Disclaimer: The characters in this work of fanfiction belong to Anne Bishop and her publisher. No money is being made off this work. I am merely playing in someone else's sandbox.
Post-Dreams Made Flesh.
Lucivar felt the sudden change in mood, the sharp spike in caution through the Ring he still wore—the Ring that Jaenelle had given him and the rest of the First Circle. It wasn't quite fear, which would've triggered a much larger signal along the link, but it was enough to let him know that something was not right.
*Cat? What's going on?*
*Stay away* came the quick answer, which of course only made Lucivar want to drop everything and head for the Hall.
*Unless you give me an explanation, Cat, I'm coming over right now.*
There was a forcefulness bordering on panic in the one-word message. Jaenelle never sounded like that. Lucivar instantly shifted into high alert. Whatever was going on, it was serious.
Not "Cat," but "Jaenelle" this time.
There was a pause at the other end. She must've heard his worry, but something was distracting her.
Finally, after several agonizing seconds, her reply came. *Stay away, unless the worst happens. Then bring Saeten and everything you've got.*
Lucivar froze. *Why?*
Another pause, and then came the words that made Lucivar's blood run cold.
*Because Daemon's in rut.*
Lucivar burst into Saetan's quarters like a storm, his thoughts and emotions clashing like lightning. He pointed a finger at his father, who looked unsurprised by the sudden intrusion.
"Do you know?"
Saetan set aside the glass of yarbarah that he had been nursing for the last half hour and looked at Lucivar evenly. "If you're talking about Daemon, then yes, I know he's in rut right now."
Lucivar snarled in frustration and started pacing, his wings flared. "Why didn't you say something or do something? Jaenelle's with him right now. You could have stopped her. You could have told her to come here to the Keep."
One corner of Saetan's mouth curled up, but it was not from amusement. "You're assuming that I knew ahead of time, and that she would've listened to me."
"Then how did you find out?"
"Beale sent me a message."
Lucivar had the urge to shake him until his even-temperedness shattered. Or at least until his goddamn sweater got rumpled. He needed something sharp to blunt his temper on, and Saetan wasn't giving it to him.
"And you didn't even try to reason with her? You didn't warn her of the danger?"
Saetan's eyes narrowed. "I think she's well aware of the danger. If you recall, this isn't the first time she's been around a Warlord Prince in rut. She handled you just fine."
"Yes, but this is different."
The Black was always different. And the Sadist…. Lucivar shuddered. He didn't want to admit it out loud, especially in front of Saetan, but sometimes Daemon scared the shit out of him.
"Can you honestly say that she'll be all right?" Lucivar demanded. "She's not the same Queen as she was when she helped me through the rut. She can't call on her power like before. If he chooses to Black-lock the room, she wouldn't be able to escape or call for help. Who knows what he will do to her while caught in the rut? She could be maimed or killed!"
"I know that!" Saetan growled. Lucivar stepped back, momentarily surprised. "Don't you think I've been sitting here envisioning all the terrible scenarios that could be playing out right now? Don't you know how frustrating it is for me to sit here sipping my goddamn yarbarah and doing nothing?"
"Then why don't you do something?" Lucivar yelled back, temper flaring. It felt good to get some of his frustration out.
"What do you propose I do?" Saetan shot back. "Go over there and pull her away? Go take a female away from a Warlord Prince in rut? Maybe I should try to reason with him while I'm at it?" Saetan snorted. "Believe me, if I thought there was anything I could do, I would have done it already. I'm just as worried about Jaenelle as you are, so don't come in here acting outraged and pretending you're the only one who cares, boyo. We all stand to lose a piece of ourselves if anything happens to her—Daemon more so than any of us."
As Saetan spoke, he didn't notice his nails digging into the arms of his couch, leaving deep marks. Lucivar suddenly realized that his father's surface calm was just his way of dealing with his own fear. Saetan was like Daemon in many ways—they could both burn cold, whereas Lucivar always burned hot. They withdrew behind their masks and their calmness when faced with something they feared or loathed, whereas Lucivar exploded outward. It was this seeming lack of reaction that made them so dangerous and unpredictable. Because while Lucivar would eventually burn out his anger or frustration, their emotions became more and more compact, more condensed, crystallizing inside them like diamonds until the outer shield cracked and they exploded in a sharp, glittering rage.
His father was usually good at keeping his emotions in, but Lucivar was relieved to see a flash of anger this time, even if it was directed at him. It made him feel less alone.
Everything in him wanted to head to the Hall right now to rescue Jaenelle and drag her to the Keep for the next few days, but he knew that he would be killed before he even got to the bedroom door. Daemon would sense his approach and treat him like any other male—a rival to be eliminated. If Daemon rose to the killing edge, there was a good chance he might not have stepped back by the time he turned his attention back to Jaenelle again.
Lucivar clenched his fists in frustration. He hated feeling powerless. It was in his nature as an Eyrien warrior and as a Warlord Prince to take a threat on directly, especially if the threat was directed at those he felt he had a claim on, and especially if it was his Queen. Doing nothing was worse than trying something and being killed in the attempt, but in this situation, anything he tried could make things worse for Jaenelle. He had no choice but to sit tight and wait out the rut.
That didn't mean he had to be happy about it.
"Sit down before you burn holes in my rug with your eyes," Saetan grumbled.
"I thought I'd make your rug match your couch," replied Lucivar snippily, but he took the space next to Saetan anyway.
Saetan threw him a look, but he let the comment slide. He picked up his glass and started reheating the yarbarah. The calmness was back in place.
"Can you sense anything through your Ring?" he asked.
Lucivar shook his head. "Just a low level of wariness and caution, like background noise. No signs of distress or injury—yet."
"Does the Ring channel anything else besides strong or negative emotions?"
"No, thank the Darkness. If I could feel it every time Daemon made her happy, especially in bed, I wouldn't be able to walk." He made a sour face when Saetan laughed. "Never mind. Have you thought about trying to reach her? Just to make sure she's okay?"
"I imagine she's busy right now and needs all her wits about her. I wouldn't want to risk distracting her," said Saetan soberly. "That is, assuming it's even possible to reach her. Daemon probably put a psychic shield up."
Meaning that while Saetan might be able to get a message through to Jaenelle, Jaenelle would have no way of responding, so trying it would have been pointless.
Lucivar suddenly remembered the reason he had sought out Saetan in the first place, besides the fact that he was the only male who stood any chance at all against Daemon.
"Jaenelle was able to send me a message right before I came here." Lucivar gave his father a wary glance. "She said, 'Stay away, unless the worst happens. Then bring Saeten and everything you've got.'"
That got his attention. "Those were her exact words?"
Instead of looking worried, Saetan looked thoughtful. "Did she say anything else? Did she say why she wanted you to bring me in particular?"
Lucivar thought it was rather obvious why he would need to bring Saetan.
"No, but you're currently the only other member of the Blood to wear the Black, so you're the only one strong enough to handle Daemon if he's still caught in the rut."
Saetan shrugged noncommittally. "Sometimes it's not a matter of strength. Even the Black can be drained if there are enough attackers coming from all sides."
"Do you think you'll be strong enough if the worst happens?"
Saetan stared into the deep red wine in his glass. "Depends what she means by 'the worst.'"
Lucivar wondered if his father was purposely being dense. "If Jaenelle dies, obviously."
Saetan gave his son a mildly chastising look. "That's what 'the worst' means to you, boyo. It might not necessarily be the same for Jaenelle. Remember what happened the last time Daemon thought he had killed her? That was before they had truly known each other, before they became husband and wife, or even Queen and Consort. Now that he has what he had dreamed about for all those centuries, I can't imagine what would happen if he crushed his dream with his own hands. He nearly lost her twice before, and that was devastating enough. Is she asking me if I will be strong enough to pick up the pieces and hold him together if she is really gone this time? Or is she asking me for the strength to put him out of his misery? To kill my own son? Either way, I don't know the answer. I really don't know."
Saetan considered the yarbarah and took a sip. The blood wine could be sweet, but sometimes it could be bitter. It was Saetan's theory that the taste depended on the giver as well as the receiver. The wine was difficult to swallow today. He sighed and set it aside.
"There is also the possibility that Jaenelle will choose to end Daemon herself, to save him from that agony. She has always loved us more than she loves herself, but Daemon is her husband and her true mate. Only she has the right to kill him. If he pushes her enough, she will reach for the dark power she once had to do what needs to be done."
Lucivar looked surprised. Saetan answered his unasked question.
"Yes, I think that power still exists somewhere inside her, waiting to be called upon. It was still in the Web I saw on the Arachnians' island. If she has to, she will destroy him in order to save him. And she will do so, knowing that she will die because of it."
Saetan looked in the direction of her quarters down the hall, where she had spent so many months deep within the Mountain, healing from the horrific rebound of the power she had unleashed upon Terreille. If she summoned that power again from the depths where it now lay dormant, it would come crashing down on her in much the same way.
"So I guess the other question is, Will I have the strength to watch her be consumed by her own power? Can I bring myself to end her life if she asked it of me? Will I even have the power to burn out the rest of her strength and allow her to return to the Darkness? I don't know. I can only hope that I won't have to find out what she means by 'if the worst happens.'"
Lucivar sighed, sobered by the different scenarios. "I guess we'll just have to trust that she knew what she was walking in to and that she'll come out alive."
Saetan put an arm around his son.
"Yes. It's the only thing we can do right now. We sit, we wait, and we hope."