Grand Prince Amil picked at his food apathetically. Shamrock-green walls rose up around him. Glass-paned windows set in gold frame towered on his left. On the right, a wide set of double-doors silently opened and closed as the butlers came in with platters of food. Prince Amil’s foot slipped slightly as he tried to scuff his uncomfortable shoe against the shining white, porcelain floor.
In front of the prince, a long, polished, beige table stretched to the other side of the room. On that side, Emperor Aaric sat. Without the royal robes and the wicked, dark eyes, the Emperor would have looked quite ordinary.
Amil always felt intimidated by his father. He wasn’t sure if it was the Emperor’s adept talent with dark magic or his harsh demeanor. Perhaps it was the frightening punishments that Prince Amil had to experience first-hand as he grew up. Maybe it was the fact that he had never seen his father genuinely smile.
But there it was. The Emperor had a gleeful smile stuck on his narrow face. He noticed his son’s stare and smiled even wider. “You must be wondering what I’m so happy about.”
Amil pushed back the fear scrabbling at the edge of his mind. He shrugged. “Well, true, this is the happiest I’ve ever seen you. Have you finally won over Delona to be your seer?”
The Emperor scowled at his son’s haughty attitude for a moment. He growled, “Son, Delona knows the price of disappointing me. Do you?”
The young prince twitched nervously.
Emperor Aaric continued. “The digging in Adornath has finally come with amazing results.”
“And what would that be?”
The Emperor leaned over his food excitedly. “They found something. Something with great power. This will change Ianen!”
“Great. It’s just what you need,” Amil rolled his blue eyes. “Because an Emperor always needs more power.”
The Emperor narrowed his eyes at his son and sighed. “I suppose you are still too young to understand that I am doing this for the good of Ianen. You are barely older than one decade after all.”
Amil stabbed a piece of lettuce with his silver fork. “Good? All you do is kill anyone with common magic, Father. Anyone who doesn’t conform to your thinking is punished! How is that good?”
Emperor Aaric clucked his tongue condescendingly. “Amil, ridding the world of filth such as mages is necessary.” He sighed again. “Honestly, how can I let you take over my lands if you are not going to enforce the law?”
“Maybe I don’t want to be Emperor if I have to enforce these laws!” Amil yelled.
The Emperor gave him an arctic stare, hissing between his teeth. “One day, you will, whether you want to or not, Amil. For centuries the Valerian Empire has protected Ianen. All we do is just.”
Amil opened his mouth to protest, but they were interrupted by a firm knock at the door.
“Come in,” the Emperor breathed out calmly.
A soldier came in and kneeled swiftly at the Emperor’s feet. He kept his head down and stammered. “Y-your Grace, we have news…a-about what the squad in Adornath found.”
“Yes, what is it? Last I heard, Torin was bringing it to me,” the Emperor said impatiently.
“Y-yes, well…” the soldier stuttered.
“Spit it out.”
“They lost it.”
A moment of deafening silence hung in the air.
“What?” Emperor Aaric’s voice was calm, but a livid anger burned in his eyes. The soldier whimpered and bowed his head lower in shame.
Faster than Amil could follow, his father took his silver knife and sent it through the soldier’s head. Blood splattered on the porcelain white floors. Prince Amil shuddered and averted his eyes.
“Those fools,” The Emperor sighed. He stood up and snapped. Two servants appeared from the double-doors.
“Clean up this mess before it stains my floor,” the Emperor commanded. He turned and strode out of the dining hall, his green robes swishing behind him.
As he watched the servants clean away the bleeding corpse, Prince Amil exhaled and shook violently. No matter how many times he saw his father personally give the death sentence, he could never get used to it. The usual sick feeling gurgled in his stomach. He calmed himself then thought it strange for his father to get so angry in the first place.
“It must be really important,” he murmured shakily as he left the dining hall, no longer hungry.