He’d held back and restrained himself, afraid of the consequences. Afraid of what he might do, afraid of another Zuulaman. Held back while they took his boys from him. Held back and bit his tongue and retreated to SaDiablo Hall in the third realm, full of rage but holding it tight, keeping it close to himself.
His boys, his youngest sons. Lost to him.
And then the whisper came to his ears. It was Andulvar who brought him confirmation.
“Pleasure slaves,” Andulvar said, his nose wrinkled in disgust, “They’ve made them damned pleasure slaves,” and the Keep vanished behind a thin red haze. His boys.
“SaDiablo?” Andulvar said, far away. Then, more carefully, “Saetan?”
“I think,” Saetan said in a voice he hardly recognized as his own, “That you should go.”
“My friend,” Andulvar said, and stopped. He saw something, perhaps, or understood. Because then he said, chill as winter, “Tell me if you need help.”
“I shouldn’t be long.” The room was probably cold. He couldn’t feel it. He’d let them take his boys. And they’d taken them. But now they’d gone too far.
Terreille would remember what a Black Jeweled male meant. And they would bleed. Oh, they would bleed. His sons were coming home. And he would never let them go again. Never.
Saetan didn’t remember much of the night. Remembered riding the Winds with fury running in his veins. Remembered the wet squish of flesh. Remembered blood up to the elbow. Remembered facing a man (no, a boy) with eyes half mad, crouching and snarling like an animal with wings like dark silk. Remembered seeing his mirror, expression hidden behind a brutally placid mask.
*Come with me,* he said to them both, a command they couldn’t ignore, and they followed as he brought the houses down around them.
He was standing in the Hall in Kaeleer now, big and empty except for the two beds now filled. He watched them.
They slept the sleep of the exhausted, unnaturally deep. Andulvar stood at his left.
“The bill for this will come due,” he said, quietly. Saetan nodded.
“Everything has a price,” he echoed. “I’m willing to pay it. But I’m not willing to pay them.” He could just see Lucivar’s face under the blanket, the bruise around his eye and the lash marks on his back. Could see the way Daemon curled up defensively even as he slept. So young, and all their innocence stolen.
“They might not know you,” Andulvar said.
“Then they’ll come to.” He found a smile. It felt odd, stretched his face strangely. The anger was still boiling, down deep. “You can help. I’m not Eyrien.”
Andulvar’s expression had something strange to it. “If I don’t miss my guess,” he said, a little too quietly, “Your boy won’t want to see another Eyrien for a long while.”
Andulvar happened to be in the room when Lucivar woke up almost a day and a half later. Saetan had been hoping for longer. He was out of the room getting some food together when he heard his old friend yell in what sounded like surprised pain, and when he got to the room Lucivar had Andulvar’s war blade in one hand and there was definitely blood on his teeth where they were bared in Andulvar’s direction.
“Bit me,” Andulvar said, and Saetan could see him struggling to hold onto his temper. Lucivar’s eyes were half-crazed, slightly glazed gold. He made a low, guttural snarling noise.
“Don’t touch me,” he said, the first words Saetan heard him say, and this time Saetan heard the undertone of panic beneath the rage. His stomach turned over.
“Lucivar,” he said, low and carefully. Lucivar’s eyes snapped to him, and if possible the panic only grew. He backed up a few steps.
“Stay away,” he said. “You made me…where am I? What’s going on?”
He wobbled, and some of the color drained from his face. “You should sit down,” Saetan suggested. “You haven’t eaten anything in a couple days.”
“Who are you?” Lucivar said, all suspicion, his eyes going back and forth between glazed and clear, not losing that desperate edge.
“I’m your father,” Saetan said. Lucivar blinked, and then one corner of his mouth twisted up in a hard, cold, facsimile of a smile.
“Yeah,” he said. “Right.”
This was going to be, Saetan realized, a bit more complicated than he expected.
Daemon was actually worse. He followed Lucivar by about an hour, and he sat up and looked around quite calmly. His expression was so perfectly blank it could have meant anything. The corner of his mouth twisted up, then went back down. “Hm,” he said.
“You’re in SaDiablo Hall,” Saetan said, from the doorway. Andulvar was keeping his distance. “In Kaeleer.”
“I see.” His mirror’s eyes, when they landed in his, were far too old and far too bored. “And you are?” Saetan could feel him reaching out with psychic tendrils, trying to brush the surface of his mind. Saetan let him, though he stayed cautious. His mirror still wore the Red, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be dangerous.
“Saetan SaDiablo,” he said. Daemon looked at him for a long time, and then nodded, once.
“My namesake,” he said, simply. Saetan let out a breath. So this one knew him. There was that, at least. Tersa, probably, to thank for that.
“Yes,” Saetan said.
“I see,” Daemon said again, and turned his back in a show of calculated insolence that startled Saetan. “Would you close the door? I’d like to change.”
Saetan blinked stupidly. Then he stepped back and closed the door. His boys. Of course it couldn’t be easy. Of course.
One son violent and half mad. The other behind walls so high and cold Saetan wasn’t sure he could see the top of them.
It would, at least, be interesting.
“What do you want,” Lucivar demanded from the doorway, a safe distance from Saetan’s desk, his stance that of a fighter.
Saetan looked up and examined his younger son. He looked too thin. There were hollows under his eyes. “I’d like you to sleep,” he said, after a moment. “And maybe eat something.”
Lucivar bared his teeth. “Don’t play games with me.” Saetan’s heart hurt a little.
“I’m not, and I won’t. You’re safe.”
“Nowhere’s safe,” Lucivar said, flatly, and Saetan had the sudden feeling that whether he could remember it or not, he had been entirely too merciful. Maybe all of Tereille was to blame. He could do that. Gladly.
“If anyone tries to hurt you again,” Saetan said, a bit of bite in his voice, “I will personally see to it they die.”
Lucivar narrowed his eyes at Saetan, seeming to be thinking. His expression was intent. “Got it,” Lucivar said, but there was something in his voice that made Saetan very much doubt that he got it at all. His younger son was gone before he could say anything more, though.
If Lucivar was a challenge, Daemon was worse. His namesake ate what he was served, answered questions tersely but politely, walked softly through the halls, and spent most of his day reading. And never dropped his guard.
Saetan suspected he slept with one eye open. Daemon’s shoulders were constantly one tight line and his expression stayed that smooth, blank, and faintly disinterested mask that prickled Saetan’s temper every time he looked at it.
He caught Daemon in the gardens, once, sitting on a bench with his knees pulled to his chest, and his expression was full of longing, eyes full of sorrow. And then he saw Saetan.
The walls came back up. The mask came back down. Daemon stood and bowed, formally. “High Lord,” he said, simply, and glided past him, gait smooth and even. Daemon knew he was his father, Saetan had gathered that much. But one never would have known it from the way he behaved.
He’d had them back a week when Daemon turned up in his study halfway through the night and announced casually, “If you do anything to Lucivar, I’ll kill you.”
Saetan set down his pen and looked at his namesake. He expected to see anger, or suspicion. He found nothing. Just blank gold eyes looking placidly back at him. A shiver crawled down his spine. Saetan nodded once. “Understood,” he said.
Daemon ghosted back out the door. Saetan stared after him, and wondered if he was supposed to be happy that his boys were talking to each other.
“Are you going to have sex with us?” Lucivar asked. Still hovering, at a distance. His bearing taut and half-wild, like something feral newly caught. Saetan felt sick.
“No,” he said, keeping his voice level and even. Wary of what too much emotion might communicate to this Eyrien wild thing.
Lucivar’s head tilted to the side. His eyes narrowed to slits and his wings flared and then closed, the way Andulvar’s did when he was agitated. “Can we go?” he asked. “If we want?”
That hurt. More than he expected, honestly, perhaps because he’d known it might happen, known that perhaps he’d abandoned them, and that abandonment was really what he was going to have to pay for. They never would have suffered if he hadn’t…Saetan swallowed hard.
“You can go,” he said carefully. “If you want.” Lucivar looked, if possible, even more suspicious.
“All right,” he said, and paused. He looked suddenly awkward, and it made him look younger. Lucivar shifted from foot to foot. “Are you going to send us back?”
Saetan’s temper stretched and screamed and threatened to snap. “No,” he said, deliberately gently. “Never.”
Lucivar left without asking any more questions. Saetan sat very still and tried to regain his hold on his temper. It felt like it was slipping rapidly through his fingers. Andulvar found him like that.
“What kind of monsters,” Saetan said, then amended, “What kind of witches…”
Andulvar rested a hand lightly on Saetan’s shoulder. “I caught your boy watching me spar tonight,” he said, quietly. “He vanished as soon as I looked his way, but he was watching. I’ll go back at the same time tomorrow.”
Saetan wandered into the garden again, hoping to find Daemon, and found them both there, together. Lucivar had his toes in the pond. Daemon had his legs crossed, shoulder just nudged up against Lucivar’s. “We can take turns,” Daemon was saying. “Sleeping. I’ll watch for a couple hours, and then you watch. That way someone’s always got their eyes open.”
Lucivar moved his foot in the pond. His wings flexed. “We could go,” he said, quietly. “If you wanted to. I’d go.”
“You’re starting to trust him,” Daemon accused. Lucivar flinched, minutely.
“He hasn’t hurt us.”
“Just because he hasn’t doesn’t mean he won’t,” Daemon said, with cold logic, and Saetan could see him with the mask down, the way his expression twisted with loathing and anger. “He left us. You can’t trust anyone.”
“Can I trust you?” Lucivar asked, and sounded young again. It was strange, Saetan thought. They weren’t really that old.
“No,” Daemon said promptly. Lucivar made an unhappy noise. “What?” Daemon said. “You can’t. No one. Trust makes you vulnerable.”
“I trust you,” Lucivar said, and sounded stubborn.
“That just makes you an idiot,” Daemon said impatiently. Lucivar’s expression turned exasperated. He shifted slightly, then shoved Daemon into the pond.
“I guess you really can’t trust anyone,” he said, grinning as he jumped to his feet, and bounded into the air as Daemon lunged for him with a growl, laughing. Saetan’s heart squeezed. Daemon’s eyes fell from the sky and saw him watching. They narrowed.
Saetan left quickly.
“I’d like to see you both at dinner,” Saetan said to Daemon’s back, where he was sitting and reading a book.
“Is that so.” Daemon’s voice was perfectly even. The hint of mocking could have been his imagination. Saetan reigned in his temper.
“I’ll attend,” Daemon said, after a moment’s pause. Still cool. “You’ll have to ask Lucivar yourself.”
“He’ll come if you do,” Saetan said. The change in Daemon was startling. His eyes went suddenly very cold.
“Think about using me against him, High Lord, and I’ll kill you.”
“That’s the second time you’ve threatened to kill me,” Saetan noted, shortening the leash on his temper. A boy. His boy. Warlord Prince or no.
“Stay here and we can go for an even three,” Daemon said, his voice back to the normal even, modulated tone. “I’ll see you at dinner.”
Saetan sighed, and left.
They both came to dinner. Lucivar sat uneasily at the table and looked uncertain. Daemon sat next to him, protectively close. Saetan watched them both. Daemon’s manners were impeccable. Lucivar’s left something to be desired.
Lucivar flicked a piece of rice at Daemon’s nose, and Daemon scowled at him in a moment of unguarded relaxation, and Saetan loved them both so much it hurt.
Andulvar reported that Lucivar had made it out into the relative open and watched Andulvar through his entire routine. They made eye contact once. Lucivar did not say a word the whole time. “I stretched it out a little longer,” Andulvar said. “I’m pretty sure he was memorizing some of the moves. He’ll be a natural warrior, I can see it.”
That afternoon, Lucivar took a full two steps into Saetan’s study and said, “Daemon’s out of books.”
Saetan looked up and raised an eyebrow. Lucivar shifted, fanned his wings out and pulled them back in.
“He likes books,” he went on, sounding more uncertain. “He should have some new ones. Do you…are there places you can get books?”
“Yes,” said Saetan, carefully. “There are bookstores. Would you like to go to one?”
“I don’t know what he likes,” Lucivar said, sounding uncertain.
“I could help,” Saetan offered, very carefully. Lucivar thought about it.
“Don’t tell him,” he said. “He wouldn’t like it.” Saetan couldn’t help a smile, though he kept it small.
“Okay,” he said. “I promise not to tell him.”
The grin Lucivar flashed at him before darting off was like the sun coming out behind clouds, and left Saetan warm for the rest of the day.
They bought books, Lucivar picking out the ones Saetan recommended. His son walked softly and strangely in the stores, seeming uncertain of himself, half expecting someone to object to his presence, perhaps. Lucivar reported back an evening later to say that Daemon liked the books.
He stood there for a moment longer, fidgeting. “He’d like to trust you,” Lucivar said. “I think. He just doesn’t know how.”
Andulvar said that an Eyrien stick about Lucivar’s size had mysteriously gone missing.
“Do you think he’ll come to you for training?” Saetan asked. Andulvar grinned, a little toothily.
“If he hasn’t learned anything from all the watching he’s been doing, I doubt he ever will,” he said, and then paused for a moment, and added, quieter, “I hope he does. Born warrior, I swear to it.”
Saetan went to the bookstore and found a couple more books, then made his way to Daemon’s room and set them down just inside the door, staying carefully outside the boundaries of the room. Not wanting to intrude on territory that wasn’t his.
“Lucivar tells me you like books,” he said. Daemon turned a page.
“Yes,” he said, and offered nothing more.
“What else do you like?”
Daemon’s eyes lifted. They looked harsh and mocking. “I’m not fooled, High Lord,” Daemon said, coolly. “You can’t buy my trust. My affection.”
Saetan sighed. “I’m sorry,” he said, finally. “Is that what you want? I’m sorry. I should never have left you. Either of you.” Daemon turned his back. Saetan retreated, slowly, feeling unbearably old all of a sudden.
He barely heard the “Thank you,” directed at his back. But he heard it. Barely audible. But genuine.
They turned up for dinner without him asking that night. Lucivar did a bit better this time, though he still ate like a wolf given hands. Daemon watched him through half-lowered lids the whole meal. None of them talked very much.
Daemon pushed his dish back at last and said, “I liked the books. You have good taste, High Lord.”
Lucivar sat up straighter and was suddenly looking back and forth between the two of them. Saetan held very still and kept his face expressionless. “If you would like further recommendations, I am happy to supply them.”
“I would appreciate that. If you would excuse me.” Daemon stood up, gracefully, and left the dining hall. Lucivar looked back and forth between his exiting brother and Saetan and finally stood up and trailed after Daemon. Saetan leaned back and closed his eyes.
It felt a little like a victory.
When Andulvar stepped into the study, his eyes were glowing a soft golden, like melted butter. “Your whelp came and asked for training,” he said. “Demanded, more like it, really. Absolutely adamant. He’s already damned good.”
“Of course he is,” Saetan said, smugly. Andulvar cuffed his shoulder lightly.
They both looked up at once. Daemon was standing in the doorway of the study, his hands clasped behind his back, cool and collected. There was something in his eyes, though, almost uncertain. Young. Saetan nearly treasured it.
“Yes?” He said, carefully neutral.
Daemon hesitated. He glanced to the side. “I…” He paused, licked his lips, and tried again. “I like to play the piano.”
Saetan nodded, slowly. “If you would like,” he said carefully. “I can have a piano brought here.”
“I would like that,” Daemon said. For a moment, it looked like he would say something more, and then he was gone. Andulvar looked after him. Saetan let out a long breath.
“Has he forgiven you, then?” Andulvar asked, quietly. Saetan let himself smile.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s a start.”