"The emperor is dead. Assassinated."

Larsa was sitting in his bedroom staring out his window. This small wing of the palace had been built for him upon his birth. The windows all looked out to the west, and skylights were fitted in most of the ceilings to allow daylight to stream in at all hours. He was watching the sun set over the golden boulevards, pitched alleys and humming cabs of Archades.

Let there be no mistake--he loved his city. Just not when he was an enforced resident.

He had one leg crossed over the other, his index finger resting against his lower lip. He'd ordered his guards outside, and they had complied. But he could see the shifty cast to their eyes, and he knew that they were truly allied with his brother. They were no more his guards than he was free to leave his home. He was a prisoner of his older brother, until and unless some miracle happened to change the situation for the better.

"You appear shaken."

A week earlier, his grace the Gran Kiltias watched Larsa with a kind but concerned gaze. Now that his eyes were open, Larsa felt a bit more comfortable in the man's presence. Gran Kiltias or no, being spoken to so indirectly as in one's mind was unnerving.

"I suppose I am," he replied, nodding slowly. His mind was whirring.

Dead? His father, dead? That smooth accent had declared it with such ease that it seemed Margrace had assumed he had already known of it. Yet his companions had seemed just as surprised as he. It could only have been a few hours hence that it had occurred...and he had been barely been gone from the capital a few days. How could such a thing happen and be planned in such a short period of time?

It could not have. That was for certain. Someone had been planning this for some time. Years, perhaps.

"You would not do well to think of things in the context of politics," the Gran Kiltias advised, apparently aware of what he must be thinking. "You must step back, young Larsa. Give yourself a moment. You are not simply a prince who has lost the emperor, you are a son who has lost a father."

Larsa tipped his head up, brown hair sliding away from his eyes as he gazed out the high windows. "I should have been there," he said, his tone even. "I should have been there, protected my father with my sword. I would have given my life for him."

"Rest assured that no one doubts your courage," he said to Larsa'a back. "But you could have done nothing. There was no possible way that you could have known what would happen to your father while you were away. That aside...you were away fighting to keep hundreds, if not thousands of deaths from occurring. That is noble reason enough that your father would be proud if he had known."


Larsa turned to face the old man with a grim expression on his face. "My father took pride in the family name his sons bore, but not their actions. I heard him say so on more than one occaison."

Anastasis was silent, waiting for Larsa to go on. "He spoke of my brothers with great grief and regret. He spent much time mourning them. He also feared for my brother Vayne, that he might go the same way as the other two one day. He seemed to think...well. I will not fall into the pattern my brothers did. But I could not prove to him through any action of mine that I would not one day be tempted to turn my thoughts away from the needs of the people and the needs of my family, and think only of myself."

"But how may I say that he was wrong? Look what has happened to my brother." He permitted himself a frown, looking away from the Gran Kiltias toward the door to the main throne room, where, as far as he knew, his friends still stood. And he did consider them friends, after the time they had spent together. The Lady Ashe was well-meaning, if over-zealous, and her compatriots among sky pirates and adolescents were, as a whole, good people.

"What has happened to your brother?" Anastasis prompted, his wise old eyes fixed on the young heir. Larsa glanced over to him, his train of thought broken.

"My brother killed my father. I am as sure of that as I am of anything in this world."

He paced away from him, walking toward the windows. "The senate are a power hungry bunch, but not this foolish. They would never attempt to dispose of an ailing old man who most likely did not have much time left in this world. He needed no help from them to hurry him on to the next, and they are patient. If they had truly wanted to overthrow my family, they would have just waited for his death, not killed him and provoked Vayne in this way. No one but my brother could have planned this, has enough allies in the Judges and the tenacity and cleverness--"

"You are, again, viewing this as a political matter," Anastasis interjected, kindly. "Larsa, you have lost someone dear to you. And no matter what you believe of yourself in your father's eyes, I am sure that he was proud of your accomplishments. You are too hard on yourself."

Larsa stared out the window, his eyes fixed on some point far beyond the stained glass of the temple. "So..." he said softly, unmoving, "He truly is dead. My brother has done it. I am...alone, now."

He turned slowly to the Gran Kiltias, his head bowed. A tear betrayed him, slipping to create a perfect circle on the colorful tiled floor.

He walked slowly forward, and stopped as he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Not alone, young Larsa. Not at all."

Larsa, the boy, turned to the Gran Kiltias, embraced him, and began to cry.