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Two Shadows Went, Ch. 25

Atticus approached the Throne with hat in hand.

Thace slid a data pad before Shiro, no doubt with all of the nobleman's information, lineage, wealth, title. Shiro’s eyes lingered on it for just a moment before he shifted in his seat.

"My Darling, are you doing alright?" He murmured back to Lance still standing at the throne. “Do you need a break?”

The question caught Lance off guard. Through he guessed Shiro had just been waiting for a pause in noblemen before he asked.

Blinking, Lance tried to assess before answering honestly. "No." He smiled. "I’m not."

"Are you sure you wouldn’t like to rest?" Shiro’s head tipped, and his hand fell away to the edge of the throne, the quick gesture he made with his hand wasn’t unnoticed.

Lance side-eyed his personal guard stepping closer to the throne.

What was this?

Lance looked back to the nobleman that approached. Atticus, of them all, was no threat. He was a slight man, and leaned more towards the tea times at the palace than the sparring. He’d never even been considered a candidate for the councils.

Did Shiro expect a fuss from him?

Lance folded his arms over the back of the throne, fixing his Kon with a smile. "I’m fine." His voice lifted, his smile turning softer as he went on quieter. "I’d like to stay up here with you." If for no other reason he needed to see why Shiro was uneasy.

The expression on Shiro’s face was unreadable. But his fingers flicked again. Lance’s guard took several more steps forward.

"State your name, and title." Thace’s voice rang out. He stood at the edge of the thrones platform, high enough to still tower over the approaching noble men, but not detracting from Shiro’s position.

Shiro lifted his hand to caress along Lance’s long hand. His eyes were on Lance for a moment longer and there was a hint--he almost looked mournful for a moment. He looked away before Lance could fully pinpoint the emotion.

"I am Atticus, nobleman of Birchfore."

"Birchfore?" It was Shiro that asked.

In a second his demeanor changed. His face was stone and his eyes steady, he grasped the throne like it would bend its will to him as well.

"Y-Yes." Atticus gave a nod.

Lance’s eyes narrowed. It was just an estate... an old one... but nothing that could harm Shiro at all.

"The former King awarded that estate to his brother, did he not?"

Lance froze.

It seemed to trip Atticus up for a moment as well, and for a visible moment he stalled before he tried to explain. "Yes, His Majesty Aldrin gave the estate to his younger brother."

"Aldrin, former king of Altea, and father of Alfor, last King of Altea?"

Lance’s hand shot out, grasping at his Kon’s shoulder.

"Atticus has always shown tremendous loyalty." Lance spoke up before the nobleman could answer Thace’s loaded question. “To any ruler that sat on this throne.”

Shiro shifted, looking back at Lance.

Seizing the opportunity of holding his Kon’s attention, Lance stepped around the throne, to the side, smiling as he lingered closer.

"I’ve known him since I was a child." Lance went on. “He will hold to his words.”

"Because he is your cousin?" Thace suddenly cut in.

There were very few left in the royal family. Lance could count the number on his hand if he liked. The last few generations had been fraught with infertility and consumption with war seemed to appeal more than the prospect of posterity.

Lance’s feet shifted, and he glanced to his cousin.

Atticus, if Lance was correct in his thinking, would be the last of Althun’s line, the younger brother of the prior generation, and former Second Prince, apart from Lance and his sister, who were the last of the line of Aldrin, the elder brother and former King of Altea. Lance’s fingers grasped at his Kon’s arm, as he turned back, his eyes pleading.

Lance swallowed before he answered. "Distantly," he tried to smile. "The bloodline has never been strong through his line. Aldrin’s younger brother was not king for a reason."

He felt a twinge of guilt, it was a lingering thought, like a shot, only the needle was left in, aching. He hated belittling his cousin, but he didn’t have a choice, there was little else to do, but make him a flea to Shiro. Make him nothing, and Shiro would ignore him.

Shiro looked at Lance for a moment, just long enough Lance wasn’t sure what emotion he wore, before his head turned and his eyes narrowed as he spoke to Atticus.

"What was your order to inheritance?" Shiro asked. "I mean in relationship to the throne."

The room dropped into a dark and deathly still silence. Lance’s mouth fell open. He—he needed to say something. He needed to beg, but all he could do was look to Atticus. He knew he’d lost control as his eyes locked with his cousin. Lance’s eyes widened, his mouth open in a silent plea, his muscles shook as he tried to pull in breath.

Atticus own eyes widened.

"Answer your Kon," Thrace’s voice was laced with contempt.

Scared eyes turned to Shiro, as Atticus finally seemed to find his voice. "I was sixth in line for the throne."

"He was never a threat," Lance hissed in as quiet a voice as he could at Shiro’s ear. "Even when you and my sister were vying for the throne, he had claim and never chose to use it. Atticus has never shown ambition, his family has barely ever left his estate—"

Lance stalled as the hair at the back of his neck stood on end. Antok’s looming shadow over him was—it was close enough to take hold of Lance at any moment. Lance’s eyes widened. He could imagine it with one outreach of Antok’s massive hand he could have Lance by the throat, and hauled away. He’d always been walking a tightrope with this, would this be what finally got Lance locked away?

"I have a family!" Atticus suddenly let out his own plea. "Please, I have a family that depends on me."

Shiro’s head tipped, he had yet to spare a glance to Lance. "Really?"

Atticus gestured, and Corena and Alena both emerged to the open space before the king. They both gave a bow, though Lance could see—Corena was shaking. Her younger sister just seemed confused.

"More heirs to Alfor?" Shiro spoke. “Seventh and eighth,” He mused the girls position in the line of succession.

"They will not know Alfor," Atticus desperately tried. "I will raise them to be loyal to the Kon."

Lance gave the slightest of nods to his cousin. Yes. Yes, tell Shiro they would wipe the memory of Alfor away. They’d lose their entire history--but they’d still be alive, and at a certain point that’s all that mattered.

"Memories have a way of lingering." Shiro spoke. "I would know."

The rise of Shiro’s hand seemed to stop the entire room, and the gesture of his hand laid it in a dead diligence.

Until the sound of guards pouring over Atticus and his two small girls was thundering.

"Unfortunately, I can not let any heir to Alfor remain." Shiro’s voice was calm, his tone collected. It’s like he was stating he’d be unable to make it to a lunch appointment. He’d always been like that, casual and flippant even with the lives of others.

"Please," Atticus sc