Culmination, Part 5

“Belfamor, I need you to talk to your son,” Shala said with her hands on her hips as Belfamor entered their bedroom. He had just arrived home after two weeks of inspecting troops at the military outpost on Harboria, a planet that had recently switched allegiance from Neminatrix to Valador. He was a general now, and the second-highest ranking military officer in the entire IAF, or at least the part of it that was loyal to Emperor Valador I.

“Well, thanks for the warm welcome, honey,” Belfamor said with an ironic smile. “I missed you, too.”

“Belfamor, we spoke via commlink every day that you were gone,” Shala said, rolling her eyes. “I hardly feel like you weren’t here. And even if I had missed you terribly, we have a serious problem to deal with.”

“I’m sure we do,” Belfamor replied, trying and failing to mask his exasperation. Vendamil could be a trying child for sure, but Belfamor never quite understood why Shala had so much trouble with him. No matter how arrogant or whiny or abrasive Vendamil got, if Belfamor told him to stop, he did. Shala just wasn’t firm enough with him.

“I know you think I’m just being dramatic or whatever,” Shala said with a scowl and a glare, “but we really do have a problem. Vendamil has applied to study at Imperial University.”

“I don’t see why that’s a big deal,” Belfamor said with a shrug. “He’s already smart enough to get in, and even if he wasn’t, they’d be stupid to say no to the heir to House Hemetal. Once the war’s over and the Emperor has control of the capital, I don’t see any reason why he can’t go. By then, he’ll probably be about 10 years old. It’s not unprecedented for a 10 year old to attend university.”

“I agree, but that’s not the problem,” Shala said in a too-patient voice. “The problem is that he wants to go now.”

“What?” Belfamor asked, startled. “Of course not! Out of the question!”

“That’s what I told him,” Shala said, spreading out her hands in a gesture of futility. “In response, he said, and I quote, ‘You will live to regret this, woman’.”

“You’re kidding me,” Belfamor breathed, a stunned look on his face.

“You’ve never believed me about Vendamil, have you?” Shala said, shaking her head in disbelief. “You think that because you can handle him, that there isn’t a problem with him. Well, let me tell you, it’s great that you can handle him, but you’re not always around. And what if something happens to you? You’re a soldier. There’s no guarantee that you will survive your next battle. Vendamil needs to learn how to respect people other than you, or he’s going to turn out just like my father.”

Belfamor winced and sat down heavily on the bed. After a moment, he sighed and said, “Okay, you’ve made your point. But what do you want me to do about it?”

“That’s the problem,” Shala said with a pained frown. “I have no idea.” She came and plopped down on the bed next to him, and together they sat there for a few moments, just thinking.

“Well, I suppose the first thing to do is have a chat with Vendamil, get him to realize that going to Trisitania now is not going to happen,” Belfamor said.

“I think that’s a marvelous idea,” Shala said, rolling her eyes again.

***

“And how can I know that you are telling me the truth?” said the man on the other side of the commlink suspiciously.

“What have you got to lose?” replied Vendamil with a shrug and a smirk.

“I suppose you have a good point,” said the man thoughtfully. Then a huge grin brightened his face. “You know, I like you, Vendamil. You remind me of myself. I think I’ll be able to find a place for you, once you finish your degree.”

“I would appreciate that greatly,” Vendamil said with a solemn nod. “It is a shame that my parents saw fit to assign me to House Hemetal, rather than House Votalin.”

“That can be dealt with,” the man said with a dismissive gesture. “Once you and your mother are on Trisitania, we can worry about minor details like that. Who knows? If we play our cards right, it might even be possible to merge Hemetal and Votalin! Just think of it: the power and prestige of the Imperial dynasty combined with the wealthiest noble house in the galaxy! That would certainly be an achievement, wouldn’t it? And it would all be thanks to you.”

“You are too kind,” Vendamil replied with another slight incline of his head. He opened his mouth to say more, but he heard someone approaching his chamber and severed the commlink immediately. It wouldn’t do for anyone to find out who he was talking to, much less what he was planning with that person. He wasn’t concerned about offending the man on the other end. Their plans were already in motion, and the man was well aware that a sudden disconnection was a possibility.

“Who were you talking to, Vendamil?” asked Belfamor as he entered the room.

“Oh, just a friend of Mother’s,” Vendamil said airily. “Welcome home, Father. What can I do for you?”

“I have spoken to your mother about your request to attend Imperial University,” Belfamor said, sitting down on his son’s bed, “and I have some concerns about the way you reacted when she said no.”

“Oh, Father, I’m very sorry about what I said,” Vendamil said cheerfully. “I was wrong, and I promise it will never happen again.”

“I…see,” Belfamor said, somewhat flummoxed. “Well, I suppose that settles it then. As long as you’ve learned your lesson.”

“Oh, I have, Father,” Vendamil replied earnestly. “I know I need to treat my mother with respect, and I assure you I will do so in the future.”

“Okay, well,” Belfamor said with a shrug, “I guess that settles things then. How have things been here while I was gone?” Belfamor sat and chatted with Vendamil about inconsequential things for a few minutes, and then he left. As soon as the door shut, Vendamil let out a relieved sigh. His father had no suspicions about his plans. He hadn’t really expected otherwise, but stranger things had happened. A malevolent smile crept across his face as he thought about the conversations he’d just had. Nothing was going to stand in the way of his ambitions. Not even his own mother.

To be continued…

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