“Now, in those days, the will of the King was supreme,” said Coym. “He could only be challenged by a gathering of the Tynmoot, and even that required all the nobles to gather to summon him – and woe betide a noble who called a Tynmoot that nobody came to.”

“What happened to them, Uncle?” said Aden.

“You might’ve heard of Baron Kurnovius?” Aden shook his head, and Coym continued. “No? After he called a Tynmoot that was not well-attended, he was executed, and his head spent more time on a pike than his arse had sat on a baron’s throne.”

“Wow,” said Aden. “Did the Bloody Prince know that?”

“His real name was Crown Prince Semaj, and you’d better believe he knew this, and so when his father King Ekip III fell into dotage, he decided that his time had come. He canceled the treaties of friendship with the Prosperous East, and began to seize the land of any baron who disagreed with him, putting in place their more pliable sons, uncles, cousins, what have you. A sharper wit than mine said that Prince Semaj found a land ruled by men of iron and replaced them with men of reed, who bent at whatever breeze he gave them.”

“Dotage?” said Aden.

“He was old,” said Coym, laughing a little.

“As old as you?” Aden said. “Are you in your dotage?”

“He was…a bit younger than me, actually,” said Coym, not laughing at all now. “And I am surely not. I hear that word around the cloister, and you’ll feel my cane on your arse. We clear?”

“Yes, Uncle!”

“Anyway, since the King himself had done none of those evil things, there was no cause to remove him – even though the old man scarcely left his chambers, knew none but his chambermaid by name, and was bound up in gilded diapers. And even if the Tynmoot were to gather to remove him, the Crown Prince would then take he throne himself! And as king, what few things he could not do, such as begin a war or replace the head of the Lightbearers, were his to perform.”

“So that’s why Crown Prince Semaj is known to history as the Bloody Prince. People who spoke against him were silenced, imprisoned, killed. And while the Royal Guard and the mayors of the various burgs were not sworn to him, he found like minds in the worst sort of men and raised them to power alongside them. Men of the sort that would kick a dog to death when no one was looking, men of the sort that would father a hundred bastards without giving any a farthing…the sort of men who will ooze up whenever they sense opportunity. They were formed by Semaj into the Prince’s Life Guards, but there was plenty of dark humor in such a name, as they really existed only to sow death.”

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