"Zuulaman?" Andulvar growled. "Why in the name of Hell are you asking about Zuulaman?"
"I asked my father why he didn't fight to get us back when Daemon and I were taken from him. He said it was because of Zuulaman. He said you'd tell me what that means." Lucivar waited while Andulvar stared at the lake. "Do you remember it?"
Andulvar snorted. "Yeah. I remember Zuulaman." Turning his head, he studied Lucivar for a long time. "Are you sure you want to know this?"
Andulvar sighed, went back to staring at the lake… and began to talk.
Two hours later, Lucivar walked back into Saetan's study and stopped just inside the door. His father was standing next to the bookcases that filled the wall behind his desk. He held a book open in his hands. He didn't look up, didn't turn a page. Just stood there.
"He told you," Saetan said in a voice stripped of any emotion.
Unnerved and a little queasy, Lucivar worked to keep his voice steady. "He told me."
"So now you know."
Something's wrong here,Lucivar thought as he studied his father. Something about the way Saetan stood made him think of a brittle object that could shatter at the slightest blow.
He shook his head, raked a hand through his black hair. "I don't understand why Dorothea let us live. Once she realized she couldn't use either of us for stud, she should have killed us before we got old enough to make the Offering to the Darkness and come into our full strength."
"She couldn't." Saetan closed the book and put it back on the shelf. "Before I left Terreille for good, I sent Dorothea a message. I told her that on the day Daemon no longer walked among the living, Hayll would become another Zuulaman. I sent the same message to Prythian about you."
Lucivar felt the floor slide out from under him. He took a stagger-step to regain his balance. "But… it was a bluff, wasn't it? You wouldn't have done it."
Saetan finally turned and looked at him. "Yes," he said too softly, "I would have."
This wasn't the man he'd come to know over the past three years. He understood now all of Andulvar's cautions about dealing with the High Lord. And yet…
He'd seen that look in a man's eyes before. But not in that face, not in those eyes. That was the difference between him and Andulvar, Prothvar, and Mephis. They didn't know Daemon. They had never danced with the Sadist.
He understood the brittleness now. Saetan was waiting for him to turn away. Expected him to turn away. As Andulvar must have done for a while. As his other sons must have done when they became old enough to understand what their father was capable of when provoked beyond rage.
Everything has a price. Carrying the memory was Saetan's price. He didn't have to add to the burden.
"I need to get back to Askavi," Lucivar said, feeling awkward and knowing that what he said now could shatter the bond between them. "I didn't tell Marian I was staying overnight."
No, you don't. You think I'm turning away, and I'm not."I'll be back in a couple of days." Turning toward the door, he hesitated. "Good night, Father."
He watched the tension seep out of Saetan's body. Saw what might be a shimmer of tears in those gold eyes.
"Good night, Lucivar," his father replied.
It was after midnight when he landed in the courtyard in front of his eyrie. He'd been too churned up to go home when he got back to Ebon Rih, so he'd flown, working his body while he struggled to empty his mind. Now his body was tired, but his mind…
There were so many ways he could have died. Accidents happened in the hunting camps when youngsters were being trained to handle weapons. Warriors died trying to prove themselves in the Blood Run or the Khaldharon. There were battles between courts…usually staged as contests and exercises with weapons shielded to do nothing more than bruise, but there were always males who used those contests as an excuse to shed a rival's blood, and there had been plenty of warriors who had resented that a half-breed bastard had fighting skills they could match only in their dreams.
There were so many ways he could have died. And he almosthad died when he escaped and ended up in Kaeleer. If he had…
The door opened behind him. Marian said hesitantly, "Prince Yaslana?"
He turned and looked at the reason his feelings were still churned up. "Come here."
She came toward him, her steps uncertain, trying to gauge his mood. "I could heat up something for you to eat."
He shook his head. "I'm not hungry." He reached out, touched her hair. When his fingers trailed along her shoulder, she started to step back. "Marian… Let me hold you. Please. I need to hold you."
She didn't move toward him, but she folded her wings tight so he could wrap his arms around her and draw her up against him. At first, she held herself stiffly, but when he didn't do anything else, she relaxed enough to rest her head on his shoulder and put her arms around his waist.
He brushed his cheek against her hair, savoring the feel of her, the smell of her.
Everything has a price.
He would have to talk to Saetan and reach an agreement. He was an Eyrien warrior and Jaenelle's First Escort. He had to be able to step onto any kind of battlefield and fight to defend his Queen. He had to be willing to die for his Queen. He couldn't do that until he got a promise from Saetan that there wouldn't be another Zuulaman.
His arms tightened around Marian. No Eyrien mattered more to him than she did. So he had to have that promise.
Because if he died without it, the price would be too high.
Marian looked at the sugar spilled on the kitchen floor and wanted to cry. Such a little thing. A bobble of the hand that held the sugar bowl. Normally, it would have caused no more than a moment's annoyance before she cleaned it up.
But not today. Not when a taloned fist had curled around her womb and was squeezing hard.
She closed her eyes and braced a hand against the kitchen counter. Maybe once in a year, the physical discomfort that came with her moon-time escalated to nauseating pain. When it hit, it made her grateful she didn't wear a Jewel darker than the Purple Dusk because the pain balanced the power that could be wielded the rest of the time, and darker-Jeweled witches always suffered more during the first three days. And no witch could use her Jeweled strength during those first three days without causing herself hideous pain.
Marian opened her eyes and stared at the spilled sugar. The thought of doing any physical labor made her want to curl into a ball and weep, but she knew from experience that even using basic Craft today would increase the pain.