The throne room was far more massive than it had any right to be. Massive pillars created alcoves where round tables sat; the seating was full of older nobility, civil officials, and some mages decked out in clean, official uniform.
Emperor Charles sat upon the throne. His cloak was long and spilled down onto the polished floor. The chair was clearly made to mimic golden dragon scales, and perhaps was actually made of them.
Jonathan quickly realized that they were doing this publicly. In fact, they were all but crashing a meeting with the emperor and his advisors. He wasn’t particularly nervous, but the glamor did make him somewhat reconsider his choice of clothing. His new red coat with buttons, similar to what he had worn last time, was a bit too weathered in comparison to everyone else. However, he cared little for appearance and none of his brief thought showed as he walked after Emlyn.
The doorman looked at them, fear in her eyes as she looked at the group. She bowed towards the throne and held an arm out, perfectly perpendicular to the floor. “Prince Oliver, Princess Adoncia, Prince Emlyn, Prince Millan, and Prince Liam.”
The imperial siblings bowed and greeted the emperor.
Jonathan knew nothing of the imperial etiquette. He was fortunate to have several examples of what to do in front of him.
“Rise,” Emperor Lyon said. He was interested in what was going on, that brought them all together. “State your business here.”
“I, Prince Oliver Lyon of the Hrea Empire, renounce my right to the throne.” He kept his eyes straight ahead towards the emperor.
“What,” Consort Lorelei said quietly. She turned to properly face the other side of the court. “What did he say?” She asked her lady-in-waiting. Her lady-in-waiting bowed her head and repeated the words said by the consort’s oldest son.
“I, Princess Adoncia Lyon, 2nd Princess of the Hrea Empire, renounce my claim to the throne.”
“I, Roscoe Lyon, renounce my claim to the throne and imperial family of the Hrea Empire.” It was the first time Jonathan had claimed to be Roscoe, and it left a bitter taste in his mouth.
The murmurings from everyone ceased, and for a few dreadful seconds no one breathed. There was silence, a rarity in the court, before the whispering of the advisors became an audible buzz that crept through everyone’s ears.
Lorelei remembered him. Her memory wasn’t bad enough to forget that she had seen him this morning. She wished that she had known to kill him this morning. If not that, then she should have at least killed Clementine after Roscoe’s death and handled Emlyn personally. And why, oh why, were Oliver and Liam standing with them? Why had Oliver given up on the throne? She knew he disagreed, but he didn’t have to handle it like this. They could have talked about succession, again.
It was only at this part that the emperor interrupted. “You didn’t die,” he muttered. “Why are you doing this?”
“Fame and fortune are fine, but that is not what my goal in life is.” Jonathan kept his voice steady as he explained his reasoning. He had better things to do with his life, things he found more fulfilling. He would never survive or enjoy life as royalty. At least he had some more allies with him when he was rejecting royalty this time, as opposed to that banquet in Malamut.
Charles Lyon thought. While he thought, no one dared to speak. He came to a conclusion that he could understand, and he knew of some of the transgressions committed in these walls. “I will bestow upon Roscoe, no surname, the title Friend of the Empire.” He gestured for them to move on.
Jonathan bowed slowly to accept the new title, unsure. He had expected rage, not a calm compliance with the ongoing situation. He wondered if the emperor had gotten tired of the fight over his throne, if he regretted his sins or inaction.
Liam rushed through the words, having a feeling that he needed to. “I, Liam Lyon, renounce my claim to the throne.” The teenage prince could not help a look towards the side, where he had seen a flash of red hair. He knew where his mother sat for court.
In one of the alcoves, Consort Lorelei stood up. She was shaking slightly, a hand on the table to hold herself up. There had been some hope in her, that Liam hadn’t gone along with whatever harebrained scheme this was—that hope was shattered. She had been abandoned, betrayed, by her own sons. She batted off the hands of a lady-in-waiting, and pulled a blade from the hilt of her fan.
Emlyn took a step forward. “We will now read the letters from those who could not be here.”
Adoncia read Deimena’s letter to renounce her rights to the throne as the oldest princess and her mother’s—the governor of Reagle’s—vouch for Emlyn. Oliver, as the Governor of Celtie, gave his recommendation personally. Jonathan read Aderes’s letter and Millan read the Governor of Maskiff’s, who had been bribed appropriately.
Emlyn stepped forward once again. He bowed towards his siblings on the left and right of him. “I gratefully receive this support.” A fake smile was plastered across his face, but there was some hope in his eyes.
Jonathan was waiting. He moved closer to Emlyn’s back.
Consort Lorelei moved once the furious shaking in her hands had slowed and her target was closer. Her intention was clearly etched on her face, an undying hatred twisting across her expression. It was a last ditch attempt at power, or at least revenge for her lifelong dream, trampled on by her own children.
She was too slow.
Her dagger collided with Jonathan’s sword.
Jonathan didn’t stop there, and slammed his foot into the woman’s stomach. He didn’t know whether she was carrying other weapons. He needed to ensure time for Emlyn to move away and for the guards to come over and restrain her.
Consort Lorelei’s head collided with the ground. She let out a grunt of pain.
The emperor stood up. There was no outrage on his face, yet there was a small amount of spite. “Upon the attempted murder of an imperial family member, Consort Lorelei will be imprisoned indefinitely.”
Jonathan waited for the guards to restrain the consort before he removed his foot. He sheathed his sword and stood beside Emlyn, opposite of Millan. The transmigrator found himself both surprised, yet not surprised at all. This was the best outcome for his gambit.
Consort Lorelei was dragged to her feet by the guards. The pin in her disheveled hair fell out and clattered onto the floor. She swore loudly under her breath, then directed her anger towards each of those who had wronged her. If there was a time for her to break her composure, it would be on this unfortunate day when everything shattered to the ground. She had no reason not to anymore.
Emlyn sheathed his sword, but kept a hand at his side. He would never find the idea of others wishing to kill him unlikely. There had been something satisfying, in having such an open attack occur. There was no way for anyone to excuse what Consort Lorelei had just attempted.
Oliver had long stepped in front of Liam, guarding his younger brother from what might happen. He had already gone through with choosing his current side, but he wasn’t sure if his mother had ever been on his.
“I did everything for you,” Lorelei screamed in a final plea.
“You did everything for yourself,” Oliver quietly corrected, yet everyone heard. He had a hand on Liam’s shoulder and it was trembling.
Liam moved out from behind Oliver. His usually cheerful face was unbearably serious. He said nothing, only watched.
They all watched, as the woman was dragged out of the throne room.
The emperor spoke again once the doors closed. He carried on as if the interruption hadn’t occurred, but then, he had never been fond of Lorelei. Charles Lyon rested his gaze on the cluster of his children—the ones that decided to do such a hare-brained scheme to force his hand—and smiled somewhat fatherly. “With the passing of Crown Prince Jaeger, it comes to be my unfortunate duty to instate a new Crown Prince: Emlyn.”
The officers in the throne room rose and raised their hands in a gesture of trust to respect the newly established title.
The emperor waited a moment and waved his hand to move things along. “He will start his new duties in three days. Dismissed.”
The princes and princesses bowed and left in two by two rows. Emlyn went first, as was dictated by etiquette.
They only started breathing easily once the doors shut behind them, blocking them from the many eyes of the court.
They had done what they had set out to do. Unlike many past generations, those who did not want the throne would not need to fight for it and those who wanted the throne were competent enough to sit there.
We are…far too close to the end. The epilogue is next.