Vignette:Semibreve

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Semibreve

Imperial Residence, Lauenrode, Goetic Sungkou
March 13th, 1925
T

he telegraph message was short; the sentence did not need that much paper. And yet, that one sentence had managed to get him to retreat into one of the many rooms of the manor. Everything else was on pause.

HIS MAJESTY IS DEAD, the paper read.

Should he feel anything? Sungkou was supposed to be his cage; his position as governor was the ball and chain around his ankle. Hardenberger, the old fool, had been snubbed back in 1910 to shoo him, the rowdy spare, away from the good graces of Goetia to the other colony. Evidently, Lower Alva had meant too much to his father and the country to discreetly exile him to, and the others too small and insignificant lest the public notice such a flagrant snubbing. It was almost poetic how he’d landed right back where the mess had all started.

The Household did not take well to his ambitiousness. Mother had passed away giving birth to a third son who never made it. At a young age, his governess had chewed him out frequently for mingling with the servants and their children. There were no lashings, but her words hurt him just as much as if he’d gotten the lashings anyway. Father was no better; compared to his elder brother Adalbert, he made little effort to connect with his second child. He was the spare, after all. He would only get to sit on that disgustingly opulent throne if the worst were to happen to Adalbert. With time, even his brother grew tired of his antics; by the time he left for the Marineakademie, he was well and truly alone.

Unlike his father and his brother, he opted to join the Imperial Navy. It was bliss; he found family, friends, and interests—everything which he had up to that time had to do without. He found peace away from the stuffy halls of the Palace, touring the world and savouring all it had to give him. In Abdyrna, he mingled with Aravan merchants selling only the finest silk and porcelain from Kodeshia. In Ostentor, he made a piss-poor attempt at eating soba with chopsticks and watched the ships come and go in the harbour. And in Sungkou, he found snake wine and a woman.

In two weeks, he’d managed to thoroughly shatter the image of the prim and proper purebred son of the Emperor, the image everyone else in the Household had taken so long to cultivate. The fling, as the media called it, had thrown the Household into a frenzy. Upon being recalled home, he’d learned that he’d managed to trash several planned betrothals with his affair, much to the anger of his father. It was the last straw; once his stint in the Navy was up, a half-arsed unofficial house arrest would occupy him for the foreseeable future while the Household repaired his image.

His marriage to Princess Augusta of Delfsberg-Herpf was a quiet affair. Augusta’s father, the King of Delfsberg, had ended up on the wrong side of the Emperor’s graces. He remembers little; there were opinions involved and letters intercepted, but it was enough to punish his eldest daughter with the Household’s greatest burden: him. He chuffs at the debacle, counting himself lucky; the arranged marriage, purely political and frigid to begin with, had thawed into something resembling love and respect by the time Heinrich was born. For the first time in a while, there were days when smiles never left his face. With Leopold missing, he wonders if those days will ever come back.

Ever the spiteful git, his father noticed. It only took him three grandsons to notice. The exile to Sungkou was, in hindsight, a stroke of luck on his father’s part. Governor Schardt had suffered a minor stroke, which gave reason to dismiss him from his post for a more healthy candidate. His intended successor, Dedrich von Hardenberger, had been snubbed due to his name popping up in a corruption ring. With the flick of a pen, he and his family were whisked away to the other end of the world to Sungkou. His appointment was billed as the debut of a new and improved Caspar; the media ate the half-lie up, and nobody was none the wiser.

Truth be told, he felt more at home at the Residence in Sungkou than at the family estates in Goetia. Even now, with the news of his father’s demise on the desk in front of him and the continued collapse of the world he once knew, he feels nothing except the calming ocean breeze sifting through the open windows. He groans as he stands back up; too much indulging has given his body a false sense of comfort. The door to the outside world stays shut a little while longer as he murmurs to himself.

I am in control of this.

He steps out with a deep exhale, and the world begins to spin again.

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