All the characters in this story exist only in my imagination. Similarity of name to a real person is not intended. All events indicated in this story are of my invention. Please don't sue me if anything here is similar to actual persons or events, or is the same with works of other authors. Believe me when I say any similarity to real events/persons and/or works of other authors is purely coincidental!



The Duke Of Stratton's Last Words

"How is he?" King Philippe asked his son, Vincent, who was seated at his uncle's bedside. "He's gotten worse since you left last night, father. T-The doctors can't do anything anymore." Vincent paused a little bit, biting his lower lip in order not to cry. "He asked to speak to you."

Philippe wanted to cry himself but if anyone was to take this family through this traumatic time, it was him. They had lost too many of their family members but this was the heaviest blow fate had bout him. Philippe loved his brother so much. They had been through hell together and back. Losing him meant losing his closest confidant and best friend. Losing him meant his son losing his beloved uncle and adviser.

"Philippe…." The whispered calling caused him to look at Richard's very pale face. "I'm here Richard." Philippe took his brother's hand signaled Vincent to have everyone leave the room. When they were alone, he asked Richard why he wanted to talk to him.

"Philippe, I need you and Vincent to find my son….My heir." Richard coughed a bit. "Your son? But Richard, we don't even know where to start looking for April. She disappeared years ago with the settlement money of your divorce. She took him with her." "Philippe, please promise me you will find him and tell him of his bloodline."

Philippe will do anything to honor his brother. If it is finding his nephew, then it is finding his nephew. "We'll find him, Richard. And I swear to you that he will take his place as the new Duke of Stratton." Richard smiled faintly. "Philippe, also tell him that there is not a moment that I think of him and April. Tell him that I loved them both."

After his last statement, Richard's face contorted into one of pain. "Richard!" The life sign monitor that indicated Richard's heartbeat went flat. At this, a tear trickled its way to Philippe's cheek.

"We'll find him, Richard." He promised solemnly.

Meanwhile, Vincent waited for his father faithfully out side the door. The doctors, nurses, and Britonian palace staff watched him pace the floor. He couldn't help it. His uncle is dying and no one can do anything. He felt like he wanted to break something.

Richard had been Vincent's adviser in life and in royal family situations since he can remember. When his father wasn't there, Uncle Richard always had spare time for him from his duties as Duke. Uncle Richard was like his second father.

At a very young age, it was drilled into him that he will inherit the crown of the Principality of Britonia. Vincent understood what he was about to undertake someday and when he didn't understand something about certain laws and how to handle some situations, he always asked his Uncle Richard, who was always ready to oblige him. It's a blow to his spirit to lose his most loved Uncle Richard.

"Your Highness, perhaps you should sit down." Encouraged Charlotte Ferrarella, one of the royal family's personal assistants. She indicated the chair that was being carried to him by Reeve Delaney, the chief bodyguard of the family. Vincent sat down but he nervously wrung his hands.

The door opened and out came a red faced King Philippe. Vincent was suddenly on his feet and at his father's side. "Father…" "He's dead." Vincent felt like his heart lurched at the pit of his stomach, and then tears cascaded down his face.

The doctors and the nurses hurriedly went inside the room ignoring father and son who was still standing in the middle of the door way.

Charlotte rubbed Vincent's back comfort him. Finally, the tears welled up inside the king and he just let them flow.

-- o --

A lavish funeral was held for Richard Michael Forsythe, the beloved Prince of Britonia and Duke of Stratton. He was buried in a hidden, but well- kept location in the Britonian Summer Castle. Since Prince Vincent and King Philippe were the only family members left, they were the ones who escorted Richard's body to its final resting place. Philippe decreed that the whole of Britonia will mourn Prince Richard's death for one year as indicated in their laws and traditions.

Alone in the Britonian Capital Palace, Philippe and Vincent will finally have a moment to themselves after dealing with parliament that questioned them if Richard has an heir. Philippe assured them that there is an heir. What Philippe didn't tell them was that it will take some time before they can find him.

"Charlotte said you wanted to see me, father?" Philippe was drawn from his thoughts by his son's voice. "Leave us." He ordered to Charlotte. Charlotte curtsied politely before going away and closing the door. "Vincent, sit down." Well, here goes nothing.

"Vincent, I need you to do something for me and your uncle. It will be your first unofficial act as Crown Prince." Vincent raised an eyebrow at his father's tone. "This has nothing to do with that statement you made to parliament that there is actually an heir, is it?" "There is an heir." Vincent's facial features turned serious. "I have a cousin?"

King Philippe recounted to his son Richard's romance with someone who is not of noble birth and who did not reach the standards of Vincent's grandfather, Vincent Blaine Forsythe, the king before Philippe. He also told Vincent of the close wedding that Richard had with this woman, April. "Was grandfather angry?" Vincent asked with the curiosity of a child. "Very. He made Richard and April have a divorce four years after she gave birth to a boy. April took the settlement money and stormed out of the country with her son. The last that we heard is that she's in America." "Wow. He still loved her until his very last breath. I mean that's why he never remarried, am I correct, father?" Philippe nodded. "Since I cannot find him myself, your task is to look for him, using the resources that I will assign you. That includes Charlotte. She'll be useful to you later on."

Vincent was excited about looking for the cousin he never knew. Will he be like his uncle is the first question that popped into his mind. He will find his cousin with whatever it takes. "I guarantee that I will find him, father."