He sat, listening less and less as the council droned on. Was this the life of a leader? To listen and wait? Why didn’t anyone ask him about things like they used to? He shook his head drearily, staring off into the thick tapestry on the wall.
“And this law? Please sign if you agree.”
Someone handed him a stack of forty pages. He turned to look at it, and he just stared.
“Your highness? Nothing can be passed without your signature, please do your duty to the people.”
How many laws are in here? What am I signing?
No. Not today. You will not demean me, asking me to sign, and pressuring me not to read due to sheer volume.
“Come, prince, even this council waits on your signature. Until you act, we cannot move.”
“No,” said prince Ryann, “we will not be moving. Prepare to wait the full cycle until I have finished reading the laws in question.”
“Do not fool around your highness. Such a text would take more than a single cycle to read. We could be held up for hours.”
The man—who was that man, even? He didn’t look familiar. When had he become part of the court?—handed him a pen. The pen. It had the deep red ink that all laws had to be signed in. Signed in blood. Though it was animal blood harvested from the butchers, there was some amount of blood added to the ink’s mixture. It was mostly symbolic, but there was a law written centuries ago that required it. All laws must be signed in blood. Later legislators and clever monarchs footnoted this law until it required only a certain percentage mixed into the ink. Then, an innovative ink mixer created a blend that utilized the properties of blood. This formula was purchased from him and recorded into law. Layers and layers were built. This was the nature of Lussa law, and this was what Ryann grew up learning. There was something familiar and comforting about the law of his City. He would not be adding mysterious new statutes to it today.
Prince Ryann took the pen lightly, and tossed it out the window.
“No no,” she said, gazing down from her father’s aristocrat’s throne, “I am no one’s leader, not anymore. I was stripped of it all.” The young woman scoffed the words. “It would be better if you left. The AnLussa have ceased this estate now, even the income from the mine. I have only this house. I am simply nothing.”
There were two men before her. One was bright eyed; young and eager. The other was older, married, but not yet a father. He had long hair that covered his eyes except when he fought, and a beard with specks of white. He said, “Our allegiance cannot be bought, traded, or decreed. It is blood that we follow. Blood and worthiness, nothing else. You have been found worthy.”
“By two of you, and no one else. Boy, there are tens of people following AnLussa instead of me. Go with them. It is safer. I will be here if you ever want to speak, but I cannot help you,” the woman said.
“No!” Said the young man. “We are here to help you!”
She couldn’t see his expression. The room was dark, since she hadn’t lit the chandelier. The house, she made sure, mourned with her.
The young woman stood. She was beautiful, but appeared to be in her late adolescence, only barely a woman. But she was old enough to bear full the responsibility of a noble, and that was what had been given to her when her father died. She descended the single modest step from her father’s chair. “You can’t help me do nothing, sir.” She placed a hand just above his head. “It is best you leave me for now.”
The young man bowed further. “I will leave.” And he did, but as he went he turned and added, “I will return though. When I know what we should do, I will return.”
The older man watched him.
“I will make no declarations of loyalty to you to the public, but if pressed, know that the truth will come out.”
“The truth?” She sat back down.
“That I side with your father, and thus I side with you.” He moved to the door and then stopped, gazing up at the tall stone walls. It was quite a mansion her father had built. “I recommend you find your brother, and also,” he paused, unsure if he should continue. “Perhaps you should grow your horns as he does. As your father did. Remind every nobleman exactly who you are, and from whence you come; from whose seed. And, do it to show disobedience to the AnLussa. Show that you are different from them. Wear your head with pride.”
She smirked, “As you wish, loyal subject!”
After he left, she held the expression, though a tear streaked down her face, followed by another. “Grow them out at a time like this? …Can I handle that? Won’t they mock me again, like when I was a child? Horns, like a demon…that’s what they branded me. Their parents especially; those who abandoned me.” In the dark solitude of her hall, she raised her head. “God, creator of the heavens and the earth, if I am a demon, then let me find vengeance.” She closed her eyes, pulling her head back down. “But if I am a woman, let my soul find peace. Even if peace happens to be by the sword.”