Notes: Thanks to all my reviewers! Well, my releases of CiT here have finally caught up with my releases on LJ, so here's the very latest chapter. Enjoy.

Chapter 8: The Dark Court

He was avoiding Bael.

Everyone could see his intention and tried to talk to him about it, but so far, Caellach had managed to avoid their concern, laughing it away. It wasn't too difficult, though, because as much as those kisses haunted him he knew he had more pressing matters to think of – the visit to the Court. He worried about the summons, worried about what the Order wanted from them, from Brén. Moreover, he worried about what they would do and say in front of his companions. He might have told Fionn about his past, but he did not relish the thought of the others knowing, at least not yet. He knew that while they were living in the Demon Kingdom that the wish for the others to never know was fruitless, but he had at least hoped that he could choose the time and place for that particular conversation. Knowing the nature of the Order, however, he knew that his time was limited. In just a day, they were leaving. Bael had already made the announcement at dinner the previous night and it did not seem that any of his companions took the news better than he did. Even the usually perfectly composed Brén had paled slightly, jaw growing tense.

He hated politics. It was part of the reason why he had not chosen to follow in his father's footsteps into diplomacy, though he was by far the best in his family at it. Well, when he chose to be diplomatic, at least. Being in the army was much simpler – see enemy, kill enemy. It was the politicians who pointed them in the direction to fight, and he'd leave them to their jobs. He preferred the simplicity of just doing as he was told, even if most knew him as one who rarely, if ever, listened to authority. The various masks he kept were useful in its own way, and he was nothing if not adept at choosing which mask to use at which time. Determined, he straightened his back. If the Order wanted to play a game of politics, he would gladly oblige them. His father had taught him the art of weaving words to his advantage, and he had always had a talent at it. So be it. He would show those damned Demons what he was made of. He'd make them realise that Caellach ó Riagáin was his father's son, and a formidable opponent in his own right.

They had all decided to discuss their plan of action after dinner, in the private family drawing room. All from their group attended, and from Bael's side there were Roth and the two sisters. Everyone was looking sombre, perfectly aware of the seriousness of the matter, but it made him uneasy still. As determined as he was to show to the Court – the Order – his strength, he was still very much worried about what they would reveal, what they had in store for all of them. The practice of handing over a member from the Cerberii Court royal family was one that the two Courts had participated in for countless generations, yet there was still some uneasiness. Allies in name only, they had never had to prove to each other their loyalty. There were members from both Courts who were against the arrangement and these were uneasy times. King Flaithrí was a good man, loved his children more than any monarch he had ever seen and Brén especially – perhaps because the youngest prince reminded him so much of his deceased wife. Caellach knew that probably the reason why the king had chosen to send Brén to the Dark Court was not because he played less of a role in the ascension of the crown, but because he wanted his son's safety. While there were rumour abound that the Dark Court was filled with political unrest, Caellach was aware that the very same could be said for the Cerberii Court.

There was a group of Hellhounds in particular that seemed determined to see the downfall of the current royal family, that felt that their race was being overlooked, that held a centuries old grudge about the downfall of their own court, that did not agree with the merging of the Cerberii and Hellhound Courts after the Great War. As a member of the United Army, as a member of the ó Riagáin family, he could not see them succeed in whatever they planned. He had pledged loyalty to crown and kingdom, and he intended to see it through to the end. Besides, he knew the royal family, knew their ideals and their vision and there were none other that matched their hope for peace. He was rather attached to his home, and did not want to see a war. The Order surely knew about them, and therefore were probably leery of Brén's presence, not to mention the thrice damned prejudice they had against what they considered to be the "lesser" races. Well, to them any race barring from theirs was lesser, and that said everything about their thought process.

"They've got something planned," Roth said, after awhile, tone quiet. "I don't trust them. I've got a bad feeling about this."

"I would like to think otherwise, but even I suspect that something is amiss," Bael admitted with a sigh and a shrug. "As expected, they have not and probably will not inform me of what is to happen. They merely told me to bring you all to Court under the guise of a formal welcome."

"What does High King Samael say about his?" Lilith interjected, brow wrinkled in worry. Bael spared her a brief smile before once again shrugging.

"You know how difficult it is to see him. From what I could gather, it appears that the Order has decided all of this without the High King's participation. Although," and here he frowned and Caellach suddenly felt a clench in his gut. "I did manage to catch him yesterday. He seems aware of the Order's request, and appears to approve of tomorrow's event. Caellach, the High King seems to have untoward interest in you. Have you, by chance, met him before?"

"Not that I recall," he admitted with a frown. "When I was here last, he never seemed to appear in court whenever father and I attended. No one seemed to find this glaringly out of the norm so we assumed he leaves most of the decision making to the Order."

"He does," Bael admitted. "He does not deem it necessary to go to court very often. Claims that there are better things to be done with his time than indulge in pomp and ceremony."

Astaroth snorted at that, lips curving in a wry smile. "Which is very much like him. Samael always did detest formality, though there are those who say that he wasn't always like this."

"You call him so familiarly, Your Excellency," Brén interjected, tone quietly curious. "Are you close?" Astaroth, Bael and the girls shared another wry smile before Astaroth shrugged.

"We are distantly related, and with Bael as well." Eleksha just snorted.

"There are many in the Dark Court who are distantly related. But I believe Samael declared that we were the most tolerable of his relatives. He's taken a liking to Astaroth in particular." Then she turned to Caellach with a wicked smile, eyes gleaming in amusement. "He'll like you, I think. He likes feisty, pretty boys."

"I am not pretty," Caellach refuted automatically at the old taunt before her words caught up to him and he froze in surprise. "I hope you're not insinuating what I think you are."

"Your chastity is very probably in danger," she sang out, grinning and Caellach made a face at her even as Fionn snorted derisively. Caellach knew him well enough to detect the note of affection in it, though.

"What chastity? It is others' that are in danger; Caellach is a predator without any sense of propriety or morals. It is more likely that some poor, defenceless young lad will be eaten."

"How crass," Caellach commented, airily. "I'm not going jump every person I see. I do have certain requirements that need to be met." Fionn snorted again.

"General attractiveness isn't exactly a large requirement."

"I have other requirements," Caellach said in a wounded tone, but the mischievous twinkle in his eyes belied his words. "Really now, Fionn, don't spread such terrible rumours about me."

"Oh?" his friend asked, archly. "Then what about the time when you flirted with my father?"

"He's a wonderful man," Caellach noted, demurely. "Very admirable and a respected member of the kingdom. Many laud his accomplishments on the battlefield. He's quite the catch, you realize."

"Yes, but the fact still remains that he is my father and he's more than twenty years your senior."

"Age doesn't matter in love, my friend," Caellach said, airily. "And what person would not be tempted by the possibility of all that experience he would have garnered in those years? Why, I'm sure that he could teach me a thing or two – "

"He's my father," Fionn said, flatly. "I don't want to hear that, especially from my best friend. Cease and desist or I will call you out to the duelling field."

"He doesn't need you to protect his virtue," Caellach retorted with a grin. "I'm sure he can take care of himself."

"I'm glad that you are, I'm not so sure of that myself," Fionn muttered, grimacing. "Especially where you are concerned, you deplorable flirt."

"Oh be still my heart," Caellach said, dramatically, pressing a hand against his heart. "I do so love it when you whisper sweet nothings in my ear." He laughed when Fionn surged out of his seat, seeming to forget their audience as he moved towards Caellach with violence in his eyes. Lorccán made a grab for him, pulling him back to his chair and kept a hand on his shoulder before turning to glare at Caellach even as his lips twitched in amusement. Brén let out a soft chuckle at their antics even as he shook his head.

"Gentleman, we must not digress. Important matters need to be discussed tonight."

"Yes, Your Highness," Caellach and Fionn said, though Fionn muttered his while Caellach practically laughed around the words. Astaroth's lips too were twitching minutely, and Eleksha was all out laughing, shaking her head.

"You have certainly grown worse with age," she snorted, grinning at Caellach. "You were a flirt even then, but I do believe you're quite the monster now."

"You don't know the half of it," Fionn muttered, before he added as an afterthought. "My Lady."

"Bah," Eleksha said, waving the title off. "We in this family hate formality from our friends and any friend of Caellach's is a friend of ours."

"The royal 'we', is it?" Caellach snickered, laughing even more as she stuck out her tongue at him. "And just when I was about to applaud you on your improved manners, imp."

"Brat," she retorted, affection clear in her tone. Then she seemed to shake off the humour and her tone turned serious once more as she turned to her brother. "So what is to be our plan of action?"

"The only thing we can do," Bael said with a sigh, and his eyes sought out Caellach's. He avoided locking gazes with the Demon however, seeming to take interest in the room's furnishings instead and Bael sighed once more before turning to Brén. "I will trust in your ability, Brén. Show to them your grace and kindness, that is all that we can ask. They will probably prove merciless and undoubtedly there will be hurtful and insulting remarks said. Be patient. Do not lose your temper and all we can do is try to get through the evening as soon as possible. Keep your dignity. Caellach," here he turned to the Hellhound, and Caellach could no longer avoid his gaze as he reacted to the serious tone the older man used. "For the purpose of this evening, and for as long as is possible, keep them thinking that you are nothing more than the Court Liaison, and the third son of the Marquis ó Riagáin. Whatever you do, do not let them know that you are a soldier." Shock rippled in the room as three heads swung towards Caellach, but it was Astaroth who voiced his surprise first.

"A soldier? You're a soldier?" Caellach winced, looking sheepish before he shot a glare at Bael who very much looked like he had forgotten to do something very important. Like telling Astaroth and his sisters who he was. There would be retribution to pay, later. For now, he had incensed Demons to calm down before he was slaughtered. So he cleared his throat and shot them a weak grin.


They were going to put on a show, worthy of any court. They had decided that Fionn, Lorccán, Finnian (Captain ó Ruairc) and Naomhán (Major ó Maolomhnaigh) were to turn up in full formal uniform, swords on their hips, with their knee high black boots. Brén and Caellach were to wear more formal clothes suitable for court, but their clothes had a uniform feel. Like the formal military uniforms, their jackets had stand up collars decorated with braiding and their trousers were tucked into leather knee high boots, but the braiding was of fine silk thread, gold for Brén and palest silver for Caellach, that stood out, shimmering slightly against the severe black of their linen jackets. The only fastening was at the throat, the hooks disguised perfectly by braiding along the centre that ran all the way down to the hem on either side. The jackets were cut in such a way that the wearer was to leave it unfastened, revealing what they wore underneath. Each man wore a fine silk shirt that matched his eyes perfectly, fastened with black silk black braided cord, though Caellach's was tied loosely.

The V of the neck was low enough to reveal the medallions they wore around their necks, holding the Cerberii royal crest. To match their outfits, Brén's was gold with dark blue sapphires and Caellach's silver with deep green sapphires. The shirts were tucked into form fitting linen trousers, Brén's snowy white and Caellach's dove grey. Their knee high black boots looked almost identical to the standard issue boots worn by Fionn and the rest, the only difference being that they sported a slight heel that was so fashionable in the Cerberii Court. On their ring fingers, each wore a signet ring bearing their family crest. The only difference in their outfits was that Caellach wore a wide black leather belt with an elaborate silver buckle.

Bael was to be there beforehand, to welcome them with the other six members of the Order, but Astaroth, Eleksha and Lilith would accompany them as a show of force, their presence an unvoiced support. The three Demons were highly respected at Court and they would, if nothing else, sway some of the Demons onto their side, to show that the young prince was not someone to be trifled with. Caellach's charm and diplomatic touch would ease the way, Brén's quiet dignity and grace would hopefully win their hearts. It was the only thing that they could do, though each knew it would not be so easy. There would be many against them in the beginning, probably many who would be against them later on as well but that could not be helped. They were there to strengthen the alliance and not to make enemies, but the enemies had already been made regardless through no fault of their own. The two days passed by in a blur, tension thick in the elegant townhouse belonging to Bael that could not even be dispelled through sparring. They were all wound tight enough to snap, and tempers were very close to the surface. Underneath it all was the very tangible worry and even a hint of fear for what was to come. Meals were quiet, tense affairs and not even the pretence of polite conversation could be retained. Instead, they planned, waited, hoped. And then finally the day was upon them.

Bael left earlier for his meeting, and in an effort to relax themselves, the rest had spent the day either reading or doing whatever they could to keep their minds off things. Astaroth spent his time with his men, not having the luxury to waste his time as the others did. Brén and the girls spent time in the library reading, while Finnian and Naomhán followed Astaroth as was their wont. Lorccán stayed with the prince, though, as at least one of them always did. Fionn grabbed Caellach before he could flee, however, bidding the other man to join him for a walk. Not seeing a way out of it, and perhaps hoping that Fionn would provide some distraction, he acquiesced, and the two made their way outside.

The day was fine, clear and sunny as it ever was in Tír na Mairbh. There was a clarity to the sun that did not exist Above, glinting off twisting trees and leaves that were like green crystal. The streets were filled with people milling about in groups or pairs, even the odd solitary man walking and conversing and laughing. Those who had gotten used to the presence of Brén's group nodded and bowed politely in greeting, which they returned, but they were left primarily to their own amusement. They walked silently, the ease of long and close friendship negating the need to speak, comforted instead by each others' presence. Still, the worries about the night to come weighed heavily in their minds.

"Something happened, didn't it?" Fionn said, finally, breaking the silence. Caellach looked at him in surprise at the question, confused for a moment and Fionn snorted at his expression before clarifying. "With Bael. You were not yourself after he called you to his study, and you have been avoiding him rather obviously, my friend."

"Was it that apparent?" Caellach's lips twisted in a wry smile before he sighed. "There are many things which I wish could be forgotten or ignored but he… he doesn't seem to want to let go of the past as much as I. I fear, Fionn, that he will sway me and I do not want that."

"You speak in riddles and it does not become you at all."

"He kissed me," Caellach said abruptly, steps stilling as he frowned, head tipping up to glare at the sky. "He kissed me like six years had never happened and Darkness, Fionn, I wanted to give in. I wanted to go back to how things were for a moment and it scared me. I don't ever want to get as close to him as before, never again."

"That's rather cowardly, for you."

Caellach's head whipped around as he stared at his friend in surprise. Fionn was looking at him with a frown, brows drawn together. They had both stopped walking entirely and a part of him chastised himself for having such a private conversation in public, but it seemed impossible to hold back now that Fionn spoke. Besides, was it not said that one ignored what was right under one's nose? Then a public setting was perhaps the best hiding place for such a personal issue.

"What do you mean?"

"I have not known you to hide away so. It is obvious that both of you care for each other and yet you are running away from your feelings. True, I do not agree that he should have left you alone, but this is an issue that is six years late in being resolved. Even Lord Astaroth believes that you both should deal with your issues."

"You've been speaking to Astaroth about this?"

"How could we not when we both care for you so much?" Fionn demanded, eyes flashing hotly. "We're both your friends, Caellach. How could we ignore you hurting so, then?"

"It is my business – "

"And we would have respected your privacy had you not dragged all of us in this by conveying your distress so obviously!" he exploded. A few turned to stare at them in surprise and curiosity and Fionn sighed, running his fingers through his hair in agitation before he started to walk once more, voice dropping. "We have all noticed that all is not well between the two of you and it bothers us. He is our host, the Demon Lord whom His Highness has been entrusted to and yet you, our Court Liaison, are not even able to perform your duties because of your own personal issues. How then can this not be any of our affair?"

"I will perform my duty – "

"You also have a duty towards King Bael. Caellach," Fionn sighed, tone weary. "Please. Do not pretend anymore that you are fine when it is so very obvious that you're not. Putting your emotions aside is not helping anyone and it is very obviously putting a strain on everyone. We are all in a delicate situation and if the Order gets wind of some kind of unease between you both, we will all be in trouble. We must present a united front to them tonight and it is impossible if you so clearly have problems with each other. I should have spoken earlier so perhaps you could have resolved some of your issues before we are due in Court tonight, but it is too late now and I have no use for regrets. Do what you must to let King Bael know that you are willing to come to some sort of compromise, or at least that you are willing to speak. It is the only way that this charade of ours will work. Do you understand me?"

"You have always been my staunchest supporter, Fionn," Caellach said finally, after a moment of silence and Fionn shot him a weak smile.

"And I shall be that forever more. But a friend has the liberty to call an idiot an idiot."

"Well, this idiot is thankful for the intervention." He laughed, finally, shaking his head. "You must have been completely uncomfortable to have to deliver such a speech." Fionn smiled, wryly.

"You have no idea. Now, do you know of anything interesting to do? I fear boredom will kill me before this bloody ordeal tonight will."

Let Bael know that he was willing to speak… ay? Easier said than done, but Fionn had certainly given him food for thought. Had he really been affecting the group? It must be so if Fionn had given him such a speech. He was not one who did things like that easily, and his discomfort had been plain as day to see. Caellach felt he owed it to Fionn at least but he really damned his luck. Just as he had decided he would have no more to do with Bael, just when he was trying to push back the memory of those heated kisses he was meant to reconcile with the very man he did not wish to see, though he had ever known that it was an impossible hope. Still, though, it had to be borne, and he would do so with dignity. Or at least, with as much dignity as he could muster, which was something he was not too sure he could do successfully with little effort.

Getting ready was an automatic action, mind completely elsewhere as he bathed, putting extra care into the scents he choose for the night: basil, bergamot with a hint of musk and jasmine. He added the oils to his bath, letting the scented water soak his skin, fragrant steam soothing him while his mind went over and discarded plans to comply with Fionn's request. Well, it was closer to an order, but either way he felt obligated to fulfil it. After cleaning himself off, he slipped on a bathrobe, still thinking, absently dabbing the same blend of scents to his pulse points, running his scented fingers through his hair so that it would cling there too. A simple spell dried his hair, before he went to his wardrobe to pull on the pre-decided outfit. It was a good thing that he and Brén had such similar clothing, though it was perhaps not so surprising considering their popularity in the Cerberii Court for the younger nobles. They were not half so popular with the older set, who preferred more elaborate formal wear. While the clothes were of the finest materials, it was still relatively plain, though usually went with more ornate jewellery as decoration pieces. Still, he thanked their good fortune as he slipped on the shirt, laces loosely tied, then tugging on the snug trousers, tucking in his shirt. The belt came next, the buckle carefully placed in the centre, then the jacket. He left it unbuttoned for the moment, choosing instead to pull on his boots first of all.

Finished with the basics, he went to the vanity, unlocking the drawer to pull out the polished, unmarked mahogany box which held his jewellery. The medallion first, then the signet ring and then finally he added dark green sapphire studs to his ears, before doing up the fastening at the collar of his jacket. Brushing back his hair with his fingers, he surveyed the mirror, looking himself over critically. Makeup was somewhat popular, though he was not too sure about how it would be received in the Dark Court. Thus deciding, he decided to go with the minimal: loose powder to even the tone of his skin, the barest blush of colour to emphasize his cheekbones, black pencil to line and bring out his eyes and finally a touch of it to his lashes, thickening and seeming to lengthen them. The black at his eyes brought out the startling colour, and was the only part of his makeup that was noticeable, the rest as subtle as he had aimed for. Giving himself another critical glance, adjusting the medallion to rest artfully between the V of skin revealed by the neckline of his shirt, he once again brushed his fingers through his hair, teasing out the natural waves, making sure the white strand at his temple fell rakishly into his eyes. Deciding that he would be as best prepared as he could be, he took a deep breath before releasing it shakily. Licking his lips, he looked longingly at the decanter of whisky before forcing himself to move away, dropping onto the armchair by the fire. He would not rely on confidence brought by inebriation, was that not why he had added musk to his scent? He had to believe that all would be well and believe it he would. Optimism was something he'd always had to strive for, and he supposed that the practice was proving itself useful this time.

He tried to think of all the possible topics the Order would be confronting them about that night, but he found his mind wandering. Naturally, it wandered to Bael. Confusion was at the forefront of his emotions, and he groaned as he tried not to sink deeper into the chair for fear of wrinkling his clothes. How could he convey his desire for reconciliation without being too obvious to the Order? How could he make Bael understand? Before, it would have been so easy. They had known each other so well to the point that he believed words to be unnecessary. It had always appeared that they could read each others' thoughts and for the first time he wished that they had that closeness still. However, it was not a simple fight that they were having. It was six years worth of bitterness and anger and betrayal. His startled when he realized that his fingers were brushing against his lips, recalling the feel of Bael's against his own, recalling the dizzy exhilaration he'd felt when Bael kissed him.

Just as he was delving too deep into memories he should not be thinking of, a knock sounded at his door. He jerked slightly at the unexpected sound, before he called out for the person to enter, not able to ignore the slight relief that tinged his tone. When the door opened and Astaroth stepped in, he found himself smiling genuinely at the Demon, slowly standing, extending his hand. Astaroth cut a fine figure in monochromatic black, relief only coming from the paleness of his skin, the brilliant red of his hair. It was in an elaborate braid again, falling over his shoulder almost carelessly and he found himself thinking that it looked like bound flames. Astaroth's trousers, boots, jacket and shirt was all black, broken only by silver buttons carved in exquisite detail. He found himself admiring the workmanship even from afar, not realizing that the Astaroth's perusal of him was just as thorough.

"Astaroth," he said, warmly. "What brings you here? Are we due to leave already?"

"No, Prince Bréainin is not yet ready. I came to see how you were faring."

"As well as can be expected," he answered, smiling wryly. "But you look quite dashing. Although so much black would usually look depressing, it suits you. It's very dramatic against your colouring." Astaroth walked towards him slowly, eyes never leaving his and he found himself flushing at the look in the Demon's eyes. He couldn't quite read it, but it was intense, burning. He stopped when he stood scant inches from Caellach, and the Hellhound thought he could almost feel Astaroth's body heat through his clothes. The Demon took his hand, lifting it to brush his lips very lightly, very softly against Caellach's fingertips. He kept his gaze locked on the younger man's still, and Caellach found himself flushing.

"You look… beautiful."

"I hardly think that beautiful is an apt description," Caellach managed, shocked that his voice held the barest hint of breathlessness. Astaroth's lips quirked faintly, his free hand going up to brush against Caellach's cheek so lightly that he almost thought he'd imagined the touch.

"It's the perfect word. You look absolutely beautiful. You will find yourself busy, and not only because of the Order. Many will line up for the pleasure of your company tonight. "

"You're exaggerating."

"Have you ever known me to do so?"

"Perhaps not, but it's not too late to start." Astaroth laughed at that before he released Cael's hand and stepped back after a last brush of his knuckles against Caellach's cheek. He moved to where the decanters of alcohol were, pouring himself a brandy and raising it to Caellach in question, but the younger man shook his head after a moment of hesitation. "I don't think it would be a good idea for me to imbibe just before we go."

"One glass will not hurt you," Astaroth replied, mildly, going to pour him one before he had a chance to refuse once more. The Demon crossed the room in long, easy strides and Caellach shot him a wry grin as the drink was pressed into his hand, taking an obedient sip at the Demon's look.

"Are you trying to tell me something, old friend?"

"Only that you look like you will keel over at any time, puppy. It's not good to worry yourself into an early grave."

"I can't help but fear for what's to come, though," Caellach admitted, frowning slightly as he took another sip, too wound up to fully appreciate the smoothness and flavour of the drink. "I can only anticipate so much of what they're doing. The sudden summons does not bode well for us, and I have a feeling they have something up their sleeves, but I cannot quite figure out what it is."

"I don't think anyone expects you to read minds," Astaroth said, dryly, and Caellach laughed softly at that, before he shrugged restlessly.

"Perhaps not, but I wish for it myself. It would certainly make things much easier in the long run."

"Come now, that isn't like you. You've never been one who liked things to be too easy. It would bore you, you know it."

"Ah, but neither do I like things to be too impossible," Caellach countered, lips quirking in a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. He looked down with a sigh, twisting the glass in his hands, absently admiring the delicate workmanship. Trust Bael to only have the best in his home. It felt like it looked like it could shatter at the lightest touch, but it was stronger than it looked. Astaroth seemed to read his thoughts because he was suddenly there, kneeling in front of Caellach, hands on his around the glass, holding not quite tight, but firm. His eyes were searching, before he lifted their clasped hands to place a gentle kiss on Caellach's. The movement shocked the Hellhound, and he felt his hands jerk slightly, but Astaroth held firm.

"You are like this glass," the Demon murmured. "You look fragile at times, but you're stronger than you seem. Trust in yourself that you will hold, Caellach ó Riagáin. Trust in yourself, like we trust in you. That is all that we can do for the moment." The words warmed him and he felt his shoulders relax just the slightest bit. He free a hand, moving to stroke gently against Astaroth's cheek before he slid it to the back of the Demon's neck, pulling his head forward to press their foreheads together and he sighed, closing his eyes as he wrapped himself in Astaroth's strength, his warmth, and his quiet support.

"Thank you. I will remember your words tonight. They have helped me."

"Good," Astaroth said, and although Caellach couldn't see it, he heard the smile in his voice before an arm wrapped itself around his waist. They stayed like that for a moment, leaning against each other, and he felt comforted by Astaroth's presence. He didn't know what it was about the Demon that made him feel so calm, but he welcomed it, even as he realised that this moment of peace was only the calm before a storm. Sighing, he held on to his friend, not noticing Astaroth closing his eyes, and the slight pain that crossed his face as his arm tightened around Caellach.