Prince, 39

There Are Many Vastly Different Ways to Process Grief

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“What are you going to do?”

Franz just shook his head, the answer to the question just…not there. His parents were dead, his brother was dead. His sister was a hostage, his other sister missing, according to Helena’s intelligence. His baby brother missing too, in the wind with his godmother.

Franz’s family had been destroyed, taken away, and they wanted to know what he was going to do. As if there was anything to do. As if anything mattered.


Franz looked up at Boey, dull. “I don’t know.”

Boey, eyes rimmed red, nodded. “I know. But Ronaldo’s coming. And Gerard wants an answer soon. You need to tell them something.”

“I know,” Franz said. So many people were waiting for him to do something, to say something, to react. How was he supposed to? “I know. But I don’t…”

“Yes, you do,” Boey said gently.

“No, I don’t!” Franz said, voice raising, hitching, falling. “I don’t, Boey! What am I supposed to say? Let’s march down there and behead Stephan? That’s not going to help. It’s not going to bring them back. Make myself king of Kyaine? Take the bloody crown off my mother’s corpse and put it on my own head? Am I supposed to let Gerard ven Sancte make me a puppet king so that Dolovai can rule Kyaine? Should I tear my country apart in a civil war that will kill thousands of innocent people, just to get at a few guilty? Do I go back, like Stephan wants, and let him kill me? Do I hide up here in the north forever, just pretend that nothing happened, just go back to scheming against stupid nobles for something I don’t care about? What the fuck am I supposed to do? I don’t know. My family’s dead, Boey. I don’t know.”

Silence followed Franz’s outburst, and he looked at Boey, who was just nodding. Franz panted, trying to get his breath back, just waiting for Boey to…say something.

There was a scratch at the door, and Boey got up, let Dragon into the bedroom. He came over and squeezed in between the chair and table, head in Franz’s lap. Franz scratched him behind the ears, watching Boey return. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I shouldn’t yell. It’s not your fault.”

“You should yell,” Boey said, taking Franz’s free hand. “You should. You should be angry. Your family was attacked. You should be furious. You should burn half the world down. You should yell and scream and break everything and cry so much because it hurts. You should be angry, Franz. Just, maybe not at me.”

“I’m not angry with you,” Franz said, feeling foolish. “Your family. You still haven’t heard from them?”

“No. They weren’t in the castle, so I’m sure they’re fine. Reports say that the city was undamaged in the coup.”

“Good,” Franz whispered, picturing Boey’s parents, whom he hardly knew. “Good. I’m glad. God, I’m so…it’s so…much.”

“I know, Franz.” Boey put an arm around him now. “I know it is. And it’s not fair that you have to go out there and pretend to be a person when you can’t be. It’s not fair.”

“But I do.”

“But you do. It’s who you are. It’s who we both are.”

“Yeah.” Franz felt empty, but not in the same way he had before. He stood, patting Dragon on the head. “Okay. Okay. I’m going.”


Hand in Boey’s, Franz headed out to the main room, where Frederick and Silas were sitting at the table. They hopped up, but he waved them back down, sitting without looking at them. They were both wearing black, a little green around the cuffs. It looked like Silas was wearing Frederick’s clothes. “Frederick. When the usurper’s delegation gets here, make friends with someone in it, will you?”

Frederick nodded. “I will, sir.” He sounded afraid.

“Silas,” Franz said, not looking up. “If you’d rather not be involved in this I need you to say so now. You won’t have to leave. I just can’t have you deciding it’s too much halfway through.”

“I won’t,” Silas said, surprisingly firm of tone. “I can handle it, sir. I…I want to help.”

Franz smiled a little. Dragon was sitting at his feet. “Okay. We’ll find something for you to do. I need messages sent to all my young noble friends up here, erstwhile or not. Start with Hect…start with Olivia. Then Hector and Kieran. Then the rest. I don’t want to talk to their parents. I have to officially, let them rhyme off their platitudes. But I want to see that group unofficially. Preferably not all at once.”

Boey nodded. “Silas and I will write up the messages.”

“We will?”

“You have to learn somehow.”

Franz tried to think, the haze that had been preventing it parting, at least for now. “I also want to have supper with Dominic.”

That killed the energy in the room, what little there had been. “What?” Frederick asked, ashen.

Franz nodded. “I don’t have time for his game anymore. But I can’t leave it. I want to meet with him, in private, as soon as possible.”

Dominic knew how to hire incompetent assassins. Maybe he knew how to hire competent ones too.

“I’ll arrange that,” Boey said. He had to know what Franz was thinking. “We’ll have Frederick and Silas be far away.”

“It’s better if he doesn’t see you,” Franz said, because he could hear Frederick’s objection before he said it. “It’ll keep him off balance. He won’t know where you are or what you’re doing.”

“Okay,” Frederick said quietly, unhappy.

“Tell the king I want to meet with him,” Franz said, still thinking. “To talk about the Kyainese crown.”

“What are you going to say to him?” Boey asked.

Franz was quiet for a second. “I’m not sure. I’ll decide before I get there, hopefully. Ask Gabrielle to come have supper with me tonight. We’ll talk about it.”

A knock at the door had Frederick standing up. He opened it, whispered to a guard and came back. “Ronaldo is in the castle. He’ll be here in a minute.”

Franz nodded. “He knows?”


“Good.” Franz couldn’t bear to tell someone about it, not yet. “We’ll have to work something out. Stephan’s sending someone. It’ll be his cousin Horace.” Franz paused. “We’re going to take him hostage. I don’t know if we’ll have the ven Sanctes’ support on that.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Boey said, nodding grimly. “It’s our problem, not theirs.”

“Yeah.” Franz sighed. “If we’re lucky the delegation will include other members of his family. The more of them we have the better.”

“We’re ransoming your sister, aren’t we?” Frederick asked.

“Yes. As long as Stephan has her I can’t do anything to him. He can just kill her if I try. We have to find a way to get her away from him.”

“Ronaldo might be able to help with that,” Boey suggested.

“I hope so. But if not we’ll use diplomatic channels. By which I mean we’ll start killing his cousins until he frees her.”

“I think you’re wrong,” Silas said quietly, as if to himself. Franz looked up at him, and Silas blushed. “Sorry. I was just thinking…your sister is the only claim that he has to legitimacy, right? If he marries her he can calm people down, show them that his heir is part of your family, just with a different last name. It would be…stupid for him to kill her.”

Franz looked at Silas, who looked mortified. Then he looked at Boey, who nodded. “You’re right,” Franz said. “That’s a good point. But he’s an idiot. We can’t count on him being smart.”

It made him feel a little better, though. Because Silas was right. Flora was in danger, but not as much as Franz had feared. And Stephan had to have smart people behind him, who’d stop him from doing anything like that.

Smart people who might not care if Stephan’s cousins got dismembered, but he couldn’t do anything about that right now.

A knock sounded at the door, and Ronaldo billowed in, eyes on Franz. “My prince,” he intoned. “My deepest, most heartfelt condolences for your losses. Truly, words cannot express the depth of tragedy that has befallen us all.”

“I know,” Franz said, nodding. “Thank you, Ronaldo. And I’m sorry to you too. I know you were friends with my parents.”

Ronaldo nodded, looking genuinely upset. “I was, for many years, my prince.”

“Good. We’re going to avenge them and destroy Stephan Fyrhawk’s life in the process. Come help us plan.”

Boey wanted him to be angry. And Franz was, but only distantly. Anger wasn’t overwhelming him like it should be. Sadness wasn’t overwhelming him either, though it might again later. Loss wasn’t overwhelming him. The strongest thing that Franz was feeling right now as he sat and plotted revenge wasn’t an emotion at all. It was a coldness that swept through him, threatening to wipe away all feeling. Franz felt cold, and he used that coldness to plan for the death of his parents’ murderer.

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