The Time of Troubles

It was all very sudden.

It happened when they were sitting in their home talking about the Massacre in Novgorod. Ivan was becoming concerned about the stability of his powerful counterpart, the severe Ivan IV, and with the falling population, either from murder, famine, or disease. Natalia and Yekaterina were trying to convince him to move back to the capital and assert what little influence he had over his violent boss before it was too late. They didn't realize how quickly their wish would be granted.

Suddenly there was knocking at the door. Yekaterina went up to get it and was met by a hard eyed group of Oprichniki. Ivan wasn't surprised. The Oprichniki, the so-called "Tsar's Dogs," were totally loyal to him and given the growing amount of enemies stacked against him they were becoming the Tsar's personal agents.

Scanning the room they nodded to each other and started shuffling the girls out. The leader put a hand on Ivan's shoulder and looked him in the eye.

"You need to come with us now. All will be explained later. We need to move now."

Ivan was startled by the fear and desperation in the man's face but nodded and followed him. His sisters had already mounted their horses and Yekaterina handed him the reins to his own. He pulled himself up giving his sisters a reassuring look. They were both frightened and Natalia's hands were shaking. There was a sense of urgency and even the wind seemed to bite at their heels urging them forward.

The mood when they reached the capital was somber. Black drapes hung from windows and the mournful wail of women filled the air. The only thought that came to mind filled Ivan with dread. The Tsar. What with the recent military failures and the violent abuse of the populace could the Tsar have been murdered? He knew that he would have felt the death of his leader but what if a new Tsar had been crowned? He tried to find his presence within the palace but all he could feel was a haze of grief that hung over the structure like a poisonous cloud.

The Oprichniki escorted them through the main hall and down a corridor but instead of taking them to the Tsar's chamber they made a turn and came to a different room filled with people. All along the hall there were courtiers in various states of shock. At the door were priests mumbling prayers and there were more lining the walls inside. Crowded around a bed in the center was the royal family and kneeling on the floor, his face buried in the golden fabric, was none other than the Tsar himself.

Ivan heard his older sister gasp and Natalia's eyes got wide as she took her brother's hand. No, it wasn't the Tsar who had died. It was his heir.

One of the Tsar's former, and more fortunate, wives Anna came forward to speak to the three stunned nations. Summoned from her convent where she had been banished for her failure to produce children, she now gave solace to the same man that had spurned her. She bowed her head and spoke briefly of the events leading up to the Tsarevich's death. Of how the Tsar had beaten his daughter-in-law for her wearing light clothing causing her to miscarry. How he had gotten into an argument with his son over the miscarriage and how he then struck his son in the head out of anger accidently killing him.

Ivan was horrified. This was even worse than if the Tsar had died because now he was without a successor to the throne. Moscovy was saddled with a grief-stricken and unbalanced ruler and deprived of its future leader all in one blow. He had to do something.

Tentatively he approached the mourning Tsar. When he turned Ivan could see a face twisted and covered in tears. The Tsar's eyes were red and he had a death grip on the small cross resting in his hand. He made no sound except the moan that occasionally escaped his lips. This was a man broken with the pain of losing his son. Ivan reached out and touched the bed near the Tsar's shivering shoulders.

"My son… I've killed my son…"

"My Tsar… These things are terrible but you must not abandon your country when it needs you. There is still Feodor and your other children and you have the faith of your people…"

"Begone little Ivan. Leave me to my grief. You countries, immortal and unfeeling, can know nothing of the sorrow I bear."

Ivan tried to say something else but was stopped by Yekaterina who pulled him back and motioned for them to go. When they left they were stopped at the door by Feodor, Ivan's youngest child by his first wife, who was staring at them with ambivalence. The boy was intimidated by Ivan's stature and status but at the same time realized the importance of keeping him close.

"You're Ivan right? And your sisters and you represent our land? Father has given the orders for your things to be brought here. He believes it is no longer wise for you to live along the border with the conflict going on. You will now be living here at the palace."

Just like that Ivan was taking from his rugged village life to the dangerous stage of the court.

*Three Years Later*

Ivan rolled his eyes at the mess going on in front of him and went back messing with his younger sister's hair. He didn't know how much longer he could put up with "Tsar" Feodor's weakness and incompetence. Not that he did much in the first place. Most of his duties as Tsar had been handed over to his wife's brother and he spent most of his time traveling to different churches spending more time in prayer than in managing his country.

To make it worse he had yet to produce a male heir and seemed to have little interest in doing so. There had been excitement when it was announced that the Tsarina was pregnant but this turned to disappointment and sadness when a frail daughter was born and died two years later.

Ivan watched as Feodor leaned back on his throne listening half-heartedly to the conversation carried out by his brother-in-law and the foreign diplomats. He yawned and slumped in his chair. His eyes glazed over and he didn't even bat an eye when the discussion escalated into an argument that bordered on violence. He was a weak Tsar. He didn't care about the affairs of the politicians or when negotiations failed under his authority and he was going to ruin everything that his father had worked so hard to build. His indifference was to set the spark that would bring the end of the Rurik dynasty and the beginning of a period of confusion and chaos and there was nothing Ivan could do to stop it.

Wow. This sounds like such a textbook. So this chapter has the other Ivan in it because Nutty Nerd mentioned that I should put him in here. I just made up the death-bed scene because I don't really know who all was there but Anna really was one of Ivan's wives. I decided not to mention the other rulers before Ivan because he was the first one to call himself Tsar and because there it starts to get more into the religious, little father, Church-Land-Tsar type deal. Review especially if there's someone you want Ivan to meet because I'm going kind of fast and I know I might skip some people. ~Nami