by Katie Vieceli


She turned and looked at Touchstone, wondering at the suddenly serious tone to his voice. They were lying in bed, and he had been stroking her pregnant belly . Talk of names for the new baby had tapered off into what she had thought was a comfortable silence until just a moment ago. "What is it, Touchstone?"

"I need to tell you something."

She reached out and took his hand, which was trembling. He was white as a sheet and shaking such as she'd never seen him do, not even in battle, not even when she'd had such trouble birthing Ellimere. "Yes?"

"It's about Rogir-Kerrigor, I mean. Something happened between us that I think you should know." He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing. "It happened soon after he had returned from his long absence. One night, he found me alone on one of the castle's balconies-I had come there after patrol, to be by myself for a moment.

"He came toward me, and I remember thinking that he was beautiful, more beautiful than he had ever been, and his eyes were so dark. I should have known then that he was already Dead.

And he said, 'Let's play together, little brother, like when we were children.'"

Sabriel could almost hear his voice, the scraping, dirty-pale croak of Kerrigor, though she supposed that he must have sounded different back then.

Touchstone backed away until he could feel rough stone against his back. "That was long ago, Rogir, before I knew that we share a mother."

"You forget that I always knew. It didn't bother me then, and I find..." He chuckled, "I find it doesn't trouble me now, either." He reached out and stroked Touchstone's cheek. "Don't you remember how I used to make you feel?"

Touchstone pushed him away, roughly enough that he fell against the far wall. Rogir laughed and got to his feet, drawing his hand across his mouth. There was a mark there, red and angry-looking, likely to bruise.

Rogir felt it, and smiled at Touchstone. "You're marked me, little one. Does this mean I belong to you now?"

Touchstone shook his head.

"And then he..."

"What? What did he do?" Touchstone shook his head and looked down at the bed, avoiding her gaze. She kissed his hair, murmuring words of comfort.

"He put his finger in his mouth and he bit down. I could see that it caused him pain, or perhaps he only feigned it, but when he showed me it, his finger was bleeding."

His nostrils flared. Even this far away, even with such a small amount, he could feel the berserker instincts rising. He shifted his weight, but he could already feel the hair begin to stand up on the back of his neck. "Stay away."

But Rogir was advancing on him, his hand stretched out towards Touchstone, as if he was offering the blood to him. "You think I don't know the training of the Royal Guard? How they make their men into dogs, ready to rage at the scent of blood?"

"Get away from me. I'll hurt you."

"You can't hurt me." He was very close, and the scent of blood was powerful, though it smelled of silver, not the dull copper he was accustomed to. "You won't hurt me, I'm of Royal blood." His palm was covered with blood now, and he laid his hand on his half-brother's cheek again, smearing it with the warm fluid. Touchstone whimpered, but it was too late. Every rational thought had fled from his mind, replaced by the bloodscent surrounding him. His last conscious sight was Rogir's triumphant smile.

"You were lovers?" Sabriel asked when he finished speaking.

"No! No." He squeezed her hand. "Not like you and I, sweetheart."

"But you were with him, as a man would be with a woman?"

He nodded gravely. "Only when we were teenagers, before I knew, and the one other time, when he..."

"When he forced you," she finished for him.

"Yes. He must have been using Free Magic, though I didn't realize it at the time." He looked up at her. "Can you forgive me?"

"Do you ever think of him?" She was as pale as he was by this time, and her voice sounded thin and reedy in the darkness. "When you make love to me, do you ever think of him?"

"Absolutely not. Whenever I think of him now, I can only see him as he was the night you killed him." He pulled her close.

"His breath smelled of death. He wanted to kiss me..." Even after all this time, she still sometimes felt the rasp of his ruined lips against her skin. "He would have forced me too, I think."

His arms tightened around her. She felt warm and safe, protected against anything and everything that might try to harm her. Touchstone was here, and he would protect her, as she must protect him, from present dangers and those in the past. "I love you. Nothing can change that. I'll be with you always."

"Yes. You and I and Ellimere and the new baby. We're a family now."


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Plain Style / Fancy Style