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Jul 18, 2019 12:04 PM
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The Emperor is dead; long live the Emperor.

And about damn time, too. If that war had dragged on much longer -

But it didn't, and he managed to get the cleanup settled in time for his son's first birthday. First lighthearted public event in four years. Happy birthday, kiddo, you're an imperial prince.

Rainbows dance in the spray of the fountain at the center of the courtyard; lanterns flare to life as the sun descends behind the palace. Talfir would rather be doing paperwork, but this is important. A symbol of peace and stability. He just hopes the kid doesn't bite any diplomats today.

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That's about to be the least of their problems.

A woman--humanoid, but too ethereally beautiful to be an elf or a firebird maiden, let alone a human, and gowned in beautiful clothing a century at least out of date, but more vibrant than any cloth dyed yesterday--walks in.

At first, most of the guests don't seem to notice her, but as she comes closer to the child more and more people see her. Many of them are alarmed. Some are excited. Having a fairy--because she has to be a fairy--show up to a prince's birthday can be a really good thing or an absolutely terrible one.

She reaches the child and scoops him up.

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"Wab," he says, clutching her arm.

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A fairy. Great.

"Welcome," says the Emperor, as neutrally as possible.

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The fairy chucks the baby under the chin and pre-emptively offers him a finger to gnaw on before he can try to bite her somewhere less dignified. "Kereve Talfir," she says serenely. "You have done great good for this kingdom in its troubled time. I commend you."

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Well, all right, could be worse.

"Thank you."

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The baby chews industriously on the fairy's finger. He doesn't have all his teeth yet, but the ones he's got are sharp.

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If the fairy experiences any pain as a result of sharp baby teeth she doesn't show it. Certainly none pierce the skin. Her gaze drops to him regardless. "And to be graced with an heir already." Something comes over her face; her eyes go blankly white.

This is what fairies look like when they're about to make prophecies, if anyone recognizes the signs.

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Oh for fuck's sake.

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"Look to the future with hope and with fear, Keria," the fairy declares. Her voice isn't raised in the conventional sense, but it is perfectly and sharply clear to everyone, no matter their distance from her, and an unearthly quality overtakes it. "For a child has been born to the house of Razada who will, in the fullness of time, be a great hero--or a darkness greater than the one just past."

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...well, fuck.

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The fairy puts the child back down on the floor and glides serenely away.

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The only other living child of the house of Razada escapes her mother's arms and runs to hug the baby, who bites her and then starts to cry.

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Yeah.

A lot of people are alarmed. Some of them are suddenly inclined to view baby-biting as suspicious. Some are optimistic. Almost no one is calm. A few people attempt to resume festivities as though nothing had happened, but the total effect is conspicuously half-hearted.

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Yes, it would be, after that show.

Well. Not much he can do about it now. He accepts a procession of gifts on behalf of his son, who falls asleep on Alevrie halfway through and therefore misses the subsequent parade. Talfir wishes he could also miss the parade. Talfir would like to go just three consecutive months without having to handle an enormous disaster.

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Well, too bad, because the baby gets kidnapped just two and a half months later.

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"For fuck's sake."

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"Don't shoot the messenger. What are we going to do about it?"

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"Find him, obviously."

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If they try very hard and have a good enough magician, they can determine that it was almost certainly a warlock who did it. Attempting to trace the warlock's power leads to two mangled corpses and no further.

Sorani Savaross does not, normally, operate within Keria. He likes his rulers mediocre enough to work around, not swinging between hypercompetent and insanely paranoid and now back again. But when one of his informants brought him word of the incident at the prince's birthday, he was unable to resist.

He tells none of his other apprentices the child's true identity; he tells them the child's given name is Tassairen, and its surname is his own (the latter being his habit when he returns with a child young enough not to remember the original). It's unusual for him to bring back a baby, but not so unusual that the older ones don't know what to do with it until it's old enough to respond to instructions.

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Tassairen is a reasonably convenient baby if you don't mind the biting. He gets less convenient as he grows older. His favourite pastime seems to be making other children unhappy.

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Good. It wouldn't do for him to think the other children were his allies, or vice-versa.

When he gets to be five years old, Savaross begins teaching him magic.

"Hello, Tassairen. Do you know why I've called you here?"

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"No," he says, looking very much like his father, did he but know it.

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He examines the child critically. "Today is your fifth birthday, or close enough. This means you are old enough to begin learning the the art and power of magic."

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He smiles. The smile does not look very much like his father at all.

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Though Savaross does not mention it by name, the kind of magic he is attempting to teach is warlockry. The first exercise is tearing power from the ambient magical fabric, which he will later learn to use. For now he can focus on getting his hands on any. He is provided with an exquisitely detailed description of the meditative techniques required to perceive the ambient magical fabric, and a slightly less detailed description of how to tear a piece off, and instructed to begin.

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