The walk back to your royal suite in the castle passes in a blur, your feet automatically traversing the corridors and staircases of your home to take you to your door.

As you lock the doors Ceassia is already wrapping you in her arms. You let out a shaky sob and embrace her in turn, no longer able to fight back the tears.

One week ago, a drunken Shimran had rather lewdly propositioned Jareth’s wife, Liara after a feast in the castle and had become belligerent when she declined his offer. Jareth had then gotten into a heated exchange with Shimran which had ended with the Chancellor striking Jareth and having him arrested by the guards.

As the High Inquisitor of Gramadon, it had fallen on your shoulders to prosecute and sentence your best friend for defending his wife’s honor from your lecherous half-brother.

An indeterminate length of time later, you realize that Ceassia must have guided you to the couch because it comes as a surprise that you are laying down with your head in her lap. You look up at her cherubic face, framed by curtains of long bleached-white hair in accordance with the current court fashion.

She runs a hand down your cheek as her eyes meet yours. Her next words remind you why you are meant for each other.

“Xevvy, you know this changes nothing,” she says with a twinkle in her eye, “the plan must continue.”

A wild, dangerous thought arcs through your mind like a lightning bolt, leaving flares of righteous anger in its wake.

“No,” you say slowly raising yourself from her lap and sitting up facing her.

“No?” she repeats, staring at you incredulously, “Xevran, he had your best friend executed because Liara re-“

You hold up a hand to stop her protests and say, “No my love, I only meant that getting rid of Shimran alone is no longer enough.”

Ceassia’s face screws up in confusion, and her expression rapidly changes to surprise before tumbling headlong into fear.

“Surely not- you cannot be thinking- ” she sputters, suddenly a shade paler than before.

“That is precisely what I am thinking my dear,” you say, a mirthless smile slowly spreading across your face, “Shimran is not the only one responsible – Gudrunn must pay as well.”

Ceassia blinks at you numbly.

“Xevan… I know that you are angry- we both are,” she says, starting slowly then gaining momentum as her thoughts coalesce, “but Xevvy, if we are going to do this… we have to be absolutely sure.”

“Shimran has already made a thinly veiled threat against us,” you say through gritted teeth, “and against Dali.”

Ceassia’s eyes narrow dangerously.

“And you know that Gudrunn always turns a blind eye to his machinations,” you continue, “our Lord claims to be the savior of this world, but truthfully he’s a monster only wearing the shape of a man.”

She looks you in the eyes and nods seriously, unable to refute your points.

“No one threatens our daughter,” she says firmly, then she frowns and continues with less conviction, “but they call him the Sorcerer King for a reason, love. No one has ever come close to successfully challenging him!”

Ceassia’s argument is compelling and raises further concerns about dealing with Shimran as well. Today had been a demonstration of what happened to people who oppose him. It would not do to fail against him either – Amadalia would likely pay the price for your folly.

Furthermore, any challenge to the Sorcerer King’s rule would be met with overwhelming magical force. More than likely, he would make an example of you by killing your wife and daughter as well.

Perhaps it would be best then to accept that Gudrunn was untouchable?

Would it be enough to eliminate Shimran and leave a tyrant on the throne of Gramadon?

In order to ensure that a similar incident never happened again, you would have to curry favor with your father and take Shimran’s place when the time came. At least then you would be able to have some measure of control over the madness left in Gudrunn’s wake.

You consider the fate of your daughter, Amadalia, just now on the cusp of womanhood. You picture her hard at work under the guidance of her many tutors: learning to become a noblewoman, to carry on the businesses she would one day inherit from Ceassia’s side of the family. You picture her learning to navigate life in royal society. You think of her planning her wedding – a wedding she may never live to see if she is forced to suffer the consequences of your actions.

What if she received the same treatment as Jareth because you dared to defy the Lord or the High Chancellor?

No one else in the kingdom would be willing, or able, to defy the Sorcerer King or his High Chancellor. To set the land free from their reign of madness. But that meant too, that the consequences of your failure would rain down upon your family. Would it be fair to them to even attempt this insane plan?

What do you do?

>> Do what must be done! [ Chapter 02 ]

>> Play it safe for now… [ Chapter 08 ]