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Le roi est mort, vive la reine

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Photo by Dardan on Unsplash


As funerals for royalty went, it would be a simple affair.

The setting: a vine-draped castle north of Lunaris, one built in the same place Titus had slumbered for over a year, enclosed in the magic of Taen. Symbolic.

The ceremony: held in one of the castle wings, an open hall lined with ivy-twined stone pillars that led out into a vast garden. The coffin was set where the stretch of marble columns ended, framed against the lush, wild greenery outside. Pale sunlight filtered through the spaces between the pillars, onto rows of pews for the guests.

Afterwards: within the castle wing, opposite the outdoor hall, a room was set aside with food and drink for the guests: a place for the guests to linger, should they wish.

Some - many, perhaps - would weep at the news. The Emperor of Taen, now Veluriyam, was a figure of legend. The image of him the citizens of Taen held in their minds was one of a just, righteous king. Perhaps the same could be said of the commoners in Ursa Madeum, so far removed they were from the squabblings of the nobility.

Rozharon stood before the coffin (wood that gleamed like copper, intricately carved, left open), wreathed in black, hands clasped behind her back. People flowed inside the hall, coming down the stairs up in twos and threes, settling on the pews. Her back to them, she read their lips. She read the creases on their faces, the glint of tears, the redness of eyes. Titus had been respected (loved) by those he’d worked with, generals and governors, mages and doctors, friends and allies near and far.

Perhaps many would weep. Rozharon would not.

It wouldn't be too unexpected, considering the persona she'd woven. Those who had come to know her in the short time she'd walked this realm would expect nothing less. A solemness in her speech. A heaviness in her gestures. A dullness in her gaze. These subtle signs would be enough to suggest grief, and the world would be none the wiser.

Her sons knew better, though. Pallas and Lenore mingled with the guests, exchanging greetings and accepting condolences. Rozharon knew she disturbed them sometimes, when the mask slipped and they caught glimpses of the way she regarded the world.

Somehow, this bothered her. It would've been easy to mend the cracks, present them a perfect image of a loving mother: one that mourned and laughed and hated. That this image would be a lie didn't matter to her. But it would matter to them.

Something to address later.

When it was time, she left the coffin, exchanged greetings with those in vicinity, and sat at the front row. Her twins joined her on either side.

A Gaian priest officiated the ceremony, one who’d been among the first wave of Terrans who had left their land found a home in Taen. He’d been there when the hydra attacked Lunaris. Had watched Titus strike down the beast. Had pledged his loyalty to an emperor seen and heard, one who fought for his people instead of sitting idly while monsters and men burned town and village alike.

The priest was an appropriate choice, considering the melting pot of cultures that was their empire. Most of Taen's citizens were Gaianists. Her knowledge of funeral rites from Angel City, Titus' birthplace, was limited (he had been banished, after all), and Rozharon had no culture of her own to speak of.

Rozharon settled back as the priest began speaking: of honoring life, not mourning of death. Of how death was an inevitability that claimed all. Of how all stories would end, eventually, but that what held meaning was the life lived beforehand. Snippets from Gaian scripture. A summary of the late Emperor’s life.

The Empress kept only a fraction of her attention on the speech. Teresa was still missing. She busied herself reviewing the areas she’d covered, the wind currents at the time of her disappearance, ocean currents, the worldrift portals, possible places her daughter may have gone.

Useless. The answer eluded her.

Rozharon returned her awareness to the present. Ah. Time for eulogies.

The Empress sat back to listen.

Edited by Csl
added image credit

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Sebastian sat next to his lover Carina, numbly listening to the gaianist priest speak the funeral rights of his religion. The swordsman found no comfort in them; as he had never been one to find refuge in religion. A tattoo of the names of false gods he had killed before coming to Taen could attest to that. In times like these however, he sometimes wished that he felt differently. Perhaps such faith would have taken some of the sting out of seeing his friend and Lord laying lifeless inside his coffin. He couldn't cry anymore. He had shed his tears in private when he had first heard the news. Right now the people needed to see strength from their leaders, and he would do his best to show that strength.

At the Empresses prompting, he stood up, adjusted his suit, and went to stand at the podium. Once there he simply stood for a few moments, trying to remember the speech he had written. 

"The day I met Titus was a day that neither of us could have known would change our lives forever. He had hired me and a group of other mercenaries to help him exterminate a troublesome group of Xer. Before we'd even finished introducing ourselves, the ground split open, and the Hydra revealed itself; laying waste to Lunaris. I barely survived, and to be honest, I contemplated running. This thing was more than I had signed on to handle. The city was surely lost. What was the point of staying just to die?"

"But then I saw Titus, his true nature revealed in all of its splendor. I thought he would turn and do battle with the Hydra, but instead I saw him plummet towards the ground. At first I thought he had been hit, but then I saw her; a little girl who had fallen from her upturned home. I felt ashamed. In the face of his selflessness, I couldn't stand idle; and I stayed and fought."

He paused to compose himself, and then continued, "That was, and still is his legacy. Titus inspired me, and countless others to be better than we thought we could be. By his example, we learned that we could be selfless, compassionate, and brave. When I remember him, that is what I'll think about. When I have the option to take the easy way, I'll remember him. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten."

As he finished his eulogy, he felt a few warm tears fall down his face. He put his hand on the coffin, and spoke so only he would hear.

"Goodbye old friend."

With that, he went back to his seat, fighting against tears he didn't think he had left.


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Of course Thurgood and Aveline came. At first they didn't want to bring Vivian and Nadia, since... angels, but they insisted. Both are wearing black pinstripe suits, since they actually respect Titus and Roz. Vivian and Nadia don't need to wear anything though.

When Sebastian sits down, it's Aveline's turn to stand up and say something.

"Ever find yourself in a 'what the fuck' moment? About two and a half years ago I was on Gaia Prime, driving some weapons to a rebel group, and feel my tires land on this soft jungle soil, and one of the Mork'Outh ask me if I'm here to fight the hydra. Long story short, I snipe one of its hearts, and eyes before that, and I thought I was gonna need to find a way back, 'cause there's no way in hell anybody would just let some strange 'drow' that poofed in here. Nope; Emperor Demetrius not just tolerated me, but welcomed me," Aveline says, starting to tear up at this point, "and invited me to stay. That's the first time anybody's truly welcomed me to live anywhere. Of course, I never really feel like I belong anywhere, but that's the closest I've felt to it!" Aveline then steps out from the podium and back to her seat, crying the whole way.

Edited by notmuch_23
fat fongers on tiny phone jeyboard

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Last, and like as not least of all, was the Outsider. Seated beside Irene Du'Grace with fussy Ethan Du'Grace in her arms, Roen leaned over to whisper a quiet word in his lover's ear. 'It is my turn to speak,' he said in his somber, rich timbre. 'Hold my seat.' He favored her and their son together with one of his small, melancholic smiles, then pushed himself to his feet with a sigh of effort. Walking down the aisle towards the recently vacated podium, Roen ascended the stairs without pomp or ceremony, and settled himself at the podium. A darkly dressed, robust man nearing his middle-age, Roen had graying hair at his temples and lines of worry and laughter at the corners of his eyes and the edges of his mouth, respectively. After going through his pockets and producing a sheaf of paper and spectacles both, he placed the latter near the edge of his nose and glanced down, his sensual mouth quirking with the beginning stages of frown as he studied what could presumably be a pre-written speech. 

He cleared his throat, glanced up, frowned, and removed his half-moon glasses. He set the paper down along with glasses both, and neglected the pair then on. 

'First, my deepest condolences to the emperor's family. Thank you for inviting us here in your most trying times. I regret not knowing the Emperor better, but I see how much he was loved in life. If I knew nothing else of the man, that alone would be enough mourn his passing.' A pause; a sweeping of his gaze over those gathered. 'The Emperor had a dream, and a will to see it done. He brought other dreamers to his side, men and women from all walks of life - but ever with the same destination in mind.' He nodded slowly at this, his mouth twisting, the parody of a smile. 'I did not know the Emperor well,' he reiterated, glancing askew. 'But I loved him for his dreams, and the unity he gave and bound us in. He did not see peace in his lifetime, but I know he has given us the chance to see it in our's. Thank you, your Imperial Majesty. Rest in peace.' 

Scanning the audience again briefly, Roen took up his glasses and paper, and returned to his family among the other attendees. 

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Emperor Titus Demetrius was not a well-known man to the Order of Force Majeure, but in the short time that they had known him, he had gained their respect.

In recognition of his accomplishments and contribution to the stability of Terrenus, the Force Majeure gave the honour of a guard of their finest Militants, the Greatswords, along with a Knight-Representative.

The former flanked the coffin, two hulking beings to each side in their bronzed armor, standing much taller then normal men, masked in their great helms with their cyclopean eye. They were distinguishable only by the difference in their sheathed weaponry, and by the differing honors and heraldry on their armor, all of which were obscured by blackened cloaks of mourning. The Knight-Representative, Tenris Stromborne was a mountain of a man, as almost as large out of armor as his subordinates were in their wargear, and he communicated to them privately through a commlink from his seat amongst those who paid their respects to the late Emperor, ensuring they adhered to and followed proper procedure and timings.

As the eulogies and speeches wound down, the ring of bells and chimes signaled the beginning of the final walk, and acting as pallbearers, each Greatsword took a corner of the coffin. Solemnly and with sacred gravitas, they bore it down the pathway of carved columns, and down to Titus's final resting place, followed closely by Empress Rozharon and close friends and family. 

Edited by Fierach

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General Som Basil stood solemnly at attention as the eulogies were given; dressed in formal wear he had bought specifically for this occasion. Standing there, he couldn't help but remember the first time he had met the Emperor. Titus had been just about to launch the invasion of Ursa Madeum. The pyromancer had been returning from a job when he'd seen the massing of troops, and had landed right in front of the man. He had offered his services, and the archangel had accepted. 

Over time he had grown from a brash young man into a measured soldier; albeit one with an irreverent streak. The proudest moment of his life had been when Titus had promoted him to the rank of General. Now as the speeches were winding down, he prepared to bear his friend and mentor to his final resting place. As the Order and Sebastian moved to take their places at the coffin, he looked to the column of soldiers that lined the path they would walk.

"Zatrikions! Salute!"

As soon as the order was given, the soldiers on each side of the path drew their swords and pointed them at an angle toward the man in front of them; forming a temple of blades through which they would walk. Once this was done, he assumed his place at the coffin, and prepared himself.

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Selfless, compassionate, brave … not just tolerated me, he welcomed me … the unity he gave and bound us in.

Gilded images. Quite a reputation to live up to, if it had ever been a path she wished to take. 

The Empress and her sons rose to join the procession. The coffin was lowered into the ground, the members of the Order and the Veluriyam military stepped aside, and Rozharon took her place before the open grave. 

She extended a hand from the dark folds of her dress, gestured in a motion akin to brushing asie dirt. The soil around the grave shifted, pushing itself over the gleaming wood. The Chief of the Mork’Ouths approached - another one of those who had fought alongside Titus in the early days of Taen, leader of the other race that coexisted with the citizens of the Empire. Ram horns, claws and catlike eyes; a sharp contrast against the guests.

Rozharon stepped back as the Mork’Outh knelt. He pressed his fingers to the soil, murmuring something in his language. The air hummed with magic. A sapling pushed its way out of the ground. Its bark was dark, its leaves edged with gold. Slowly, it stretched frail branches to the sky, its growth slowing until it stood, a young tree.

It was as good as any gravestone. The Mork’Outh met Rozharon’s gaze, nodded, and returned to his place in the crowd.

The Empress turned to face the gathered guests. She offered them a wan smile, bowing her head.

The words came quietly. “I would like to thank you all for coming here today to honor Titus' life. Truly, his impact in this world is immeasurable, his legacy one that will never be forgotten. I can only be grateful that I had the chance to share my life with him, as short a time it was."

She fell silent, swallowing, seemingly overcome by emotion. The slight smile returned. "I know he wouldn't want us to dwell on our grief, but rather, honor his life."

Rozharon gestured towards the direction of the hall. "Please do stop by the drawing room in the southern wing for some food and drink. You're welcome to stay and refresh yourselves. I'm sure many of you have travelled far."



photo-1540224769541-7e6e20a42330.jpegFurther into the wing of the castle, before the hallway opened into the garden, a large drawing room had been prepared for the guests. Several tables were piled with plates of food that ranged from traditional Terran delicacies to rare Taen dishes. Divans and armchairs were positioned around low tables along the walls. At the north end of the room, two bookshelves flanked a masterfully-illustrated map of Taen.

The eastern wall held floor-to-ceiling windows displaying to the lush greenery outside. Beyond, a patio held several seats for those who wished to seat themselves in the garden. At the other end of the room was a bar, several servers standing attentively behind the counter, quick to respond to any request from the visitors.

Rozharon stationed herself near the windows, a glass in hand, speaking quietly to her sons. Her gaze was distant, fixed on her children. Unbeknownst to all, her attention remained fixed on the crowd.

"-ave you checked Angel City?" Pallas was asking.

"It's gone," Rozharon replied. "Shielded by magic or some other force. I don't know."

"You're stopping the search for her?" Lenore spoke this time.

"For now. We have plenty of other matters to deal with," Rozharon said with a dry smile.

Their body language was casual, almost inviting for the casual onlooker who wished to engage in conversation with either of the three.

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Throughout the procession, Raveena stood stoic and watching—only the brilliant gleam of her golden eyes giving signs of the emotion she felt. Death was something she was intimately familiar with—the likes of wish she never wanted upon anyone else—save one. She wore a simple black dress, one that accentuated the gentle bump of her pregnant belly. A sweeping, black chiffon cape draped along her shoulders and would dance ethereally behind her wherever she walked.

Will you lead him, sister? Raveena asked wordlessly, her eyes never leaving Titus’ coffin. She could remember their first encounter. She understood his ideals and the cog-like part she played between empires to help bring peace from all sides as an ambassador.

At her right side was a tall, ethereal beauty—truly, too beautiful for the mortal eye to behold. Copper skinned and flawless with luxurious dark hair that swept to the floor, Char looked down at the young ruler with haunting eyes that were dark grey, with veins of brilliant ichor and godly might. Wordless, the goddess turned from Raveena and faded away.

There was a lingering sense of relief as the goddess of crossroads and peace walked along the road that guided the dead to their final resting place. Char was many things to many religions and many people. She entrusted her sister to allow Titus his peace.

The Empress leaned against her son’s shoulder, tired and weary—weary of death.

“Remind me,” She murmured to Grant as the procession made their way inside, “To gift these pearls to Her Imperial Majesty.” Clutched in her hands was a velvet lined case with a small token of her heartfelt sincerity towards their loss. She thought back to nearly losing Rowan and shuddered.

“And I’d like to visit the gardens again before we go. Your brother likes the fresh air.” It was something pretty to take the edge off the solemn gathering. Death was a difficult moment to process, to recuperate from—this she knew first hand.

She thanked the gods her family was alive—if barely. 






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Aveline was still crying when the soldiers of Force Majeure carried Titus' casket to its final resting place. Thurgood stood still and stoic: he will need to be a firm rock for Aveline and likely others, and hugged her tight as the elder Mork'Outh made the marker tree sprout.

Thurgood Singlance respects Emperor Titus Demetrius deeply; not for what the Emperor did for him, that's not how one earns that much of his respect, but what the Emperor did for Aveline: give her a home. That's something neither of them ever truly had before.

In the drawing room, Aveline just ordered a full cup of black espresso while Thurgood got the two some snacks. Both sat down and remain silent for now.

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Folio Sheathe has always been a soft-hearted man. Despite his needlessly large bulk, he is easily swayed by the strings tugging in his chest much to his niece's annoyance. The simple farmer that was once the head of House Sheathe had been weeping since the start of the funeral and until the late emperor's coffin was lowered into its final resting place.

The middle-aged man inaudibly murmured his final parting words and wishes for the emperor he had always looked up to. Perhaps this was the end of an era for Ursa Madeum but what he was more concerned at the moment was his niece's incessant tugging at his shirt's sleeves. Folio tore his eyes away from the Emperor's grave and turned to his niece, the horribly-burnt woman sitting uncomfortably on a wheelchair.

"Uncle, let's go," her niece pleaded. 

Despite her appearance and demeanor, Folio knew that her niece was worried about his well-being. He was no longer the young man he once was and even the simple act of mourning is a great burden on his already weakening heart. Nodding his assent, Folio followed his niece into the drawing room. Inside, Folio helped himself to a cup of tea before sitting down. He would have asked a cup of coffee for her niece as well, but he's afraid the poor thing would get mad for being treated as a helpless individual. The aging man silently sipped his tea while waiting for his niece to return.

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Grant had only met the Emperor in person a handful of times, but he had always seemed like a good man. But it was the way Titus had treated his subjects that had truly convinced him of this. The archangel ruled with a firm, but reasonable hand; quick to punish the wicked, and uplift the downtrodden. For the young prince, the most obvious example of this was the liberation of Ursa Madeum. Many years ago, he'd had the opportunity to kill the Tyrant King, but had stayed his hand. It had lifted a weight off his shoulders that someone had finally dealt with the man. When Titus had given them their land in UM, he was eager to go, to try and repay some of the debt he felt he owed; a chance for which he would always be grateful.

Next to him, his mother lay her head on his shoulder; and he responded by stepping slightly closer to allow her to lean against him. It was hard to believe that their relationship had been so strained barely a year ago. His choice of lovers at the time had driven a wedge between them; but recent events had brought them closer than ever. After the fall of Hyperion City he had been a fractured shell of himself, but she had helped pick up the pieces and make them into something resembling the man he once was. 

"Brother," he mused, "I never thought I'd have one of those. Sometimes it feels like I only barely had a father. You're the only mother I remember."


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Abigail_Karradeen.png?dl=1Abigail had sat or stood politely, respectfully, and stoically throughout the duration of the funeral, but not once did hint of sorrowful emotion cross her features. Indeed, nether Emperor Titus's death, nor the passionate, grief-stricken words of the eulogizers has affected her, for her heart remained cold toward the late emperor, and the display of sadness or loss by others could warm it. Only what she had desired from him, the thing he had taken away and never returned, could have left her feeling anything less than bitter for the late ruler of Veluriyam. This thing that had left her so hardened amidst a sea of tenderness, was her rank and title, the things she had worked her entire life to achieve, only to have them stripped away by an empire whose justice was hardly consistent. While House Uldwar, which collaborated with King Damien to the degree of carrying out the brutal enforcement of his edicts, was permitted to retain rank and title, even being granted new land in Misral, House Karradeen was stripped of status for doing nothing less than trying to survive. 

Sure, they had sought profit for the goods they secretly smuggled through the blood barrier, but bleeding heart fools do not realize that if one does not make profit, then they are actually losing money. What they did was a service to the people of the islands, as the profits (and even these margins were thin) were reinvested into keeping Karradeen ships on the water, fighting back against pirates, and stockpiling weapons. Abigail was certain, had Taen not invaded when they had, that her father would have used his secret stockpiles to arm a rebellion, and Ursa Madeum would not only have freed itself from the tyrant, but would have honored her house for the heroes they were. Instead, her father's illness delayed any action he intended to take, and then Taen swooped in and deposed of the king, before imposing its own form of justice upon those it determined to be collaborators. Now, Abigail was only recognized as a Countess, when she should be a Duchess, just as her father was a Duke, and her grandfather likewise. So long as this injustice stood, she would never mourn for Titus Demetrius.

And even if then, some grudges die hard...

Thus it was, that Abigail Karradeen left the funeral as it ended, never intending to take part in the social gathering being held afterward. She had better things to do, such as continuing to build and expand her house's merchant ventures, renovate and improve Gold Harbor, and amass the power needed to make her claim to higher title undeniable. She had fulfilled her obligation by publicly appearing at the funeral, but that obligation had no ended, and it was time to get back to business.

Joseph_Tynes.png?dl=1Unlike his oldest foreign ally, Joseph Tynes was more apt to show a bit of emotion, if not for himself, then for the others around him. Despite his negative view of superhuman beings, a category within which Titus would obviously be classified, he still had a certain degree of respect and appreciation for him as a man. Titus had brought together many leaders to form the Alliance of Terran Nations, which was already proving itself a more effective provider for the needs of the Terran people than Odin Haze's Empire was. Further, despite the power he wielded, he had seemed quite benevolent and just (at least, for the most part, Abigail's feelings notwithstanding), which was admirable, even if his political power still derived in large part from his superhuman power.

Whatever the case, Joseph was more than happy to move into the drawing room, where once again he would be among the regional and national leaders he sought to equal and surpass. It was an opportunity he owed to Titus, fittingly. Many of the faces here were familiar, some were not, but most had yet to make proper acquaintance with the Grand Executor of Norkotia. Most important of these were the remaining members of the Imperial Family, Rozharon and her sons, the latter of whom had only recently appeared to the public, seemingly out of nowhere. While Tynes had seen Roz as the A.N.T. Conference and at last year's Reverie Ball, he had never approached, nor spoken to her. 

"I believe I will go offer my condolences to the empress." he stated aloud, speaking mainly to his right-hand man that rarely left his side.

"A logical course of action." Diric Redbridge nodded, "I too wish to speak with her. "

Diric had an extra aspect of curiosity, for he could perceive that Rozharon was a far less emotional person than she tried to publicly convey, which intrigued him. Rarely did he see other sentient beings who were not so beholden to their emotions, as most humans and humanoids were. A being whose true devotion was to logic and dispassion was truly one to be admired, respected... and watched very closely.

"Ah, your excellency, Mr. Prime Minster." a voice interrupted the two before they could approach the widowed empress.

"Ambassador Kessler." Diric stated flatly, offering him a curt nod, "We did not see you coming in."

"My humblest apologies, but I arrived a little late." the ambassador bowed in repentance, "I surely would have attempted to greet you sooner."

"Don't worry about it." Joseph dismissed the ambassador's concern, "We were just about to go offer our sympathies to the Imperial Family, if you care to join."

"Oh, but of course!" Kessler enthusiastically agreed.

Joseph then took the lead again, approaching where Rozharon, Pallas and Lenore stood, briefly glancing about the room as they closed the distance. The chamber was a bit too green for him, he who was content to live in the golden-brown world of Norkotia, but he acknowledged that it was beautiful in its own way. Still, the Taenites were all-too-comfortable to be surrounded by living nature, something he found to be an almost stifling presence. It was not his concern, he supposed, not anytime soon anyway. Instead he lowered his eyes on the empress as they neared.

"Your Imperial Majesty," he offered her a shallow nod, then did likewise to the princes, "Your Highnesses, my sympathies for your loss. Forgive my... aloofness when it comes to condolences... but I believe I speak for everyone in the Alliance when I say that his absence will be felt very deeply."

After their immediate response, he turned to introduce his associates.

"Prime Minister Diric Redbridge, my chief adviser and administrator." the Executor motioned to the stoic Vulkish man, before pivoting toward the ambassador, "And Ambassador John Kessler, our representative in Andelusa. Perhaps you have met?"


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Varda is crying.

Jasper wordlessly offers his handkerchief in her direction and just barely resists the urge to sigh. The Lady Hildebrand has certainly proven herself to be the bleeding heart that she is ten times over throughout the course of the funeral, silent tears rolling down her cheeks as the coffin is lowered to the ground, where the late emperor’s body can finally rest for eternity. For all the expectations she falls short of, he can acknowledge that she cries rather prettily, should that be considered a strength, but Jasper cannot understand why she would.

Hadn’t they simply replaced the Tyrant King with an autocratic outsider? He sees no reason to mourn the passing of a ruler just as any other before him with quite the passionate abandon.

However, he will concede to the similarities that abound: he and Titus both appear to have a healthy appetite for conquest.

“Do you reckon we could leave sometime soon?” Kalika murmurs, looking over to her sister-in-law with what only he can determine as amused contempt. He has half a mind to tease her about it, but this is neither the time nor place for such frivolity; it can wait for when they return to the manor.

“Not too long now, dearest,” he assures her instead, fingers twining loosely with those of his wife’s own as they watch the somber proceedings unfold before them. “We must pay respects to our Empress before anything else.” His gaze flits impassively over to the small gathering composed of the Imperials and Grand Executor Tynes for a moment, then pivots to study Varda’s pale countenance. “Are you well now, sister?”

The Lady Hildebrand sniffles behind the white cloth covering the lower half of her face, nods firmly in reply. “I’m fine. Let us just,” she pauses to discreetly blow her nose; Jasper raises an eyebrow at the sight, “await our turn, lest the Empress feels too crowded with everyone coming to her.”






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Here was a consideration that returned again and again, a dead-end tunnel for the trains of thought, the bloody gap of a knocked-out tooth a tongue couldn’t help probing and prodding. 

Rozharon was an instrument. Her existence furthered the intent of the Syngraf. It was irrelevant what (who) the Syngraf were (she neither knew nor had ever desired to know). It was fact, the absolute, unchangeable reality that simply was.

Sometime between now and two months ago, when she’d brought her sons into existence, this had changed. Inexplicably, Rozharon found herself wanting something both unnecessary and insignificant: the happiness of her sons.

To a certain extent, Pallas and Lenore could glean the directions her thoughts took. Not now. She kept the surface of her mind carefully dark. They didn’t know she felt absolutely nothing; not when she stood listening to her husband’s last breaths, not when she watched every tear fall during the funeral. Not now.

You can't raise the dead, but you can help protect those still living. That was the mask she’d wear this hour, then.

Her eyes were fixed outside the window, but Rozharon’s peculiar sight afforded her a full view of the room. As she sipped from her glass, she watched Raveena (a good friend of Titus, a valuable ally in Hyperion) lean against her son (Senaria’s fast to form alliances and partnerships, probable focus on developing Thraece, in line with THRIVE). Perhaps there was something she should have felt towards the casual display of affection between mother and son, but her attention turned to other things.

She watched Aveline and Thurgood Singlance position themselves at a side table (such a solitary pair, isolated from the others both by choice and chance). She felt Lenore’s sympathy and Pallas’ guilt; he had delivered the message that the Singlances were to leave Ursa Madeum mere days before Titus had passed away.

She watched, without ever laying her eyes on them, as two Norkotians begin to make her way towards her.

Rozharon glanced at the Singlances, then her sons. “Talk to them?” she suggested. Now’s a good time as any to emphasize how we value their loyalty, their service, and how Veluriyam does not let these things go unrecognized.

Lenore left. Pallas remained by her side as Tynes and his companions approached. They offered condolences.

“Thank you,” Rozharon said, with a wan smile. She gave Kessler an apologetic look. “No, I’m afraid I haven’t. Titus was often the one to manage foreign affairs.” She shook each of their hands. “It’s a pleasure to meet both of you.”

The Empress returned her attention to Tynes. Her gaze flitted down to his arm. Prosthetic. Norkotian craftsmanship. She took a moment to sweep her telemetry over the device, committing every detail of its components and mechanisms, to memory.

“I’m sorry to hear about the incident with Hildebrand several months ago. I’m glad to see you’ve recovered. Has there been any progress on identifying the attackers?”

Though the prince’s perfectly neutral expression didn’t change, Rozharon sensed Pallas perk up.

This, and the Dali kidnapping at the ball? Pallas' thoughts came burning with irritation. You're dealing with this eventually, aren't you?

Of course, Rozharon replied silently. Why do you think I made you two?



He didn't know what to feel.

If anything, it was irritating that complete strangers seemed to mourn his father more than he did. They'd shed tears. Lenore couldn't summon more than a vague, empty despair that gnawed at his chest, an anxiety that was founded more on the struggle to appear in grief than any actual grief.

At least with the Singlances, he wouldn't need to project the air of quiet solemnity his mother wore so easily.

He sat down at their table "Hey."

After a moment's hesitation, he added, "It's Lenore." Another pause, then, "I'm sorry. You two knew Emperor T- my father more than I and my brother did, I think. I'm sure he was grateful for all you did for him and... well, the Empire."

Another pause. "Seriously, despite all the drivel that comes with being a noble-" temporary as it was, still don't quite understand why Mom did that "- you've done a lot of good. On behalf of his family. Thank you."

That was that, mostly. Lenore was too tired to weave eloquence in his words, to act his supposed age.

He waved a server over and ordered a latte.


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Thurgood sighs, "I just at least wanted him to live long enough to see the navy we'll build the Empire," Thurgood says, "a proper blue water navy that would have allowed him to reach out and touch any point on Valucre's oceans. At least you, Pallas, and you mom will..."

Aveline didn't say anything. At this point she really can't without it sounding all blubbery.

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