Eckhart grew up believing he would inherit the throne of Zahra. His parents were the current rulers after his father inherited the throne after winning the competition against his siblings when King Archibald retired. He spent his whole life hearing about the feud his father Aldrich had with his siblings and what he would need to do to get the crown. He may be the crowned prince, but that didn't guarantee him as the future king. While most tend to give the throne to the first heir, his grandfather Archibald decided to create a system in which any of them could inherit if they just won the competition. This, as predicted, has caused some friction and threats. Eckhart grew up learning to navigate relationships with his family, learned how to spot threats, and was schooled in every aspect that the competition would consist of.
His aunt Donatella was the oldest and most bitter about not getting the throne. She and her daughter Hermione were the most conniving, and he was sure they were behind his ski accident last winter. His aunt Fiorella was the youngest and the only one faithfully married to her high school sweetheart Claudia. Together they had two daughters, Coty and Jolie. Out of the royals, she was the most grounded and the only one that Eckhart could affectionately refer to as a family member. Then there was his uncle Egbert who was as brilliant as he was vindictive. He never married and overlapped his relationships. His three oldest sons, Clement, Ignatius, and Lawson, were Eckhart’s age and were the three his uncle had in the running to get the throne. Then there was his uncle Orson who was in his third marriage. His oldest two sons were Montague and Mungo by his first wife Zuzu, who he was in league with to push Eckhart out of the way, even if it means badmouthing him to the press. The only family members he ever felt at home with were his mother’s sister Brigitte and her three daughters. They were the only ones that welcomed his visits with open arms. She was the one that taught him a love of baking by having him in the kitchen to make chiroti on special occasions and a deep love of gujiya. The only one he could truly trust was his dog, Rufus.
The only thing that Eckhart was sure of was his newfound hatred for his entire family for lying to him all these years and tricking him into thinking he was important. This hatred was why he now sat in his car, staring at the fence line that separated Zahra from West Sin. Now he was faced with two options. He could be cast out with no money, or he could train the real prince in the ways of the royal family. He refused to be dropped down to the status of commoner so his only choice was to help prepare the rightful prince for the competition. But he was consumed with anger at the lies that he was told his whole life. Everything he thought he knew had been a lie to protect the true prince. All he needed now was a plan to punish the people he was supposed to have been able to trust: his parents. The ones that have now taken everything away from him. He knows that Ketu is innocent - at least as far as he knows - but the only way to punish the royal couple is to go through Ketu.
That’s what led him to make the most drastic decision he could. He rented a car and made his way from the Upper Side to the outer rim of the Down Side, then took the roadway out from the town and through the smaller areas surrounding them. Within a few hours, he found himself in a place that he never imagined he would be. He found himself staring at the border that separated Zahra from the country they have been warring with for the last few decades. West Sin was a bad decision in more ways than one. He would regret it instantly, and part of him attempted to talk himself out of it, but he quickly ignored that half.
Eckhart had set up a meeting with a member of the West Sin royal court by using the diplomatic connections of his father - his non-biological father - to send a secret message. He tightened his hold on the steering wheel and ran over every argument in his head to not do this. He reminded himself that they were his parents. Then corrected himself. No, they weren’t. They raised him - after they switched him at birth, thus taking him from his real parents. They were his family. He wasn’t related to any of them. He had been a pawn in the royal couple’s scheme to protect their real child. As soon as they got him back, Eckhart was pushed aside and was given the new role of “royal tutor” to train their actual child in the ways of royalty. The ways he was raised. A car comes to a stop on the other side of the fence. His chest felt tighter as he recognized it. Eckhart knew that once he got out of the car, there would be no going back.
He takes a deep breath and tells himself that this is the only way to right how he was wronged. He convinces himself that he can turn back at any time he wants. From across the fence, Eckhart could see the one royal of West Sin with the worst reputation getting out of his own car. The royal was known for having a hot head and was often seen by paparazzi having loud, and vocal arguments with his parents that often ended in death threats. This was in every way a horrible idea and would end with him either arrested or killed for his own betrayal. But he reminded himself that he was the one that was betrayed. So he does the only thing that he can do. He shuts off the engine and gets out of the car.