"Aric," Lady Leanor gasped, her voice choked with sorrow, "what have you done?"
"I told you," her son replied flatly, all emotion gone from his face as he looked down at his bloody hands, "I killed him."
"But why?" she asked, beginning to pace the room. "We had a plan. Capture him, make him give up the throne, then imprison him while I take back my birthright."
"So," Aric replied sarcastically, "you still can."
"No," Leanor replied shrilly, running her fingers through her hair distractedly. "No I can't."
"Why?" he asked, beginning to get fed up with her overreaction to what he did.
"Because you fucking killed him!!" she spat angrily, turning on him. "As long as your father was alive there was precedent for me to call on to make my ascension legal, but the moment you struck the death blow an entire new set of problems arose."
"Problems like what?" he asked, finally beginning to understand her frustrations.
"Problems like 'The Law of Succession'," she spat. "That's what.
"When he was alive I was his wife and therefore had a legitmitate if shaky claim," she continued, "but since you killed him, you must now take the throne."
"No," Aric replied, standing, shaking with anger.
"Aric," Leanor sighed, trying to help her son understand the implications of his actions, "we are vampires, and vampires have always followed the strongest, or in your fathers case, the most ruthless.
"The moment you plunged that dagger into his chest you proved yourself more powerful than me," she said, exhaustion beginning to show. "By every law, dating back to King Januarius himself, you are now the ruler of the Northwest Territory."
"I'm fucked," Aric replied, falling into his chair.
"Yeah, you're fucked," Emily said from the doorway, "but at least you're not alone."
Stepping into the room, his sister was followed by the ghost of a woman.
It took Aric three glances to recognize that shadow that followed Emily was Liberty.
In one move he had her in his arms, his lips leaving wet kisses all over her forehead and cheeks.
"Liberty," he breathed, holding her close, "I thought you were dead."
Liberty stood silent as the grave in his arms, afraid that if she moved the dream would end and Aric would be taken from her again.
"Aric," he heard his sister say as she touched his arm, "give the poor girl some space. She's been through hell and she's still very weak."
Seeing the glazed look on Liberty's face, he understood what his sister was saying.
Releasing her, Aric released her, taking a step away only to have her hand shoot out and grasp his in an iron grip.
Had he not been a vampire, he was sure that she would have broken his hand she was gripping him so tightly.
Liberty never said a word, never looked at him, she refused to release his hand.
"Did Henry find Alfie?" Aric asked, looking to his sister for just one more piece of good news before the shit storm he'd created by killing Lothaire really hit the fan.
"Yeah," Emily replied, as if she was the savior of all things love related. "Alfie was helping a house slave named Aida tend to Liberty."
At the mention of the other woman's name, Liberty looked up, her eyes trying to focus.
"Aida," she said, almost too softly for even the vampires to hear.
"Yes," Aric replied, gently caressing her cheek with the tip of his finger. "Aida."
Liberty simply nodded her head dumbly, as if that one word was all her mind could process.