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"The boy is unfit to rule. If there were another heir there would be no need for this discussion-"
"You mean this discussion of treason?" Count Hullaj shook his head in disgust, "I cannot believe that it has come to this. You are right of course, the boy is not fit to rule. His condition will make it impossible for him to sire an heir and his madness would only destroy the kingdom through chaos and strife."
Duke Bellak nodded, "So you agree? We will have the boy deposed and split the baronies between us? With local rule we can better ensure the safety and welfare of the people, and with this council of seven we can try to keep the Empire intact for all appearances. The illusion of strength is often as effective a deterrent as true strength after all."
For the first time during the meeting Lady Nillum added her voice, "Is it the illusion of strength? Will we not truly still be an empire?" Silence reigned in the wake of her question.
"No." The wizard Opotolo's voice was raspy and weak, but in the silence his response fell like a hammer. "Only the blood of the royal family has proven able to bear the crown; history has shown that the crown favors blood not ability." The others shifted uncomfortably at the reminder of a rebellion decades before. "If this is truly the end of the royal line then this is the end of the empire as we know it. Until another with the right blood can be found we are without the crown, and without the crown the army will not function beyond their preset routines. They will man their stations, look impressive, and defend themselves, but nothing more."
Bellak nodded, "We will have defense only at the forts, a new army will need to be trained from the people. We will need to do so slowly and quietly to not alarm the populace, but I fear that we will be unable to truly defend the empire for some years. Divesting the baronies is the only way ..."