𝐀𝐂𝐓 𝐈𝐈;

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⠀⠀⠀⠀‘SULTAN İLYĀS LIES UPON HIS DEATHBED.’
⠀⠀⠀⠀SIX WORDS ARE AMPLE TO MAKE AZHA’S BLOOD RUN COLD. SILENCE BEFALLS THE ROOM, MELANCHOLIA WEIGHS DOWN HER SHOULDERS; A SHACKLE TO HER THROAT. BUT THEN AGAIN, THOSE WORDS HAD COME AS NO SURPRISE.
⠀⠀⠀⠀HER FATHER HAD BEEN ILL FOR A LONG, LONG TIME.
⠀⠀⠀⠀SHE WATCHES MIRAH’S EXPRESSION GROW SOLEMN, THE SHADOWS OF HIS FACE DARKENING; A THUNDERCLOUD RUMBLING IN THE DISTANCE. HIS EYES MEET HERS AND AS ALWAYS, SHE NEEDS NO WORDS TO KNOW WHAT HE INTENDED TO SAY.
⠀⠀⠀⠀‘LEAVE US.’
⠀⠀⠀⠀WHEN THE DOORS CLICK SHUT AND THE TWINS ARE LEFT TO THEIR OWN DEVICES, AZHA OPENS HER MOUTH TO SPEAK. MIRAH CUTS HER OFF.
⠀⠀⠀⠀‘NO.’
⠀⠀⠀⠀‘NO, WHAT?’
⠀⠀⠀⠀‘DON’T ACT FOOLISH. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.’
⠀⠀⠀⠀HER RESPONSE COMES AS A SCOFF, A SOUND BOTH EXASPERATED AND FORLORN. SHE CLICKS HER TONGUE, SHAKES HER HEAD. ‘BABA WILL DIE, MIRAH,’ SHE SNAPS, AND A PART OF HER FRACTURES AT THE HARSH TRUTH OF THAT STATEMENT. ‘THE MOMENT HIS HEART STOPS, THE THRONE BECOMES COMPROMISED. EVEN IF THE ENTIRE COUNCIL OF VIZIERS STANDS BY OUR SIDE, THEY CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT THE FAYLAQ WILL REMAIN LOYAL.’
⠀⠀⠀⠀DISMAY CURLS MIRAH’S LIPS, PULLS THEM INTO A THIN LINE AND TURNS HIS GOLDEN EYES BITTER. HE LAUGHS, BUT THE SOUND CARRIES NOT A HINT OF HUMOR. IRE BURNS IN HIS GAZE INSTEAD, BUT NOT AT HER, NO.
⠀⠀⠀⠀HE WAS ANGRY FOR HER SAKE.
⠀⠀⠀⠀‘SO I AM SIMPLY SUPPOSED TO BANISH YOU?’
⠀⠀⠀⠀‘IT IS CUSTOMARY—’
⠀⠀⠀⠀‘CUSTOMS BE DAMNED, YOU ARE MY SISTER, AZHA.’ THE WORDS RIP OUT OF HIM, CHOKED BY GUTTURAL PAIN SO PALPABLE, AZHA FEELS IT SUFFOCATE HER LUNGS. MIRAH LIFTS A HAND TO HIS MOUTH, RUBS THE BACK OF HIS HEAD. ‘YOU SAY I WILL RULE IN OUR FATHER’S STEAD. WHAT KIND OF SULTAN SENDS HIS SISTER TO EXILE IN ORDER TO FULFILL A LAW WRITTEN BY MONARCHS LONG DEAD?’
⠀⠀⠀⠀FOR WHEN A SULTAN DIES, HIS KINDRED IS TO INHERIT THE THRONE, AND IN THE ABSENCE OF BROTHERS, THE CROWN GOES TO THE SULTAN’S SON. MIRAH HAD NEITHER BROTHERS NOR COUSINS, BUT AZHA WAS THE SULTAN’S DAUGHTER, TOO; ANY SON SHE BEARS IS BORN A LIABILITY, A THREAT TO THE STABILITY OF HER BROTHER’S SOVEREIGNTY.
⠀⠀⠀⠀SHE STEPS CLOSER, AND HER HANDS CLASP MIRAH'S IN AN IRON GRIP, SILENTLY BEGGING HIM TO RELENT. ‘THE SULTANATE IS TOO VULNERABLE AS IT IS, MIRAH. YOU SHOW ME LENIENCY AND IT WILL ONLY CONVINCE OUR ENEMIES THAT YOU ARE WEAK, THAT YOU ARE UNFIT TO RULE. WE CANNOT AFFORD AN ATTEMPT ON THE THRONE.’ WE CANNOT AFFORD WAR. NOT ON MY BEHALF.
⠀⠀⠀⠀MIRAH INHALES TO SPEAK, BUT A KNOCK SOUNDS AT THE DOOR, KNUCKLES URGENTLY RAPPING AGAINST THE WOOD. HE SQUEEZES HIS EYES SHUT, SWALLOWING DOWN HIS RAGE, AND AZHA LETS GO OF HIS HANDS. ‘ENTER,’ HE SAYS, FISTS FORMING BY HIS SIDES.
⠀⠀⠀⠀VIZIER AHMET APPEARS AT THE DOORWAY.
⠀⠀⠀⠀‘SHAHZADE MIRAH, AZHA SULTAN, YOU MUST FOLLOW ME IMMEDIATELY. YOUR FATHER, HE. . .’
⠀⠀⠀⠀HE TRAILS OFF, BUT THE VIZIER DID NOT NEED TO FINISH HIS SENTENCE TO GET THE MESSAGE ACROSS. THE TWINS SHARE A GRIM, BROKEN, DESOLATE LOOK.
⠀⠀⠀⠀THEIR FATHER WAS DRAWING HIS LAST BREATHS.


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⏰ Last updated: Apr 08, 2023 ⏰

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