Emperor Anaxus III had finally done it. He had ordered the death of the shade Koteph, and the order had gone through. News of the death in the enemy camp was quick to reach the Tower. It was the talk of everyone.
"I suppose it was inevitable," Dran said. "But, nonetheless, it is a surprise."
"For someone to die like that," Marius said. "It must be horrifying."
"Death is horrifying enough. Additional theatrics are for the simple-minded."
"Evidently Koteph thought it was necessary."
"He was sending a message to simple-minded people. He had a clear message for the Etorans. Their leader had resisted Koteph's commands, and he wanted to make sure no other Etoran would do the same."
"Do you know who is going to succeed him," Marius asked.
"Well, he has no living relatives except some bastard children back in New Etor. And me, I suppose. I expect the Empire will fall apart within a decade."
"You... you're his heir."
"In the sense that my banished father was his uncle, yes, I am the heir the Etoran Empire. I suppose I should make you call me 'majesty'."
"You should rule, Dran. This is your chance. You have the potential to be the greatest member in the greatest line of Mage-Emperors ever to exist."
"The Etorans aren't exactly looking for Mage-Emperors, my friend. The bastards in New Etor have better chances than do I."
"They don't have a fraction of your power and intelligence."
Dran stood up. "I'm going to go use my power and intelligence to whip up another batch of skinmelter. If you have anything to say that isn't goading me into a suicidal power grab, you're welcome to join me. Actually, you're not. Someone needs to re-calibrate the Aeolin balance for the thigmoturges we're making."
Dran was absorbed in his work, so he hardly noticed the Master of Potions walk in behind him. "Marius is right," Lencius said. "You could be your cousin's successor."
"Really," Dran laughed. "You know, my father spend the better part of his life trying to take back the Empire. But even he wasn't foolish enough to act on that urge. And he was far more powerful than I. A fact he demonstrated to me on a great many occasions."
"Koteph's monsters are nearly gone, thank in no small part to your poisons. If you pick up the Etoran crown and deprive him of his second army, it will be him alone against all the sorcerers of the Tower. You will save the world, Dran. Is that not worth risking your life for?"
"Only if I have a chance at succeeding. My father never thought he could succeed, why should I think I can do better."
"Because your father thought you could do better."
"Excuse me? What do you know of Phorius Terrorslayer's thoughts?"
"I know exactly what he thought of you, Dran. All the ingredients for all the potions you brewed every year of your life, they came from me. Your traveled the world, you must have realized that. But perhaps you never appreciated how frequently those travels brought him to the Green Tower. He would come to the hub of the world's sorcery, and I would supply him with ingredients and books, and he would tell me how brilliant his son was. He would speak of your cunning, or how quickly you had mastered the True Name of ice. He would go on for hours about your adventures in potionry. To hear him talk, no sorcerer in the world was a match for your mind. The Etoran Empire was hardly large enough for you. You would rule your family's land and more. When you came to the University, I asked to have you as an aide. I wanted to see this prodigy Phorius was so proud of. And you are every bit as capable as your father described. Phorius was lacking in a great many regards, Dran, but he never lacked confidence in Dranarius Caesorium. It seems only you have that lack."
Dran pondered his mentor's speech. He took a moment to decide if he believed it. He took a moment to evaluate what impact he could have on the war.
"Very well, Lencius. I shall consider how best to reacquire my family's crown."