Prologue: “The Ran”

Year 2085 A.T. – Belzol – Palace of the Lord Ran

The echoing footsteps disturbed Otega as he sat brooding in the dark hall. He steepled his fingers and pressed them to his forehead in an effort to ignore them.

“Lord Ran!” He looked up sharply at the running servant. Under the full force of his searing glare, the man’s tangled and he was sent sprawling into a trembling heap.

“Forgive this lowly one, my lord,” he said after gathering himself up.

“Speak.” {Otega}

“News, Ran. Her Lady Rena, the concubine, Lianna, has given birth.” {Servant}

“Oh?” Otega was surprised. He had forgotten she was even pregnant. Not one of his concubines previously, nor his legal wife, had been able to bare him children, and they all were buried as a result. Some he had executed, but most, had died due to complications early on in pregnancy.

He hadn’t expected Lianna, that idiot, to manage it. I guess taking her off the hands of the Liore noble family had been worth it after all. She was quite worth the bribe in this sense.

“But, Ran, my lord. She lives not much longer. Humbly, she prays for the Lord’s presence.” {Servant}

“Fine, I’ll give her that much as a reward.” {Otega}

“Yes, Ran.” {Servant}

“And the baby.” {Otega}

“A boy, Lord. Healthy and strong.” {Servant}

Otega smiled. For once, he was in a good mood. Now those half-wits on the council wouldn’t continue to bark at him to produce an heir.

He stood and made his way to the Rena’s chambers. The servant trailed cautiously behind him. He swung open the door and sat in the ornate chair next to Lianna Liore’s bedside.

She stared at him happily, though her face was pale and drawn. Her hair lay damp against her skull and her breathing was harsh ragged. It was clear she wouldn’t live much longer.

“Otega! I did it!” {Lianna}

Normally, he would’ve hit her for her informality, but he decided to ignore it because of his generous mood. He couldn’t think of her as much more than a puppy.

She looked at him with large, doughy brown eyes, and even he couldn’t help but soften some. On instinct, he patted her head. The servants were surprised. Never before had they seen him display anything remotely close to love.

Suddenly, he turned to the nursemaid and said, “Let me see him.”

She presented a baby boy to the Ran. He picked the boy up with one large hand and held him up to his face. Frown lines creased his eyebrows.

The servants gulped, but the baby only stared back at the massive lord. This continued for several minutes before Otega burst out into laughter.

The servants were once again shocked. Laughter? From the Ran? What in Belzol was going on?

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