Before the week ended, Daemon was gone.
Not long after, Kartane learned what Daemon's presence had spared him. Dorothea's appetite for a variety of pretty faces was no less demanding than Lanzo's, the only difference in their taste being gender, and she kept a stable of young Warlords at the court to do the pretty for her and her coven. Until then, Kartane had been nothing more than Dorothea's handsome, spoiled son.
One night she summoned Kartane to her chamber. He went to her nervously, mentally ticking off the things he'd done that day and wondering what might have displeased her. But she soothed and stroked and petted. Those caresses, which always made him uneasy, now frightened him. As she leaned toward him, she told him his father had been loyal to her and she expected him to be loyal too. Kartane was too busy trying to figure out how Lanzo's spearing a different serving girl every night could be considered loyalty to recognize the intent. It wasn't until he felt Dorothea's tongue slide into his mouth that he understood. He pushed her away, threw himself off the couch, and crawled backward toward the door, not daring to take his eyes off her.
She was furious with his refusal. It earned him his first beating.
The welts were still sore when she summoned him again. This time he sat quietly as she stroked his arms and thighs and explained in her purring voice that a Ring could help him be more responsive. But she didn't really think that would be necessary. Did he?
No, he didn't think it would be necessary. He submitted. He did what he was told.
Lying in his own bed later that night, Kartane thought of Daemon, of how night after night, year after year Daemon had done what Kartane had been forced to do. He began to understand Daemon's aversion to touching a female unless he was forced to. And he wondered how old Daemon had been the first time Dorothea had taken him into her bed.
It didn't end with that first time. It didn't end until years later when Dorothea sent him away to a private school because he was spearing the serving girls so viciously that Lanzo and his companions complained that the girls weren't usable for days afterward.
The private school he attended, where the boys all came from the best Hayllian families, put the final polish on Kartane's taste for cruelty. He found Red Moon houses disgusting and could satisfy himself with an experienced woman only if he hurt her. After being barred from a couple of houses, he discovered that it was easy to dominate younger girls, frighten them, make them do whatever he wanted.
He began to appreciate Dorothea's pleasure in having power over someone else.
But even the youngest whore was still a witch with her Virgin Night behind her, and she was protected by the rules of the house. He didn't have, as his mother had, absolute power over whoever he mounted.
He began to look elsewhere for his pleasure, and found, quite accidentally, what he craved.
Kartane and his friends went to an inn one night to drink, to gamble, to get the nectar free. They came from the best families, families no mere innkeeper would dare approach. The others had their sport with the young women who served ale and supper, using the small private dining room, like most inns had for important guests. But Kartane had been intrigued by the innkeeper's young daughter. She had the beginning blush of womanhood, the merest hint of curves. When he dragged her toward the door of the private room, the innkeeper rushed him, bellowing with rage. Kartane raised his hand, sent a surge of power through the Jeweled ring on his finger, and knocked the man senseless. Then he dragged the girl into the room and closed the door.
Her trembling, paralyzing fear felt delicious. She had no musky smell of woman, no psychic scent of a witch come to power. He reveled in her pain, stunned by the intoxication and pleasure it gave him to drive her beyond the web of herself and break her.
When he finally left the room, feeling in control of his life for the first time in oh-so-many years, he threw a couple of gold mark notes on the bar, gathered his friends, and disappeared.
That was the beginning.
Dorothea never disapproved of his chosen game as long as he satisfied her whenever he returned to court and as long as he didn't spoil any of the witches she wanted for her court. For two hundred years Kartane played his game with non-aristo Blood. Sometimes he kept the same girl for several weeks or months, playing with her, honing her fear, becoming more depraved in his requirements, until he seeded her. Many times even a broken witch was still capable of spontaneous abortion and would choose it rather than bear the seed of a man she hated, even though she would never bear any other child. Sometimes, if the girl hadn't gone completely numb and was still amusing, he got a Healer corrupted by hunger and hard times to provide the cleansing brew. Most times he simply turned them out, let them return to their families or a Red Moon house or the gutter. It was all the same to him.
Kartane played his game for two hundred years. Then, on one of his required returns to court, he found Daemon waiting for him.
By then Kartane understood why Daemon was Sadi not SaDiablo, why that was as much of a compromise as the family was willing to make. But seeing the anger in Daemon's eyes, he knew that, unlike Dorothea, Daemon would never approve of what Kartane had done. As he listened to a blistering lecture about honor, Kartane struck out at Daemon's weak spot. He told Daemon that he, Kartane, the High Priestess's son, didn't have to listen to a bastard.
He never forgot the shock and pain in Daemon's eyes. Never forgot how it felt when the one person he'd loved and who had loved him gathered himself into that aloof court demeanor and apologized for speaking out of turn. Would always know that if he'd run after Daemon right then and apologized, begged to be forgiven, explained about the pain and the fear, asked for help . . . he would have had it. Daemon would have found a way to help him.
But he didn't. He let the word stand. He drove it in again and again until the wedge became a chasm and the only thing they had in common was their fury with each other.
In the end, Dorothea sent Daemon away and lost him for one hundred years. By the time he returned, he'd made the Offering to the Darkness. The rumors were that Daemon had come away from the ceremony wearing a Black Jewel, but no one knew for sure because no one had seen it.
It didn't matter to Kartane what Jewels Daemon wore. He was frightened enough by what Daemon had become. Since then, they'd done their best to avoid each other.
Kartane wiped the tears from his face and straightened his jacket. He would see Dorothea and make his escape as quickly as possible. Escape from her, from the court . . . and from Daemon.
Daemon glided through the corridors of the SaDiablo mansion until he reached his suite of rooms. Presenting himself to Dorothea had been as unpleasant as usual, but at least it had been brief. Seeing her had frayed his temper to the breaking point, and right now his self-control was tenuous at best. He needed a quiet hour before dressing for dinner and spending the evening doing the pretty for Dorothea and her coven.