So by trying to prove I wasn’t a cripple and didn’t need anyone’s pity, I turned myself into a cripple. The bitterness of that truth burned his belly.
“You’re a man with a damaged leg,” Lucivar said. “That doesn’t make you less of a Warlord Prince—unless you choose to cripple that too.”
Lucivar pushed his chair back and stood. He raised a hand in farewell. Briggs, who was behind the bar, nodded and mirrored the gesture.
“I’ll see you and Surreal tomorrow morning at full light,” Lucivar said.
“What time is that?” Rainier asked.
“Your leg’s injured, not your head. Figure it out.”
Rainier watched Lucivar walk out of The Tavern.
Merry came up to the table. “Want something to eat? I’ve got some stew left and a hearty soup.”
He started to refuse, then realized he was hungry. “A bowl of soup would be welcome.”
She brought the soup, along with a small loaf of sweet-and-spice bread and soft cheese. He ate slowly, savoring the flavors. While he ate, he watched the people, especially Merry and Briggs.
He wasn’t whole. Might never be whole. Other men had faced that same truth and rebuilt their lives around the strengths they still had and the work they could do.
People had died in Jenkell’s damn spooky house. Children had died in that house because he hadn’t been skilled enough or strong enough to protect them. Was damaging his leg under the guise of helping it get stronger some kind of self-punishment for that failure to protect and defend?
No one else blamed him for the ones he couldn’t save. Maybe it was time to stop blaming himself.
Lucivar landed at the communal eyrie and swore as his right ankle sang with pain. He loved his son. He really did. But this morning he didn’t love the little beast quite so much.
He didn’t think about the aches and pains that came from broken bones or other wounds. No Eyrien did. They were a part of life, a part of being a warrior. And considering the life he’d led during the seventeen hundred years he’d survived in Terreille, he had fewer aches and pains than most men his age. But having that ankle hurt today pissed him off.
He didn’t shield the bone in his own eyrie. It needed to work without that brace made of power, especially since the bones didn’t actually need that brace. Shielding at all was mostly caution on his part. He’d seen enough men go down in a fight because an enemy knew about previous injuries and aimed blows at the weak spots. No one outside his family had known the extent of his injuries—until last night when he’d allowed Rainier to be shown the truth. No one knew his weak spots. In truth, he didn’t have any. Jaenelle was an excellent Healer, and the bones and muscles she’d repaired ten years ago might ache a bit quicker than they had a century ago, but they were whole and healthy.
Regardless of being whole and healthy, having a pot slammed into his ankle still hurt like a wicked bitch. Which he would have avoided if Marian hadn’t suddenly gotten sick and begun eliminating food from both ends. So he’d been focused on her and not on the boy.
Just a stomach upset that was going around the village, Nurian had said when she checked Marian and gave him bottles of the tonic she and the Healers in Riada had been making nonstop since yesterday. Marian would be fine by tomorrow. Which meant Daemonar would probably be puking all over the bed tonight.
He could do with fewer thrills in his life. Especially today. But for the next couple of hours, his father was looking after his wife and boy, and he could focus his attention on Surreal and Rainier. Jaenelle had given him the boundaries—and some very specific things each of them shouldn’t do—but deciding how to work those bodies to best advantage was up to him. So he needed to be here today to take them through careful moves, assessing muscles to help Surreal and Rainier become as healthy as they could be.
In a couple of days, he could turn the workouts over to Hallevar. But he couldn’t give anyone else command today because there was something else he needed to assess.
He stopped for a moment and put a protective shield around the bones of both ankles. Then he walked into the communal eyrie.
The front room was big enough for weapons practice and was also used for occasional social events. This morning the eighteen adult Eyrien males who lived around Riada were waiting for him, including Falonar, his second-in-command; Hallevar, the arms master and fighting instructor who had been one of his own teachers; Kohlvar, who was a weapons maker; Zaranar and Rothvar, who were trained guards and good fighters; Endar, who served as a guard but wasn’t really suited to be one; and Tamnar, a youth Hallevar had brought with him to the service fairs to get the young Warlord out of Terreille.
Not a lot of men to guard close to half of Ebon Rih, but when two of those men were Warlord Princes—and one of those Warlord Princes wore Ebon-gray Jewels—nineteen men were quite sufficient to take care of any problems around Riada and Doun that couldn’t be handled by the courts of Lady Shayne and Lady Alyss.
Of course, when there were only nineteen men, there wasn’t much of a buffer when two of them scraped against each other’s tempers. It was no secret that he and Falonar had never liked each other, but they had worked well together these past two years—until recently, anyway. Something had changed in Falonar over the past few weeks—or maybe the excitement of settling in a new place had worn off, and Lucivar was now getting a more accurate look at the man Falonar had become.
He spotted Surreal and Rainier standing off to the side just as Falonar turned to see who had come in.
“The weather is fine,” Falonar said. “We should be working outside.”
Publicly criticizing or challenging every order he gave was one of the things that had changed in Falonar’s behavior in the past few weeks. Nothing wrong with the second-in-command challenging an order in private, but these pissing contests in front of the other men had to stop.
“Well, today we’re working inside,” Lucivar replied mildly, knowing the mildness would sting Falonar’s pride in a way responding with temper couldn’t, because, in a situation like this, temper was given only to an equal.
“Only the weak need to work inside on a day like this,” Falonar said, putting more bite in his voice even as his face flushed at being spoken to as if he were a boy.
Lucivar studied the other Warlord Prince. The tone of that last remark almost sounded like a challenge. Almost. Falonar had aristo arrogance on top of Eyrien arrogance, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew Sapphire couldn’t survive a fight with Ebon-gray.