Emperor Gregor sat on his throne, contemplating a list of troublesome problems. His impending death was high on that list, though not the highest.
He had killed his doctor, of course. He’d even done it personally. Asking someone else to do it would have only raised questions about what he was hiding. Someone would have figured it out and he would have been deposed. A dying leader is a sign of instability to come. His inner circle would act quickly to minimize the instability and seize whatever power they could in the process. What troubled the emperor more, however, was the fate of his son.
Jaron was only sixteen. Gregor had taught the boy to the best of his ability, but he was not ready to take the throne. He would be as dead as Gregor within the year, if not sooner. Gregor had a solution, but Jaron wasn’t going to like it. That was part of fatherhood though. Sometimes, you have to hurt your child to help them.
Gregor made the announcement in front of the press and his entire coalition. “My son has displeased and disappointed me!” he announced. “He is unworthy to be my heir. I hereby disown Jaron and cut him out of my inheritance. In his stead, I am formally adopting Chancellor Hemfast as my son and heir.”
Jaron’s reaction was not unexpected. Gregor had purposely not warned him in order to maximize the outrage. “What!” Jaron shouted. “Why? What did I do? I’ve always done everything you ask me to do! I do your dirty work when you can’t be bothered to get your hands bloody!” Soon, Jaron’s complaints dissolved into swears and threats against Gregor. Before long, the boy was escorted from the chamber. Gregor was proud to see how much of a fight he put up.
Of all the despicable actions Gregor had taken while seizing the throne and consolidating his power, none had made him feel as guilty as he did now. He knew there was something wrong with that. He should feel worse about the murder and oppression than he did about saving his son’s life, but the truth was, he didn’t care. Only his son’s life mattered. What he had done today was the best he could do for Jaron. Following Gregor’s death, there would be a fight for the throne and the designated heir would be the first to die. By naming Hemfast heir, Gregor was condemning the man to death, but Jaron would be able to walk away unscathed. Besides, Jaron knew where the secret money was hidden. In time, he could use that money to raise an army and seize the throne for himself. Gregor was sure that as a conqueror, Jaron would be better equipped to control the throne than he would be if he simply inherited it.
Gregor was going to die but he had always known that would come, eventually. He had always expected it to be from an assassin’s dagger or from an angry mob storming his palace. The mundanity of dying from illness was almost disappointing, but with the knowledge that his legacy was secure, he welcomed death in whatever form it would take. Until then, though, he might as well see how much more money he could add to his secret stash. Maybe he should introduce a new tax?