The marriage of the seventh King, Charles, had been a political move rather than an act of love, as all monarchical weddings were. He married, at the behest of his father, an unsightly maiden named Gwyneth Palarven, the only daughter of Lord Corlow Palarven, who had secured the Northern border for the monarchy once more. Through various matrimonies, the monarchy had not only owned the country by right but through Lordship and Ladyship too, and the North had always seemed to elude their grasp. Despite the move being an excellent political strategy, Gwyneth was not a slightly young woman, and Charles did not love her.

She, in return, did not love her husband, and for a time the kingdom began to wonder if the two would ever have an heir. The two were often seen out of each other's company, and Charles made no secret of his love for prostitutes and peasant girls. He would have young women  brought to the palace at all hours of the night, purely for his own pleasure, and could often be found drinking himself into a stupor, beheading anyone who dared to speak ill of him. People were more than welcome to speak ill of his wife, though. In fact, he encouraged it, publicly ridiculing her on more than one occasion.

Despite all odds, however, three years into their marriage an heir was born. His name was Angelus, and much to Gwyneth's relief the boy had been spared her ugliness. Gwyneth doted upon her son, raising him herself instead of relying on a wet nurse, as so many insisted she do. Charles was simply happy to have a son.

It took another three years for the pair to conceive another child, and by the time it was born, Angelus had already begun his schooling. Gwyneth's second pregnancy was hard. She had been confined to her bed for most of it, and she had been inexplicably weak for its entirety, but at the end of it, she gave birth to two healthy children, each as beautiful as their brother. They came to be known as Alexander and Adrianna.

As the children grew, Charles' reign became ever worse. He spent more time on his throne than anywhere else, convinced his eldest son was plotting to murder him. On more than one occasion he'd been caught trying to smother the boy in his sleep, until Gwyneth had forbidden Charles from seeing him, ensuring Angelus was escorted by his own personal guard everywhere he went. Alexander and Adrianna faced no such threats, and quickly became the apples of their father's eye. Charles had them forgo their schooling for a year so that they could spend their days with him, watching as the kingdom buckled underneath him.

At the tender age of four, his prodigal twins were forced to bear witness to the execution of their own grandmother, who had bravely and somewhat foolishly dared to call her son out on his tyranny and his insanity. After that, the twins were never quite the same again. They withdrew from the company of others, even their dear father, and would wander the palace halls together, the two of them largely inseparable, as they had been in the womb. They would always link hands, and had taken to sharing a bed. While most people assumed their closeness was simply because they were twins, the servants in the castle had begun to suspect otherwise, and it only worsened as they reached their teens.

By then, Angelus was busy being schooled in how to run a kingdom, and as such never had much time for his siblings. He would greet them at supper and make small talk with them, but the pressures of being heir to the throne had kept him away from his brother and sister for most of his life, and at times they felt like little more than strangers to him. Not that Adrianna and her brother minded; the wider berth Angelus gave them, the more time they had for each other.

The two were still adamant about sharing a bed as they reached their teens, and as the servants would discover, their nights were spent more intimately than merely cuddling up to each other. Needless to say, neither twin was interested in marriage, the both of them turning away any suitor Gwyneth would put before them. It was around this time that Charles had begun a barbaric ritual of bedding a virgin each night and casting her from his sight at dawn. If the girl was unlucky enough to fall pregnant, she was slain along with her unborn child, something Alexander had taken great delight in witnessing.

It wasn't long before Adrianna fell pregnant as a result of their antics, and so Charles ordered that she be married before the child was born. Adrianna wept for days and days, begging her father, promising to do anything he asked if he did not marry her off. But Charles was insistent, and a wedding was arranged for two months hence. Adrianna never met her intended once during this time, and voiced her concerns to her dear brother, who only ever assured her that everything would be fine. She wept further still as she was made to sleep in a separate bed from Alexander on the eve before her wedding, and was on the verge of despair as she stood before a congregation of Lords and Ladies the next day, dressed in a white gown despite the secret growing in her womb.

It was there that King Charles did the unspeakable. He held the priest at knifepoint and forced him to marry his two beloved children. Adrianna was ecstatic. The rest of the court was not. Charles’ actions sparked such controversy amongst his subjects that there was talk of civil war. To Adrianna and Alexander, civil war was of little concernthey had each other, and they had a daughter. For that brief moment, nothing in the world could have concerned them. They were given a palace in the south to live in, that their daughter might see the ocean as she grew, instead of hearing tales of it as her parents had, and all was well with the world.

Or at least, it was for them. Civil war was the last thing Angelus wanted, much as he wished to force his crazed father from the throne. In an attempt to distance himself from the black sheep of his family, and to try and garner both sympathy and supporters, he fled with his mother to the Ormen mountain range, and the safety of the Palarven estate. And for a time, he and his mother flourished. Gwyneth relished being back with her family, and the snow seemed to suit her better than the warmer climes of the capital, but the Queen soon began to miss her other children, and so fell into a deep despair that none could rouse her from. Years had passed by then; Angelus had reached the age of twenty two, and the twins had had another child, a boy this time. His name was Leonardo, and he was to spark the start of the insane family’s downfall.

Unlike his sister, Cora, Leonardo was a frail and sickly child. His spine slithered from side to side like a snake, and as he grew it left his torso veering off at an odd angle, his left shoulder decidedly further out than his right hip. He caught more fevers in his infancy than his mother and father combined, and the damage done to his growing lungs each time he fell sick had left them stunted and scarred, making it all too difficult for the young prince to breathe. Neither he nor Cora had ever met their uncle, or their grandparents for that matter, but a chance meeting with Angelus would send the family into turmoil.

It was the day of Leonardo’s second birthdaysomething he had reached despite the odds being stacked against himand exactly four years since his parents’ marriage and Angelus’ retreat to Ormens. The duo had decided to travel back to the capital, to present Leonardo to his dear grandfather at last, while Angelus had made the journey to, begrudgingly, ask forgiveness of his father so that his mother could return to the city, in the hopes of restoring some of her happiness. Had Angelus arrived later, things might have turned out differently, but perhaps it was simply the will of the Maker. Perhaps He hadn’t taken the incestuous marriage too well, given that it had been sworn in His name, and perhaps this was His way of enacting His revenge.

Angelus had begged at his father’s feet, before swearing total fealty to the mad patriarch. As it happened, Charles had heard rumour of his grandson and refused to allow such a “monster” to muddy his bloodline. Angelus was offered the chance to win his father’s favour once more by seeing to it that young Leonardo didn’t draw breath the next morn. Despite his familial ties to the child, Angelus bore no love for a nephew he had never met, and consented to his father’s plan, sending word back to Ormens for his mother to return.

The elder brother hid from sight as his younger siblings arrived with their children in tow, watching from his concealment as they presented their son and heir to the father that had been so proud of them before. Anyone in court that day could not deny how well Charles played the doting grandfather, cooing over his grandchildren and wishing them nothing but good health and happiness, but Angelus saw through his lies like a sheet of glass. Angelus waited until dark, until his brother and sister had gone to sup with their father, and left young Leonardo sleeping in his crib, the sounds of his stuttered breathing and desperate gasps echoing down the hall.

No one would suspect if the young prince were to simply stop breathing in his sleep. Angelus slipped into his siblings’ chambers, taking a pillow from the bed and pressing it to the sickly child’s face. He did not remove it until he felt the boy grow cold beneath him. Cora, who had been sleeping in her mother’s bed, awoke in time to see a dark figure standing over her brother’s lifeless form, but could not find the courage to call out for help, cowering under the covers until the figure left the room.

When Adrianna found her son, she was distraught, as could only be expected. Alexander grieved in his own way, shutting himself off from all but his daughter, and even she could do little to prompt signs of life from him. Gwyneth had returned to the palace by then, and she did her best, as mothers do, to try and console her heartbroken daughter. But this act of love, this act of devotion, would only serve to make matters worse, as it provided the perfect distraction for Alexander to slip from the palace each night, rarely returning before dawn. He would fall into bed beside his sister and sleep the day away, leaving Adrianna to care for their daughter despite the aching hole in her chest.

The pair had decided to stay at the palace for the foreseeable future; Adrianna needed her mother, and Alexander pretended to need his father, meanwhile Angelus continued skulking in the shadows as little more than a glorified hitman for the King. And it was Angelus who discovered the reason for Alexander’s late night trips; he had chosen to heal the pain of losing his son by falling into bed with another woman. Angelus took this news not to his father, but to his sister. After all, she had thrown her life away for him, had given birth to and raised two children that would never be accepted by society, and this was how he chose to repay her? By turning his back on her when she needed him most, in favour for the spread legs of some slattern from the slums?

Adrianna was furious. Naturally, she went to her father since, to her mind, there was no higher power in all the land that could bring her justice for the wrongs done against her by her supposedly loyal husband. Despite the monster she had birthed, Adrianna was still the apple of Charles’ eye, and so he ordered Angelus to kill his brother. To the mad King, it seemed the only suitable punishment for breaking his little girl's heart. Angelus pleaded with his father, but Charles would not relent, and so Angelus followed his brother to the home of his mistress, slaughtering the both of them and bringing Alexander’s head back to his father as proof. In a fit of madness, Charles had his son's head presented to Adrianna on a silver platter.

Adrianna locked herself in her room for days, only opening the door to allow the servants to bring Cora food and milk. Between losing her son and her soul mate in such a short stretch of time, Adrianna was broken beyond repair. Her chest ached when she thought of all that she had lost, and not even Cora's smile could bring her round. And when she learnt that Angelus had delivered the killing blow? Well, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. In a desperate, pained move, she chose to hurt Angelus and her father the way that they had hurt her.

She slipped a deadly poison into her mother's wine at supper, fleeing the scene with Cora in tow when Gwyneth dropped dead at the dining table. She didn't care if she was caught, she had no desire to live, and the murder of a monarch was inexcusable. She took her daughter to the highest spire of the palace, and with Cora in her arms, she leapt to her death to join her late husband and son. With all those he had once cared about dead, Angelus finally had no reason to remain so far under his father's thumb. The crown prince faced his father, who sat on his throne muttering to himself , and relieved his shoulders of his head with one swift blow of his sword.

Angelus' first act as king was to throw a week long celebration, rejoicing the passing of the old tyrant. Unsurprisingly, the kingdom did not mourn him.

The End

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