What Branches Grow

V: What He Carries On His Back.

Extra short this time. Sorry 'bout that.

Redcliffe Castle


Connor is... altered.

The blood on the great hall's floor is part of it, and the terror in the glances of the two trembling servants who flank the door. The shadows that cling in the corners and the cold sense of malevolence and fear, of presence.

But not all. Teagan's nephew's eyes are sunken bruises, filled with feverish light. His posture, seated in the high chair on the great hall's dais, is not that of a child.

Predator, Teagan thinks, but this is his nephew, Eamon's little boy. A boy of floppy hair and skinned knees and big, watering eyes, too sickly and delicate to foster as a page -

"Here he is, Connor." Isolde drops to one knee beside her son, her voice quavering. "Your uncle Teagan. He can help, Connor. Let him help."

"Can he, Mother?" Connor's voice is all adult smirk. "Can he, really?"

Isolde flinches, and that's wrong. He has never liked his brother's wife, but for all her sharp-tongued carping and blatant flirtation she has a spine of dwarf-forged steel. Something has broken that spine, something born of the cold amusement in Connor's voice, the too-adult knowing in his voice, and so Teagan steps forward, firms his voice. "Now, Connor -"

The sunken eyes turn on him. "Stop, Uncle," that cold, too-knowing voice says, softly.

Power staggers him. This is not Connor, he has time to think, before an alien presence sinks icy claws into his mind. His thoughts turn gellid, fogged, crawling slow and disturbingly afraid.

"You could be amusing. Amuse me, Uncle. Make me laugh."

Teagan giggles and sweeps a jerky jongleur's bow. His muscles don't quite seem under his control, but that doesn't matter. Isolde is weeping, quiet broken sobs that streak her face with tears, and that doesn't matter either. He has to make his nephew laugh.

Somewhere deep inside, he is screaming.


Thank you all for your reviews and feedback so far. The next part of this will be the Isolde/Teagan/Jowan confrontation over the whole blood magic thing. Any suggestions as to whose POV should feature there?