Jonathan arrived at the porch, and knocked once.
The door was opened by Adoncia, the 2nd Princess, as she had been waiting to greet her guests. It was a private affair, and all of her servants had been told to keep out of the back gardens today. “I . . .Roscoe?” She seemed stunned, expression blank in shock.
“Jonathan,” he quietly corrected. He was impressed she could recognize him.
“You’re really not dead.”
“No.” Jonathan walked past her.
The porch attached to the back of the princess’ palace was clearly for parties. There were several round tables, and the shelves in the back held various tea sets. The floor was stone, and held the cold of the shade it was in.
Adoncia seemed to have recovered from the surprise by now. “Mother had explained a little bit, but said there was some sort of plan? What is all of this about?”
Jonathan pulled a letter from his bag and handed it over.
Adoncia had a naive expression on her face as she read. If she was really that innocent, she wouldn’t be in charge of the empire’s international politics. She wasn’t surprised to find that her sister skirted around the topic of what exactly was happening, aside from Deimena giving up her right to the throne. After looking at the contents of the letter she had been passed, the woman remarked, “This doesn’t really explain it either.”
“I had an idea. I’ll explain it fully when everyone is here.”
Adoncia threw her hands up in frustration, but didn’t insist further. She had a lot of theories and none of them seemed likely. “It’s been a while since we’ve talked.” She knew they hadn’t even talked much when she thought he was alive.
“It has.” Jonathan never talked to her at all—the real Roscoe had. “The others should be here sometime this afternoon.”
It didn’t take long for Liam and Oliver to arrive. Jonathan greeted them normally, but Adoncia was suspicious.
“I don’t believe it,” the princess simply said. “Why are you two going along with this?”
Oliver handled the opposition calmly, keeping a hand on Liam’s shoulder to keep his younger brother from firing back. “I am not my mother, and you know that.” It was an unfortunate boundary he had to draw his entire life, and even if things went well today, he likely still would.
Adoncia studied her younger brothers for a few moments, then reluctantly bowed and apologized. She would believe them for now.
Emlyn and Millan actually entered through Adoncia’s palace itself, as they had disguised themselves as servants.
“Jonathan, glad to see you’re still doing well,” Emlyn joked as he took off his hat. “Liam, Oliver, Adoncia, strange to see all of us here isn’t it.” He had a fake smile on his face, a sort of forced cheerfulness to how he stepped into the room.
“You all knew Roscoe wasn’t dead except for me?” Adoncia dryly observed.
Liam scratched the back of his neck and looked away, a bit guilty. He had been back in Pinscher several times since he started living in Celtie, and had managed to not tell anyone about Jonathan. However, it didn’t mean he enjoyed lying, quite the opposite.
“We only knew because he has terrible luck when it comes to accidentally running into his family,” Millan deadpanned.
“He really does,” Oliver agreed.
Jonathan sighed. He didn’t really have anything he could say to defend himself. “Let’s just. . . talk about why we’re all here.” He sat down at a table, and most of them also followed. “Jaeger died about two months ago,” he said. “With him gone, there’s a problem for everyone at this table, who succeeds him as the new heir? Who wants the throne?” He had talked with everyone directly about it except for Adoncia.
Adoncia scoffed. “Is that a question?”
“In what way do you mean it’s a question,” Jonathan replied. He raised an eyebrow as he looked around the table. “Who here actually wants to be emperor?” He was happy everyone who he needed had actually come. There was a chance his harebrained, last minute plan could work.
Emlyn propped an elbow on the table and gestured to himself. He knew exactly what was going on.
“What about Deimena?” Oliver questioned.
Adoncia sourly admitted, “That was part of her letter. She said that she didn’t want anything to do with being emperor. She had her own country to rule.” She hadn’t actually thought this was a crazy plan to decide the succession peacefully.
Jonathan hadn’t stopped looking at everyone. He took a breath and clarified, “No one disagrees with Emlyn getting to be the Crown Prince, as he is the only one who wants it? Say yes.”
If a bitter relief rising in Jonathan’s throat, it was because he thought someone would have died by now, instead of having a progressive meeting with the exact results he needed. He pulled a second letter from his bag, and put it on the table. “Queen Aderes’ letter, explaining her support for Emlyn.”
“Consort Cressida, Governor of Reagle.” Adoncia put down the letter she had been told not to open unless she agreed with the plan.
“The Governor of Maskiff’s letter,” Emlyn said.
“And?” Oliver questioned.
Emlyn had prepared appropriately, as Jonathan’s letter had requested. He flashed a smile as he said, “With you, that’s support from the rulers of the four countries, or districts that make up the rest of the empire.”
“That . . .” Oliver trailed off. He couldn’t find a fault in that logic. With the lack of other possible heirs and the other countries publicly saying they would support Emlyn, it would be almost impossible for the Emperor to do anything but stall if he didn’t want to declare his third son as the Crown Prince.
Adoncia checked over the seals for the other two, opened letters; they were real. “This has an actual chance at working.”
“How are we going to make Emlyn be the Crown Prince?” Liam questioned. He was quite sure of everything, but he was starting to piece this all together.
Emlyn laid out the plan. “Except for me, in the order of oldest to youngest, each of us will renounce our claims to the throne. Anyone who has recommendation letters will read them, same order, oldest to youngest.”
Liam frowned. “But, what if you die?”
“Good point.” Emlyn glanced to his left. “Jonathan?”
“Absolutely not.” Jonathan was honestly slightly offended Emlyn would suggest anything like that. He was never going to be a prince.
“Okay, then Millan is his back up,” Adoncia decided.
Millan was more the scholarly sort of person, with the intelligence to rule an empire; he still had a book in hand even at this moment. However, he was Emlyn’s right hand, full brother, and not opposed to ruling. He grumbled something sarcastic, yet did not feel the need to properly object. All of his siblings correctly took that as Millan agreeing to be the back up.
Emlyn leaned forward slightly, his expression serious. “I’ll grant you all one request for whatever you want if this works.” He gestured with his thumb out, as if to make a promise with everyone there.
“If it doesn’t. . . we’ll just be every royal family in history,” Oliver said. He smiled slightly as he said the sardonic, piercing comment; however, his sea green eyes—the same color as all of his siblings—were sad. The tension and anxiety were getting to him, disturbing his composure.
With their plan decided, they walked to the main palace, where the throne room was. They kept to servant pathways so as to not run into courtiers. They didn’t know for sure it would work, but they wanted it to; that was the hope they were holding onto as the small delegation of imperial royalty stopped in front of the large double doors. They were easily recognized by the guards who pulled open the doors.
They entered the throne room, still all grasping onto the small hope they had forged together with their alliance.
This seemingly crazy plan is actually working, because Jonathan knows all the right people. He’s talked personally to most of his siblings that would have claims to the thrones. He knows or is connected to all of the rulers of the districts, such as Imperial Prince Oliver Governor of Celtie, Queen Aderes of Lembroke, and Deimena’s mother Governor of Reagle.