Chapter 5

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DOMINIC OBSERVED THE ODD surroundings from one of several chaises set inside the circular antechamber of Mikhael's home. A pair of griffins lay before the inner apartment doors, snuggled together, their fierce natures less threatening as they dozed. His wife's family settled on the other furniture that was scattered along one portion of the arc. They hadn't spoken a word since they passed the gate. There was little else inside the space for their comfort or distraction. It was marble, end to end, with metal fixtures, a style hard and cold and entirely Mikhael. On the far edge of the circle, directly across from the door they'd entered, was a second set of silver doors leading to the general's home. Glistening candelabra stood in the deep alcoves, each framed by a pair of pillars. A chandelier hung above their heads, scattering the light as it spilled down from the open dome beyond with its dangling crystals. The room was made of the same white marble as the rest of Zion, but the center of the floor was blue marble outlined in a ring of silver. Dominic stared at the sterile space, reminded of his wife's shield. His eyes traced and retraced the circle. The room felt vast and lonely, very much the reflection of his inner emotions and regrets. He leaned back and stared at the sky-toned scallops of the dome, the white trim, and the sparkling light.

The door they entered through opened again, stirring the griffins and making them complain. Gragrafel led the way and the griffins backed down. The principality was an intimidating figure despite his lack of armor and weapons, like a storybook rendition of Zeus: curled white hair, rolled white beard, and the required white robes. His expression was hard as stone while his penetrating black gaze swept over his family, lingering most disapprovingly on the soul. Behind the patriarch entered a ghost from the past. Though expected, Dominic's anger leapt up at Gediel's actual appearance. The circlet of rank glinted, mocking Dominic's want of position. Even Gediel, with his horrible past, was capable of rising. The primus's past friendship with Maiel was not something Dominic took lightly. He'd known for a long time that the svarg gave Argus to Maiel. That wolf was a gift she prized above all others. They were friends for most of his wife's youngling days, but Gediel all but disappeared into his duty sometime around Dominic's appearance in her life. It was rumored that if Dominic hadn't gotten mixed up in the business of the duta, Gediel would have been Maiel's ketu. Gediel's fame was known throughout Zion, especially with the unwed females, all of whom hoped to capture his attention. Unfortunately, Gediel never settled down, probably afraid to produce progeny like his grandsire, certain he was bent on the path of the same or worse crimes.

Dominic cupped his head in his hands. His adolescent jealousies wouldn't help Maiel. After all, Gediel had stayed away all these years and Maiel rarely mentioned him. It was hardly her fault that she cared so much for Argus. The watcher and his wife had parted ways and there was no longer an attachment there. Dominic told himself Gediel was present because of his reputation as a scout, but that suggested Luthias should have been included. No one thought to call the guardian. His anger raged and his suspicion deepened.

Dominic's most dangerous suspicion was that other rumors surrounding the primus weren't just stories, and that the watcher was bitten by the shadow whose name he bore. He tried his best to disguise his thoughts, as he felt the pinch and twist in his features, before one of the duta decided to prod him. To help, he turned to thinking of Maiel's commander and second-in-command. They weren't asked to attend the meeting either, nor was Captain Zaajah, her incarnation's guardian, best friend, and compatriot on the mission. With their absence, Luthias being overlooked didn't seem quite so odd. However, it returned him to the petty jealousies. The alders may have reached out to the primus to guide Maiel out of a downward spiral, suggesting Dominic was deemed incapable and that his rival was being neatly positioned to steal his wife.

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