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A/N -- Hey guys! It's me again! Enjoy this new beginning!

© Haley Netherton -- 2016 (I do not give permission for this story to be posted anywhere else.)

"Eldia's expansion," Emperor Geh'lien Rus spoke to himself, rubbing his chin, "...was a mistake." The admission came out as little more than a breath on his lips as he stared down at his map of the continent. It was nearing two years since the war for territory had begun –nearly two years of fighting that had seen many gains for their border. It was a war he himself had incited for the good of the country. The emperor's brows furrowed, deepening the lines in his face until they were trenches. Perhaps it wasn't so good for the country, in hindsight.

Currently, things were looking quite abysmal.

"Keep frowning like that, and you'll start to look your age," came a voice from the doorway.

For a moment, Geh'lien's focus was stolen. His eyes flitted to where he had heard the voice. The crown prince, Avan Rus, watched his father with strained amusement. Geh'lien's expression relaxed, if only a little. Today had been the first day in quite a long time he'd seen his first-born son. They'd just been able to speak again at dinner. Ah, but they hadn't spoken about this yet. "This is hardly a laughing matter, son."

Avan's handsome face fell. "It's not," he agreed. "Apparently."

There was a moment of silence. Tension built in the room, until Geh'lien spoke, "I sense you're not happy with me." Inevitable. The emperor knew that this was coming.

"You sent me away to Wallfront to delegate. And while I was gone, you called for the peace talks." Avan's eyes narrowed. "I spoke with the council this morning, they filled me in. What are you doing, father?"

"I had no choice."

Avan took a breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. "No choice?" he whispered, but it was rhetorical. With a shake of his head, the prince contained himself and simply went on to ask, "Have any answered your call for truce, then?"

"Garhemia refused," Geh'lien answered. "No word yet from the Northern Isle, and I imagine that's purposeful." He grimaced, but it lightened with his next words. "But of all people, Erutha agreed. Believe it or not, the High Pharoah of the desert-lands has accepted terms of parlay. He ventures here now, if his letter is honest. An emissary from Sidonia travels with him."

Avan was taken aback. Geh'lien saw it in his face.

"Why Sidonia?" the prince asked, very confused. "They have nothing to do with this. They border Erutha, not us."

"I see the council didn't tell you everything," the emperor said, and then explained. "They've written it as a simple observation on their part, but they're there as a threat. They've allied themselves with Erutha. If this keeps on, the fighting will intensify. We were barely holding off Erutha as is. With Sidonia's help..."

"Sidonia's a small country," Avan Rus pointed out.

"Doesn't matter: it's still more enemies that we can no longer afford. Sidonia may not be a threat in and of itself, but matched with Erutha? That's bigger, especially if we're still warring with the Northern Isle and Garhemia. No," Geh'lien paused. "This has gone on too long, and we are not strong enough. There has to be peace –at least some peace. To mark off the desert-lands as neutral –now our strongest enemy? You have to see the wisdom in it. I did not raise a fool, after all."

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