A century of freedom. Someone of the shorter-lived races would consider that nearly an eternity, but Daemon was not one of them, and could expect to see thousands upon thousands of years before age finally caught up with him. Still, it had been years where he hadn’t had to play the whore for Dorothea and her coven. He’d slipped his leash only a few years after Tersa had told him Witch was coming, determined to find the woman he had been born for. But after decades of scouring Terreille for any sign of her, he had found nothing. Either Tersa had been wrong, which he doubted, or Witch did not yet walk the realms He had not been unproductive however, using the years to set up interests around the entirety of the Realm, businesses to bring income, and various charities and social programs to undermine Hyall’s ever-growing influence. Most importantly, the freedom had let him make his Offering to the Darkness in peace, had let him truly descend to his full power.
He sat at a small table in the back of a small tavern in a small town, far, far from Hyall, turning his newly acquired Jewel over and over in his hands. An uncut Black Jewel. Had any other man in the history of the Blood worn Black? Something tickled at the edges of his memory, something, someone he should remember. But the thought flitted away even as he turned his attentions to it. Not that it mattered anyway. He gave a cold, self-satisfied smile as he ran his thumb over the uncut Jewel. Dorothea had held on to her power by having the darkest Jewel in the Realm, but she only wore the Red. He closed his hand around the Jewel and vanished it. This tavern was probably safe from Dorothea’s spies, but there was no point in taking chances. Not now when everything could change. He could tear down Dorthea, wipe the stain of Hyall’s corruption of the Blood from the face of Terreille.
No. To do that he’d need a Queen to help, to heal and rule the land, and there were none strong enough for the work that would be needed. And Witch was coming. Tersa had promised. If he could just wait, they could purge Dorothea and her ilk together and restore the Blood to what they should be.
Daemon looked up to see a young aristo male standing at the edge of the table practically trembling with visible nerves, clutching an envelope. He lifted an eyebrow at the boy and glanced at the envelope. “For me?” he asked dryly.
The boy nodded and handed over the envelope. He tried to bolt as soon as Daemon closed his hand around the stiff paper, but phantom hands grabbed the boy and plopped him into the chair opposite. “Sit,” Daemon ordered, barely sparing the boy a glance as he sliced the letter open and pulled out the single sheet of paper. He unfolded it and scanned the contents, feeling his chest tighten as he did so.
I have your brother. Surrender by the new moon. For every day after, I will take a piece of him for your arrogance.
The general area was rapidly covered in a thin layer of frost as Daemon felt his temper go cold, felt himself rise to that delicious clarity of the killing edge. He gave the boy a knife-edged smile and destroyed the letter with a flick of power. “So, I assume you knew the content of this?" he asked.
The boy shook his head frantically, babbling that he didn't know, but the lie was plain on his face. Especially since he'd tried so hard to bolt.
Daemon shook his head and stood, walking around the table with deliberate slowness. He put a hand under the boy's chin, ignoring the sudden acrid smell as the boy messed his pants. "Tell Dorothea I am considering her letter. Now run back to your master, little dog." He slid a hand down the boy's neck, letting just enough of his sensuality slip its leash until the boy's eyes started to glaze with desire. Then he grabbed the front of the boy's shirt and tossed him towards the door. The boy stumbled forward and bolted. The room was thick with fear, as everyone else stared silently at him.
"My pardon" he said, feeling himself slip from the killing edge. He bowed and tossed some money onto his table. He'd rented a room, but staying here would risk these innocent people being subject to Dorothea's wrath, and he wouldn't risk that. So he gathered his jacket and strode out of the tavern. He caught the Green Wind outside the tavern and rode it towards Hyall, dropping off of it while still far enough away from Dorothea's Territory to avoid her normal patrols. There was a small town nearby that he owned, and an inn that would serve as a place to hole up while he decided what to do.
The room was smaller than he would normally have liked, but it was, for the moment secure. He stood at the small window, staring out at the night sky. The moon hung low over the town, already several days from the waning half. Only a few days to make any sort of plan.
*Bastard?* The contact was faint, on a Red spear thread.
*Don’t do it. Don’t give in to them.* The contact was faint, but even then Lucivar’s mind voice sounded strained.
*What have they done to you?* he asked turning slowly, as if facing Hyall would somehow strengthen the link.
*I’m fine.* Daemon smiled slightly at the snap in his brother’s tone. That was more like the Lucivar he knew. *If you give in, I will never forgive you.*
Daemon sighed and turned back to the window. Lucivar always did tend to see things in black and white, even when the situation was more complicated than that. *Don’t you dare…* Lucivar started.
*I wear the Black now,* Daemon said, cutting his brother off. That prompted a moment of stunned silence.
*Even more reason not to come back for me!* Lucivar finally said, with even more force. *Take and hold a Territory! Make Dorothea burn!*
Daemon let out a short laugh. He had to admit he enjoyed the mental image of Dorothea writhing in Black-fueled witchfire. But he couldn’t rule, not like he would have to in order to fight Hyall’s influence. He cut the tenuous connection with his brother and sighed. He would make Dorothea stew until the new moon, but in his heart he knew he’d return. Maybe if he’d found Witch, things would be different.
“Feel free to hate me, brother, but I’m not losing you,” he whispered to the empty room.