Mathias: "If she is further fracturing our land in its already fragile state, the threat is greater than you could understand," "The crown represents not only a mundane political authority over the people, but a mystical authority over this land, and worlds beyond it. The head that bears the weight of the crown must also bear this burden. The darkest times in our history arise when the monarch falters and fails in their duties."
"Worlds… beyond?" Malia echoed, leaning forward as she studied the elderly general's face. He had to mean her world. He had to! Her mind reeled, wondering how many such worlds there could be, and what Eventyr's role was in regulating them… but her intent searching found no answers. Were Mathias's words a platitude, a rehearsed line that suggested his country exceptional?
Pressing would have been suspicious, so Malia let her response drop even though she knew her search into the meaning of those words had only just begun.
Mathias: "Could we hand the crown to one who had vanished in the deep woods and could be under the influence of one of the Great Old Witches? An unproven consort? A child? Would the people accept it if the crown was placed on another head when there were such obvious choices from the bloodline? Could we name one of royal blood and appoint a steward? Merthin and I debated in circles for hours."
Yes, Malia screamed in her mind. Yes, the right choice for monarch was not in the bloodline - but there were nobles ready to step up in the vacuum of power. For that brief moment, Malia's heart rate skyrocketed and she desperately hoped that the lack of ideal choices had compelled the Royal General and Scholar to consider changing the laws that had left Eventyr in this total disaster of leadership…
What was blood? What was gender, anyway? Choose the leader whose fate was entwined with Eventyr, who would sacrifice anything and everything for its prosperity…
Mathias: "Yes. Francesca Rossi, Duchess of the West, is responsible, and she is not enthralled. At the least, she is a co-conspirator with the dark creatures, these vampires. I do not say this lightly. We must preserve the unity of our land."
Rafael: "Then we go to war?" "We take back the West, undo the laws Francesca has passed and unite Eventyr again?"
Malia's lips pursed. War was a daunting prospect - with King's City devastated, hundreds or thousands dead, they would need to bring in soldiers from the duchies and that was an improbable feat. Then, their men would be tired, marching into a land where not only were their opponents rested, fed, and invested in protecting their home but also aided by who knew how many vampires? And without a king to lead them? No, they needed a smarter solution…
Rafael: "Did you and Merthin ever come to a decision about our next ruler?"
Malia cut in before the general could answer. She would not have been among those they considered, and therefore, Malia knew that anything Mathias said - any suggestion that it ought to be Elliot or even James or that ungrateful bitch consort - would shoot the Northern Duchess's newly budding plan in the foot before it took off.
"Without the Scholar, any decision is irrelevant now," Malia said. "Besides - Eventyr is no longer what it was. A leader must be chosen for this time, tumult and all."