Caught. “What’s your point?” Not that he was going to admit to any of this.
“Just making an observation that there is a dual purpose to your visits to The Tavern. And it’s good to know there’s no trouble for Merry or—” She started coughing. It sounded like her chest was being ripped up.
Swearing, he pulled her close, wrapped his wings to form a cocoon, and created a warming spell around them.
“Damn it, Surreal. Why didn’t you tell me you were this sick? We could have had this discussion inside.”
She leaned her forehead against his chest. “Don’t like being weak. And I’m not that sick.”
“Are you coughing blood? And don’t try to lie to me or this will get very unpleasant.”
“No blood. Jaenelle would have told you if I was coughing up blood.”
“Unless you didn’t mention it to her.”
She laughed a little. It sounded liquid and rough. “I’m not stupid, Lucivar. I’m not going to tangle with Witch over the condition of my lungs.”
“All right.” He rubbed her back and waited for his heart to settle back into its normal rhythm. “Look. Maybe . . .”
She punched him. Wasn’t much of a punch since she was snugged up against him, but it was still a punch.
“This is what you have to work with,” she growled. “Deal with it.”
“Remember you said that in the days ahead.”
He eased back. “Come on, witchling. It’s time to get you back to your room. The days start early here.”
Rainier waited in his room, as ordered. Apparently Lucivar had a few more things to say to him before he officially started this required training.
But when Lucivar rapped on the door and came in, Rainier felt a jolt of uneasiness because Saetan came in with him.
“High Lord,” Rainier said, struggling to get to his feet. Where had he put that damn cane?
“Prince Rainier,” Saetan replied. Then he looked at Lucivar and raised one eyebrow as a question.
Lucivar stared at Rainier before turning to his father. “Do you remember what I looked like when I first came to Kaeleer?”
“I’m not likely to forget,” Saetan said softly.
Lucivar tipped his head toward Rainier. “Show him.” He walked out of the room.
A light brush of another mind against Rainier’s first inner barrier. A familiar, dark, powerful mind. He hesitated, then opened his inner barriers, leaving his mind vulnerable to the High Lord of Hell.
He saw the main room of a cabin, as if he were looking through Saetan’s eyes. He saw the memory, but the emotions weren’t part of it. There was no indication of what Saetan felt when he’d walked into the cabin.
Comfortable place. Not someplace he’d care to stay for an extended period of time, but it would be fine for a country weekend. He’d never been inside, but he guessed this was Jaenelle’s cabin in Ebon Rih.
The memory continued as Saetan walked into the bedroom and froze a few steps from the bed.
Even the High Lord of Hell couldn’t cleanse the memory of emotion well enough to hide the shock, the anguish of seeing the man lying on the bed.
Broken bones, shoulder and ribs. Guts pushing out of the ripped belly. A leg ripped open from hip to knee. A foot hanging awkwardly from what was left of an ankle.
Why had someone placed strands of greasy rags on the bed next to a man who was so terribly wounded?
Not rags, Rainier realized with a shock. Wings. He was looking at what was left of Lucivar’s wings.
Saetan withdrew from Rainier’s mind. Rainier closed his inner barriers and just stared at the other man for a minute before finding his voice.
“How did he survive?”
Saetan sighed. “He made a choice. He didn’t want to die. He’d been in the salt mines of Pruul for five years. The slime mold had destroyed his wings, and the years of slavery in the salt mines had taken their toll, to say nothing of the torture he’d endured. He escaped and made his way to the Khaldharon Run. He wasn’t in any shape to make the Run, and he knew it, but he was going to die on his terms. Fortunately, Prothvar was standing guard at the Sleeping Dragons that day and brought Lucivar to Jaenelle’s cabin. He wasn’t conscious, so I’m sure he didn’t make the decision knowingly, but I think he felt Jaenelle and gave her everything he had because she asked him for it. And he healed because of that choice.”
Saetan walked to the door and opened it. “Lucivar is downstairs if there is anything you want to say to him. If not, he’ll finish his drink and go home.”
Rainier waited until Saetan left before he scanned the room. Spotting the cane on the floor by his bed, he used Craft to float it over to him. Then he made his careful way downstairs.
Lucivar was sitting at a table, alone, drinking a glass of ale.
Since no one had noticed him yet, Rainier stood at the bottom of the stairs and observed the people. Mostly men, but a few women were there too, enjoying a drink and some gossip. Frequent glances at Lucivar, and more than one person shifting as if about to join him. But a word from Briggs or a light touch from Merry deflected that person, letting people know the Prince wanted solitude.
You don’t know what it’s like. That was what he’d said. Like the rest of the boyos and the coven, he’d met Lucivar after the Eyrien had come to SaDiablo Hall with Jaenelle. A strong, powerful Warlord Prince in his prime, Yaslana dominated a room just by walking into it. Yaslana dominated a killing field just by walking onto it. How could he reconcile the predator who moved with such lethal grace and the torn, broken body that had healed against all odds?
Rainier limped across the room. Merry moved to intercept him. After a quick glance at Lucivar, she let him pass and brought a glass of white wine to the table.
Lucivar studied him, then said quietly, “My right ankle hurts like a wicked bitch when I work it too hard, and I’ve got a few weather bones, as the old men call them. Small price to pay for having so much of me remade.”
Rainier sipped his wine, not sure what to say or ask.
“The ankle does just fine with everyday living, even chasing after the little beast,” Lucivar said. “But I’ve learned how to put a shield around the bone when I’m sparring or in a real fight. Since I’m shielded anyway when I’m on a field, it can’t be detected.”
“It’s a weakness an adversary could exploit,” Rainier said.
Lucivar gave him that lazy, arrogant smile. “If the adversary lived long enough.” The smile faded. “When I came out of that healing sleep, Jaenelle told me there would be no second chances. She’d used up everything I could give her—and everything she could give me—to rebuild my wings and heal the rest of me. If I did what she told me to do, my body would be whole and sound. If I pushed muscles that were still rebuilding themselves and damaged them, the damage would be permanent.” He drained his glass of ale. “You’ve had more than one second chance, Rainier, and now you’ve run out of chances. If you’d followed her instructions in the beginning, you would have had a weather bone and muscles that would ache when you worked them too hard. But that leg would have held up for you, even dancing. Now you’ve lost some of that, maybe a lot of that, because you damaged bone and muscles that were trying to heal.”