“So you’re an infiltrator? A spy?”

“Depends on who you ask.”

“Fine by me. Shall I tell you something? About the Regent?”

So long as it’s not that I’m under arrest for plotting her downfall.”

“Do you know what her claim to the throne is? Nothing. It doesn’t exist. She’s originally from a foreign cadet branch of the nobility, in the triple digits of the succession to this or any throne.”

“Is that so? I can see why they have left that out of their official narratives.”

“What’s more, she’s illegitimate. Child of a skilled general and a brilliant essayist. Her mother and her lover had a young son, a love child, who died of the plague when he was still a child. The Regent’s parents–each married to someone else–conceived her in her brother’s mausoleum with the hope to reincarnate their lost child.”

“I can’t imagine that they were too pleased at having a daughter instead.”

“A girl was a bitter disappointment to them, so they shipped her off to a convent for her education. For the rest of their lives, her own parents would call her their niece or their cousin. Can you imagine?”

“It sounds like you think this is responsible for the power she now wields.”

“I think a life story like that can only harden a child. I have no proof, but I suspect that sometime in that span, the future Regent swore to do whatever was necessary to guarantee herself a place in the world. With her father’s brilliant tactical mind and her mother’s gift for oratory, she was able to meet and wed the Crown Prince through sheer force of will.”

“I’ve heard that she spent all nine months of his reign plotting against him even as she carried his child.”

“Three days after the birth, she had her husband removed from the throne and essentially took his place. That was years ago, and the Regent still has over a decade of undisputed rule ahead of her before her child comes of age, and perhaps even longer in the shadows.”

“How is it you know all this?”

“Well, I am–or was–the court historian. I am no longer because the Regent would like the matter suppressed.”

“If she wanted it to be suppressed, why not execute you?”

“Because I am also her father.”

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