â€œAnd thus did the Anathema Jochim fall, and the people cried out with joy.â€ Tenrek smiled softly, closing the book and setting it to one side. â€œAnd now, Danei, you should be asleep. Your father would not be pleased to see you up so late.â€
The girl sitting in her bed smiled brightly, and nodded. â€œI guess I will sleep, then, Tenrek.â€ She laid back, hair the colour of flames spreading on the pillow behind her. â€œTenrek?â€
â€œYes, Danei?â€ Tenrek stood as he spoke. Although he was four years her elder, he never forgot his position in the household. As a beastman, he was little more than a pet for the young Dynast; and she would live long after a simple soul like him passed on. He walked to the candles, extinguishing them one by one with a thick-skinned hand.
â€œWhat happened to Jochimâ€™s son?â€
Tenrek paused, glancing back at the girl. â€œHe forsook the dark ways of his father for the Dynasty, of course. His life was one of glory.â€
â€œOh. Ok.â€ Danei paused, then laid back down on the bed. â€œGood night.â€
â€œGood night.â€ The lights out, Tenrek walked to the foot of the bed and sat, cross-legged. It was a comfortable position to sleep in for him, though purely human servants might not have thought so.
It was going to be one of those nights. Sighing to himself, the young beastman abandoned all thoughts of sleep. â€œYes, Danei?â€
â€œIf he was a demon, why did he have a family?â€
Tenrek sat up, his eyes glittering in the darkness. â€œI suppose everyone has a family, Danei. He wasnâ€™t always a demon.â€
â€œButâ€¦ if it was really a family, wouldnâ€™t they stay with him? No matter what?â€
Tenrek paused. â€œSometimes, there are things more important that family. Iâ€™m sure your father has told you that.â€
â€œYes.â€ The voice was subdued, and Tenrek shook his head. He waited, and was not surprised when, after a few moments, she spoke again. â€œTenrek?â€
â€œDo you have a family?â€
The question was entirely unexpected. For a few moments, Tenrek could do nothing but gape at the child. â€œIâ€¦ that isâ€¦ I did. They died when I was very young.â€
â€œOh.â€ There was another long pause. â€œWhen my father attacked your people.â€
Tenrek ran a scaly hand across his scalp, glad that Danei could not see his sudden concern in the darkness. â€œDanae, this is not talk for a dark night like this. I am here now. That is what matters.â€
â€œDo you hate me?â€ Danaeâ€™s voice was subdued, almost forlorn.
â€œNo!â€ Tenrek stood abruptly, walking over to the side of the bed. â€œDanae, I could never hate you.â€ His lips quirked into a smile. â€œWhat happened those years ago â€“ those people stood against the Dynasty out of greed and pride, and your father was as kind as he could be. He had to stop them. To take me in as a servant after that â€“ that was kinder still.â€ It was not strictly true. There had been no kindness towards Tenrek meant; the Dynast had simply seen a child and thought of his own daughter. Tenrek was no more than a gift to her, and outside of that, Vâ€™Neef Soldias could not have cared less if Tenrek lived or died. But there was one truth in his words, and he willed Danae to see it as he spoke. â€œYou are the meaning to my life, Danae.â€
â€œAnd you wonâ€™t leave me?â€
â€œNever ever.â€ Tenrek sat down by the side of the bed. â€œI am your servant as long as you will have me.â€
Danae nodded, and it took him a moment to realize that she was crying. â€œForever and ever, Tenrek. Iâ€™ll never let you go.â€ She reached out, and he let her take his hand for a moment. Slowly, she drifted into sleep.
But something was wrong. Her hand started to tighten, and a part of Tenrek whispered in fear. This is not how it went. I stayed with her until dawn. This is notâ€¦ The ground beneath him turned slick and dark, and he heard her voice again.
â€œForever and ever, Tenrek. You promised.â€
Desperately, he tried to lift her, to gather her to him. But she wouldnâ€™t move. And then her face twisted around to him, and it wasnâ€™t hers at all, it was Gabrielâ€™s face, his friend and mentor from years later, staring at him with silent accusation. â€œYou promised, Tenrek. You left us to die.â€
â€œNo.â€ Tenrek started to pull back, but the walls were pushing in, and Gabrielâ€™s face faded away, to be replaced by that of Amaya.
â€œYou promised me. Now look at me.â€ The blood was flowing out of her mouth as she spoke, and he was choking on it, it was everything and everywhereâ€¦
Tenrek sat up with a shuddering gasp. Amaya took him by the shoulders, kneeling beside him. â€œItâ€™s alright. Youâ€™re here. Everythingâ€™s alright.â€
â€œNothing is alright.â€ Tenrek clenched his fist for a moment, forcing his memories back into their places in the depths of his mind. There were larger concerns. â€œIâ€™ll be alright.â€
â€œI know. Youâ€™re strong, Tenrek. You just donâ€™t know it yet. Have faith in the Sun.â€ Amaya stood slowly, offering Tenrek her hand, and he took it, pulling himself to his feet.
â€œThe Sun helps those who help themselves.â€ The cheerful voice came from the doorway of the burned-out house that Tenrek and his allies had been using for shelter. â€œAnd I think heâ€™s going to be very cheerful today.â€
Amaya sighed quietly, then nodded after a moment. â€œIt is time?â€
â€œWell, thereâ€™s a Haslanti army moving through the city, and I see shadows on the western sky, so Iâ€™d say so. Ready for the big show?â€
Tenrek nodded, reaching for his heavy fur-lined buff jacket. â€œI hope that this works.â€
â€œTrust me.â€ Tepet Fokuf grinned widely, glancing out the window. â€œItâ€™s going to be a blast.â€