“Well, what did you think of Hibellia, son?” asked Belfamor as he and Vendamil boarded the transport that would take them back to their home on Revellia. Belfamor had taken Vendamil on an inspection tour in order to spend some more time with him. He had decided that maybe part of Vendamil’s problem was not getting enough quality time with his father.
“I suppose it was alright, Father,” Vendamil replied with a noncommittal shrug. Belfamor frowned at his son in response. Ever since they had left their manor, Vendamil had been even more somber than usual, which was saying something. Belfamor hadn’t spent a lot of time around children, but he’d always gotten the impression that children were generally cheerful and easily excited. Vendamil had always been the opposite, but even at that, Belfamor could usually get a small smile out of him once in a while. Somehow this trip wasn’t having the effect that Belfamor had intended.
“What’s bothering you, son?” Belfamor said with a frown.
“Me?” Vendamil asked, seemingly surprised. “Why would you think anything was bothering me?”
“Well-,” Belfamor began, but then a lieutenant rushed up to him.
“Sir!” he said, saluting sharply. “There’s an urgent message for you from Revellia!” Belfamor’s frown deepened as he stood up and took the tablet from the lieutenant. Thinking that perhaps one of Valador’s many enemies had launched a surprise attack somewhere, he scanned the message quickly, and he felt as if his heart had stopped. Taking a deep breath, he read the message again, slowly and carefully, but unfortunately the second reading was worse than the first.
“Is this report accurate?” Belfamor whispered urgently to the lieutenant, not wanting Vendamil to get any hint at what he was talking about.
“I don’t know any more than you do, sir,” the lieutenant whispered back.
“How could this even be possible?” Belfamor whispered fiercely, utterly flabbergasted.
“I have no idea, sir,” the lieutenant replied, shaking his head in frustration. “I wish I could tell you more.”
“What seems to be the problem, Father?” Vendamil piped up suddenly.
“Oh, um, there’s some trouble at home, son,” Belfamor said, not looking at Vendamil. “Nothing you need to worry about.” He hated lying to his son, but he couldn’t bear to burden Vendamil with the news that his mother had been kidnapped.
“I think I can clear up any confusion you may have about what’s happened,” Vendamil replied. Belfamor froze, and then he slowly turned and stared at his son, who had a strangely smug look on his face.
“What…are you talking about, Vendamil?” Belfamor asked, in a quiet, intense voice.
“I know what happened to Mother,” Vendamil replied calmly. “She was kidnapped by soldiers loyal to my grandfather, Neminatrix IV.” Belfamor stared at him in shock. “You’re probably wondering how they were able to bypass the manor’s defensive systems. There’s a simple answer to that question. I gave my grandfather the password.”
If Vendamil’s revelation that he knew about Shala had frozen Belfamor to the core, the news that her own son had betrayed her sparked a fire that began to melt his frozen soul again. “You…what?” he said in a low, dangerous voice.
“I gave Neminatrix the password,” Vendamil said again, still perfectly calm. “I told Mother that she would regret not allowing me to attend Imperial University. Now I can go to Trisitania and no one has to worry about me being held hostage. My grandfather has what he wants, and he’s told me that he is eager to see me begin my studies.” Vendamil stared up at his father in perfect, childlike innocence, giving no outward sign that he had just admitted to committing a monstrous crime. But Belfamor stared at him as if truly seeing what he was for the first time.
“When we get back to Revellia, you will be confined to your quarters, under guard, indefinitely,” Belfamor said, his voice quivering only slightly with the fury that was threatening to consume him. Vendamil’s expression immediately turned to rage, and he opened his mouth, but his father immediately cut him off. “Do not say a word!” Belfamor roared. “The only reason I am not throwing you in prison for the rest of your life is because you are my son!” Vendamil’s mouth snapped shut, and an expression of shock appeared on his face.
“But…but I…I’m going to Imperial University,” Vendamil said weakly.
“Don’t be absurd!” Belfamor snarled. “Do you really think you could betray your mother and deliver her to a man who only wants to hurt her, and still get what you want? Never! If I have my way, you will never go to Imperial University as long as you live!” Belfamor glared at his son, unable to fully comprehend the fury welling up inside him, while Vendamil stared back at him with eyes full of horror and confusion.
“I…I don’t understand,” he said in a small voice, sounding more than ever like the small boy that he was. “I…I just thought Mother didn’t like her father. I-I didn’t know he wanted to…to hurt her.” Belfamor felt his fury slowly fade as he listened to his son speak, replaced by a deep sorrow.
“Vendamil, I’m sorry,” Belfamor said sadly. “I forget sometimes that you are just a child, because you so often talk and think like an adult. You have no idea how horrible your grandfather is, and how could you? You don’t have enough experience of life to have any kind of reference for his loathsome behavior.” He sighed deeply, and then sat down next to his son and wrapped his arms around him. “How could you understand Neminatrix’s hatred for your mother? I don’t even understand it, and I’ve known about it my whole life.”
Belfamor sighed again and shook his head. Vendamil was sobbing now, and as much as Belfamor hated the idea of his son being in pain, it was a relief in a way. For a moment, he’d been afraid that Vendamil was as incapable of empathy as his grandfather. To see him show remorse over what had happened to his mother told Belfamor that maybe not all hope was lost.
To be continued…