The Crown that Was Never Meant to Be

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Chapter Four

The man- Cazriel- offered her a handshake.

Well. This was unexpected.

Quickly, she shook off the shock, taking his hand with a smile. "Thanks, but I think I may have just doomed it."

The man's purely silver eyes lit up with amusement. He chuckled a little, saying, "You bringing them here helps. Despite your mate's concerns, you did the right thing."

A bit of confusion bloomed in her chest.

How had he known that Damon had protested bringing the wrong winged to Averrok?

"Oh, Angel, I know everything," Cazriel said, "Well, bits and pieces of it, anyway."

"Because that's not creepy," Maroon said.

He just gave Maroon a knowing smile, as if his unseeing eyes could see right through her soul.

Maroon grinned back, more a show of teeth than a smile.

"Either way," Cazriel went on, dropping Angelica's hand and turning his gaze back to her, "You've all been invited to my home for dinner, and because I need to speak with you, as Ember already told you."

Angelica nodded. "Of course."

"Lilac included," Cazriel said.

Amber eyed the man she'd tied up, who just snorted at her. "See? I'm not a threat."

"Oh, you definitely aren't," Cazriel agreed, "Yet, in a way, you are."

Amber's fingers twitched, as if fighting not to grab the knife at her hip.

"Amber," Diamond warned.

The girl gritted her teeth, took in a breath, and said, "He betrays us and I'm spilling his blood across the gates."

"No, you won't," Cazriel stated.

Amber stiffened. She turned to the man, her molten scarlet eyes flashing, and she snapped, "You can take your damned know-it-all attitude and shove it up your-,"

"Amber!" Domino snapped, "Watch your mouth!"

The girl hissed at Domino, but shut up.

With a sigh, Angelica looked to Cazriel. She put a smile on her face, and said, "We'd love to join you for dinner. This one here especially."

Nyx grinned, snuggling closer to her sister.

Cazriel chuckled. "Oh, little dark star. I take it you're hungry?"

She nodded. "Very."

"Then let's waste no time in getting you fed," the angel said, turning to led them away.

Angelica waved for the others to follow. It almost surprised her when they all obeyed. Amber even cut Lilac's bonds and let him follow, albeit the knife she kept out, ready to kill the man, should he act up.

"I asked my wife to prepare chicken, just for you," Cazriel told the little girl.

Nyx's grin widened, exclaiming, "Thank you!"

"You're very welcome. But remember to thank her as well, little Nyx," he said.

"I will," Nyx promised, her eyes bright.

Angelica smiled. She gave her sister a kiss to the forehead, and the girl again relaxed in her arms. A moment of silence went by, Cazriel's gaze on her as if he expected her to ask something.

And then, as if by magic, the question popped into her head.

"What should we do about Damon and Jewel?" Angelica asked.

"You'll tell them about everything we discuss. There's no issue with them not being here," Cazriel replied.

She nodded, continuing along. The rest of the walk passed by silently, save for the shuffle of feet along the path down the middle of the town. They passed by all four rows of houses before turning to the field.

Correction. To the house on a hill behind the field.

A house Angelica had never before noticed.

She blinked, all the confusion she let show.

"Be fair to yourself," Cazriel said, "The only time you'd have noticed it was during the Winter Celebration, and it was far too dark for that."

Angelica just nodded, not sure whether the words required thanks or questioning.

Again, that silence settled in, only being broken when a midnight black demon woman who looked to be about Cazriel's age strode out, a bright smile on her lips.

"Welcome home," she said, to no one in particular.

Then she strode to Cazriel, took his hands, and laid her forehead against his, murmuring a hello. He smiled and replied her hello with a soft kiss.

Nyx made her usual 'blegh' sound. Cazriel chuckled.

"Just wait until you find a mate of your own, little dark star," he said.

Snorted, announcing, "I am never going to have a mate, and I am never going to fall in love."

Cazriel laughed. He then pulled back from his wife and introduced her. "My amazing mate and wife, Gwendolyn. The reason I founded this town, and the reason I became a seer. Or a priest, if you want to put it that way."

"More like a gods-damned life wrecker," Amber muttered.

Domino hushed the girl, and Angelica greeted, "It's nice to meet you, Gwendolyn."

"It's wonderful to meet you, too," she replied, approaching the girl, "Angelica, is it?"

"That's me," Angelica replied.

"And this is Nyx, then?" she asked, looking to the girl.

Angelica nodded. "My beloved little sister who hates any affection that isn't for her."

Nyx just smiled, affirming her sister's words.

"She's adorable," Gwendolyn said, "It's nice to meet you, little Nyx."

"It's nice to meet you, too," replied the little girl, still beaming.

"Are you hungry, love?" Gwendolyn asked.

Nyx nodded vigorously, and Gwendolyn smiled.

"Well, then let's go get dinner," she said.

Nyx grinned, excitement gleaming in her eyes. Gwendolyn offered a hand to Nyx, helping her down from her sister's arms. Angelica stuck close to her sister's side as the old woman led them into her home.

"Do you have any children?" Angelica asked as she passed through the door.

The scent of chicken filled the air around them, and Angelica realized just how hungry she was.

"No," Gwendolyn said, "I've only known Caz for thirty years. By the time I met him... Well, three hundred and forty is a little old to be having children."

Thirty years ago, she'd been three hundred and forty. Making her three hundred and seventy now.

So old, and yet she had at least one hundred years ahead of her, with their five hundred year lifespans.

"You're really old," Nyx said, marveling at the woman.

She chuckled. "Indeed I am. I bet your parents aren't passed their fifth decade yet."

In fact, they weren't. Victoria was thirty seven, Night thirty nine.

Thirty seven and thirty nine, compared to three hundred and seventy.

Angelica almost marveled at the difference.

"Be glad that you met your mate as early as you did," Cazriel said, "A lot of us don't. More than you realize."

Angelica understood why.

With five hundred year life spans, the only way to keep from overpopulation would be to withhold mates from meeting until it was too late for them to reproduce. A lot of couples wouldn't even meet until after three hundred, like Cazriel and Gwendolyn.

"I'm sorry," Angelica said.

"We don't mind," Cazriel said, "We've got a town to take care of. Adding in any little ones would be just a little difficult. Really, I don't know how monarchs do it."

Jackal snorted. "They don't."

Domino gave her husband's hand a gentle squeeze and a sad glance.

"I truly am sorry for who sired you," Cazriel said, sparing Amber a glance, "Both of you."

Amber just snarled. Maroon snorted. "You're being more dramatic than I am."

"Maroon, stuff it," Amber snapped.

She held up her hands, padding up to Angelica as they broke into the dining room.

"Sit where you like," Gwendolyn said, "I'll bring dinner out."

Before she could run off into the kitchen, however, her husband caught her around the waist, again kissed her, and mumbled his thanks for her making dinner. She just smiled and left, Cazriel staring after her with a smile on his lips and love in his silver eyes.

Maroon waltzed over to a random chair, flopped down, and sprawled herself across the ornately carved wooden chair. Nyx skipped over to the chair beside her.

Cazriel sighed. He straightened, however, and motioned to his long oak wood table. "Please, leave two at the end for my wife and I."

Angelica dipped her head in thanks and claimed a seat beside her sister. The others took up seats around the table, leaving two chairs open at the end, a few others open here and there.

Five chairs were left open. Three, really, after Cazriel and Gwendolyn claimed theirs. Angelica almost would have thought them for Damon and Jewel, had there not been one extra chair.

Cazriel frowned. "Where's the eleventh?"

"Who?" Maroon asked.

It clicked, then. "Oh. You've yet to meet him, then."

Angelica nodded. "I keep hearing about him, but I've never met him."

Something like doubt flashed in Cazriel's eyes, but he nodded.

"I thought you knew everything," Maroon said.

"As I said, bits and pieces. And the past, present, and future sometimes get mixed together," Cazriel said.

"Well, then at least we know this guy isn't going to kill us," Maroon said.

"I doubt that," Amber said.

Maroon lifted a brow, Jackal giving his sister a curious glance.

"I met him once," Amber said, "Then I left the next day."

"He's that scary?" Diamond asked, a hint of nervousness in her voice.

"He's that broken," Amber replied.

A sullen silence settled over the group.

"Well, then you're welcome, for kidnapping you," Maroon said.

"Did he try to attack you?" Serafina asked.

She shook her head.

"Then why did you leave?" Diego inquired.

Amber lifted her gaze to the man sitting across from her. "You didn't hear the screams I did. You didn't see the brokenness I did. You didn't feel his blood beneath your feet."

Maroon swallowed a little nervously. "So...so you really think he'd hurt us, his fellow wrong winged?"

"I think he'd do anything to escape the pain, if only for a day," Amber replied.

A pang of sorrow flashed in Angelica's chest. Not the fear she expected, but... sorrow. True sorrow.

"That's not reassuring," Maroon mumbled, "Maybe we shouldn't bring this guy in."

"You'll find, Maroon, that you're a little more sympathetic than you think you are," Cazriel said.

Maroon didn't look so sure. She opened her mouth to say just that, but Gwendolyn interrupted, bringing in the most delicious smelling chicken Angelica had ever had the pleasure of scenting.

The pleasantries lasted for about ten minutes. Then Angelica remembered why they were there.

She slowed her eating, glancing to Cazriel. He seemed to be waiting for her to ask the question forming in her mind, but it wasn't overly obvious.

"So," Angelica said, "What did you need to talk to us about?"

"Well," Cazriel said, "There are a lot of things I know that I can't tell you, as I'm bound by oath not to reveal anything drastically important, but I can nudge you in the right direction."

"And that thing is...?" Domino asked.

"Well, the lot of you needs to pick a leader," Cazriel said, "And not just one for the lot of you. One willing to rule an entire country."

Silence.

Complete and utter silence.

"Not it," Maroon said.
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