zhongzong's cousin Li Qianli (李千里) the Prince of Cheng.

→ Music: ← Echo Game



Without warning, Li Chongjun's forces stormed the capital with the intention of removing the four of his tormentors and forcing his father to abdicate. To accomplish this, he divided his forces in two groups- one with the aim of storming the imperial Daming Palace, the other were composed of killers ordered to kill off his enemies from the Wu clan.

His soldiers first bursted into Wu Sansi's mansion and promptly killed Wu Sansi and Wu Chongxun, after achieving this, they marched on to the palace, trying to seize Consort Shangguan, Empress Wei, and Li Guo'er.


However, the rebels hesitated at attacking the palace and the thousands of imperial guards fought back. After Li Duozuo's son-in-law Ye Huli (野呼利)- one of the main rebel generals had his guts ripped out in a deadly battle by the eunuch guard commander Yang Sixu (楊思勗), the conspirator's morale wavered. On the other side of the Palace, Chongjun's forces armed themselves to break into the imperial residence.

Surrounded by his frightened women, Li Xian uncharacteristically mustered up a heroic burst of courage and rose up upon a balcony before the army that waited to break into the imperial compound, seeing that one of the conspirator generals has already fallen, he instead screamed at the masses of armored soldiers and made a personal appeal to the soldiery that gathered beneath him.


Turn on your commanders, he shouted, and you will all be pardoned! I only hold them responsible!

And it worked. Within seconds the armored soldiers turned on their commanders and proceeded to cut them to pieces. Within minutes, the "coup" was finished, with dozens of its commanders slain or literally torn apart by the soldiers- who now have taken the head of the conspirators to the Emperor and all apologized for their involvement in the matter.

The Crown Prince Li Chongjun would have barely made out of the fray riding at top steed out of Chang An's city gates with some 100 riders  toward the Qinling Mountains, but soldiers deserted on the way, and by the time he reached Hu (戶縣, near Chang An), he only had several soldiers with him. As they were resting under a tree, the soldiers killed him, beheaded him and surrendered.


Emperor Zhongzong presented Li Chongjun's head to the imperial ancestral temple (in other words, treating him as having committed treason), but Princess Anle was not pleased, she then ordered it presented it to the caskets of Wu Sansi and Wu Chongxun. Zhongzong then hung Li Chongjun's head on the walls over the entrance into the imperial city. 

Zhongzong buried Wu Sansi and Wu Chongxun with great imperial expense, Wu Sansi was posthumously recreated the Prince of Liang with the posthumous name of Xuan (宣, "responsible") and Wu Chongxun was made the Prince of Lu. Princess Anle wanted Wu Chongxun to be buried with honors due an emperor, and Emperor Zhongzong initially was inclined to agree, but after the official Lu Can (盧粲) advised against it, pointing out that to do so would set the precedence that they would be seen and categorized as Emperors, that they had no merit in such claim, and that if they were elevated, then Princess Anle would be technically wife to an Emperor that never was- Zhongzong changed his mind— Anle, in anger, had Lu demoted and then exiled to be the prefect of Chen Prefecture (陳州, roughly modern Zhoukou, Henan). 

The Wu and Li imperial households at 707 after the first instance of open bloodshed. Chongjun's uprising would have made a significant dent on the Wu clan's power- there were still powerful Wu clansmen that remained, but they would be in a more vulnerable position than before. Furthermore, the position of Princess Anle also became uncertain, as her new bachelorship would leave her without natural allies. 

As for the head of the hated prince, none of Li Chongjun's staff members, fearful that they would be accused of treason themselves, dared to approach Li Chongjun's body, but the secretary general of Yonghe County (永和, in modern Linfen, Shanxi), Ning Jiaxu (甯嘉勗), took off his own shirt, wrapped Li Chongjun's head in it and wept bitterly— as a result he was demoted at Anle's goading to be exiled to the distant Xingping County (興平, in modern Foshan, Guangdong).

Music: ← Red Forest

Despite punishing all who even shown the slightest sympathy or empathy to the fallen Prince, there was something else that greatly troubled both Empress Wei and Princess Anle.


Something was out there...It seemed that during Chongjun's years away from the seat of power, some unknown faction of conspirators were able to make contacts with him- rich conspirators too, so rich they were not only able to tap a powerful commander to do his bidding but also with enough funds to furnish an entire army to openly march on the imperial palace.

Frightful, yes...but also a perfect excuse to get rid of all their enemies.


Join us next chapter for the two women's attacks, 
a sudden death, and according to history, 
a purge of all purges.




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