He sighs and tips back in his chair, staring up at the carved stone of the ceiling. They’re arguing again, but that’s nothing new. Eventually they’ll grow bored of it and dismiss him, or maybe at least distracted enough that he can slip out without using magic and tripping the wards. 

“Preposterous. We cannot let the abomination go,” one of them says. 

“Perhaps if we were to requisition some of the texts His Grace requested, it might simplify things-“

“Nonsense!” This, from his father.

Sighing, he lets his chair slam back down against the stone with a sharp crack. Their attention snaps to him, but that’s the only acknowledgment he gets – several glares and one disdainful sniff before they continue their bickering. 

He wonders what the consequences will be this time. Last time, there hadn’t been any. There usually weren’t. But then, he usually didn’t get caught by celestials. Sanctimonious pricks. 

Sometimes, he counts how many different ways they find to refer to him without using his name. Not today, though. 

Today, things take a turn toward concerning far too quickly for his liking. 

“My Lord,” this from Xalthus, his father’s attendant and through and through lackey. He wants almost nothing more than to run the snivelling little imp through, especially in this moment. Especially when he says, “You of course recall that this is not the first time that the abomination has given us trouble. And as the Archduke, you do not need me to tell you that it is… damaging for these things to keep occurring. Of course your subjects, and the populace at large, are sympathetic. Your dedication to your family is something that we all should strive toward-”

This makes him choke on a humorless laugh. “Like you’d know, you fucking traitor.”

His father glares at him, his golden eyes going crimson, and he thinks he even sees the tip of his tail twitch. 

“You would though, wouldn’t you,” he continues, a desperate sort of plan piecing itself together in the back of his mind. “I was just a fool for thinking it was me you were loyal to. It’s not even him though, is it? You’re only looking out for yourself, and once you determined there was little chance of you moving up the food chain with me, you turned tail like the coward you are. Does he know?” he asks, standing. This gets him attention. 

He straightens, letting his back crack. It doesn’t do much for his stature – he has too much of his mother in him for that, whatever that means, but it does make a couple of his father’s advisors reassess how casually they’d been sitting. How close they are to him. 

“Does he know what you were willing to do to prove your loyalty, Xalthus?”

“Enough, boy,” his father says. And oh, he’s angry now. 

He can feel it in the air. The crackle and spark of magic that his father pulls to him, leeching it from the environment. It’s enough that no one notices as he siphons some off for himself; most of them are likely too weak to pick up on something like that, even if they tried. Doesn’t do a single thing for the fact that he’s very, very outnumbered, but-

“It wasn’t very good, so I’m not quite sure why he’s still fucking you. But it was a way to pass the time.” 


“Sorry father,” he says, drawing the magic toward himself a bit more quickly now. “I simply couldn’t help myself. After all, I am an abomination.”

“I should have cast you into the pits as an infant. Never should have lain with your whore of a mother-”

“Well there’s something we both can agree on. I would’ve thought you’d have developed your tastes a little in the interim, but clearly not if you’re still carrying on with that,” he says, gesturing to Xalthus.

Of everything he’s said, somehow that’s what finds the mark. The imp launches himself over the table, wings propelling Xalthus toward him. All he has to do is- 

His fingers make no sound as they enter Xalthus’s chest, the plunge aided by magic. There’s no mistaking the wet, sucking sound as he rips out his heart, though. The body falls to the floor and leaves him standing there, considering the still-beating lump of black flesh in his hand. 

The magic surges and he sucks it in. He drops the heart and meets his fathers eyes, now two red for his one. 

“You’ll pay for that,” his father says, standing now. 

“No,” he replies with a smile. He can’t help the laugh that slips in as he says, “No, I don’t think I will. I do think I’ll be going now, though.”

“You will not!” His father’s voice echoes like a thunderclap off the stone, making his advisors shrink reflexively in their seats. 

“Who’s going to stop me? You? No, father, I think you’ll find if you were going to do that, you should have- what was it you just said? Cast me into the pits as an infant? A bit late for that now though. Do take care.” 

And then he snaps his fingers, and is gone.

“Find him,” the Archduke says. “Find him and bring him to me. No matter the cost.”

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