“Lady Cassidy said I need to talk to someone,” Gray said.
I’ll bet she did,Saetan thought. Noticing the way Gray eyed the furniture and seemed ready to burst, he sent a thought to Draca, the Keep’s Seneschal. *I need some firewood in one of the courtyards now and refreshments in about thirty minutes.*
*I thought ass much,* Draca replied. *It iss already prepared.*
*You don’t have to sound so amused,* Saetan grumbled. Taking Gray’s arm, he said, “We will talk, but first things first.”
Sun and shade, Saetan thought as he marched Gray out to the courtyard. Being in sunlight would have given him a vicious headache this late in the morning, but staying in the shade would give him enough time to deal with Gray before he needed to retire.
“Watch,” Saetan said. He picked up a piece of the firewood, held it over a large, wooden half barrel, released one tiny blast of Red power through his hands—and turned a piece of firewood as big as his thigh into wood chips.
Gray looked inside the barrel and frowned.
“Now you do it,” Saetan said.
He stared at the youngster until Gray picked up a piece of firewood.
“I don’t know how to do that,” Gray said.
Yes, you do.Placing his hands below Gray’s, he taught the boy how to destroy an object using power. Nothing Gray couldn’t do just by following instinct. But unleashing power and letting it destroy whatever was in its path wasn’t the same as unleashing it with control and purpose.
Once Gray had the sense of how much Purple Dusk power to use in order to blast the firewood into wood chips of an acceptable size, Saetan settled in the shade and watched Gray drain away the anger that had grown to the point of needing a target.
The barrel was half-filled with wood chips before Gray paused and said, “Why am I doing this?”
“Can you afford to replace furniture if you blast it into pieces?” Saetan asked mildly.
“That’s why you’re doing this. Chopping wood and using muscle instead of Craft works too, as long as you remember to shield before you pick up the ax. There is no reason to be careless or stupid just because your mind is chewing on a problem. In this case, you’re working off some temper by changing firewood into wood chips.” Saetan paused, then added, “Which, I’m told, are an excellent mulch in a garden.”
Gray’s mouth fell open. Then he began sputtering. “Garden? I’m making mulchfor a garden ?”
“Ironic, isn’t it?”
Gray huffed. He paced. He blasted a few more pieces of firewood into wood chips.
Finally he growled, “I guess Cassie is going to have plenty of mulch for her gardens.”
“I know several Queens who always have plenty of mulch for their gardens,” Saetan said.
Gray stared at the barrel and sighed, the sign Saetan had been waiting for to indicate that enough of the boy’s temper was spent.
“There’s some water on the table over there,” Saetan said. “Pour a glass for yourself. You could use it by now.”
There was more than water on the table. There was a basin of warm water, soap, and a towel; a plate of fruit, cheese, and small sandwiches; and a ravenglass goblet filled with yarbarah.
He watched Gray as the boy washed up before pouring a glass of water and drinking it. Strength and scars—and the temper that made a Warlord Prince a law unto himself. And a little something more.
Gray refilled the water glass, hesitated a moment over the plate of food, then picked up the yarbarah and brought it to him.
A simple choice, but it confirmed for him why Jared Blaed Grayhaven had made the journey from Dena Nehele to the Keep in Kaeleer in order to talk to him instead of talking to Talon or anyone else in Cassie’s court.
Gray had come for the same reason Khardeen, Aaron, Chaosti, and Elan had come to him when they needed to talk out frustration caused by a woman who was a lover as well as a Queen. He had been the Dark Court’s honorary uncle as well as the Steward, even before the court had officially formed. Those young men had come to him because they trusted his advice. They hadn’t always liked it, but they knew they could trust it.
Using Craft, Saetan floated the plate of food over to the bench where Gray sat, drinking water and staring at the flagstones.
“Do you want to talk or listen?” Saetan asked.
Not a surprising response. Now that the anger had dimmed, unhappiness was settling in.
“Everything is supposed to befine now,” Gray muttered.
“In other words, Cassidy is tired of you being angry with her.”
“Yeah. So I’m not supposed to be angry anymore.” Gray’s hand tightened around the glass. “Well, I am angry.”
“You’re entitled to your anger,” Saetan said quietly. “And it’s your choice how long you hold on to it. But people make mistakes. Most of the time, mistakes can be forgiven. Some mistakes do enough harm to break what two people feel for each other. Sometimes the anger doesn’t go away, and that means you need to walk away.”
“Walk away from Cassie?” Gray looked shocked. “No!”
“Then you have to accept that she made an error in judgment.”
“Because she doesn’t care enough about us to take care of herself.” Saetan drank the yarbarah and let chilling silence fill the courtyard. Gray eyed him and wisely offered no other comment.
“She cares, Prince,” Saetan said. “If you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention.”
Gray hung his head. “I know she does. I just don’t understand why she let the Craft go on so long that she hurt herself.”
“The whip that drives Cassie was shaped before she arrived in Dena Nehele. It left scars.”
Gray raised his head and looked at him.
No, Saetan thought,not Gray. Jared Blaed . Two sides of one person. Gray was the man who loved Cassie and gardens. Jared Blaed was the Warlord Prince committed to his Queen.
“Who?” Jared Blaed asked too softly.
“She’s of no importance,” Saetan replied. “Neither are the men who chose her over Cassidy. Whatis important is that the hurt still festers inside Cassidy.”
“She’s trying to prove to us that she has something to offer?”
“I think so. That’s why a simple thing that Queens do all the time in Kaeleer almost turned into a tragic error.”
“Just a mistake,” Gray said softly.