Belfamor Hemetal frowned at the rain as his shuttle flew over the city of Heretoral towards his family’s manor. He’d always hated the weather on his native planet. A little bit of rain wasn’t a big deal, but it rained more often than not on Infanalis. A major in the Imperial Army, Belfamor had been stationed on Medradi for the past two years, an arid planet that was the headquarters of the Imperial Armed Forces. It would take a bit of adjustment to go from living on a planet so dry that it was nicknamed “The Rock” to go back to a planet as drenched as Infanalis.
All these thoughts about weather were just a distraction from what was really on his mind, though. He had requested a leave of absence from the Army as soon as he’d gotten word of his father’s mad plan to defy the Emperor. It was necessary to try and talk his father out of this crazy idea of going to Trisitania without the Emperor’s daughter. As disgusted as Belfamor was by the things that Neminatrix did to Shala, there was no way it was worth risking the fortune and very existence of House Hemetal over. As Lorgad Hemetal’s oldest child, Belfamor was next in line to become the Head of the House, Lord Hemetal himself. He wanted there to be a House for him to be Head of when the time came.
The shuttle touched down on the landing pad outside the Hemetal manor, and Belfamor sighed heavily at the downpour outside. As soon as the shuttle’s hatch popped open, he leaped out and ran as fast as he could, through the rain, along the path leading into the manor.
“Well, Belfamor, I didn’t expect to see you so soon,” said an unfamiliar voice as Belfamor stomped his feet on the rug and shook the rain off of his jacket. He looked around, and was quite surprised to see Shala Votalin standing there.
“Shala!” he exclaimed. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you outside your chambers since my father married you! What’s going on?”
“I’ve started to feel more like this place is my home,” she said with a sardonic smile. “Does that disturb you?”
“Of course not!” Belfamor said uncomfortably. “You are Father’s wife, and therefore this is every bit your home. I just…didn’t expect to see you while I was here. Do you know where Mother is?”
“I believe she is discussing House Hemetal’s trade negotiations with House Margolis in your father’s study,” Shala replied. “She will be in charge of those negotiations once Lorgad is on Trisitania.”
“I see,” Belfamor frowned. “Why her? Why not you?” he demanded, hoping to hear her say that she would also be on Trisitania.
“I am not part of House Hemetal, as you know very well,” she replied, her smile growing even more mocking. “I can no more negotiate on behalf of House Hemetal than I could on behalf of House Margolis.” Belfamor frowned at her silently, and then turned to find his parents.
Even after five years, it was still difficult for Belfamor to get used to the idea that his parents were technically not married anymore. Imperial law only allowed for a person to be married to one other person at a time, so in order for Lorgad to enter into a marriage alliance with House Votalin, the law required him to divorce his wife of almost 30 years. They weren’t completely divorced, however. This situation was common enough among noble houses that Imperial law recognized a form of secondary marriage, known as caila. A cailas was something like a mistress, but with legal rights and protections. Legally, Belfamor’s mother Ilena was Lorgad’s cailas, but Belfamor knew that, in Lorgad’s heart, Ilena was still his wife. His marriage to Shala was nothing more than a political maneuver.
Or at least it had been, at the start. Belfamor wasn’t so sure anymore. Clearly his father had developed some sort of feelings for the girl. He wondered how far it went. His mother would have done everything in her power to prevent any sort of romance from blossoming between Lorgad and Shala, but Ilena had been born a commoner, and as such, there wasn’t much she would be able to do if Lorgad decided to cut her loose. Belfamor hoped his father wouldn’t be so callous as to treat his mother that way, but this plan had him wondering.
Belfamor pressed a button on the panel next to the door of his father’s study, and a few seconds later the door slid open. His mother and father were standing there, welcoming smiles on their faces, but the thing that struck Belfamor the most was how much they’d aged. His father’s hair was much grayer than he remembered, and his mother’s face had considerably more wrinkles. But they looked happy, and he immediately forgot those concerns as they embraced him.
“Father, Mother, it’s good to be home,” Belfamor said with a smile of his own. As much as he hated the weather on Infanalis, this place, with these people, would always be his home.
“It’s good to have you home, son,” Lorgad said in his deep, booming voice.
“It certainly is,” Ilena said, beaming. “You look great. We heard about your latest promotion, Major Hemetal. Keep this up, and you’ll be a general by the time you’re 40!” Belfamor just smiled at her and shook his head. Promotions were nice, but what really motivated Belfamor was serving his House, and the Empire.
“Father, we need to discuss this plan of yours,” Belfamor said seriously, the smile fading from his face.
“Later, son,” Lorgad said, shaking his head. “Later. I’m not leaving for Trisitania for another week or so. You’ll have plenty of time to try and change my mind. But you’ll need to change your mother’s mind, too. This was her idea, after all.” Belfamor looked at his mother in surprise, and she nodded.
“I will not allow anyone to suffer abuse if it is within my power to stop it,” she said firmly. In reply, Belfamor just stared at her in disbelief. This was going to be more difficult than he thought.
To be continued…