Shala Votalin smiled wearily as she gazed upon her five-year-old son, Vendamil, a proud smile tinged with exasperation, as little Vendamil was whining about something again. Sometimes she wondered if maybe she had been better off in the days when she’d believed it impossible for her to get pregnant. Having a child was as marvelously wonderful as she’d always imagined it to be, but it was also about 100 times more difficult than she’d imagined as well.
Not that Vendamil was a normal child. No, he was an exceptional little boy, in both good ways and bad. For one thing, he was extraordinarily brilliant. Academically, he was already performing at a university level, solving complex mathematical equations and reading and comprehending esoteric philosophical treatises. Just thinking about his genius made Shala beam with pride. But unfortunately there was a flip side to Vendamil’s brilliance. He seemed to have inherited all of the worst aspects of the personality of his grandfather, the so-called Emperor, Neminatrix IV. He was cruel, tyrannical, arrogant, and utterly disconnected from reality. He behaved as if he were the center of the universe, which Shala feared she had inadvertently encouraged because of the fact that he was her first, and likely only, child.
“Mother,” Vendamil said in a petulant tone, “you are not listening to me!”
“I’m sorry, Vendy,” Shala said with a sigh. “What is it, dear?”
“First of all, you are not to call me ‘Vendy’,” Vendamil replied with an arrogant scowl. “I believe we have discussed this in the past. Secondly, I was telling you that I have applied to attend Imperial University in the fall, and I expect that I will be accepted.” Shala stared at her son for a moment in disbelief, and then she shook her head.
“Vendamil,” she said firmly, “I appreciate that you are exceptionally intelligent, but there is no way that you will be attending Imperial University, regardless of whether you are accepted.”
“And why not!” Vendamil exclaimed, jumping out of his seat and stamping his little foot. “I have every right to attend whatever college I want. And don’t tell me we can’t afford it! I’m well aware that House Hemetal is the richest noble house in the galaxy!”
“Of course we can afford it,” Shala replied, sounding more calm than she felt. “But that’s not the point. First of all, no matter how bright you are, there is no way I’m allowing a five-year-old to attend a university. Even if you are smarter than most college students, you’re still a child, and you’re not emotionally prepared for college. Besides, attending Imperial University would mean sending you to Trisitania. You would almost certainly be captured and held hostage by your grandfather if you set foot in the capital.”
“Don’t be absurd, Mother,” Vendamil said, waving a hand dismissively. “Surely Neminatrix would want his grandson to get a good education.”
“If he was a well-adjusted, loving man, then I would agree with you,” Shala said, “but unfortunately, your grandfather is a narcissistic tyrant who is only concerned about his own desires. And for some twisted reason, he desires me, and I have no doubt that he would not hesitate to seize you in order to force me to return to Trisitania.”
“And wouldn’t being captured by your father be a small price to pay so that your son could be educated at the most prestigious educational institution in the galaxy?” Vendamil retorted with a sneer. Shala stared at him coldly.
“Vendamil, you are my son, and I love you,” she said in an icy voice. “You are perhaps the most brilliant person I’ve ever met, but you are still a child, and there is much that you do not understand. Now, leave me, and do not mention going to Trisitania again.” Vendamil stared at her in shock, and then his expression morphed into pure rage.
“How dare you, woman!” he hissed. “You will regret this decision, I assure you!” And before Shala could reply, he turned on his heel and stormed out of the room. Shala maintained her cold expression until he was gone, and then she sighed deeply and slumped into her seat. How could she have given birth to such a monster? She wanted desperately to love her son, and of course, on some level she did. But there was so much about him that reminded her of her father, and that was terrifying to her. What if he grew up to be just like her father? And what if he treated her the same way her father had? To be abused by her father had been horrible enough. The thought of the same abuse coming from the hands of her son was unthinkable.
Fortunately, she had her husband to lean on. Vendamil would whine and bluster and rage, but when Belfamor spoke, he listened. Maybe having that strong father figure would be the difference for Vendamil. Shala’s grandfather had been a drunken wastrel who had squandered House Votalin’s fortune on alcohol and gambling, which was the reason why her father had had to ally so closely with House Hemetal when he made his bid for the Imperial Throne. Shala sometimes wondered if it was also part of the reason why her father was such a sociopath. Maybe if he’d had a father who loved him and paid attention to him, he would have turned out differently.
Well, Neminatrix was not Shala’s concern anymore. She had been free of him for almost a decade now. Over a decade if she didn’t count the month she’d spent on Trisitania after Belfamor’s father was executed. He had tried many times to get her back since she’d defected to Emperor Valador, but she was guarded too well, and every attempt had failed miserably. Valador placed too much value on the support of his rival’s daughter to allow her to be captured.
None of that helped her with Vendamil, though. She needed to figure out a way to teach him empathy and compassion, or he would end up as horrible as her father.
To be continued…