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Chapter 5

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Memories haunted my dreams.

They whirled about me like dancers, and shortly after partnering with one, another whisked me away. And so my senses were maddeningly assaulted by snippets of irretrievable days spent with the brother I'd lost, revitalising my anguish at his death.

I smelt anew the moist earth we'd overturned in search of elusive butchy-boy bugs; felt anew the scratches we'd accumulated in search of gorse-bush to throw on our campfires and watch the flames climb high; tasted again the pastries we'd pinched from the kitchens, made all the sweeter by the fact they weren't ours; felt exasperation watching him terrorise the facilitator of my first kiss, in a valiant attempt to defend my honour.

Arthur's cherub cheeks gradually lost their roundness; his frame filled out with muscle; and his eyes popped ever-brighter in contrast with the gradual darkening of his hair, until the brown almost appeared black at first glance. The greatest change I witnessed through the chronological montage of his life, however, was in his nature. Whilst my temperament soured with age and the isolation necessary to protect the secret of my magic, Arthur involved himself with the populace and flourished as a result, earning their genuine admiration with his charisma, strengthening the respect our father commanded of them through fear.

But no matter what standing he gained and how aloof I became, Arthur always involved me in his life, never once leaving me behind, never once considering me anything less than his equal. He was an incredible man, I realised with the painful clarity of hindsight. As capable as our father and compassionate as our mother: the prime legacy of their coupling.

My heart wrenched in my chest with the realisation that he had been my one genuine friend in life. And now...

The whirl of memories came to an abrupt stop. I sat up in my bed, only to be confronted by the sight of Arthur sitting on the corner of the mattress. He was picking absently at the threads in the blue coverlet.

"I feel relief, now," he mumbled.

I frowned, perturbed by his lack of drive. Where was the man whose soul had once strained with the burden of royal responsibility, whose muscles had built over time to lift it? Where was the firstborn child of our father, the decisive and indomitable heir to the werewolf throne? The man before me wore Arthur's face, but shared none of his drive. This man had come to terms with death.

"You're not my brother," I accused, narrowing my eyes at the imposter.

"Oh, I am," he assured me. "But I am also a dream."

Ah, a dream. The idea leant sense to this odd encounter. "Of course," I muttered, rubbing at my eyes. "You're dead."

"Indeed. But for now, I'm alive in concept, given voice by your subconscious mind. There must be a reason for that."

"Perhaps I miss you," I proposed. "Perhaps I wanted to say goodbye."

"No, I don't think that's it." There was a small furrow in his brow as he tried to find the right words. "I think... that you want advice on how to proceed."

"Oh?" I scoffed. "What advice could you possibly offer me? You said it yourself: you're just a dream. That means you know what I know and nothing more."

"We know that the values of the masses shift with time, like rock over the centuries," Arthur said, his eyes as piercingly blue as a summer sky, a colour so rich that it should have defied mortal perception. "Humans are more fantastic and terrible than ever before. If our kind is to survive the whimsical nature of man, then we must evolve with their kind, as we evolved from them once before. It's time for a woman to sit on the throne."

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