“The girl,” Tersa said hesitantly. “Luthvian. So angry because she wanted what couldn’t be. So angry because she wanted to deny what was.”

She reached out, not quite touching him, her eyes caressing the very thing his own mother had always pretended not to see.

“Sails to the moon,” she said softly. “Banners unfurled in the sun. She was always so angry about something as natural as an arm or a leg. Such a foolish reason to hate a child.”

“Tersa?”

Her eyes had that unfocused look. She was no longer seeing the room she stood in, wouldn’t know where she was physically if he asked. She was looking at a memory seventeen hundred years in the past. Seeing Luthvian. Seeing him when he was Daemonar’s age. Maybe even younger.

“She wanted the boy, but did not want the boy to be the boy,” Tersa said. “But what else could he be? Cuddles and hugs. Their father’s love is strong, and they need him, but they want softer love too. Cuddles and hugs. And little surprises.” She smiled. “They pick flowers in the meadow. The boy brings his flowers to me. I tell him the names of the ones I remember as we arrange them in a vase. His father tells him the rest. Tells both boys. But the girl doesn’t want flowers from the meadow. That is too simple, too Eyrien. She will not take the flowers, so the winged boy brings them to me. There is so much fire in his heart, so much laughter. And trouble. That gleam in his eyes. Oh, yes, he is trouble. But there is no meanness. He is a boy. He will be a strong man. She will not look, will not see. So he comes to me for cuddles and hugs and little surprises.”

Tears stung Lucivar’s eyes. He blinked them away. Swallowed them with his heart.

He took a step closer, touched her shoulder with his fingertips. “Tersa? Am I one of your boys?”

She looked at him, her eyes full of uncertainty. But she nodded. “My winged boy.”

He took her in his arms and held her gently as he finally understood why spending time with her mattered so much to him. He hadn’t remembered those early years of his childhood; he hadn’t remembered her. But his heart had recognized her and knew what she had been for him.

“Thank you,” he whispered into her tangled hair. “Thank you.” He added silently, Mother.

Jaenelle leaned back from the breakfast table and stared at the object in front of her. “It’s a mousie in a glass dome.”

“Yes.” Daemon smiled at the illusion he’d talked Tersa into making for him.

“It’s a mousie wearing the formal dress of a court official.”

“Yes.”

“And you intend to give this to Lucivar? The Warlord Prince of Ebon Rih? The man who has said that the only reason for paperwork is to have something to wipe your ass with after taking a crap?”

“Oh, yes.”

As they watched, the mousie began squeaking emphatically while gesturing with one paw and waving a scroll held in the other. Of course, the squeaking could barely be heard through the glass dome, but the tone was still clear. Especially when the mousie began jumping up and down in a tantrum.

“He’s capable of leaving this out on the desk without a sight shield so that court officials see it,” Jaenelle said. “You know he’s capable of doing that.”

“I know. But I figure having this just might keep him from strangling some pompous ass from a Queen’s court.”

Jaenelle pursed her lips and studied the mousie. Then she sighed. “You have a point. There have been a few times when he’s come too close to strangling a pompous ass.”

“All the more reason to give him something to laugh about.” Daemon kissed the top of her head and reached for the glass dome. “I’m heading up to the Keep to show this to Father, so I’ll—”

“You can’t go today.”

He stopped, his hand frozen over the dome. “I can’t?”

“Daemon. You have to help me get ready.This will be our first Winsol when we’re officially hosting the family. You can’t just shrug off the details.”

Sure, he could.

“Marian is coming later in the week to help out,” Jaenelle continued. “And Winsol begins next week. We have to go over the lists.”

“Lists?”

His wife stiffened. Then she turned in her chair and looked at him.

The bones in his legs turned to jelly—and not in a good she’s-looking-for-hot-sex kind of way.

“I’ll be in my study,” he said meekly.

“Good,” Jaenelle replied sweetly. “I’ll join you there after I finish breakfast. I hope you didn’t have anything scheduled for this morning.”

Hell’s fire, Mother Night, and may the Darkness be merciful.

“Only my Lady’s pleasure,” he said.

Jaenelle reached up and tugged on his jacket. Obeying the unspoken command, he leaned over and touched his lips to hers.

“Your tone lacks sincerity, Prince,” Jaenelle said. “But since this is your first Winsol as a husband, you’re forgiven.”

Then she kissed him—and he hoped she would have reason to forgive him for a lot of things over the next few days.

TWO

Prince Sadi,

Your presence is requested at your mother’s cottage. Please join me

there after dinner.

SaDiablo

Daemon banged once on the cottage’s front door. It couldn’t be too serious, since he hadn’t been asked to respond immediately. But a command like this from his father was unusual—and “your presence is requested” was a phrase in Protocol that amounted to a command.

And just because it wasn’t “too serious” didn’t mean it wasn’t serious.

Hell’s fire! What could have happened since his visit yesterday morning that required the High Lord to come to Halaway? And why hadn’t he been told about it before Saetan had arrived?

He banged on the door again, then opened it himself, almost clobbering Allista, who had been hurrying to reach it.

“Where?” he snapped, too worried about why he’d been summoned to be polite.

“The parlor,” she replied.

He opened the parlor door—and froze.

His father sat in one of the chairs by the fire, his legs crossed at the knees, his fingers steepled, and the black-tinted nails of his forefingers resting against his chin. His mother stood in front of the other chair, twisting her fingers and looking anxious.

The room looked wrong. He kept his eyes on his father, but he knew the room looked wrong. Then he realized why. He didn’t have an actual memory of the situation, but he was certain that the last time he’d seen his parents positioned like this, he had been much, much younger and much, much shorter.


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