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Righteous indignation intermingled with paralyzing anxiety to create a heart pounding cocktail of emotions for the young prince as he marched up to the oversized ceremonial doors. They were made of a reflective black material that might have been obsidian were the doors not so light. His reflection peered back at him between the wings of the Essonian eagle and other national symbols carved into the door's edifice. The eyes that met his were surprisingly foreign: disgustingly so.
They were those of a frightened and hurt child. A pitiable thing, far from the supposed 'prince' he claimed himself to be. To wear such chaotic emotions so freely was unbecoming of his station, and he reminded himself just what was at stake.
When he glanced back, a gaze of steel and a visage of stone tinged with the slightest hints of contempt greeted him. Acceptable enough.
The youth drew in a deep breath, muttered a quiet prayer, and parted the doors. They creaked loudly to herald his coming, the scent of burning charcoal and exotic incense filling his nostrils the moment he stepped inside. The massive doors creaked shut as they closed behind him, a final thud as their locking mechanisms slipped into place echoing across the chamber. Silence followed, save for the soft crackle of hungering torches along the walls.
The throne room was grand for its time, but fairly small by modern standards. It served more as his father's private residence on Ruusan more than anything of political significance, but the first title his father wore was King of the Graywall, and so it bore great relevance to the Grayson line. This was the place where family matters met their end, for good or ill.
"My son," his father's voice, deep and craggy from decades of barking orders, reverberated off the black stone walls. The Ashlan patriarch sat upon his throne in the midst of the chamber, a simple thing made of the same black material as the doors. Seats for a court were arranged in small rows at the sides of the chamber, though they'd not been used in decades. Only a few bejeweled torches snapping with flame and a handful of banners along the walls adorned the chamber.
His father, clad in the gold and white war-plate of his station, was surely the most ostentatious thing in the room.
"I remember you being bigger." Was the youth's greeting, his tone mired in cold amusement. "Have you shrunk with age?"
"I understand your displeasure and confusion with your situation Lothaire, but we need not sink to petty insults." The kaiser's tone was calm but strong, and he lifted himself from his chair to stare down at his progeny.
"Why not?" Lothaire asked with venomous defiance. "You've disinherited me! I am no prince. I have no station; I do not need to act like any sort of gentleman. You've freed me of such burdens." Eyes of an emerald sea met those of a raging storm, the indifferent crackling of the torches alone breaching the pregnant silence that hung in the air.
"You are my son." Cedric's voice once again shattered the silence, "Your titles are irrelevant. You carry the Grayson name and you will acknowledge that my decisions are in your interest. That is part of being a member of this family." His tone was matter of fact, as if he were explaining that the sun would rise tomorrow, or that the skies above Ruusan were a clear blue. Simple, observable, indisputable.
"I have seen you four times in my entire life. I have known no mother, no cousins, no brothers or sisters. How is this a family?" Lothaire demanded, exhaustion with the situation bleeding into his words despite his efforts to crush it down.
"We are bound in blood and there is no greater bond than that. You are a piece of me, an extension of myself. Through you, I have eternal life in this realm, and so will you through your children. We live on both in mortality and with the Ashla. Flesh and spirit." The old king explained with that same matter of fact tone. "It does not matter how much time we have spent together, or whether I am your confidant, or even if you have hatred for me. Our ties remain. It is for such reasons that you will retain the title of prince."
"With that in mind, you are not my heir Lothaire. You have not been educated in governance, you have learned nothing of the Force, you do not bear the make of a Jedi Knight, and the Ashlan people require a monarch trained in the arts if he is to lead justly and righteously." The kaiser's lips pressed into a tight frown. "Your temperament is too hot. So much fire in you. Much like your grandfather. You must understand that you cannot be trained, and I say so out of love. I do not wish to see what you might become."
Anxiety burned itself away as reality came crashing down on Lothaire like a tidal wave. He parted his lips to speak but found himself at a complete loss for words. A dull numbness overcame his senses, the energy seemingly sapped from his limbs and his own weight growing heavy. The quiet specter of misery whispered as the edge of his mind, and he found it difficult to maintain his stoic facade as his father stared down at him, the monarch's gaze unflinching.
"I want you to return to your post in the officer corps. You thrived there, and there is potential for you in the military. I was not able to be there for you Lothaire, but I provided you with a future most could only dream of. Be happy with what you have boy. What you perceive to be a curse is in truth a blessing." The old man's words rattled around in Lothaire's head, but the meaning was lost to him. He was transfixed by other malignant thoughts, and no matter how he tried, it seemed they were here to stay.
Part of him wanted to just turn and go; pretend none of this had happened and that he'd ignored his father's summons. Another part of him, the piece that had drove him to come here in the first place, had a nagging question that needed to be answered.
"Like your father?" He asked coldly, "You think I'm like him? I-... okay. Alright." Bitterness gave way to emotion and the display made his stomach turn with revulsion. It was as if his father's gaze had rendered him opaque and every little secret he'd ever hidden away within himself was shining through.
"You are a man now Lothaire, I will not lie to you to spare your feelings. The Ashla has great love for you as do I, but I forbid you to learn the ways of the Force. You have the make of a fine man and a capable leader; I do not wish to see your potential squandered by the Great Enemy and this kingdom driven to heresy. The Kaiserreich is greater than either of us, greater than our bloodline, and even moreso than Ession. It is the chronicle by which the galaxy may learn of the love the Ashla has for it. For its sake, you must return to your duties." Cedric's voice remained drenched in that same calm simplicity that was beginning to drive Lothaire mad.
The youth tore his gaze toward the floor and offered a weak nod. "I cannot remain in your court at the least?" He asked quietly, his private misery leaking into his words as his facade of strength shattered entirely.
The king sighed. "In time Lothaire. Much of the clergy have chosen to back you as heir. To have you at my side now would only strengthen their claim. You are needed in the military; you must build your future there. One day, you will be future Grand Marshal to your future brother. It is the best path for you."
A hint of fire shot through his heart, burning through the muck of misery that had bogged down his mind. It breathed new life into his voice and brief defiance filled his chest, "The path you've chosen for me."
"The right path," Cedric insisted. "You must learn humility Lothaire. You have been promised so much. Is that not enough?"
Crackling flame and silence filled the room once again. Lothaire drew in a deep breath, pulled his gaze from the hypnotic stare of his father, and turned toward the doors. "I will return to my work then father. If you'll permit me?"
The Ashlan Kaiser cracked a smile of genuine warmth for the first time since Lothaire had arrived. "I do. Have faith Lothaire. I will have you at my side soon enough."
The thud of the doors closing behind Lothaire was the only response the youth gave.