Spoilers ahead. If you have not yet read Reap the Wind, the seventh Cassie Palmer book, please skip this page. |
This was one of my favorite scenes from Reap the Wind, which
unfortunately had to be trimmed due to the length of the book. But I'm
happy to offer it here, because I think it gives an excellent look into
Rosier's view of what happened between Pritkin and his wife. It also
explains why Rosier left Cassie at the mill in Wales; they'd had an
argument just prior to that decision. Enjoy!
Lost Chapter: Reap the Wind
said, as we struggled through some gorse bushes, hours later. “I rather
“So much that you never bothered to warn her?”
“Oh, that again.”
“Yes, that. You’re going to tell me that isn’t true, either?”
“What I’ll tell you is that Ruth was more of a demon than he is.”
We had somehow
ended up talking about Pritkin’s late wife, I wasn’t quite sure how.
Maybe because Rosier talked about everything. I’d never seen a man who
had more trouble just shutting up. Or maybe I’d never met one who had
been fawned over and flattered to the point that he honestly thought
everything he had to say was fascinating.
It wasn’t. A lot of it I didn’t even understand. But Ruth . . . yeah, I knew that story.
At least, I knew one side of it.
“And what does that mean?” I demanded.
“It means that she came to me, wanting advice --”
“From someone she’d never met?”
“Who else? Her
fiancé?” Rosier shot me a look over his shoulder. “When she already
knew what his answer would be? Yes, she came to me. And very sensibly,
“And what did you do?”
“I gave her what she asked for.”
“You told her
that demon sex with Pritkin would kill her.” I didn’t bother to keep
the skepticism out of my voice. It was the main reason Pritkin hadn’t
spoken to his father in the last century or so.
And I really couldn’t blame him.
Once the power
exchange that constituted demon sex started, it apparently took quick
thinking and a thorough understanding of the process to cut it off.
Especially if you weren’t the one who had initiated it. But Pritkin
hadn’t had that knowledge, because he hadn’t had sex with demons.
I wasn’t sure
why he’d passed up a chance to augment his power like that, since
getting him to talk was almost as hard as getting Rosier to shut up.
But it probably had something to do with the fact that demon sex could
lead to a transfer of more than just power. Traits from one partner
could sometimes be passed to another, and Pritkin had more demon in him
than he wanted already. So he had deliberately avoided entanglements
that might tie him even more firmly to his father’s realm.
But then he’d
met Ruth, from one of those rare demon families weak enough to consider
intermarriage with humans. She’d been mostly human herself, living on
earth, and giving every appearance of intending to stay that way. And I
guess he’d fallen for her. Or maybe he just enjoyed being with someone
he didn’t have to constantly hide part of himself from. But either way,
they’d gotten engaged.
“No, as it was
hardly a foregone conclusion,” Rosier said testily. “I informed her
that it might increase her own strength, as she hoped. But that a more
likely outcome, given her power level, was that that the usual loop
would become a drain, and that his strength would overwhelm hers. That
instead of gaining power, she would lose it, and also possibly her
“And yet she went ahead anyway? Knowing the risk?”
“Because that is
what we do. That is who we are. Demons strive to be better than we were
born to be. To rise above the forces constraining our lives and to
forge them anew. To create ourselves in our own image, in whatever form
we dare envision!”
“Self-improvement is one thing,” I argued. “But risking your life --”
Rosier asked, sitting on a rock, the only one of any size available,
and pulling off his remaining shoe. “She ran a moth-eaten boardinghouse in
Manchester where she eked out a living providing bad food and worse
beds to the dregs of the
middle class. And she didn’t even own the
house! She managed it, and for piss poor wages that would never allow
her to do any better.”
He paused to
pour half a mountain’s worth of gravel out of the shoe. “She hated
earth,” he added, grimacing. “One sympathizes.”
“She might not have liked her position --”
Rosier cut me
off with a gesture. “Try to understand something beyond your own
limited experience, girl. She didn’t dislike her position. She hated
it. And with good cause. Our kind seek power like you humans seek air,
and she had none --”
“Yes, but --”
“-- and her
choices in the dear Victorian age,” he continued, talking over me.
“Which your kind have romanticized to a ludicrous degree, by the way,
were landlady, governess, companion to some querulous old woman, or
marriage. She chose marriage. And to someone who could give her not
only a new life, but a new world. It was absolutely the best play she
“If it worked.”
“Yes, if. If her
gamble paid off, she’d have everything she’d ever wanted, and more than
she’d ever dreamed of. If it worked, she wouldn’t be merely an
appendage to a powerful man, but a power in her own right, someone to
be respected, admired, even feared. If that one roll of the dice went
her way, the rest of her future was assured, and gloriously at that.”
“And if it didn’t?”
“Then it didn’t. But any demon worth his or her salt would have taken
that chance. I would have. Was it dangerous? Yes! Was it worth it? She
“And you never told Pritkin this? Never warned him?”
and pulled out the last of our water. He didn’t offer me any. “He never
“That’s a cop
out and you know it! She wasn’t just risking her own life. She was
risking making him her murderer and you knew --”
“You sound like
him,” Rosier said bitterly. “Don’t try to put the blame for this on me.”
“Then where should I put it?”
belongs! If he had been where he was supposed to be, known what he was
supposed to know, none of this would ever have --”
“You’re blaming Pritkin?”
“Why not?” I
started to tell him exactly why not, but then I stopped. Not because of
any hint from Rosier, who had a damned good poker face when he wanted
to. But because something had just occurred to me. Something I should
have realized before.
“You wanted her to succeed, didn’t you?”
There was no
answer that time, but I was suddenly sure of it. Not because of the
expression on his face, which didn’t change. But because something
finally made sense.
too-many-to-name failings, Rosier did occasionally show a glimmer of
genuine feeling for his son. So I’d never understood why he would set
him up like that. Why he would deliberately not warn him about his
fiancée’s plans, even though he had to suspect that Pritkin might not
know how to stop her.
“If it had
worked, you’d have finally gotten what you wanted, wouldn’t you?” I
asked slowly. “Pritkin, tied to a newly powerful demon, one determined
to live in your realm. And one likely to help convince him to do the
To his credit,
Rosier didn’t try to deny it. “I was . . . ambivalent. It was hardly a
good match, certainly not the one I would have chosen . . . .”
“But she would
have made a hell of a demon! Unlike my son, who has all the power she
lacked, and none of the passion!”
“Maybe his passion is for other things.”
“I know what his
passion is for! And it’s a waste. Just like his life for the last
“And how would you know?” I demanded. “When do you ever see him?”
“I see him.”
Rosier put his shoe back on, and unwrapped the bandage he’d been using
to protect the other, only it didn’t seem to be working. A good bit of
flesh peeled off with the bandages, and I winced in sympathy.
Until he sloshed the last of our water over it.
“Then you ought to know,” I said furiously. “He’s built an amazing life!”
“Oh, has he?” The sarcasm dripped.
“Yes! One any
other father would be proud of! He’s not just a war mage, he’s a
commander in the service. He takes on jobs nobody else could do --”
“-- and he’s put
his life on the line for his men, for the Corps, for me, more times
than I can remember --”
“Yes, he has a
reputation as something of a dare devil, if you’ll excuse the term.”
I’d excuse it,
but not the tone that came with it. “You’re just furious that he did
it. That he took your impossible bet and he won it. And made a life
without you --”
“A life.” Rosier snorted.
“It may not be your idea of one --”
“It wasn’t anyone’s idea of one. Including his!”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
Rosier looked up
from re-bandaging his foot. And maybe it was the pain, or possibly the
company, but for a moment, he looked as demonic as he was. “Wake up,
little girl. Wake up and realize what you’re saving him for!”
“He hasn’t been
living for himself since Ruth died! He hasn’t been living at all. He
has been atoning. He didn’t join the Circle for the high and mighty
sounding reasons you’d like to believe. He joined it because it’s the
best damned way to get killed that I can think of!”
“That’s absurd --”
“Is it? You
think I didn’t see him? Sitting in that damned farmhouse, emaciated and
filthy, my son. Drinking the
days away, waiting for it to kill him! But it didn’t. That Jonas person
found him first, and fed him a cock and bull story about how the Circle
desperately needed him --”
“They did need him! They don’t have a lot of demon experts --”
want a lot of demon experts! They didn’t want any! They hate and fear
us, but they know we police our own. Those Emrys hunted down for them
would have been taken care of anyway, sooner or later, by the council.
What do you think, we’re going to let a few rogues ruin a good thing?
Earth is too important a resource not to manage it well. Emrys might
have saved a few lives, yes. But he hardly staved off major catastrophe
and the Circle knew it!”
“Then why did Jonas tell him that? You’re saying he lied?”
“I’m saying he was influenced.”
“Who do you
think?” Rosier stood up, wincing. “I knew Emyrs would never listen to
me. I knew if anyone was going to get through to him, it would have to
be one of his precious humans, preferably one who had no contact with
his other life, or Ruth, or any of his thousand and one hot button
issues, and coming up with one who fit the bill wasn’t easy, let me
tell you! But I did it, and Emrys fell for it --”
“You’re telling me you influenced Jonas? Why do I not believe you?”
“I don’t give a
damn what you believe!” Rosier started back off down the trail, forcing
me to run to keep up. “I thought it would be a step in the right
direction; give him a chance to work his way back. I hadn’t expected
him to take her death that hard --”
expected --” I stopped, at a momentary loss for words. “Ruth died a
dried up husk in his arms! What did you think --”
“I thought like
a demon,” he said, rounding on me. “And like someone with some sense.
Ruth made her choice. She gambled; she lost. Regrettable, but --”
pointed at me. “That look. That very same -- damn it all! She was a
woman with no life and no future --”
“A woman? She was his wife --”
“-- who made a
sensible decision to try to better herself. I thought he might be angry
that she hadn’t told him. That he might be sad for her loss or that she
failed in her attempt. That he might miss her and the life he had
thought they would have together. I never thought he would blame
himself! Or me!”
I looked at him
incredulously. “You don’t understand humans at all, do you?”
“I understand them better now,” he snarled, and started off again.
“I doubt it,” I
said, catching up with him. “Or you would have known better than to
make that deal in the first place. What did you think would happen if
you snatched him back? Did you think he was just going to sulk for a
year or two, then go out happily whoring for daddy?”
“No.” It was savage.
“Then what? What the hell was the point?”
“The point was to save his life!”
He stabbed at
the mountainside with his walking stick. “It just kept coming. First
the council wanting him dead, and why not? They’d feared him since he
killed one of their own, centuries ago, to rescue some girl --”
“Girl? What girl?”
“-- and thereby
showing them exactly how powerful he was, how dangerous he could be!
And for what?” Rosier looked disgusted. “My son, prince of the incubi
and a hopeless romantic! It was insanity, I told him so. Did he
slave. Ask him if you want the details, if we ever get him back! I
almost didn’t. It took calling in some favors -- some very expensive
favors, mind you -- to get him out of that one. And then what happens?
He goes to earth. And promptly falls in love with a powerless child --”
“Promptly? He was here like a century --”
“But I bailed
him out of that one, too. But this time, the council wanted assurances.
And can you blame them? He’d just tried to kill me, over the life of a
human, something that didn’t make the slightest sense to them. Who knew
what would set him off next? He was a dangerous wildcard in their
opinion, and they don’t like anyone they can’t predict. I’m frankly
surprised I managed to persuade them to let him off at all!”
“By assuring them that he’d end up as your prisoner.”
“There weren’t many options.”
“And yet the one
they’d accept was also the one that happened to help you. How
“Yes, it was,”
he agreed readily. “And the only damned break I received. Or so I
thought. Until I saw what Emrys decided to do with this life I had won
him, and won at a high cost, I might add!”
“We’re not back to that again.”
there. You didn’t see.” He hacked at some bushes with his walking
stick, despite the fact that they weren’t remotely in the way. “He was
going to kill himself, one way or the other. Not suicide, no. Not after
Jonas pulled him back from the brink and forced him to sober up. But
death by duty kills just as well, with the added bonus of extirpating
his supposed sins!”
“I don’t believe you.”
shot me a look over his shoulder. “Perhaps that’s true. Humans aren’t
the most observant of creatures.”
“I observe plenty.”
“Like the fact
that he’s always in the front line, whenever there’s danger? That he
volunteers, all too often, for jobs that by rights he shouldn’t return
from? That he takes ridiculous chances, yet doesn’t seem to mind, or
even be affected? How he actually seems to enjoy—”
perhaps he’s simply, what is the phrase? An adrenaline junkie? Yes, I’m
sure that’s it.”
ahead, but this time, I didn’t try to keep up. I let him go, biting my
lip and trying not to think of all the times I’d thought the words
suicidal and Pritkin in the same sentence. He wasn’t like that, I told
myself. He wasn’t!
But how many
times had he almost died, just in the short time I’d known him? How
many times had he almost traded his life for mine? I honestly couldn’t
But that was a war mage’s job. That’s what they did, protect the pythia at all costs. He had to do that --
scouting trip into Faerie? The one that had almost left him dead. Did
he have to do that, too?
I shook my head,
trying to clear it. Everything seemed so muddled, suddenly. We’d needed
information -- badly. Something had been trying to assassinate me, only
nobody had known what. It seemed to have powers that nothing on earth
had, and Pritkin had correctly guessed that it might be from faerie.
He’d wanted to speak to some old contacts, get their opinion. I’d
almost forbidden him to go; had wished I had, the minute he left. But
then he came back . . . .
Barely. And with
a wound that, a little deeper or a little wider might have meant that
he didn’t come back at all. I’d been so angry with him that day, so
angry, but nothing like when I woke up on that damned hillside, and
realized he was gone. And understood why.
All I had been
able to think about was that he’d finally done it; he’d traded his life
for mine. I’d been so furious, and so worried, and so appalled, that
I’d almost been out of my mind. I hadn’t been able to think of anything
except getting him back, making it all right again.
But now I
wondered if maybe I should have just left well enough alone. He wasn’t
happy, no, but he was alive. And he was part demon. Maybe, in time,
he’d have adjusted to his father’s court, found things he enjoyed. He
was so curious, and they lived so long, knew so much. He could probably
learn so much there.
Had I been
selfish, to want to bring him back? Had I only been thinking of me?
God, it had seemed so simple then . . . .
“I knew what he
intended,” Rosier’s voice was different suddenly, a velvet rasp in my
ear. “Knew he’d help the Circle until he came across the one fight he
couldn’t win. Then use it as a chance to perish nobly, perhaps saving
the life of some fellow war mage, or someone else he valued . . . .” I
made a sound. “And with that sacrifice, make up for what happened with
I didn’t say anything that time.
“And of course,
I couldn’t allow that. You can understand that, can’t you? I couldn’t
let him die uselessly, needlessly, in some human struggle that would
mean nothing in a few years, when he was born to stride the centuries.
Couldn’t let him die in some struggle no one would even remember, when
he would be so much better off with me. You can see that, can’t you?”
slightly, because suddenly, I could. Rosier’s court was beautiful, in
the starkly lovely way of desert cities. Even in the midst of the crazy
rescue mission a friend and I had cooked up, I’d thought so. It might
take some time, but surely, Pritkin could get used to that again?
Surely . . . .
“Didn’t you ever
wonder why he never talked about the future?” Rosier murmured. “Most
people do. I want to do this someday, I’d like to be here in five
years, there in ten . . . but not Emrys. Why talk about a future when
you don’t think you have one?”
And, finally, something rang false.
I realized that
we’d stopped again at some point, stopped and I hadn’t noticed. I
barely noticed it now, being too preoccupied by a pair of green eyes,
ones glowing with power I was still too confused to understand. But I
understood one thing.
“He did talk about it.”
“No, he didn’t,” Rosier said soothingly. “He never --”
I shook my head,
confused but adamant. “He did. Right before the council’s verdict. In
the street outside the council chamber, he said --”
“Nothing. He was upset. He didn’t know what he was saying --”
“He knew.” An
image of Pritkin’s face rose up in front of my eyes, the boyish grin,
the almost bashful duck of his head, the amused eyes, amused but with
heat behind them --
I blinked, and
Rosier’s face changed, even before I shoved him as hard as I could in
the chest. “Goddamnit!”
girl!” he snarled. “What is he going to do on earth? What is he going
“Whatever he wants to be! You just said that’s what demons do!”
“I said we reach
for new heights! That does not include aspiring to be the flunky of a
“But being prostituted by his father is okay!”
“You --” Rosier
closed his eyes, as if praying for strength. Considering who he was, I
assumed he was actually doing something else. Like thinking of all the
ways he could kill me once this was over. “It is impossible to have a
conversation with you when you know so little about our way of life. Or
“The only thing I have to know is that Pritkin doesn’t want to do it!”
flew open. For the first time, he looked furious. “You have no idea how
far you’re restricting him, how far he’s restricting himself. He could
be so much more --”
“So much more like you, you mean.”
“You understand nothing.”
that you don’t need to ever talk to me about my mother again. Not when
you are doing the very thing you accuse her of!”
There wasn’t a lot of conversation after that.