27 The Impossible Grandchild*
He might have worn the same luxurious clothing and finery. He might have conducted business with the same arrogance and pride. He might have even still used his position of authority like he was a god. But the simple fact was that Duke Cornelius Kildare was not the man he had once been.
The loss of his third son had been more impactful than first thought. His son had run away with that country wench, denouncing his name and the assets that came with it, then, to add insult to injury, had spread damning rumours regarding the Volotun Fruit. Cornelius had decided that the worst possible punishment he could give his son, was to grant him what he desired.
Phillip was no longer considered a Kildare. He had been erased from the family registry and all contacts had been severed. Cornelius had thought this sufficient.
Then a year passed with no contact...then two...then ten.
Nothing, not even a peep.
Cornelius that thought for sure that the boy would seek aid at some point or another, but no word had ever come.
And worse still, the Elf that had saved them that day had used the last of his natural power to curse the entirety of the Kildare line. Cornelius had only ever heard about Elven curses in stories. They were only ever given to those who had committed the worst sins, but they were powerful. Powerful enough to last thousands of years without ever fading. Cornelius remembered every word that Elf had spoken.
"For their arrogance, greed and malicious intentions, I curse the Kildare bloodline. May only those who do not boast the name Kildare and all it encompasses be blessed with offspring".
Cornelius had laughed at the picture of the dying Elf. But that had been then. When Francois was married a few months later, he had tried for months to conceive with his wife. Months turned to years, and they bore no fruit. William had been the same. Even his daughter, Patricia, who would only inherit a dowry, had not been capable of conceiving after her arranged marriage.
But the news grew worse still...the royal bloodline was incapable of conceiving as well.
This had been heavily concealed from the public. So top secret was it that Cornelius had not even told his own wife of the news. For if news got out that a damned Elven curse had stripped the great Kildare bloodline of their capability to produce heirs, it would be devestating for the entire empire. An Emperor incapable of producing an heir was no Emperor. What was clear was they needed to find a way to break the curse, and it was entirely feasible that they only had a decade more to do it before their children grew too old. Considering this first decade had seen no progress, Cornelius was losing hope.
Ludwig entered the Duke's office with his usualy unemotive air.
"My Lord, Knight General Turney requests an immediate audience. He insists that the news he brings is urgent," Ludwig reported.
The Duke sighed, he had been unmotivated in his current work anyway. What was the use in sustaining an empire that would fall upon the current Emperor's death. He had perhaps 40 years left in him if he were to die of old age, but that was hardly feasible in a deteriorating political environment.
"Bring him in".
Ludwig gave a short bow then exited. A few moments later, Knight General Turney entered with quite the flabberghasted expressed.
"God Lord Turney," Cornelius sighed, "What has happened to make you even uglier than usual?"
For once, Turney didn't seem insulted by the comment. He simply stepped forward and placed a folded letter upon Cornelius's desk.
"This...I received it just an hour ago. I thought it best you read it," Turney stated.
Cornelius looked at the letter, then Turney's expression. Deciding he had nothing better to do, Cornelius picked up the letter, only to freeze at the name scrawled on the outside in an elegant script he never thought he'd see again.
Cornelius didn't exactly know what he expected to feel if he ever encountered evidence of his third son again. Anger? Disappointment? Whatever it was, he had not expected the overwhelming loss that overcame him in that moment. He felt as if a hole had been carved into his heart, and it ached terribly. After a moment's pause, Cornelius opened the letter and read it.
Cornelius had a grandson. His only grandchild. Rassa. In that moment, Cornelius didn't care that the boy had been born of a common mother, he was legitimate. An Heir. An actual Heir that had been conceived after the curse. Cornelius paused for a moment, then read Phillip's words again. It appeared that Rassa would be the only grandchild he would ever get if Phillip had requested something of the Kildares, but Phillip had instead requested this of Turney. Anthrite Chains for a monster that plagued their little corner of nowhere. A monster nobody had ever seen or heard of before.
Cornelius put down the letter. It the curse was to be taken literally, helping Phillip in this venture would likely mean he would be incapable of conceiving more children. As the only one that was currently capable, Cornelius knew he shouldn't risk it. He looked up at Turney.
"Do what you have to...but you cannot use Kildare resources," Cornelius instructed.
Turney looked grave, but nodded, "I will therefore requested a leave of absence".
"No need," Cornelius stated, "You have been a great aid to Fountain Ridge for over two decades, Turney, we have no desire to lose you. Return to your post, as your patrons we shall prepare a gift for you".
Cornelius knew it was a risk. But if it was a gift that Turney had acquired, perhaps the curse would let it pass.
"Do with it what you will".
Turney nodded, then excused himself, leaving the letter with Cornelius. Again, the old Duke read the letter over, and for the first time in ten years, he felt a sense of happiness.
He had an heir. An assurance that his bloodline could continue. If there was anything to work for, there was that.