"Stand aside, this is why I came." Griffin shoved Ry and Rigo aside to get to Toff. "I was sent to do this," he added, kneeling beside Toff's unconscious body. Trik held Nissa against him nearby as she wept—Toff had tried to help her and he'd been severely wounded in the attempt. The teen comesula had been struck when the Ra'Ak dusted and now Toff was unconscious on the floor, his head bleeding profusely. Griffin and Rigo knew it was a killing blow the moment they saw Toff's wound.
"What happened?" Drake and Drew, followed by Gavin, Roff, Tony and Karzac, appeared nearby. Roff moaned in agony as he dropped to the floor beside his son.
"Karzac, I need you to keep Toff alive until I can give him blood," Griffin ordered, ripping back a sleeve and extending his arm to Rigo. Rigo sliced Griffin's wrist as Karzac knelt beside Toff and placed his body in stasis.
"My blood is a gift to you, Toff." My father's voice was the first thing I heard when I regained consciousness.
"What?" I struggled to sit up. Something was holding me down.
"Lissa, just lie still until Karzac can come." My vision swam, but I would recognize Gavin's voice and scent anywhere.
"What happened?" I lifted a hand to rub my forehead, still feeling dizzy and confused.
"Cara, Toff was hit when the Ra'Ak dusted. Your father is saving him the only way he can now be saved. He is too young for the turn, you know this."
"Lissy, Zellar managed to get away," Tony knelt with a sigh on my other side. "Drake and Drew say he was hiding in a corner, likely holding the shields up while waiting for Gren and the Ra'Ak to do the deed for him. When things started going downhill, he skipped out, just like the coward he is."
"Mom, will Toff be okay?" Nissa's voice was tearful. She and Trik now stood beside Tony, who was still kneeling beside me. Tony pulled Nissa against him and hugged her close.
"Blood of the Saa Thalarr is a wondrous thing, young one," Karzac moved Gavin over so he could put his hands on me. "Toff has received your grandfather's blood. He is stable and sleeping, now. We will transport him and your mother to Le-Ath Veronis as soon as I make this examination."
"Karzac," I begged.
"Lara'Kayan, I will check the child first," he assured me, placing hands on my belly. He bent his head and closed his eyes.
"What? What's wrong?" I struggled in Gavin's grip.
"Love, the child is fine. I hear his heartbeat. It is quite strong. Perhaps he enjoys excitement already," Karzac offered a lovely smile.
"Thank goodness," I muttered, and that's the last thing I remembered for a while.
"Daddy, when will we know something about Toff?" Nissa fingered her ring as she leaned her head against Shadow's shoulder. Shadow bent his head to kiss Nissa's hair.
"Cleo tells me that under normal circumstances, the recipient of Saa Thalarr blood sleeps for twelve hours before waking, healed of all their hurts. She says that because of Toff's special circumstances, he may sleep longer than that."
"What special circumstances? Is he going to be all right?"
"She seems to think so, yes," Shadow nodded, his gray eyes offering an unspoken promise to his daughter. "Karzac says that your mother will be fine, too. She was scared that you and your brothers might get hurt. Toff was the only one hit because he was outside your brother's shield."
"Yeah. I was scared, too, Daddy. There was so much blood."
"I know, baby." Shadow brushed a tangle of Nissa's hair away from her face. "But Karzac says Toff won't remember much. I think that's a good thing."
"Rylend Davan Morphis, for having the presence of mind and wielding sufficient power to hold back Ra'Ak dust, I promote you to Fourth Level Warlock." My grandfather, Wylend Arden, smiled at my son as they stood at the foot of my bed. Wylend had agreed to make the confirmation in my bedroom, because Karzac was being a curmudgeon as usual and refused to let me up for long.
A chain of gold squares, worth enough to buy Ry a house somewhere, was laid around his neck. Erland, who sat on the bed beside me, looked ready to pop buttons off his shirt, he was so proud. We both clapped loudly when Ry turned and grinned at us.
Nissa, too, was scheduled to receive a promotion to Fifth-Tier from Glendes, and that would come as soon as I was allowed out of bed. Roff was keeping me updated on Toff, who seemed to be going through some sort of change, although he and Karzac refused to tell me anything. They promised that I'd see for myself soon enough and I contented myself with that.
Trik, well, Shadow was proud of him, too, and he planned to hand a certificate citing his bravery and a gold cuff holding a protection jewel he'd made himself to our adopted son on the same day Nissa received her promotion.
Garde had something planned for Tory, but everybody else except High Demons had been excluded. I resolved not to kick Garde's ass over it, no matter how much I wanted to.
"Torevik Rath, for bravery and selflessness, I award the King's favor and a grant of land on the Southern Continent," King Jayd placed a thick chain of gold about Tory's neck. "And as King of Kifirin, I proclaim you High Demon before Kifirin and all the Dark Worlds lying within his realm. You are bound to uphold Kifirin's laws that he has set forth, and defend them against any who come against him or his realm. What say you, High Demon Torevik Rath?"
"I solemnly swear to uphold the laws as written by Kifirin, Lord of the Dark Realm. I Pledge fealty to you, King Jaydevik, who rules under Kifirin, for all my life."
Tory knelt before Jayd in Jayd's throne room, where the likeness of several Kings, carved in black marble, stood behind the throne. Gardevik Rath, Jayd's Prime Minister, stood beside his brother's throne, smiling at his son.
I wish Mom were here, Dad, Tory whispered mindspeech to his father.
Son, this is a private ceremony. Only High Demons are ever invited, Garde replied. You can show her your chain when I take you home.
You and Uncle Jayd are invited for the ceremony at the next Council meeting, Tory pointed out.
Son, we'll discuss this later, Garde replied, ending the conversation.
"Lissa, I wanted to tell you and Roff about Toff before he wakes." Griffin sat in my study, on one of my guest chairs. Roff had pulled another chair around my desk and now sat next to me. I could see he had mixed feelings about this meeting with Griffin, but neither of us could deny that Griffin had saved Toff's life.
The well of sadness was still in Griffin's eyes, too, and I was at a loss to explain it. This was still a Griffin from the future, and I wasn't sure how to deal with that, either. He'd appeared to me once before from the future, and I'd died not long after. Only with help from the Mighty Hand was I brought back at all.
"It was at the command of one of the Mighty that I came," Griffin muttered, lowering his eyes and staring at his hands. "Not the one you're familiar with, either," he looked up, then, hazel eyes studying my face to gauge my reaction. "Nobody ignores a direct command from one of them, although I would have come anyway. I owe Toff. And Roff," Griffin nodded in Roff's direction.
"The other things, well, the debt I owe to Trell has been paid—at least in part."
"Do you want to talk about that?" I asked.
"No. Please don't ask." Griffin wiped wetness from his cheeks. "And I ask you, if you see me in the here and now, that you say nothing to me. Sometimes, it really is better if you don't know. If you can't see it coming."
"I won't say anything," I promised.
"I will remain silent," Roff agreed.
"Thank you." Griffin whispered. "What I have to tell you about Toff is this; I was commanded to come and give him blood. I was also commanded to give him something else. It was a gift I carried that I never used. Your child," Griffin turned his eyes to Roff, "always wished for power like the Elemaiya had. Not only will he wake as an eighteen-year-old adult vampire, complete with genitalia and the wings guaranteed by his heritage, but he will also wake with the power I was born with, as King Wylend's half Karathian son. I believe Toff will be quite powerful when Glendes rouses that gift. I urge you to have Glendes perform the rite soon, before my father discovers this. He may demand that Toff be delivered to him so he can train the gift. Toff loves Nissa, and it will be a terrible shame if they are separated." Griffin rose.
"I am sorry. For many, many things," he nodded to Roff and me before he disappeared.
"Holy crap," I stared at Roff in shock.
"Look, there's Mom." Nissa bumped Trik's elbow and he turned to stare. Ry and Tory, sitting next to Trik at the dinner table, turned as well.
"At least she's feeling better," Ry sighed as Queen Lissa entered the dining hall, closely followed by Roff. Someone else was with them.
"Oh, my gosh." Nissa scooted her chair back hastily.
He was beautiful. At least as handsome as his father, if not more so. Tall, too, with wings pulled tightly against his back. Toff's dark hair was brushed back from his forehead and his face split in a wide grin as he caught sight of Nissa. In seconds, she was running toward him, shouting his name. He caught her up and whirled her in a circle, making her laugh with joy.
"Well, I'll be filled with damnation," Ry exclaimed. "Do we know why this happened? Do we know how this happened?" Ry turned and stared at Tory and Trik.
"No idea, bro," Tory grinned.
"It's wonderful," Trik breathed. "Absolutely amazing."
"Your mother says Nissa may not date until she's fifteen, and will only be allowed to go on supervised dates until she's seventeen," Erland Morphis sat beside his son. "And if I know young people at all, everyone involved will immediately find a way around all that."