My Dearest Cal,

Do you remember when we used to run around the palace? The afternoons when we’d sneak into the upper galleries and watched father at court. You looked down at him and your mother and we saw how unhappy he looked. You told me that the crown wasn’t worth being miserable and angry all the time, and he was angry. He’d spend evenings destroying china in the study.

I remember well the festival night. We went through the tunnels, escaping little crying Sophia, stealing food from the kitchens to take up to the hidden corridors near the roof. We talked for hours over pastries, sat in the moonlight. You said you didn’t want to be king.

What have they done to you?

You never wanted this. Not the crown or the jewels, the sceptre, the throne, the power – you didn’t want this. The princess they brought to you was pretty and young and so very cold. I know. I may be exiled from court but I have eyes everywhere. I have always tried to look after you. The others are too afraid of my revolution for me to defy the ban – and they should be! – but I have always been there.

This is not the way it should have been. If father had held on longer, we could have been together again, you and I. That was the plan. If you abdicated in favour of me, and I for little Sophia…

But I am not there. They drove me from your side when I was sixteen and, caught between my emotions and my wisdom, I chose wisdom. Away from their prying eyes I could have time to plan, to raise an army from a few friends and allies. People who would have helped me kill anyone who threatened us.

We were never fit for the monarchy, you and I. Too much the adventurers. Sophia has always been the true Queen. She has the love of plotting and planning. Not I, not you. I see the most wonderful things and feel hollow, because you are not there to enjoy them. Instead I stand on the edge of bringing civil war to our people, of defying the hungry new empire on the border and shaking our country to its very core.

No matter what happens, I will not make the same mistake twice. I have people close to you. They delivered this letter, and they are under orders to protect you from all threats. Trust them as you would trust me; they are loyal and true. I am coming for you, brother. Please remember that. I am coming for you.

 Your loving sister,

Isobel.

Sent to Calhoun III of the Durabilan Empire by Isobel Durasoona, Lady of Ironside and later Queen-Regent of Durabilis, in the 5th month of the 447th year after the Wall was raised.

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