Blood Oath

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“Goddamn it!” Seamus shouts while bolting upright. He is immediately met by the sound of Row screaming. “What, what is it?” He reaches over his shoulder for his sword, instinctively. Of course it is not there.

“What do you mean what?” Row grabs her chest while trying to catch her breath. She is sitting in a chair directly beside his bed in the cottage.

“Why are you screaming?” Seamus raises an eyebrow.

“That’s what I want to know!” She slaps him on the forehead. “You screamed first. What’s wrong?”

“Oh, I did?” he is genuinely oblivious. “I don’t know, I…” he stops mid-sentence as the memory of his dream comes pouring back. “Maumolla,” he spouts.

“What? What about her?” Row is confused.

“All this time. I can't believe I didn’t know.” He grabs the sides of his head.

“Seamus, you’re not making sense,” Row tries to calm him down.

“Lodar; he knew.” Seamus bites his thumb as he tries to think.

“Knew what?” Row is losing her patience.

“Lodar and Maumolla were in a relationship once,” Seamus finally says something discernable.

“So?” Row is not impressed at first. She quickly gains interest though. “Wait, really?”

“That’s not all, there is no Melwits,” Seamus sputters.

“Of course not, he was killed,” Row reminds him.

“No, he never existed,” Seamus corrects her. “He was an invention so Lord Sliverbane could continue to rule. He’s not his father’s son, he is his father. Lord Sliverbane has no children.”

“Seamus, what are you saying?” Row’s eyes narrow.

“Exactly what I mean. Lord Sliverbane is Melwits. He took a new name and…”

“Seamus, that can't be right,” Row refuses to believe him. “If Lord Sliverbane never had any children then who exactly is Louwits?”

Seamus falls silent as her words dawn on him. Who is Louwits? Who is in control of Sliver Bay right now? Who is Row supposed to be marrying? “We have to do something,” he shouts while leaping off of the bed.

“What exactly?” Row is still not convinced he is in his right mind.

“Fight or flee, fight or flee.” Seamus bites his thumb again.

“Why would we run and who are we fighting?” Row slaps him, hoping he is just having one of his night terrors and will soon return to normal.

“Should we confront Louwits or leave Sliver Bay without telling him?” Seamus asks. He is unfazed by her hard slap.

“That’s right, I need to give Lord Louwits my answer,” Row recalls. “Don’t worry.” She kisses Seamus on the lips. “I'm turning down his proposal. With Turok dead, there is no reason for me to go through with it.”

“I don’t think he’ll take that as a valid excuse.” Seamus is suddenly reminded of the many items they have bought with money from Louwits since coming here, including a new arm for Nuve and over a dozen expensive seeing eye potions for Minto, not to mention the many trinkets Row picked out during their outing together.

“He can't force me to marry him,” Row crosses her arms. “I’ve already made up my mind who I’m going to marry.” Seamus stares at her stupidly for a moment before realizing she is referring to him. His cheeks turn slightly red as he tries to imagine what an official relationship with his mistress might be like. The fact that she is a bloodsucker whom survives by feeding on humans is not even present in his mind. “Wow, you don’t need to look that shocked.” Row puffs out her cheeks in annoyance.

“Uh, yeah, sorry.” He quickly shakes his head to clear his mind. “Still, I don’t think we should face Louwits unprepared. Who knows what he might do if he realizes what I know about him.”

“Are you still on about that?” Row frowns at him. “If you’re so worried, then I'll just have Corvic accompany us. He was friends with Melwits, wasn’t he? Louwits should respect him and take his word that we no longer require his assistance to overthrow Turok.”

“No, we still need his help.” Corvic pokes his head into the room. “Welcome back to the land of the living, human.” He gives Seamus a nod of acknowledgment. It seems after being saved by his shape shifting ability Corvic has decided to treat Seamus with slightly more respect.

“Why do we still need Louwits?” Row whines. “I don’t wanna marry him.”

“Why not? You’re of marrying age, aren’t you?” Corvic pokes her under the arm, causing her to giggle.

“I'm only twenty-two,” she admits.

“What?” He jerks back in shock. “But, but you look just like a twenty year old human. You shouldn’t be fully grown yet.”

“Something happened when I fed on the Bronze Cognition,” she finally decides to tell her brother the truth. “I think my bloodsucker aura was suppressed. I'm aging at a normal rate and I haven’t been feeding as much. I'm not sure but I think I could sustain myself on human food for a while.”

“No good, no good. This is horrible!” Corvic pulls on his long black hair in panic.

“How exactly do you not know how old your own sister is?” Seamus asks.

“I was banished from Iron Grove long before she was born. I heard from messengers of her existence but when I met her and saw how old she looked, I assumed she was born maybe thirty or forty years ago.”

“Sorry,” Row laughs nervously. She can tell she has just damaged several of the plans her constantly scheming brother has in the works.

“What do we do now? I can't present Louwits with an immature bride. I thought your behavior was strange for someone of thirty.”

“It’s not like I was ever really going to marry him in the first place.” Row shrugs.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Corvic grips her by the shoulders, squeezing her tight enough to cause pain.

“You don’t really expect me to live with that flamboyant mouthpiece for the rest of my life, do you?” Her eyes narrow.

“What’s wrong with that?” he demands.

“Don’t you care about what I want?” she asks in a disappointed tone.

“No,” he answers bluntly. “You exist for one purpose, little one; to help me further my goals.”

“Up until recently I would have agreed with you.” She nods slowly. It angers Seamus how cold and unfeeling she can be at times. “But now I’ve found something I want to do,” she informs her brother.

“What exactly is that?” he scoffs. Row doesn’t answer. Instead she simply reaches behind her so Seamus can link their hands. “Huh?” Corvic finally releases her. “You, you’re not serious… are you?” he is in disbelief. “Row, you’re a bloodsucker. You don’t have feelings and emotions. You are either hungry or dead, that’s all you get.”

“What about you?” she counters. “You’ve been seeking revenge and so many other things. What do you call all that?”

“A healthy atmosphere of pride related to one’s existence and origin,” he sputters. “What does it matter? I know what I have to do and you can't tell me otherwise.”

“And I know what I'm going to do.” She sits down on Seamus’s lap.

“Goddamn it, Row, can you just do what you’re told?” Corvic is losing his patience.

“Why do we need Louwits anymore; Turok is dead,” she reminds him.

“That doesn’t mean the citizens of Iron Grove will stop supporting him. The way they see it, he freed them from the usurped rule of a bloodsucker. They are his loyal servants now. When they find out how he died, they are not going to be happy.”

“I don’t care,” Row snaps at him. “You did what you wanted. Deal with the consequences on your own.”

“I'm not done yet, Row!” he raises his voice as well. “I'm not just avenging our mother; I'm taking back our father’s territory. In order to do that I need a show of force that will convince Iron Grove’s citizens to obey me, understand?”

“I understand, and I don’t care,” Row repeats. “You keep telling me to act like a good bloodsucker and control my emotions but it is you who are letting yours control you. I feel nothing for the loss of my mother, or for the loss of our father’s land. It’s in the past, Corvic. Let it lie.”

“I won't,” his voice booms even louder. “I have spent years planning this; it will not go to waste because of you.”

“I don’t believe I was part of your plan to begin with.” Row tilts her head. “You can't have known we’d run into each other in Glass Gate.”

“I'm lucky I did,” Corvic admits. “My original plan to have Melwits help me five years ago was ruined when he was killed. Had I known he had a brother I would have come to him sooner rather than seeking aid from Sir Castine. In the end the simpleton knight sent me right back to Sliver Bay where I plan to ask for Louwits’s aid rather than Sir Castine’s.”

“What makes you think he will risk his men to help you?” Row asks.

“I very nearly convinced Melwits to help me five years ago,” he explains. “If he really is Melwits’s brother then he’ll definitely help.”

“He’s not,” Seamus injects.

“Huh? What do you mean he’s not?” Corvic is caught off guard.

“There is no Melwits,” he answers bluntly. “He was a persona invented by Lord Sliverbane to reinforce his rule without exposing himself.”

“That, that can't be.” Corvic starts to pull on his hair again as he sinks into a nearby chair.

“Seamus, I told you to stop saying impossible things.” Row stands up while turning around to glare at him.

“It’s not impossible, it’s the truth,” he refuses to back down.

“Brother, you’ve met Melwits and Lord Sliverbane before, haven’t you? Tell him it’s impossible.”

“I haven’t,” Corvic whispers inaudibly. With her sensitive ears, Row still hears him. She spins around to stare at him in disbelief. “I never met Lord Sliverbane. I was always told he was a hundred years old and on his deathbed, which we all know is a lie. It’s more than possible. He’s probably right.”

Row’s arms drop to her sides as a look of fear spreads across her face. “What do we do now?” she gasps.

“Do you still want this imposter to marry your sister?” Seamus asks condescendingly. Corvic’s eyes dart from Row to Seamus as he struggles to make up his mind. He still needs his army but once again the situation has changed right beneath his feet. “Well?” Seamus taps his foot impatiently.

“I need to talk to him.” Corvic stands up and marches toward the door. Row quickly gives chase, followed by Seamus at a slow and annoyed saunter. He is aware that his night terrors make trusting him difficult but Row could have at least tried to believe him.

“Ah, do come in.” Carcan is waiting outside of the throne room to allow them access. “I trust you have come to give your reply to my master’s proposal.”

“I have an answer.” Row nods vigorously. “I respectfully decline.”

Carcan stares at her with a dumbfounded expression as she struts into the throne room. “Why hello.” Louwits is once again resting on his throne in an upside-down position. “I’ve been waiting ever so patiently for you, my sweet. I'm terribly sorry about the inhospitable intrusion of that rude demigod the other day. I am ever so glad your man servant was here to take care of it.”

Before Louwits can continue with his signature flamboyant banter, Carcan leans over the side of the throne to whisper something in his ear. “What did you say?” Louwits flips himself upright immediately. “How can she do that; after all I’ve done for her?”

“My mind is made up.” Row crosses her arms.

“You little wench,” Louwits growls at her. “After I’d finally found one of King Doryan’s actual descendents too.”

“About that, why are you so interested in marrying a descendent of Doryan anyway?” Corvic asks.

“And who exactly are you?” Louwits glares at him.

“I'm sorry not to have introduced myself before.” Corvic bows politely. “I am Lord Corvic Ironglave, successor to the Iron Grove territories.”

“Like I care. What do you want with me?” Louwits rolls his eyes. Row is slightly confused. He is displaying none of the finesse or insight he seemed to possess before. In fact, he seems downright rude and snobbish.

“Um, milord, you shouldn’t be so rude to your guests,” Carcan laughs nervously.

“They are not my guests,” he growls. “I want them executed immediately. That or something else dangerous and painful. Get rid of them at once.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Corvic vanishes from his place next to Seamus and reappears directly in front of Louwits.

“Wha-what is the meaning of this?” he rears back in fear, bumping his head against his own throne chair.

“Oh my, I would have thought this to be a simple trick for a royal bloodsucker such as yourself,” Corvic mocks him. “Go on, why don’t you try it?”

“Such a barbaric act is beneath me,” he refuses.

“I must say, I'm terribly disappointed.” Corvic clicks his tongue. “I was expecting so much from the brother of my dear friend Melwits.”

“My brother was archaic,” Louwits scoffs.

“I'll say,” Corvic laughs. “He was a whole two generations older than you.”

Louwits looks extremely guilty as his eyes dart from Corvic to Carcan. “Ah, we give up.” Carcan raises his hands. “At what point did you realize it?”

“To be honest, I never suspected a thing,” Corvic admits. “My sister’s human servant is the one who figured it out.” Seamus does not know whether he is being praised or not.

“What are you saying, Grand Bishop. I am the rightful heir to the Sliverbane line… right?” Louwits refuses to give up.

“It’s over, Loucan,” Carcan sighs.

“Loucan?” Seamus repeats. “Are you two related?”

“This idiot is a distant relative.” Carcan shrugs. “After Lord Sliverbane was murdered five years ago, I trained him to take over the line. I would have preferred to do it myself but the public already knew my face.”

“How exactly did you slip this past your citizens?” Row is impressed.

“Because he’s done it before,” Seamus answers her question. “When were you instated, Grand Bishop?”

“About seven years ago,” Carcan answers. “Lord Sliverbane hired me to help enforce his rule while he hid in the shadows. Having another bloodsucker around can be useful. Many foolish humans, such as that pathetic knight, Sir Prandon, notice things. More than half of the people who come and go from the castle made the connection that our ailing lord was not actually ailing at all. By giving positions of power to other bloodsuckers, Lord Sliverbane basically threatened his more perceptive servants to keep quiet. I was hired simply to project the idea that more bloodsuckers were waiting to kill anyone who spoke out against him.”

“But ruling from the shadows wasn’t enough for Lord Sliverbane,” Seamus continues.

“No, my pathetic lord decided he needed to appear in public again, even if it meant adopting a new name and title. I began to spread rumors that the lord was in poor health and would soon be succeeded by his first son, Melwits. It was perfect… until that blasted guard ruined everything.”

“Do you mean me?” a female voice draws his attention to a stain glass window, which promptly shatters as Maumolla crashes through.

“What are you doing here?” Carcan demands angrily.

“I knew from the moment I heard there was another Sliverbane son that you were up to no good.” She shakes her head disappointedly. “Do you know how much trouble I went through to keep the throne safe from usurpers like Maumolla? Why would you destroy all I did to keep the Sliver Bay territory safe?”

“You have no right to talk to me about usurping!” Carcan growls at her. “What exactly are you doing; hiding behind the mask of a fallen demigod.”

“Wait, that’s not Maumolla?” Row is completely confused.

“It sickens me to even have to use her name.” Maumolla spits on the floor.

“Get out, get out, get out!” Louwits screams at the top of his lungs. “All of you are ruining everything. I was supposed to be lord of Sliver Bay. I was going to rule this territory and the next. I…” his self righteous speech is cut short by a hissing sound from his own lungs. Maumolla’s staff has stretched itself all the way from the window, thinning to a fine point in the process, and puncturing his forehead between his eyes.

“That’s better,” she sighs happily as the staff shrinks back to it’s proper length.

Carcan stumbles backwards in shock as he realizes that his relative is now dead. “Impossible,” he gasps. “Bloodsuckers are not so weak.”

“Bloodsucking, eh?” Maumolla twirls her staff. “I wonder if that’s what you should call them. They don’t really do a lot of sucking, do they? No, this guy does more sucking of blood actually.” She extends the end of Arma Vec again, this time trying to stab Carcan.

He squeals in fright while ducking underneath the sharp white needle. “What have I done to deserve death?”

“No one is ever truly innocent. I would have hoped you would own up to your mistakes and your faults. I guess that truly is too much to ask of a usurper like you.” Maumolla’s staff shrinks back down once again. Row is genuinely surprised to hear her scolding Carcan, not for being a vile creature, but for trying to misappropriate power for himself. It is not clear whether or not Maumolla actually even shares the demigods’ normal hatred of bloodsuckers.

“Please, you don’t have to kill me,” Carcan starts to beg.

“There is really only one cure for your rot,” Maumolla refuses to listen. “Struggling will only prolong your pathetic life. Have some dignity and die like a man.”

Carcan’s eyes suddenly glow red with anger. “Why exactly do I have to die? I’ve been Lord Sliverbane’s loyal servant for years. You’re the one that killed him. I can smell it on you right now.” He points to a white fang dangling from a string around her neck. “Do you always wear your kills like trophies?”

“I wear this to remind me of the man whose name I killed a demigod in. For him I ended the reign of one of the nine. How do you think he repaid me? He tried to kill me. Since then I have judged dozens of humans and bloodsuckers alike. I care not what species you are, only that you abide by this world’s rules.”

“So you’re some kind of enforcer,” Carcan laughs. “Pointless. Do you know how many people are breaking the laws of this world as we speak? I hear there is a great master who creates forbidden weapons by the day. There are lords who tax their citizens to the brink of starvation. Why is my crime so heinous?”

“I can't be everywhere at once. I strive to end any crime I see taking place within my vicinity,” Maumolla makes an excuse.

“You’re weak,” he snorts at her. “Pathetic.”

“You may be right, but what else am I supposed to do? I have this incredible gift; this power that Maumolla did not deserve. I will use it better than she ever did. I will try to right as many wrongs as she committed in her sinfully long lifespan. That is all I can do. And that is why you must die.” Arma Vec extends once more, faster than the eye can see, piercing Carcan in the chest. “It pains me to have to destroy someone so intelligent,” she sighs. “If only you had realized your potential for the right reasons.”

“Wow, judge, jury, and executioner,” Row gulps. “I don’t think I like her.”

“I don’t think she cares,” Seamus whispers.

“Now… what to do with you.” Maumolla turns her attention to the three onlookers. Her staff has already returned to normal. Once again there is not a single drop of blood adorning the blade. It has absorbed what it can, leaving the rest to fade like dust.

“Wait, I thought you already judged me as pure.” Seamus takes a step back.

“That was because I was bleeding and needed time to rest,” she explains. “Now I can do a proper assessment. Are you ready?”

“No. Stay away from him.” Row steps in front of Seamus. “You can't change your mind like that.”

“Why can't I?” Maumolla tilts her head inquisitively. With her mask hiding her facial expressions it is difficult to discern her true intentions. “Someone like me has to always keep an open mind. Imagine if I judged you guilty of a crime you did not commit; you’d be begging me to change my mind. Having the humility to admit when you are wrong is important. Now I ask you again, what are your intentions?”

“I don’t know.” Seamus stares down at his feet. He does not feel like telling a complete stranger anything about his life. Of course, she is no longer a stranger now that he has glimpsed into her mind. Though he only relived a portion of Maumolla’s life in his dream he has periodic access to much more knowledge of her past; both Maumollas’ pasts.

“That’s not a good enough answer.” Maumolla strokes the handle of her staff threateningly. “Why should I not cut you down where you stand and save myself the trouble of hunting you in the near future?”

“Because I haven’t committed any crime,” Seamus spouts. “Not by your standards.”

“Very true. Are you not glad that I can be reasoned with, unlike the many demigods you have encountered thus far, and obviously killed?” Maumolla reveals that she knows exactly who and what Seamus is.

“You’re not like the Red Warrior,” Row is surprised. “He hasn’t been a demigod for very long either yet he already wants us dead.”

“You mean Brand?” Maumolla sighs. “I need to keep a close watch on him. If left alone he will eventually fall to the same temptations as his betters. He has the potential for such great things though.”

The sound of guards shouting and clattering outside the door draws the attention of everyone still alive within the throne room. “It seems they heard the glass breaking,” Row surmises. “What now? We have two dead bloodsuckers here. Care to explain why to them?”

“What?” Maumolla turns back to look at Row in confusion. She is already halfway out the window again.

“Have you no shame?” Row is furious. “You’re the Violet Champion; explain what they were and why you killed them.”

“The fact that they are bloodsuckers does not change anything. I have entered upon the Sliverbane domain without permission,” she explains. “If they catch me they will try to execute me and I will be forced to kill them all.”

“You’re quite confident.” Row is still glaring at her.

“I do hope you make it out alive,” Maumolla quips before jumping out of the window.

Seamus rushes across the room to stare out at the courtyard below, just in time to see her break her fall by stretching her staff to the ground and lowering herself slowly by letting it shrink again. “Wait, where are you going?” he calls after her. He is not sure why he wants to know. He is simply curious about the one demigod he has met so far who seems to regard logic above tradition.

“Did you know? There are not many of the nine left,” Maumolla shouts up at him. “I plan to meet the Titian Witch, Brecha, who lives in the mountains of Raldesh in Lord Raldwin’s territory. She has not held her title long and may yet be saved from the fate that befell the Jade Behemoth and the previous Violet Champion.”

“What fate? You killed both of them,” Seamus mutters to himself.

She is too far away to hear him and simply continues shouting instead. “If you hold the same beliefs as I do, I suggest you head to Palinthia where the Dark Assailant, Kifflan, has recently been summoned to deal with a dangerous situation arising. Put him to the test and if need be, end him.”

“What?” Seamus is shocked. “I'm not an executioner.”

“No, you’re an enforcer of the law, like me,” she spouts proudly. “Kifflan has held his title for almost a hundred years; far too long for a human to live. His life should come to and end soon. If you will not help me, then I shall be forced to end him myself.”

Seamus stares at her blankly as she dashes across the castle courtyard and leaps over the high wall with the assistance of her stretching staff once more. “What was that about?” Row appears behind Seamus and presses her forehead into his back between his shoulders. He is not sure if she is trying to comfort him or if she is the one in need of comforting.

They are not able to remain this way for long though as the doors to the throne room suddenly burst open. A dozen guards barge through with spears raised. “Milord, what’s happening?” Sir Prandon is leading the charge.

“Your lord is dead,” Corvic informs him with a fake smile.

“What?” Prandon glances over at the two fallen bloodsuckers. “Did you do this? Why?”

“I felt like it.” Corvic shrugs.

“What is he doing?” Row whispers to Seamus.

“He’s taking the blame so they don’t come after us,” he explains in an equally hushed voice.

“I don’t know who you are, but you’ve made a grave mistake coming here.” Prandon points his spear at Corvic. “Men, arrest the assassin.” Corvic flashes another phony smile, meant to solidify his supposed guilt, before vanishing into thin air like he always does. “After him!” Prandon shouts as his men scatter with the intention of searching the room. It is at that moment that the knight finally notices the two other occupants of the room staring out the broken stain glass window. “You two, what are you doing here?” he demands.

Row takes a deep breath while adopting a falsely distraught expression. “It was horrible, Sir Prandon.” She clings onto Seamus excessively for effect. “That terrible assassin burst through the window and killed my fiancé.”

“Miss Ironglave,” Prandon quickly recognizes her. “I am so sorry about this. I'm afraid your engagement has been forcibly canceled.” He glances back at his fallen lord. “I'm not sure if we can make this up to you somehow. I'm not even sure our nation will survive the turmoil of another deceased lord.”

“I'm afraid we can not stay here.” Row drapes her arm over her eyes dramatically as if she is about to faint. “Can you prepare a coach?”

“Of course, milady. The driver will take you to the very edge of the Sliverbane territory. Once again, I do apologize for all of this. I wish you could have departed under better circumstances.” He drops to one knee and bows before marching out of the room.

“That went well,” Seamus sighs while wiping a large amount of sweat from his forehead.

“I wonder if we really should head to Palinthia,” Row is busy muttering to herself.

“What? Why?” Seamus is caught off guard.

“I believe Lord Goldfrey’s territory is the next one over. Even if the driver refuses to cross the border, it shouldn’t be too far,” Row simply continues talking to herself.

“Hey, why are we even considering this?” Seamus asks in annoyance. “Are we really going to hunt down the remaining demigods just because Maumolla said we should?”

“It will be better than waiting for them to come to us,” Row assures him. “Besides, doing what she says makes her our ally. Because you failed to retrieve Arma Tua, we have no choice but to hope she can defeat the Red Warrior before he decides hunt us down again.”

“So this is all my fault?” Seamus is even more annoyed now. It is not like he didn’t even try to acquire Arma Tua; Maumolla simply outwitted him.

“It doesn’t matter whose fault it is.” She links their arms in hopes of calming him down, which seems to work. “We don’t actually have to do anything if you don’t want to. Who knows if Kifflan will even be in Palinthia.” Seamus takes a deep breath rather than responding. He has no intention of arguing with his mistress. If she wants to travel to Palinthia, then he will follow her; that is all there is to it.

“Absolutely not!” Nuve shouts as soon as Row and Seamus inform him of their intended destination. Something they waited to do until they were well on their way.

“Why?” Seamus tilts his head in confusion. “Aren't you from Palinthia?”

“Exactly. What makes you think I ever want to return to that wretched place?” Nuve is seething.

“Did something happen?” Row is equally confused. “Are you not welcome in your own home town?”

“I told you it was a place for no good thieves and scoundrels, didn’t I?” he snaps at her. “Do you want to have the clothes stolen right off your back?”

“I find that hard to believe.” Seamus shakes his head. “You said it was the place all law breakers in Goldfrey’s territory are sent for execution or incarceration. That means there should at least be some form of law enforcement in the area to protect against such acts. Not to mention the fact that you could be tried and hanged much quicker if you committed a crime within the city itself.”

“That’s… well… um…” Nuve is at a loss. It seems that Seamus is correct. Whatever his reasons for not wanting to return home, fear of lawbreakers is not his main concern. Eventually Nuve simply falls silent, staring out the window of the one coach Sir Prandon was able to allot for their departure.

“It’s really far behind us, isn’t it?” Row sighs as she glances back at the seaside city, now barely visible over the horizon.

“Did you really want to stay there?” Minto asks with a twinge of skepticism in her voice. She finds it hard to believe Row was ever interested in marrying Louwits, whom she still believes was a full blooded lord. Seamus and Row have made sure not to inform either of their human companions of the fact that he was merely a usurper placed in power by the now deceased Grand Bishop Carcan.

“Row likes to wander,” Seamus answers with a sigh. “Everything is a new experience for her and no two cities are alike. She could spend a lifetime exploring each.”

“No, not a lifetime.” Row hangs her head solemnly. After a certain amount of time, the local villagers’ animosity towards bloodsuckers always disheartens her. As much as she enjoys the view of each new city, she has yet to find a place where she actually belongs.

“Oh wow,” Nuve suddenly gasps. He still has his head thrust out the window of the carriage in order to see the passing landscape. What has caught his attention is a large clearing of grass soaked in what appears to be dry blood.

“Hey, I’ve seen one of those.” Row pokes her head out as well. “The merchant in Bos Stad called it a safe area. It’s been…”

“Soaked in the blood of slain ghouls,” Nuve finishes her sentence. “Demigods create them all the time, whether intentionally or as a side effect of traveling through the woods on their own. They are extremely useful for traders and travelers alike. Without them trips between cities would be next to impossible.”

“There he goes again, praising his precious demigods,” Seamus grumbles in annoyance.

“I'm sorry, have I offended you?” Nuve pulls his head back into the coach to glare at him.

“You never shut up, do you?” Seamus snaps at him. “What is so damn great about those inhuman monsters?”

“You’re one to talk about inhuman monsters.” Nuve jerks his head at Row. For this he receives a swift punch to the face, which knocks him back into the side of the coach.

“Stop it!” Minto stands up between them. “What’s wrong with you two? You usually fight so well together.”

“Who fights well with that excuse for a demigod?” Nuve grumbles while crossing his arms and turning away.

“I'm a much better demigod than any of those I’ve met so far!” Seamus spits at him.

“Really? What about Husk?” Nuve counters. “Are you better than the Bronze Cognition? And, oh yes, don’t think I’ve forgotten about poor Wan. What did he do to you that deserved being killed?”

“Don’t talk about Wan!” Seamus’s eyes flare silver. “You don’t know anything.”

“Don’t forget, I’ve met Wan,” Nuve reminds him. “I was training to become his vassal one day.”

“I bet he didn’t even want you,” Seamus scoffs.

“I was set to meet him in Glass Gate about five years ago, but…” Nuve’s voice trails off.

“What? What happened?” Minto is far too interested by now to let him stop.

“He died!” Row is the one to answer.

“Wait, when was that?” Minto is confused. “I thought you only killed Wan recently.”

Row shakes her head slowly. “We didn’t kill Wan. He was…” She looks to Seamus for the answer.

“He was lured into an ambush in the slums of Glass Gate and attacked by twenty bloodsuckers and several more ghouls. He killed all but one of them who managed to feed on him and absorb enough of his shape shifting ability to weaken Wan and strengthen himself.”

“How do you know that?” Nuve’s jaw is hanging open in disbelief.

“I hold his memories.” Seamus taps his own forehead. “I can even recall his last minutes of life. You were actually one of the people he thought about. I didn’t realize it until just now though. You look nothing like that little red haired brat.”

Nuve instinctively touches his browning red hair that has darkened with his age. It is not quite as lovely a shade Row’s though. The Ironglave line was famous for their auburn hair, which has mixed beautifully with Lady Owleen’s slick black locks to make something unique to the young bloodsucker. “Wait, what happened to Con and Dalgo?” Nuve suddenly shouts. “What about Coltsus and Nolst? What about Bask?”

Seamus winces as the painful memory of Wan’s deceased vassals returns. “You can't be serious.” Nuve drops to his knees. “Those where my best friends. Nolst is… he’s the one who…” Nuve is unable to finish his sentence, but what he means to say is clear. He is gripping the leather strap around the base of his metal arm with his left hand tightly. Nolst must have been the one to accidentally sever his limb when he was being dragged into the woods by a ghoul.

Minto reaches out toward him without knowing where he actually is. Eventually he releases his hold on the leather strap to take her hand and lead her back to a proper seat. “I'm sorry,” he mutters to Seamus while hanging his head solemnly. “You actually avenged Wan, didn’t you? For that I thank you.” He traces a W across his chest.

Seamus grits his teeth angrily as he watches. The act seems to almost disgust him. “I know that you feel the demigods are heroes to be worshiped, Nuve, but I see them completely different. The first one I ever met stole my mother, my mentor and my memories from me. I can't blame him because he was merely doing what he was supposed to as a demigod but it made me realize, they are not heroes; not in the slightest.”

“I think you misunderstand me.” Nuve shakes his head. “I'm not under any illusion that the demigods are perfect. It’s quite the opposite in fact. When you live as long as they have and hold as much responsibility and power, you let go of the less important things like human emotions and values. I don’t pray to the demigods, Seamus; I pray for them.”

“Why?” Minto asks with a confused look on her face. “They surely don’t need it.”

“Whether they need it or not, no one is going to pray for them but me,” Nuve answers sadly. “Thousands of people call upon the demigods to save them; not one person ever lifts a finger to save a demigod. You say they don’t need saving. I say, they need saving more than anyone.”

“And that’s exactly what Maumolla thinks she’s doing,” Seamus mutters. “She thinks she’s saving them from themselves.”

“Maybe she is.” Row shrugs. “My mother raised me with the knowledge of each demigod. I'm almost certain she intended for me to cleanse the world of the demigods one day.”

Minto grips Nuve’s hand tightly, expecting him to be upset. Instead he simply turns to stare out the window of the coach again, signaling the end of the conversation. The rest of the occupants of the coach are now all deep in thought. Whether they feel the same way he does or not, Nuve’s point of view is a lot more clear to them now. In a world where people are constantly begging demigods for help, who is actually trying to help them?
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