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Six Fangs

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The Quetzalcoatl loved foolishly, perhaps, but he was never a fool. He knew who his daughter Bethesda was.

Her usurpation was not what he wanted, for her or himself: nonetheless, he is glad she survived him. That is why his tooth came away in her hand as she gloated over his skull.

She is cruel, capricious, petty. She rules for her own sake, not that of the clan.

But nonetheless, the clan she built on her father’s bones is great, and she used what she took from him to the fullest.

She is and will always be his favorite child.

The second fang should have been Amelia’s, and when Bob took it from their grandfather’s skull, he offered it to her. She would not take it.

“It could have been mine, but it’s yours,” she says. That’s the sheath: the blade is the truth she does not speak, and that one draws blood.

This is the unspoken truth: Bethesda’s coup could not have succeeded without Brohomir. Whatever she believes, the Quetzalcoatl died as much at his hand as at hers.

And now both their hands carry his teeth. His will could turn those teeth to bite them. It does not.

If mercy is the privilege of the strong, then it is also the sign and proof of strength. The Quetzalcoatl knew this, and so does Conrad, though he was born too late to meet his grandfather.

Every dragon in the clan is sure of Conrad’s strength, and most admire him for it. He’s responsible for more of the heads in that hallway than even their mother. So when he speaks of mercy, his siblings listen.

It was mercy as much as its lack that built this clan. Perhaps someday their strength will be such that Bethesda herself will admit it.

Chelsie’s Fang was never meant for this—a blade in the dark, in the backs of those it should have protected. In any other dragon’s hand it would long since have broken, if it did not break them.

Instead it shielded her from its fellows’ bite, and her nature shielded her from its own. Still there was a cost, in blood and treachery and pain.

The moment she was free, she dropped it to the ground and never looked back.

It was only for her sake that her firstborn son picked it up. To defend her, as she had him.

Justin drew a fang loose already in the skull, not first or second or even tenth to wield it.

Knights have held it as they died gloriously, foolishly. They have won it from each other’s hands in combat, and it has covered their teeth as they died with those teeth in their foes’ throats. Chelsie has carried it home as their ashes blew in distant winds. Even those who survived losing it died later, failing to win it back from their successors.

All were strong. None were wise, and none survived to change that.

Perhaps he will be the exception.

Ironic, for a sword to halt violence, or for a fang that once drew life’s blood to prevent bloodshed. But that is what Julius drew from his grandfather’s skull, and what he used to change his clan.

Six hundred years that tooth gathered dust, as Bethesda killed or broke those of her children who might have had a chance to draw it. As strange a blade as Julius is a dragon.

It is the sharpest of them, and it will remain so forever. The unused blade always is, and this one will never again kill.

Perhaps his grandfather is pleased.