The road was long, dark, and weary. All around them the forest seemed to press ever closer, spindly branches reaching out like gaunt fingers as they passed. Overhead the sky was dark, heavy clouds threatening to break open with a deluge of rain at any moment. His horse had balked when they'd first reached the forest's edge, refusing to go forward until he'd gotten off and soothed her. Even now she was still skittish, shying away from unseen things and jumping at shadows.
Soon he would have to leave her. No horse, or any animal for that matter, would ever go anywhere near a castle of darkness. Certainly not this castle, which appeared and disappeared at random and had been gaining a reputation for years of being unbreachable. No few Hunters had returned home in defeat, their lives intact but their pride all but shattered. Not since Dark Lord Vennois's castle had vanished over a hundred and fifty years ago had any lair of evil been so impossible to penetrate.
To Lucien's mind, it was perfect. They all knew where he was headed, but not a one had even tried to convince him to give up this quest. Not even his brother, who had let him go with a simple "Gods guide your sword" in farewell. No one would miss him if he died. They'd never have believed in his death if he'd gone anywhere else; Lucien Lacroix was the ultimate perfection in Hunters. He was undefeated.
He was tired. Tired of the endless fighting, the constant need to be on his guard, the mockery of life that his had become. Tired of the awe mixed with fear in the faces of the villagers as he passed by. The Lacroix family had been protecting the land and people from the creatures of darkness for generations. Everyone knew their name, not only in their homeland but in many lands beyond as well. They were legendary. They were the ultimate.
They were not allowed to be the simple humans that they were.
When he'd been younger, he'd never understood why his father never smiled. Why there was always a shadow in his mother's eyes. Now he knew. They gave their lives for a people who feared them almost as much as they feared the creatures the Lacroix hunted. When his father had died beneath a vampire's claws, only he and his brother had cried. When their mother had been bitten by a werewolf and his brother had been forced to put her down, their eyes had been dry. By then, they'd known.
His brother had tried to escape the Lacroix curse. He'd found a girl willing to marry him and settled down in a small cottage far away from anything. They even had a small child. The townsfolk still gave them a wide berth when they went into the village for supplies, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as when Lucien went into town.
For Lucien had chosen to become a Demon Hunter. Even the other Hunters, those who fought vampires, werewolves, ogres, and other lesser creatures of the night, looked up in awe to the Demon Hunters. Few mortals could reach the level of skill necessary to battle a demon and win. None had ever held a record for being undefeated. Until Lucien.
Now all he wanted was the sweet oblivion of death. If the fates were kind, he hoped to find it in the looming darkness of the castle he could see through the thinning trees. Please, he prayed to whatever gods might be listening, Let it all end here.
His mare froze when they broke out of the forest and the castle towered above them, refusing to go any further. He dismounted, soothing her as best he could, then turning her back toward the nearest town and setting her loose. Someone would find her and care for her, he knew. If all went as planned, he would have no further need for a horse.
There was no moat and no drawbridge, he noted as he got closer. Unusual, but not unheard of. He passed through the rusted gates in the outer wall, blinking as he beheld the outer courtyard.
It was beautiful. Crumbling statues dotted the yard, exquisite craftsmanship showing in those parts that had not completely decayed. The lawn was tended, though faded, and only a few of the cobblestones that made up the winding pathways had cracked and eroded. Large hedges were everywhere, several trimmed into fantastic shapes by patient hands.
Hands and claws, he corrected, as he caught sight of a harpy and what appeared to be two zombies working on a hedge that had been fashioned in the shape of a manticore.
He drew his sword. The muffled sound of steel against leather drew the attention of the harpy, who squawked and rose swiftly into the air, flying toward the upper levels of the castle. The zombies didn't seem to notice her absence, or Lucien's presence. The second zombie did notice when he decapitated the first, making a confused swing at him that missed rather badly. Lucien removed its head as well.
So far, he wasn't very impressed. This castle was supposed to be legendary. Dozens of hunters had attempted to bring it and its lord down and failed. Perhaps more, as he only knew of the ones that had made it back alive. As it was, he'd seen one cowardly harpy and two oblivious zombies.
Frowning, Lucien cleaned his sword and sheathed it, heading for the main castle doors. They were closed, but opened easily enough with a creaky groan when he pulled on them hard.
Inside, the grand hall was the picture of ruined splendor. It was as though many years ago it had belong to a rich and powerful king and had been allowed to decay over time. Three ghosts blinked at him as he entered, and there was a growl to his right that revealed itself to be a very large hellhound protesting his presence.
Lucien waited, but the creature didn't attack. Two of the three ghosts had vanished, the last one watching him carefully as he disposed of the hellhound. It was getting rather surreal. He'd made it into what had once been an elegant ballroom, dispatching two trolls, a werewolf, six more zombies, and a warlock along the way, before finally a vampire showed up, looking rather annoyed.
"Go away," the vampire ordered imperiously, waving a hand dismissively as Lucien.
"No," Lucien replied calmly, feeling in one of his pockets for the vial of holy water he kept there.
"Please go away?" the vampire tried, not managing to pull off humble in the least.
Lucien raised an eyebrow. "Whatever happened to 'die mortal' and 'I will feast upon your gushing blood this eve'?" he asked.
The vampire snorted. "Hideously overdone. Will you leave yet?"
Something was definitely not right here. "Aren't you supposed to be trying to rip my throat out for invading your castle?
"It's not my castle," the vampire replied calmly, "And you're not my type."
"Your type," Lucien repeated incredulously. "You're kidding."
"Hardly," the vampire retorted. "I can smell your blood from here. Totally the wrong type. Do you know how sick it would make me if I tried to drink from you? I think not. Just go home and leave us in peace."
In response, Lucien threw the holy water at him. Obviously the normal approach wasn't working, so maybe if he pissed the vampire off it might behave properly.
Instead the vampire screeched, flailing wildly as the holy water ate through the velvet and satin of its clothing. A moment later it vanished and a very miffed-looking bat flew out one of the ballroom windows.
Lucien lowered his sword. Well, that obviously hadn't worked. What was it going to take to get this place to kill him? Of course. The vampire had claimed it wasn't his castle. The only sort of creature powerful enough to have a vampire for a vassal was a demon. He'd just find the demon that ruled the castle and get it to kill him.
Reassured now that he was back on familiar ground, Lucien began his search for the demon's throne room. They were always in their throne rooms. Demons and vampires were nothing if not hideously predictable.
Except the one Lucien had just met, but he wasn't counting that.
He'd made it to the third floor, going through a myriad of goblins, imps, gargoyles, trolls, and other nightmarish creatures along the way, when he found himself in a part of the castle that was in considerably better repair than everywhere else. Curious, he followed a long, elegant hallway down to the end where he found a single, ornate door.
Sword at the ready, Lucien turned the handle and stepped inside.
It was a bedroom, and a very expensive one at that. Silks, satins, and velvets were everywhere, along with more gold and precious gems than Lucien had seen in his life. All the wood was dark mahogany with cherry inlay, everything in perfect, pristine, beautiful condition.
The room had a single occupant, apparently asleep in the large four-postered bed. Lucien drew close warily, then inhaled sharply at what he saw.
It was a boy. A human boy. He appeared to be in his mid to late teens, with the most vibrant red hair Lucien had ever seen spread out across the pillows. He didn't appear to have been harmed, and a quick check failed to turn up the telltale marks of a vampire bite, but... what was he doing in a monster's castle?
The boy stirred at the soft touch of Lucien's fingers searching for marks, yawning and blinking slowly up at the man leaning over him. His eyes were a soft grey, not at all what Lucien had been expecting given that hair.
"Oh," the boy said sleepily, "Hello."
"Hello," Lucien returned, his confusion returning in full. "Who are you?"
The boy smiled, making him appear even younger. "Ciaran," he answered. "Who are you?"
"Lucien." He left off the Lacroix part. "What are you doing here?"
Ciaran laughed. "Well, I was sleeping, but I suppose I'm up now. What about you? What are you doing here?"
Lucien hesitated. 'Trying to get myself killed' sounded really stupid when trying to explain it to someone else. "Ah, looking for the demon," he said lamely.
"Demon?" Ciaran inquired, sitting up to get a better look at Lucien and brushing back the long strands of crimson as the fell in front of his eyes. "What are you looking for a demon for?"
To kill me. Lucien sighed. "I'm a Demon Hunter," he explained. "It's kind of what I do."
Ciaran's grey eyes clouded with sadness and he reached out to lightly trace a finger along the jagged, vertical scar that had just barely missed taking out Lucien's left eye. "Did a demon do this?" he asked softly.
"No." Lucien restrained the impulse to shake his head while Ciaran was still touching him. "One of the demon's pet vampires did that while I had my hands full with the demon."
Those soft grey eyes clouded further, Ciaran's gentle touch stroking the edge of the scar sadly. "I'm sorry."
Lucien shrugged. "It was a long time ago. It's just one scar amongst many."
"I see," Ciaran said softly, his hand falling away. Lucien found he missed the touch, fleeting as it had been. Few were those who touched him without the intent to cause harm. No one wanted to get close to a Demon Hunter.
It took a long moment for Lucien to collect his thoughts. Nothing in this castle made any sense, least of all a human boy in the middle of so many evil creatures.
"Ciaran," he asked slowly, "What are you doing here? In this castle, I mean."
Ciaran blinked. "I live here," he replied, surprised.
Lucien blinked as well. Lived here? "What do you mean live here?" he asked. "Humans don't-"
The rest of what he had to say was cut off by the door suddenly banging open and a very tall man dashing inside. "Mas-" he started to say, stopping and hissing when he spotted Lucien. "Hunter..." the creature hissed.
He was similar to crow demons that Lucien had fought before, but also different. More humanoid. His hair was a mix of black feathers and normal hair, feathers could be seen peeking out from beneath his clothes all over his body, and he had enormous black wings that spread out menacingly as he stepped away from the door.
Lucien had his sword up and ready in an instant, standing between the monster and Ciaran. Although he'd been watching for the creature's attack, its speed still caught him off guard enough that they traded several strikes without either managing to connect. He'd just about figured out the rhythm of the monster's fighting and was readying his sword to strike when he abruptly found himself propelled backwards and pinned to a wall. The bird-monster he'd been fighting was pinned to the opposite wall, struggling vainly to get free.
"Karai!" Ciaran scolded, getting out of bed and crossing the room to look up at the squirming bird-creature, "I told you, no fighting in my room."
"But Master," the creature protested, "I was coming to warn you! That's a Hunter!"
"I know." Ciaran smiled. "He told me."
Lucien blinked. Blinked again. Master? Ciaran?
The bird-monster slid down the wall until its feet were touching the floor, then Ciaran reached up and pulled it down so he could pet its hair. "It's okay, Karai," he reassured the man, "I'm fine."
Karai looked doubtful, but didn't protest. Ciaran then turned to Lucien apologetically. "I'm sorry, Lucien," he said. "For some reason they get terribly overprotective..."
Lucien felt his own boots touch the floor as the magic that had held him released him from its grip. He stared at Ciaran for a long moment, trying to equate the innocuous boy before him with the fact that the bird-thing called him Master and was very obviously subservient to him.
"... Master?" he asked finally, unable to think of anything else.
Ciaran blushed, the red of his hair only bringing out the color even more. "Ah, I keep trying to convince them to call me Ciaran, but so far it's not working very well..."
"But..." Lucien felt his nice, orderly explanation of the world breaking into tiny pieces. "You're human..."
Ciaran shook his head slightly, a sort of wistful sadness in his eyes. "Half human," he corrected. "My father was... something else."
This was all wrong. He'd come here to die. This castle was supposed to have a master powerful enough to kill him. Ciaran didn't look the type to be able to kill a bug. Were all the stories he'd heard only that? Stories?
Lucien sat down heavily in the nearest of the lavishly carved chairs, sword falling to the floor as he buried his face in his hands. It wasn't going to end after all. He'd have to continue living, as he always had, alone. It wasn't fair.
"Lucien?" a soft voice asked in concern, a hand touching his thigh. His head shot up in startlement. How had Ciaran gotten that close without him hearing?
Ciaran was kneeling next to the chair Lucien had collapsed in, sleep-mussed hair falling haphazardly into his grey eyes as they gazed up at Lucien with worry. "Are you alright?" Ciaran asked.
Lucien laughed bitterly. "No, not really," he said honestly. "You were supposed to kill me."
He wasn't sure what he was expecting then, disgust, pity perhaps, but he certainly wasn't expecting Ciaran to rise and pull Lucien's head against his chest, holding him close. It should have felt wrong. Ciaran was one of the enemy. Instead, he wanted to stay there forever.
No one had ever held him before. Not since his mother's death.
"Karai," Ciaran said softly, his words slightly muffled through the fabric of his clothes where his arms loosely encircled Lucien's head, "Please tell everyone that it's all right now. I don't think the Hunter will pose any further threat."
There was a moment of hesitation as though the bird-monster wanted to object, then came a quiet "Yes, Master" and muffled footsteps exiting the room. Shortly thereafter Lucien heard the door click shut and realized Ciaran was stroking his hair.
"Ciaran... I..." Lucien sighed. "I'm a Hunter... You're not supposed to..."
"If you came to my castle to die," Ciaran said firmly, "Then the rules between Hunters and those who walk in Darkness no longer apply." He hesitated, then drew away, leaving Lucien feeling bereft. "I would have you walk with me, if that is all right?"
Lucien looked up into soft grey eyes beneath the untidy fall of hair the colors of blood and flames. His lips twisted into a faint imitation of a smile. "You're in your nightclothes," he pointed out.
Ciaran blinked and glanced down at himself, laughing softly as he took in the rumpled stated of his clothing. "That I am," he agreed whimsically. "Well, then I will get dressed, if you do not mind waiting."
"I have no where else to go," Lucien pointed out.
Those grey eyes flooded with sadness again, though Ciaran only nodded. "I will only be a few moments," he said, turning and pacing barefoot across the floor to a large wardrobe. Within was a selection of fine clothing befitting of a king or noble... or a Lord of Darkness.
Before Lucien quite realized what Ciaran was doing the flame-haired young man had stripped off his nightclothes entirely, leaving him completely nude. He looked away swiftly, though not quite fast enough that he couldn't picture every slender line of Ciaran's body from the lean muscles of his legs to the curve of his buttocks to the faint criss-crossing of old scars half-hidden by the fall of his hair.
Odd, he'd never seen a Dark Lord with scars before. When he chanced a quick look, however, Ciaran had gotten most of his clothing on and whatever he'd seen was hidden from view. The clothing itself was not as elaborate as Lucien had expected, though the material was still very fine and costly. Everything was in dark greys and greens, trimmed sparingly with gold accents.
"Better?" Ciaran asked, catching his gaze.
"Your hair is still a mess," Lucien observed. Ciaran laughed and fetched a brush from a small table, running it through the tangles. Lucien watched for a moment, then asked hesitantly, "Do... would you like help?"
Ciaran blinked, then smiled brightly. Lucien didn't think he'd ever seen a smile like that before. "Yes, please," Ciaran replied.
Lucien stood and crossed the room slowly, painfully aware with every step he took that everything about the situation was completely wrong. He was in the bedroom of a Lord of Darkness, his sword was still lying on the floor, he wasn't trying to kill the Dark Lord... and he didn't really care.
Up close, Ciaran's hair proved to be many different colors, from the orange of a hot flame to the deep red of spilled blood. It was also the softest thing Lucien had ever felt, softer even than the silks and satins that seemed to be everywhere in Ciaran's castle. He was reluctant to put the brush down even after all the tangles were gone and Ciaran himself seemed to have almost fallen asleep again. Finally he replaced it on the table it had come from and looked back to find Ciaran blinking somewhat dazedly at him.
"Mmm, thank you," Ciaran murmured, a soft little smile on his lips. "That is so much more fun when someone else is doing the brushing..." He looked up as Lucien came closer, reaching a hand up to ghost softly across Lucien's cheek to the sleek dark strands of his hair where they were pulled tightly back by a thick leather cord. "If it would please you, I would like to return the favor sometime," he murmured.
"I..." Lucien faltered. He wasn't staying. He'd only come here to die, and now that was denied him. Yet there was something in those soft grey eyes that he found impossible to deny. "I would like that," he managed at last.
Ciaran smiled and took his hand, leading Lucien back out the bedroom door and down the hallway that had originally caught his notice. As they walked deeper into the broken castle he noticed that the further they went the more creatures of darkness appeared to follow them. At first it had been only one or two bats and a lean, shaggy wolf, but then more emerged, along with mangy black cats, a handful of snakes, even another hellhound.
It was particularly unsettling once Lucien realized he'd left his sword in Ciaran's bedroom. Not that he was unarmed by any means, but that he'd not even noticed that he'd left it behind... He didn't know what to think.
For his part, Ciaran greeted each creature quietly as it appeared, stroking heads and scratching gently behind ears. It was plain for anyone to see they fawned upon him, which he supposed would be normal for creatures of darkness with their master, but it was still eerie to see. These were monsters that would have no trouble at all killing a man, and there they behaved like the puppies sometimes kept by the villagers.
He wondered if the vampires and demons he'd killed had behaved thus with their minions. Somehow, he doubted it. Ciaran was... unique.
The hallway opened up shortly before ending at a set of wood and glass doors that had seen better days. Ciaran calmly pushed them open, drawing Lucien after him into what he quickly realized was a garden. Or rather, a garden gone mostly to seed. He could see where once it had been beautiful, but over time the plants had grown wild and escaped their beds. The cobblestone walkways were broken, many of the stones themselves missing. It was warm here, and humid, and Lucien could hear the faint rumble of what sounded like a waterfall somewhere deeper into the greenery.
"This is my favorite part of the castle," Ciaran admitted softly, leading him through the few places still clear enough to walk and past an ancient iron gate that was falling off its hinges. "It's peaceful."
"Ciaran," Lucien asked curiously as the young man led him through a particularly dense press of leaves and out into a relatively clear area, "How long have you been here?"
Ciaran paused before the small waterfall Lucien had heard, staring at it thoughtfully. "I don't really remember," he said at last. "Time... moves differently here."
Lucien frowned. "Differently how?"
Ciaran smiled. "How old am I?"
That was unexpected. Lucien blinked. "You look fifteen, maybe sixteen..."
Ciaran nodded slowly, smiling in that odd, sad way of his. "I was not quite sixteen when I stumbled across this place, many years ago," he said softly. "I am now as I was then, though before that day I aged the same as any other."
"So you have no way to know how long you've been in the castle," Lucien mused thoughtfully. "What about when you leave the castle? What then?"
Ciaran shook his head. "I have never left. I have no desire to return to the world of men. This is my home now, my friends are here."
"But there are no people," Lucien protested, knowing as the words left his mouth that they were hollow. Hadn't he himself tried to escape from the world without? Ciaran simply hadn't attempted to be quite so drastic, though the results were much the same.
"What do we of the darkness need with men and their world?" a new voice asked coldly. It sounded vaguely familiar. Lucien turned to discover the vampire he'd thrown the holy water at earlier.
"They are good for nothing more than food," the vampire continued, "And tainted food at that. Good riddance."
Ciaran released his hand to go over to the vampire, pressing a gentle touch to the vampire's arm. "They are not all bad, Oliae."
"They hurt one of their own," Oliae replied, looking pointedly at Ciaran, "And even here in our refuge they will not leave us alone, sending warriors and Hunters to make sure we are all wiped out. Even you cannot stop them forever, Master Ciaran."
Lucien frowned, feeling oddly out of place. Though why he felt like he should belong in a castle filled with creatures of darkness, he couldn't say. "Humans fight those of the Darkness because the Darkness tries to kill them at every step," he stated flatly.
"Not all of us are evil," Oliae snapped, "Just as not all humans are good. Not that a Hunter would care. All you care about is how many creatures of darkness have fallen to your blade, Hero."
Lucien flinched. "Oliae!" Ciaran exclaimed, grey eyes gone wide with shock.
"I'm no hero," Lucien said quietly. "I never was. All I am is a man who wanted nothing more than to keep his people safe."
They stared at one another for a long moment before Oliae turned away, expression bitter. "Of course," he said ungraciously, spreading his cape like enormous wings. "As are we all." A moment later a large bat had replaced the man, circling them once before flying off into the distance.
Ciaran watched him go for a long moment, then turned back to Lucien. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "Oliae has lost many friends to Hunters. Perhaps I should explain..." He reached down without looking, hand falling atop the head of one of the wolves. "When I came to this place, it was as any other like those you have seen before, Hunter of the Night. It was ruled by a cruel man who cared for nothing and his creatures lived in fear. When I removed him from power, I decided that as this had become my sanctuary, so too would it be a refuge for all outcasts who need a home when their world rejects them. My only rule is that there is no fighting within these walls. There is enough of that in the world already."
Lucien regarded him silently for a moment, trying to grasp the concept of a sanctuary for monsters and creatures of darkness. Humans lived in fear of them... it didn't work the other way around. Did it?
Something Ciaran had said niggled at his mind. "Wait... removed from power? Whose castle was this before?" he asked.
"He called himself Lord Vennois," Ciaran replied with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "If that is his actual name, I do not know."
Lucien wondered if anything Ciaran said would fail to surprise him. "Vennois... you destroyed Dark Lord Vennois? That's..." Impossible, he wanted to say, but everything about this day had been impossible.
"No." Ciaran shook his head slightly. "I put him to sleep. He is forever trapped in a dream from which he will never wake, though I did try to make it a pleasant one." He smiled softly. "One of the nightmares helped me."
"Nightmares," Lucien repeated. "In a dream..." No one tamed nightmares, not even demons. And Dark Lord Vennois... "A hundred and fifty years," he murmured aloud.
Ciaran tipped his head curiously. "What?"
"The castle of Dark Lord Vennois," Lucien clarified. "It vanished a hundred and fifty years ago. No one knew where it went, only that he was finally gone."
Ciaran was silent for a long moment, staring past Lucien to a half-rotted trellis. "So long," he murmured at last. "I had no idea."
Lucien watched him, hesitant, then slowly reached out to place a hand on the young man's shoulder. Or not so young, really. "Why are you here?" he asked again. "You look human; you could have stayed..."
Ciaran shook his head. "My hair has always been unnatural," he replied, and oh there was pain in that voice. "It is not so obvious in the softer lights of the castle, but in the sunlight all knew me for what I was." He held up his arms, tugging down on one long sleeve to reveal wide scarring around the wrist like that left by heavy manacles. "Souvenirs," Ciaran said quietly, "Of the time before I came here."
Any words he had died in his throat as Lucien stared at those scars, knowing full well what they meant. He'd seen them before, on criminals and captives of war. People who had been kept bound lest they try to harm others. But Ciaran... Ciaran wasn't...
He didn't realize he'd moved until Ciaran's hand was clasped in his, and even then he couldn't form the words he wanted. He watched helplessly as those soft grey eyes regarded him, the sadness in them so very deep that he doubted it would ever completely go away.
"You see why this place is my sanctuary," Ciaran said softly, hand still trapped between Lucien's. "It can be your sanctuary too, if you wish it."
Finally Lucien found his voice, though his words came out almost hoarsely. "I'm a Hunter... I don't belong in your sanctuary..."
Ciaran smiled, easing some of the pain in Lucien's chest with the warmth in that simple expression. "All of us were outcasts, at some point. If your world has rejected you as well, what can it hurt to try to make a new world here?" he questioned.
It was impossible to deny those eyes. He'd known it from the moment he'd first seen them, still fuzzy and full of sleep. "Your vampire friend won't like it," he pointed out logically.
Ciaran laughed. "Oliae? Oliae does not like much of anything, other than harassing Karai. I keep telling him he should just screw him and call it good, but he does not find it so amusing as I."
Lucien blinked. "Karai? The bird-man that attacked me?"
Ciaran chuckled softly. "Karai was once the Raven God, proud and powerful. Now he is all but forgotten, and his power lost alongside. There are several here who were once worshipped, but the changing times have stripped them of their power and dignity. Some wait only to fade away, while others like Karai are determined to make the best of their fate. Even Oliae respects his determination even as he taunts him for it."
A fallen god. That would explain the speed and skill he'd witnessed. And the vampire taunted him? Not something even Lucien would be comfortable doing. Taunting a god, even a fallen god, was like taunting one of the Seven Lords of Hell. Even he wasn't that suicidal.
"Does he have a death wish?" Lucien asked, shaking his head.
Ciaran laughed again. "Technically, Oliae is already dead," he pointed out, "But I have wondered the same thing myself many a time. The fact that Oliae still lives enough to cause chaos in my castle seems to tell me that Karai does not mind it so much."
Lucien shook his head in disbelief. "He's either very brave, or very stupid."
"I do not think Oliae makes a distinction," Ciaran said, eyes bright.
Lucien grinned. "Point." He considered. "So, if I am going to stay here... where do I sleep?"
Ciaran regarded him a moment, absently brushing his hair back out of his eyes. "Well, I could make you a new room if you wished..."
Lucien raised his brows in surprise. "Make a new room?"
"I add to and change the castle from time to time," Ciaran explained. "It cannot get boring if it is never the same." He hesitated, looking down. "Or... you could stay with me... There is plenty of room."
Yet again Lucien was caught off-guard by the slender redhead. He could see the red staining Ciaran's cheeks as he stared fixedly at the ground, not daring to look up. Lucien smiled at the sight. Someone who could defeat Dark Lord Vennois and still blush at simple things... Ciaran was certainly unique.
"If you wouldn't mind the company," Lucien replied softly, "Then I would be honored."
Ciaran looked up, hope shining in his warm grey eyes as Lucien held a hand out to him. Maybe one day he would be able to erase the sadness that always lingered there, just beneath the surface. He would try, anyway, for the man who had given him back his reason to live.