The Hall of Flames. He had heard the name before, but he had just learned to appreciate the horror it brought with it when it was said aloud. A chasm of fire; surrounding you from all sides; blowing into the air on all sides, above, and below you; the flames trying to catch you, turn you into a living torch. Few survived this hell. And if they did, they were never the same after.

And, yet, he had allowed his teenage assistant to undergo the hall of fire. For pride. For dignity. For the sake of his reputation, he had let the boy he thought of as the son he could never have, face the horror without one protest passing his lips. Darren had survived, barely.

He looked at the boy as he laid on the bed. His skin a grotesque pattern of reds, pinks, and blacks. His feet charred beyond recognition. His formerly thick brown hair burned completely off his scalp. But he was breathing, his heart still beating against all odds. He twitched in his sleep, haunted by nightmares of the flame-filled cavern, but his chest moved up and down, keeping up a steady rhythm as oxygen hit his lungs.

The medics fuss over the young half-vampire. But he doesn't react. The only indication that he has gotten better at all is the fact that his shallow breathing has formed a regular, but shaky pattern. Gavner had been there. Seba. Vanez. Kurda. Harkat. Arra. All came to show their support for the severly injured boy lying, dead to the world, on the cold medical table.

They had come, stayed for as long as their schedules would allow, and then left. He hadn't moved. He had been sitting still as a statue staring intently at Darren, watching for any falters, or signs of trouble, so he could alert the medics as soon as there help was needed. But htat wasn't the oly reason. Darren was his son. He couldn't leave his son, had he been dying or not. He had to stay, make sure he lived.

But, then again, he reasoned with himself. If he wanted so bad to help Darren survive the night, shouldn't he be down in the hall of princes, vouching for the boy's life with Kurda Smahlt? He knew he should but he couldn't. He knew that he would not, could not, leave the boy's side. Parental instinct, that all he could come up with.

So he sat still, watching as the medics came and went. He ignored their voices telling him to go and sleep. He couldn't sleep. How could they event think it was a possibility? He almost yelled at them, but stopped. That wouldn't solve anything. If anything it would make things worse than they already were. So he just shook his head ad continued sitting.

Time passed slowly. The seconds turning into minutes, the minutes into hours, until it seemed the world had frozen around them. He felt fatigue warring with his brain, and his eyes passed in and out of focus as waves of tiredness flooded his body. But he refused to give in. he forced himself to stay awake. And he accomplished that, barely.

Suddenly, a horrible thought sprang into his mind. Jerking him back to reality. He said that he cared for Darren. He cared for him like a son. But if he cared so much for the child. Why had he let him do this in the first place? Would Darren die because of his idiotic choice to let him undergo tests designed for full vampire adults? Was this all his fault?

With another glance at the boy on the bed, he thought, how could it not be?