PREFATORY NOTES

1. "The Emperor's Heir" follows the history of Kaddar as I have imagined it in "Sub Malis Principibus" and "Inheritance." It might even be considered a sequel, or a series of sequels, to those stories.

2. The universe belongs to Tamora Pierce. I take all responsibility for the poetry.

3. WARNINGS: canon-typical violence, slavery and associated brutality, sexual violence, dehumanizing language

4. A note on canon-compliance and dating (which is also true for the stories mentioned in note 1): in Emperor Mage (year 451) Kaddar is said to be 16 years old; his father was killed five years before (447), in the same year that Carthaki mages opened the gates to the Divine Realms. This story is set most plausibly one or two years before Emperor Mage (449-50), but it is nevertheless pretty clear that I mentally pushed Kaddar's age up by a few years, since he is imagined to be already 15 or 16 in this story and not 13 or 14. However, Kaddar's birth date is not given in the timeline on Tamora Pierce's website, and the statement about his age is actually given to an unnamed Tortallan, who could plausibly be imagined to be less than accurate! This assumption, along with the assumption that Carthakis count like Romans (inclusively from both ends, so that Kaddar's father died in 448) would probably produce my ideal situation. But let us not be too fussy about these details.


Prologue. The Duty of Empire...

The guards pushed the man hard onto the lowest step of the dais and saluting the Emperor, stepped back. There was no need for words. The Grand Council and all the assembled populace knew who the chained and prostrate prisoner was. From where he sat beside and behind his uncle, Kaddar felt himself go cold in spite of the sun that the canopy only inadequately kept off from the Imperial Pavilion. At last, not only was the campaign over and the rebellion crushed, but the last rebel chieftain had been dragged from his hole and brought to imperial justice; Ghazanoi Ilorat's death had not been in vain, but now it would also not be avenged. And this was Barca – this was the man who had dared to declare himself an independent prince, and by whose sword the great general's life was known to have poured out. Barca, defeated, and now finally pulled from hiding in the final crushing of the Sirajit rebellion that Ghazanoi Ilorat had effectively ended.

Kaddar wondered how many soldiers' sons were able to look on the murderers of their fathers. There was the hand that must have gripped a deadly sword, and that had been stained with Ghazanoi's blood. He could not look away, but he would rather not be looking either, so he gripped the arms of his chair. Surely, he had never truly hated before this! This morning, he had been reading Hannorian, and he had been composing his mind into dignity and calm. But that memory seemed distant, now. His father should see this; his father had done this for the Empire. How unjust was it that Barca should be alive on this day of triumph and his father dead! Wetness irritated his eyes: not grieving tears, for those he had worn out long before, but anger and disgust. But women wept and loosed their passions on the world. For good reason were his mother and sister absent today. He had to bear up and be a man, a nobleman, a bulwark of the empire.

The Emperor smiled to see his enemy so abject, but it was the briefest of smiles and quickly composed into Imperial sternness for the benefit of the audience. He turned towards Kaddar. "So, my nephew," he said, his voice amplified to carry to the furthest reach of the crowd, "this – man – should be yours, by our oldest right. Our dear brother Adhirbal should have had this Triumph: this prisoner should be his. By the rights of a son and the rights of vengeance, take him freely and do as you will."

"Your Imperial Majesty knows," replied Kaddar, after an appropriate and rehearsed hesitation, "that I would like nothing better than to take the revenge that my filial duty demands." Amid the roar of the crowd, he briefly considered that picture. He would take a sword from one of the guards and slay Barca where he lay. He would kneel at his uncle's feet and present the bloodied sword. Lines from a play came to mind:

Him bearing my grief the very gods
can no way fault if just. For of all fathers
the very worst deserve best vengeance, and mine
by as much more as he was best
deserves it more.

No philosophy for him now, but savage tragedies. Yet he had never killed any man in cold blood, and he could not quite imagine doing so now. And they no longer lived in such rude times, but under the rule of law. His father would have told him that his true duty was elsewhere.

And so Kaddar continued to speak. "But by Your Majesty's will, let him rather be given the penalty of a traitor and a rebel, and a murderer. His crimes are first to the Empire, and let Carthak exact her punishment. My father did not desire glory for himself, but Your Majesty's welfare and the Empire's; I could not shame myself in his memory by seeking lesser things."

The Emperor gave a private smile and a regally public nod; his hand moved in a more visible gesture of command. No one's eyes were absent as the executioners did their work. Crowd and court remained until Barca's convulsions had finally ceased.

As he processed back to the palace, Kaddar thought about the justice of it all, not about the blood and the screams and the shouting approval of the crowd.