Devil's face was pressed inches away from the telescreen, as in shocked silence, he watched the scene that was unfolding before his eyes. Ceridwen was dying, blood seeping from what looked to be a fatal wound in her abdomen. And Dagger had done it.
He could scarcely believe the diabolical lengths that human would go to in order to get himself ahead. The sheer treachery of it was alien to his mind. And this was the man he had sworn to serve. The thought filled him with loathing.
Suddenly, Dagger's voice came crackling in through the overhead speakers.
"Devil, it's Dagger, do you hear me?"
Reluctantly, Devil responded. "Yes, Dagger. You are a real coward, do you know that?"
"What I am is alive," said Dagger. "Notice that I am the victor. Now listen, Devil. I need you to barricade yourself in your control room, immediately."
"Already done," purred Devil apathetically, who always kept the control room securely locked up.
"Good, then I need you to contact Whitney next. Tell her to capture the princess. She is not to be harmed."
Devil growled his assent while he watched Ceridwen's dying form on the screen. Not even her prodigious magics could save her now. But perhaps he could. . . .
Devil had sworn to serve Dagger and never to harm him, and as a dragon, he could not break his oaths. But Ceridwen bore no such vows. Surely if she survived, she would hunt Dagger for his betrayal. And if she killed him, Devil would be free.
Devil picked up his PI, and with one curved claw, he put in a call to Oakstaff.
* * *
"So that's it? You're leaving it up to me?"
"It's always been your choice to decide whether to stay or not," said Lorden. "We're not going to force you into anything."
It seemed strange to find himself advocating for Ceridwen, and indeed to hear that last sentence come out of his mouth, when he himself had been forced into helping the under-dwellers in the first place. He watched Elenia's face anxiously. She was biting her lip fretfully and her eyebrows were arched downwards in a frown.
"So your asking me whether I'm going to risk my neck for you guys to fight my own family?" she said. "To go against everything I've ever been taught to believe in?"
"Look, I realize it's not an easy decision --"
"Oh, no, it's quite an easy decision," said Elenia. "I mean, I really do like you Lorden --" she suddenly blushed, then said quickly, "What I mean is, I don't hate magg -- magic-users anymore. I realize it's not your fault --"
"You happen to be one of us, too," pointed out Lorden. "It's not our fault."
"Yes, well," said Elenia looking flustered. "I guess what I mean is, I simply can't. I can't fight with you. The Queen is my mother, Lorden. I've only been here a month and really, I wish I didn't have to do this, but I can't."
"I understand," said Lorden, and he really did. Though he could barely remember having any real family of his own, he knew that if he were in her position, he would probably act the same way.
"I'll try to get my stepfather to change what he's doing," said Elenia, looking earnestly at Lorden with her stunningly blue eyes. "That is, if they're willing to take me back. . ." Her voice trailed off and she looked worried. She fiddled with a pen on her desk, lifting it absentmindedly into the air with magic. It was amazing how much she had progressed.
"I'll miss you," said Elenia, and Lorden felt suddenly shy.
The clatter of running footsteps sounded from the hall outside and the two of them whirled about to see the door bang open. Whitney was standing there, two plasma guns raised in her hands. She was wearing the most human expression Lorden had every seen on her: Regret.
"Hello, I'm here to kidnap you," she began in a toneless voice.
"I don't believe it! Do we really have to go through this again, Whitney?" cried Elenia before twin stun blasts hit her in the chest.