“What?” Lucivar stopped prowling. His wings opened slightly for balance. And wariness was now added to the messy stew of emotions that filled the room.
“Who?”Because whoever had hurt his brother would find herself in a deep grave—and the bitch wouldn’t necessarily be dead when he put her there.
“I’m not like you! I can’tbe like you. Either of you.”
A mental skid on emotional ice. Trying to restrain a temper that wanted to snap the leash. So this was about him after all.
The truth of it was like a knife slicing his heart.
“No, you’re not like me, any more than I can be like you.” He went back to the blackwood desk and leaned against it, clamping his hands on the edge of the wood. “What is this about, Lucivar? You were pissed at me when we were at the Keep; you’re still pissed now. Why?”
Vulnerable. Fragile. He couldn’t stand seeing Lucivar like this.
“I don’t have the schooling you do,” Lucivar said, looking at the wall, not meeting his eyes.
Do I hug him or kill him?“Eyriens don’t value that kind of schooling. I absorb information from books for the pleasure of it, but it’s also another kind of weapon.” He paused to assess the battleground and the man, and then added, “Besides, you don’t like to read.”
“I can read.” Quick, automatic defense.
“I know you can,” Daemon said dryly. “From the first time I met you—or the first time I thought I’d met you—I pushed and bullied and bruised your ego until I goaded you into learning. In the same way that you pushed and bullied and bruised my ego until I learned a few basic moves with hand weapons.”
During the centuries they had been enslaved and had clashed over and over again, they hadn’t understood why they felt compelled to push at each other to share the knowledge and skills they had acquired. Even after they had learned they were brothers, they hadn’t realized that this need to protect each other’s weaker side had begun in a childhood they didn’t remember.
Lucivar’s shoulders relaxed a little, and the smile was fleeting but genuine.
“You can read,” Daemon said, “but you don’t enjoy reading. It was always difficult for you. Maybe that’s not just you, Lucivar. The Eyrien race has a strong oral tradition to pass on stories, but they don’t put much value on the written word.”
“Marian reads a lot,” Lucivar mumbled. “She likes books.”
“Then maybe it’s cultural. Reading is a female entertainment, something the males can sneer at indulgently.”
“I don’t sneer,” Lucivar said. Then added under his breath,
They were circling around the heart of the wound now, so Daemon just leaned back and waited. And felt memories stir awake.
“Maybe it is a part of being an Eyrien male,” Lucivar said.
“Like being stronger and having more muscle than females.”
Lucivar took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Daemon almost sighed with relief. They’d gotten past the worst of this without too many bruises.
Then Lucivar looked him in the eyes and the words burst out. “I want that for Daemonar. The education. That kind of knowledge. I don’t want him to feel hobbled. I don’t want him to feel like he’s…less.”
Daemon snapped upright. Then sucked in a breath as his back protested. But his voice held a chill and an edge not quite honed enough to cut. “If that’s your way of saying you feel inferior to me in any way other than that I wear darker Jewels, I will beat you to a bloody pulp.”
Lucivar smiled that lazy, arrogant smile. “You could try.”
They were on even ground again. Just that simple.
Since they were on even ground again, he allowed himself a huff of exasperation. “I’m not blind, Prick. So you don’t read for pleasure. The mountains won’t fall down because of it.”
“Daemonar was shut out of the library.”
Daemon threw up his hands. “He’s a little boy. The only value those books have for him right now is they’re things he can throw or tear or chew. Lucivar! His grandfather is the High Lord of Hell and the assistant historian/librarian at the Keep. When that boy reaches an age when he can understand what is held between the covers of those books, do you really think you can stop his grandfather from taking him into that library and showing him all it can offer? For that matter, do you think you can stop me from buying him books and reading him stories and showing him the other side of his education?”
Lucivar tipped his head in a considering manner. “Other side?”
“You stand on a mountain and taste the wind. That’s what you’ve called it when you’ve tried to explain it. You taste the wind. And you understand more about what is around you in that moment than I can ever hope to know. I can teach Daemonar about books, but you’re the only one who can teach him that.”
Lucivar mulled that over and finally nodded. Then he took a step back and turned toward the door. “Why don’t we get that drink?”
“That bitch is centuries gone. If you let her keep jabbing at you, you deserve to be hurt.”
Damn. He hadn’t meant to say that. Hadn’t intended to share that memory. But he watched Lucivar turn. Saw the look in his brother’s eyes that demanded an explanation.
“You were never good at reading,” Daemon said. No. That wasn’t the place to start. “I don’t have many memories of my childhood before living with Dorothea. Didn’t have any for most of my life. But sometimes now…It’s more the feel of something remembered that opens up the rest.”
Lucivar said nothing. Just nodded.
“I remember the feel of Father’s arms around me. I remember the sound of his voice, the rhythm of it when he read a story.” Daemon paused to sort out a jumble of images. “You weren’t good at reading, but you soaked up a story if someone read it to you or told it to you. You remembered all kinds of things, saw all kinds of things in the story.”
“And probably related everything in terms of a fight.”
“Of course. You’re Eyrien.” Daemon shrugged. “There was a teacher. I don’t remember her name and can’t recall a face. I think she was tutoring me, but you were there a lot of the time too. She used to jab at you. Not physically, but she made it clear that you were a waste of her time.