The old man looked out into the streets from his tower, the walled city sprawled before him. Here in Laenalaen, the Great Citadel, home of the White Tower, was he to die. He knew it. He'd known it for some time. And there was nowhere else he would rather be than here.
The drought had begun earlier that year, in late April. The other nations-- Logicia in particular-- had donated various amounts of water, but it wasn't enough. So, anything meant for him had been donated or given to the rest of his family. His wife had started to ration hers to the limits, thinking he might drink again... but it was not to be.
All the while, there was his health to worry about. Secretly, for centuries, many of the men and women of the Dragonheart line had fallen ill with so many lung diseases at a time that it seemed to become a new disease altogether. It was how his father, King Gerontius, had died. Whether it or the drought would take him first, he did not know.
"Rory," her soft voice said. "Come away from the window."
Rorimac sighed and licked his dry lips. "Do you think Michael will do well?" he rasped, turning around slowly.
"I do," she answered honestly. "As long as he remembers to do what he thinks is right, not what others think he should do."
The King nodded. "Esme?"
"Yes?" Esmeralda answered quietly.
"I'll have one last drink. And then the drought and the disease can take me.
The Allegorian sighed. "Ismelda said--"
"Your sister's done enough," Rorimac said, cutting her off. "Allegoria and Logicia have done enough. And all the while... I worry. You're right, Michael will be fine. But there's Misericord to worry about. Thira. Nesrin, Campaignia. All the rest. You know how the wars went."
Esmeralda sighed, closing here eyes and letting the memories overtake her for a moment. "Yes... I do. And I didn't like you fighting in the trenches. You nearly died twice."
"You get my point," he said. "Our nation is the oldest on this planet. More than three thousand years of history lay inside the Sacred Dome, Esme. Almost four thousand in Misty Halls. And through all of it, more than two-thirds of the wars fought were with ourselves. Three in the last century and a half. When I'm gone, I fear there will be another... but Michael will be bold enough to call on alliances, old and new alike. As trouble stirs in Misericord and the Nesrin prepare for a war with their neighbors, I can't help but--"
"Hush, love," Esmeralda said softly, soothingly. "You think too much. Just like Sinestra. Give it a rest."
"I'm nothing like that dingy old bat," Rorimac replied defiantly. "Let me finish."
Esmeralda reluctantly nodded.
"Nesrin is going to war. If they win, they'll control half of their continent. Thira and Campaignia and Allegoria will be next-- which means our cousin will be fighting Loni, Calcitrop, and your sister... Those three cannot rally together. No matter what."
"What would you have me do?' the Queen asked. "Tell me sister to go soft?"
"Don't phrase it that way." A pause. "Remind her what Thira's done to Allegoria, to Belecthoria, to this world. She'll come around. I'll tell Loni to start back on his experiments. With luck, he will."
Rorimac sighed. "Whitestar has it under control-- for now. But I think she and Michael are going to be very good neighbors to one another, whether they like it or not."
Esmeralda nodded slowly. "Which means you think Thira's going to be the one to stir up trouble."
"Yes... and no," the King said quietly. "Go call your sister, Esme. The fate of Belecthoria is in her hands."
Sighing Esmeralda nodded and left the room.
Mere hours later, Rorimac was lying on his bed, his final moments upon him. He wheezed as Esmeralda held a bloodstained handkerchief to his mouth.
"It'll be okay, Rory," she said softly. "Ismelda's going to help us, it'll be okay..."
Over t next hour, the King squeezed his wife's other hand until at last his entire body became limp and started to pale. Esme cried out in anguish, throwing herself over his chest.
"Rory," she breathed mournfully. "Rory."
Phineas, one of their most faithful servants, stood by the door. "So passes Rorimac son of Gerontius. May he rest in peace all of his afterdays, and rest and become weary no more."