Others, 55

Donny was crying, but that was fixable. “Hey,” Jacob said, kneeling in front of him. “It’s okay.”

“No!” Donny insisted, face in his hands. “No!”

Jacob nodded, picking Donny up even as he fought. “It’s time for bed.”

“No bed! Don’t want bed!”

Donny was a very smart boy and was normally very erudite for a child, and he thought about big important things most of the time, but he was three years old at the end of the day, no matter how often he told Jacob that he was actually seven, an insistence somewhat in contrast with Donny making Jacob count the days until his fourth birthday every day.

Prince, 104

Dominic had either been lying or wrong. Gerard’s assassins weren’t coming in a week. They’d come a few hours after he’d left, and now it was too late.

It was too late for Helena Quate and Franz’s uncle Hans, too. All three of them had been killed in the same night and Franz simply didn’t understand why.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Dahlia said, shaking her head. “If the Empire wanted to destabilize us, that’s one thing. But am I really to believe that their information network is so shoddy they didn’t realize Hans wasn’t in charge in Kyaine anymore?”

Franz nodded, looking down at his uncle’s body. It was being prepared for transport back to Kyaine so his funeral could be held there. Franz would go, except he couldn’t, because Gerard was dead and that meant his wife was about to be crowned queen of Dolovai.

Franz had known he’d be king someday. He hadn’t thought it would be two weeks after his wedding.

Prince, 100

It was a good day to get married.

The weather was nice, everyone looked perfect, the church was packed, and Franz’s sister had gotten here just an hour ago.

“We can talk more about me later,” Dahlia told Franz, helping him fix his makeup. “It’s literally your wedding day, stop asking how I am.”

Prince, 93

“Kenneth is still insisting that he’s innocent,” said Boey, looking at the reams of paper Kieran had shown Franz’s people how to find. “No matter the evidence that gets put in front of him, he won’t stop repeating that he’s being framed.”

“Is he being framed?” Franz asked, because it wouldn’t be the first time.

“No,” said Frederick. “He has a network of spies and informants, he has years of documentation, he even has correspondence that Lord Orwell sent him. If he’s being framed it’s because he commissioned a self-portrait.”

“Shouldn’t you be in wizard school?” Franz asked him.

Prince, 87

Franz woke up to a hand on his shoulder, gently moving him. “Franz.”

“Tired,” Franz said, recognizing Frederick’s voice after a second. “Let me sleep in.”

“Not today. Wake up.”

“Frederick,” Franz complained, nestling in closer between Boey and Gabrielle. “I’ve had a very hard night and didn’t get much sleep and don’t have any body hair and I’m rich and important and I want to stay in bed.”

“I know. Franz, please, it’s really important.”

Prince, 82

Franz’s back was hurting from sitting and reading so much, so he was laying on the bed instead while he read over the pages and pages of tariff rights that Gavin had found for him in the span of one day.

Franz would love to say it wasn’t as complicated as people thought it was, but it was as complicated as people thought it was, and the only reason the papers were spread around him instead of thrown against a wall was that he’d been put through just these kinds of exercises as a child. He was pretty sure, after pouring through it for a few hours, that he’d narrowed down which of the names in these records was Dominic’s alias. He’d have to get Helena to look into it for him to confirm, though.

Franz was very aware that Gavin was using him to do all the hard work here, but that was fine. This way it would get done and Franz wouldn’t have to worry about someone screwing him over. And he’d get a fuckton of money, which would also be useful.

“Hi, Fwanch.”

Slavery, 82

Greg had never thought he’d be so okay sitting in a room with so many people, let alone a room with so many people where most of them were in their smallclothes and he himself didn’t have any pants on.

But Gavin had asked him and Darby if they’d like to come and be measured for clothes to wear to Prince Franz’s wedding. Gavin had offered to let Greg do his own measurements in private and report them to the tailor, but Greg had come along. It was something they were all doing together. As a family. Greg had left his undershirt on because of his back, but nobody had said anything or minded. Maybe they wouldn’t have minded his scars. But Greg worried.

Greg worried, because he’d been feeling so good lately, and so strong. And so real. And he was worried that if everyone saw his scars, if Darby and Gavin and Owen saw his scars, they’d remember that he was a slave, that he was someone to hurt, not a real person to care about.