“No Adrix, you’re wrong!” Taika turned her head away to not let her older brother see her cry.
“I’m sorry Tai, he’s dying.” Adrix had the height and rust coloured beard of their father, but had yet to gain the girth of the king.
Running towards the royal chambers, still in her practice armour, she fought back the tears that would have most of the other knights in training laughing at her. Sir Vastra was fond of telling her that knights don’t cry. As if the older woman could ever dredge up tears from her cold crystalized heart.
The castle guard didn’t stop her running through the halls. Her amber hair, bright pink eyes, matched with her improbable height, marked her as one of the thirteen Maneean royal heirs.
The royal surgeon stopped her at the door of her father’s rooms. “He only has a few minutes left. He’s asked to see you.”
A wave of indecision rolled over her. She wanted to remember him as the vibrant happy man he’d always been and part of her thought if she didn’t go in he couldn’t die. After a breath she decided she was being silly and walked into his rooms.
The large bed that he’d always looked so comfortable in now made him look small and frail. He gestured for her to come closer and she kneeled at his bedside. “Father, I… she trailed off, unsure what she wanted to say other than “Don’t Die”.
“Little Dagger.” His voice was raspy and distant. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for you.” He was once again the lithe frame of his youth, but it was due to illness not training. “You’ve always been my favourite.”
Smiling despite her tears, she laughed, “You tell us all that.”
“Perhaps, but it doesn’t make it any less true.”
“Don’t go, Father.” She knew it was an unfair request but she didn’t care.
Taking her hand, he looked at her and said, “You have always been most like me and I’m sorry for that. The traits that served me well as king are not well suited to a life as the fourth daughter and thirteenth heir.”
“It’s okay, Father. I’ll make a good knight.”
“You hate taking orders.”
“If they weren’t so stupid, I’d follow them.” He patted her hand.
“Adrix will be a good King but he will need someone with your sharp tongue and mind to keep him grounded. I want you to finish your knight training and then take over command of the battlemages.”
She assumed he was starting to slip and just smiled and nodded.
Giving her the cutting glare that had him nicknamed Dagger he said, “I have not lost my mind. They might be few but they’re powerful and they’re necessary. You are the most powerful, magically, of the heirs and I fear they’ll be needed now that the other kingdoms have pulled out of the Wall Accords.”
“Are you expecting war?”
Nodding he replied, “I’m expecting far worse my daughter, far worse.” He took a deep breath and released it slowly. He closed his eyes and his entire body started to glow. She called for the surgeon who called in her siblings, all but Adrianna who had been married to the prince of the kingdom on the opposite side of the circular wall.
The twelve of them stood around his bed and chanted the death song as his body converted itself to crystal. When it had finished, most of them were crying.
Taking the crystal, Addison who was the Keeper of the Crystals and first born, said, “And so in his death our father gives his power to his people and will rest in the hall of crystals.” The magical power of all Maneean’s came from their ancestors. It made the capital one of the most powerful places on the planet.
When a king dies, the kingdom goes into mourning for a year. In that year nothing happens but essential events and festivals. On the one year anniversary of the King’s death, the heir is coronated. It’s the most dangerous time for an heir, historically those below them in succession would try to assassinate them. This year was different; Adrix was the only heir that had ever cared about ruling, and both Adeena and Addison had abdicated in favour of service to the Temple of Ancestors.
The year passed with no assassinations, no scandals; nothing but sombre events.
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