Lucivar stepped through the study door, nonchalantly strolled over to the bookshelf, leaned back against it, and pulled off a book, opening it at random, watching Saetan over the top of it. Saetan finished his sentence, took off his glasses, folded them neatly, set them on his desk, steepled his fingers, and finally looked at his youngest son. "What's bothering you?"

Lucivar set down the book, stretched, and didn't answer. Saetan waited. He'd known the moment Lucivar'd walked in with that deliberately casual gait that something was wrong. He stood up and went over to the cabinet, opened it, slid out some yarbarah and poured two glasses, pushing one across the table at Lucivar and warming his own with one finger, still watching Lucivar. "Sit down."

Lucivar sat and took the blood wine, began warming it himself, absently, though he did stop. "I wanted to come talk to you." There was an odd note in his voice.

Saetan waited, again. It was a rare enough occasion, this son asking to talk to him about something that was evidently bothering him, that he wasn't going to break the silence until Lucivar was ready to share whatever it was. "One of the witches – the new arrivals."

Saetan felt himself snap to attention, heard the note in his voice. "Has one of them been bothering you?"

Lucivar shook his head quickly. "Oh no, Mother Night, no. They're all terrified I'm going to send them back. But one of them…she reminded me of another witch."

Saetan leaned back, watching Lucivar, who would not meet his gaze. "What happened?"

Lucivar's movement wasn't quite a shudder. "I couldn't look at her. I was worried if I did I'd try to kill her."

"That much resemblance?"

"It wasn't that." Lucivar's mouth twisted. "It was her posture, her bearing, the way she looked at me…" He took a gulp of yarbarah and stopped.

Saetan's voice was soft. "What happened with the witch? That this one reminded you of?"

Lucivar's head jerked up and he stared at Saetan, obviously surprised – and Saetan was unsurprised to see shame flickering in his son's eyes. "I killed her." Flatly, and bluntly – clearly expecting a reaction.

"I'm quite sure she deserved it," Saetan said smoothly, coldly, and had the pleasure of seeing Lucivar taken aback. "But what happened? Something…unusual."

Lucivar swallowed, stretching out his legs. Saetan watched his eyes shadow and darken – not angry, he noted. Not frightened, exactly, but close. "I was young. Younger. It was shortly after that damned Ring'd been fitted for me. I knew what it could do, but I hadn't – none of the witches had used it yet. This witch – I don't remember her name. She decided she wanted me."

Saetan accepted the small lies, staying silent.

"It was…some of us were going on one of the Runs the next day. I wanted to go and I knew if I went with her I wouldn't be back in time. I protested." The shame flickered closer. "She used the Ring."

Saetan narrowed his eyes. "In front of the other Eyriens."

A tense nod. "I didn't – want her to do it again. I went. But she kept doing it anyway, because she knew how much it bothered me, how I couldn't let my knees buckle, not while they were watching to see evidence of more of the weakness of a half-breed bastard, a pleasure slave. I almost made it halfway before I collapsed. Screaming." His shoulders were creeping up; Saetan didn't think he was even aware of the motion. "She wouldn't let up, demanding that I'd get to my feet and keep going. It was only one of her friends convincing her that I'd be useless if she didn't leave off that kept her from doing it all day." A brief pause. "I made it to her Coach, somehow."

He stopped for a long time.

"That's not all," Saetan said, and it wasn't a question.

"Safframate," he said quietly. "She…gave me a lot of it. She used the Ring again to make me crawl to her. And decided it would be…" a soft snarl, "amusing if she gave me a whipping while I was dosed almost sick."

Saetan thought of the enhanced sense of touch safframate granted, even a little, the heightened awareness of one's body. He imagined that multiplied by likely more than a thousand. And then pain. He winced.

Lucivar hesitated, just for a moment. "By the time I knew what was happening, she already had me kneeling, breathless. She…" He trailed off, looked at his hands, and gulped some more yarbarah. "I wasn't…aware of much. For a while."

Another long silence.

"My back was raw and bloody, my body ached like I'd been pounded with hammers. But the only two things I really remember at all of all of that is the feeling of her…riding me, my bleeding back against the floor. And blood. I don't think I gave her a merciful death."

"I hope not."

Lucivar looked up, golden eyes nearly bronze with hovering shadows.

Saetan heard the croon in his voice. "It would have been less than she deserved."

Lucivar laughed, harshly. "Of course it would have."

Saetan hesitated, then added, quietly, "I'm sorry."

That was surprise. "For what?"

"That I left you to that life."

"Don't be." Lucivar said flatly. "If that was the life I had to live to serve Jaenelle, to be able to protect her, then so be it. Everything has a price."

Saetan nodded, a little sadly. "Yes. And one day Dorothea will pay hers. In full."

"I don't want it to happen here because of a witch who's dead," Lucivar said, almost tonelessly.

"It won't." Saetan paused. "You're a Warlord Prince. You're dangerous, yes. But you serve. And it's in your instinct to protect. So she looks at you oddly. Snarl at her a little, she'll get the idea. But you can control yourself."

Lucivar nodded, slowly, and looked thoughtful. "Thank you," he said, and Saetan didn't think he just meant for the advice.

"My door is always open," Saetan said quietly, and stood, watching Lucivar exit. Sometimes, Saetan saw echoes in Lucivar of the man he might have been, had things been different. But he tried not to feel regret, tried to listen to these stories, when they came, without blame or anger. He knew he wasn't successful. But he continued to try.

Because he feared, a little, what he would do if he unleashed that anger, that rage. Zuulaman whispered somewhere in his head.

He poured another glass of yarbarah and stood at the window, looking out at the woods. He could hear the kindred wolves howling, watched Lucivar striding across the lawn, all power and temper and muscle, and allowed himself to mourn, just for a moment.