I’ve been to SaDiablo hall more than a dozen times in my life; twice a year until I turned seven. The first fourteen times, it was nothing more than crumbled stone walls and half-destroyed stone turrets shrouded in darkness. The fifteenth time, my life changed forever. When I was a child, my father used to take me up from our small town of Corelle to the Hall. As did Holloway in Dhemlan Kaeleer, Corelle existed to serve the SaDiablo family seat in Dhemlan Terreille. Or… it had. Every year, on Winsol, my father would take me up to the Hall. We would sit, the two of us, on the blocks of tumbled stone, drink the blooded rum, and talk about being Blood. My father was not an old man when I was born. I never knew anything specific about his past, although he would always tell me stories. At the time, I called them fantastical and believed they were nothing more than myth, though now I believe he was a greater man than ever I knew. He told me about that night many decades ago when the Hall had fallen. He would walk with me through the rubble and we would explore the rooms, sense the dark presences battling each other among the ruins. He told me stories of demons, of unicorns, of spiders and centaurs, and I, as a child, lapped it up like any child does. He wore a purple-dusk jewel, although I now realize that I never knew if that was his actual jeweled rank or just his birthright. All I knew was that he was a Prince from a land far away and long ago. And, like others, he told me, I would be raised in the true ways of the Blood. And so he taught me to dance, and sing; the few words of the Old Tongue he knew, and everything he knew about art, literature, and love. He had come to Corelle, he told me, for peace, and quiet- and because of the Hall here. I think he held out a fantastic hope that one day, the Hall would be rebuilt and the darkness would return to Terreille. I never knew, never got to talk to him as adult to adult. But my life back then was idyllic, if sheltered.
My father was Prince Janvier Salkis, and he served in the Queen of Corelle’s court for all of my life as Master of the Guard. His Purple-Dusk Jewel was not the darkest in the territory, but it was relatively strong, and if the life we had was not extravagant, it was comfortable. We had a woman, a daughter of one of the nearby families, come into clean house every few days, and my father could cook. My mother, he told me, had died when I was but a child and returned to the darkness. What I remembered most about those days were my basic Craft lessons, my lessons at the village school, and dinners with my father- sitting around the kitchen table as he would elucidate on a point of Craft I had learned, or on a piece of news I had heard. Some days, he would tell me stories. I grieve, now, that I never told him mine. Because while he kept secrets from me, I also kept secrets from him. The things I had heard might have saved his life. And he would have believed me, I know he would have. But I didn’t tell him, and so, little more than a month after my seventh birthday, he died. That was when my life changed. Dhemlan Terreille had started to slip under the shadow, although not as far as one might think. As a small child and due to my father’s status at court, I was made a ward of the Court, and raised by the Queen’s family as a courtesy. I suspect my father knew. He had to have known. For the Queen of Corelle directly in the shadow of Dorothea. Oh, not openly, no. But I was a young child, strong-willed, and instilled with strong values by my father. The queen, a witch by the name of Ezra, did not want me around, I know now. She was afraid of what I would become. And so she raised me, and she tried to turn me away from the Blood. She taught me to hate; she taught me to fear, and she taught me to submit. By the time I turned eight, I had almost forgotten what my father had taught me. I had learned to sing, and dance, of course; I had learned basic craft, and I had learned to wield weapons. But at Winsol, we danced for the glory of the Queen; we existed to serve her. Slowly, subtly, notions crept into my mind about Black Widows. That was when I began to doubt what my father had told me. Looking back on it, of course, I was foolish, but do not hold me in too low a regard. I was still a child, and eleven months is eternity for one so young. But at the end of those eleven months… everything changed.