They spent dinner at the bar together. Jonathan had been usurped from paying by Emlyn, who insisted it was his duty as the oldest. Millan had rolled his eyes heavily at that.
Jonathan had been slightly worried that Bas wouldn’t get along with the other two princes. Fortunately once Bas dropped the polite attitude, he got along well with Millan. Their senses of humor were a bit different, but Bas wasn’t sensitive to Millan’s biting sarcasm due to being used to how Cornelia acted. Bas and Millan seemed to mainly enjoy arguing about magic theory and sentient magical creatures.
The four boarded the next train that evening. This one was headed straight to Lembroke’s capital. Fortunately, Emlyn and Millan had been smart enough to stockpile a couple of the passes for their gang, which meant they had no trouble getting on.
It took a short time for Bas to start being bored. The novelty of a train had worn off on him on the trip from Celtie to Maskiff.
“How long will it take?”
“At least another fifteen days,” Jonathan replied the first time.
An hour later, Bas asked again.
Jonathan answered again. He also added how long it was until lunch would be served in the dining car.
This did not stop Bas from asking again three more times.
Jonathan continued to stare at his book, ignoring the question. He had given up. It wasn’t worth it.
Emlyn answered Bas this time.
Immediately, Millan asked, “How long?”
Emlyn and Jonathan glared at the young man, who was making fun of their suffering.
Millan coughed and got up. He pushed Bas forward, outside of the apartment. “Let’s go get some food.” He didn’t trust that they wouldn’t be put into headlocks by the two older men.
Jonathan and Emlyn relaxed with the two younger ones gone.
Emlyn opened the window and enjoyed the rushing breeze.
“Do you want the throne?” Jonathan abruptly asked. He stuck a bookmark into his book and closed it.
Emlyn tapped his fingers against the glass; the pane had been made with a new method, considering the thin lines down it. “Yes.”
Emlyn spent a few seconds sorting through his thoughts before he started his explanation. He wanted Roscoe to understand why he had stuck to the Empire. “I hate Lorelei. If her precious oldest son Oliver doesn’t become Emperor, then she’ll have done all of this for nothing.”
“Oliver isn’t the Crown Prince,” Jonathan pointed out.
“It’s a contingency plan if something happens to Jaeger.” Emlyn was surprised his oldest brother had survived this far honestly; it spoke to how smart the Crown Prince was. “Incidents happen on the battlefield and only some of those aren’t planned.”
“That can’t be your only reason for trying to become Emperor.”
“It’s not,” Emlyn acknowledged. “I want to be an equal to Jaeger. I want to be better than him, if that’s possible.” He held his fingers against the glass, smudging his reflection even more.
Jonathan raised an eyebrow. He was still unconvinced. “Anything else?”
“There’s a lot of things to change in the Empire.” A spark lit up in Emlyn’s eyes, a quiet sort of passion. He had done his research. He had seen the effects. “Slavery was abolished, but indentured servitude has continued and become worse. A lot of slavery is just hiding under a different name right now. The mages aren’t working for the common good; the schools and towers mainly just do research instead of applying any of their findings.”
Emlyn leaned backwards, gesturing towards the East. “Foreign relations have also been a mess ever since the illegality of necromancy and the war with Malamut. Our war with Nu? We’re both sinking vast amounts of resources and people into a war that never seems to end. If we made a treaty with them, we could also learn their techniques for farming and water infrastructure. Wells and magic crystals only go so far, the country should be developed and supported by the crown. Less people would die in Maskiff because they weren’t able to afford water.”
Jonathan smiled. “Which one is most important?”
“Long term, I plan to change the Empire for the better wherever I end up. I want the citizens of the Hrea Empire to live good lives.” Emlyn’s smile showed a bit too many teeth. “Revenge and my ego would just be the side benefits.”
Jonathan stared at Emlyn. “And we joke about you not having a heart.”
“Surprise. I do.” Emlyn held up his hands.
“It’s not that surprising.”
It took until day six for a competition over who got to feed Oceton occurred. Jonathan was slightly surprised it took that long.
Millan and Bas both held out a piece of meat. They were calling over to Oceton, however, their eyes were fixed on each other. This was a fight to see who Oceton liked more.
Despite their bribes, Oceton flew over to Jonathan and settled on the man’s shoulder. He opened his beak to let out a raucous sound and somehow managed to look smug.
Jonathan hid a smile behind a fake cough. He had no food on him.
Emlyn looked at the faces the two boys were making and laughed freely at them. “I think you just got outplayed by a bird,” he teased.
Bas sighed and moved to sit next to Jonathan. He wanted to feed Oceton and regretted turning it into a competition. He smiled when his piece of meat was accepted by the bird.
Millan grimaced. His pride had undoubtedly taken a hit based on his expression. “I wouldn’t say . . . outplayed. It makes sense that he would pick Jonathan,” he defended.
“It makes sense he would ignore the food and go for his bond. If so, why did you two try to feed him like that? You’re just making excuses now.” Emlyn poked Millan in the side.
“Stop,” Millan complained and leaned away.
Emlyn snorted. “You lost. It’s fine, but admit it when you lose.”
“You did lose,” Jonathan casually agreed.
“Ooo, betrayed,” Emlyn quipped, “Even Jonathan agrees.”
“Fine. I lost. Okay?” Millan shot back. He kept his arms crossed as Emlyn patted his shoulder.
“Not that hard to admit.” Emlyn stood up and popped his back. “I’m quite hungry. Anyone want to come with me?”
Bas nodded and stood up. He had been hungry before, and holding a piece of meat for a bit had just reminded him of that.
Jonathan yawned slightly, and also got up. He put a piece of torn newspaper into his book and closed it.
“What, are you just going to stay here and sulk, Millan?” Emlyn said.
“. . . Fine, I’ll come too.”
“Good.” Emlyn patted his younger brother on the back.
The four of them had a nice dinner in the dining car due to their passes; it was some sort of ocean creature with a hard shell, similar to mollusks or oysters. Throughout it, Emlyn continued to tease Millan, before falling prey to a magical mishap that was most certainly a coincidence despite the latter’s smirk.
It’s a bit hard to write Emlyn and Millan, but it’s well worth it.