Warning: This has spoilers from up to 1x20 and it's more of a character study than anything else. I would apologize for the general incoherency but if you're familiar with my writing at all, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

empires are the antithesis of unity
(––Klaus Mikaelson, 1x17)

"It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace." ––Chuck Palahniuk

It starts a bit like this in Klaus Mikaelson's erratic nightmares: a witch, a human, a werewolf, and a vampire sit down at a table together and before long realize they have far too much in common for it to be a coincidence. He is their constant and the cause of the destruction that has been brought upon their home. Sweating and in a panicked rage, he wakes up and immediately pours himself a drink. The truth, of course, varies from the stories his subconscious dream–world tells him, but an imminent uprising is all he can clearly fathom. He will not let his ambitions turn to dust in the wind.

Davina Claire sees ghosts everywhere she goes – Tim, Sophie, and people she doesn't even know. They're not real ghosts, but bright and brutal snapshots from her memory that she can't seem to control. Why, she whispers into the darkness, fingernails dirtied with tree roots and overcome with exhaustion at the atoms that often rearrange to show her a vision of Klaus's face, reminding her of wounds that heal but scars that never will, why? She supposes, as a bittersweet laugh escapes her to precede the thought, that the tragedies and trials she undergoes are simply a side effect of being a child of war. It's a small comfort to note that when she screams, glass shatters and the ground beneath her feet shakes like war is near. Some things never change.

Camille O'Connell, contrary to popular opinion, has not fallen victim to or failed to fight off her demons. In the mornings, her mouth tastes like blood and lead and thorns from dried up roses in the cemetery, but surely that shouldn't be a sole indicator of insanity. Despite promising herself to not get caught up in the supernatural battles that surround her on a daily basis, the grudge she holds against the witches and at times her own kind grow to be an unbearable pain, Sean and Kieran's names two heartbeats away from being voiced on her lips at any given moment. Psychology degree aside, she rapidly learns that power, even in the hands of the right person, is a dangerous thing. In fact, power in the hands of the right person is a myth. Power is power, and that along with the struggle for it is all there is.

Hayley Marshall isn't sure how to be Andrea Lebonair, or if she ever can. That girl died with her birth parents, was ash buried deep in the sea far before she turned thirteen and ran away, reborn. She catches certain shades of herself in reflections from the broken shards of mirrors, small bodies of water across the woods, and dead friends' eyes. The more she loses, the less she tries to forget. When it gets hard to breathe she has to remind herself of how she exists and how it matters, because sometimes it's difficult to believe it actually does. She doesn't belong to Klaus or Elijah or Jackson, nor does she owe Marcel any debts. There's a strange nostalgia that comes with stepping into the role of queen without even recognizing that she has. The least she can do is assure her people a better fate than her own.

Marcel Gerard refuses to kneel this time around. A century ago, he would have, and he did, and now he has nothing to show for it. He'll give up everything, but not his dignity. Klaus knows this, which is why he stares back at him, unwavering, when Marcel claims "I was born in chains. I'm not going to die in them," as his great exiting words, the anxiously anticipated finale of New Orleans as their lives and deaths flash before their eyes. After all this time, he hasn't accepted the reality that he won't be given the opportunity to let go that easily. Kingdoms crumble much quicker than they are built, but Marcel vows to die before witnessing his city go down in irreversible flames. He has nothing left to say when Klaus questions his intentions behind all he's done for individuals he has no apparent connection to, because this is what his chosen father turned best friend turned enemy will never understand – the motivations you can't entirely explain are the ones that turn out to be the most meaningful.

In a way, Klaus tears them all apart and puts them back together again, partly because he can, but mostly because he wants to. Even though empires are the antithesis of unity, this is how it will forever be. Royalists faced risk from rebels even in the strongest aristocracies, not to mention that the founding fathers of the country he now stands tall in believed democracies to be a tyrannical sort of majority faction. He, on the other hand, will construct a nation–state even if it kills him. Yet he doesn't come to terms with how no matter the circumstance, Davina and Camille and Hayley may not have any favors to pay or reasons to love or be loyal to him, but it is Marcel they will always quietly respect, Marcel who is essentially the better version of him. It was respect that kept a king like Marcel reigning on a throne with no threat to his rule except usurpation.

A/N: Yo all I'm saying is that nothing better happen to any of my faves in the last couple episodes of this season because just no. If you've made it this far, I'd really appreciate reviews!