The two princes come running, not at all in the sedate and solemn manner with which a Crown Prince and his younger brother should always deport themselves.
“Mummy!” cries the younger boy, no more than five or six years old, hugging his mother, who lies languidly on the plum-velvet divan, and thereby bestowing upon her erratic chest a sharp coughing fit.
“Tobish!” reproves the King brusquely. “Do not be rough with your mother.”
The small boy shrugs as the elder slides a glass of pristine Carmun water across the side-table.
“Mother,” he says softly, bending to kiss her, “this is it, isn’t it?”
“Yes, my boy. Live in peace and prosperity,” whispers Queen Taspeth, fearful lest exercising her voice should trigger another coughing fit. “And, Padryth…”
“Marry Princess Susali.”
“Good boy.” She strokes his cheek for one last time, savouring her last moments with her beloved elder son, and we see how alike the two appear to be. Both are tall and thin, both are dark-haired and dark-eyed, both are soft-palmed and hard-faced.
She releases him, and Prince Tobish can be seen hopping impatiently from one foot to the other.
“Come now, Tobish,” she speaks again. “Slowly.”
He bends down carefully, and she kisses his chin. “You grow up to be a big boy, won’t you?” she says. “You will do what your big brother tells you, and live for Carmun.”
“But I…” Tobish begins to protest, presumably against obeying his brother, but cuts off with a squeak of annoyance as that most offensive personage steps very deliberately on his small fat toes.
“And Duaryth.” Queen Taspeth blinks contentedly. “Duaryth, Duaryth, Duaryth, Duaryth,” she says, and we atop our spire shiver with the poignancy of her chant.
“You have a wish for me, my dear?”