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Through the Looking Glass

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Saetan was reclining in the cool shadows of the landscaped gardens outside Tersa's house, enjoying a bracing glass of yarbarah, when a deeper shadow fell across his closed eyelids. He opened them reluctantly and immediately wished he hadn't. Saetan took every opportunity to savor the rare pleasure of even such a makeshift home and family as this, and it seemed that pleasure was about to be interrupted by yet another angry servant in a long procession of frustrated staff that had begun the day his namesake learned to crawl. He cringed to think what would happen when the boy's brother started testing his wings.

"High Lord." Manny eyed him darkly, one hand on her hip and the other brandishing a wooden spoon in admonishment. "Do you know what your son told me when I asked him what he knew about dancing?"

"I can't imagine," Saetan hedged, wracking his memory and failing to connect the subject with an incident that might spark her wrath. He wondered whether he or the younger Saetan Daemon SaDiablo was responsible, but it hardly mattered. A man of the Blood considered a son a special blessing; a daughter belonged to her mother, but a father took credit for raising his sons. Unfortunately, it seemed people more frequently blamed Saetan for the raising of his. Mephis, at least, had been a calm child. The calm before the storm, judging by Saetan's subsequent offspring.

"'If you want to bed a woman,'" Manny quoted, "'do it in the bedroom. If you want to seduce her, do it in the dance.' When I asked him where he heard such a thing, he said you'd been giving him lessons!"

He wouldn't say that to a child! Had he? He forgot too easily, sometimes, that he was speaking to his son when it felt so much like talking to himself, only smaller. That young mind resonated with his own so closely that he never doubted the child understood him. Nonetheless, certain proprieties must be observed. Perhaps he should adopt the Ladies' habit of calling the boy Daemon instead of Saetan, to prevent such slips.

"Well?" Manny prompted, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

He was the High Priest of the Hourglass, the High Lord of Hell, the Prince of the Darkness. And may the aforementioned Darkness be merciful, because he was cowering before a hearth-witch with a cooking utensil. In truth, it relieved him to associate with women who didn't fear him, even if it meant submitting to the sort of domestic bullying that housekeepers always seemed to excel at. "If I endeavor to perform more adequately in the future, may I still have a nutcake?" he asked contritely.

Tersa, previously absorbed in weeding a flowerbed nearby, chose that moment to speak up before Manny could reply. "Oh, I wouldn't worry." They turned toward her, preparing to decipher yet another riddle or cryptic announcement. It didn't take as much deciphering as Saetan might have hoped when Tersa continued placidly, "The High Lord's a more than adequate, ah," she paused delicately, "dance instructor, I assure you."

After a beat of flustered silence, Manny stuffed the spoon into a pocket and dusted her hands on her apron. "Well, I'll just see to those nutcakes," she said, retreating hastily toward the kitchen, much to Saetan's relief.

Tersa winked at him, and Saetan resisted the urge to massage his temples. He reflected that a Black Widow's attempt to come to one's rescue frequently proved more disturbing than another woman's attempt to put one in need of rescue. And Hell's fire, Tersa knew it, if her smile was any indication. Too many long years ago, Cassandra promised Saetan the daughter of his soul. He'd longed for her ever since, but he'd also begun to wonder if he'd ever be prepared for her arrival. He sent a quick prayer into the Darkness that she'd prove milder and more reasonable than an examination of his own nature and the temperaments of the strong witches of his acquaintance led him to expect. He probably wasted his efforts, for either his prayers to the Darkness were answered only rarely of late, or the one answering had a reprehensible sense of humor.

Saetan decided to beat a strategic retreat of his own, and go in search of his son. "If you'll excuse me, Lady?" At Tersa's amused nod, he moved away in a swift motion that he absolutely refused to think of as scurrying. Male company of any kind would be a fair trade for even the hope of nutcakes, and his young son really was extraordinarily mature for his age. He might not understand Saetan's discomfort during Tersa's moments of lucidity, his grief at the loss of such potential as hers, but the boy understood all too well the more trivial frustrations of a lone male outnumbered by witches. They could share the lighter concerns, and Mother Night preserve the child from darker truths. That understanding would come in time, and the Darkness only knew what might become of them all once the boy received his Birthright Jewels, much less his full strength; even now he challenged as well as invigorated his father.

Saetan worried about his son's strange beauty in a place like Terreille, home to the creeping taint between the sexes that led to Tersa's breaking; he saw the covetous looks cast on the boy by witches who had no business looking at a child that way, but in the absence of real threat honor prevented him from the pleasure of snapping their necks. He feared that the boy sensed the danger and already grew too vicious for his own good. Compared to Lucivar, he seemed almost well behaved, but Saetan saw the seeds of a cold rage to match his own in eyes far too young to contain it. Saetan knew that having a broken Black Widow for a mother and the High Lord of Hell for a father could only increase the isolation that came with living so deep in the Darkness as this one would, but Saetan would protect him and teach him well. One day, after his namesake grew into his honor and his Jewels, they would dance together for the glory of Witch, two mirrors reflecting the cold light of the Black.