Daemon wasn’t sure if she was asking for clarification or warning him not to push. He took her hands because sometimes physical contact helped her mind stay focused on the mundane world instead of wandering down a path in the Twisted Kingdom.
“Beron is injured, and Sylvia is dead,” he said gently. “I need to see Mikal to make sure he wasn’t harmed before Tildee got him away from that place.”
“Oh,” Tersa said softly. “He’s so young to lose his mother.”
I was younger when I was taken from you, Daemon thought as he drew her away from the stairs.
“Perhaps some warm milk?” Tersa looked at him, then at Lucivar.
“Do you need help making it?” Lucivar asked.
“No, I can warm milk.”
She walked down the hallway to the kitchen, leaving them to climb the stairs.
Mikal was in the “Mikal boy’s” bedroom, since he was Tersa’s most frequent guest. The covers were pulled out and rumpled, which Daemon found alarming, since it looked like a struggle had taken place. Then he saw part of Tildee’s head poking out from the covers at the bottom of the bed. She had done the rumpling to have a hiding place from which she could easily attack. And since Mikal was pressed against the headboard on the side of the bed farthest from the door and would draw a person’s eye first, an intruder moving toward the boy would put himself in a position to receive intimate damage from a pissed-off Sceltie with sharp teeth. Even if the intruder’s shield held against her Summer-sky, the clash of power would alert everyone nearby that there was trouble.
“Lady Tildee, please attend,” Lucivar said. “Prince Sadi needs to speak to Lord Mikal.”
Using the formal titles turned the request into a command.
Tildee wiggled out from under the covers and followed Lucivar downstairs.
Daemon sat on the edge of the bed near Mikal. “Are you hurt?” he asked quietly.
Mikal shook his head. Then he frowned and pushed up one sleeve. “Well, my arm hurts a little, but Tildee didn’t mean it. She grabbed me and said we had to run and hide. Mother said so. I wanted to find out why, but Tildee wouldn’t let go of my arm, so we left, and she wouldn’t stop, and it took a long time to ride the Winds, and then we were here, and Tildee told Tersa that something bad had happened, but she didn’t know what the bad thing was, only that we were supposed to hide.”
Daemon lightly brushed his fingertips over Mikal’s arm. The Sceltie hadn’t broken the skin, but she’d clamped down hard enough to leave bruises.
“Prince? Before Tildee caught the Winds and took us away from that house, I heard Beron yell. It sounded bad. Is he hurt?”
Daemon swallowed the lump in his throat. “Yes, he’s hurt. But Lady Angelline is doing the healing, and she’s taking good care of him.”
“Then who’s taking care of Mother? She wouldn’t have told Tildee to run unless something bad happened.”
He brushed back Mikal’s hair. The boy needed to have it cut soon. Who would remember the small things like that now? “I’m sorry, boyo. I am so sorry, but your mother is dead.”
Mikal was silent for so long, Daemon wondered if the words had been understood.
“Can’t the High Lord fix her so she can come back and live with us?” Mikal asked in a small voice. “She would have to sleep in the daytime, but that would be all right. I’d get my chores and schoolwork done before she woke up. I would.”
“It’s not that easy for someone who is demon-dead to be among the living.” Who was he to say such a thing to this child? Most of his family had been demon-dead and had lived at the Hall for years in order to be with Jaenelle. Saetan had not only been Sylvia’s lover; he’d been Mikal’s surrogate father.
“The High Lord could fix it,” Mikal insisted. There was hope and conviction in those words—and fear that it wouldn’t be true. “Can’t you ask him to fix it?”
Daemon’s eyes filled with tears. He pulled the boy close and hugged him, rocking them both for comfort. “I don’t know if he can fix this, Mikal. I don’t know if he can. But I’ll ask him. I promise that I’ll ask him.”
An hour later, Mikal and Tildee were snoring in a freshly made bed, and Daemon and Lucivar were in the carriage heading back to the Hall.
“You couldn’t have said anything else,” Lucivar told him. “Not to a boy who has rubbed elbows with our family as much as he has.”
“Sylvia is a Queen,” Daemon said wearily. “Letting a demon-dead Queen continue to rule would set a dangerous precedent, and it would be hard for her to remain anywhere near Halaway and watch another Queen rule her people—especially if she didn’t like some of the choices the new Queen made. Families and villages and Territories need to let go of the dead and move on—and the demon-dead need to let go of the living.”
“The boy doesn’t give a damn about Sylvia the Queen. Right now, he just wants the assurance that his mother will still be there to read him a story and tuck him in at night,” Lucivar said.
“I know that, Prick. I know.” Daemon pressed his fingertips against his temples and tried to ease some of the tension.
“Do you think Sylvia’s father will want the boys to live with him?” Lucivar asked.
“Maybe. What the boys want will have more weight than any adult.” A trickle of anger pushed aside the weariness. “But I’ll tell you who isn’t going to have the boys. Their sires.”
“I didn’t think either of them had been granted paternal rights—or wanted them.”
“They didn’t. But Mikal’s sire has come sniffing around a couple of times in recent months, expressing interest in his son and wanting to become acquainted.”
“From what I found out after the first time he came around, his service as a Consort has earned him notoriety rather than the lucrative and illustrious positions he’d envisioned would be his when he walked away from Sylvia and her little village.”
“And I thought Father was the only one who disliked her former Consorts,” Lucivar said dryly.
Daemon lowered his hands and rested his head on the back of the seat. “You will never repeat this to Jaenelle, but after that son of a whoring bitch came around a second time, I told Kaelas and Jaal that if he trespassed on any property that belonged to the family—and that included the land around Manny’s and Tersa’s cottages—they had my permission to eat him. I said it within the bastard’s hearing. I haven’t seen him since.”