This is my most important story; I love it like a child.
Please enjoy it. It is a joy to write, and I hope you like it.
It will consist of many storylines, all of which will intersect. It should be good.

In the ancient Radejastian gloom, the only soul in sight, I danced.

-The Radejastians [David Nickle]

There is, somewhere, somewhen, a castle that is a city, on a planet that is a nation, and that city is ruled by a king who is nothing, who is ruled by a jester who is a king, and both of them twins; to each other, no less.

This city is the capital city of a state in its planet's nation, and often becomes a point of contention to both sides of whatever conflict is occurring at the time. Some decades ago, its monarchial pair were assassinated by a group of very opinionated individuals (of what opinion, it matters not) and there was chaos for some weeks. In the chaos, the king's most trusted advisors managed to secret away the twins to whom the queen was to give birth not twenty days hence (they had been salvaged from the cooling corpse of their mother, and survived by the miracle of science) into the hands of a select monastic order. These men raised the two boys, instructing them both in all manners of discipline and knowledge, and once the city that was a castle on the planet that was a nation- once it had come under sufficient control, they returned the two to their rightful places.

Now, the advisors had been afforded far too long to consider how they should go about keeping the two from their parents' fates, and had come to a rather strange decision. One brother was to rule as a king is expected to, presenting himself and sitting on his throne and officiating with his presence, but it would be the other who truly ruled, making the decisions and considering plans of action. They would communicate silently through a microchip implanted in their brains, and in this way would the true king be safe from becoming the target of such a tragic mission; additionally, should the 'king' be killed, the other could easily take his place. The true king would take up the mantle of king's fool, for who is so close to the king, so strange, so easily dismissible by those considering threats, who is afforded more leniency, more allowance to make comments otherwise unsavory and to be there in all discussions, than the court jester, maker of merry and mayhem?

And so it was done: Mikhail, king of nothing and no one, and Skrace, given a customarily ridiculous name so as to disguise his presence, jester and monarch, a king playing at playing at being king.

Their foreheads touch; Mikhail closes his eyes, resting, as Skrace runs worried fingers over his face. The bond pulses with connection; Mikhail feels Skrace's concern, and smiles softly, reassuring his sovereign and brother that he is indeed okay, even though he knows better, even though they both know better. They try not to let it bother them.

Years ago, when they returned to the castle, they promised themselves, through and with and because of the chip in both their brains that transmitted their feelings to each other, that they would be strong. Nothing would come between them; through hail or sleet or angry peasants, they would stay together. And now, some twelve long and harrowing years later, they had still kept that promise. Come tomorrow, it will have been thirteen years, and they will know, for better or for worse, if they will make it to the end. There is no doubt in Skrace's mind that they will.

They two twins shall rule forever and ever and ever amen.

A knock on the door snaps them back to attention. Skrace hops down off the arm of the throne with one last glance at his brother's stolid features, the slightest of worries tainting his mischievous demeanor, and disguises his thoughts by pulling a brightly colored block out of some pocket and making shadow-copies of it, which he then arranges into a pyramid. His puttering antics are tolerated in general by the majority of the king's visitors, and if he seems to know a bit more than he should, well, he's only a jester. Nothing more, nothing less- at least not that any of them suspect. A snicker shakes his shoulders.

The man whose untimely intrusion they are currently fielding is a moderately tall man of aristocratic build, light blond hair disheveled slightly from his journey. His eyes and hands glitter, perhaps with mirth and gold, perhaps with anger and daggers; the way he moves is almost cat-like. "Yuri Ingersoll," announces the guard a half-second too late, making Skrace smirk. The man- Yuri- approaches the dais upon which Mikhail's throne, and Mikhail himself seated upon it, sitting there in all his majesty.

Skrace zones out. He has already gone over what to say with Mikhail; he need not pay attention.

"--will be working alongside him in a matter of weeks if all goes well." It is obvious from the way that Sergei is staring straight at Yuri that he believes him a threat, but he makes no move to alleviate Sergei's distress- he knows he will not retaliate without due cause.

"My country and I are indebted to you, Your Highness," Yuri responds smoothly, still meeting Mikhail's eyes respectfully until Mikhail blinks and etiquette allows Yuri to simper at Sergei in a way that, to most, he would seem to be merely meeting his gaze, but to persons so well versed in the infinitesimal observation of body language as they three, he is obviously gloating.

An andante of silent challenges hangs in the air between Sergei and Yuri. Yuri is smirking, looking very smug; Sergei seems to be about to lose his calm, and his wiry form ripples and sparks with tension, though to an eye not properly trained he would seem completely unaffected. Mikhail observes them reticently, making a deliberate effort on his part not to empathize with his subordinate in too obvious a manner.

"It is agreed, then, Majesty."

"Yes." Mikhail turns his head slightly to the side and looks away from Yuri in a clear indication that the meeting is over.

Yuri bows and takes his leave; his robes flick around the corner as if waving tauntingly at Sergei.

Gracelessly- with a jerk of his hand and wrist- Mikhail makes some gesture of dismissal to Sergei, who bids a hasty retreat into the shadows from whence he came, permitted at last his silent brooding.