Domain of Power (Book 3)

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Chapter 23: The Breakdown

Odydus trailed behind Apollus as they witnessed the panic I created. My brother let out a gasp as he tiptoed over the pool of crimson the slave girl had started cleaning. His eyes flitted from the blood-stained bedsheets before settling on mines. "What happened to you?" he asked, wagging his head. "I did not hear anyone breaking into the palace according to my knowledge? Did someone here do this to you?" he asked, turning to the slave girl who was on her hands and knees. She froze. "Did you or some other inside traitor come in and do this?" Apollus hissed, glaring at her. Her trembling hands could barely hold on to the blood-soaked cloth.

"No, not at all your Excellency," she said, quivering.

"How did this happen then?" Odydus questioned, handing her a piece of cloth to wrap around my arm.

"I found Troy with the knife when I walked in to inspect his room this morning. He was covered in his blood. I am afraid this was self-inflicted."

"Is this true Troy?" Apollus asked briskly. I nodded.

"My goodness!" Apollus muttered under his breath.

"Please do not blame the slave girl," I said glancing over in her direction.

"Why Troy?" Apollus muttered under his breath. "I know grandfather's death is hurting all of us but trying to commit suicide is not the answer," he said in a gentler tone. "Can I have a word alone with my brother?" Apollus asked, with a hint of irritation in his voice. Odydus along with the slave girl departed the room.

"I was not intending to kill myself," I said, feeling myself get defensive.

"Oh you would have fooled me with all the blood," Apollus hissed as his sandal smeared my blood on the ground. "Why would you inflict yourself with the knife then?" I sat there on the bed, staring at my hands. "I am worried you are going to kill yourself one day," Apollus muttered with a loud sigh.

"Like you would care if I died!" I snapped. Apollus turned to me.

"Why would you say such a thing? Of course I would care," he said as his tone fell to a soft undertone. "You are my little brother. I am not saying this because I am obliged to say this but I am saying this because I do care even though you refuse to believe it. I hate being sentimental but I still worry about you. I am sorry I have not been the best brother but you have to believe me that I am not the enemy. I care enough for you not to create your own bloodbath. I do not know what I could do as your brother so you do not have to hurt yourself. Tell me what I can do; anything," he pleaded as he tried to take a seat beside me.

"There is a blood splotch right there," I pointed out, right before he placed his posterior there.

"Never mind. Thanks," he mumbled, jolting quickly from the cot. He took a cedar chair by my desk and pulled it directly across from me.

"I do not know if you can help me. I am losing touch with reality and the only way to know that I was not just dreaming this nightmare was to feel pain. I know it sounds stupid. You yourself can say it," I said grimly.

"I am not going to say it. No need to add salt to injury. I know I am good at that am I not?" he asked rhetorically. Yes you are quite an expert at that. I looked up from the white sheets as I stared into Apollus' widening pupils. "How long has this been going on? I know you have been having the night terrors but I did not realize this was an ongoing thing."

"Well I have been pinching my wrists for weeks. I just was good at hiding it. This is the first time I actually cut them," I said, propping my hands on my knees.

"I still cannot understand why you need to feel pain to know this is reality," Apollus said shaking his head. He would never get it. But then again how could I expect him too?

"In my dreams I wanted a stronger sensation then just a pinch to know I was awake," I said, as I showcased my bandaged arm, with the bandages extending almost to my elbow. "It is becoming harder to tell if I awoke from the dream because it feels too real at times. In my dreams it usually ends all the same; that I am about to be stabbed or killed. So I thought this morning that when I awoke from Titus trying to kill me, I thought I was waking up to another dream so… I cut myself. I felt numb at first to the pain so I continued but now I feel the physical pain more than ever. I hate what I have become, and I hate living like this. I cannot live like this anymore Apollus." I looked into Apollus' eyes. Usually they radiated confidence or arrogance or both but I never seen him look so scared. He was more scared than I was.

"The dreams are not real Troy. You have to get that through your head," he said in a slow deliberate voice, as if I was hard of hearing.

"I am trying so hard… but they feel so real until I...die," I choked. I cleared my throat. "That is why I bought this," I said pointing to the gourd shaped bottle on the nightstand.

"Where did you get that?" Apollus exclaimed. He took a deep breath to absorb what I was about to say next.

"I bought it from this shopkeeper who dropped me off home yesterday. I am hesitant to take it but I am afraid I am running out of choices. I need help. I just feel so lost without him," I said, trying to keep my voice steady.

"I know how you feel," he said, placing a warm hand on my shoulder. Usually I was not convinced of the truthfulness of his words. But I believed him now. I felt it. "I think we are all in shock and denial at what just happened. I miss him too." He pursed his lips together before forcing himself to continue. "I suppose his death triggered this incident," he said pointing to my bandaged wrists. "You can take the sleeping medicine if you need it but be careful, please. I do not want to lose you Troy," Apollus said, gazing at me with fervent eyes. As Apollus reached for my hand I pulled away in pain. I gritted my teeth as the pain shot through my arm like how I imagined lightening would travel.

"I am sorry," he said ruefully. "I should have known your limbs are still very tender," he muttered.

I mumbled under my breath as the pain flared up once more.

"I promise we will get through this as a family. Funeral arrangements are already in the works. If you need anything…anything please let me know. Just please do not kill yourself just to test if you are living," Apollus said sternly. He got up from his seat and crossed the room—

"Is this the first real conversation we had," I blurted aloud. "Or maybe we had one before my mind blotted it out," I said softly. Startled, Apollus gazed back at me with a smile, "No I suppose you are right. I hope this is not the last."

As the days slowly trudged by, a permanent dark cloud seemed to hang overhead on the palace. The only light seemed to be the thin veils of sunlight that escaped through the clouds above the sun roof in the atrium. As I would visit his old bed chamber, I would take a whiff of the frankincense and sweet incense that masked the old smells of death. My eyes follow the beautiful frescos of Greek mythology that graced the walls from floor to ceiling. The moving vivacious figures celebrated life, but now death possessed this old space. Everything seemed to move in quick succession as his body was prepared by the embalmers for the wake that would last all week at our home.

Visitors from all over the island came to pay their respects to their original leader including family on my mother's side with their young ones who we rarely spoke to and knew little about. I heard they resided in Cyrene although they were originally not from the island. From what I was told, my mother's family was kept at a distance over a petty feud. I watched my aunt Aurora; her dark wavy tresses pinned up in an elegant knot at the crown as she strolled in with her husband and their three small children. With each step she took, her long stolla nearly swept the floor, as she eased closer to see the pale yet serene leader in his bed. I imagined she was how mother would have looked and I yearned to be by her side as she wept. On the second day Felix and the rest of the Aurelius family including his son Maxis and his wife Lydia came to pay their respects with soft words to father and scented oils and flowers as departing gifts. I watched as Lydia rubbed her protruding belly as she looked up into the eyes of her husband Maxis.

"I can hear the baby kick," she said softly, as they shared a smile. How could she be so happy at a time like this? When I glanced their way, I felt a surge of sadness and anger wash over me. Why does she have to rub it in that she is happy while I am miserable? Why did I have to lose someone I loved? Wait…why I am jealous? Was that what I was feeling? I asked father to be excused that day as my eyes moistened with tears. As I stormed down the hall, I ignored the incoming dignitaries that were coming in to pay their respect. I just need some to clear my mind I told myself, as I entered the garden.

"How are you feeling prince Troy?" the slave girl said, tucking a loose curl behind her ear before standing next to me by the fountain. Her lovely smile had quickly faded into a frown. My face must have said it all.

"Tired," I sighed, averting her gaze.

"I understand. I know this is a hard time for you. Is there anything I can do for you to make you feel better?" she asked sheepishly. I shook my head as I watched her lips quiver. "I just thought that maybe…never mind," she sighed. "By the way my name is Cornelia," she said at last. I was too absorbed in my thoughts; too absorbed in my feelings to ever think she could understand and that anything between us would ever change beyond the dynamics of a slave and master relationship. As she left me standing by the water bubbling from the cherub's mouth, I realized in that moment that I was alive because of her.


It was a hot July evening with the only relief coming from a gentle breeze. After the 7th day the wake was hosted, the funeral procession proceeded to the Forum before ending at the Field of Souls. I had little time to process all these feelings before hitching a ride on a chariot with my brothers. Donned in mourning garbs, I plastered a calm composed mask every time I happened to look behind at the growing crowd. Ahead were the sweet sounds of harps and flutes played by the musicians and the haunting chorales of the women that enchanted my troubled mind. I forced myself to look past them and to the approaching public square surrounded by massive civic structures and temples where many of the major roads met. I looked to my side, stealing a side glance at Apollus reading over his eulogy speech. I could sense he was nervous because he had rehearsed it so many times, yet his hand still quivered as he clutched the parchment.

"I do not know if I can do this," Apollus muttered.

"That is a first from you," Barbarius remarked dryly. "You need not do it alone," he replied matter-of-fact.

Apollus nodded. "You all should have a part in this. We can include your part Barbarius, and yours too Troy." I froze in terror. I had not written barely anything to include in the eulogy. The right words never seemed to flow as I looked down at my parchment that had only a few penned down lines in my crooked handwriting.

"I barely wrote anything. I had so much on my mind…I just could not…" I sighed aloud.

"Do not worry you can just read off the last part of my speech," Apollus replied, with a shrug. I nodded my head as he handed it for me to rehearse before we finally reached the forum. These were not my words, but I would make it work. I hope.

There was a great throng of citizens waiting in the open square. Some looked like dignitaries with their striped togas while others were commonplace citizens that were moved to show respect for their former leader. As I weaved through the somber crowd, I would hear, 'Sorry for your loss,' or 'I am deeply sorry.' I merely nodded my head and uttered 'thanks' out of courtesy although most of them I had no idea who they were. In the middle of the square, next to a huge sundial, a wooden podium was being stationed. From the ebbing movement of the crowd, I caught a glimpse of Priscilla standing by her sister Lydia and her brother-in-law as they spoke with Apollus. Priscilla broke her attention from the group and stared directly in my path. Before she could make her way to approach me, I disappeared into the back of the crowd. I could hardly see father as he made his way through the crowd and up the steps to the podium to begin his speech. His next words were all a blur.

"How are you faring Troy?" a young man said as he patted me on the shoulder once the speech had come to a close. Despite the occasion he still wore a grin on his face. With a fresh clean-shaven face like mines he had to be around my age.

"Coping," I said flatly.

"I do not know if you remember me but I am Marcus." He must have seen the confusion on my face because he continued, "Felix is my father." I nodded, filling in the uncomfortable silence between us. He seemed to be nice. Maybe we were friends or at least acquaintances before I lost my memory. Even if that was the case, he made no lasting impression at my ceremony banquet.

"I said, 'so how did your family enjoy the bouquet of lilies?' "He inquired. I blinked away the invisible fog that was hovering over me and tried to concentrate on the words coming out of his mouth.

"Oh. They were really nice. Thanks for your thoughtfulness," I replied.

"I am glad you liked them, um I should be going. Nice talking to you," he said with a smile. I plastered a weak smile in return. His looked more real than mines. I was just too numb to evoke any emotions. I was surrounded by nobles and some familiar faces, yet I had no desire to talk to anyone. I would remain invisible until we arrived at the last leg of the procession. The Field of Souls.

"Troy, there you are," a voice called from behind the chariot. I slowly turned around to see Romeos and Julius' eyes light up as they quickened their pace to greet me. I just stood there indifferently as they weaved through the throng to embrace me.

"We were looking all over for you," Romeos said as he hugged me. We both hugged for a long time as he whispered, "I am so sorry I did not make it to the wake, but I just could not gather the courage," he said with a hint of sadness.

"Thanks for coming anyways," I croaked.

"How are you faring?" Julius asked sheepishly. I looked down at my sandals. What was I supposed to say? That I was about to fall to pieces soon.

"It will be all right," Romeos said patting me on the shoulder. "We are here for you Troy. Remember we are family now," he said in an undertone. I weakly nodded as I tried to lift my heavy head just to see their eyes. They must have sensed the pain I felt locked inside in a chest. In a simple gesture, Romeos wrapped his arm around my shoulder with Julius patting me on the back as we slowly trudged the grassy meadows with the golden sun in the west beaming in front of us.

I broke the silence. "I am worried about the eulogy I must give. Apollus said the priest will designate the Singer to sing the dirge and then the eulogy will begin," I sighed. "I do not have the courage to stand up in front of all those people and read someone else's script," I sighed.

"You will do fine Troy," Romeos assured. "You never failed at anything. Besides you are just reading what someone else already prepared. They did the hard part for you." He did have a valid point.

"What if I stumble or lose my composure?" I asked.

"It is not about the words. Just speak from your heart. That is what matters," Julius chimed in. I weakly nodded back at him. He was right. I needed to say how I really felt…what he meant to me. Just as we reached the edge of the grave markers, father crossed a grove of trees in his long flowing toga with his aid, when he eyed us.

"Troy, I think you can practice on your own," father said sharply without even looking at the twins who stood there anxiously.

"They were just helping with the speech I must give," I replied matter-of-fact.

"We are so sorry about the trouble your majesty," Romeos said prudently. "We came to show our support. We know it must be such a hard time for your family right now." Father stood there with pursed lips as he looked through Romeos as if he did not exist.

"Thanks," father mumbled as he turned his back to them and stalked off. I watched the aid stare back apologetically at the two young men.

"Did I do something wrong?" Romeos blurted out irritably when he thought my father was too far to hear.

"He is just under a lot of pressure. You meant no harm," I whispered. In the corner of my eyes I saw that he must have heard what Romeos heard because he slowly turned around and made his way over to our group! Here we go again!

"Troy, I think they need you up front soon, the funeral is about to begin," he said a terse voice.

"Yes father," I muttered. As father's aid whisked me away, I muttered, "They were just trying to be supportive."

"I do not trust their motives. Just because they showed up to the funeral of your grandfather does not change the fact that their father is a traitor and a thief at that. I do not want you to be in company with the likes of those men," father said, glaring at me as we trampled wildflowers underfoot.

"But they are my friends," I said.

"You can make friends with other boys like Felix's son Marcus for instance," he said, pointing him out in a group with some other young men including his older brothers. There was no denying Marcus was a nice person but at the end of the day he was just another passing acquaintance.

"You do not understand father. Romeos and Julius have helped me so much through the good and bad times and those are the friends I need right now. They are good men. Forget about what their father may or may not have done. They should not bear the fault of their father," I said, getting defensive.

"I cannot believe I am hearing this right now," he muttered shaking his head. "I am this close to having them removed after your little 'friend' made that disrespectful comment," he snarled.

"He was trying to be polite to you father, but you were the one who was being cold to him."

"I do not want to hear this! If you want to side with them it is to your detriment. As your king and your father I forbid you to speak to them. Is that clear?" I just stood there with pursed lips. My hands folded across my chest. Such a choice was unthinkable.

"Stop embarrassing yourself by acting like a five year old. I cannot believe I raised a pitiful excuse for a son!" he snapped in front of his aid. Father's words had more effect on me then he realized. I lost what little confidence I had tried to build to give the eulogy. I quietly excused myself to the back of the funeral party and towards the rolling hills in front of me. It did not matter to me that I was walking away from the funeral; away from my loved ones and friends.

Just as I began climbing up the hill, the sweet melodic notes from the flute filled the air, cementing my feet on the grassy earth. The airy tune was followed by a low hum that carried over the valley. I gazed at the man donned in a black toga standing in the center of the podium, singing before the crowd. His low baritone voice stirred my heart before reaching for higher notes. My dry eyes moistened with tears. The dirge carried through the crowd like the east wind, as his voice grew louder and more fervent. I needed to be here. If nobody else let me do it for grandfather. He deserved the honor.

From my vantage point I could see hundreds if not thousands of people assembled in one mass standing shoulder to shoulder. All shared the sorrow that brought us together. Perhaps at one time our people had come together to remember those lost in times past. As if forming an unspoken agreement the crowd parted forming a grassy aisle as I made way through the crowd. Further ahead Julius and Romeos acknowledged my presence with a simple nod. I nodded back. Sullen faces looked my way. Others remained transfixed to the haunting dirge. Several rows up, I caught glimpses of Priscilla standing with her parents as I could see the tears flood their eyes. Towards the front was my extended family all standing together for the first time as one unit.

"Today we mourn his loss but we also celebrate the legacy of a great noble man," Apollus began. "To everyone here he was a great and dynamic leader but to me he was so much more. He was a wonderful counselor, friend, and beloved grandfather. Miletus Acropolus Acertius will be dearly missed to everyone he touched from the greatest to the least of men. Of all his greatest qualities that one must name was his surpassing wisdom. All the wisdom that he possessed could fill beyond the libraries this island possessed," Apollus said extending his hand out in a sweeping gesture. "His life here on this earth was cut short by treacherous men so we may never know all the wisdom that he truly possessed. What he has taught me from his wise words will always live on in my memory as I reflect on his long life on this earth. Some men die forgotten but he has made a name that is worth remembering," he spoke passionately. "As his grandson and a ruler to be, I hope to be even half the man he was," he said in a wistful tone…

"We are gathered over the senseless killing of a great man. He was a noble man who took the cup as a sacrifice for us all to still be here standing. It is a sad day for the island; a day that will live in infamy. From these tragic events let us learn from the lessons he taught us. Let justice and peace prevail. That is what he would have wanted…That is what I want and my family will stop at nothing until we bring every last opponent of peace and justice to their finish," Barbarius said with an edge to his voice, before bowing his head to collect himself. As he finished the closing lines of his speech his gaze drifted to my direction as I stood next to Apollus by the left side of the wooden podium.

"The last speaker that would like to say a few words in behalf of our grandfather is my youngest brother Troy," Barbarius announced before he made his way down the wooden steps. He gestured for me to start coming up as I stood there trembling in fear of the crowd; in fear of messing up, in fear of losing it all on the stage.

"Here is the last part of my parchment," Apollus said as he pointed to the very bottom. "Go along you will do fine Troy," he whispered as he flashed a reassuring smile. I took a deep breath and grabbed the parchment in my quivering hand. My heart was racing uncontrollably, competing with the loud creaking sounds of the wooden planks. I imagined the stage could collapse at any moment sending me crashing to my death. My eyes flitted towards the anxious eyes below. I blinked away the thousand eyes staring at me; watching me shuffle my feet to the center. I gulped down the last of my saliva before unraveling my parchment. I stared into the dizzying sea of faces, searching for familiar faces that I could latch on to. I saw a glimpse of Romeos, smiling below. I took a deep breath…but nothing came out! I could almost hear the audience hold their breath in anticipation as I rested my eyes back on the parchment. Just get through this.

"It is a day of sorrow for us all," I began. "It is a day that will be etched in our minds from this day forward as we proceed to send him to his resting place. We cannot expect to change the cards that fate has given us. It is something we cannot always predict because the cards have not been shown to us. We live one day at a time; borrowed time that is before it is demanded back from us…" I faltered. Father looked at me with a concerned face as I stopped midsentence. "Do we have control over our destinies?" I began again. "I wish things were different, maybe then events would have played out differently. Maybe grandfather Miletus would still be here with us.

"Life is said to be the natural cycle of things, as one person dies another human welcomes life. If death was natural why do we never get used to it? It hurts us so much in ways we cannot even put into words. What I do know is I miss you grandfather," I said, looking over at his closed casket down to the right of the podium. "You were the one who pulled me from the watery deep and told me it will be all right. You were the one that kept me afloat in uncertain waters as I held your hand. You accepted me for who I was and you never expected me to change. You always loved me unconditionally and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart," I said as my voice began to quiver. "When you were here, you helped me to make sense of my world as if I could finally swim above the currents of life. Now that you are gone, I feel a giant void that cannot be filled. Without you grandfather I feel I cannot swim alone. I feel like I am gasping for air and no matter how hard I try, I feel like I am slowly drowning," I said as tears streamed down my cheeks. "I need you but you can never answer me in the depths of hades," I sobbed. "Sorry," I whimpered, before running off the stage.

"Troy wait!" Apollus called out as I brushed past him.

"Obviously this tragedy has been hard on all of us," father said as he abruptly took the stage after I ran off. As I headed up the hill, I found Silus sitting on a rock on the hill. What did he want now? To make fun of how I lost my composure. But then it really did not matter what he thought!

"Troy is everything all right?" he called out, as I ran past him. Clearly you did not see me burst into tears and run off the stage. No I am not all right! I ignored him as I continued running; hoping that nobody could see me cry. Once at the top, I dropped to my knees before burying my head in the safety of my arms. I tried to regain mastery over my emotions; but it was a losing battle. I was not even going to try. The only sounds left were my sobs. Moments later, someone nudged me on the left shoulder.

"You will get through this. We will get through this," he whispered in my ear. I did not even have to look up. It was Apollus.

"It is all right to feel the way you do," Apollus said soothingly. As I finally looked up to see his face, I could see his eyes grow watery. "You did your best Troy; you said what was on your heart. You moved everyone with what you just said," Apollus said as a tear escaped his eyelids. Just then Barbarius ran up the hill to see what happened to me. I got up from the ground, still shaking. Without a word he wrapped me in his arms. I hugged him tight not wanting to let go as Apollus joined our huddle. I could feel the warmth that their bodies gave when their sturdy arms held me tight. It was at this dark moment that I realized I was not alone. Behind the years of conditioning there was love to be felt by my own blood. Finally I did not have to feel so alone. Finally all the barriers that kept us from feeling gave way.

"We need to be here for each other," Barbarius said, his voice breathy. "All we have is each other besides father. I just wish I could have been there for you and Troy. I had no idea what Troy was going through in silence. I suppose everything happened so fast that we did not even allow ourselves to grieve properly. I am supposed to be the strong one, but I do not feel so strong dealing with this," he sighed as he rubbed his bloodshot eyes. "Truth is I am not much different than that scared nine year old boy when mother died," he said, his voice cracking at the last few words.

"At least you did not run off this time," Apollus said as he wiped his eyes. "We are not letting you drown," Apollus said softly. Just then Silus approached our group.

"I was checking to see how Troy was doing. I was just wondering since—" Silus began.

"Now is not a good time," Barbarius responded sharply. Silus bit his lower lip.

"I am sorry for everything. And if you are still listening Troy, I am sorry for the fool I have been, trying to pick a fight. You proved to be the better man," he said as he turned his back and made his way towards the edge of the hill.

"So that is the 'boy' that was causing you vexation," Barbarius hissed. He glanced at the bandages I tried to hide under my long sleeve tunic. His bloodshot eyes looked even scarier than a moment ago. Immediately he turned to glare at Silus who teetered towards the edge. If looks could kill, Silus' funeral was about to be next. Before I could grab hold of him he was already at his heels.

"Stop!" Apollus shouted before the words could leave my throat. However, Barbarius' arm only grew tighter around Silus' throat.

"What are you doing?" Silus asked in a shaky voice.

"Barbarius let him go!" Apollus said rushing towards Apollus with me trailing behind. Barbarius muttered for Apollus to stand back as he kept yanking Silus' head. "He is not worth it," he said trying to keep his voice calm. Underlining it was the unspoken fear we likely shared. That he might break Silus' neck.

"Please just let me go," Silus pleaded. His trembling legs teetered towards the edge.

"Did you listen to Troy when he told you to leave him alone?"

"Well…"

"Did you?" he snapped in his ear. Silus struggled to break free only for Barbarius to yank him backwards.

"No, but he made the first blow at me!" Silus said, as his cheeks reddened. "He is the one that made my nose bleed!"

"Good. I am glad he stood up for himself against a bully like you! Troy is the most honorable, peaceful man I have even known. You must have pushed him to his breaking point until there was no room for mercy," Barbarius snapped as he wrested Silus' flailing arms. Below, nearby onlookers stopped to gawk. Their feet frozen on the ground.

"And you are any better?" Silus snapped. Before Apollus could step in to pry Silus away, Barbarius abruptly released Silus from his muscular grip. Silus stopped to catch himself from falling over.

"Sorry," Silus mumbled. "Is that enough for you?" Silus said, shaking his head as he tried to smoothen out his ruffled garment. I watched below as Priscilla clapped her hand over her mouth as she watched Silus stagger down the hill.

"What is going on here?" Father snarled as we descended to the base to meet him.

"Silus needed the fear put into him to respect his dignitaries, but I did not call for this action on Barbarius part," Apollus said prudently in an attempt to quell my father's anger. By now most of the attendees were beginning to leave except for a couple of dignitaries and close family nearby who were startled by what was going on.

"This is not becoming especially at your own grandfather's funeral! Please do not invite more senseless talk about this family. I do not know all the details but I see this was not the course of wisdom."

"Offending the royal family is a capital offense," Barbarius said getting defensive.

"Yes, but taking such matters in your own hands in front of others is inappropriate; especially considering what today is," father hissed. "You need to defer to Apollus if I am not around from now on," father uttered sternly while matching Barbarius defiant gaze with cold eyes.

"This is unbelievable!" Barbarius muttered. "I am the oldest and I have to defer to Apollus!"

"I am the next king," Apollus replied matter of fact.

"Not yet!" he said, scowling at Apollus. "I just hate losing my dignity as firstborn. I may have lost my right as king but I do not want to lose my dignity either," he sighed. He turned to father. "I am sorry father…I did not mean to upset the peace. I feel like I am to lose it. We are all distraught and hearing that Silus was picking a fight with Troy who is already in a fragile state…I just lost it," Barbarius said in breathy voice. He rubbed his eyes, fighting back the tears that were threatening to ooze past his long eyelashes.

"I am deeply disappointed in all of you. I expected so much from you men. You are not boys anymore but young men," father said in a brisk tone.

"We never meant to shame you father," Apollus said in a rueful voice. Between me running off during my speech and Barbarius almost strangling Silus, Apollus looked like the model child right now. Between the three of us, he had nothing to be ashamed about. Yet I watched him absorb our guilt. I should have told him that was not necessary but I kept silent. A part of me respected him for doing that. In that moment of silence, Father's hardened eyes softened.

"I am disappointed at your actions because I know what you are capable of. I just wanted this funeral to be a respectable occasion for reflection for my father. But what I heard earlier though made me feel like I have raised honorable men to be proud of…I admire your courage," he said softly. My head rose at the words. "I know this is hard on all of you," he said, before taking a deep sigh. "This has been difficult for me too," he uttered, clearing his throat. "I appreciate the gods granting him the opportunity to see you all grow up and become men. For that I am eternally grateful."

"It is time to say goodbye to the old era and welcome the start of a new one! It is time…"

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