Ashlyn rushed out of her bedroom, eager to put some distance between her and Damien. Her chest felt tight and heavy as she breathed, as she contemplated the hundreds of innocent lives lost.
A few paces away from her now, Damien stood leaning against one of the chairs. He was quiet, as if waiting for her to speak.
"Y--you," she stammered, "you killed all those people in Githal. You completely decimated the place didn't you?"
"Ash, I don't--"
"Probably," he shrugged. "It's like I said, I can't remember. All I have is what Lothira showed me."
"And what did she show you?" Ashlyn demanded.
"I warned you," Damien muttered, looking down. "You're not going to like the answer."
"What did she show you?" Ashlyn repeated, this time a bit more calmly.
With a sigh, Damien slunked down into his chair. "She showed me a glimpse of that day, the memory that I cannot seem to keep in my own head. She showed me how I...change form."
Ashlyn knew by the way he rubbed his brow that he was in distress. She came forward, a few inches closer. "Change form?"
"I cannot say exactly how but...Baldemar and his mages must have found a way to...turn me into a weapon. Githal must have been their target and I...I don't want to think of how I managed to survive when so many didn't."
He saw her sitting down to be level with him. "Like your family?" she asked.
Damien scoffed. "No. My family was gone before Baldemar took me to live with him."
"Oh." Her face became soft and downcast. "I'm sorry."
Looking at her, Damien felt his own shattering regrets welling up, forming bitter tears. But he brushed them away. "I've never told anyone this," he said softly, holding the edge of his mouth. "Before all of this happened I--I was Baldemar's son. By adoption, more or less."
"But you told me you were just a prisoner in Eolnir."
"Yes," he said. "I might as well have been. I've been afraid of exposing my identity. If Baldemar somehow knows I'm alive I'm sure he'll be coming for me."
"Because you're his weapon?"
A few moments passed before Ashlyn came up, stretching her hands out. "May I?"
"Aren't you afraid of what you might see?"
"If it means protecting you from a horrible fate, then no."
Damien fell silent as Ashlyn searched him, drifting through the all-seeing field once again. After a long spell, her glowing aura receded as she lifted her fingers off. Damien didn't realize he was gripping her hands until she reclaimed them.
"The past may be buried but the present is not," she said. "Baldemar believes that you were destroyed along with Githal. He's already sent out many search parties but he is convinced in his heart that there are no remains to be found." Then she offered a smile. "That is good for us. You are totally free from him."
"Yeah." Damien exhaled. "I suppose I just needed to hear it."
When the moment faded, he got to his feet and gathered his shoes. Ashlyn lingered with him at the doorway, unable to hide her sweet cheekbones and amorous smile. "I should get going," Damien said. "This was the most memorable supper I've had in a long while."
"Thank you for coming over."
"No, thank you. You really are a powerful mage aren't you? I can see why Kallus has warned me to stay away."
In an instant her face fell. "He has?"
"I don't think he likes the idea of an all-seeing person getting so close to me. But it has its own benefits."
There was a handful of things Ashlyn wanted to say, but she swallowed them. "Have a good night, Damien."
When he went on his way Ashlyn closed the door and collapsed against it, cupping her face. She inhaled a few slow breaths to calm her nerves before going to sit down on the sofa.
Within seconds, Calda emerged from the portal of her room, seeming worried. "Everything alright?"
"I don't understand, Mother." Ashlyn groaned, gripping her belly. "What must I do to win Kallus' favor? He clearly doesn't like what I am."
"Are you worried about how Kallus sees you, or how Damien does?"
"Mother," Ashlyn blushed. "It's not that, it's just...I cannot change what I am. I knew this day would come. I knew that Damien would seek my help, and the only one who doesn't approve is Kallus?"
"There is nothing to be said or done," Calda counseled. "He has the authority to make his will known. Still, I think he could use some reminding every now and then that ordering people around isn't everything. Soon Damien will be a man who makes his own decisions, and not even Kallus will be able to challenge that."
Back at the manor, it was nighttime as Damien strode through the door on a pair of swift legs. He passed by Tenila who had failed to quickly open the door for him.
"Master Damien." Tenila pivoted as he passed. "You just barged in didn't you?"
"I didn't want to wait."
She shook her head in disapproval. "That is not how we do things. You know how your father feels about people coming in after dark."
Damien stopped mid-stride and turned. "My father?"
"Is it not so?"
He brushed her comment aside and kept moving. When he came into the main hall, he immediately went for the stairs only to find Kallus standing in his path. Kallus' dark blond hair mismatched his pale, angry eyes.
"Kallus." Damien refrained from making eye-contact. "I'm going to bed. I didn't want to disturb you."
"It's a little early for bed," Kallus said, crossing his arms. "Nihilan told me you were out, but he did not seem eager to mention where you were."
"I was invited to supper."
"And what is the harm in letting me or Lanara know?"
"Neither of you were around."
"Hm." Kallus winced. "You keep choosing to spend your time with Ashlyn. Why?"
"What's it to you? Ash is a good friend. Good company. I told you, she likes having me around."
"I can smell your lies. I know you are hiding something, Damien. And I warned you: there is very little to gain from using a Sorceress' power."
"Why does it bother you so much?" Damien squinted. "It's not enough that I've had to give up my whole life for you? I work long days for you, and I've never complained. Just let me be."
Kallus let out a sigh. "I don't want you to make the mistakes I did."
"Sorceresses have a way of telling people their destinies as though they are set to happen. You are a fool if you believe you can find all the answers from Ashlyn. She does not know what I know: a man makes his own destiny no matter what the Fates say."
"Kallus," Damien said slowly, "whatever you think I am getting myself into, it's not that. I don't see any harm in letting Ashlyn help me. She's gifted, and careful. You should see her, and not just from a distance. You should sit down and get to know her. I think you'll find she's different."
"Hm," Kallus chuckled, forming a grin. "You think you're so wise. You're not going to change my mind, boy."
"If I am wise, it's because you taught me to be. The perfect shape, remember?"
"Yes, but you have a lot to learn. You still have a hot temper, you act rashly without thinking. I advise you to think before going to see Ashlyn again."
"Thank you for the advice, Kallus." Damien faced forward, showing no hint of anger or annoyance. "Good night?"
Kallus dismissed him with one too many waves of his hand. "Go, go. We can discuss it further in the morning."
At the top of the stairs, Damien clashed into Naelen on his way to their bedroom wing. Naelen had come up from the opposite staircase, acknowledging Damien with a nod.
"So, how was it?" Naelen asked.
"It was fine," Damien answered.
"I heard my Dad lecturing you downstairs. What was that all about?"
"Oh, don't worry about it. Your Dad just..."
"What? It's not like I'd rat on you. That's your talent, not mine."
Damien groaned. "Kallus thinks that I'm stupidly walking into something I can't handle."
"Well, are you?"
"Honestly...I don't know yet."